Monthly Archives: September 2015

Nutty banana pancakes (gluten-free)


This summer, while I was taking my big, emo break from Urban Garlic, one of the biggest benefits of it was that it gave me the opportunity to fail with recipes. Because I faced something of a content backlog last spring, usually the stuff seen on my site was only made days before it was posted (sometimes the day before) and was my first time even trying out the recipe. So if I screwed up, I was, well, screwed! It also put a lot of pressure on in the photography aspect, because I needed to make sure that whatever I was making was made at a time when I could photograph it in decent light.

Oh, and I had to remember to write it all down.

One of the biggest fails and my most-rushed recipe was my Shamrock Shake smoothie. I’m sorry to say, but I’ll probably never eat that again. You guys can feel free, but it was torturous. Spinach goes with a lot of things. Mint is not one of them.

The summer allowed for far more experimentation. One of the things I tried my hand at was different banana-based pancakes.

A few people have showcased banana-based pancake recipes, but they usually contain eggs. I tried a few recipes consisting of mashed bananas and arrowroot powder with flax gel,  but nothing really tasted all that great.

Enter these nutty banana pancakes. I’ve given up on an entirely grain-free pancake, but this is still a unique kind of pancake that differs somewhat from the typical fluffy, floury pancake recipe I’m used to. Which is not to say that fluffy, floury pancakes aren’t the bomb (they are). These are just nice and different.

They’re buckwheat based (you can  buy pre-made buckwheat flour or do like I did and use raw groats and simply process into a flour. It’s cheaper and only takes a few seconds, and then you can use the groats for other things),  but I decided at the last minute to sub half the buckwheat with oats (into oat flour) as well. I find buckwheat on its own can have a bit of a bitter taste, but the nice mellow, earthy taste of oats helps to even it out. Add in some nuts and, of course, a banana, and you’ve got this nice, rustic breakfast perfect for our changing weather.

We served it (as we serve most of our pancakes) with a quickly-made strawberry compote. I don’t have a recipe for that, but my partner made it the way he usually makes his fruit compotes by warming some frozen strawberries in a pan with some sugar and brandy, then mashing them. Simple and sweet!

Nutty banana pancakes, makes eight small pancakes


  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour or raw buckwheat groats, processed into a fine flour
  • 1/2 cup oat flour or rolled oats, processed into a fine flour
  • 1/4 cup almonds or walnuts, ground into a coarse meal
  • 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • One flax egg (1 tbsp flax seed meal+3 tbsp water, sat for five minutes)
  • One ripe banana
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar (or any other sweetener of your choice)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp canola oil, softened virgin coconut oil or vegan butter (like Earth Balance)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy chocolate chips or berries (optional)


  1. Prepare your flax egg and let sit, and prepare your buckwheat and oat flours if needed.
  2. Process your nuts into a meal. Don’t aim to have it flour-fine, a few chunks are good for texture.
  3. Pour your milk in a large bowl and add your apple cider vinegar. Let sit for five minutes to create a “buttermilk” taste.
  4. Combine your dry ingredients — oat flour, buckwheat flour, almonds, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, and whisk in a large bowl.
  5. Add your vanilla to the milk and mash the butter/oil and banana into the bowl. When it is soft enough, add to the dry bowl. Stir to combine.
  6. Add your flax egg.
  7. Fold in your chocolate chips or berries, if using.
  8. In a non-stick pan, melt some more Earth Balance or oil and heat the pan on medium-high. Make sure the pan is well-heated before you scoop out your batter, or else they will turn into a messy nightmare. I used 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake.
  9. Serve with maple syrup (or, if you’re weird like me, peanut butter) and enjoy with a morning paper or whatever it is grown-ups are supposed to do.

What comes after “Meatless Monday?”


All around me I see friends and colleagues who have made valiant efforts to reduce their meat consumption. Most haven’t committed to going vegetarian or even vegan, but they seem really proud every time they make a meal without meat and like to broadcast these feats to the world.

I’m always encouraging when I see that people are making efforts to eat fewer animal products. My own partner has greatly reduced his own animal consumption, and I’m helping him along with some of his harder-to-break habits (like coffee creamer! I’ve recently gotten him hooked on Silk’s almond version).

Helping people find a solution toward an animal-free lifestyle is something I always want to encourage, so I try to not get prickly toward the Meatless Monday Crowd (note: even if Monday isn’t your preferred night of the week to chomp on sprouts instead of steak, you might still be part of what I call the Meatless Monday crowd). After all, people should be making efforts to lower their animal consumption.

But here’s why I have a problem with the concept of “Meatless Monday”: it’s become an end-goal when really it should be a stepping stone.

I don’t believe there’s such thing as a 90% vegan (no, Mark Bittman, I do not think there is such a thing as being a “part-time vegan”) because I believe veganism is about commitment. I do, however, believe in transition

I like to think of my own initial foray into vegetarianism. What a lot of people don’t know is that it actually started out as no more than a culinary experiment. I was getting bored with how I cooked and wanted to change things up, give plant-based cooking a try.

