Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ottawa Veg Fest 2010

pretty hubbard

Hello friends! For those of you in Ottawa I just wanted to send out a reminder that today is Vegfest! And like anything involving vegetables, it promises to be a good time. Here's the information from the press release that one of the organizers sent me:

It’s easy and tasty to be Veg!

If you’ve been yearning to hug an oversized carrot, or a cow, or to see planet earth up close and personal, there’s only one place to do all of the above — Ottawa Veg Fest ’10!

The National Capital Vegetarian Association (NCVA) will demonstrate the vibrancy and variety of vegetarian food and lifestyle through the veg event of the year. Ottawa Veg Fest ‘10, presented by The Table Vegetarian Restaurant, will take place on May 30 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Glebe Community Centre, 175 Third Avenue.

Last year’s festival—the first—was a resounding success, attracting more than 2,000 attendees. From fun costumes, to free samples, to guest speakers, there is something for everyone at this family-friendly, grassroots event.

Dozens of exhibitors will help inform visitors about the benefits of a vegetarian diet and how to make healthier, greener and more compassionate dietary choices. Zen Kitchen, Rainbow Foods, Auntie Loo’s Treats, Eat Me Alive, Green Earth Vegetarian Restaurant, and Market Organics are just a few of many that are participating.

This year's speakers include Gene Baur, founder of Farm Sanctuary, Dr. Michael Greger M.D., a preeminent expert on important public health issues, and Jae Steele, a local-food expert and author of an award-winning vegan cookbook. Food demonstrations will show festival-goers how easy it is to cook without animal ingredients.

To learn more visit our website. Admission is free and parking is available nearby.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Toronto Night of Food!

I am staying with my friend Fiona for my first couple of days in the city. She lives in Kensington Market which is a neighbourhood after my own heart because it is here that I first discovered second hand clothing, incense, and black and white striped stockings. I was a very happy fourteen year old when all that happened. My mom was somewhat mortified.

When we decided to go out for dinner Fiona started listing off possibilities. There were burritos, sushi, Asian fusion, sandwiches, veggie burgers, and basically anything else one might think of eating. We wandered a bit and then settled on King's Cafe, an Asian restaurant with lots of seitan and tofu on the menu.

We ordered three dishes, starting with these nuggets which Fiona said reminded her of the chicken-nugget-eating days of her youth.

vegan nuggets

I was also a chicken-nugget eater when I was a kid and I have to concur with Fiona. These were really good in the same kind of greasy, chewy way that I remember chicken nuggets being. I could have eaten a bunch more of them, but we had another appetizer to try. This one was a plate of assorted seitan pieces cooked different ways. Aside from the one that Fiona described as tasting like "licking the sidewalk in Chinatown" they were all very delicious.

assorted seitan

For our main dish we ordered tofu prepared in a way I'd never tried it before. It was sliced thin, layered with nori, and then fried and served with bok choy. I really liked this dish. It wasn't greasy, but the texture of the fried tofu was excellent.

tofu and bok choy

After dinner we walked to an ice cream shop named after my mother's favourite movie where Fiona remembered them having some dairy-free choices. Indeed they did! Dairy free mango, raspberry, or lemon sherbet.

dairy free sherbet

I went for the mango, which was not a hard decision at all. Fiona, with the full range of ice cream flavours at her disposal, ordered one scoop of dulce de leche and one of some kind of berry cheesecake. All that despite me standing behind her emphatically whispering, "Get Nutella! Get NUTELLA!"

Despite my chocolate hazelnut desires, I was very happy with my mango sherbet. It wasn't overly sweet, and it didn't make me feel all sugar-drunk afterwards. It was just a refreshing way to end the night.

mango sherbet + waffle cone + shoes


Monday, May 24, 2010

Vegan Breakfast on Via Rail

on the train

I always get up bright and early, but today I got up bright and early for a good reason. My train for Toronto left at 8:30 and I needed the Man of Science to drive me to the station so I'd have time for a cup of tea in the Via One lounge before boarding. (Hey, if I have fancy lounge privileges I want to at least get a bit of use out of them!) The MoS dropped me off in front of the station and went back home to enjoy three days of canned soup, sole responsibility for the pets, and attempting to decipher the plant watering schedule I left for him. Lucky guy.

I got my tea and read a magazine until it was time to board. I haven't taken Via One in years and I forgot how nice it is. The seats are comfy, the refreshments are included, and it isn't as crowded as the regular cars. That last item is a huge bonus today, the last day of a long weekend when everyone on earth needs to travel from one place to another.

