Monday, October 11, 2010

Autumn Harvest Pie

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here in Canada, and while most families were spending hours cooking turkeys, I opted for a Tofurky meal instead.

My fiance unfortunately didn't get the chance to have a home-cooked meal with his family this weekend, so I decided to whip up something extra special for him. I had been toying with the idea for a few weeks, and I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to try it. What resulted was a vegetarian, Thanksgiving version of a shepherd's pie that I have dubbed Autumn Harvest Pie. This takes all of your standard Thanksgiving dinner components and puts them together in one convenient dish.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4-6 people
Cooking time: 2-4 hours (ingredients cook separately as well. Amount of time depends on whether or not you have more pots than I do!)
Difficulty: Moderate
Cost: Under $20
Classification: Vegetarian, easily made vegan


- 1 medium-sized squash of choice (I used buttercup)
- 5 potatoes
- 2 large carrots
- 1 small onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 5-6 slices Tofurky deli slices (if you want a thick layer of Tofurky, use a whole package)
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- sprinkle nutmeg
- 2 slices bread
- 1/4 cup (soy) milk
- butter or margarine
- 1 can vegetarian-or-vegan-friendly gravy
- 3 tbsp. cooking oil of choice (e.g., olive oil)
- herbs and spices of choice (e.g., garlic salt, chives, oregano, basil, dill)

- Numerous pots and pans with lids
- casserole dish


Begin by cooking squash. Cut and separate the flesh of the squash, and boil. Mash the squash with butter/margarine and (soy) milk. Add half the cinnamon and nutmeg, and (optional) 1/2 tsp. of brown sugar. Coat the bottom of the casserole dish with the squash, then sprinkle the remaining cinnamon and nutmeg on top.

Next, chop the cloves of garlic and place in a pot with the cooking oil. Cook on low. Chop carrots while garlic is cooking, then add in. Chop onion, then add and turn up the heat a bit. Put the cover on and continue to cook until carrots are tender.

While this is cooking, shred Tofurky into very small pieces and coat the layer of squash. See the picture on the right for how it should look. Do this until the layer of squash is completely covered by shredded Tofurky pieces.

Now is a good time to preheat the oven to 390 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place potatoes in a pot with water. I left the skins on, because the skin is very nutritious, and it also adds nice colour to your dish. Bring to a boil, then cover. Cook until tender. Remove from heat, drain. Mash with butter/margarine and (soy) milk and some salt. Whip until potatoes have a uniform, creamy texture.

Layer carrot, onion and garlic mixture on top of the layer of Tofurky.

Now, for my favourite part: open the can of gravy and pour evenly over the carrot layer. It should look like the picture to the left.

Layer mashed potato carefully over the gravy. This part can be sort of tricky so take care while spreading the potato over top.

Finely crumble bread into small pieces and sprinkle on top of the potato. This is considered the "stuffing" part of your meal so feel free to add a small amount of cooked onion or celery as well, if you wish. Go nuts with the spices! Sprinkle them on top.

Bake uncovered on lower rack for 20 minutes. You'll know it's ready when the gravy is bubbling steadily over the crust. Breadcrumbs should be very crispy as well.

Leave to sit and cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy with cranberry sauce if you wish!


- This is a great way to get rid of bread heels. I used the heel of the loaf for both slices of bread and it made a fantastic crispy crust.
- If you have to reheat it later, use your oven or toaster oven. Don't use the microwave or your breadcrumb crust will go soggy.
- You can add other vegetables if you have a really deep casserole dish and are feeling adventurous. Turnips or green beans would go nicely.

This is a recipe of my own invention so please let me know what you think of it. It turned out EXACTLY the way I planned on the first try so I was very pleased. In my experience, it tastes even better the day after.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Poppin' some corn

I was over at a friend's house last night, and she told me she was going to make some popcorn. I got very excited, because popcorn is delicious and it's one of my favourite snacks.

To my surprise, instead of grabbing a bag of microwave popcorn, she pulled a bag of kernels from her cupboard. I didn't think she had an air popper, and it turns out I was right. She was going to use her stove top. What followed was a fun and really easy way to make popcorn at home, without having to worry about buying an extra machine like an air popper, and without all the fat and sodium content of your average bagged popcorn. In addition, it's ridiculously cheap! Everything but the kernels will likely be something you use in your house already, so all you'll need to buy will be the bag of kernels, which only cost me $2.19 for 1 kg. This will make you a lot of popcorn; at least 5 pots worth.

Prep time: Less than five minutes
Serves: 2-4 people
Cooking time: Less than five minutes
Difficulty: Super easy
Cost: Roughly $0.50 per serving!


- popcorn kernels
- cooking oil of your choice
- 1 tbsp. margarine/butter (optional)
- salt to taste (optional)
- other seasonings (I like my popcorn with ranch dressing. Shut up, it's good!)


