Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cool Weather Comfort

Carrot Ginger Coconut Soup

3 small onions, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
3 small potatoes, cubed
4-5 large carrots, chopped
3.5 tsp ground ginger (or 2 inches of grated fresh ginger)
1.5 cups vegetable stock
1.5 cups coconut milk
1/2 tsp sea salt to taste
1/2 tsp ground pepper to taste

1. In a medium to large soup pot, on medium heat, sauté onions in the olive oil until translucent.

2. Add the potatoes, carrots and ginger and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.  Stir constantly to avoid sticking.

3. Add the vegetable stock, coconut milk, salt, and pepper, stirring all together well.

4. With a hand blender or food processor, blend all or half the batch at a time until smooth.  Be very careful when blending hot liquids!

5. Return to pot, reheat, and serve with green onion garnish.

Makes about 8 servings.

This soup was amazing! Both my partner and I loved and devoured it.  You can also make this soup with other vegetable options like sweet potato, broccoli, beets, corn, etc.  which I am hoping to do myself this season.

Cheers!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What's in Your Grocery Basket?

Becoming a vegan can be a challenging lifestyle change for many, including myself. It took me about 5 years to make the full transition from carnivore to vegetarian, then back to some meat eating like white meat and fish, and then back again to vegetarian, and finally today, vegan.

One of the biggest challenges I faced, and one I think most people would face when transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, is knowing exactly what to eat? Or really, knowing exactly what is available out there for vegans to eat?

For many new vegans, much of the various foods available to them may seem strange at first and takes some getting used to, especially when it’s so unfamiliar. Tempeh anyone? How about chia seeds? Have you heard about quinoa yet, agave nectar or almond milk?

Not familiar with these food items? Well I am here to help you out with that, and suggest a healthy shopping to help get you started.  At the very least, I can share with you what typically goes into mine.  So let's begin:


Vegetables are the new Meat

photo source: Low Body Fat

Yes, vegetables.  You're vegan now, so please eat vegetables and lots of them! Seriously though, you can eat all of them and as much variety of them as you like.  When I was a carnivore I never ate half the amount of vegetables I now eat as a vegan. It’s amazing what vegetables you discover as a vegan.  I was really missing out.

So, experiment a little and try every vegetable available to you at least once before you decide what you like.  To help get you started, here's a fantastic list of all kinds of vegetables and plants you can enjoy!


Fruit: Natures Candy
photo source: The Mary Sue

Fruit, to me, is mostly to be enjoyed during the Summer months. So I don't eat much of it in the Fall/Winter simply because I live in Toronto and the Winters here are very cold. I like to bask in my warm comfort foods like soup, chili and roasted vegetables during the Winter.

However, I do love apples and because they keep well for many weeks (or months) at a time, I like to keep them in my grocery basket all year round.

My advice however, if you do live in warmer climates, is to enjoy all the fruit that you can, especially if it is locally available to you.  So jealous!

How do you milk those almonds?(And other non-dairy dairy items)

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The answer: you don't.  But you do rinse, soak, grind, and strain them with water and natural sweeteners to make your own almond milk. Or you can just buy it in a carton, like I do.  Almond Breeze by Blue Diamond is a pretty common brand you will find in most grocery stores these days.  I personally like to buy Pacific Natural Foods Almond milk when I can.


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Can't give up cheese? Rice Vegan cheese by Galaxy Nutritional Foods might just do the trick ... that is, trick your mind into thinking you're actually eating cheese.

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However, my personal favourite vegan cheese brand is daiya, simply because it’s delicious, it almost tastes like the real thing and it melts! Yes, nachos are back in play!
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If you're a fan of morning yogurt with granola and fruit, try soyogurt instead. It's dairy-free but still packed with protein.


Mains and Grains: The Other Meat

photo source: Recipes for Rice

A perfect starter grain for nearly every dish or for just a quick small meal is rice, preferably organic brown rice.  And if you are really up to the challenge, mix in some wild rice into your regular rice dish for added protein.

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Ezekiel bread, by Food for Life, is a common staple among many vegans and vegetarians.  This naturally sprouted whole grain bread is hearty, healthy and tastier then regular bread.


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For something more filling and delicious, try Amy's California Veggie Burgers.  Amy's brand is a great one because they have many organic products to choose from, and they offer options that are a bit more familiar – burgers, pre-packaged meals, chilli, soups, etc. The list goes on and on.

