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Well, life has certainly changed a lot around here in the past few months! Full-time ballet has been replaced with a full course-load at University, a change that involved a move across four provinces.   So here I am, a more than 4500 kilometre drive across the country later, in a city where I don’t know a soul, about two years (if all goes well) from graduating. Apparently I’m an all or nothing sort of person when it comes to big life-changes!

Emerald Lake

My degree of choice (buckle your seat-belts folks, it’s a shocker) is …. Nutrition! So far I don’t have a good feel for the program since classes like Statistics and Biochemistry aren’t particularly nutrition specific. I am taking one class that is actually a hospitality class but it’s all about the reactions of cooking and baking and it involves a lab where you cook food (a fun class although not vegan friendly by any means).

Those changes have led to the development of bulk weekend cooking and kind of boring meals in general. However the term is almost over (I can’t believe it has flown by so quickly!) and I have a whopping three weeks off for the holidays, so I’m hoping that might result in some blog fodder. Also, exam break is coming up, and what better way to study for the aforementioned foods class than to mess around in the kitchen making up recipes?

So now I will leave you with some eye candy from a camping trip over the summer during the big move.

Takkakaw Falls (Yoho National Park)

Hope to be back soon with food!

-Kathleen

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Summer has finally shown up around here (along with a glorious sunburn I managed to obtain yesterday taking advantage of the sunshine). This means the reappearance of cold grain salads and the like in my books. This one was a happy combination of flavours and textures that came mostly out of the mixture that was the dregs of my pre-grocery shopping trip pantry.

2 cups dry quinoa (or 1 cup if your prefer a lower quinoa to add-in ratio)

2 navel oranges, cut into inch segments

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 bunch cilantro, minced (I would say about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of minced cilantro)

1 tablespoon minced ginger

2-3 tsp cumin

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine quinoa with 4 cups water (2 cups if you are using 1 cup of quinoa) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the white centres have dissapeared and tails are visible on the grains. Set aside to cool.

Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and add cooled quinoa. Toss all ingredients together and serve.

I’m also submitting this to Ricki’s weekly blog event “Wellness Weekend” where it can mingle with plenty of other, healthy vegan summery recipes!

-Kathleen

Spring is here, and that means time for spring cleaning! Well maybe not, I can’t say that the arrival of spring suddenly sparks a desire to bustle around scrubbing my abode, but with a move in my near future, the scrubbing is on my calendar wether I like it or not.

Spring cleaning is all about a fresh start, a cleaner home, uncluttered minds and the like, but how much good are you really doing by filling your home with countless chemicals, and potentially toxic mixtures. Wouldn’t you prefer to know that you are actually cleaning your place, rather than just coating it in a cocktail of hard to pronounce, unkown substances. I know I sure do!

Sadly, with the current eco-friendly fad, it is hard to know what ‘green’ products truly stand above their traditional counterparts, and which are just a greenwashing scam designed to rid you of your hard earned cash. I’m no chemist, but a bit of research, and personal experience has led me to the products I am happy to recommend as upgrades for your current cleaning products.

So for the products I am happy to recommend:

Laundry Detergent

ECOS brand laundry detergent-fabulous stuff! Costco has been carrying these big jugs of it for the past few years now and I was so excited to see that it is a vegan product and eco-friendly to boot! It comes in a couple of different scents, although I have only ever used the one pictured (Magnolia & Lily) and despite the name, I think the scent is quite understated, and I would imagine the others are as well. While I am very happy with the detergent, I wound’t say it is amazing at tough stain removal, but otherwise, for everyday laundry needs, I definitely recommend it. Additionally, I have been using it for at least a good year to do a weekly wash of delicates like ballet tights and spandexy things, both of which can be easily ruined, and I have been very happy with how gentle it has been (those tights are pricey so decreasing the rate of turnover is of great importance!!).

