Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Better then Sliced Bread Banana Loaf

Found this amazing banana bread recipe from The Baking Bird (original recipe from Veganomicon) and made a loaf as a pre-camping/hiking/grueling rock climbing treat for me and Mike - our all-time favourite bread!

I tweaked it of course to have less sugar and more natural sweetness ...

Banana Maple Bread 
(from Veganomicon via The Baking Bird)

Makes one loaf

2 large or 3 small very ripe bananas
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp molasses
1 cup gluten-free flour mix
1 cup spelt flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Lightly grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.
  3. Puree bananas until smooth. Add the maple syrup, applesauce, oil, and molasses, and whisk briskly to incorporate.
  4. Sift in the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Use a wooden spoon to mix until all the wet and dry ingredients are combined well.
  5. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack or cutting board.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Kilarney Provincial Park Brutal Bliss

Kilarney Provincial Park view from our hike
They say that Kilarney Provincial Park is one of Ontario's crown jewels and now, speaking from experience, I can agree, they are right!  This weekend was spent hiking through some of the tougher parts of the Kilarney back country trail but the stunning views, the majestic beauty all around us and the serenity made it well worth the 6 hour trek.

Kilarney Provincial Park view from the top of "The Crack" trail

Scarlet sniffing out something good in the park
The experience of hiking through the back country was amazing, grueling, exhausting and yet satisfying all at the same time.  It was quite an adventure for us and especially for our little Scarlet.  I think she thought we were completely nuts the whole time!

A resting butterfly in the park

Me with Scarlet, on our first day, hours before we REALLY knew what we were getting into!

Mike with Scarlet nearer our campsite
At this point in the hike we were so incredibly exhausted and wondering if the end was even near (but it was close, sort of ... maybe another 30 minutes on top of our 5.5 hours already).

Victory! Me, enjoying the view from our campsite.
So, a 4.5 hr car ride and a 5.5 hour hike later we make it to our site! And the view is breath-taking (almost literally, we were high up and just finished our trek, exhausted and breathing heavily).  The first night was lovely, serene and peaceful and we enjoyed it by a warm fire.

On the menu our first night: We had been munching for most of the hike on trail mix and protein bars and lots of water.  When we finally got to sit down, I was too tired to cook anything so thankfully I brought along with easy snack foods that quickly filled us up.

Dinner (from the top going clockwise): Homemade vegan bean dip (high protein), cheddar rice crackers (for Mike), gluten-free herb crackers (for me), carob chocolate pieces (for smores), graham crackers, ginger snap cookies, and Spicy Hummus dip.

Breakfast: The next day we woke up to a very foggy, very cold and very damp morning.  We decided that if the rain didn't let up we were going to pack everything up again and start hiking back.  The plan was to hike halfway to another site and stay there a night but that plan quickly changed.

Either way, we had to start our day with some healthy and hearty carbs to help us recover, heal and prepare for the day ahead. We have: Bob Red Mill's Organic Hot Cereal, topped with dried cranberry, blueberry and almond slivers (I also added some fresh strawberry slices after this picture was taken).

Lunch: About halfway through our hike we stopped for a lunch break, cooking up some more fuel for the second half of the trip.  We have: Rice noodles with broccoli and carrots, cooked in a tahini sauce, premade at home and reheated during our stop.

We made it! A victory kiss and snuggle from Scarlet
I still find it amazing that Mike and I even did this hike, having basically little to no camping or real hiking experience and doing the 6 hours each way within a 24 hour period and with about 30-35 lbs on each of our backs ... through mud, water, valleys, ridges, bridges and massively huge jagged rocks and survived it all in one piece!  But what's really amazing is that Scarlet, our 2 year old dog did it with us.  What a trooper!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Back Country Campin' Kind of Weekend

Waking up, getting ready and SO excited for my first back-country camping trip this weekend.  Not so excited about the 5-hour drive but at least I won't be sitting behind my desk at work.