Breakfast was served almost immediately, and I must admit I was nervous. I'd ordered a "strict vegetarian" meal which in Via Rail lingo means "vegan". But I had no idea what would actually be given to me. I packed some Larabars just in case.

The "appetizer" was a plate of fresh fruit:

vegan train breakfast

It really did taste fresh, none of that cafeteria-food-slime that fruit plates sometimes have when they're pre-prepared. And I liked that it was just fruit, no sugary syrup or anything.

Another plus is that all the dishes are non-plastic which is pleasant. The cutlery is stainless steel, the dishes are ceramic, and the cup is actual glass. Oh, and there's a cloth napkin too. I noticed that Via seems to be making efforts to be more environmental on their trains and in the stations which is a nice touch.

A negative point was the extras that came with my meal, like the Becel margarine and Coffee Mate "whitener". I know Becel makes vegan margarine now, but this was not the vegan kind. And who knows if Coffee Mate is vegan? I doubt it is, but either way, gross. Having a little bit of soy milk available, even if it's just a tiny tetrapack kept on a shelf, would make a world of difference. Then I could have had a non-herbal cup of tea, which would have been lovely.

And next? The main course was vegan french toast with apple and cranberry compote:

vegan train breakfast

When the attendant put it down in front of me and said, "Here's your french toast," I had a moment of panic.

"French toast made with eggs?" I asked her.

"No," she said, "They make it with something else."

What that something else was she didn't know. But she showed me the vegan labeling on my meal and even showed me the meal for the passenger in front of me who'd ordered a lacto-ovo vegetarian meal just to show that hers was different from mine. So I was satisfied. Mostly. I still would have liked to know exactly what was in my meal. I don't think it would be a big deal for Via to keep the ingredient lists handy, especially for the special meals.

The french toast was quite tasty and the compote was sticky but not painfully sweet. No protein though, so it ended up not being very filling. I ate it about an hour ago and now I'm hungry again (that's right! I'm blogging from the train! It's the future!) The whole meal would have been perfect if they'd just added a vegan sausage patty or something to bulk it up a bit.

On my way home I'll be eating dinner on the train, and I'm a bit more excited to see what they give me then! For now I'm just looking forward to The Big Carrot, Panacea, and Fresh. Hooray Toronto!

Some Notes:

-The article that I was interviewed for in Macleans Magazine came out this week. They wrote my last name wrong and didn't mention my blog. Bummer!

-One of my favourite things about being on the train is spying on people's backyard vegetable gardens when we pull into towns. You can see a lot from the train!

-While I wrote this, the attendant came around and gave me some pretzels and a glass of club soda with lemon. I could have had something boozey, but it seems too early for that yet and I couldn't really think of anything I wanted. Megan suggested a mimosa, but I don't think they're equipped for it. Too bad.


This Time Last Year: Got the garden planted!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

One! Pot! Wonder! (a.k.a. chickpeas and chard)

chickpeas and chard

Friends, we have now almost moved beyond the unpredictable sh*t show that is spring. The glorious, warm, gardeny, hammocky, much lovelier summer is just around the corner. Hallelujah. I was driving in a car with my boss today (it happens now and again) and we were chatting about seasons and how living in Ontario makes you kind of a season addict. As much as the nearly-perpetual sunshineyness and outdoor appliances of California sometimes call to me, I have to say that I've grown accustomed to the distinct winter, spring, summer, and fall of my Canadian home. I will admit that I like the mild hibernation that comes with the winter months. Lots of time to hole up inside, read books, watch TV, and cook.

Oh, don't get me wrong, I like to cook in the summer time, too. It's just that my time spent in the kitchen and the number of ingredients in my recipes both drop dramatically. Food is so wonderful in the summer, who needs to spend time gussying it up?

Like chard. And chick peas. Both so delicious. No frivolity necessary. This is one of those "one pot meals" that lady magazines like to write about. It is quick to prepare and very tasty. And it leaves you lots of time to hang wash on the clothesline, weed your garden, pick lilacs for your dining room, or go to Toronto for a Sharon Jones concert. What? Isn't everyone doing that next week?

rainbow chard

Chickpeas and Chard

1 cup uncooked rice
2 cups of water
pinch of saffron threads
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup soup stock
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 bunch of swiss chard cut into ribbons, including the stems
2 cups of chickpeas
2 tsp fresh thyme

Boil the water and add your rice. When the rice is almost cooked, add those saffron threads.

Heat the oil over medium heat and add onion, cooking until mostly tender.

Add garlic and let cook for a minute more then add the soup stock and soy sauce, cover, and cook for five minutes.