That eventually evolved into a true passion for ethical veganism in diet and in the way I live my everyday life.

I wanted to share a little bit about how I went from being a veg-curious culinary, and how you can take meatlessness from an experiment to a truly impacting decision.

  1. Always ask yourself, “Why am I doing this in the first place?”
    Most people will probably say that they begin to take measures to reduce their meat consumption for a number of reasons: to help lessen their impacts on the environment and benefit their own health, those kinds of things. But it’s also important to ask yourself this more frequently, not just when you first try it. If it ends up becoming a routine of a habit, is there really much of a point? If you had a goal to impact the environment but you’re still buying just as much meat as you used to (you’re just not eating it on a certain day), then are you really making a difference? Constantly keeping yourself in check with regards to your initial goals are a must.
  2. Ask yourself: “What have I learned?”
    We learn things by accident all the time. For me, I never intended to learn all I learned when I embarked on my vegetarian “experiment.” After a couple months without meat, when I’d actually talk about it with people, realized something special — that a lot of my previous conceptions about vegetarianism (and by extension veganism) were incorrect. It wasn’t as expensive, difficult or tasteless as I thought it would be. But I might had never realized that if I hadn’t actually asked myself to think about what I’d learned. If you’re reducing your meat intake as an “experiment” or an attempt at making a change to your body, you should ask yourself what you’ve learned (even if you never intended to learn it in the first place).
  3. Always think of next steps.
    Okay, I know we like to get all “life is about the journey, not the destination!!” and such. So maybe you don’t want to have an “end goal” in mind because you think that’s too intimidating. But you should always try to think, “What’s next?” Maybe you’re doing the Jamie Oliver thing and eating vegetarian three nights per week — what next? Maybe make a point of cutting the amount of money you spend on animal products in half. Maybe make a goal to buy your next toiletry products as cruelty free/vegan. Maybe you can try buying a dairy-free cheese next grocery trip. Don’t get complacent!
  4. Remove validation from the equation.
    Most people are used to seeing a big fanfare when they first go vegetarian or vegan, or post a picture of the single meatless meal they made on Instagram. A million likes, some initial and genuine fascination from your friends, that “Wow, good for you!” feeling we all love. Here’s the thing: It stops. Just like your parents whipped out the video camera to immortalize your first steps and stopped caring about your walking abilities after that, eventually your peers will stop paying attention to your veg-curious culinary adventures (if it’s any consolation, by the time you become a vegan, they’ll probably be full-on hostile about it). What you need to do is take validation out of the equation. Would you still care about this if your friends didn’t care? If no one ever told you “good job,” would you still go at home at night and think you’ve made the right decision? If your answer is yes, then keep going (and for what it’s worth, I believe in you).

Spread the love: September edition

Spread the Love

One tradition I really do miss from the “old days” of my blog was my “things I’m loving lately” series. I always knew I’d keep the tradition alive, but I did re-name the series since every single lifestyle blog on the planet calls these posts “things I’m loving lately.”

I don’t want to sound silly or anything, but Urban Garlic really is all about love, you know? Love for yourself, love for animals, love of food and cooking (do I sound obnoxious? Don’t care!) So this is me spreading the love to some of my favourite things right now. Here goes:

  1. I’ve started using Ritual lately when I don’t pack a lunch. I work in a really busy, corporate-but-stylish area of Toronto (Adelaide and Spadina), meaning every restaurant (particularly those with vegan and/or healthy options) is packed at lunch time. Ritual is a really good way for me to speed up the process. Even my coffee orders go way faster now. For those who don’t know how it works, Ritual is an app (available for Android or iOS) that connects you with downtown Toronto restaurants. You place an order and pay for it on your credit card, and it’s available for pickup when you come in. It’s a great line-skipper! (Note: Ritual is still in beta, but if you know someone with the app, they can invite you. You can also access the app if your company has already been approved and you have an email address with the company).
  2. I finally worked up the courage to spend $600 on a blender and got a Vitamix. For how much I make that is blended, the purchase made a lot of sense and thus far I am in love with it. I love that it came with a straining bag, which I’ve been using to make some fresh juices lately.
  3. I’ve always used ground turmeric in a lot of recipes, but fresh tumeric really enhances anything that you like to give a bit of savoury tanginess to. The little roots kind of look like strange turds (yep, I went there).
  4. Buckwheat has become my go-to grain lately. I love blending buckwheat groats into porridge or into creamy sauces, grinding it into a flour or topping my smoothies with it. You’ll see a sweet buckwheat recipe coming to the blog in a few days, so stay tuned!
  5. After a year of being obsessed with Mac DeMarco (who is only my age, which is hard to believe) I’ve gone down that rabbit hole of finding new, trippy dream-pop artists and have come across the British musician King Krule. He’s a small-looking ginger Brit with a crazy-unique voice and some awesome, grungy, hip-hop influenced music that can’t really be placed on the genre spectrum (I’ve tried).
  6. My Tilt campaign recently finished for my e-book (and I’ve decided on a title/theme for it, too, which will be revealled in an upcoming post)! My experience with Tilt was amazing and I can’t wait to continue using it. It’s not just a crowd-funding platform, it’s actually also a really cool way to collect money for group things — like if you’re all going on a trip and you want a central platform to add the funds to, instead of worrying about collecting cash in person.
  7. I developed a love affair with Target when I went to Chicago this summer (I spent about $75 U.S. in the store!!) and bought a giant tub of Just Mayo. I’ve never experienced a more perfect mayonnaise. NEVER. For those with allergy concerns, the mayo is not only 100% vegan but is also free of soy and gluten, AND it’s proudly a non-GMO company if that’s a concern for you. I’m just hoping my container will last me until Jarrod and I go to New York for Christmas.
  8. Kaelyn Gray’s Tap Dance Tutorials have been a tremendous resource for me over the past three months. I’ve been using a lot of her techniques and combos to enhance my own kids’ lessons. If you’re a tap teacher or even just a tap dancer looking to get back into the groove and diversify your steps, I’d highly recommend these videos.
  9. This past spring, Logical Harmony released its vegan list of Kat Von D’s makeup line, and most of the brand is indeed vegan. I’m in love with pretty much everything, but my absolute favourite product is the Shade & Light contour kit. I love contour SO MUCH (WAY TOO MUCH) and use this whenever there’s some sort of special occasion or outing. It really makes my bone structure stand out.
  10. You know what the bread and butter (or, bread and Earth Balance) of this blog is garlic (my publisher, who started reading my blog, recently asked me, “What is it with you and garlic?!”) so naturally, last weekend, my partner and I went to the garlic festival. We weren’t too stoked about the festival in general, but we did walk away with our new favourite thing — a plate for grinding up garlic! It comes with a crazy little rubber tube for taking the garlic skin off, and you can honestly just mash the garlic into a fine puree right on the dish. Woot! We mixed a couple cloves of  pureed garlic in with a few tablespoons of Earth Balance and some dried parsley flakes and voila, we had a nice garlic butter for our toast!

Perfect kale and lemon pesto


Nobody’s perfect. Nothing is perfect. Perfection is an unattainable ideal designed to keep our self-esteem low and our personas malleable.

Except that this pesto is actually perfect.

Jarrod and I attended the Toronto Garlic Festival this weekend and we tried a wonderful kale pesto. We instantly fell in love, but because the festival didn’t have an ATM on site, we weren’t able to buy it. Rather than let that get us down, we took a trip to our local market, went home and made our own.

It gave me the chills.

Now that things are cooling down a bit, it’s more fun to get a little saucy in cooking — but still keeping it on the light-medium side. No creamy sauces yet, but not that barely-blushing kind of “sauce.” Pesto is the perfect medium. And this switches up kale for typically sweet basil, and adds in lemon juice and nooch for tang.

Perfect kale and lemon pesto, makes about 1 1/2 cups


  • 10 leaves black lakitano (dinosaur) kale
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • Four large cloves of garlic
  • One green onion
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds or pepitas
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed


  1. Remove the stems from your dinosaur kale and add it to a colander or fine-mesh sieve.
  2. Boil a kettle of water and douse your kale in hot water, blanching it and making it easier to shred.
  3. Add the kale, garlic, green onion and lemon to a large food processor. Pulse several times until everything breaks down to a manageable size.
  4. Add in your seeds, nooch and salt and pepper. Pulse again to let everything break down.
  5. Now start drizzling your olive oil in as you need in order to make everything flow easier. We didn’t take specific measurements for this, you should just be able to tell by the texture. If the pesto is flowing nicely and doesn’t just seem like a lump of nuts of vegetables, then you know it’s enough!
  6. The Pesto will keep for about a week in an airtight container. Pour a bit of extra olive oil on top to preserve.

Serve with pasta, like we did,  or on fancy burgers, with crackers or in a grain bowl!

Weekend snaps: dance class, garlic festival, kitchen fun!

Weekends, amirite?

I’m not going to lie, I’m having a bit of a creativity block when it comes to this post. I just want to zoom past the intro: the weekend was here! Now the weekend is done! Here’s some of the things I did!

Like any classic Bree and Jar weekend, there was minimal socializing and a hell of a lot of productivity.

Friday night I went to my first Toronto vegan meetup at Bloomer’s. I didn’t take any pictures there on account of it was too dark, but here’s my cards for my site that I handed out…

And here’s how cute I looked on the way!

Attempting cuteness for the vegan meetup. #whatveganslookslike #veganselfie A photo posted by Bree Rody-Mantha (@breeganism) on

Saturday morning started out with a sweet run (I’m starting on a 10K trainer program now that I’m getting a bit bored with 5K) and then was followed by my first jazz class in two months.