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And we can't forget the most important meal of the day: breakfast! Enjoy options like oatmeal, fruit with granola or toast with almond butter. A favourite of mine is cereal. Plan and simple but I love it.  A brand I like to buy is Nature's Path, because they have a lot of great organic products to choose from, including kid-friendly snacks.

photo source: Fully Nourished by Marni Wasserman

Another wonderful addition to breakfast is Chia Goodness. You can enjoy it as is by just adding water or mix two tablespoons in with your oatmeal for added nutrients and protein.

photo source: wikipedia

Tempeh ... so what is it anyway? In simplest terms, tempeh is made from cooked and slightly fermented soybeans that are then formed into a patty.  It cooks similarly to tofu in that it absorbs flavours easily and makes great burger patties.  A good brand to look out for is Henry's Gourmet Tempeh.

When just a snack will do
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One of my favourite salty, savoury snacks is riceworks rice chips - in particular, sweet chili flavour is the best.

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Mary's Organic Crackers, is another great healthy and savoury snack to try.  And the best part? They are gluten free!  They especially taste good with melted daiya cheese or dipped in homemade hummus.
(As a treat, here's my own personal recipe that I often like to make)

Homemade hummus
  • 1-1.5 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup of lemon or lime juice
  • 1/4 cup of water (or less) depending on desired consistency
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin
  • Sea salt to taste
Combine all ingredients in a food processor until creamy and smooth.  Add as much water as you like depending on your desired consistency.
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Need a mid-day break, try a sweet, healthy snack bar like LARABAR.  Everything about these bars is wonderful because they are vegan, gluten-free and raw, made with all natural and organic ingredients.


Websites with recipes to help get you get started:

A big part of being vegan is cooking your own meals because, let's face it, it's the healthiest way to be vegan or not.  You will always know what goes into your food and you will have a bigger appreciation for it as well. Here are a few websites to get you started on some recipe ideas:
  • Fat Free Vegan Blog: my favourite place to find recipes, by Susan Voisin
  • Vegangela: includes some healthy recipe ideas
  • Finding Vegan: a great blog that showcases vegan recipes from many other blogs or sites.

For more information about Vegan nutrition please visit: Boston Vegan Association or The Vegan Society


Just in case you're still not convinced that, as a vegan, you have so many food options to choose from, here's a pie chart:




Happy Shopping!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pancake Sunday! Apple Pie Protein Pancakes


Every Sunday will now be Pancake Sunday! With every week a new pancake recipe ... hmm, let's see how long that will last.  But I do love pancakes.  Today's recipe: Apple Cinnamon Protein Pancakes made sugar free and with spelt flour and protein powder.

Apple Cinnamon Protein Pancakes

3/4 cup spelt flour
1/4 cup roll oat flakes
1 scoop of organic raw rice protein powder (any brand will do)
1/2 - 1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup almond milk
1/2 large apple, grated

In a medium size bowl mix together the flour, oats, protein powder, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt until well combined.

Add the grated apple and mix well before adding the almond milk.  Mix until all combined well but do not over mix.

Portion batter onto a hot non-stick pan (I used organic coconut oil for cooking).

Let sit on medium-high heat until the center starts to bubble. With a spatula, flip over to the other side and cook further for about 1-2 minutes or until desired crispiness.

Repeat process until batter is gone.  Makes about 6 medium-size pancakes.

Serve with fresh apple slices and a sprinkle of cinnamon.



Happy Sunday!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Our Beloved Photo Session at the Brickworks


Everybody, at least once in their lifetime, should do a beloved photo session with someone they love.  This is one photo shoot that I just had to share. Never have I worked with a photographer who captured our happiest, funniest moments on camera in such a beautiful way, you can just feel the love.

The photographer was Naomi Claire and the session was purchased through ethicalDeal.com. Here are just a few of our favourite photo moments ...

Naomi Claire Photography

Naomi Claire Photography

The spot we chose was of course one of our most favourite places to visit in Toronto, Evergreen Brick works Farmer's Market and Don Valley Trail area. 

Naomi Claire Photography
Naomi Claire Photography
 Our cool Autumn day gave us the perfect setting for our photos.
Naomi Claire Photography
Naomi Claire Photography
The experience we had with Naomi was so wonderful, light-heart and fun and half  the time we couldn't stop laughing as she shot out questions for us to answer about each other.  It was such a romantic and enjoyable experience that it was easy to forgot we were on camera.


To see more photos from this session please visit Naomi's Blog.