It took some research and lot of shopping at MEC (our new best friend) to figure out what essential items were needed for our trip - a.k.a. what can we actually carry that we really need in our backpacks for 10km without passing out?

We found some fantastic items, spent a lot of money and did a lot of planning and I think we are good to go! No turning back now anyway.

So for those of you who might be experiencing your first back-country or any camping trip this summer, here are a few good essentials to add to your packing:

Campsite Stuff:

Sleeping Bag..Check
Air Mattress?...Um maybe not! An air mattress might be way too heavy to trek through the back country.

For this trip we went with the more affordable and lighter option: foam pads from Canadian tire.  

Cooking & Eating Stuff:

Water purifying tablets - these are the more affordable version of a full water filtration system which is used to clean lake water to make it ready for drinking.

VERY IMPORTANT. Enough said.

Perhaps a camping stove is not so essential but but after some good advice from an experienced camper it was advised that we get a light-weight portable stove similar to this one.

The "don't leave home without it or you're eating with your fingers" Light My Fire Spork or as I like to call it, the sporfe (spoon/fork/knife combo) from Mountain Equipment Coop.

Personal Stuff:

Sunscreen, also VERY important.  I actually bought the kids sunblock simply because it's not as harsh and good for sensitive skin (or for those with fairer skin, like redheads).

Perhaps as equally as important if not more so then sunscreen, is bug repellent.  Unscented is best, as all your products should be unscented as to not attract animals.

I bought the Watkins brand at MEC.

Essentially for staying, feeling and smelling clean this weekend.  This Eco-friendly shampoo/conditioner soap bar by The Soap Works is perfect for camping.

Food Stuff:

On the menu for this weekend:

  • Trail mix
  • Fruit
  • Hot cereal
  • Noodles and veggies
  • Vega and protein bars
  • Water, water and more water!

More on food later ....

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

An Edible Vegan Self-Portrait

Recently, while planning my many mini summer vacations, I came across this fantastic upcoming August 2011 Vida Vegan Conference in Portland, Oregon.  I was however heart-broken to see that it was sold out!  So what's my next logical step?

Enter a contest to win tickets of course!

And so I found the best, most creative contest just perfect for me on Vegtastic Voyage blog.
The Contest: Recreate a completely vegan and edible self-portrait to win two tickets to Vida Vegan Con.
Steps to creating an edible food self-portrait ...

Step 1: Using parchment paper I drew out a contour image of my face.  My boyfriend was so impressed with this step alone ha ha, it was sweet.

Step 2: I covered the paper in plastic wrap more as a precautionary measure in case I messed up, and thank goodness I did that - the next steps get pretty messy!

Step 3: Prepping the ingredients.  In this case the cantaloupe which would now be my new skin.

Step 4: I started with my skin since it was the largest area to cover and then worked around it adding the other parts.  This part was tricky but cantaloupe worked like a charm! It was easy to cut out the perfect shaped pieces.

Step 5: Next my hair, which was made from cooked black rice Soba noodles.  Although I added oil during the cooking process the noodles were still very sticky and the biggest pain to work with.

Step 6: Once most of the surface area is covered it's onto the details like the eyes, mouth and then my shirt.

Step 7: Adding the final and finishing touches, the background, made of sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts.

Voila! My final food portrait in just under two hours.

Self-portrait made from: Cantaloupe, watermelon, apple, sesame seeds, black rice Soba noodles, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and dates.

Monday, May 23, 2011

New Additions to the Garden Family

As an anniversary gift Mike bought me garden flowers. I picked out these greens plus the pansies because they are edible flowers! They can be used in baking or in salads, plus they're very pretty and add some colour to our garden.

Our sweet onions weren't doing so well, in fact most of them were drying out.  The lesson here: create a good water drainage system in your containers.  Very important! Instead (courtesy of my father) we have these green onion beauties ready to cut and ready to eat whenever we please.

Also from my dad (the best farmer/gardener I know), a tomato tree, a 'sweet golden' tomato tree to be exact.

