Monthly Archives: October 2015

Spread the love: October edition

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I’m not going to lie, this post really snuck up on me. I’d had a few other posts in development — like reflections on my blog now being one year old, a peak at what my vegan pantry/fridge looks like on a regular basis, lessons I’ve learned from being an unpopular blogger (we can all say it).

I really am looking forward to posting some more personal and reflective stuff because even for the very small group of people who reads my stuff, I want you to get to know Bree the blogger, Bree the vegan, and Bree the person. I never want to separate who I am from what I do too much.

It’s taken me years of blogging through platforms like WordPress, Blogspot and Tumblr to realize that people like me, and that I have a gift with written word not just for the journalism I do every day, but connecting with people on a personal level. I get really nervous when I speak to people and have a hard time connecting face-to-face, but through writing I’m able to be myself and express myself in ways I didn’t think were possible.

Taking my recent vow of anti-materialism (I’m mostly being facetious in calling it that, FIY) probably came at the exact wrong time for my October Spread the Love post, but I definitely have a few things I’m looking to tell you guys about!

  1. Lush has a new seasonal lip tint, Santa Baby (actually the tint has been around for awhile now but now it’s in tube form!). It’s a matte red that somehow actually flatters my skin tone! Be warned, it takes a LONG time to come off, so don’t wear this lip balm unless you’re planning on wearing it, well, forever.
  2. I haven’t read it yet because it’s not out, but Toronto councillor John Filion is writing a book about former mayor Rob Ford that I’m just itching to read!
  3. I’m a lover of Everyone products, and their hand sanitizer in peppermint+citrus has not left my desk in a month.
  4. I’ve recently gotten a few piercings done at Exotix Studios on Spadina near Queen. They actually specialize in piercings (they had one tattoo artist, but he either is leaving soon or has recently left, not quite sure) unlike most studios, which are primarily tattoo studios and do piercings on the side. Amazingly professional crew here — they’re knowledgeable and passionate artists, and they make me feel so comfortable whenever I’m there.
  5. Last month I picked up the latest cookbook from Fresh, Super FreshThe cookbook is 100% vegan and has a lot of really cool recipes I can’t quite wait to try (especially my favourite restaurant pick, squash tacos)! I’m making it my mission to post a review of the book by Christmas, which means I’d better get my shit together!
  6. Last month I purchased a big e.l.f. haul and ended up discovering my absolute favourite e.l.f. product ever, the Prism eyeshadow set. Highly recommend for anyone who likes nude, contoured eyes.
  7. Do you ever get, like… food-horny? Not just hungry, but, like, you see food and you want it so bad it’s more of an attraction than just a hunger? That’s how I’ve been feeling about spaghetti squash lately. I must make a batch next week.
  8. I’m not a big drinker, but when I drink I like it fancy! I picked up the book Winter Cocktails: Mulled Ciders, Hot Toddies, Punches, Pitchers, and Cocktail Party SnacksSurprisingly, a lot of the drinks are not vegan, but I’ve  been working on veganizing some of them and will have some cocktail recipes for you guys on my blog very soon!
  9. I haven’t purchased anything from them lately, but I always regret that I never shout out to Kid Icarus in Kensington Market. It’s one of my favourite places for unexpected little accents around my house (I far prefer prints to any other type of decor).
  10. Can I just showcase Porter House again and again and again? It feels like I do it month after month but… Okay but seriously you guys, Jarrod and I recently celebrated our anniversary, and we did so at good ol’ Porter. We actually started out at another special place to us, The Ace in Roncesvalles, but found out that they no longer make their only vegan option, so we had a drink (one hell of a drink!) and left. Then we went to ol’ faithful Porter House and it we were welcomed in like family (I’m starting to think the one server there is concerned about how much we eat there). Even if the menu is small, it’s amazing, the ambiance is laid-back but still nice, and we always leave with full bellies and fuller hearts.

Sweet and spicy sweet potato latte syrup

SP Latte

Before I talk about this syrup, I want to talk about what it represents: indulgence.

This past weekend, I started a cleanse of my own. Nope, not the juice kind. Nope, not even the food kind.

I’m going through a bit of a material cleanse right now. Not in terms of getting rid of stuff (I actually do that quite a bit). More in terms of re-evaluating the things that I spend my money on and buy/consume without thinking too much about it.

Ever since I moved away from downtown Toronto and especially since my career took a better turn last year, I’ve never really struggled financially, and I’ve never been particularly foolish with money. I’m in a position where if something were to randomly happen to my car, or if Benny were to need some sort of emergency surgery, I’d be fine.

But I’ve realized that I could be doing so much better, and because I’m in a good position, I tend to occasionally plunk down money on things that I might need, but not immediately.

For example, clothes — for a long time, even when I was working full-time, I couldn’t justify buying new clothes because I didn’t have a ton of money, so I was stuck wearing the same crappy, poorly-shaped, faded, low-quality clothes I wore in university. Now that I’m in a better position, I buy clothes more frequently (and, to my credit, always get rid of old clothes). The thing is, I still haven’t learned the art of keeping only a small number of essential pieces. I owned a lot of clothes in university, so I’ve felt a need to replace my crappy, collegiate style at a 1:1 rate, but it should probably be more like 1:2 or 1:3.

Another thing is, to sound totally cliché, my daily Starbucks indulgence. I usually use Starbucks as nothing more than an excuse to get out of the office on my lunch break and do some writing. Why can’t there be a library or something close by? I’m not so into coffees/lattes that I feel an actual craving for them on the daily, so I really need to stop going to Starbucks out of boredom/convenience.

Okay, and another thing I need to stop doing: expanding on my collection of Lush pots. For someone who likes to tote a minimalist skin routine, I actually have a tendency to fall in love with a new soap scent long before my last one has run out. I work really close to a Lush and sometimes I just go in at lunch to smell all the smells and get away from everything, and I usually feel way too guilty to walk out without buying something.

I feel like I’m portraying myself as a spend-o-holic here. Don’t worry, I’m not over-the-top. But I definitely think everyone, even those of us who are financially comfortable, need to look at our spending habits a little bit more and wonder how much we’re actually spending on what we need.

