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Vegan For a Week Challenge

No, I am not cracking down on my eats after a booze and donair filled weekend. I don’t roll like that. But I am kindasorta taking part in Morgan’s Vegan For a Week Challenge.

And by “kindasorta” I mean I’m going to Ottawa on Thursday and there is no way I’m going to have my favourite poutine there without cheese curds. At least they use mushroom gravy! ;)

Instead I’m making a concerted effort to choose foods this week that are animal free. Perhaps this seems like a huge departure for my burger-loving self. But I actually spent one month as a vegan six years ago. Otherwise known as “the dark period.”

It was during my 8-year stint as a lacto-ovo vegetarian. I found out my favourite beer was vegan and decided to give it a shot. I was ill prepared. My body wanted to know where the eggs went. I spent a lot of money on nutritional yeast and gomashio. There was a vegan mayonnaise disaster that leaves me gagging at the thought of apple cider vinegar or silken tofu to this day.

But I’m all about the second chances. I’ve now got an arsenal of amazing vegan bloggers and their recipes behind me.

To start, my fellow Torontonian and New Brunswickan – Angela. I’m determined to use up what’s in my cupboard for vegan eats this week and not spend any more money than usual. Thankfully I stumbled across a recipe of hers that allowed me to use up both bags of lentils and walnuts I had taking up space in my cupboard.

Lentil Walnut Burgers from Oh She Glows.

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I made a few changes based on what I had on hand:

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup 1 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1 piece bread, toasted OR 1/3 cup breadcrumbs 2 wasa crackers
  • 1 tsp 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 chia/flax egg (1 tbsp ground chia or flax + 1/4 cup water)

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I otherwise followed the directions, baking for just a smidge longer to ensure they hardened up. They turned out awesome. I ate some crumbled on top of a salad with a lemon/mustard dressing and loved it. A texture similar to falafels, with a sweet/spiciness thanks to the roasted walnuts and cumin.

I’m going to test out new vegan recipes this week (including for Waffle Wednesday!) but here are some of my favourites. They get my stamp of approval both as a former vegetarian and a current carnivore who loves bacon and cheese with just about everything.

Tofu Balls from the Post Punk Kitchen.

Actually pretty much everything from The PPK. That site is a goldmine of delicious vegan recipes.

Tofu Balls are meant to replace meatballs in pasta, but I liked them best cold and dipped in Averie’s peanut sauce.

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Traditional Scottish oatcake. Just replace the “bacon fat” with something a little nicer like coconut oil or margarine ;) I make these all the time with the addition of soy protein powder and peanut butter to make a filling breakfast out of it.

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Peanut ButterNut Squash Muffins.

My favourite muffin recipe of all time.

Simply Bars!

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Vegan and gluten-free. Cathy doesn’t pay me to say that, I just really love them.

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Mama Pea’s Pumpkin Spice Roasted Chickpeas.

The Fitnessista’s Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili.

Wonkynut Squash Soup (by me!).

Best Vegan Mac and Cheese in the entire world….seriously.

Yummy Vegan Maple Baked Beans.

Italian “Pizza Cheese” from Choosing Raw

Dreena Burton’s Super-Charge Me! Cookies.

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And if all else fails, there’s always Froot Loops.

Yup, completely vegan. Pair it with a splash of almond milk ;)

 

Question of the Day: How about you? Are you/have you ever been vegan? What’s your favourite vegan meal or snack?

 

You can follow the Vegan For a Week Challenge on Twitter under #7dayvegan and join the Facebook page!

Food Matters

Hello friends!! Hope everyone had a great start to the week! Mine has been pretty darn good. A full day of great training clients, then seeing one of my favourite chefs/authors in person!!

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Mark Bittman, first and foremost, is the author of several of my favourite Runner’s World columns. He’s also the man behind The Minimalist. Always my favourite food column in the New York Times.

Ohyeah, and he’s got a bunch of those things… books?? :P

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Tonight, he spoke mostly about the content in his Food Matters book to promote the new Food Matters Cookbook. It’s all about eating consciously. I’m actually more familiar with How To Cook Everything, which is one of his awesomely simple and easy to follow cookbooks.