For more information on how to book your Beloved photo session, Family photo session or special occasion or engagement, visit her website: Naomi Claire Photography.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chili for When It's Chilly


It seems at least once every Fall/Winter I find a great new chili recipe to make and fall in love with.  This year, its a spicy vegan three bean chili ... (revised to be healthy and vegan)


1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 medium sweet yellow pepper, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp Olive Oil
2 cans (each about 15 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (10 ounces) diced tomatoes with herbs, undrained
1 can (16 ounces) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (16 ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup organic vegetable broth
1-2 tsp chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/3 cup shredded Daiya vegan cheese (optional)
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions (for garnish)

1. In a large saucepan saute the peppers, onion and garlic in oil until tender. Stir in the tomatoes, kidney beans, black beans, cannellini beans, vegetable broth, chili powder, cumin and cayenne.

2. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes.

3. With the pot partially covered, simmer for 10 more minutes.

4. Garnish each serving with 2 teaspoons each of cheese and green onions.

Makes about 8 servings


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Much Needed Beautiful Weekend

View from our Bed and Breakfast
If you ever find yourself needing a little getaway or a relaxing weekend away from the big city, I recommend Rosseau's Northern Landing Muskoka Bed & Breakfast in Muskoka.  A place, that for me, was a little piece of heaven this past weekend.

Rosseau's Northern Landing Bed and Breakfast
Just a snap shot of Sheila and Peter's beautiful home.  They were wonderful hosts who made our experience so much nicer (especially Sheila's cooking).  Don't be deceived by its grandeur, the interior of this B&B is so inviting and cozy, it would be easy for most anyone to settle in and relax.

Our room
Our bedroom and all I can say is: queen size bed! What the heck am I thinking still sharing a double-sized bed with Mike? Time for an upgrade!

Enjoying the beautiful weather during our hike
Enjoying the lovely12 degree weather (yes, for Muskoka, Ontario that  is good weather) on our hike.

Making new friends
 In Muskoka, it's easy to make new friends!

Blueberry Pancake Breakfast
So, breakfast, and let me just state right off the bat, was sooooooooo delicious!  It wasn't however, 100% vegan but I had to of course make an exception this time because no one can turn down Sheila's amazing service and irresistible home cooking.



Coconut Rum Fruit cup

On the menu was: Fresh blueberry pancakes (I enjoyed), eggs Benedict (Mike enjoyed), freshly baked apple-cranberry pecan muffins and coconut rum with orange juice fruit cups.
 

Ready for bed?!
 I miss it already!

For more information or to book your Bed & Breakfast experience in Muskoka, please visit:

Friday, November 4, 2011

DIY Home Ideas Part II: Let's Get Organized!

In this series, no space goes unused, I love it! It can often be a challenge in home decorating - how to best utilize space and organize what you need in your home.  Here are a few great ideas ...

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Such a great way to utilize a seemingly useless space by creating chalk board interior kitchen cupboard doors.  Definitely a great way to stay organized and plan your weeks.

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A fantastic little idea on how to reuse mason jars (more on this later).  In this case, a simple and effective way to organize bathroom toiletries.

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A Halloween themed way to organize photos and recipes but using this clipboards can certainly work for any time of the year.  This would be especially great for posting recipes while cooking or baking.


My dream craft room - super organized and fully stocked!  This could also work well in the garage for tools or in the kitchen with dry food.

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Another fantastic way to re-use mason jars and save space in the kitchen.

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It seems the kitchen is a place that often needs the most organizing and this wall shelf makes great use of the kitchen space available.

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Utilizing your home space doesn't have to stay indoors; this outdoor garden is a lovely way to create a beautiful garden by using as little space as possible.

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One of my favourite space savers that I saw on pinterest, thought it was brilliant - a table that turns into a picture frame.  Like I said, brilliant.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

DIY Home Ideas Part I: Isn't it Crate

It's getting cooler outside so bring some clever, sheik DIY projects indoors.  Here are some beautiful ways to reuse wood and wooden crates that I love:


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These old soda crates are very funky indeed.

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What a great way to create a kitchen island, and perhaps more affordable.

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Love this! If I have a great big deck these seats and "crate" table would be lovely.

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Cooler and cheaper then a futon.
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Now this I could do, I have the hallway space and need the shoe shelves.  Great idea!

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Another fantastically simple and pretty way to use a crate, as a side table.
 
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Many shelves, so organized. Love.

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My favourite for last, a crate turned up against a wall as a shelf for antique plates.

With these ideas and more I think I could possibly fill my home with crates; great as tables, shelves, furniture, storage, etc., with the right tools and some creativity you really can't go wrong.

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