Dishwasher Detergent

Method brand dishwasher tablets– I have to admit that a few years ago when method products first started showing up all over the place, I fell in love with the cute containers but I was quite dubious of their environmental claims. It looked like just another company taking advantage of the green movement. I am not entirely convinced otherwise about the truly safe and green attributes of the actual products, but as a company, I am very impressed with where method is heading. All the containers are 100% recycled, their head office is LEED certified, and new products come out that indicate they are continually working towards green initiatives. While I think some of their ingredient choices could use some work, overall they are a huge step above traditional cleaning products, work wel, and are easily found, and i am willing to support that.

As an aside, I would love to try the ECOS brand laundry detergent, but it has proven to be quite elusive…

Household Cleaner

BioSource Multipurpose cleaner– Don’t let the small container size fool you, this is a super concentrated cleaner. You mix it up 1 part cleaner to 64!! parts water for everyday cleaning. What I like about concentrated cleaners, besides the obvious packaging savings, is that you have a wide variety of cleaning strengths available from the one product- for heavy duty cleaning, just don’t dilute it as much! This is another vegan product and the ingredients are purported to be 100% readily biodegradable. While the scent is definitely one of a cleaner, it is not overly strong or offputting, and once it is diluted, hardly detectable. Another big plus, for me anyways, is that this is a Canadian product. I love supporting local companies that are doing a good thing and I heartily recommend that my fellow Canadians (and others if you can find it) give it a go.

Lastly, my favourite cleaning buddy:

Baking soda is just fantastic!! I’m sure most of you are aware of the cleaning properties of baking soda, but I had to put it up there anyways. The texture makes for good scrubbing, I often make almost a paste of it and water to put in pots to cook off burnt food (not that I ever burn food or anything…), you can use it to wash your hair, clean your teeth, and perhaps best of all, in baking!! An incredibly well rounded product.

 I would love to hear any other product suggestions you have in the comments. I’m always game for trying out new green things.

Speaking of moving, it’s always rough trying to find roommates unless you have people you know that you can live with. The process is generally assisted when you’ve got friends helping you out in the hunt though, right? After posting an ad online, I was having a good time regaling Eve with the various gems that I was getting responses from and then I got a real winner:

hey
i saw ur ad on craigslist for the house, and i think i would make an awsome roomy. i am doing some high school course this summer @ college, and i need a place to stay and i think i would like to stay with you like you said in the ad. i am not a vegtarian but i am respectable of your ideas, and i can keep my meat on my half of the fridge. as for smoking, i am trying to quite and will only smoke outside. i always make sure to wear lots of colone so you will never smell smoke on me. also i have a pitbull, so im happy to hear that you like animals. he is pretty nice most of the time, so im sure it wont be a problem. anyways if this sounds like i might be a good fit i am around pretty much anytime since i dont have a job right now, but im looking lol. not to worry, i will be sure to have rent, no matter what! let me know when you want to meet.
ttyl.
leon.

Needless to say, we had an excellent time over that one, until Eve finally came out with it; Leon was a creation of hers (the stinker!!) anyways, it was all in good fun, and we then suckered her boyfriend into it as well (under the guise of me wanting some advice on various people I was thinking of getting back to! :D). Hopefully that gave you a few chuckles, and I certainly hope that none of you  have Leons in your life to deal with!!

