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Vegan vanilla buttered bourbon

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One thing I absolutely love about winter is ducking into a pub after the sun has gone down and enjoying warm, orange-hued lighting, sipping warm boozy drinks with my partner and eating comforting food. Last week, I shared our awesome loaded lentil pie, something inspired by our favourite Toronto pub, Porter House. It was so nice to feel like we were in our own personal little vegan pub (we also did up some shoe string fries, because yummm).

Even though I don’t drink a ton of alcohol (I can’t remember the last time I got drunk-drunk), to me no nice homemade meal is complete without a cocktail — probably because it’s just another opportunity to experiment with tastes! I recently picked up a book, Winter Cocktails: Mulled Ciders, Hot Toddies, Punches, Pitchers and Cocktail Party Snacks. love a good winter cocktail! The thing is, a lot of the drinks actually aren’t vegan. I knew there was a good chance most would contain milk or cream, which is no problem for substitution, and a lot contain honey (again, no problem), but some contain egg white (ewww!) and, of course, there’s plenty of butter.

Buttered rum isn’t something I had a lot of in the peak of my drinking days. Why? Well, surprisingly, as a university student, I went four years without buying a stick of butter (odd, because my partner and I go through Earth Balance with a lot of vigour and enthusiasm). What can I say, I was a sucker for cheap Pam sprays.

You’ll also notice that this isn’t buttered rum, it’s buttered bourbon. Blame us for not having rum around — but it actually tasted really nifty. Mind you, I’m a bourbon fan. You could ditch the bourbon for dark rum if you like.

Vegan vanilla buttered bourbon

Prep time: <10 minutes
Yield: 4 drinks

Ingredients

  • 6 oz bourbon (or dark rum if you’re into classics)
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup or agave (more if you’ve got a sweeter tooth/need to take the boozy edge off)
  • 4 tbsp Earth Balance or other vegan butter
  • 1 vanilla bean

Instructions

  1. Put on the kettle like you’re makin’ tea!
  2. Divide your syrup and bourbon evenly into the mugs
  3. Make your vanilla butter: Cut open your vanilla bean, scrape the insides, and add it to your Earth Balance. Using a fork, whip the butter slightly until all is combined and even.
  4. For extra fun, add the pod to some vodka for infusion adventures!
  5. Pour your hot water into your mugs, stir, then add one TBSP of the vanilla butter to each!

What I love about the vanilla bean butter is it’s so versatile. Because there’s only two of us and we aren’t big drinkers, we ended up using the rest on toast in the morning — so good! Something about early winter is so comforting but still lighthearted: warm oatmeal, peppermint treats… yeah, I can live with that!

What are your favourite winter drinks? Anything you’d like to see me make? They don’t have to have alcohol (like I said, I’m not a big drinker myself). I might try a cool new hot chocolate recipe soon. We’ll have to wait and see what kind of inspiration this whacky weather gives!


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Fresh pineapple salsa (or guacamole!)

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If there’s one reason I wish summer would last just a little bit longer, it’s that summer is officially guacamole season. Okay, you can get guacamole any time of the year on a store (or make it yourself), but can you really honestly tell me that guacamole is best enjoyed indoors in a dimly-lit living room as you watch snow fall against a pitch-black, 6 p.m. sky?

Nah, it’s not for me.

I started making my own pico the summer I lived with my cousin, Ryan. I’d just turned 20, and was working for the federal government. By far my favourite part of living with him for the summer was his big, bright kitchen with light that shone through from the front to the back of the house. He let me have free reign over the kitchen, and so I was able to let this growing bug of creativity inside me grow. My first few attempts at salsa and guacamole were laughable (I didn’t even know what cilantro was, nor did I know how ripe an avocado was supposed to be, so I literally grated a rock-hard avocado with a cheese grater) but nevertheless, I had a great canvas to work with.

