Inspired by my Italian heritage, I really wanted to veganize one of my favorite classic Sunday lunch dishes: meatballs. I grew up with the smell of tomato sauce and “polpette” (meatballs) slowly cooking stovetop every Sunday morning. Those were the first irresistible aromas, sizzling sounds and bright colors that seduced me into the completely mesmerizing world of cooking. I dedicate this recipe to the one who ignited my love affair with the kitchen: my mother, Lina.

This is not one of my quickest, nor easiest recipes. It takes a while to prepare, and the mixture is quite sticky so forming the (no)meat balls can be a bit messy. However, I’m telling you, this recipe is worth the effort. First of all, you will get a nice big batch of (no)meat balls (around 20 to 25), which can be easily heated up for a quick meal or just as delicious served cold in a (no)meat ball sandwich. Yum!

Meatballs are typically cooked in a pot of tomato sauce, slowly simmering on the stove. I tried baking them covered in sauce in a glass casserole dish and they came out wonderfully. The benefit of baking them is that you don’t have to stir the sauce and thereby risk breaking them. You simply turn them over once after 20 minutes. I found this easier and it allowed them to keep their shape perfectly.

I understand it’s quicker to use store-bought bread crumbs and tomato sauce, but we cannot control the ingredients in these products. Also, they have their own flavor which may differ from the flavors we are trying to create. I include my recipes below and encourage you to try them.

Enjoy these scrumptious little vegan masterpieces!

Vegan (No)Meat Balls


1 package firm organic tofu

1 cup chickpeas, kidney or cannellini beans, cooked and marinated (see marinade recipe below)

1 red pepper, finely chopped

1 small potato, peeled and finely chopped

1 beet or 2 small carrots, peeled and finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

1 cup mushrooms, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

1 zucchini, finely chopped

1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

4 teaspoons sea salt

3 tablespoons grapeseed oil

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon ground chipotle

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon cumin

2 ½ cups chickpea flour

4 teaspoons egg replacer

½ cup shelled hemp seeds

½ cup nutritional yeast

2 cup bread crumbs (see recipe below)

½ cup water

5 tablespoons ground flax seed

½ cup water



  1. Prepare tomato sauce (see recipe below).
  2. Marinate tofu and beans (see recipe below).
  3. In a small bowl, mix ground flax seed and ½ cup of water. Set aside for 20 minutes.
  4. Heat grapeseed oil in large sauce pan. Add onions, garlic, and all chopped vegetables. Add sea salt, pepper, oregano and fennel seeds. Sauté until vegetables are soft, about 10- 15 minutes.
  5. Add marinated tofu and beans to vegetable mixture and stir. Cook for 5 minutes. Stir in chopped parsley, paprika, chipotle, turmeric and cumin.
  6. Remove from heat and let cool. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in 1 ½ cups chickpea flour, egg replacer, hemp, nutritional yeast and bread crumbs. Place ½ of the mixture into food processor. Add ½ cup of water and blend until soft and clumpy.
  7. Add blended mixture back to bowl with vegetable mixture. Stir in flaxseed mixture. Add remaining chickpea flour. Stir well. Mixture will be very sticky.
  8. Form nomeat balls with your hand and coat with bread crumbs. You can add them to your pot of tomato sauce and allow the nomeat balls to simmer for 30-45 minutes in the sauce, gently stirring occasionally. Alternatively, you may add about 1 cup of tomato sauce to a casserole dish, and more sauce to cover each nomeat ball, and bake the nomeat balls (covered with aluminum foil, punctured with a fork to allow steam to escape) at 350˚F for 40-50 minutes. Gently turn the nomeat balls over after 20 minutes of baking.
  9. Serve warm with pasta or salad, or any way you desire!


Marinade for tofu and beans/chickpeas

In a large glass container, place crumbled tofu and beans or chickpeas, and mix in the ingredients which follow. Marinate for about 2 hours prior to cooking.

2 gloves of garlic, minced

3 tablespoons olive OR grapeseed oil

2 tablespoons unsalted steak spice

3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons wheat-free tamari

1 bay leaf (remove before cooking)


Homemade Bread Crumbs


4-5 slices of bread of your choice, dried and hardened (takes about 2 days)

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder


  1. Choose bread that you would like to grate. Break it into pieces and place on a cooking sheet. Leave it in the oven for at least 2 days to dry out and harden. Do not turn on the oven.
  2. Once bread is completely dry and hard, put it in a blender or food processor and grate.
  3. Pour into large bowl and add oregano, salt and garlic powder.
  4. Use as desired.