Here’s my current vow:

  • No Starbucks for two weeks (I’m not ruling out coffee shops in general, but I go to Starbucks out of convenience and out of not actually wanting coffee.)
  • No Lush or any other toiletry product for two months.
  • No clothing purchases — not even an accessory — for one month.
  • Since the big seasonal clothing transition is approaching, I will be getting rid of no less than 20 clothing items and not replacing them.

I’ve also made a few vows for my at-home habits — no playing The Sims or 2048 for one month, and no watching The Office for one month. I know those sound like strange things, but those are probably the two things that, once I’ve done everything for the day — cooking, blog work, workouts, cleaning — that I fall into. I mean, you can argue that if you’ve tended to all your other responsibilities, what’s the problem? But I think by always falling into those habits, I’m limiting myself from trying something different, like reading a new book, playing piano or even doing a puzzle. Again, I’m not giving up TV, I’m giving up the show that is most convenient for me to watch reruns of (I have every episode) because I know that 99% of my drive to do those things is not out of genuine desire but convenience.

That’s it. Is it sad that I’ve felt a need to do this? I actually don’t think so! What this comes down to mostly is an exercise in self-discipline and also teaching me how to better use my time.

One of those better uses of time is coming up with cool original recipes (see the segue I did there) and knocking things off of my list of fall goals. I’ve actually accomplished a few so far and I might detail some on the blog. Here’s one of them, which started out as an attempt to make my own pumpkin spice syrup.

With it being October, pumpkin puree wasn’t actually available in stores, and damned if I felt like carving a pumpkin all by myself (I try to avoid mentioning this, but I have the visual artistic talents of a drunken sloth, and carving pumpkins would surely result in me accidentally painting my walls orange).

But then I saw sweet potato puree for about 50 cents cheaper than pumpkin puree, so, like, why not?

Sweet potato is, after all, sweet, and I have enjoyed a good sweet potato pie in my day. It doesn’t quite have the smooth, soothing taste of pumpkin, but that’s kind of what I like about it.

Here’s the sweet and spicy sweet potato latte, so you can possibly differentiate yourself from the #PSL crowd.

Sweet and spicy sweet potato latte syrup, makes about 3/4 cup of syrup

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sweet potato puree
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup, maple syrup or agave (I don’t recommend a thicker sweetener like molasses or coconut nectar)
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar, turbinado sugar or brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon or one cinnamon stick
  • 2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract, or one vanilla bean, seeded
  • Pinch of ground cloves

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and slowly warm on medium heat, stirring to ensure no burning on the surface.
  2. Once the sugar is dissolved and all elements are combined thoroughly, remove from heat. Strain out any solid pieces like the vanilla bean and/or the cinnamon stick.
  3. Let cool before transferring to an airtight container.
  4. Store in the fridge, but I recommend removing it for at least 30 minutes before using it in a drink!
  5. This also makes a great drizzle over vegan ice cream — mm!

So what are some of your indulgences that you might need a bit of a break from? What are your worst habits? What’s something you think you could be doing better with your time? Let me know in the comments below.

 


“Label-free?” No thank you!

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Just as quickly as “vegan” and “gluten-free” became co-opted and made meteoric rises to become the latest trend diet, the “label-free” movement rose even more aggressively to the top.

In the past six months or so I’ve noticed a large number of food bloggers who go on the record as being “label-free” and going to great lengths to explain why they have no “label” to their diet. They eat a LOT of vegan food or a LOT of gluten-free food, but they don’t want to label themselves as anything.

The main reason is because labels cause people to feel pressure to never make a mistake.

I, on the other hand, fully embrace the label that is “vegan,” and I’d like to explain a few reasons why — and why you shouldn’t be afraid of the “v” word.

Veganism is not a diet

Perhaps the most frequent reasoning I see applied to the “label-free” diet philosophy is so they don’t feel pressure or guilt when they have a day when they eat something outside of that dietary label — like a piece of cheese or some fish. I (and most other vegans) have never seen veganism as a diet; it is a lifestyle that requires full commitment. It’s not like you’re on a “low carb” diet and one day have some bread and the only person feeling the consequences is you — veganism affects other living things!

It’s still okay to make mistakes!

It’s a common misconception that making a mistake and eating something you shouldn’t will get you kicked out of the “vegan club.” Remember in Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World? The vegan police? There are some people who feel that there’s too much pressure to not make mistakes, so they’re afraid of fully going vegan. But here’s the thing: mistakes happen all the time! Just the other day I bit into a sandwich that I asked for with no cheese and it had a sprinkling of shredded cheese! I returned the sandwich, but I didn’t hate myself for having a couple mouthfuls of cheese (my digestive system, however). Of course, there’s also a huge difference between “I accidentally bought this mascara that’s made with animal ingredients because I read the label incorrectly” and “I now this has milk in it, but I don’t care because it looks delicious.”

Most people will respect your convictions

Some of my friends have been a bit obnoxious about my veganism, but most of my friends are obnoxious anyway (I’m just ribbin’ guys, I love ya). The thing is, I’d say 90% of people I know well enough to actually converse about food with are incredibly supportive of my veganism, even if they aren’t vegan themselves. I’ve always been able to have very open conversations about my own politics, and at the end of the day, my loved ones respect that I have made this choice and have this conviction. It’s hard to have a conviction when you don’t even want to actually say the word.

So how do you, my loyal readers, feel about dietary labels? Do you think the “vegan” label is too divisive, or are you willing to stand by the label proudly? How have your friends treated you for going vegan?


10 work-friendly vegan sandwiches

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I’ve ranted before on how I don’t take too kindly to people making “suggestions” for how I should run my site when they really just want me to tailor it exactly to their needs (“Post more meals you can make for [$X] or less!!” “Post more one-bowl meals!”). I worry that I’ve given off the impression that a) I can’t take criticism (this is probably a little true in most cases of my life) and b) I have no interest in giving the public what it wants.