Last weekend on Instagram I posted a picture of guacamole with strawberries in it, which got a few people intrigued. I will admit, mixing fruit into guacamole was something I wasn’t sure of at first, until I put some strawberries and avocado on my toast one morning. Damn, son.

Then enter Whole Foods. Whole Foods, the giant monolith where so much of my paycheque goes every week. Damn you, Whole Foods. Damn you. I don’t actually buy that much food from Whole Foods, it’s just their lunches. Wow. The stir fries! I can say the one thing I’m not excited about re: starting my new job is leaving behind Whole Foods lunches. Actually, that’ll probably motivate me to make more lunches.

But anyway, I was at Whole Foods and I encountered a great little pineapple salsa on display for samples. I gladly helped myself (free ANYTHING?! HELLO!) and was hooked. Even though it had my much-loathed, longtime enemy: red bell peppers.

So this is my second attempt in a few weeks to make something containing red peppers that I’m totally stoked about eating. I’m happy to say that it worked! Turns out, surrounding something you dislike with something you do like is a good philosophy — in food, and in life. Heyooo!

The salsa is great on its own, but you can mix it into a guacamole with two ripe avocados if you want to take your leftovers in a different direction.

Fresh pineapple salsa (makes one large, shareable bowl)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh pineapple, chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup red onions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh packed cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 jalapeno, chipped and seeds removed (optional)
  • Juice from 1/2 lime
  • A small pinch of sea salt

Instructions

  1. Chop all of the ingredients and mix thoroughly before squirting on the lime juice. Store covered in a fridge for up to four days.
  2. If you’re looking for something different, mix this in with 2-3 large ripe avocados for an interesting twist on guac!

Orthorexia nervosa: the dirty side of eating “clean”

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Many of you know that I’m a little religious in my love for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (no shit — I even had their logo tattooed on me)!

One of my favourite shows is The Current. Normally I only listen to the first segment, because work starts at nine o’clock. But this morning, the preview for the third segment caused me to feel overwhelmed with emotion. I just had to listen.

Host Anna Maria Tremonti (a personal hero of mine) interviewed two registered dieticians, Casey Berglund and Mélanie Olivier, who regularly work with people suffering from what they’ve deemed orthorexia nervosa.

I’ve spoken in the past about my own issues with what a counsellor in university described as ED-NOS, and some difficult-to-classify obsessions with my body. I’m fortunate enough to be in a state of recovery where I no longer weigh myself (like, other than doctor’s appointments), count calories or think that losing weight will solve other issues in my life. I recognize (most of the time) that I am a skinny, athletic woman who should not be losing weight, and needs to eat to feel powerful.

But at the same time, there are many people, even those who are recovering from other classified eating disorders, who could be suffering from orthorexia nervosa.

Orthorexia is not officially in the Dictionary of Science and Medicine. However, the National Eating Disorders Association describes it as an unhealthy obsession and rigorous commitment to healthy eating. This might include ritualistic restriction of a particular food group, food preparation methods and the feeling of “fear” of a particular element of food.

Ever since my big, self-righteous blog post re: Angela Liddon’s “no longer labelling my diet” fiasco, I’ve felt a renewed sense of responsibility to separate myself from “fitspo” vegans, from those who view veganism as a means of achieving a tiny waist, dewy skin, bright eyes and healthy hair. At the same time, I have friends who are currently doing the paleo thing, going fully raw vegan or “#rawtil4” or simply obsessed with “clean eating.” Shockingly, I’ve seen it a lot in the post-recovery ED community, and those engaging in these ritualistic views about food seem to be convinced that they’re healthy.

I’d never heard the term “orthorexia” before, but in the mere hour since I’ve learned about it, I am now suddenly hyper-aware of how much of a problem it is — how much it is affecting so many people around me.

The thing is, one of the reasons people aren’t as quick to label behaviours like juice cleanses or “all-or-nothing” approaches to food groups as unhealthy is because so many claim there’s no emphasis on being thin. In fact, as Berglund noted in her interview, she sees many young men with what they’ve deemed “bigorexia,” an obsession with gaining muscle mass (I see this behaviour increasingly in girls, as well).