Maria’s Easy Tomato Sauce


4 cups strained tomatoes (comes in a glass jar)

⅓ cup tomato paste (optional if you like really thick sauce)

3 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil

2 onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, diced

1 bay leaf

1 red bell pepper, chopped

3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

4-6 leaves fresh basil

Sea salt to taste


1. Heat oil over low heat in large pot. Add chopped onions and sauté over low heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes.

2. Stir in all remaining ingredients and let simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours.  Discard bay leaf and basil before serving.


You know, when you get your first asparagus, or your first acorn squash, or your first really good tomato of the season, those are the moments that define the cook’s year. I get more excited by that than anything else.  

~Chef Mario Batali

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As the warmer weather sets in, we don’t have to leave our beans and legumes on the side for next winter. We can prepare them in lighter ways, like in tasty salads.

When I made that scrumptious lentil loaf, I had extra cooked lentils and beans. The following day, I pulled them out of the refrigerator and decided to experiment with putting them together in a salad. I had black radish and carrots on hand so I shredded those and added them to the beans and lentils. Black radish has a milder taste than the red and white radishes we are used to. Daikon is another similar tasting root vegetable which is even milder than the black radish and would also work well here. You can try any of these and see what you prefer. I love ginger, so I added a little, in addition to my other lovely immune-boosting staples:  garlic and onion. I chose red onion for its slightly sweeter taste; it’s quite pleasant in salads.

For the dressing, I got bold and went with not just lemon or lime, but both! Hey, why not? I chose flaxseed oil, rather than olive oil, to add some healthy omega-3s to this dish. Flaxseed oil is wonderful for raw dishes, but should not be used for cooking. I added some aromatic fresh chopped parsley for garnish (cilantro would be another delicious alternative garnish), along with hemp seeds. Cayenne for a kick, but of course this is completely optional.

I am totally convinced that one of the secrets to making food as tasty as possible is choosing to use sea salt, rather than simple table salt. My favorite tasting salt is the pink Himalayan sea salt and that’s what I use all the time. Try different ones and see what you like best.

Enjoy this zesty, light-tasting salad!   

Lemon Lime Bean Medley Salad


Makes approximately 3-4 servings

1 cup cooked lentils, cooled

1 cup cooked beans, any variety, cooled

4 carrots, peeled

3 black radishes, peeled or 1 daikon, peeled

1 small piece of ginger, peeled

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

Juice from one lemon

Juice from one lime

3 tablespoons flax seed oil

2 teaspoons sea salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ cup fresh parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons shelled hemp seeds



  1. Shred carrots, black radish or daikon and ginger in a food processor.
  2. Combine all ingredients, except the hemp seeds and parsley, in a large bowl. Mix well.
  3. Garnish with chopped parsley and hemp seeds. Serve chilled or at room temperature.


To become wholly compassionate requires us to open our eyes and hearts, to behold the pain and exploitation our culture obscures, to arouse deadened emotions, and to rise above our egos. ~ Joanne Stepaniak

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Last week, I shared with you five popular myths regarding veganism. Here are five more and my attempts to address them:

6. A vegan diet does nothing to help major world problems like pollution, global warming, world hunger, water waste, etc.

This is completely inaccurate. With respect to pollution and global warming, by adopting a plant-based diet, we are dramatically lowering our impact on global warming, since the number one contributor to the production of greenhouse gases is the livestock industry. Most people assume that too many cars are the problem, however, enslaving the billions of animals for food and all that is involved with these industries produces 18% of the global emissions of greenhouse gases, as compared to 13% produced by all means of transportation combined. Furthermore, the animal food industries are notorious for water waste.

Adopting a vegan diet on a large scale would greatly reduce world hunger, since the massive amounts of grains that are grown to feed to animals (who eat way more than humans) could be used instead to feed humans directly. It is more efficient and cost-effective.

7. Vegans only care about animal suffering; what about all the people suffering?

As if we vegans only have room enough in our hearts to care for one species! Caring about animal welfare is not mutually exclusive with other causes. This cause happens to be dear to us, hence many vegans are also animal activists. We don’t choose a cause; a cause chooses us.

8. A vegan diet is too complicated, impractical, and expensive!

Actually, the opposite is true. It is very easy to have your diet focus around fresh, vegan produce. Furthermore, preparing plant-based meals, even mostly organic, is cheaper than animal-based meals. Vegetables, beans, whole grains, fresh fruits, when bought in season, locally whenever possible, are far less expensive than meats and cheeses. Once you make the decision to adopt a vegan diet, you find your favorite places to shop which are practical and affordable. Even eating out is not a huge dilemma by simply speaking to the staff and letting them know your dietary preferences. Visits to friends and family are also easily solved by bringing along vegan dishes for everyone to share. Since people generally love to eat tasty food, they will be delighted.