I really do listen to suggestions, every one of them. I don’t think it’s at all bad to filter out things that you don’t want to listen to. If I was interested in giving the public 100% what it wants, I’d run a blog on cheeseburgers and bacon and milkshakes.

I think the time comes to embrace suggestions from others is when a lot of people are asking you to fulfill a need that you’ve longed for as well. For example, a friend asked me a few months ago if I’d consider doing a side-by-side comparison of several vegan cookbooks. That was actually something I’ve wanted to find online for a long time now, so I was like, “Yeah, why DON’T I be that person who fills that need?”

And I did!

Something my partner actually asked me (and, like, I can’t say no to him, so…) was about food you can easily take to work. I was thinking of doing a post series called The Lunchbox, but devoting several entire posts to lunch food seemed unappealing to me. I like dinners, I like desserts, I like snacks. It’s hard to motivate myself to care about lunch, like, five times.

But a round-up? Hell yeah, I’ll do that.

Most of these sandwiches aren’t original creations, they’re either suggestions from others or, well, just ideas on how to take a sandwich that’s totally plant-based but actually fills you up at work. The kind I take most often is probably the deli-style tofu sandwich, but if you’re in a real change-it-up mood I’d recommend the strawberry and “cheese” sandwich. Yum!

  1. Flaked almond “tuna” salad from Oh She Glows. I can’t take credit for this one, but I’m totally going to give it up to OSG for this creation. The flaky almond salat is great scooped into a salad, but tastes great on toast with lettuce and a melted slice of Toffuti cheese for a more substantial meal (not to mention comfort food to the max).
  2. Vegan tempeh “reuben”: This one is easy. Slice your tempeh in little triangles or wedges and marinade them in any type of savoury mix (I do a tamari/oil/vegan Worcestershire sauce mix) and bake for about 20 minutes, top with sauerkraut, pickles (well, I don’t top with pickles, because I hate them, but you probably could) and homemade vegan “thousand island” dressing (equal-ish parts vegan mayo, mustard and relish, adjusted to your own taste). You can make about four very hearty sandwiches from one brick of tempeh, so I recommend cooking it the Sunday before.
  3. Deli-style grilled tofu: Thinly-sliced tofu, grilled, baked or dry-fried, with mustard, sauerkraut and avocados*. I usually grill up my tofu on the Sunday before work (I can get more than 20 slices, and three to four makes a good sandwich). Don’t overspice the tofu — just a little salt. It will probably remind you of a turkey sandwich, but not really turkey, you know?
  4. Mashed chickpea sandwich: Like the almond “tuna,” this one is a great choice for anyone who was used to egg salad or chicken salad. Everyone has different variations on this, but I like to simply mash some chickpeas with some vegan mayo and green onions, with a little bit of nooch and black salt (for the “eggy” taste) and add alfalfa sprouts, lettuce and sometimes avocados*.
  5. Grilled veggies: Pre-grill some veggies (I love my Foreman grill for that) the night before and you’ll have an easy-to-assemble sandwich for a few days. I like simple grilled zucchini and sliced portobellos with garlic vegan mayo (for double-winning, try it on a ciabatta bun). Avocados* optional, but recommended.
  6. Vegan caprese: My favourite sandwich to get at Starbucks when I was a vegetarian-but-not-yet-vegan was its Tomato Mozzarella sandwich. I haven’t really cared to try and replicate a vegan version  because I find most vegan cheeses yucky, but I’ve had great luck with two brands: Chao mozzarella-style slices, and Pleasantville Creamery buffalo-style mozzarella (this one is soy-free and nut-free, too). Pleasantville is, however, a Toronto-only brand, and Chao can be a bit expensive. Anyway, I like to make this with sun-dried tomatoes, vegan mozzarella, spinach and a thin spread of pesto (goes great with kale and lemon pesto)!
  7. Cucumber and cashew sandwich: Cucumber sandwiches were another one I loved during my vegetarian days. I’d go to this little cafe in Bowmanville with my Mom and have either a cucumber or a strawberry sandwich on a croissant and then sip on tea all afternoon. The good news is, you can totally replicate that same taste with a homemade cashew cream (or with a pre-made, spreadable nut cheese, like Tres Nuts cheese)! I also top mine with alfalfa sprouts.
  8. Strawberry and cream sandwich: My friend Jordanna (of the blog House of Muses) and I were recently debating the merits of sweet/savoury combos. I’m for ’em. Jordanna is not. I credit my love of sweet and savoury combos to my early love of chocolate-covered pretzels. She thinks I’m crazy. Heh heh! Anyway, the strawberry sandwich was another favourite of mine I’d have at the tea house in Bowmanville as a veg-head. Now, I make it with sliced strawberries, cashew cream (or nut cheese), lettuce and a vegan poppyseed dressing (Renee’s light poppyseed dressing, which is actually vegan, is totally my favourite)!
  9. Epic sun-butter sandwich: I think in today’s more allergy-sensitive world, I would have been a gonner. I was that obnoxious picky eater kid who only EVER took peanut butter sandwiches to school — though maybe if my go-to snack had been outlawed, I might have learned to not be so fussy. My editor, who sits right behind me, also has a peanut allergy, so when I have a sweet tooth I make sure I bring sunflower seed or pumpkin seed butter. They’re not as sweet, but I kind of like that. Anyway, I like a good, toasted, gooey sandwich with a layer of seed butter, no-sugar-added jam, sliced bananas* and fresh strawberries. It’s also, oddly enough, really good with a splash of balsamic. I know. Weird.
  10. Classic veggie sandwich: For when you’ve run out of ideas, but not out of food in the produce drawer. Nothing says simple quite like a spread of hummus (recommended: my pizza hummus!) on one piece of bread, pesto on another, and piles of tomato, cucumber and avocado* in between.

*Avocado and banana should definitely be taken to work whole and in their respective skins and coverings, and sliced/applied to your sandwich at lunch time, or else they will brown out and get disgusting.


Steamed rainbow seitan dumplings

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Here’s a story about dumplings:

A little over a year ago, I’d just had a really uncomfortable Thanksgiving. I didn’t spend it with my family and had instead spent it surrounded by friends and acquaintances. I made a big vegan spread, but no one really seemed to care and they just ate chips and crackers, and I felt really unappreciated, especially by those I was closest to.