I don’t have a picture or video of my jazz class, but here’s a clip from one of my old ballet classes at the same studio. You can see me practicing the adage in the background!


A video posted by Metro Movement (@metromovement) on

Jazz class actually felt quite incredible. I haven’t felt that alive in a long time. I’m sad I let myself go without dancing for so long, and I’ll have to make a point of getting back more often. Saturday night some of Jar’s friends were in town and he went out to a metal show. I was quite happy to stay at home (I don’t do loud shows) and watch old movies while chilling with my kitty. I also finally found the power cord for my piano (unpacking has slowed down lately) and got to playing again. Felt good!

Unpacked a most important thing today. A video posted by Bree Rody-Mantha (@breeganism) on

And I sang a bit too.

Feeble attempts.

A video posted by Bree Rody-Mantha (@breeganism) on

Sunday started out with pancakes (you can’t see ’em yet because they’ll be on the blog next Wednesday!) and then a great climb, which I took no pictures of (kinda hard to take pictures while you’re climbing! And a good belayer never takes her eyes off her partner). But immediately after climbing we ventured out to Wychwood Barns for the Toronto Garlic Festival.

He’s actually pretty happy to be at the Garlic festival. A photo posted by Bree Rody-Mantha (@breeganism) on

In truth I found the festival a bit disappointing. None of the advertising seemed to specify that you had to pay to even get in, and every vendor was also paid. There was no ATM on site, so once you ran out of cash that was pretty much it. Plus, in terms of vendors, it was mostly the standard farmer’s market vendors who are there every weekend with a few garlic-specific stalls. We did walk away with a cool new garlic tool for the kitchen (to grind up our garlic like butter!) and a yummy jar of maple mustard, so I won’t poo-poo (poupon?) it entirely.

And then after two years of talkin’ shit I finally got a Vitamix. Look at that face. Oh, and I found a catnip toy for Benny. Look at the little stoner!

Cat’s first catnip in months. IT BEGINS. A video posted by Bree Rody-Mantha (@breeganism) on

Go crazy, Ben.

A video posted by Bree Rody-Mantha (@breeganism) on

Then Jarrod and I got silly in the kitchen with our new garlic tool. We worked really hard on a new recipe that you’ll be able to find this coming Wednesday!

My cat is tripping balls six feet away. A photo posted by Bree Rody-Mantha (@breeganism) on

I also finally turned on my record player for the first time since moving, and the occasion felt fit for Supertramp.

Let’s take er for a spin.

A photo posted by Bree Rody-Mantha (@breeganism) on

This is what our kitchen looks like when we recipe test. I swear it’s usually clean.

What our kitchen looks like when we are recipe testing. #vegan #vegansofig #veganfoodie A photo posted by Bree Rody-Mantha (@breeganism) on

The new Vitamix, as you can see, fits in perfectly.

New member of the family.

A photo posted by Bree Rody-Mantha (@breeganism) on

And after all that excitement, kitty fell asleep.

Kitty had too much fun. Kitty high out of his gourd. A photo posted by Bree Rody-Mantha (@breeganism) on

And we ate garlic bread that we made with our new garlic masher.

Gonna die historic on the garlic road.

A photo posted by Bree Rody-Mantha (@breeganism) on

And that, kind folks, is my weekend in Instagrams (or as I call it, Instagrizzitys). On Wednesday you’ll get a glimpse of the mystery recipe Jarrod and I developed after we were inspired at the garlic festival. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this!

Five easy, healthy post-workout snacks

I’m not going to lie, when my partner and I were looking for a new place, although I didn’t admit it to him, when I looked through listings of apartment buildings, I gave total preference to buildings with gyms/fitness rooms.

I’m happy to report that we did indeed find a place that has a small gym featuring cardio equipment, free weights and a few machines. It’s not much, but it’s enough for me. I normally run and bike all over Toronto, but I also like to be able to lift a little bit or get down on mats for some thorough pilates work. Working out at home is really difficult for me because I get too distracted and I feel too crowded and afraid to really go all-out, but working out close to home is always great.

We still climb, right now working back up to climbing about three times per week. Dance is also still a part of my life (teaching once a week and taking a class whenever I can) and, of course, I’m on my bike (and running!) constantly. But I like to keep my workouts varied.

The best part about my workout regime is that literally everything is close to home. My dance studio is right around the corner, our climbing gym is now a five-minute drive, the gym is in the building next door, and, well, you always end up back home when you run or bike (if you don’t, consider a GPS, a compass or simply never leaving your home).

You know why getting home quickly is a priority? Because I LOVE TO EAT. Have I ever mentioned that? Working out always makes me super-hungry for something high-protein, easy to eat and, preferably, not too warm. I was recently introduced to the team at, who are all about healthy snacks. They gave me the idea to write a post about my favourite healthy post-workout snacks, which quite frankly I’m surprised I haven’t written about before.

