Unintentionally Vegan: Creamy Lentil Salad

veganlentilsSince it’s January, I, like everybody else, am trying to eat a little bit healthier. Since I already do almost all my cooking from scratch and generally feel pretty good, it’s more about using nutritious ingredients that I’m not overly familiar with, and expanding my repertoire.

So, lentils. We’ve got a ton of them in our pantry, and they’re still not my number one choice, simply because I don’t entirely know what to do with them. I’ve come to love the brown variety; they are extremely easy to cook. There are just a couple tips about lentils that I’ve come across, including that you should always rinse them off beforehand, and that you should wait to salt them until after they are cooked (or they might get mushy). Other than that, lentils seem pretty easy-going. I haven’t overcooked them yet, or burned them to the bottom of the pot.

This recipe was very much an odds and ends creation, but came together better than I ever expected. And it’s perfect for Meatless Monday. I call this dish: creamy lentil salad with avocado-lemon dressing, and cashews. It is filling, rich and flavourful… oh, and unintentionally vegan. Here is the recipe, for one person, as it was a work-day lunch for me:

Creamy lentil salad with avocado-lemon dressing, and cashews. For one. 

  • 1/2 cup brown lentils, cooked and cooled to room temp. or warm
  • 1 avocado, ripe
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • EVOO
  • 1/4 cup white onion, very finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 radish, chopped
  • 1 button mushroom, chopped
  • 1 sun-dried tomato, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Handful of crushed cashews (preferably unsalted)
  • Greens for on top, optional

As a note, the ratio for lentils to water is 1:2. They only take about 20-30 minutes to cook. Bring them to a boil then simmer, uncovered, for the rest of the cooking time.

Method: This is pretty easy. Mix up the avocado, lemon juice and EVOO until you get a creamy dressing that isn’t too thick. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Mix the dressing with the lentils until they are covered. Mix in all your chopped up veggies until covered. Add salt and pepper if you need to. Spoon into a bowl and sprinkle the cashews on top. Finish with a handful of greens. (If you are a lover of heat, cut the richness of this dish with your favourite hot sauce!)

Look for my next post, which will be the complete opposite of vegan. It will feature making ravioli from scratch and other indulgences from my recent birthday weekend…

Meatless Monday: Sloppy Joe


There is a way to get some flavour into that veggie ground round and use it for your favourite meat-heavy meals. This dish came from us just having odds and ends in the fridge, including a package of ground round.. Since it’s Meatless Monday, I thought I’d share the recipe. The Guinness and worcestershire are what really amped up the flavour, as well as the long simmer. (Leave out the jalapeño and it would be great recipe for kids too!)

Sloppy Joe Filling:

  • 1 package of Italian Yves Veggie Ground Round (or original)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, finely chopped
  • 2 vine tomatoes, chopped (you might like it chunky)
  • 1/2 cup or so, sun-dried tomatoes that were packed in oil, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup red pepper, diced
  • Chilli powder and cumin to taste (a few shakes of each)
  • Tablespoon of worcestershire, or to taste
  • Sprinkle of brown sugar (optional)
  • Generous splash of Guinness, or other dark beer
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method for filling: In a good-sized saucepan (you will need some depth) sautée the onions until slightly caramelized at medium heat, add garlic, then all other vegetables. Sautée for a couple minutes, then add veggie ground round. Season with chilli powder, cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Add worcestershire and sugar, stir. Add the beer to de-glaze the pan. Then add the water. Stir, then cover the saucepan. Let this simmer for about an hour. Check on it every so often, stir, and add more water (or beer) if necessary, as filling should be… sloppy.

To finish: Use the broiler to melt a cheese of your choice onto a toasted bun. Add filling. Top with sliced green onions, and maybe, hot sauce.

One note is that the ground round does have quite a few ingredients. To use fewer ingredients and fillers, consider trying brown lentils, which can substitute for ground beef nicely, like in my meatless shepherd’s pie recipe.

Humble and Homemade at Mateus Bistro

Mateus Bistro exterior.

Mateus Bistro exterior.

It’s been a little while since I’ve reviewed a local restaurant. It seems the blog (along with Halifax) has been dominated by brand new openings. Which is great — it’s just not that cool to review a place that’s only been open a few weeks. And those are the places I’ve been trying.

So, I made the trip to Mahone Bay to explicitly brunch at Mateus Bistro, a name I’d heard thrown around a few times, especially when I was sitting on the judging panel for the RANS awards this past November.

When we arrived, on a Sunday afternoon, there weren’t too many other patrons. The building is a wee old house, situated on the main drag, but with the entrance facing a parking lot. The interior feels small; divided rooms and a low ceiling, as you would expect of an older home. This time of day it was very sunny. The space achieves a very cozy and charming atmosphere but with bright spots of colour, due to the large collection of artwork showcased on the walls.

We took a table for two in the front part of the bistro (near the tiny bar room), where the sun was shining in our window and we could look out on Main Street. Our server was genuine and sweet. After finding out the keg had run dry of the Mystique Cider I had ordered, she made me an amazing spicy caesar: horseradish, lots of worcestershire, topped with house-pickled beans.

Delicious caesar with horseradish, pickled beans.

Delicious caesar with horseradish, pickled beans.

My brunch focus was thrown off when I discovered the lunch menu also being offered. I ordered the crispy haddock burger with house made tzatziki, on a bun from La Vendeenne, served with green salad. Geir went for the local pork schnitzel sandwich with homemade chow aioli and a caesar salad. This was humble fare, and it was made thoughtfully. My haddock burger was made from a nice, big fresh piece of fish, cooked properly; the tzatziki had a nice amount of garlic. My salad was super fresh with very flavourful greens, which the menu said were local, dressed with what tasted like a simple balsamic vinaigrette balanced perfectly with honey. The homemade creamy roasted garlic dressing on the caesar was fantastic! Perfect for garlic fiends like me.

Crispy haddock burger with house made tzatziki.

Crispy haddock burger with house made tzatziki.

Simple food, prepared to a high standard, using many fresh, local ingredients. Just the kind of place we love. We’ll definitely be back next time we’re in Mahone Bay. They offer a dinner menu with some more involved entree items that I’d love to try.