Kathleen

A while back I found myself in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada) with my family for the weekend. This meant investigating the veggie eateries in town! We ended up eating at the super swanky looking but spectacularly vegetarian unfriendly hotel restaurant for lunch on the first day (not kidding, there were zero vegetarian options, not even the usual paltry side salad) but fortunately Edmonton redeemed itself by brunch the following morning at Padmanadis. We were quite the group that headed out that morning; a vegan, a vegetarian with a bunch of food restrictions (no gluten, peanuts, soy, dairy, corn, and a couple of other things I think), a diabetic allergic to spinach, and three omnivores with varying levels of veggie acceptance. Fortunately for all of us, we had a most enjoyable time and better yet, everyone loved their food!! Two thumbs up for that! 🙂 When we were there the restaurant wasn’t terribly busy (Sunday for brunch) and while I didn’t take any pictures of the actual restaurant, it was nice,spacious and bright with fun pictures (apparently of staff and frequent patrons) adorning the walls. My good friend who resides in Edmonton, called Padmanadi’s the hip place for Edmonton vegans and I can definitely see why, that being said I think it has a good balance between hip and modern and ‘hippie’. My parents felt comfortable dining there (unlike some of the other vegan/veggie establishments we have been to in the past, which have garnered some comments about the waitstaff etc.) and my father even talked about suggesting it to a business associate who coordinates work meetings and dinners. Also, fairly irrelevant, but I LOVED the taps in the bathroom! They were basically a glass bowl with a glass disk held above it, which water ran onto and over into the bowl, creating a little waterfall effect.

So about that food, eh? As I mentioned, we came for brunch so that was the menu we ordered off of. We had an extremely helpful and chipper waiter who was happy to answer our (many) questions about ingredients etc. and was happy to offer suggestions on what to order which was much appreciated by me the indecisive among us. In my defense, this is actually the first entirely vegan restaurant I have ever been to, and it was quite novel to be able to choose absolutely ANYTHING off the menu!! So, what did we end up ordering?

Up first is the hot rice cereal with coconut milk (one of the few options that my friend with all the food restrictions could have- as an aside, she said previously when she ate there, off the dinner menu, there was basically nothing that she could eat, however they were open to whipping something up for her) My dad also got a small side dish of this, they both thought it was fantastic and quite decadent (akin to rice pudding).

My Dad also got the French Toast (banana coconut french toast with mango compote). This was a big hit; he loves tropical flavours and french toast so this checked quite a few boxes for him!

My brother got the spicy eggplant omelette. He was iffy about the eggplant at first but I convinced him to order it anyways and I think he might have a more favourable opinion of eggplant now. Also, this came with Daiya cheese, and as one of the omnivores in the group, I was pleasantly surprised to hear nothing of the lack of real cheese flavour. I always figure that vegan stuff probably tastes ‘real’ to me because I just don’t remember what the dairy/meat product tastes like, but I would say this is a firm vote for the authenticity of Daiya.

My mom and her college roommate (the diabetic) both got the traditional eggs benedict. I think at first the non-vegan names threw them for a loop (they kept asking if the ham, cheese, egg etc. was ‘real’) but they both enjoyed it and had a fun time dissecting the dish to figure out the various components (the ‘egg’ had a butternut squash ‘yolk’ etc.).

Lastly, I got the Thai Benedict, which I was assured was not spicy, and sure enough, it was well within my tolerable level of heat (aka, basically not spicy at all). I loved the flavourings of the dish, although really with peanut and cilantro, I’m not sure how you can go wrong! 🙂 Most of us also got the house root vegetable fries on the side, which were lovely (not greasy at all which was a pleasant surprise!) and contained taro root (the white with purple flecks right near the little bowl of salsa), which was a new veggie for many of us (and which our waiter happily gave us the name of). Since then, I got myself a taro root and chopped it up and baked it in the oven with sweet potatoes-very tasty!

That’s not all though, we splurged for dessert too (I was especially excited about this even though I really wasn’t hungry for it at all, but who can pass up the opportunity to actually order and eat dessert!?)

There was rice pudding, chocolate hazelnut cheesecake (oh yes!), and panna cotta ordered. All were deemed delicious, with much discussion on how one would make the recipes vegan etc.