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I went in armed with not only my camera and foodie excitement, but also my trusty notebook. I’m an old journalist after all, I can’t help but take notes! Here are some of my favourite points from the Q&A:

  • Americans spend only 7% of their income on food. A very low percentage representing how many are living off cheap processed food.
  • “Pay the farmer, not the hospital.”
  • Ideally, our diets would consist of 90% plants with 10% coming from everything else (meat, processed food, and “junk”). An alarming number of people take in the reverse percentages. Bittman says we don’t have to be perfect – we just need to “seesaw” to get those numbers closer together. i.e. More plants, less of everything else.
  • Bittman thinks veganism is the highest form of conscious eating, but admitted  he personally will never get there. Instead he does a vegan diet until 6pm every day, then might have animal products with dinner. He said it doesn’t matter if you are a vegan, so long as you take steps in that direction.
  • Drew several comparisons between cigarettes and processed foods. Mentioned that only a few people quit smoking when the surgeon general’s warning against it came out in 1964. It took mass coercion and enforcement to see a big change in the number of people smoking. He used this to demonstrate that warning about the health risks of processed foods may not be enough. Also pointed out that much like cigarettes are linked to cancer, some foods are linked to diabetes.
  • “Cooking is not a spectator sport.” Bittman is not a huge fan of the Food Network, saying, “People are too busy watching other people cook on television.” Touché.

Overall it was a fun Q&A! I raised my hand to ask him about how running changed his perception of food, but my hand was never picked. I will say he’s exactly how I pictured him. Brutally honest, funny, self-deprecating and personable all in one.

 

Now how about I start showing you some food!

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I’ve had a few stellar food combinations recently. Beginning with this bowl of spicy oats.

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1/2 cup rolled oats cooked with water, a pinch of salt, bacon, and a scoop of cream cheese. Topped with two soft-fried eggs and Frank’s hot sauce.

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The cream cheese made the oats just that – creamy and cheesy! Runny yolks on hot oats is something you must try if you’re in to that sort of thing. It’s dreamy!

I’ve also been mixing cream cheese into salsa.

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Makes it something a little reminiscent of that neon-orange Tostitos con queso dip and awesome with carrots!

I paired this combo with a ham + swiss sandwich. Except I added a little kick with fresh herbs.

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In this case, a oregano under the melted cheese. I remember Leah posting about keeping fresh herbs on hand so I’ve been giving it a go. Wow! They make everything taste a million times better!

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Just like that, with a little cream cheese and oregano, my dinner turned from blah to extraordinary :)

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Dessert lately hasn’t been too classy.

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Some days I crave the fancy dark 80-whatever chocolate. Other days I just want some old-school Jersey Milk.

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Hits the spot. Reminds me of childhood when I only ate milk chocolate.

 

Another childhood favourite is sloppy joes paired with corn. I don’t know why my mother always made this particular combo, but now every time I eat sloppy joes, corn needs to be had. I polished off the lentil-based Snobby Joes the way they were meant to be eaten… on a bun. 

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Much better warm on a bun as opposed to cold on a pita like I’d been eating it.

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With the corn and green beans! Perfection.

There happens to be a fruit and vegetable stand a block away from the running store I work at. Their baskets are brimming with local Ontario apples and I can’t help but snatch some up every time I pass!

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Including this GINORMOUS honeycrisp. I put it in front of this crappy DVD for size comparison, but I realize you’re not getting the width of it here, which was very respectable indeed.

I ate it all.

Last, but not least, I’ve been snacking on Scottish treats!

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And by “snack” I mean I came home tonight and completely demolished the rest of the traditional Scottish oatcakes. Left side topped with PB + fluff, right side with almond butter + chocolate chips. Too bad I don’t have any jam in the house – it would be perfect! Guess I’ll just have to make more ;)

 

**If you’ve got a few seconds**
 pleasepleaseplease click here to vote for my Taste of Scotland post for the Project Food Blog contest!

