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In the summer I took part in a vegan food swap organized by the lovely MeShell from MeShell in Your City. It’s a cool monthly event that pairs you up with another vegan food lover and has you send them a few goodies (to a maximum of $20) and you get some in return from another participant!
This month my treats came from Rebecca from Our Vegan Adventures!
There were all kinds of goodies – but I think my favourite had to be the mixed nuts. I know – sounds boring. But I loved that they were salt free! I eat a lot of nuts and seeds and if they were all salted I would have problems. It also had cherries in it which is pretty rare for trail mix.
I also loved the raw chocolate banana nutmeg bar. I’m picky about banana flavoured anything, but I loved this! Real dried banana pieces. Too yummy for words.
The ‘golden berries’ were interesting. Turns out they are dry ground cherries. They start off sweet, and quickly turn tart. They were an experience that I had to taste a few times.
The hemp hearts were also very neat. They had a softer texture than I was expecting and a lighter taste. They would easily blend into granola and give you an added boost of iron!
Thank you so much Rebecca for your wonderful treats.
From other posts I’ve done you know I love books and movies about food. Think Wheat Belly, Supersize Me, Waste, Tomato Land, Out of the Box, Food Inc, Knives over Forks, Blood into Wine, Sharkwater… the list goes on. And on. And on. And on.
The problem is that every time I read or watch something I become so impassioned by it. I think “YES!! THIS is how I will live from now on!! No more ______ (insert item here)”
I’m convinced it is bad for the planet, myself and everyone else.
Then I start thinking. One tells you to eat organic and local, another tells you that organic doesn’t mean as much as you hope it does and you should really be eating a vegan diet - full of meat replacements. The next thing you read/watch tells you those meat replacements are made of Monsanto soy so you might as well be buying straight from the devil.
Eat lots of fruit - but not Dole bananas because the pesticides used are killing all those who work the farms. Eat veggies, not meat – but not Florida tomatoes because of the modern day slavery used in their harvest.
Give up wheat – it’s making you fat and killing you… but feel free to eat as much cheese and meat as you like.
It’s easy to get confused and frustrated and feel like there really isn’t anything you can eat anymore.
Then I take a breath and remember the wise and wonderful words of Michael Pollan. Words, that for the most part encompass all of these points of view.
Not too much.
If you could add in – buy it locally and don’t waste it. I think that covers most of it.
Now I can exhale and go back to trying my best to eat responsibly. Until I discover the next big documentary / book and get all frazzled again. Someone please bookmark this to send to me when you need to talk me off the ledge.
I’ve recently been introduced to the neatest program. It’s a food swap! Heard of them?? Well in this one, you sign up and are given the name of a food blogger (who happens to be Vegan or at least interested in Vegan food *cough cough… me*) and another blogger is given your name. Then you send your match a box of your favourite vegan goodies – $20 max – and await your own box of goodies!
Everything IS better with sprinkles!
A few people know this about me, but I love getting things in the mail. Real, snail mail. There is just something about a letter or a package… kind of like your birthday year round. As a lazy teenager getting up to walk down to the mail box and see if anything had arrived was one of the few reasons to wake up before 11am in the summer.
So this is a program for people like me! Of course I was to send a box to the originator of the program and I have to say… I choked. After seeing the box that my lovely partner sent to me, I know I have to step up my game for next time. The products I sent were awesome of course, and pretty Ottawa-centric if I do say so myself. But of course I forgot to send a card talking about what I sent, just wrapped it up in plain newspaper and sent large versions of the products, thus fewer things than I could have with my budget. D’oh!
Back off cat, get your own peanuts
From the super adorable Megan Muggins at the Vegan Cookbook aficionado I got so many wonderful things!
- Coconut Curry Lentil Soup Mix
- Saskatoon Rhubarb Jam
- Spicy Mango Chutney
- Puffed Kamut Squares (so THAT’S what a sugar crisp is!)
- Chocolate Espresso Bar
- Strawberry Pepper Chocolate
- Zinger Peanuts (made with maple and cayenne)
- Sour berry gummy bears
- Chick-o-sticks (awesome peanut butter candy)
- Cosmic Cookies that she made herself!!
Way to put me to shame Megan. PS – you make a kick ass cookie. Thank you.
PPS – if you want to sign up for the vegan food swap click here!
This isn’t quite a review… mostly because after my afternoon of wandering around Wellington West I was pretty stuffed by this point. But still interested in checking out Simply Raw Express (989 Wellington West).
A raw food eatery, this neat addition to the Wellington / Hintonburg area offers up some quick to-go items. Even if you are only going as far as the tables out front. 99% of all the food is served raw with a focus on gluten free, organic and plant based offerings.