Add rice and chickpeas, reduce heat to medium-low.

Add chard, stir to combine everything, then cover and let cook until chard has wilted, about three minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Also excellent with gomashio if you have any lying around.

Serves four.

good smells

Some Notes:

-I really, truly am going to Toronto to see Sharon Jones play next week. Hooray! I am actually taking a mini holiday and staying in the city for three days in order to do a whirlwind tour of friend visiting and good-food-eating. I've been to Fressen before and enjoyed it, Juice For Life is a classic stand-by, and I'd really love to check out the Wilco-themed sandwich shop. Any other suggestions?

-Also exciting: I managed to get a shockingly affordable business-class train fare for the trip which means an assigned seat, pre-boarding time spent in the "Via One Lounge", booze on offer, and a vegan meal! Oh the glamour of having food served to you on the train! Perhaps I will live blog it. Because I'm pretty sure they have the internet in Via One as well.

-Things that are now growing in the garden: Beets! Chard! Kale! Garlic! Mint!


This Time Last Year: Pesto of Science!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Coffee Cake So Good I've Been Suckered Into Baking Another One For Thursday

cranberry coffee cake

Last Thursday I arrived home from work and settled down for my daily pre-dogpark snack-eating and e-mail-checking. When I opened my e-mail box there was a request from a reporter at Maclean's Magazine wanting to interview me. And what did this reporter for Canada's best known weekly news magazine want to talk to me about, you ask? Did she want to know about the book I wrote? Nope. My fascinating job? No sir. This excellent blog to which I devote a large portion of my spare time? Not really. What did she want?

She wanted my opinion of vegan cheese.

You got it, friends. When the big magazines come calling, they want to know about vegan cheese. Not that I'm looking a gift interview in the mouth or anything. I was totally delighted to chat with her on the phone. And you can bet I'll be lining up at the news stand when the issue comes out. It just felt a little funny to say things like, oh yeah, I got interviewed today. Yeah, by Macleans. What's that? Oh, you know... vegan cheese.


It's been a weird week in blogland, all told. Because what happened on Friday? Well, on Friday I got up and, as usual, made my bleary way down to the kitchen for my morning smoothie and e-mail checking. ("Jennifer, do you ever do anything other than eat and check your e-mail?" Well, sometimes I listen to records while I'm eating and checking my e-mail...) Through sleepy eyes I checked my blog stats which, in those early morning hours are usually at about 30 hits. 937 hits, read the screen.

Pardon me?

Turns out I'd been "Stumbledupon". It's happened to me a few times before, but those times my hits maxed out at 500. Not this time. By the end of the day on Friday I had 6500 hits. Holy yikes. Who are all you people? Thanks for coming by.

I'm sorry, is it gauche to talk about blog stats? Let's move on to cake.

batter batter batter

I made this coffee cake on Sunday, primarily for the Man of Science. He is a coffee cake lover. But he doesn't like nuts in his coffee cake, so I thought I'd experiment with a recipe that did not include them. "I'm making you a coffee cake, because I love you!" I told him. "That's nice," he replied, searching in the fridge for a beer. "And also so I have something to blog about," I added. He didn't seem to mind that my agenda was twofold. It helped that the cake turned out marvelously.

I brought two pieces in to work today for Diane and her colleague Matthieu. Because of the nature of our work, my other coworkers are rarely in the office, so I didn't bring any extra. Of course this meant that two other coworkers showed up and ground my gears for not bringing extra cake for them. I ended up promising to bring a whole other cake in on Thursday, when we will all be around for a meeting. I am officially the office cake-wench.

Cranberry Coffee Cake

Cake Itself:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup soymilk
3/4 cup soy yogurt
1/3 cup safflower oil
inside scrapings of 1/2 a vanilla bean (optional)
2/3 cup whole cranberries (I used frozen)


1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp vegan margarine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare the topping first by combining all ingredients until crumbly. If you're like me you have an excellent pastry cutter (a.k.a. "Brass Knuckles")

brass knuckles

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl, add cranberries, then set aside.

In a small bowl or large measuring cup, mix soymilk, yogurt, oil, and vanilla.

Mix soy milk mixture into flour mixture using a wooden spoon. Don't over mix.

Spread mixture into an 8 inch pan, cover with topping.

Bake for 40 minutes or until a chopstick stuck in the middle comes out clean.

Some Notes (Special TV Edition):

-This weekend the Man of Science and I were in Future Shop where he likes to go "just to look around". He's playing the result that looking around on his XBOX 360 as I type this. I like to see him so well entertained. On the way out of the store I noticed they had several seasons of Mary Tyler Moore for $14 each. $14 each? They're practically giving away all that fine entertainment. I hemmed and hawed for a minute, saying, "Oh, but when would I find the time to watch all those episodes?" Guess what I've been doing with all my free time since? Just guess.