And thank you if you already have! I just worked out a really fun concept for the third dinner party challenge and I really want to share it!

 

Question of the Day: What famous chef would you like to meet? Obviously my pick here is Alton Brown. I <3 that man!

A Vegan Recipe + A Very Non-Vegan Favourite

Happy Waffle Wednesday!!

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Like how I make the Waffle Wednesday font match the colour of the waffle toppings? Yeah, I like to make my blog look professional like that ;)

This week’s topping comes to us from a box of local strawberries I bought for a dollar because they were on their way out.

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They barely had a day left and I didn’t feel like doing anything fancy with them. So I chopped up the good ones and mixed them into plain yogurt. After a day of sitting in the container I had naturally sweetened strawberry yogurt with huge chunks of berries! I loved this, will definitely not scoff at a box of overripe berries again.

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For the waffle, I mixed up my usual protein waffle batter as of late. Except this time I doubled it to get two giant waffles from the belgian press.

  • 1/2 cup unflavoured soy protein powder
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • even more cinnamon
  • 2 packets stevia
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup egg whites
  • 1 cup almond milk

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I sprinkled flaked coconut and mini chocolate chips on top for good luck. The chocolate chips totally made the waffle. Amazing what a little chocolate can do!

I actually ate the above waffle on Tuesday. After working for 15 hours on Monday, I thankfully didn’t have any clients until 6pm on Tuesday. Which meant I stayed in my jammies until 4pm. However, I still have my Wednesday morning client, which means I’m up before dawn at this time every week now. Thinking ahead on Tuesday, I popped the second waffle in the freezer for an early morning treat.

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I woke up a little earlier this morning so I could eat the waffle at home and not on the streetcar. Had just enough time to pop it in the toaster oven, fry up a couple eggs, and guzzle back a mug of coffee.

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Runny egg yolks combined with sugar-free syrup made for an awesome waffle topper. My oh my. Not to mention, all the fat and protein adequately silenced my morning hunger beast!

Fret not though. I am getting my carbs in as well.

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I was been craving a grilled cheese like woah. I usually don’t get intense food cravings, but the thought of greasy melty cheese between two pieces of hot crispy carbs had been floating in my mind for days. On Tuesday, I finally succumbed with a couple pieces of my homemade Irish brown soda bread and old cheddar cheese.

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To really kick this craving, I did nothing at all to healthify it. Used real butter with thick slices of both bread and cheese. Hit. The. Spot. Kept me satisfied for 5 hours.

Polished it off with a local McIntosh apple.

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McIntosh isn’t my favourite snacking apple. But they’re pretty darn good (and HUGE) when local and in season.

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That’s right my friends. It’s my favourite time of year. Apple season!!

My afternoon off on Tuesday also provided ample time to try out a new recipe:

Snobby Joes.

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This is a vegan sloppy joe recipe using lentils instead of meat. I got it here from the Post Punk Kitchen (my favourite vegan site!) but it actually comes from the book Veganomicon.

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Instead of eating it sloppy joe style on a bun, I ate it on my favourite form of carbohydrate: pita bread.

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The reviews of the recipe said it was a little spicy, so instead of 1 tbsp of chili powder I used 2 tsp chili powder + 1 tsp cumin. But I found it more sweet from the maple syrup! Decent recipe though. Super filling from the lentils.

As a random side note, my muscles are adjusting nicely to my new weightlifting split. Except one thing: my hands are killing me! Apparently my grip strength hasn’t increased with the rest of my strength. Even though my back can pull around heavy dumbbells, my hands are buckling under the weight! It hurts to even hold a pen :( Le sigh. Am doing lots of stretches and hope they will toughen up.

Now I’m off to bed. Away working from 6am to 10 pm again tomorrow! Gah!

 

**Thursday is your last day to vote for The Next Food Blog Star on Foodbuzz. Click here to read and vote for my submission if you haven’t gotten around to it yet. Thank you!!**

Question of the Day: Let’s talk carbs. What’s your favourite kind of carbohydrate? Mine are apples and pita bread, obviously ;)

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