Then my friend from my old office came back to town on Thanksgiving Monday and asked me how I felt about dumplings. I’d actually never had dumplings before (to his horror), so he recommended we meet at Mother’s Dumplings on Spadina. We enjoyed a huge (I mean huge) batch of steamed dumplings and a smashed cucumber salad and some green tea. Later, after we started dating, we’d refer to that as our unofficial first date, and Mother’s Dumplings would become a tradition for us (we actually now live very close to the other Mother’s location).

Of course, the options for vegan dumplings are limited to about three choices at Mother’s, as they usually are pretty much anywhere. We’ve never really talked that much about making our own dumplings before, because a) we like going to Mother’s and b) we weren’t really willing to take on that challenge.

Then A Beautiful Mess posted Emma’s veggie gyoza recipe and we happened to have a container full of seitan in the fridge.

Yep, I’m a seitan kick right now. I can’t even explain how useful this stuff is because it really makes a ton of food for not a lot of effort, money or complication.

We ended up adapting the ABM recipe so much that it turned into almost a completely different thing. We like a LOT of veggies in our food, and with the purple cabbage, the bright orange carrots and the green onions, this really truly looked like a rainbow.

The dough was very simple. I can’t say how it would turn out with a gluten-free dough since this did rely quite a bit on the elasticity of the dough. Any gluten-free friends want to weigh in? Of course, making this recipe gluten-free also means using something else instead of the seitan, because seitan is composed entirely of wheat-gluten. If you’re concerned about gluten, I’d recommend doing like ABM and using a veggie sausage (like Yves) or try just some simmered, shredded tofu.

Anyway, here’s our rainbow seitan dumplings!

Steamed seitan dumplings

Adapted slightly from A Beautiful Mess’s Veggie Gyoza

Yield: 32 dumplings
Prep time: 40 minutes (if seitan is made ahead of bought pre-made)
Cook time: 15 minutes

Dough ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat all-purpose flour, plus more for working/rolling
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2/3 cup almost-boiling water

Filling ingredients

  • 1 batch homemade seitan cutlets (see my seitan taco recipe for our seitan method) or 8 oz. store-bought seitan cutlets
  • 2-3 green onions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup shredded purple cabbage
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrots
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1 tbsp tamari or coconut aminos
  • 1/2 tbsp sesame oil

Instructions

  1. Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the water. Shape the dough into a ball, then begin to knead on a floured surface until nice and elastic-like.
  2. In a medium frying pan, heat a bit of oil over medium-high heat and fry up the seitan until just a little crispy.
  3. Let the seitan cool as you shred your veggies into a single bowl.
  4. Chop the seitan into very fine pieces.
  5. Add the red pepper flakes, tamari and sesame oil, mixing welll.
  6. Divide your dough ball into four equal pieces, then roll into small tubes. Chop into eight tiny pieces (or, as we call them in our household, nubbins)!
  7. Using a roller, spread each nubbin into a tiny circle on a flat surface. Add in the filling (we used about a heaping half-tablespoon in each) and pinch closed with your fingers.
  8. In a steamer pot, heat your water over high. Steam your dumplings for about 15 minutes and they are ready to serve!
  9. You can freeze your uncooked dumplings in an air-tight container (we put them in a plastic bag).

I swear, next week I’l get off the seitan kick. I’ve got a weekend without the boyfriend coming up, so I’m planning on doing some experimentation around the kitchen (’cause what else do you do when your boyfriend has left you alone?), so watch out for some great, non-seitan things!


Five things you should know about detoxing and cleansing

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Being part of the vegan community is difficult because it often brings me face-to-face with people whose values don’t line up with my own — beyond the whole “don’t kill or use animals for personal gain” thing. The most common thing I encounter is people who actually push a culture of classism, health-shaming and diet culture that I absolutely can’t get behind.

I’d be a fool and a liar if I didn’t say that I generally consider my diet to be pretty healthy. I don’t think, however, that it was any less healthy before I went vegan (I was never big on cheese, only ate fast food in moderation [which I still do because Taco Bell and Chipotle are things that exist], ate a diet that had a good balance of fats, proteins and carbohydrates). Of course, I still eat a lot of things that cause some people to clutch their pears. I eat a ton of fruit (when I can, as my fructose malabsorbtion makes it very hard to eat about half of the fruits in that food family), I eat corn (the horror!) and other grains, and yes, a least once a day I consume the horror known as gluten. The reason I consider my diet healthy is because I have learned through experience and through my doctors over the years how to accommodate for my body’s needs, and I feel great!

“Clean eating” is a concept that sometimes gets away from us; the fundamental problem with “clean eating” is it relies on media trends and celebrity culture (rather than science culture) to tell us what the latest “dirty” food we’re supposed to condemn is.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of that culture is the idea of “cleansing” and “detoxing.” These concepts have been refuted dozens of times, yet they are still embraced as a mainstream, healthy thing.

There are entire blogs and cookbooks centered around “detoxing.” My old yoga community did a group juice cleanse several months ago. The restaurant I buy my work lunch at sells one-to-five-day juice cleanses.

Many online creators are getting wise to the widespread criticism of detoxing, but still brand themselves as experts in detox and simply church up their language a little bit.

Even blogs I used to admire for supposed body positivity and healthy approaches to eating have tried to capitalize on humans seeking an answer to the Big Question. No, not “Why are we here?” Not “What is the meaning of life?” The Big Question appears to be: “How can I magically shrink my gut because I ate too much last week?” They’re pushing meal plans to help you “hit the re-set button.” They’re trying to convince you a certain group of foods can “re-set” your gut (spoiler alert: not really possible). I even see people happily endorsing programs like “Whole 30,” an insanely restrictive diet plan meant to last 30 days, but apparently because it uses the word “whole” it comes off as earthy and cool and not the total crash diet it is.

It’s not just that I disagree with the concept and am therefore throwing an indignant hissyfit: I’m saying they’re dangerous.