In your garden containers it is so important to help prevent roots from drowning and your plants from dying.  The best way to avoid this is to:

Create a good water drainage system

1. Add a base layer of rocks (similar to a pile of gravel rocks) on the bottom of your container, which should also already contain holes on the bottom for excess water to escape out of.

2. Then some people will add a layer of newspaper on top of the rocks  Since our containers are a bit small I didn't do this step.

The second very important lesson I learned:  

Mix your potting soil

The reason: it helps prevent your soil from being too heavy and weighing down your young plants and their roots, especially during the early growing stages.

For my plants I used a combination of thick organic garden soil and peat moss mix.  Of course always remember to ensure there are water drainage holes on the bottom of your containers.

The final step will be mulching, which in my case is too early yet to start.  Adding mulch to your garden containers will help to keep your soil moist and cool and from drying out.

A lovely Chocolate Avocado Pudding Recipe

chocolate avocado pudding served with fresh cut strawberries
I learned to make a few dinner party recipes in Marni Wasserman's cooking class last week and decided to then re-make the entire dinner for my family this weekend, including this awesome Chocolate Avocado pudding ...

2 avocados
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp maple syrup
4 medjool dates (soaked overnight or in boiling water for 20-30 minutes)
1 tbsp pure unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp almond butter
1 very ripe banana
1 tsp of cinnamon

Blend all ingredients together in a food processor on high until well blended, thick and creamy.  Enjoy!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Another Farmer's Market, A Different City

My dad, looking very serious as usual.
I went to the Brantford Farmer's Market with my father this weekend to see what I could find.  I fortunately found some great stuff, for one thing, I was able to get all organic veggies which I needed for the dinner I made my family.  That was a bonus!

I also bought most of it from these lovely ladies.  Laura Lucas (on the right) runs the shop here and she's also a grower and speaker on behalf of healthy living.

 They had some other fantastic food items like these Live organic, raw vegetable crackers which we enjoyed with my homemade bean dip.

No plants today, other then the tomato and onion plants my father gave me.  Hope the garden at home is surviving and thriving.

Happy Long Weekend Canada!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Quinoa Mung Bean Salad

Quinoa Mung Bean Salad

A lovely Spring-time salad or a side-dish perfect for BBQ's this Summer! I got the idea from a salad I bought at the grocery store but then made a few adjustments to it to fit my liking so it's mostly made up.

I do hope we see a bit more Summer sun and a lot less Spring rain this weekend!


1 cup cooked Red Quinoa
3/4 cup cooked chickpeas
3/4 cup cooked mung beans
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped sun dried tomato
1/4 sliced black olives
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Fine Sea Salt to taste
Pepper to taste (can substitute for cayenne pepper for more spice)


Mix the oil and vinegar in a small bowl, can add a spoonful of lemon juice or two to help them bind.  Then add the rest of the ingredients all together in a large bowl and pour the dressing on top, mixing it in. Serves about 8-10 people.

Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Lovely Green Dinner Party Menu

Collard Greens cut in Angel hair stripes
Last night I attended another fantastic cooking class with Marni Wasserman and lovely group of inspiring home chefs. The theme: Dinner Party, which of course included many lovely green vegetables and recipes.

Marni discussing tempeh to the class
On the menu for this dinner party:
  • Velvety Black Bean Dip
  • Wild Rice and Yam Pilaf
  • Sweet and Sour Tempeh Skewers
  • Angel Hair Collards
  •  Mango Rice Paper Rolls
  • Green Beans Almondine
  • Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Prepping the Tempeh
Mango Rice Paper Rolls
I worked on this dish with fellow gym-mate, Yvonne, but everyone in the group had a chance to work with the rice paper and make their own rolls.

My dinner plate
On the far right are the tempeh skewers, in the forefront the wild rice and yam pilaf and in the far back the green beans and collards - so colourful, so healthy and so very delicious!

