Monthly Archives: July 2015

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On the need for a “vacation”

I don’t have many followers, but those who do follow me probably  have noticed that I’ve missed a few posts over the past two weeks.

I’m not going to lie or dance around it: I’m feeling burnt out at the moment.

There are a few figures playing into this. While my new job doesn’t have me spending as much time commuting as my last one did, I’m generally busier during the day, too busy to write up my post drafts. So I have the nighttime to do so. Which should be fine, right? Well…

First, there was the issue of a musical I signed on to choreograph for. Initially I thought I would only have to attend a couple rehearsals to do two numbers, but it’s turned into a slightly bigger commitment. So that’s where you can find me every Sunday night now (yayyyy). I don’t mind it (that’s actually an understatement — I LOVE it, the people are great and the musical is going to be amazing!), but it does take another few hours out of my already-busy week.

Then there’s the matter of teaching dance. My director put me on the schedule for summer classes, without even asking me if I was available to teach during the summer — let alone if I could teach two nights a week (I normally teach one night per week).

So now, Tuesday and Thursday nights are for teaching dance.

I’m still trying to climb, cycle, and run — do things that make me happy and keep me feeling calm and centred. While I don’t think of those as obligations like the musical or teaching, they are definitely things I like to do because I don’t want my nights to be filled with either obligations or doing “nothing at all.”

As I was discussing with my partner this morning, I’ve never been the “sit around” type. I can “sit around” for maybe an hour, at most. The difference between climbing and dance class is that I know every time I go climbing, it’s that I choose to do it.

Urban Garlic is something that I have made into my own obligation. Unfortunately, I’m still in a stage of figuring out how to best schedule my posts. While I am aware that I need to be consistent and diligent in order to keep Urban Garlic running smoothly, turning this unpaid venture into an “obligation” freaks me out.

I’m not going to lie, this month has been particularly discouraging with regards to Urban Garlic. Posts seem to be harder to get out, but the food (and photos) I’m producing are largely of higher quality. So when I see that no one is reading them, the only comments I get on Instagram are from fitspo “health” bloggers and my follower base isn’t growing (not to mention my Tilt campaign still isn’t going well), well, I get into another one of my sad spirals.

I’ve whined (childishly, but also still justifiably) in the past about feeling ignored in the vegan blogosphere while hot girls with six packs generate thousands per month for tutorials on how to bake French fries. I’m still feeling that way, sadly. Having a full-time job and an extra part-time job, I don’t know if I’m willing to exert the effort to promote the blog like crazy. I’ve told myself that the best blogs come about organically (just like food! Knee slap!), but it’s still frustrating.

I’ve also worried that by attempting to promote my blog in some ways, I’m “selling out.” I don’t necessarily want to appeal to bloggers and Instagrammers who promote overly restrictive, food-fearing diets, and I want to still be respected among my fellow ethical vegans.

Do I sound like I’m saying farewell?

Fat chance! I just need some recharge time. July is going to be a busy time. Between teaching two nights a week, a trip to Chicago, my editor being away and our impending move, keeping up with blogging is just something I can’t commit to this month.

Everyone needs a break, and if I couldn’t get it from my dance classes (sigh…) then I can at least give myself a break from blogging.

I’ll see you all on August 1 while I take the rest of this month to develop recipes, take some beautiful pictures and, most importantly, relax!


Things I’m loving (June edition) and a general update on life lately

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It has been a hectic month. Am I getting to a point where I’m saying that every damn month? Okay, but hectic generally means that things are going well. And though I felt like a bit of a lazy bones at first, I’ve had some big hits on my web site and through social media this month — my Shamrock Shake was one of my most popular Instagram posts, my raw salted caramel mocha cheesecake was a huge hit online and at parties, and my cauliflower mozzarella was probably the best thing I’ve ever made (no joke).

I’ve been a little slow on non-food posts lately as well, but my post on ways to repair your relationship with food sent my views skyrocketing, and I got a lot of very kind feedback on my simple smoothies masterpost.

For those who know me in real-life, you’ll be delighted to know that I’ve officially put into motion my plans to create a vegan e-book. I’m shooting high — aiming for $250 in donations in order to properly pay a photographer (my sister!) and also, buy the food. I’m hosting my crowd-funding campaign on Tilt. If you can donate, you absolutely should!

Most importantly, I’ll just let everyone know: I’m living in Midtown now! Well, sort of — and only temporarily. The decision was made largely based on the mental well-being of my cat, Benny (whom I feel like I don’t talk enough about on here. Trust me, I’m actually a pretty crazy cat-lady).