If we start to think of detoxing and cleansing as a crash diet, or at the concept of “flushing toxins” from our body the same way we look at purging and compulsive exercises, well, I think a lot of people would be out of money.

Here are some things I’ve picked up over the years that I really feel motivated to share with people.

  1. The idea of “cleansing” preys on our want to be skinny. We can say it’s about feeling a certain way or embracing new habits, but when the diet industry in the U.S. is worth billions (hell, the gluten-free food industry alone is worth six billion), you don’t think people are trying to cash in on your desire to be svelte and sexy? “Let’s be honest,” author Timothy Caulfield writes in Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash, “the primary reason that people cleanse is not for the benefit of some de-stressing, spiritual, soul-centering purification process. It is for the purpose of weight loss. The main motivation for many of the things we do related to our health, especially dieting, has to do with how we look. And when cleanses are discussed in the popular press, particularly when a celebrity name is invoked, weight loss is almost always the focus. Shape.com, for example, tells us Salma Hayek ‘credits her slim and sexy shape to the juice cleanses’ and that ‘Beyoncé turned to the Master Cleanse Diet to help her drop a reported 20 pounds in less than two weeks.'” One of the easiest ways for a company to make money in this day and age is to make you feel like you’re not skinny enough. If you’re insecure enough with your own appearance and don’t necessarily have a PhD in biochemistry, you’d probably be willing to take that jump too.
  2. Unless the blogger you’re following is a doctor, they probably don’t have much authority to tell you how to cleanse your body. Peter Ayton, professor of psychology at City University London, explained in an interview with The Guardian that we PhD-less humans are likely to defer to someone who seems like they have all the information because it comforts us. “To understand even shampoo you need to have a PhD in biochemistry,” said Ayton. “But a lot of people don’t have that. If it seems reasonable and plausible and invokes a familiar concept, like detoxing, then we’re happy to go with it.” At the same time, many popular bloggers in the food blogosphere tout credentials such as “health coach” and “nutritionist” certifications. It may be confusing to some people, because they’re unaware of how these compare to dieticians. For clarification, dieticians are a registered and regulated profession which require at least a Bachelor’s of Science degree followed by supervised, specialized training. Nutritionists, on the other hand, are largely trained at private, for-profit colleges which don’t have the same educational background requirements for students or teachers (I’d like to state right now that in general I am not an education snob, I believe that community college educations are just as valid as those from universities, but when it comes to professions that affect others lives and healths, I believe accreditation should be scrutinized). What a nutritionist says comes from a very different place than what a dietician or doctor says.
  3. Unless you have pre-existing health problems or have battled drug and/or alcohol abuse, your body is detoxing itself just fine. This goes hand-in-hand with the fact that “toxins” are largely undefined and ambiguous. Basically, a toxin is something that damages your body and it does not want in there. Ever wonder why you pee so much when you’re drunk? It’s because alcohol is bad for you and your body knows it, and it wants it out. Congratulations, your body works. It’s also working when it sweats and farts (here that? Fart away)! “Respected” “journalists” (read: people who have fitness books to sell) will tell you that no matter what, your body can’t get all toxins out on its own. And that is, to an extent, true. But not only is that fact no cause for panic or concern, but most researchers have yet to find anything that will relieve you from toxins. Harriet Ball, biologist: “Last year we investigated scientific claims that are plastered on everything from sandwiches to devices that supposedly protect you from radiation. Our new investigation into detox products has convinced us that there is little or no proof that these products work, except to part people from their cash and downplay all the amazing ways in which our bodies can look after themselves!”
  4. It’s not just that it’s not good for you — it can be bad for you. One of the most popular forms of cleanses is a juice cleanse, which I witnessed secondhand when my yoga community partook in it. The group ate limited solids (one salad per day) and then relied on expensive juices for the rest of the seven days. By the end of it, I couldn’t help but think that they seemed downright deranged — and I wasn’t far off. Many people when juicing report a feeling of “alertness” or mental “lightness.” That feeling? It’s actually your body thinking it’s dying. Most juice cleanses are very calorie-restrictive — even with a salad, most mainly-juice diets clock in at fewer than 1,000 calories per day, less than two thirds what even very thin fully-grown women require to function normally (and combine that with hot yoga every single day, you’re running a week-long calorie deficit). When your body gets fewer calories than it’s supposed to, it goes into what is commonly known as “fight or flight” mode because, well, it thinks (knows!) you’re in a dire situation. Your body is not functioning the way it normally should, and after you’re finished your “cleanse” and feel totally ragged? You’re actually highly likely to gain back any weight you’ve lost.
  5. Bloggers make money. Cookbook writers make money. Everyone makes money. Any blogger who has put more than a few hours into WordPress knows how to look up which search terms are most popular. So maybe some bloggers don’t outright believe in 800-calorie-per-day juice crash diets, but they all know that if you’re a human who’s ever been self-conscious about the dreaded roll of fat over your jeans, you’re likely to search “detox” or “detox-friendly recipes” at least once. If someone wanted to just post healthy, light recipes, they could probably get a lot more people to pay attention to them if they started using labels like “cleansing” and “detox” and “purify.” Do not be fooled. Blogging is a business food is a business, and business relies on making people think they need your product. It’s far easier to capitalize on an experience people already have (body insecurity) than to create a new experience.

This is why I do not advocate for detoxing. This is why I will not even advocate for you to make “simple changes” to your everyday routine if the interest is to “promote GI health and re-start your system.” I am not qualified to make that call. I have a BA in English and Cultural Studies. I don’t want my readers to feel like they are inadequate because they ate too much the day or week before, and I certainly don’t want to be part of the machine that makes them think they have to potentially hurt themselves to feel beautiful.


Ten vegan treats to bring to a holiday party (plus, an important announcement)

Gyoza

Thanksgiving has already come and gone here in Canada, but this is just the start of “get-together” season. And why not? It’s indoors time! It gets dark early! Whisky suddenly goes with everything (side-note: I ended up putting Crown Royal Maple whiskey in my coffee at my Mom’s Thanksgiving dinner and woah. Pleasant).

