Eating well in winter


Here, in Canada, we’re nearing the end of winter. This is the most difficult time of year for those of us who thrive on plant-based eating. Nothing is growing other than greenhouse tomatoes and cucumbers. All fresh fruit and vegetables travel far to make it to our markets.

I do my best to eat local – both because I want to support my local businesses and because I want to avoid adding any unnecessary greenhouse gasses by eating foods that travel far to get to me.

One old-fashioned way to do both is through canning when fruits and vegetables are at their peak and eating them in the middle of winter. Over the summer and fall, I’ve made a number of jams, relishes and chutneys that I’m enjoying now.

In my oatmeal this morning, I have added a generous helping of apple pie jam that I make in the fall with apples we picked at a local farm. It is delicious and a great way to change things up. We still have a few jars left of yellow plum jam, peach jam and rhubarb jam – my kids love them on their peanut butter sandwiches so we go through a lot. But my favourite way to eat them is in my morning oatmeal.

Canning is a great way to bring the flavours of summer and harvest into the depths of winter. It’s not difficult once you get the hang of it. Small batch canning is an accessible way to start.

How do you add variety to your winter meals?

Sunflower seed butter and pear jam sandwiches


Packing nutritious school lunches can be a real challenge for anyone. The kids get limited time to eat – generally in their classrooms with minimal supervision. It’s noisy and rushed on the best of days, from what I gather. They want to eat and go for recess with their friends. But my kids know they’re expected to eat their whole lunch before they eat all their snacks. If they eat a treat before they’ve finished their lunch, they won’t get a treat the next day.

My son’s a little rule follower so if he runs out of time to finish his lunch, he’ll eat it during last snack. If he feels the lunch we’ve packed was too big, we hear about it after school – through tears. My daughter, on the other hand, has a good appetite so the challenge with her is packing enough calories for her to consume in the time allotted.

Generally, we pack leftovers from dinner – if we can. But we have a few tricks for those days when we can’t pack leftovers or if the leftovers won’t translate well into cold lunches (like soup).

Hummus and cucumber sandwiches are a good choice for my picky eater. I’ve mentioned frozen leftover pizza. Another easy lunch is peanut butter and jam, of course. But since the kids’ school is nut-free, it’s sunflower seed butter and jam.

Sunflower seed butter has more protein and fat than peanut butter so it’s a good choice for energetic, growing kids. I know my kids get plenty of vitamins but the whole foods we eat are generally low in fat. Kids need plenty of healthy fats to energize their growth spurts. These sandwiches are topped with homemade pear jam for that touch of sweetness they crave.

Vegan pudding
Chia seed pudding is delicious and full of protein to power you through the morning.

For high energy snacks, I’ve mentioned chia seed pudding, which is one of my daughter’s favourites. Overnight oats is preferred by my son. I always include chia seeds in his oatmeal for added protein. We also include snack mixes of dried fruit, seeds, whole grain cereals (like Shreddies), pretzels or a couple crackers. This week, I’ve added a couple heart-shaped candies to the mix as a special treat.

Other snacks include fruit, apple sauce, baked goods (like muffins or leftover pancakes) or sliced veggies (generally carrots and cucumbers).

Coming up with quick and easy lunches for the kids can be a real challenge, so I’d love to hear your ideas. What do you pack in your kids’ lunches?

Peanut Butter and Jam French Toast

vegan peanut butter and jam french toast
Sandwiches ready to dredge according to the recipe.

I got a new cookbook over the holidays. I don’t know how the recipes will go over with the kids but it’s always nice to have a new book to draw inspiration from.

I did find a recipe that was failsafe. The kids start most days with peanut butter and jam sandwiches.  This recipe takes that sandwich to another level.

I spend summers making various kinds of jam to keep local, healthy preserves stocked in the pantry to last the winter. Right now, we have orange marmalade and red currant jelly on the go with rhubarb strawberry, pear, apple jam and many others on reserve. I used the red currant jelly for this French Toast.

When I called the kids to breakfast, I realized that my kids had never had French Toast. I had made various vegan versions of it before we had kids and wasn’t much of a fan of the soggy toast. We make pancakes all the time but not French Toast. When my daughter saw these, she remarked that they looked like bread pancakes. I didn’t realize they were living such sheltered lives!

vegan peanut butter and jam french toast
Frying the French toast.

This recipe is from The Edgy Veg: 138 Carnivore-Approved Vegan Recipes. Simply make the pb&j sandwiches, drudge them in the milky liquid and fry them until browned.

The end results were delicious and quite filling. As usual, I’m not adding the recipe because it’s not mine to share. But you could use any vegan French Toast recipe to make your own version of this breakfast treat. Like this one from Minimalist Baker.

My kids go to a French Immersion school. My daughter told us that one of her teachers has a t-shirt that says “I speak French Toast.” (It must have been on pyjama day.) Apparently someone in her class stuck her with a post-it note saying “I speak English muffin.” So thanks to this mornings’ breakfast, she finally gets the joke!


French toast
Ready for the maple syrup.


Biscuits with red currant jelly

vegan biscuits with red currant jelly

I love chilly Saturday mornings when I have a few unscheduled hours that I can fill as I please. The kids always wake up early and are occupied playing with the toys they have barely touched all week. When there’s a chill in the house, I get rid of it by making baking. Biscuits are my favourite.

I’ve had this recipe for many years – wrote it down in a notebook ages ago and it’s my go to biscuit recipe.

  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup vegan butter
  • 1 cup unsweetened vegan milk (I use soy milk)

Combine the dry ingredients well. Cut the butter into the dry mix. Add the milk – don’t over mix. Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes. Make 10 biscuits.

I made the jelly in July when my red currant bush was bursting with fruit. If you want some backyard fruit that requires little maintenance and has a great yield, I recommend red currant. It provides for me every year and we love the bitter berries when they’re fresh, in a preserve or frozen. I add them to smoothies or baking.

As for the recipe for the red currant jelly, I got it from The Canning Kitchen: 101 Simple Small Batch Recipes. It’s a great book – the Apple Pie Jam is one of my favourites! And the recipes make enough name that it’s well worth the effort but small enough that it’s not a formidable job to take on.