9. A vegan diet is unhealthy

On the contrary, a vegan’s diet has the potential to be healthier than a diet based on animal-derived foods. I say “potential” because it takes some effort and education to maintain a healthy diet, be it a vegan or non-vegan one. Certainly we have unhealthy vegans, just as we have unhealthy non-vegans. Furthermore, there is more to health than diet alone. This I know to be true based on my own quest to restore my health.

Let’s look at this optimal health potential a little closer:

• Fiber:

Plant-based foods contain more fiber than animal-derived foods. A diet high in fiber brings with it regular bowel movements and issues of constipation, common among meat-eaters, is practically non-existent. Healthier bowel movements decrease the risk of colon cancer and other diseases.

• Avoiding animal protein, especially casein:

In The China Study, Drs. T. Colin Campbell ad Thomas M. Campbell, present the research linking animal protein, in particular casein, which is the protein found in dairy milk to cancers such as prostate and breast. This is a highly important book in the field of nutrition and demonstrates clearly how our diet can significantly contribute to obesity, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

• More minerals and vitamins:

In general, unprocessed, fresh vegetables and fruits contain more vitamins and minerals than animal products. They are also more alkaline, rather than acidic, like meats and dairy. Disease thrives in an acidic environment.

• More antioxidants:

Antioxidants protect against cell damage. Vegetables and fruits are much higher in antioxidants than animal-derived products.

• Lower cholesterol, triglycerides and BMI:

Vegans typically have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and have a lower body mass index (BMI). This all converts to better cardiovascular health.

• Bacteria, disease and contamination:

Since animals are unfortunately raised and killed in filthy conditions, and since they are in such poor health for their short, miserable lives, the risk of bacteria contamination is very high. We can see evidence of this by the number of meat recalls just this year alone. Also, you will notice that when you adopt a vegan diet, illnesses like the stomach flu or other infections become so much less frequent than previously.

10. Animals eat other animals in the wild, so if we don’t eat them, they will eat us!

Carnivores do eat other animals, and their physiology is designed to digest meat. Our physiology is not. Our physiology is not even that of an omnivore. Our physiology resembles one of a herbivore or frugivore. We are not meant to eat animals; this is just a custom that has become part of our culture of carnism.

The animals we typically eat are the gentlest and meekest of the bunch. They are precious beings that deserve our love and protection, not exploitation. They are artificially inseminated in massive numbers and genetically modified to grow quicker and heavier. If we stop consuming them, they will stop producing them. We are not talking about things here, we are talking about living, feeling beings.

I hope you found this analysis informative.

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“People look at me as a vegan and conclude that since I stepped on a snail or because the vegetables I eat resulted in a tractor death for a squirrel somewhere in Paraguay that somehow vegans are hypocrites, which of course they’re not since perfection is an unattainable goal and is something to be driven towards, never actually achieved. The difference between you and the vegan standing next to you is that while you’re both going to step on a bug tomorrow, they’ve decided to dedicate their lives to as little harm as possible, completely independent from what you do. So in no way does the protozoan life form they step on negate your responsibility for the lamb you’re paying a stranger to cut tomorrow. And falling 1% short of an unattainable goal is really good when you’re standing next to someone who won’t even try.” ~Shelley Williams

Lentil, mushroom and spinach stew

Last week I promised you another protein-rich meal: lentil stew, so, with pleasure, here she is! Lentils make a delicious, nutritious, and truly satisfying meal that can be served alone, or over your favorite rice or noodles.

Lentils are legumes which are easier to prepare than dried beans because they do not require several hours of soaking prior to cooking. They cook relatively quickly and absorb the flavours of spices easily. Other than being simply delicious, they are a nutrient powerhouse! They have a ton of iron and protein, are rich in minerals, B vitamins and fiber, which assists in the lowering of cholesterol and blood glucose levels.

There are many different types of lentils that you may want to experiment with and see what suits your taste buds. For a warm dish like this, I like the taste and texture of French lentils (soft, “meaty”, almost creamy), whereas if I am making a lentil salad, I prefer the taste and texture of green lentils (firm and a little crunchy). The green lentils take longer to cook, so keep in mind that one hour will definitely not be enough time to prepare them. If you under-cook them, they won’t be flavorful and you’ll end up having the misconception that lentils are bland. Red or yellow lentils I like a lot in Indian recipes. Try them all and see what you like best!

French, red and green lentils

Enjoy, in joy and in health!