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You see, my partner and I have been together for awhile and are already in the process of finding a two-bedroom apartment together (I live with a roommate, he lives in a one-bedroom). However, I spend so much time at his place, especially since I’ve started working downtown, that I feel like my poor cat is totally losing out. He’s missing his mommy, he’s confused, and he doesn’t bond with my roommate. For the sake of giving Benny more consistency and company — not to mention a brighter apartment, but that’s just a bonus — we’ve shacked up with my partner in Midtown. I’m now temporarily living in the Yonge and Eglinton area of Toronto. I’ll be returning to Scarborough occasionally to, well, obviously collect mail and pack my things, and that’s really about it. Scarbrough and I are donezo. Next stop is hopefully the Beaches!

As an aside, I’ve officially started running. I’ve done some indoor treadmill running in the past but never found it very interesting and I’ve had a hard time managing injuries. But I’ve just started doing C25K and I love running through Midtown!

Another great thing happened this June. I finally turned 26! 25 felt like a really long year. I moved back to Toronto with my head held high and devoted myself even more to living a balanced, healthy, mentally-sound life. I left a toxic relationship and two toxic jobs and found myself a job that I totally fell in love with. I went to California and dipped my feet in the ocean for the first time. I saw my parents move out of their first GTA house and into what I’m quite sure is their dream home. I started a relationship with (corny cornfield alert) the man of my dreams, and I could not be any happier.

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I’ve been more social lately, which doesn’t say much, although I also have very little desire to actually be a social butterfly, when it comes down to it (I finally took my Meyers-Briggs test and, just as I predicted, I am a classic INFJ). My good friend (and former work partner) Nick had a party to celebrate the release of his custom-brewed beer at Louis Cifer Beerworks in Toronto, and it was great to see him again.

June was also the month of dance. It was the year-end recital for the studio I’ve been working for all year, so things were a little hectic on that front. But recital time will never, ever get me down — no matter how much driving, running around, yelling, clapping, cutting of music and general craziness is required for recital, I will always find so much magic in that time of year.

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But there was also some sadness in my life (and many dancers’ lives) related to dance this month. My ballet teacher, the legendary Stelio Calagias, and his wonderful wife Eileen have trekked across the country to settle in Nelson, B.C. after more than 25 years of owning Toronto’s Metro Movement Studios. Metro Movement is a real institution in Toronto — along with Stelio himself. Countless professional dancers have walked through the doors of Metro, as well as total beginners and everyone in between, but through the doors of Stelio’s studio, we were all treated equally and with great respect and kindness. I’d been training in ballet and occasionally contemporary, musical theatre and jazz with Stelio and his staff since I left university in 2012, and he has changed me so much as a dancer. The studio, however, will remain open under the direction of Kalie Hunter and Phil Nero, offering some new and exciting classes. Though the torch-passing party was an emotional time for me and my dance friends, I’m confident that the “new generation” of Metro will be just as exciting as the last one. I’ll be back to ballet class soon enough. Next on my agenda is Camp Kate with my personal hero, Kate Jablonski.

Other than that, well… I guess that’s finally it! Phew. Long-winded one there.

And I haven’t even gotten to my things I’m loving lately. And awayyyyy we go!

  1. Everyone Bath Soak in Cycle — no, not just because I’ve started biking to work, but because this is one of the best chill-out scents I’ve ever smelled. I always find most “mellow” scents are floral and a little too sleepy, like lilac. This is more like you’ve just come in from a mild day in the park.
  2. Sol Natural Vegan Tinted Lip Balm — I rarely wear lipstick and I really, really hate lip gloss, but give me a vegan lip balm and I will be completely content. Tinted? Holy hell! These lip balms are the prettiest shades. I personally love Pinky Swear, but I might just break down and get them all.
  3. My favourite scent of the moment is the Lush Karma scent. I just bought the solid brick of soap and it makes me smell like a head shop!
  4. Since working downtown, my go-to coffee spot has been Dark Horse Espresso Bar!
  5. I recently popped into Vélotique in the Beaches/Leslieville area of Toronto to pick up a bike lock and was crazy-impressed by the service and the culture in there.
  6. My father recently gave me his old record collection, which included one of my all-time favourite albums, Breakfast in America by Supertramp.
  7. Speaking of music, I feel like I should mention exactly how much I use Spotify. I’ve actually had a Spotify Premium subscription for a few months now and it has been worth every penny. I love being able to access almost any piece of music at any time, especially in dance class (I no longer have to feel “out of touch” with my kids)!
  8. I recently downloaded a few packages from Kaelyn Gray’s Tap Dance Tutorials and my tapping is officially off the metaphorical chain.
  9. Vegan guacamole potato skins? Yes please!
  10. Lastly, as I mentioned, I’ve been running on the Couch to 5K (C25K) plan. I recently downloaded the app c25K free by Zenlabs and really enjoy the simplicity of the layout, the different skins and even the voice of the run narrator! If you’re looking for a way to ease into running, I highly recommend this baby!