- a medium pot with lid
- a large bowl

Start by adding just enough oil to the pot to coat the bottom. Add enough kernels to do the same--you shouldn't be able to see the bottom of the pot. It may not sound like much, but trust me, this much will make a lot of popcorn.

Put the pot on the stove, and the lid on the pot, with just enough of an opening for steam to escape. Turn on the heat to high, and wait by the stove to hear popping sounds. Once the corn starts popping rapidly, reduce the heat to medium. When popping has slowed considerably, remove pot from heat. Caution! When removing the lid from the pot, stray kernels could still pop. Keep the pot away from your face!

Put popped corn in a large bowl. You may then melt your butter or margarine in the same pot you used to pop the corn, over low heat. Once it is melted, pour over popcorn while shaking gently to ensure it is evenly spread. Add salt, and shake to even it out as well. Add other seasonings if desired. Enjoy!

If you're a parent, this is a great way to do some bonding with your kids before a movie. If you have a glass dome on your cooking pot, you can watch the popcorn as it's popping. Even if you don't have kids, watching the popcorn pop is interesting (in a rather silly way, if I might) as well.

Making this popcorn can give you a salty snack without spending the extra money on other junk foods. It's very cheap, and it's fun and easy to make. Since you can make it however you like, you don't need to worry about whether or not the ingredients are vegetarian or vegan. As an added bonus, you have no preservatives or additives. There's no reason to buy overpriced bagged popcorn anymore!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Keeping lunches on the low

Maybe you're a student. Maybe you're a full-time employee. Maybe you just like to take long walks in the early afternoon and sit by the pond. No matter what it is you do--unless that includes sleeping past the morning on a regular basis--chances are you need a lunch midway through the day to keep you going.

Myself, I'm a full-time employee, so I get a half hour for lunch every day to replenish and rest. I work in a mall and have access to the entire food court, but as I am on a budget, I prefer to pack myself a lunch. This usually includes some nuts (cashews are my favourite), gelatin-free yogurt (Astro Bio Best), fruit that's both fresh and dried (usually berries for the fresh and apricots for the dried, but I'll occasionally mix it up a little too), a vegetable (usually carrot sticks), a treat (because I'm five years old) and a main course (usually soup or a Tofurky sandwich). To me, it's really important to cover all of the food groups during your lunch, because you'll need that energy for the rest of your work day to last you until supper--sometimes it is your supper.

If you're at home, it's easier to cook up something, but if you're going to be out and need to pack a lunch, here are some good tips to help you out.

- Whenever you cook yourself a big meal, such as a soup, chili, pasta, etc., make plenty of extra and refrigerate it. Freeze if you've made enough to last more than a few days. Bring it to work or school with you in a microwaveable container and heat it up. Nothing costs less than something you've already made!

- Baby carrots from your local grocery store are good vegetables to add to your lunch. They're inexpensive, and they'll last you a long time, especially if you put less than 10 carrots in your lunch.

- This may be obvious, but keep an eye open for specials. Fruit specials are my personal favourite as you can get several lunches out of just one container of fruit. Fruit is also very versatile; it can be eaten alone, or added to a salad of your choice, such as a spinach salad.

- Only pack what you need, and only buy what you'll pack. Don't over-purchase on food that will spoil easily. In addition, eat sparingly. A Tofurky sandwich, for example, can be made with only 2-3 slices of Tofurky. Add more lettuce to make the sandwich more filling, and your Tofurky will last you longer.

- Skip the luxury items. Dressings and sauces may make your sandwich taste better, but they will cost you extra in the end with little to no extra benefit. Chips and cookies may be tempting, but in the end they're going to suck up your money. Work on getting rid of food items that may be sitting unused in your cupboard instead, especially if you have some sweets left over from gifts. Buying something new is always tempting, but more often than not, it's completely unnecessary.

- Forget plastic bags for putting food in. Instead, get a Tupperware set. Tupperware is completely reusable and washable, and will save you money in the end, as you'll be throwing away your plastic bags more often than not. Tupperware is more environmentally sound anyway, especially if you purchase some Tupperware made from recycled plastic.

- If you live in your own home or have access to a balcony, consider growing your own food. Growing some fruits and veggies of your own is an excellent way to make sure you get all your essential nutrients, and will certainly save you money.

Hopefully you'll find some of these tips useful. Please feel free to share some of your own in the comments section!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Easy oven-roasted potatoes

I don't know about you, but I absolutely love potatoes. What's so great about them isn't just their taste or how good for you they are, but also how amazingly versatile they are; potatoes make a great side, but also a fantastic dish all their own.

Potatoes also tend to be very filling, which is great if you're on a budget. The point of this blog is to save money and not starve, after all.