Lentil Stew

2 cups French lentils
2 cups mushrooms, chopped
4 cups spinach or rapini, chopped
4 gloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 cups homemade vegetable broth (or you can replace with purified water only)
1 cup purified water
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon unsalted steak spice
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
½ cup fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

1. In a pot, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and 2 gloves of garlic over medium heat. Add lentils and stir, making sure they are coated with oil. After about 2-3 minutes, add broth and water. Add sea salt and bay leaf.
2. Once mixture boils, lower to simmer and allow to slow cook for approximately 1 hour. Taste test to make sure the lentils are soft. If all the water is absorbed but lentils are still too hard, add a little more water and allow to cook for longer. Different types of lentils will take longer to cook.
3. While lentils are cooking, in a saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 clove of garlic. Add chopped mushrooms, steak spice, oregano, fennel seeds and sea salt. Cook over medium heat until most of the moisture from the mushrooms has evaporated and mushrooms are soft, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
4. In another saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 clove of garlic. Add chopped spinach or rapini. Add chili flakes and sea salt. Cook over medium heat until leaves are wilted and tender, about 10 minutes for spinach, 20 minutes for rapini. Set aside.
5. Once lentils are soft, remove bay leaf and discard. Add mushrooms and spinach or rapini to the pot. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley or cilantro. Can be served alone in a bowl or over rice or noodles. Serve warm.

Lentils and spinach over rice


“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” ~Elbert Hubbard

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Quinoa Recipe

Quinoa Recipe
Quinoa salad with Tahini dressing

This week, let’s talk about something completely wonderful: quinoa! Also, let me tell you how I created this delicious little dressing that goes perfectly with a little quinoa, on a bed of your favorite fresh lettuce. Ahhh…heaven in a dish!

Quinoa is wonderful for so many reasons. Quinoa is native to South America and is so nutrient-dense, it was once called “the gold of the Incas”. Often referred to as a grain, it is actually the seed of a leafy green cousin to spinach and Swiss chard. One of the most amazing properties of quinoa is that this little seed is a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential 9 amino acids which form a protein. This makes it an excellent plant-based source of protein all on its own, whereas getting a complete protein from most beans would require combining it with whole grain rice, for example. It also contains plenty of other nutrients such as fibre, magnesium, and phosphorus. Since it is “wheat-free”, it can form part of a satisfying meal for those who want to avoid gluten.

I am a huge fan of quinoa (have you noticed?) and make several dishes with it. This week, I’d like to tell you about a tasty dressing I created for quinoa and lettuce. I call it “The Josephine” after a delightful student of mine who took my vegan cooking course at McGill University. She asked me if I had any ideas for making a dressing using tahini, which would not have that slightly bitter aftertaste common for tahini.

Tahini is a nutritious, tasty spread, popular in Middle Eastern dishes. We used it a few weeks ago when we made my Healthy Hummus. It is made from ground sesame seeds and is rich in B vitamins and calcium. Tahini can be added to recipes or simply used as a spread on toast, crackers, in a sandwich or on vegetables. I love tahini just as much as I love quinoa and use both often in my kitchen!

I put my chef’s hat on and got to work in the kitchen! My first challenge was: how do I sweeten the tahini a little? I immediately thought of adding tamari and balsamic vinegar. Then I figured a fresh or dried fruit would work nicely in adding a hint of fruity sweetness, so I pulled out my organic dried apricots. I, of course, wanted some garlic in the here to balance out the flavours and for a last extra little kick, I chopped fresh ginger! I whisked up the dressing, along with some olive oil, oregano and sea salt. I poured it over my cooked quinoa, which had time to cool and chose my favorite fresh lettuce: arugula. I sprinkled the small pieces of apricot, hemp, chia and flax seeds over top and tried a forkful. OK, WOW! So delicious! You MUST try this! Thank you Josephine for your inspiration and for this challenge!

Enjoy, in joy and in health!


1-2 servings

1 cup quinoa, cooked in 1 ½ cups water, cooled
2 cups raw baby kale OR lettuce of your choice

2 tablespoons Tahini
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon wheat-free Tamari
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon oregano
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 small piece ginger, finely chopped
5 dried apricots OR 2 fresh apricots, chopped
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon flax seeds
1 tablespoon hemp seeds

1. Place 1 cup quinoa and 1 ½ cup water in a pot and allow to boil. Once it boils, lower heat to minimum or simmer and continue cooking until all water has been absorbed, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.
2. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients for the dressing, except seeds and pieces of apricot. Whisk dressing until completely blended.
3. In a large bowl, place cooled quinoa on a bed of raw baby kale or any lettuce or combination of lettuce leaves that you desire. Drizzle dressing over top. Sprinkle seeds and pieces of apricot.

“If I sing when I cook, the food will be happy.” ~Pasquale Carpino