I was never a huge fan of potlucks in my younger days (think high school/university) because they always ended up being really unbalanced. I would put a whole lot of effort into making something awesome and someone else would be like, “I brought paper plates!!” or “I brought a bag of cookies!”

Now I’m actually more likely to offer to bring food for parties that aren’t even designated potluck parties (although every time I see the episode of The Office where Michael brings a potato salad to a catered party I cringe because I wonder if that’s how I come off). It’s mostly out of self-interest, wanting to have something that I know I can eat, and wanting to impress people/promoting my blog.

And that’s as good of a time as any to share some exciting news about my e-book plans. After a successful Tilt campaign, my next step has been designing the content of the book. I’ve decided that instead of just a regular, general recipe book (maybe someday when I do a print book, that’ll come) to go with something more specialized. Here it is: vegan party food. Food to bring to a party if you are a vegan, know a vegan, are veg-curious or simply want everyone to have a good time regardless of dietary restrictions. It will consist of 15 recipes ranging from apps to desserts that will make everyone go, “Really? This is vegan?”

The title? Don’t Invite the Vegan.

I’ve already started on recipe testing and planning the art direction. More details will be released in future blog posts (I promise)!

In the meantime, here is a collection from my favourite places around the web for apps and share-able treats that are vegan or can easily be made vegan — so the next party you attend, try switching it up and bringing something straight from the earth!

I’ve also included quick notes on dietary restrictions. I will notes that all of these are obviously vegan as well as fructose-friendly, since I don’t eat anything that isn’t fructose-friendly.

  1. No Whey No Cow’s crispy polenta bites (nut-free, gluten-free if you sub the bread crumbs)
  2. A Beautiful Mess’s veggie gyoza (nut-free)
  3. Oh She Glows’ crowd-pleasing Caesar salad (gluten-free, soy free — can be made low FODMAP by subbing buckwheat groats for cashews)
  4. Nourish Not Punish’s three-layer peanut butter bars (gluten-free)
  5. The Cashew Chronicle’s luxury lazy blueberry cobbler (nut-free, gluten-free if you sub the flour)
  6. Martha Stewart’s shiitake nori rolls (nut-free, soy and gluten/grain-free if you sub coconut aminos for the soy sauce/tamari)
  7. Lunch Box Brunch’s fried risotto balls (dietary variances depend entirely on your own risotto recipe)
  8. Fork and Beans homemade vegan Doritos (gluten-free, soy free and nut-free)
  9. The Minimalist Baker’s sundried tomato basil pinwheels (nut-free, gluten-free option, soy free if you use Daiya cream cheese and nooch instead of vegan parm)
  10. Thug Kitchen’s badass bean dip (nut-free, gluten-free, grain-free)

Taqueria-style seitan tacos with cilantro-lime aioli

Tacos

In Toronto, taquerias became “the” thing in late 2013. So I assume, since food trends move pretty quickly in Toronto, that taquerias are officially “out.” But that’s in Toronto. Go to a place like Waterloo or Hamilton (two of my favourite cities, probably more-favourite than Toronto!) and taquerias are still totally fresh and cool there.

Recently, I went to Hamilton’s Supercrawl art crawl for the first time (yep, I missed last year when my favourite band, Arkells, played) and we met up with a friend of Jar’s at a new taqueria in Hamilton. See, I like when a city moves more at my pace. New taqueria in late 2015? Just fine by me. And, because it’s not Toronto, the tacos seemed downright cheap.

The most popular vegan option at most places appears to be fried/crispy cauliflower tacos. At the Hamilton place, I had a crispy cauliflower taco with a garnish of mint, which was a very interesting combo. I’ve gone back and forth, considering re-creating this, or trying my hand at a fried Brussels sprouts version, but deep-frying is a real pain in the ass (we don’t have a deep fryer, so we rely on our giant pot).

So I went with something totally original I haven’t seen at any taquerias yet: seitan.

Hail seitan.

I mentioned in my recent post about fall projects that one of my goals is to better develop our home seitan recipe. This is the first time we used the simmering method (adapted slightly from Amy’s recipe at No Whey No Cow), which gave us seitan that’s a little more tender than chewy. Jar still prefers the steamed loaves, I think, but I like the simmering method. Could this be the wedge that drives us apart?

Probably not.

Anyway, this seitan, combined with the aioli, is a bit of a “dedicate an afternoon to this” kind of recipe. You can’t just decide you’re going to make it and it’s done in 15 minutes. That said, it’s not as complicated as it seems. Remember, lots of steps and ingredients don’t necessarily mean something is complicated. I find a lot of seitan recipes are written in ways that overcomplicate the process and make it seem too intimidating to try, so I’m going to try and make it seem as simple as possible!

I’d like to note for seitan newbies that while I normally try to offer alternatives for people with nut or gluten allergies, seitan is basically pure gluten and is not at all safe for someone avoiding gluten. There is no gluten-free alternative for seitan. Sorry, friends!

Seitan tacos and cilantro lime aioli

Simmered seitan

Yield: three batches of cutlets
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 2 cups vital wheat gluten (can be found at any bulk store or health food store; Bob’s Red Mill sells a pack)
  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin (we use the McCormick’s roasted variety, which is even more flavourful)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or faux-meat broth (you can use water, but it makes it really plain)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • For broth:
    • 6 cups water
    • 1 tbsp Vegemite, Marmite or Bovril (most Canadian/US versions use yeast extract and not meat, but always check to make sure)
    • 3 tbsp soy sauce or coconut aminos
    • 1 large clove garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Combine all of the dry ingredients for the seitan and whisk to combine
  2. Add in the vegetable broth and the olive oil
  3. Begin kneading the dough. Kneading is key — you must knead for about three minutes in order to really get that nice, doughy texture. I cannot emphasize how important it is to not blow this part off or half-ass it.
  4. Set aside for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Create your broth and bring it to a controlled simmer.
  6. Knead again for about one minute, really flattening it out. Go ahead and punch the dough. Punch it!
  7. Cut into medium-sized chunks and add to the broth.
  8. Simmer the seitan for at least one hour.
  9. Remove from the broth and let cool. If storing, store in a little bit of the broth so the seitan does not dry out and become bread-like.