That hot afternoon the smoothies seemed to be the biggest draw. I had a sample of the My Thai and the Tropical Mint – both were packed with flavour and I gotta say I felt pretty healthy for having them. Even if it was just a sip. Even if it was right after eating a doughnut ice cream sandwich. They were pretty darn tasty.
I’m looking forward to saving enough room on my return visit for a smoothie of my own, or maybe I’ll check out some of the great salads, shakes or pre-bottled juices that the store offers.
Time for a little update with my vegetarian challenge.
It is 100 times harder in the winter. Spring, summer and fall I was able to eat veggies all the time no problem. I even craved it. I loved light and fresh meals made from my local farmer’s market.
The winter is a barren wasteland with nothing but squash and root vegetables as far as the eye can see.
I can’ts stands it no more!!!
Ok I’m being over dramatic. But I do find eating a vegetarian diet, to say nothing of a vegan diet much MUCH harder to do in the winter months. It’s not so much that I’m craving meat, it’s just that my winter cooking style seems to gravitate towards it. Sure I’m still eating pastas and chili and risotto that are veggie based, but the pot pies and other comforting dishes seem to call out for meat!
It also doesn’t help that I’ve been practicing my French cooking through ‘The Bonne Femme Cookbook’. The french don’t have as many vegetarian options as one might wish for.
So I guess this vegetarian thing isn’t always as easy as I had grown accustom to. What’s life without some challenges?!?
Thanks so much to Tairy for making the winning bid of 16 pairs of underpants for Underpants Up! A project that seeks to provide 1017 pairs of new underwear to Ottawa shelters by the end of the year. This is my last auction for Underpants Up – thank you so much to everyone who has bid. Ottawa is such a generous town! This week I have 3 veggie cookbooks that I am almost sad to give up… but it is for a good cause so here goes!
The first book is Cooking Vegetarian – which obviously is full of vegetarian recipes.
The next is Fresh – from the owners of Fresh Restaurants in Toronto comes another great cookbook (the other is reFresh which I love). Veggie eating at its best with a whole chapter dedicated to smoothies. Wish I could find a bigger picture – but if you win the book you can see the full size cover!
The final book is Everyday Raw Express. Eating raw has never been easier or quicker with a book filled with recipes that take under 30 minutes to make.
Let the bidding begin. Just comment on this post – remember that you bid in pairs of underpants and need to live in the Ottawa area because I deliver the books myself! Thank you!!
I’ve given it a couple more weeks, and though I can say I’ve taken to a vegetarian diet 95% of the time like a duck to water, veganism is just not coming as easily. I still manage to get in at least 3 vegan meals a week, but I’m finding it hard to make my goal of 5 a week. Oddly enough, breakfast seems to be one of the easiest meals for me to go vegan with. Through the week having toast with a nut butter, eating a vegan baked good or using almond milk on my cereal is the easiest way I’ve found to get a totally plant based meal into my diet. Pancakes are another super easy vegan breakfast.
But try as I might… I don’t like tofu scramble. It’s not the same as eggs. It just isn’t. To be fair I’m not a huge scrambled egg person anyway.
I think that to live a totally vegan lifestyle it needs to be something you believe in. It’s not easy. Animal products are everywhere. And most vegans go beyond just not eating animal products to not using animal products in any way. Here are a few surprising places where animal products are used, unless expressly stated on the packaging.
1. Plastic bags, including non reusable shopping bags
2. Car and bike tires
3. Glue in woodwork and musical instruments
5. Fabric softner
8. Processed sugar
For a more detailed explanation of what animal products are in each take a look here.
I know that no one is a saint and many vegans admit that they can’t live a life totally free of animal products, but most are doing what they can to limit them in their lifestyles. I know that I have that level of commitment for the cause to be a full vegan. I’m ok with meat as long as it meets my personal standards in terms of where it comes from and how it was raised/killed. But there are plenty of reasons for limiting the meat and animal products that one consumes. So I’m going to keep trying to get up to 5 vegan meals a week, if not for ethical reasons then for health. Maybe looking at it that way will help me to stay focused and not add cheese to everything.
THIS is the challenge I was looking for. It seems that going vegetarian, especially in the summer, is pretty darn easy. But really, I just swapped one animal protein for another. Since trying to up the veggie factor by going vegan 5 meals a week I don’t think I have hit that mark once. 2 maybe 3 meals per week max. Giving up cheese is hard. And I never realized I had such an aversion to product substitutions. Getting a vegan margarine wasn’t so hard, I still have butter for any meal not vegan and I grew up with margarine so going back wasn’t really an issue.
Soy milk however was a hurdle.
