Meatless Monday – Groundhog Day

Rest assured no groundhogs will be eaten on Meatless Monday.

Some may be traumatized, however, by being forced in front of a crowd of people on a winter day to predict whether it will be an early spring. Groundhog Day is an occasion in Canada and the US where this giant rodent (named after particular cities) is paraded in the public eye. The lore goes if he sees his shadow there will be six more weeks of winter. (I don’t think Mother Nature is in cahoots with the groundhog anyway as it seems winter will stay as long as it likes.)

In Canada
Shubenacadie Sam Nova Scotia
Wiarton Willie, Wiarton, Ontario
Balzac Billy, Balzac Alberta

In the US
PunxsutawneyPhil, Pennsylvania

Winter food is comfort food. It is cooked, warm and heavy with fat and carbohydrates. Though bodies seem to crave fat and carbs during this time of year, don’t get too carried away with them. Instead, use a healthy dose of essential fatty acids, particularly omega 3, and complex carbohydrates in your comfort food recipes. These break down slower in the GI (gastrointestinal) tract than their refined counterparts thus mitigating a spike in blood sugar levels.

Healthy versions of some vegetarian/vegan versions of comfort foods:

Mac n’ Cheese
This classic comfort food is typically made with white flour elbow macaroni, a roux of butter and white flour and oodles of orange cheese. The healthy fix? Use whole grain macaroni, reduce the amount of vegetarian/vegan cheese of your choice and add in some nutritional yeast and mustard. For extra oomph, add some butternut squash and pumpkin purée to enhance the orange appearance of the sauce. (Plus it adds antioxidants to your dish.) For the breadcrumb topping, add some chia, flax and hemp seeds for a crunchy omega 3 supplement.
Tip: For vegetarians, use a strong and aged vegetarian cheese like a sharp cheddar or a touch of blue. The strong flavour enables you to use less without losing the rich taste.

Shepherd’s Pie
Basically a vegetable protein base topped with delicious creamy mashed potato.
The healthy fix? Include dark leafy greens like kale and spinach with mushrooms, carrots, onion, garlic and some peas and lentils for protein. Cook in a vegetable or mushroom stock with some vegan Worcestershire sauce, organic tomato paste and add a touch of Marmite (a gooey yeast extract spread that contains serotonin friendly B vitamins including the elusive B12, long believed to be present in animal food only). For the topping use a combination of a yellow fleshed potato (e.g. Yukon gold) and sweet potato mixed with some cashew cream, paprika, rosemary, sage, parsley and thyme. (Use these same spices in the vegetable mix to round out and deepen the flavour of the dish.)

Oatmeal/Rice Pudding
Ideal as an evening snack or morning meal. The healthy fix? Use steel-cut oats/whole grain rice; steamed carrots; raisins, dates or prunes finely chopped; pistachios; cashews; tahini; cinnamon and ginger. As an optional add-in use some rosewater or orange blossom water (can be found in groceries specializing in Middle Eastern foods.) The spices are warming and help with digestion, the dried fruit adds sweetness (but if you must add more sweetener use a light drizzle of  maple syrup) and the nuts and tahini add some protein. Sprinkle with flax seeds if you like.

And the verdict is…
…six more weeks of winter.
Back into the kitchen and ovens on.



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