Vegetarian Cheeseburger Macaroni

veg hamburger helper

Confession time! I was a terrible cook when I first moved out on my own. It wasn’t due to a lack of role models or experience, because as a kid I spent tons of time watching my mom cook delicious and healthy dinners. I think it was just a lack of practice with the day to day part of feeding myself.

So my inexperience led me to eat a lot of pretty disturbing things as an undergrad. My favourite dinner EVER was these President’s Choice frozen breaded macaroni and cheese nuggets. So horrifying processed but so so good. I also ate a lot of Kraft Dinner, as every good Canadian university student does. And my favourite discovery was probably Hamburger Helper. Growing up in a health-conscious, vegetarian household, I’d never tried it before. But I would substitute with fake ground beef and I just loved it.

veg hamburger helper

And OK, this version uses some processed foods. But I am willing to beat that there is way less sodium in this version than in the original – especially if you go with no-salt-added tomatoes and use a light hand when seasoning everything. And it really takes no time at all.

veg hamburger helper
This version has a touch of spice to it which really adds to that homey feeling. I know it seems crazy to be craving comfort food in August, but there have been some really chilly days this summer!

veg hamburger helper

Vegetarian Cheeseburger Macaroni

I used the pre-seasoned version of veggie ground beef (it’s all my grocery store carries!), but I’ve written the recipe so you can season it yourself and buy the plain kind.

  • 1 28 ox can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp Better Than Bouillon or 1 bouillon cube
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup dry macaroni
  • 1 package of vegetarian ground beef (I used Yves but President’s Choice makes a good one too!)

For the cheese sauce:

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup 2% milk (I used whole just because it was what I had)
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese

In a large pot, pour in the canned tomatoes and add 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil and add pasta, spices, bouillon and salt. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently so the pasta doesn’t stick together.

While the pasta is cooking, make the cheese sauce. Melt the butter over medium heat, then whisk in the flour. Cook until the mixture is bubbling, then add the milk and whisk until smooth. Let cook for a few minutes until thickened. Once the mixture can coat the back of a spoon nicely, add the grated cheese and stir until melted.

Once the macaroni is cooked, remove the pot from heat and add the vegetarian ground beef, stirring to ensure it is thoroughly heated. Add the cheese sauce, stir and serve!


Teensy Weensy Black Bean Burgers

veggie burgers

Ok. I feel awkward. I realize that the last time I posted it was uh, February. And now it’s nearly July and I need to explain my total silence the past four months. Let’s see. I guess the main cause was that I changed jobs. Aaaand then I got engaged!

I know, right? So when I say I’ve been busy the past few months, I mean it! But I’ve really missed posting here, so this is my apology post and my I-hope-someone-other-than-my-mom-still-reads-this post. And I think this is the perfect recipe to start on because I’ve been promising myself I was going to make veggie burgers forEVER, and now I’ve been telling myself to get back to posting forEVER.

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Black Bean and Feta Quesadillas

Oh gosh, it’s been cold out there lately, eh? I mean, I feel like I should be able to just shrug off Toronto cold weather after living in Ottawa for 5 years. But apparently I’ve softened in my old age because this cold snap has been awful!

And in addition to the cold, the lack of sunshine has really got me down lately. I’m trying to fight it, I really am. I’m taking lunchtime walks to suck up whatever tiny ounce of sunshine I can! And I’m taking vitamin B12 and vitamin D which are both supposed to help energy levels. But I still get home from work just totally exhausted. If it’s a good day, I do some yoga and then make dinner. On bad days, I watch Kardashians and hope Will feels up to cooking when he gets home.



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Roasted Veggies and Chickpeas with Cheese Sauce

cheese sauce

Does winter just make you crave a big bowl of beige stuff? Like risotto. And mac and cheese. If I could live on various forms of mac and cheese until April, I so would.

But luckily I came across Oh She Glow’s Buddha Bowl yesterday. And OK, I decided I still wanted cheese sauce instead of the dressing she suggested. But at least this way I’m eating chickpeas and cauliflower and quinoa instead of white pasta, right?

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Quinoa Salad with Charred Corn

Before I get into this delicious quinoa salad, I wanted to brag about a really cool gift I got from my sister this year.


Reusable produce bags! How smart is that? I always have one of those lightweight reusable totes in my purse to cut down on the number of plastic grocery bags I use, but now I can do that with produce bags too!

Ok and one more thing that has vastly improved my life: I just realized a few weeks ago that I could just write the best-before date on the carton of my already opened stock so I know how long it’ll be safe to use. Right? Riiiight? Ugh, there are some things that it takes me an embarrassingly long time to figure out.