These aren’t overly complex snacks, and are extremely easy to make yourself, so give them each a whirl and find something you like!

Soaked almonds and blueberries

Everyone knows by now that soaking almonds makes them a way more easy-to-eat and luxurious snack than crunchy almonds (not that there’s anything wrong with crunchy almonds)! But what I really love is pairing them with a sweet companion — blueberries! Blueberry and almonds have always gone together (see: a long history of cold cereals). This is a great snack for after climbing when I’m feeling snacky and over-stimulated — I need something that I can keep dipping my hand into the bowl for, but isn’t full of excess salt and grease. I simply soak 1/3 cup of almonds and 1/4 cup of blueberries in water before I leave for climbing. When I come home about 2-3 hours later, I drain and rinse my bowl, and voilà (you could sprinkle on some cinnamon if you like too, but they’re still good on their own)!

Make-ahead chocolate protein smoothie

A photo posted by Bree Rody-Mantha (@breeganism) on

(Cereal optional) After a jazz or contemporary dance class, when I’ve been moving and jumping around for 90 minutes, I get really hungry, but don’t actually feel like eating. Smoothies always win for me. Now, some of my smoothies can be a little over-complicated, which is why I recently released a listing of 10 smoothies with four ingredients or less. This smoothie does not contain four ingredients or less, but it’s still an easy-to-make smoothie with ingredients you can find at any local grocery store. The key is freezing the banana and zucchini beforehand, as well as pre-soaking the oats in the milk, so you can blend easily into a super-smooth, so-good-you’d-swear-it’s-a-Wendy’s-Frosty smoothie. Ingredients:

        • One medium banana, peeled, chopped and frozen



      • 1/2 medium zucchini, peeled, chopped and frozen



      • 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk



      • 1/4 cup rolled oats



      • 1 tbsp nut or seed butter



      • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder of choice (I use Manitoba Harvest’s hemp-based protein)



      • 1 tsp cocoa powder



      • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract



      • Pinch of cinnamon



      • Pinch of sea salt


      Before you go out for your workout, peel, chop and freeze your banana and zucchini, and sit your oats in the milk, cover and refrigerate. Run the oats/milk through the blender once before adding everything else and then wiz it away!  

Savoury crackers and hummus (with carrots!)

Crackers were my weakness as a child. My favourite were Crispers (which apparently are supposed to be a chip/cracker hybrid), followed by Bacon Dipper (surprisingly, those are vegan, so I’m looking to see if I can create a slightly less oily version for Urban Garlic in the near future). Now I tend to prefer crackers with a bit more texture, like Mary’s Crackers. My flax and buckwheat crackers are a fairly good dupe for those, and a few large wedges of seedy crackers with some home-made or store-bought hummus can be just the right amount of carb and protein to calm you down after a good workout (my favourite hummus of all-time is still the “pizza hummus” my boyfriend and I created together when we first started dating). It’s also good to get some veggies in. My favourite vegetables to have with hummus are baby carrots and broccoli.

Crackers or pita chips with nut cheese and blueberry jam

A simple rice cracker or a wedge of pita (you don’t even have to toast it) is just begging to have an interesting combination of flavours applied to it, so I look at simply applying one topping to a cracker as a total waste. My favourite nut cheese is Tres Nuts, which is sold at various Toronto natural food stores including Raise the Root and The Big Carrot, and I love spreading some blueberry jam (my jam of choice is Crofter’s) on top. Super-duper fancy!

Homemade energy bars


A photo posted by Bree Rody-Mantha (@breeganism) on

Okay, this one is a bit more complex, but I never miss out on a chance to promote my homemade Clif Bar recipe. Why? Well, because for how easy these babies are to make, there’s a huge amount of payoff. What are the advantages? Well, you can customize it as much as you want (need to make it nut-free? Fructose-friendly? Want to add chocolate? Berries? DO WHAT YOU WANT). You can cut them into the sizes you want. You can bring a whole tray to share with your friends, or be a jerk/awesome and keep it all to yourself.

Comforting Carrot, Onion and Garlic Soup


I asked my partner if he wanted to do a guest post for this recipe, since the recipe is technically his, but he declined. While my partner is certainly a creative mastermind (he has a graphic design background and a keen eye for the arts), a writer he is not (so he claims). Actually, he loves to tell me the story of how when he first started working for the magazine he works for (which, trivia fact!, is where we met), the publisher had him write little columns on, like… I’m not really sure? “How to use the Internet?” “Why the Internet is awesome?” “The Internet is, indeed, not a truck but a series of tubes.”

Anyway, he said the columns were short-lived, and he hasn’t really done any writing projects since then. Okay, that’s fine. I just don’t want to take credit for this soup.

You know the line in the soup episode of Seinfeld? “You taste it, your knees buckle!” That’s apparently what happened to me the second I took a spoonful of this soup.