“Orthorexia is giving a lot of science to the food – it’s not an apple, it’s nutrients. I think we’ve gone a bit too far. Yes, nutrition is a new science, but it’s also an experience, and food is an experience.” — Melanie Olivier

One place I’ve always found myself at odds with in terms of veganism is on Instagram. I thought I was bad for overt use of hashtags (hey, I want to get people to my blog). I see some littered with those little checker signs including “#rawtil4,” “#vegantil6,” “#motivation,” “#weightloss” “#eatrealfood,” “#fullyraw,” “#nocheatdays” that, quite frankly, scare me.

I’ve said it so clearly before that my commitment to animal welfare and my commitment to healthy eating are two very separate issues. But what also needs to be addressed is that if you are committing to healthy eating by breeding a fear of a particular kind of food, this can lead to damaging behaviour.

Unless you have a medical restriction preventing you from safely consuming something — like soy, gluten, fructose, nightshade vegetables, etc. — then to cut it out completely will only see you lose out on food itself, the experience of food, and possibly your mental health.

There’s increasingly key evidence that consumption of these foods — sometimes moderate — is harmless if you don’t already have an allergy or intolerance.

And you know what? I never thought I’d have to say this, but eating something from a box or can or even the frozen food aisle once in a blue moon won’t kill you, either.

There’s an obsession with “real” and “clean” food among dieters these days that is meant to feel empowering, but can border on obsessive so easily, so sneakily. When you get to the point where you are afraid to eat a sweet potato, that you won’t touch any kind of grain, that you’re obsessed with creating a rainbow on your plate because colourful food is more healthy, that you believe all 41 calories in an orange carrot are “empty” calories because purple carrots have a few more nutrients, then yes, it is time to seek help.

What so many suffering need to see is that we empower ourselves by admitting that there are some things we can’t control. And even if we can control food, sometimes we need to let go of that control a little.

It’s not going to kill us. Obsession is.


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Things I’m loving lately: March edition

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And just like that, March is over. Crazy how February is the shortest month and yet March zoomed by like nothing compared to cold, sad February.

Must be something about the weather. You know, it’s funny, everyone around me is complaining about how spring “came and went” and how we’re “back to winter.” I say, have some perspective, people! Is it not so much warmer than it was a month ago? And is it not like we’re down at -20 or even -10. A few degrees below the zero won’t kill us. And look beyond the number on the thermometer. We have sunnier days, earlier sunrises and later sunsets. Lots to be glad about, if ask me.

And I have a lot of things to be glad about, too! Here’s my list of things I’m loving lately.