-Mary Tyler Moore is actually one of the two shows I always check on when I'm looking for discounted DVDs. The other one? The Golden Girls. And you know who was on both of those shows? Betty White. And did anyone else see her host Saturday Night Live this weekend? Wasn't that excellent?

-I have been mouthing off about Betty White being a vegetarian all weekend and it turns out that's not true! Shame on me for not fact checking. She's a PETA supporter and a big proponent of shelter pets, but not a vegetarian. Fellow Golden Girl Rue McClanahan, however, is a long time vegetarian. Her recipe for tofu cheesecake is in The Compassionate Cook.


This Time Last Year: Black Bean Tacos

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What To Do With Your Vegan Marshmallows

peanut butter chocolate rice treats

To be perfectly honest, I've never been a big fan of the humble Rice Krispie square. As a dessert it was just never, well, bakey enough for me. I like my desserts much richer. Rice krispie squares just seemed like kids' stuff to me. Plus in these modern times they've turned into one of the stupider packaged foodstuffs. The kind of thing that is easy to make, but still somehow needs to be shot full of chemicals and packaged into single servings. I understand wanting to make food more convenient, but when something has three ingredients and can be made in mere minutes, why does it have to be sold to us in an ever-so-slightly more convenient form? (I'm looking at you, iced tea.)

Where was I? Right, I was in my kitchen making squares and watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. How did you know?

Even with my Rice Krispie square prejudices, I honestly couldn't think of anything else to do with the package of vegan marshmallows that Jill brought me from Toronto. They were too sweet to eat all by themselves and I wasn't ambitious enough to concoct some kind of crazy new marshmallow-based recipe. So Rice Krispie squares it was! Or perhaps we should just call them rice squares because I don't really like Rice Krispies cereal very much. Way too sweet and crunchy. What I did instead was to buy some organic, health-foody puffed rice cereal. And I grabbed a bag of puffed millet too, just for kicks.

two puffs

To add some much-needed excitement, I decided to turn these into peanut butter and chocolate flavoured squares.

You're welcome.

The final product was chewier than conventional Rice Krispie squares, mostly because of the cereals I used. I liked the texture a lot, but if you're a traditionalist, you'll probably want to use conventional Rice Krispies. The marshmallows behaved just like regular marshmallows, melting quite nicely and not giving me any trouble at all. And with the sugary marshmallows diffused into a whole pan of treats, I wasn't overwhelmed by sweetness. I liked these way more than I thought I would.


Peanut Butter Chocolate Rice and Millet Squares

4 cups puffed rice cereal
2 cups puffed millet cereal
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 tbsp vegan margarine
1 package (roughly 2 cups) vegan marshmallows
2 cups chocolate chips

Mix puffed rice and puffed millet together. Set aside.

In a double boiler or a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt marshmallows, peanut butter, and two tablespoons of the margarine.

Mix melted marshmallow mixture with cereal mixture by combining small portions of each in a large bowl and mixing (I used my hands) until well combined. Keep adding both and mixing thoroughly until everything is combined.

Press mixture into a rectangular baking pan (I used my Pyrex lasagna dish, which I think is 9" by 13" or so) and set aside.

Melt chocolate chips and remaining margarine in a double boiler or a saucepan over medium-low heat.

Spread melted chocolate over puffed rice mixture and refrigerate for at least half an hour before eating.


Some Notes:

-I really, really, love the new Hannah Georgas album. She's a bit scrappier than a lot of female singer-songwriters and her music walks a pleasant line between stripped down folk songs and rockier stuff that makes me want to dance in my kitchen. Super-mega recommended.

-Those of you who live in Ottawa might perhaps like to come see me read some new fiction at the Raw Sugar cafe this Thursday night at 7:30 PM. I'll be warming up the stage for my friend Jeff Miller whose first book, Ghost Pine: All Stories True just made the Montreal Gazette's best seller list. Local writer Adam Thomlison will also be reading, hence rendering the event two thirds vegan.

-I'm looking forward to this coming Saturday and not just because The Banditas are playing at The Dominion Tavern and Betty White is hosting Saturday Night Live. While those things are both exciting, Saturday is also exciting because it is the opening day of my beloved Main Farmers' Market. I can't wait to get my hands on some locally grown produce again. Hooray!


This Time Last Year: Saturday Night Pizza (when I was still eating cheese!)