I’m not normally even a fan of carrot soups, because I find they’re usually a sweeter, more spicy, ginger-y soup. Which I guess is fine if you’re 1) 60, 2) boring (note: to anyone who writes in informing me that they are neither 60 nor boring, I’d hate to break it to you, but it’s one of those). My partner loves to make this carrot soup whenever the weather cools down (and I am so, so incredibly happy that it has cooled down!!) which we enjoy with a simple salad and (of course) some bread!

Comforting carrot and garlic soup


  • 1-2 lbs of carrots
  • 1 whole large white onion
  • 6-7 cloves fresh garlic
  • 900 mL low-sodium vegetable broth (or mushroom broth for a richer, more “meaty” flavour)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried dill
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
  • Cilantro and/or nutritional yeast, to garnish (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 400° and chop your carrots and onion to chunks. Toss lightly in olive oil.
  2. Roast the carrots, onion and garlic for 30-45 minutes.
  3. Once carrots and onions have roasted, place in a large saucepan, add broth and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add your spices and additional olive oil. Mix and let simmer with the lid on.
  5. After 15 minutes (or when a sharp knife will easily pierce carrots), turn the heat off and blend the soup by either using an immersion blender or transferring the contents to a large blender. Blend until smooth and thick!
  6. Let cool and serve garnished with salt and pepper, nooch and cilantro.
  7. And bread.
  8. Lots of bread.

10 ways to not be a douche about eating healthy

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Processed with VSCOcam

I’m an ethical vegan — I’ve been pretty clear about that. I’m also a fairly healthy eater, too. I like my green smoothies, my grain and veggie bowls, my homemade raw snacks. Sometimes I also love me some fresh cucumber juice.

I’ve never been overly concerned with being known as a “healthy eater,” mainly because I find there’s something a little obnoxious about people who wear their diets on their sleeves. Now, I’m all for preaching veganism, but I tend to use discretion because I’m not often mentally prepared for a big debate.

But even though I don’t believe that eating animals is a “personal choice,” I’m often shocked at the number of people who freak out over things that ARE personal choices — like eating bread, or cooking your vegetables.

Do you feel yourself losing friends? Is the only thing you have to comfort you in your life a bowl of lightly-spiced grains accompanied by a colourful array of vegetables?

Well, I’ve developed a handy-dandy guide on how to not be such a douchebag about your healthy choices.

  1. Tone down the hyperbole. We get it. You feel great. I have no doubt that you feel great. The thing is, when you start to say things like “I can literally feel the toxins leaving my body!” you sound more like a used car salesman than a person who is comfortable with the choice they’ve made.
  2. Every time you say the word “toxin” or “toxic,” pinch yourself. “Toxin” is such a generic term that can easily scare someone without actually offering any information. When you use it, you sound like you don’t actually know what you’re taking about.
  3. Use discretion before talking about your bowel movements with others. I mean… c’mon.
  4. Recognize that there is no universal definition of “healthy.” So if you’re trying to convince your friend that raw desserts are the way to go and they’re telling you they can’t eat dates, or trying to convince someone that juicing will be extra healthy for them and they’re insisting that they need more fibre in their diet, remember that no two bodies are the same and require the same things — which is why we all go poop on different schedules (note to self: see #3).
  5. “Would you like to try some?” is very different from “You HAVE to try it.” Always offer. Offering is polite! But you’re a grown-up (probably) and thus should have a vague idea of when someone clearly doesn’t want to try your savoury carrot paleo cookie held together by flax gel and the tears of your caveman ancestors. Stop making people feel like they’re missing out because they’d rather have a Freezie.
  6. Get a sense of whether or not someone cares to engage. Similar to #5, you should try to develop a sense of awareness for whether or not someone actually even cares. If someone is asking you questions, answer them. If someone decides to insult or challenge your choices in a totally unfounded way, defend yourself and take ’em to school. But when “what kind of sandwich is that?” turns into a long rant about the poisons our government is putting into wheat and the effects it has on your brain, maybe take a quick glance over at them to see if their eyes are glazing over. Go one. Try it.
  7. Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to. “Why wouldn’t someone want to ever go raw?” “Why, what are you allergic to?” “Can you REALLY not afford that?” You’re gonna get answers. Be prepared.
  8. If you make big, grandiose statements, be prepared to be debated. If you’re going to say “Orange carrots are full of empty calories and sugar,” if you’re going to say “There is literally no reason for anyone to ever consume soy,” if you’re going to say “Green tea prevents cancer,” well, you’d be surprised how educated some people can be on the subjects. All it takes is one really big and probably not-that-well-researched statement to bring out That One Guy Who Treats Random Wikipedia Articles Like His Full-Time Job. So be prepared.
  9. Think of your food regime like a list of medications. Vital? Yes. Are there situations in which people need to know about it? Absolutely. But just as you wouldn’t bore people with the details of your prescriptions, your doses and the rules of your medication, people don’t need to know every detail of your food regime. It’s personal, and honest to God I can’t emphasize how little anyone else cares.
  10. Listen to people. When someone says “I can’t afford that,” they’re probably not lying (yeah, they might be ill-informed, but they also know their own situation better than you do). When someone says “I don’t like that,” it’s not your duty to make them like something. Basically, you weren’t sent down from some higher place to spread the Word of Your Fat Diet.