Here is how it came about:
- I’m in the grocery store, knowing that I need to try to find a milk substitute. I head over to the section with all the rice milks, almond milks, soy milks and am immediately feeling overwhelmed. There are so many brands, so many different kinds and so many flavours of each kind. Which one to buy?! At over $4 a pop and with about 2L in each container, picking one that I couldn’t stand would mean wasted money and a lot of drinking yucky stuff (I’m not one to waste, and it would really sink in the lesson about which one not to buy again). Finally I decided on chocolate Silk soy milk. I’ve seen commercials for it, it was on sale, and it’s chocolate – so instantly that is a plus.
- I get my purchase home and put it in the fridge. Normally if I buy chocolate milk I’m drinking it right away – but I’m a bit nervous about this. What if I don’t like it? Will I be able to do this vegan thing? And really, if you don’t like the chocolate what hope do you have of liking the original?
- A few hours pass and I figure it’s time to man up. Got to try, I bought it after all. Pour some – looks like chocolate milk. Smells pretty much like chocolate milk. I continue to look at it for the next few minutes. Then decide I’m being silly, close my eyes and take a big sip. Not bad. Another sip… it’s definitely not chocolate milk, but… pretty darn close. Ok I don’t hate it. Relief washes over me.
After talking about the experience on twitter I’m told Almond milk is the way to go and the next time I’m in the store I pick some up. Once it’s cold I actually take a sip right out of the container. I’ve come such a long way… just don’t ask me to eat soy cheese. I’m not ready for that yet. But I’m working on getting those vegan meals up to 5 a week. It’s just going to take a little more kitchen creativity and some planning.
And it’s vegan! My first attempt at vegan baking has turned out so lovely I felt the need to share. Moist and flavourful, this was the perfect way to top off Hubby’s already awesome 29th birthday. Now I did start off with a recipe for this cake, but in true Jodi fashion I had to change it up a little because… well I didn’t have as much coconut milk as I thought! So feel free to use either a whole cup of coconut milk or almond milk… or regular milk really – but necessity is the mother of invention so here is my cake!
One Bowl Coconut Vanilla Cake
1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 TSP baking soda
1/2 TSP salt
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 TBSP vanilla extract
1 TBSP white vinegar
3/4 cup coconut
2 TBSP almond milk
1 TSP vanilla extract
1/4 cup icing sugar
Spray a cake pan with non stick spray – it’s important to have it ready to go once your cake is mixed.
In a large bowl wish together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.
Add milks, oil and first bit of vanilla and mix until blended. Whisk in vinegar until just blended. The combination of vinegar and baking soda is what makes it rise.
Immediately pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with coconut. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted at the centre comes out clean. Let cool.
Mix remaining ingredients in a small bowl and pour over cake top. It will absorb into the cake and make a nice sweet top!
As a side note of birthday fun for all you Ottawa peeps, check out www.urbanquest.com - we did the original quest for hub’s birthday and it was great! They send you around different areas of the city looking for clues, and if you like they can also make you a dinner reservation to top it all off. The location of which you only learn once you finish all your clues.
I’m into this Veggie Challenge for over a month now and I have to say it’s been much easier than I ever thought it would be. I’m crediting that to the time of year. Had I attempted this in the middle of winter I’m sure I would have found my results much different. But I have read that behavioural researchers say that it takes 3 weeks for a new habit to become a permanate change in someone’s life… so it looks like my odds of sticking with this are pretty good!
Here are my latest observations:
- I’m saving money on my grocery bill by not buying more expensive proteins such as meat, but replacing it with things like eggs and beans. However, I’m not sure where those savings are going. I don’t come out with an extra $50 after shopping like I had hoped to… though I have been going out a bit more lately. I have a sneaking suspicion that Cineplex and the gas pumps are getting my savings.
- I’m not seeing the big heath benefits I had hoped for. Not that we are unhealthy, it’s just that you hear all these people talk about how much more energy they have, blah blah blah. I’m pretty much the same as I ever was. No weight loss, no bursts of energy. Nada. But I’m crediting that to the fact that the family and I always were pretty healthy and active. Perhaps it takes a more dramatic change to see these kind of results.
So… enter a more dramatic change. I’m pumping up the Vegetarian Challenge. Right now I eat meat 3 meals a week, leaving 18 meals and snacks that are vegetarian (read: no animal flesh). I’m going to keep the 3 meat meals a week (which got seriously stretched the weekend we went to New York City, but I’ve been playing catch up ever since), but now I’m going to make 5 of the 18 veggie meal SUPER veggie – meaning vegan (read: no animal flesh or products of any kind).
I started yesterday with a PB and J sandwich at lunch and some tamales for dinner. So far so good! Since I start ‘counting’ on Friday, that’s when this will officially kick off. I’m thinking this will present much more of a challenge, but hopefully some bigger rewards.
Have you, or anyone in their family, drastically changed their diet? Do you have any advice? Leave me a comment!