Cilantro-lime buckwheat ailoi

Yield: One cup
Soak time: 1-8 hrs
Prep time: Less than five minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup cashews, soaked
  • 1/2 cup raw buckwheat groats, soaked
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1-2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (as needed)
  • Juice and zest from 3 limes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Soak the cashews and the buckwheat in water. If you’re using a high-powered blender like a Vitamix or a Blendtec, you shouldn’t need more than an hour of soaking.
  2. Add the lime zest and squeeze in the juice (note: I’ve found a citrus juicer to be the best teeny-tiny investment I’ve ever made)
  3. Add your salt, pepper, cilantro and just one tbsp apple cider vinegar — only add the second if you’re having trouble blending.
  4. Blend until smooth. This requires a lot of patience, and may require you to scrape down your blender every now and then.

To assemble tacos

Ingredients

  • Six small corn taco tortillas
  • One batch of seitan cutlets
  • Dollop of aioli (or squeeze from a plastic bag like I did for the illusion of fanciness)
  • Purple cabbage, tomatoes, red onions and fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. Slice the seitan into slightly smaller pieces (about 1″)
  2. Warm some olive oil in a pan
  3. Toss on medium for about 7-8 minutes or until crisping
  4. In an oven or on a stovetop in a skillet, warm your tortillas for no more than 2 minutes on each side
  5. Assemble your tacos.
  6. Eat the tacos!
  7. As for leftovers, the seitan will keep for awhile if sealed in moisture (close to a week) and, if dried, can be frozen. You can also freeze or refrigerate any dough you don’t end up cooking. The aoili will only last for about three days in the fridge, and should be kept airtight.

Did that seem complicated? I swear, it’s actually not an incredibly frustrating process. Involved? Yes. But it’s not going to drive you crazy in the kitchen. In fact, I’d highly recommend this for one of those chilly Saturdays when you come right home after your mid-day adventures and want to have a fancy night in instead of a night-out.

What are some of your favourite trendy restaurant foods that you’d like to try veganizing or doing an at-home version? What are your favourite restaurant styles to go to? Comment below — let’s talk about food (seriously)!


Autumn project wish-list

fall wishlist

Here’s a fact that may shock and discredit you (— Lionel Hutz): I’m a white girl.

I know, surprise, right?

I love Arrested Development and vintage clothes and my totally over-done undercut and infinity scarves and, surprise, fall!

I know what you’re thinking: Jeezy Petes, another cute (pfffft) white girl blogger who loves fall. But here’s a newsflash for you, Walter Kronkite: I don’t care if it’s cliché!

Actually, that’s a philosophy I’ve embraced ever since I got my first tattoo: avoiding something because it’s cliché is just as bad as bandwagoning. And you know what? I’m way happier that way! So… *bursts out the door and jetés down the street* fuck it! Fuck it! Fuuuuck it!

Now, where was I?

Oh yes, being a white girl who loves fall.

Yup, can’t help it. Sweaters? Check. Ankle boots? Check. Curry? Check. Plaid flannel? HOLY FUCKING CHECK. Pints of cider in a dimly-lit pub? *furiously skates across a hockey rink and slams into another player* CHECK.

I think I have a reason to love every single season (you guys can all recall my childish freakouts over summer arriving, right?!) but there’s something about fall more than anything that puts me in a creative mood. Actually, that “something” isn’t really an intangible mystery, it’s always been quite clear to me: the lifestyle bloggers go nuts, we’re encouraged to spend more time inside, and grocery stores are overflowing with pumpkin this-and-thats.

There are a few things I want to try this month, and if successful I will definitely be sharing! Here’s my fall wish-list:

Food:

  • Come up with my own pumpkin spice syrup. I’m  not able to have the Starbucks PSL, but I do enjoy pumpkin flavour in things, and it’s probable worth a try!
  • If that fails, I’d like to create my own cinnamon chai concentrate.
  • Create a vegan beer gravy, hopefully one similar to the gravy at our favourite vegan restaurant in the city, Porter House!
  • Try our hands at some savoury pies or pocket pies. My Mom makes this very creamy savoury chicken hand pie, so I’d like to do a vegan take on that with mushrooms or maybe tempeh. Again, nothing ever compares to Porter House’s lentil ale pasty, but I can try, darn it!
  • Play around more with seitan — we made our first batch this summer, and it was way easier than we thought. We’ve yet to try the simmering method, though, but we’ve got plans, I tell ya. No Whey No Cow has a great-looking recipe we’re going to try.
  • Perfect my chocolate chai scones — I made batch #1 last week for Jarrod and his friend and they were pretty good, but the next step is figuring out the icing situation. I’ve never been much of an icing girl, so wish me luck!
  • Create my own signature curry dish. I remember being 16 and trying curry for the first time thinking, “The fudge is this?!” Now I go just crazy for curry — it’s usually the one guarantee I can join my friends at a British pub and have a vegan option. I think fall is just plain curry time, don’t you? A Beautiful Mess recently posted a pumpkin curry recipe too, so, like, don’t even get me started (but actually, I will get started. Right now).
  • Hmmmmm, just now I got a great idea for a pumpkin pizza sauce. Am I crazy? Pumpkin pizza? Sorry guys, it’s going to happen.
  • I’m going to try a vegan take on The House of Muses’ Honey and Oat bread — Earth Balance, almond milk and brown rice syrup, perhaps?