Changing the way we talk about EDs

Image by Erika Hammer, Ten2Ten Photography

Image by Erika Hammer, Ten2Ten Photography

I’ve always considered myself a crybaby, but as I’ve gotten older, the times I’ve actually cried have become fewer and further between. Still, I tend to express my emotion best through a good cry.

The last time I cried, there was nothing “good” about it.

The last time I cried, I was practically screaming through my tears. I had my face buried in a pillow and was yelling that I hated myself. I cried for at least an hour and then spent the next two days randomly falling into a state of shock where I just could not concentrate on anything other than what had hurt me. It’s been several weeks, and thinking about it still makes a lump rise in my throat. This wasn’t a breakup, a death or sad news I’d heard on the radio. This was someone’s words.

Recently I was told that someone I know had gone on the record attacking my veganism. Not a big deal, right? I get that all the time.

What bothered me were these words: “We all know it’s just a cover-up for her ED.”

Even looking at the words before me gives me the chills.

My past with disordered eating is something I kept close to my chest for a long time and only started being open about recently. However, I think most people who know me well enough aren’t likely to fight me when I tell them I have not relapsed into any disordered habits since early university. I eat in front of people, I no longer compulsively exercise, I don’t feel a crippling degree of self-hate when I “over-eat,” I don’t even count my calories anymore. I can face the world after I eat a cookie, and I’ve accepted that every single person in the world has a roll when they sit down. I don’t cross my arms in front of my stomach anymore, and I’m not afraid to wear shorts.

Now, looking at those words makes me want to cry — out of happiness. I love myself and I love how far I’ve come. I’m not perfect, but my body is. Yep, you heard it straight from me: I do think my body is perfect. My body can dance, my body can climb mountains (LITERALLY), it can bike across Toronto, it can hug, it can teach my students, it can express joy and creativity. It can run. I’ve literally never run before and now I can run. I. Am. Proud of myself.

And this person is attempting to tear me down in a way that disturbs me. You know why?

Because “I hear she has an ED” should never be said in a snarky tone.

I’m not sure who this person was referring to when they say “we all know,” but, well, if anyone I know actually does think I’m covering up an ED, by not telling me, a loved one or a professional that they’re concerned about me, then they are a bad friend, period.

My guess is no one besides this person actually thinks I have or am covering up an ED. And maybe they don’t even actually think I have an ED themselves, they’re just trying to insult me.

Which is what leads me to the general point of this post: that “eating disorder” is not an insult.

Gossiping in general is a toxic habit that no one should ever engage in, but I especially want to urge people to change the discourse around how we talk about EDs. An eating disorder is something to be concerned, even devastated about. It is not unlike any other painful illness in that I would not wish it on someone that I absolutely hated.

If you suspect that someone has an eating disorder and your first instinct is to get snarky about it and say “Ha-ha,” then you are contributing to the stigma that stops so many people from seeking help every single day.

Eating disorders call for concern and empathy unlike any other illness. You wouldn’t say “Pfft, she’s just covering up the fact that she has lupus” or “Everyone really knows she has cancer.” No, you’d say, “Poor girl, she has lupus.”

An eating disorder doesn’t make someone a bad person. It doesn’t make them vain or conceited. Wanting to cover it up certainly doesn’t make them sneaky. Having an eating disorder makes someone sick. Wanting to cover it up makes them ashamed.

If you believe that someone may be suffering from an eating disorder, whether or not you like them, you should talk to them about your concerns. If you don’t feel comfortable with them, consider calling the National Eating Disorders Information Centre (NEDIC) to get more information on what you can do. You may only be one person, but a person with an ED is never alone. You just have to help them see that.

Create positive change — don’t gossip.


Seven-layer salad


Image by Erika Hammer, Ten2Ten Photography

*bursts through your wall like the Kool-Aid man, leaving a wake of irreversible, expensive damage* SUMMER ISN’T OVER!!!


You know how I know that?

Because it’s hot. It’s so hot, you guys. I ran 5K yesterday and my shirt that is supposed to protect me from sweat was drenched. My partner and I took a walk to get groceries and we were both SLICK with sweat after. I’m pretty sure I got a sunburn.

There are approximately two weeks (on the day that I write this) left of summer. That means there are two weekends left to have a barbecue during. And you should bring this salad.

