Almond-crusted tofu

What’s the one meal you always remember being a go-to, weeknight meal at your house?

For me, it was chicken with Shake ‘n’ Bake. Oh, and not just any Shake ‘n’ Bake, Zesty Italian Shake ‘n’ Bake. What can I say — we were cultured kids.

I never grew up actually knowing how to bread anything. Shake ‘n’ Bake was the closest I ever came. As a result, I really don’t like heavy batters very much.

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Colourful curry chickpea salad

When I was a kid, I was so picky that the only sandwich I’d take to school for the longest time was peanut butter and jam. My mom tried different meats and veggies, but the only thing I liked was PB&J. And nothing grossed me out more than the thought of a chicken salad or a tuna or ham salad — just looking at the weird mounds of meat pile seemed so bizarre to me, I couldn’t tell you where the appeal was.

Now that I don’t eat meat, I still obviously don’t think there’s any appeal to, well, meat piles. But I do love a good salad sandwich. You see, the older I got, the more I started liking sandwiches for their texture. When I make a sandwich, there’s generally two kinds I like: 1) the piled-high, million-toppings, every-taste-and-texture-you-can-find kind, or 2) a mashed mixture of soft-but-firm protein combined with juicy crunch and flavourful spice.

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Blueberry power smoothie

Jarrod and I spent last week on a fairly strict meal plan to cut down on how much we were eating out and how much we were scrambling for last-minute dinner ideas. The first thing I noticed was how beautiful our fridge looked — so many beautiful, fresh veggies, all of them getting eaten before they had the chance to go bed!

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Garden veggie chickpea omelettes

I’ve mentioned before that my husband is not a vegan (although our household is vegan with the exception of our cat food and a microsuede couch given to me as a gift a long time ago). He has greatly reduced his animal consumption since we met (and even before we met, he was very open to eating plant-based) and I definitely bother him to go vegan/still hold some hopes that he will go vegan, but when he’s out of the house he eats an omnivorous diet. He has been choosing the veggie option lately even when he isn’t with me, which I’m very proud of.

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One-bowl blueberry flax pancakes (sugar-free)

Sometimes when I read food blogs, I feel like they were written by people who wouldn’t know a nine-to-five work schedule if it ran them over with a car. Now, don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I don’t think running a successful blog is a full-time job (see: my last post whining about how I just don’t have the time to put the effort in to make my blog amazing like some of the greats out there), but let’s face it: when you make your own hours and can work in your pyjamas, your breakfast recipes can get a little… time-consuming.

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“So… are you still blogging?”

Last month, I told my husband that I was pretty sure — 101% sure, actually — that Urban Garlic was done.

The site took too much effort, too many skills that I didn’t have (or have the time to build up) and had pretty much zero payoff. My reach was dismal, and I felt pressured to constantly come up with creative cooking options when I really just wanted to eat and enjoy it. Plus, most importantly (and I still feel this way), I don’t think the world needs another vegan blogger.

I considered writing a post that I was abandoning UG, but I got too discouraged even then. No one would bother reading it, and it felt sanctimonious and martyrish (even saying “no one would bother reading it” sounds super self-pitying, but the fact is, my reader numbers are low, lower than Flo Rida’s shorty ever got).

So what’s changed? Well, not much for me, but I’ve felt more compelled to write for my own blog. Just maybe not in the same ways.

When I started Urban Garlic, it wasn’t even supposed to be a food blog. It was supposed to be a chatty lifestyle blog about what I was into at the moment, what I was doing with my time, new restaurants I’d been to and, yes, some recipes. It was largely as an escape from a job I found boring, an emotionally distant and unfulfilling relationship and a very cold and lonely social life.

Since then, things have changed. I have a new job that I am positively in love with. I married the man of my dreams. I found myself a great circle of friends, just the size I like. In other words, I didn’t feel like I needed Urban Garlic anymore. For a few years I kept it up out of sheer obligation, and I became determined to be the next Oh She Glows or It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken.

Even if I still worked 40 hours a week while other bloggers were able to devote themselves full-time to it.

Even if I had no discernible photography skills.

Even if I had zero room for food experimentation.

You get where I’m going here.

Anyway, Urban Garlic stood still for a very long time. And yet, instead of giving it up, I’m just going back to Urban Garlic being what it was always supposed to be: my blog.

A lot of this content will probably revolve around food, but it might be more focused on things like local eateries, vegan fashion, and generally what my life has been going like. The plan is to make blog posts shorter so they don’t seem as daunting, and to just write as I go, write when I have time, and not feel pressured to build or push a “brand” when all I should really worry about is being myself. Before committing to a specific schedule, I’ll have to build things and get used to what kind of workload I’m comfortable with. I’ll find new ways to promote UG as I see fit, but overall I need to do what I can do stop UG from stressing me out and make it into the blog I’ve always wanted it to be.

How’s that sound?


One room at a time: My second bedroom

When Jarrod and I decided to move in together, we were pretty determined to find a two-bedroom apartment. We saw ourselves as needing an oasis to occasionally retreat from one another, and to work on our respective hobbies — for me, writing, blogging and food photography, and for Jarrod, working on his model trains and personal IT projects.

And then reality happened. Today, the room sits as a glorified storage space, mostly used for me to shoot my blog and social media photos, and store what train stuff Jarrod hasn’t brought to the club yet.

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Recipe: Easy creamy spaghetti (no soaking cashews!)

I’ve always been more of a tomato sauce girl, but sometimes, especially when the temperature falls, you just need a good plate of creamy carbs to get you through the evening. When I started making creamy pasta sauces in university, it made me feel like a “real” cook.

Not to mention it’s comforting as hell in the fall!

When I went vegan, I was bored to tears to know that I would either have to a) shell out lots of money for novelty vegan Alfredo sauce (and not be able to control what it tasted like) or b) soak cashews for several hours with the resulting sauce being something that was never as smooth as I wanted it to  be.

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Recipe: The Big Stuffed Squash

I’ll admit I was a big worried when we went up to my cousin’s wedding in Wawa, ON. Of course, my cousin assured me that Jarrod and I would get a vegan meal, but when our plane landed in Sault Ste. Marie and we prepared for a two-hour drive up a beautiful but very remote highway without even half a dozen truck stops, I realized that the weekend was not going to be easy.

When we got to Wawa, the first thing we did was go to the grocery store (yep, the one). Jarrod and I found some cereal and soy milk for the mornings and some healthy snacks (and some not-so-healthy because duh, it’s a party weekend). I gnawed on potato chips and Bark Thins while my cousins ate pulled pork at the Friday night party and ate Tim Horton’s oatmeal for lunch. Then, finally, when we sat for the reception, we were greeted with the most beautiful creation.

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Recipe: Carrot cake smoothie bowl

I generally try to be wary of how much smoothie content I’m posting, because I figure a) no one cares, b) I’m 95% sure every smoothie I made has been done before and c) smoothies are most fun when you figure it out for yourself!

That said, I think I was onto something  with this smoothie, something at least somewhat original and delightful. The key to this early-fall-friendly smoothie is all in the spices  (just like any fall recipe). When I was a kid, I was afraid to try carrot cake because I thought, “Ew, a vegetable cake?!” Yes, I was truly that picky an eater. I was equally freaked out when I could see shreds of the carrot in the cake. I thought, “What are they trying to pull?!”

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