Bon App├ętit, indeed!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Food Inc. - Incredible!

I finally got around to watching the incredibly informative and eye-opening documentary film Food Inc. this weekend and might I just say EVERYONE needs to watch this movie now, today, go - no, run to your computer download it, rent it, buy it, whatever - just watch it!

Entertaining but so eye-opening and for me quite emotional at times, there were definitely a few scenes I could not bare to watch.  The film has such an important message, something we often forget about or take for granted, that is, where does our food come from and who pays the real price?  For me, this film was just a warm up before I can bare to watch The Cove or Green - two other powerful films with important messages about just how badly we are destroying the earth and ourselves.

Film synopsis (from the official website):
In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.

Have you seen the film Food Inc?
Would love to hear your thoughts about the  film!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wet 'n' Wild Toronto Marathon

Today was the Goodlife Toronto marathon which thankfully, I did not have to run in but I did however volunteer as a Bike marshal.  It was cold, wet, rainy, dirty, and did I mention, freaking cold!

Well, it's Sunday evening now and the races are long over so hopefully all runners are now warm in their beds and probably passed out I imagine.  After a hard marathon or even 4-5 hours of bike riding around the cold weather helping the runners, rest and good nutrition are key elements to great recovery.

One of my most favourite pre- and post-work-out drinks to have are protein smoothies (all vegan of course), super delicious and nutritious, here are two of my favourite, easy mixes.

 Cranberry Protein Smoothie

3/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup water
1/2-3/4 cup of frozen (or fresh) cranberries (however many you like)
1 tsp sunflower butter
1 scoop of vanilla flavoured brown rice protein powder like Sunwarrior

Blend all ingredients together in a good blender and enjoy!

I like mine with ice.
 Green Banana Protein Smoothie

3/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup water
1 medium ripe organic banana
1 tsp almond butter
1 scoop of vanilla flavoured Vega Sport Performance Protein

Blend all ingredients together in a good blender and enjoy!

I don't discriminate, I personally love most all raw vegan protein powders and sometimes like to mix it up to get the full benefits from each throughout the day.

Congratulations to all the amazing runners today!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Balcony Garden Week 3: Progress and Snow Peas

Another weekend, another market visit but first let's review the progress.  A couple of weeks ago we planted a few things including, strawberries, sweet onion, herbs, and lettuce and kale seeds.  Both the lettuce and kale seeds have sprouted quite quickly and nicely.

Pea sprouts from the Evergreen Brickworks Farmer's Market - planted just about five days before this picture was taken.

My precious kale sprouts.  I can't wait to devour these beauties, in like months from now but nonetheless they will be fantastic.

Today it was rainy, foggy and wet, so we decided to walk to the market with our dog taking our time and enjoying all the green growing around us.  I love visiting the market every weekend to experience the natural changes.  First stop, breakfast!

Mike and I often stop off at the Waffle Bar first simply because the splendid aroma just draws us in.  Granted, their waffles are not vegan but I sometimes just can't resist - it's a treat for me and for Mike, it's breakfast.

Next step, the Garden Centre and my favourite part of the day, getting to choose all the lovely new plants to take home and re-pot.

As I continue making my way through the market, Mike takes a break to hang with Scarlet at the official dog hang out.  Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed inside the market until the end of the month when it moves outdoors.

One of my favourite plants we bought today - snow peas! Now I'm not sure just how these are going to turn out but I truly look forward to the outcome.  The containers that the plants come in are very easy to break apart which makes re-planting easier, so that you can gently take the plant out without crushing or damaging it.

Snow peas, eight of them in a row.

The new additions to our garden today: Yes, more lettuce and greens but these are premature plants that will be harvested earlier then our sprouts.  Also, lemon balm, chamomile, broccoli, cabbage, and snow peas.

I think that will be it for our balcony garden, at least for a while, especially seeing as these plants have pretty much taken over our kitchen table, chairs and surrounding floor.  Looking forward to warmer weather soon please!
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