Holy f!&# a f!&#ing cheesecake (with f!&#ing raw caramel!)

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Vegan.

Gluten-free.

Fructose-friendly.

No. Cashews.

I was seriously so surprised with how easy this “cheesecake” was to make — and how much of a hit it was! We brought it to a barbecue on Canada Day, and I’ll glaze over the fact that alcohol was involved to influence them, but all the girls at the party were just all over this cheesecake.

I’ve found that showing up to a party with food is always the easiest way to make friends. Otherwise, I’m screwed. What with my personality and all.

Now, there’s two things I bet you’d expect of this cheesecake:

  1. Cashews for the filling
  2. Dates for the crust
  3. Dates for the caramel, definitely.

Au contraire, friends! The crust is held together with coconut nectar, coconut oil and a bit of tahini. Now, it’s not a fully raw crust if raw is what you’re into, but I have to ask you if going raw is fully worth forgoing the delicious, almost sexual smell of hazelnuts roasting in your kitchen on a lovely, laid-back summer morning.

‘Cause, like… damn.

So now I’m sure you’re wondering about that filling and thinking, “Oh, it’s probably silken tofu or something else I can’t eat.

Wrong, fella.

It’s actually buckwheat. I got the idea of soaking buckwheat from Evelyn at nourishnotpunish, one of my favourite bloggers for not only recipes but body positivity and recovery conversation. Of course, my whole thing with a cheesecake is that I’m not just trying to get a creamy texture, I want to actually have that cream cheese taste. I’ve never been a big fan of cheese, but cream cheese is apparently the exception.

So I figured out a trick.

If you want that actual tart taste for your cheesecake but want to still keep it subtle, add about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. You could also try lemon juice.

If you want to really give it a true “cheesecake” taste, add about an ounce (one shot glass for those of you who are like “whaa?!”) of nutritional yeast (yes, nooch in a sweet recipe. I know it sounds weird but… go with it, if you’re feeling brave)!

Of course, you could keep it out and have it just be a chocolate cream pie, but if you’re going for authenticity, be brave (will ya?!) and add the nooch!

Now… raw vegan caramel made without dates? It’s actually so. damn. easy. Brown rice syrup (or maple syrup, but I find the viscosity of BRS to be just right for caramel) makes a great caramel base, and then thickening it up with some nut or seed butter makes it totally drizzle-able. I used tahini to avoid making it super headache-sweet.

Now, to conclude the pre-recipe spiel (because that’s really what you want, right? The recipe?) I’ll leave you with one important note: this is probably the easiest dessert I’ve made all year.

Raw salted caramel mocha vegan cheesecake

Ingredients – crust

  • 1 cups hazelnuts
  • 1 tbsp+1 tsp coconut oil or other light-tasting oil
  • 1 tbsp tahini (or other nut/seed butter)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coconut nectar or other liquid sweetener
  • Pinch of fine grain sea salt

Ingredients – Filling

  • 1 3/4 cup raw buckwheat groats (not kasha)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup coconut nectar or other liquid sweetener
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs (optional)
  • 1 oz nutritional yeast (optional, provides a more “cheesy” taste)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ground espresso powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Ingredients – Raw salted caramel

  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup brown rice syrup
  • A few generous sprinkles of fine-grain sea salt

Instructions

  1. Set the buckwheat groats in a large bowl and cover in boiling water. Let sit for about an hour. You may have to re-pour water occasionally as the buckwheat soaks up the water.
  2. While the groats are soaking, make your crust. Start by preheating an oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Fill a bowl with warm water and sit your coconut oil in there, to gently melt it without zapping it.
  4. In a large food processor, process your nuts to a fine-to-medium crumb.
  5. In a bowl, mix the nut crumbs, melted coconut oil, tahini, vanilla and syrup.
  6. Lay the mixture into your pie plate and press flat (use your hands if you’ve washed them since the last time you got in a garbage fight or pet a dog).
  7. Set in the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until your kitchen is filled with the glorious smell of roasting hazelnuts.
  8. Drain and rinse your buckwheat groats.
  9. In your food processor, blend the groats, oil apple cider vinegar and syrup until it is a smooth, velvety texture.
  10. Now, add in your cacao nips and nooch (if using), vanilla, espresso and cinnamon. Since these are flavour agents, use my measurements as a guideline — add gradually and go with what makes you happy (I mean, that’s a general rule for life).
  11. Pour your mixture onto the nice toasty crust and smooth out the top.
  12. Freeze the pie for about two hours.
  13. In a small bowl, use a fork to mix together your tahini and syrup. Pour on top of your frozen cake in whatever formation you desire. Add a few generous sprinkles of sea salt — after all, it’s a salted caramel mocha!
  14. You can also assemble with any fruit or  toppings you desire — a coconut whipped cream topping would basically make this Starbucks on a plate.