So I’ve never really gotten the quinoa obsession. As a lifelong vegetarian, it’s one of those foods that people assume you eat constantly, like tofu and salads. I’ve only ever tried it as a side dish at vegetarian restaurants and I’m always underwhelmed by it.


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Tuesday Night Throwback Dinner: Enchilada Casserole


Casseroles are one of those purely old school foods. They remind me of reading hilarious Betty Crocker cookbooks from the 70s where the props are terrifying and Jello features prominently.  This one’s a little different though. No weird neon orange cheeses or tiny hot dogs. Just your favourite Mexican food ingredients in a one bowl meal!


Also there are avocados, because I had some lovely avocados that were just perfectly ripe and needed to be used up ASAP.

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Autumnal Stuffed Acorn Squash

I feel just so lucky to have parents who live in the country. There may have been some years during my adolescence where I was frustrated by having to live in the backwoods, but now that I live in the city their property has become a retreat to me. In fact, a few weeks ago it was the chosen location for a bachlorette party in honour of my friend Melissa! Originally we were debating a night out, or a stay in a nice hotel. But all we  wanted to do was hang out (and maybe have a drink or two), so why not do that out in the country? And man, was it a total country event. The highlight was a midnight dance party in the old horse paddock (the horses have now left, otherwise I’m sure they would have been traumatized impressed by our moves).


The other great thing about my parents’ property is their giant garden. This year they even ran a CSA for 40 people, and I was lucky enough to get some of the leftovers when I was home over thanksgiving. I have been racing to use up all the veggies my mom sent me back to the city with, including two acorn squash. I’m going to be honest with you, the only thing I’ve ever done with acorn squash is stuff them. Usually it’s with a mix of sautéed onions and celery, sunflower seeds, breadcrumbs and cheddar cheese. That’s the way a friend once made it for me when he learned I was vegetarian, and it’s delicious! But this time I also wanted to use up the leeks my mom got me, and also I was just craving risotto.

Vegetarian Shepherds Pie

shepherds pie

Gosh, this has been such a productive weekend. Originally our plan for today was to go to the Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival (it would be the third year in a row that I went!). But it poured rain all morning, so we stayed in a cleaned and hemmed curtains and hung paintings. And then we topped it off with a trip to Target for a mirror. It was a very domestic afternoon. It feels really good to have a quiet weekend in, after so many weekends of moving and packing and weddings and craziness.

shepherds pie

The rain and the cozy feeling inspired me to make an equally cozy meal. I’ve made vegetarian shepherds pie before, but previously I’d used fake ground beef . This time I wanted something a little easier, so I went with lentils for the bulk of the filling. This was a great way to use up some of the veggies my parents had left me last time they were in town. In fact, the only vegetables that weren’t from them were the peas!

shepherds pie

(some cooking essentials: wine and scrap bowl. Doesn’t everyone cook with a scrap bowl? It’s so much easier then going back and forth to the garbage)

shepherds pie

(my parents’ carrots, celery and onions!)

shepherds pie

Vegetarian Shepherds Pie

For the filling:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • one onion, diced
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • red wine (optional)
  • 1 ½ cups green lentils
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube
  • ¼ tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 156 ml can tomato paste
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the potato topping:

  • 4 medium baking potatoes (I actually used about 12 little potatoes, but that’s just the size my parents’ potatoes come in!)
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup grated old cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup grated parmesan

Start by sautéing the onions, carrots and celery in the olive oil for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another five minutes. If you’ve got some red wine laying around, you can deglaze the pan with a glug or two (but I realize not everyone has bottles of homemade wine lying around, like me). Meanwhile boil four cups of water and dissolve the bouillon cube in it. Add the lentils to the sautéed vegetables and then the boiling water. Cook for about 20 minutes over medium heat, stirring a few times.

Meanwhile, peel and quarter the potatoes. Boil the potatoes until tender, then drain and mash with the butter and cheeses. Add some salt and a bit of fresh ground black pepper. Set aside until the lentil mixture is cooked.

Once most of the liquid has been absorbed by the lentils, add the tomato paste, the spices and the peas. Cook for another two minutes to cook the peas, then remove from heat.

Assemble the pie by filling a casserole dish halfway with the lentil mixture, then top with the potatoes (I ran a fork along the potatoes to get some nice ridges). Place under a broiler until the top gets golden brown – about five minutes. Serve and enjoy!

shepherds pie