This particular recipe is best as a side. It's very simple and makes use of spices and seasonings you already have in your cupboard. If you have absolutely no seasonings then I suggest picking two or three from the list and buying some of those. In all honesty, though, simple salt and pepper will do nicely!

Prep time: 5 minutes
Serves: 4 people (as a side dish)
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Difficulty: Super easy
Cost: Under $10, using things from your cupboard


- 2 lbs. mini potatoes, quartered
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. seasonings of your choice (suggested: lemon pepper, garlic salt, minced fresh garlic, dill, oregano, rosemary, thyme, diced chives, chili powder or paprika.) If you're feeling extra fancy or have the extra ingredients on hand, try throwing other vegetables, like onions or carrots, into the mix.
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice (optional)
- 1 tbsp. salt
- a dash of pepper


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the potatoes in quarters. Combine olive oil, lemon juice and seasonings in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Place potato quarters in the mixture and toss, making sure all potato quarters are evenly covered in the mixture. Spread covered potatoes evenly on a baking tray and sprinkle salt and pepper evenly on top. Place in oven to roast 40 minutes, turning over at 20 minutes. Potatoes are ready when they are golden brown on both sides and crispy.

Hope you all enjoy these as much as I did! For a cheap and filling meal, I recommend eating it as a side dish with some rice, or with some greens and a protein of your choice.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Quick tips on the cheap

Before I get into recipes, I'd like to give a few helpful hints that you can use to eat healthy while keeping your wallet happy. These aren't all necessarily food-related, but can help save you money to help you pay for food.

1. Get a big ol' bag of rice
Maybe this one sounds a bit odd, but hear (or read, as the case may be) me out. Most grocery stores sell huge 10 lb. bags of rice for $10-15. This may sound like a bit much, but you can get a lot out of one of those bags of rice, and it will definitely save you money in the end. If you can afford to buy bulk, it's worth your while. Rice can be the base of many dishes, and the side to many others. That 10 lb. bag of rice will last you a long time, and you'll be glad you bought it, especially since smaller increments of rice will cost you about a quarter of the bag of rice without actually containing a quarter. It really does make a difference!

2. Grocery gifts
If you're on a budget as it is, chances are you've already sacrificed a lot of luxuries. One step further you can take on this is by asking your friends, family, and whoever else is likely to give you birthday and holiday gifts to give you grocery gift cards, available at most grocery stores you're likely to shop at. Gift cards instead of money usually mean that you won't spend the money on something you don't need.

3. Save those pennies!
Any useless change you find is absolutely not useless. Keep it in a jar whenever you find you have spare. If your state/province/country gives refunds for recycling, save up your bottles and cans and take those in for exchange. This is good for your wallet and the environment. When the jar is significantly full, roll your change.

4. Deals and coupons
Maybe this goes without saying, but pay very close attention to the flyers at your local supermarket for coupons and weekly deals and specials. You can plan full meals around the deals you find. In addition, whenever canned vegetables or non-perishables like pasta are on sale, stocking up is always a good plan. Just make sure these are things you'll be using in the future--don't get 10 cans of diced tomatoes if you hate tomatoes! Save any useful coupons you get in the mail, or in your newspaper, or anywhere, really. Flyers you receive in the mail shouldn't always be tossed immediately--give them a good look first.

5. Stick to your list
Make a grocery list and stick with it. If you deviate too much from it, you run the risk of going over budget with food items you don't need. Stick to the necessities and don't go overboard with unhealthy snacks. Giving yourself some leeway isn't a bad idea, but try to budget that, too--restrict yourself to only $10 worth of unhealthy snack items, for example.

6. Keep your eyes open
A lot of big-name grocery stores will hold contests in which the prizes can be grocery cards. Sometimes these will manifest themselves in the bottom of your receipts, so pay close attention. You don't want to miss an opportunity like that! Start collecting Air Miles, if your grocery store is affiliated with them, and save up to get gift cards.

*Keep in mind that a little sacrifice can help your budgeting in the long run. "Being good" isn't limited to just your weight--it affects the weight of your wallet, too. Buying big bags of potato chips will add up monetarily after awhile.

These are just some small tips to build a foundation for your budgeting while partaking in a vegetarian or vegan diet. The recipes and articles will be coming soon!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Hello. I'm Katie, and I'm a vegetarian.

I've been a vegetarian for nine years now for a number of reasons, but I'm not going to get into that now. There are a number of very good reasons to become a vegetarian--or a vegan--in our society, but some people may be daunted by the money factor.

Vegetarian food ain't always cheap.

Luckily for you, I've learned a few tricks over the years that I'd love to share with you. Since I'm on a budget more often than not, being frugal isn't much of an issue.

I'll start by adding that some of my recipes will be vegan, some lacto-vegetarian and some ovo-vegetarian. I'll let you know at the beginning of each recipe which it is so you can make proper arrangements.

Until then!