  1. Jackfruit. I tried the jackfruit sandwich at Porter House recently and I was in heaven. I’d heard a lot about jacfruit, but I never imagined it could be so savoury and amazing! I’ll definitely be picking up a few chunks of jackfruit (did you know that a full jackfruit weighs about 30 lbs and costs around $120 to buy in Toronto, if you can even find one? And opening it is basically surgery). But expect some jackfruit recipes up here soon.
  2. Arkells’ new music video, “Hey Kids!” I was a big fan of “Leather Jacket” but hoped they would follow it up with something a bit more fun and lively. The kids in this music video are adorable, and “Hey Kids” is also really fun to play on the piano.
  3. My old haircut. That’s right, I’ve been a pixie for a month and I miss the mohawk. GIMME SOME CLIPPERS!
  4. The Piston on Friday nights, aka Motown nights. I love a good funk, retro or Motown night. If you live in Toronto and feel like getting down without all that sweaty grinding, check out the Bloor and Ossington area.
  5. Lemonade. I was just saying to my partner that when the weather warms up and we get into “patio weather,” I actually don’t really like drinking alcohol outside that much. I get really bad heat stroke, and alcohol only makes me more tired and nauseated. But I’m one of those people who has just as much fun (probably more) without any booze in my drink, and lemonade is by far my favourite non-alcoholic drink. I’m looking at experimenting with some lemonade recipes this spring, and I’ll definitely be sharing my more successful ones!
  6. I like things that are low-maintenance, so this yeast-free thin-crust pizza dough recipe is really turning my crank. I can just imagine my perfect pizza. Tomato sauce, broccoli, cauliflower, pineapple and onion. What, that’s totally normal, right?
  7. Disclaimer: I don’t work for, hold stock in or have sponsorship by Old Navy. Just clarifying because I do realize that this is the second time in two months I took to my blog to brag about an Old Navy purchase. But this jersey “fit and flare” dress is hands down the most comfortable yet elegant things I’ve ever worn. I can honestly fool anyone into thinking I’m sophisticated!
  8. Pacifica’s Purify coconut water cleansing wipes are always with me in my backpack or purse. I almost never wear makeup, which helps my skin stay really youthful and healthy, but when I do — or even when I don’t — these wipes are a great pick-me-up throughout the day, especially now that it’s getting sunnier.
  9. Death Cab for Cutie’s Kintsugi is being streamed online. Go. Go now.
  10. I’ve finally been able to make the vow to commit to a new show (wow, Bree, what a mature, adult commitment there!) and I’ve chosen — Broad City. Expect me to get into my comfy jammies tonight and watch the first season or so.

Homemade salted caramel Clif Bars (no bake!)

Processed with VSCOcam I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again — give a climber a Clif Bar and we’ll be your friend for life. So when I show up to the gym or crag with these bad boys, I’ll have a million friends for life. Unless I haven’t eaten them all by then. There are a million different ways you can make homemade Clif Bars (or any snack bar, really). But the salted caramel flavour of this makes it unique, something you can’t buy in the store. I’ve actually had a hard time finding a vegan caramel that’s not date-based, since dates are not exactly a fructose-friendly food. But this mix of 1/2 brown rice syrup and 1/2 peanut butter with just a small bit of virgin coconut oil makes a pretty convincing dupe.

Salted caramel Clif Bars (makes 8 large bars)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup crispy puffed rice cereal (I used 365 Organic)
  • 1 cup rolled oats (use certified gluten-free if celiac)
  • 1 cup crushed nuts (I recommend a mix of nuts; all I had was walnuts, but almonds, peanuts, cashews, macadamia, whatever, man, they all sound great!)
  • 1/2 cup seeds (I used a mix of sunflower and pepitas)
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life, which are vegan, gluten-free and nut-free)
  • 2 tbsp cacao nibs (optional)
  • 2 tbsp shredded coconut (optional)
  • 1 cup nut butter
  • 1 cup brown rice syrup (or coconut nectar)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup virgin coconut oil, softened
  • A dash of fine grain sea salt

Instructions

  1. If not already crushed, run the nuts through a food processor quickly to get them into crumbs.
  2. Mix the oats, rice puffs, nuts, seeds, chia seeds, chocolate chips, coconut and cacao nibs in a bowl. Shake around to get it nice and even.
  3. Meanwhile, soften the coconut oil. To make this a truly “raw” recipe and avoid zapping your food, simply fill a medium-sized saucepan with hot water and sit the jar of oil in it to soften.
  4. Fill another large-sized saucepan with hot water from the kettle and sit a large pyrex measuring cup (at least 3 cups) in the hot water. Add your peanut butter, brown rice syrup, soft coconut oil, vanilla and sea salt.
  5. Mix the liquit thoroughly, as quickly as possible — that’s the only way you can get it nice and soft without having to zap it.
  6. Line a deep rimmed baking dish with parchment paper. Once your “caramel” mixture is soft enough, pour it into the dish.
  7. Add your dry mix and use a fork to move it around, incorporating everything.
  8. Put in the freezer for about an hour to really solidify, then transfer to the fridge. And try not to eat it too quickly!

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