All in all, I thought Padmanadis was fantastic, great food at reasonable prices, great service and great company! I would highly recommend it if you ever find yourself in Edmonton. I also really enjoyed the opportunity for the omnivores in the group to try vegan food in a relaxed atmosphere (they really don’t push the vegan aspect, which I think probably serves it well in Alberta, which isn’t exactly the most vegan friendly province! ;)) and the discussions about the food, ingredients, and preparation that ensued. Here’s hoping we all went away with a little more open minds and full, happy bellies. 🙂

Kathleen

I’ve got some pretty fantastic people in my life, case in point: my roommates who put up with me and my idiosyncrasies on a regular basis, and who are kind enough to chauffeur me around on occasion, including when my flight kept getting delayed and finally ended up getting in at around 2am. Similarly, my mom, who took it upon herself to make aforementioned roommates a ‘gratitude pillow’ for their efforts. I love my parents, but sometimes the things they do baffle/embarrass me a bit. The pillow, while a lovely gesture, has an embroidered square on the back denoting it as a gratitude pillow to them from my mom and the date which we got a bit of a chuckle out of.  Anyways, the next time I had a flight, I deemed it a perfect opportunity excuse to make cookies (although really, is there ever a bad time to make cookies!?)  which were then dubbed ‘gratitude cookies’ (my poor mother!).

I am still not incredibly confident with my skills at gluten free baking, so I adapted this recipe from the ever fantastic Karina over at The Gluten Free Goddess. They turned out pretty darn fantastic if I do say so myself, and they stayed nice and moist for several days post baking, which is a welcome surprise for gluten free baked goods.

1 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup millet flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup coconut oil + 1/4 cup coconut spread + coconut milk (or 3/4 cup coconut oil) *See note*
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Egg Replacer whisked with 1/4 cup coconut milk until frothy
1 1/3 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup sliced dried tart cherries
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350F. Combine dry ingredients (sorghum flour through cinnamon) in a large bowl until thoroughly mixed. In a small bowl, mix wet ingredients (coconut oil through egg replacer) until fully combined.  Stir into dry ingredients. When fully combined, stir in oats, coconut, cherries, and chocolate chips until evenly distributed throughout dough.
Scoop dough into tablespoon or so sized balls and place on silpat, or parchment lined baking sheet. Press down to flatten and bake for about 12 minutes, or until just golden around the edges, cooking for a few minutes longer if you prefer a crunchier cookie. Allow to cool on the sheet for a few minutes before removing to a baking rack or plate.
Enjoy or bestow upon others as a token of your appreciation (but don’t forget to test one a few before you send them off!  😉 )

*Note* I wanted to use unrefined coconut oil to impart a coconut flavour to the cookies, however I only had refined oil on hand, so I used a combination of oil and coconut spread (which I think was basically coconut butter-quite dry) mixed with a bit of coconut milk to make it smooth. If you have unrefined coconut oil, feel free to use just that.

I’m also submitting these to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday over at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.

Kathleen

Sometimes I wish someone had warned me that artists (can I just interject here and say that I feel like a fraud writing that, but I couldn’t think of a better term) should not be inclined to be sentimental about holidays, after all it is when the majority of people are off work that they want to be entertained-enter aforementioned artists. So with Nutcracker performances taking advantage of the calendar holidays, my ‘Christmas holiday’ got bumped back and is just finishing up now so please excuse the rather late holiday wrap up, but I’m still working on getting back to real life just now.

My holiday travels took me to two fairly different climates, so I got a white christmas (hooray!!) but also a wet, watery one.               

     

I figured I owed you a picture of THE tree as well. Here it is all decked out on Christmas morning. This one was about average height-wise but we often end up with a wider one than this. I went through a phase of being displeased with the non- Martha Stewart ness of our trees, but I have come to accept the fact that our trees are beautiful and festive in their own, natural way (although that still doesn’t stop me from trying to come up with ways that I could cultivate my own or something so it could be huge and perfect! :D).

Here are the trees that decked out our apartment as well. Our little living room was nice and festive for the holidays- the best way to have it!

                                                                                                                                                

In addition to general family time, there was much baking (saving that for another post!), visiting friends, engaging in wintery activities, bunny sitting, sewing and a bit of holiday crafting. All in all it was a lovely and restful vacation and now it’s back at it!