I know, I know, “I’ll bring a salad” is always the biggest cop-out, don’t you find? “Oh, thanks Jimmy, I can’t wait to experience your bowl of browned iceberg and poorly-sliced cherry tomatoes. Oh, you didn’t bring your own dressing? Well, we have some bottled Kraft in the fridge…”

Nuh-uh, not this salad.

The “seven-layer salad” concept is actually one that was a staple from my Mom. It wasn’t something that was made very often due to the amount of work involved, but anytime we had some sort of gathering in the summer, you could bet a seven-layer salad would be involved.

Now, being that this is a Mantha family creation, you can bet your sweet ass it isn’t a vegan salad. My Mom’s seven-layer salad, from bottom layer to top, is as follows:

  • Iceberg
  • Spinach
  • Sliced green onions
  • Frozen peas (yes, frozen)
  • Sliced bacon (yeeesh…)
  • Hard-boiled eggs (yeeeesh…)
  • A very thick layer of mayonnaise (YEEEESH!)

As you can see, the seven-layer salad is pretty un-vegan on its own.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t make an equally delicious vegan version.

I made a “tester” version for my sister and her hub earlier this summer, and they liked it so much they suggested I make it for my Mom’s 60th birthday celebration. I’m used to my family rejecting my vegan creations entirely, but many of my parents’ friends (and my aunt and uncle!) took a taste of the salad and were so incredibly complimentary, I had people asking for the recipe all night. Now, they may have been very nice because they were drunk, but hey, a compliment is a compliment, right?

(Side-note: the photo you see above is from my sister, Erika Hammer, the woman behind the amazing Ten2Ten Photography. Ten2Ten actually specializes in wedding photography, but that means my sister really knows how to shoot a party. If you’re shopping around for wedding photographers, I highly recommend checking her out!)

Other highlights from the night included my Mom getting delightfully tanked (according to my Dad, she has not been that cray-cray since the mid-80s) and trying to lead the entire back yard in a singalong while I stood on the porch with my aunt and uncle feeling pleasantly mortified, and teaching my awesome aunt how to play Cards Against Humanity.

But anyhoo, here’s the salad. Don’t be intimidated by how difficult it looks. It’s actually a make-on-the-day-of kinda thing, and only really took about an hour to throw together.

Vegan Seven-Layer Salad, serves a pretty rockin’ party full of baby-boomer church-goers


  • 1 head iceberg lettuce
  • 2 cups spinach (or mix in arugula too if you’re feeling festive)
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced thin
  • 2 cups frozen peas (frozen is essential because it keeps the bottom layers cool)
  • Maple “bacon” tempeh
    • 1 8-oz package tempeh, sliced thin lengthwise
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
    • 1 tbsp soy sauce, tamari or coconut aminos
    • 1 tbsp vegan worcestershire sauce or  balsamic vinegar
    • 1 tbsp maple syrup
    • 1/2 tbsp smoked paprika
    • 1 tsp liquid smoke
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Spiced chickpeas:
    • 1 19-oz can chickpeas
    • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
    • 1 tbsp garlic powder
    • 2 tsp onion powder
    • Sprinkle of black salt (optional)
  • Avocado aioli:
    • 2.5-3 ripe avocados
    • 1/3 cup vegan mayonnaise (I use Just Mayo, which is gluten-free and soy-free, although if you have a soy allergy I’d recommend swapping the tempeh for shiitake mushrooms)
    • Juice from 1 lemon
    • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
    • Salt and pepper, to taste
    • Olive oil, as needed


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit
  2. Mix your tempeh marinade and add in 1/2 cup of water OR vegetable broth
  3. Slice your package of tempeh into thin, length-wise strips and sit in the marinade for about 20 minutes
  4. On a cooking sheet lined with parchment paper, lay your tempeh down and brush with a little excess marinade. Bake for about 10-13 minutes on one side, then flip and bake on the other side for 10 minutes.
  5. While that is cooking, prepare the avocado aioli. Combine all the ingredients besides the oil in a food processor and pulse until it begins to purify. As it starts to smooth out, drizzle in your olive oil until it is velvety in texture. If it’s too thin, add more avocado. Too thick, add more oil/lemon juice.
  6. Drain and rinse your chickpeas and, in a large bowl, coat with nooch and spices.
  7. Let your “bacon” cool for a few minutes and then cut the strips into smaller pieces (about 1″ long).
  8. Now layer it up! Iceberg first (just tear it up with your hands, provided that they’re clean, you know), then spinach (I’m assuming it’s two cups… just a few generous handfuls to cover the layer), then thinly-spiced green onions, then the frozen peas. Take ’em right out of the freezer bag and put them on there, but make sure to break up any big hunks of peas stuck together. Now add your bacon (layer it evenly along the salad), chickpeas and, finally, your mayonnaise.
  9. The salad keeps for a bit longer than most avocado dishes because of the lemon juice, it stops the mixture from going brown. It should last you about two days in the fridge.

Image by Erika Hammer, Ten2Ten Photography


Image by Erika Hammer, Ten2Ten Photography