Crafts and home organization:

  • Time to finally try to sew my own mittens. Even if it’s something as simple as sweater mittens, that’d be perfect!
  • I’d also love to upcycle one of my own hoodies or do something with the secondhand denim jacket I found at the magazine where I used to work. Nothing too complicated — something like this floral front pocket or
  • Have some fun with knitting. My friend Drew taught me to knit at the Purple Purl (Leslieville), where I was able to find some great vegan wool. I’m no expert, but I’d love something to spend my veg-out time doing instead of just reading online articles or mindlessly playing 2048 (I don’t have a problem, I swear)! My good friend Jordanna at The House of Muses recently posted a great aggregate of beginner knitting resources on her blog, and for those of you who are already more advanced, her Yarn Along series is a great source of inspiration, following along with her own long-term projects!
  • Our apartment is coming together nicely, but now it’s time to finish up the second bedroom. I’m confident we can get a futon in there by Christmas, and we can officially have our guest bedroom/”office” space in operation.
  • I’ve been looking for a few creative ways to display and/or store my records. Since I acquired my dad’s record collection, I’ll no longer have the fun/challenge of putting all my records on display (there are simply too many!) but we recently bought two Ribba shelves from IKEA where we can store a few for display. Then maybe something like this for storing the rest?
  • I’d like to add some warmth to our bedroom — it’s nice, it’s clean, but  something about it is a bit… cool. Time to try to find some simple ways to add warmth and colour.
  • We also need to organize our new (awesome!) bathroom shelf. Jar may be the one who has a lot of living room knickknacks, but I’m the one who has all the shit in the bathroom. Something simple like farmers’ market baskets might even help de-clutter and organize the shelves!
  • We have to get the art up. HAVE TO.
  • After all that is done? We have to do a housewarming party. Because, duh!
  • And I’d love to share our home, once it’s done, on my blog. 🙂

Fashion and beauty:

  • I’ve been a fan of plaid and flannel shirts for awhile,  but I’d like to find a cool way to take my signature look and make it more fashionable. Seriously, how do these pretty girls make it look so easy?
  • I suffer from fairly irritating seasonal allergies in the fall (ragweed), and that means wearing my contact lenses way less. I recently had to return a pair of glasses I ordered for being really  just wrong for my face, so I’m currently shopping around for some new styles. What do you think of this pair by Love? I tried it on the other day and even though it’s very different for me (I haven’t had a non-black pair of glasses since high school) I was kind of into it.
  • Time to have some fun with a darker lipstick look. I recently purchased the e.l.f. Studio Moisturizing Lipstick in Blackberry and I’ve never owned a lipstick so dark! I’ve got a little bit of planning to do in terms of how to make it work, but when I do, I guarantee I’ll share it with you in a blog post.
  • Fall = layering = actually somehow making my ballerina look kind of fashionable. I’ve been thinking of creating a blog post on the one “look” I occasionally rock, which is a combination of inspiration from both my history as a dancer and my upbringing listening to punk and grunge music.
  • I have a huge goal of finding a pair of waterproof boots that get as much mileage as my old Bogs did in university.

Well… phew… that’s it. 1248 words later and those are all the things I hope to accomplish this fall.

… shit.

But really, it’ll be fun, and actually kind of easy if I allow myself to have fun (and that shouldn’t be a problem). So what are your goals for this fall? How does the season inspire you? What’s the deal with pumpkins? Comment below to share what you’ll be getting up to as sweater-and-quilt season approaches!


Zesty mango juice

Mango Juice

I admit it: I have a serious problem with my Vitamix.

I can’t stop using it.

(Sorry, did the suspense just kill you/piss you off? Did you really think I’d speak ill of my new Vitamix? It has replaced Benny as the most beloved, and noisiest, member of the household.)

One thing I’ve been really, really loving about my Vitamix is how easy it is to make fresh juice. Now, I don’t want to make any bones about my position on juicing: I’m not at all an advocate for the idea of juice as a replacement for meals. I don’t think juice cleanses are a very safe thing to do your body, and I’d far rather eat than drink my calories.

That said, making juice at home is DEFINITELY a way better solution than buying juice (ESPECIALLY if you buy those $8-per-bottle cold-pressed juices… SHEESH!) whenever you are able, and it’s so fun because you can customize anything! I was able to pack a buttload (that is an actual unit of measurement) of vitamins into a single glass, which really helped add to my morning breakfast (it’s great before a run or dance class). This zesty mango juice was indeed something that was born out of a lot of experimentation, and despite the admittedly odd combination of ingredients (you’ll see…), it creates a taste that’s just unconventional enough to pique your interests without being so weird that you don’t actually enjoy drinking it.

I’ve never made juice with a juicer before, because I have no intention of every buying one. Why would anyone own a juicer when they already own a nice blender? This blender can liquify ANYTHING, I tell ya. It helps, of course, that the Vitamix comes with a nut milk bag, but you can either buy a nut milk bag or make one out of cheesecloth. I far prefer it to the sieve method, which REALLY doesn’t allow you to get as much liquid as you possibly can.

One thing I’ve really been digging lately (which I mentioned in my September Spread the Love entry) is turmeric root. They kind of look like little woody turds (I swear I’m an adult). I think you might also be able to get them in larger pieces that look more like ginger root. But they’re orange on the inside! And man, do they ever add a nice zing to this juice. I got a bunch that are rather small, but you don’t actually have to peel them — just wash under hot water and scrub the outside until the strange film comes off the outside.

Anyway, without further Apu, here’s the juice! Hope you like it!

Zesty mango juice, serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen mango chunks (I’d recommend thawing frozen beforehand slightly because if you’re squeezing the juice, it will freeze your hands very uncomfortably)
  • Juice from 1 1/2 lemons
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1-inch piece of ginger root, peeled and minced (or if you have a really powerful blender like I do, just toss it in peeled!)
  • 1 to 2 small pieces turmeric root (about the size of a child’s thumb), rinsed and scrubbed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Sprinkle of ground black pepper (optional)

Instructions

  1. Prep your fruit and veg.
  2. Pour all ingredients into a blender and blend on high until solid chunks are out. If you’re having a hard time with this you may need to gradually add more water.
  3. Spread a nut milk bag or piece of cheesecloth over a large bowl and gently pour your liquid into the cloth. Squeeze over the bowl until what’s left is just dry pulp. You can also use the sieve/spoon method, but that takes awhile and doesn’t yield as much liquid.
  4. If you like, you can save this pulp for a project down the road to cut down on waste (muffins might be good!)
  5. Pour the liquid into a nice tall glass and enjoy. THIS IS NOT A MEAL REPLACEMENT.