I started working on these ornaments a few years ago, and have been veeery slowly getting them finished. There will be, eventually, four large (finished this go around!), eight medium (finished last year), and eight small (still to be completed). A classic example of a project that sounds great in my head but ends up being way more work than I anticipated.

Here’s hoping you all had a wonderful holiday and getting back into the real world wasn’t too harsh!

-Kathleen

I quite enjoy blog posts that are simply about recent meals a blogger may have eaten. I find I often see recipes that I would have sworn up and down weren’t in a certain cookbook, but that definitely sound delicious. So, a few meals I’ve enjoyed recently:
Vegan YumYum’s Broccoli Daal:

Appetite for Reduction’s Butternut Apple Soup

The Uncheese Cookbook’s Broccoli Rice Casserole:

Appetite for Reduction’s Sundried Tomato-Walnut Dressing over salad, quinoa, roasted potatoes, zucchini, and tempeh, and glazed beets. And finally, I made the fortunate (unfortunate?) discovery that it is possible to find mainstream Christmas candy that happens to be vegan. If I eat half my body weight in liquor filled chocolates over the next few days, I can’t be held accountable!

Um, yum. 🙂

-Eve

I am doing a smidge better on my gift list; we are now at 1.5 gifts! Hey, its a 150% increase – great success! 😀 In other news, in case you happened to be wondering, deciding to do 300 jump lunges as an exercise safeguard on your day off is a bad idea unless you are planning on not moving around the day after. However if you do, you can look forward to everyday activities like going up and down stairs and sitting on the toilet (and furthermore, getting back up off it) becoming monumental acheivements. Of course, I’m not speaking from experience or anything, just thought that was a useful tidbit of information to share in the spirit of giving for the holidays. 😉

Okay so yesterday we covered the foodies on your list. How about the fashionista? Possibly a difficult individual if vegan, or even if you just are and don’t want to compromise your beliefs with your purchases.

Under $100:

Jewlery. This can basically fall into any category, so go take a peek at the links in the over $100 category. Etsy is also a great place to look and it’s wonderful to be able to support small businesses and artisans.

Cosmetics are another good bet, and more and more vegan brands are able to be found locally. Try Sephora or MAC for makeup and other higher end products, if you are looking for a local store. Also, here are a few of the more common brands to look for that are vegan:

Giovanni

Some Burts Bee’s products (more if you are okay with bee byproducts)

Jason

Natures Gate

Urban Decay (not all vegan-look for the pawprint)

Accessories are another good bet to find locally (since that is quickly becoming the only option for us last-minute folk). Think scarves, gloves (though beware of leather!), mitts, etc. and if you are crafty, you still have time to whip up a lovely handmade goodie or two.

Over $100:

Jewelry is always a good bet. The earrings shown are from Brilliant Earth which touts eco-friendly metals and cruelty-free diamonds. Something from here would definitely be a splurge (of varying proportions) but they do have really nice looking products and you can even design your own ring, which I think is pretty exciting (though I don’t even want to think about how much that would probably cost). Some other, potentially less costly options for vegan jewelry are:

http://www.snootyjewelry.com

http://www.christyrobinsondesigns.com/default.html

I am also partial to the offerings from this Etsy seller, however the products aren’t specifically vegan so it depends on where you draw the line.

A beautiful vegan winter coat. These are hard to come by but Vaute Couture has you covered (and often you can find sportswear coats that are vegan as well).

Shoes! Most fashionistas are big into shoes, but depending on the individual it might be a difficult thing to buy for someone else. However, if you are (or maybe this is your gift to yourself?) take a gander at my previous shoe list or investigate a few of these vegan retailers:

http://charmone.com

http://www.novacas.com

http://www.beyondskin.co.uk/

http://formandfauna.com

http://www.terraplana.com/index.php (not all vegan)

http://www.simpleshoes.com/index.aspx (also not all vegan)

A bag. Matt and Nat is a great all-vegan brand to look into and if a bag is too pricey, they also have wallets and belts that are more friendly budget-wise.

-Kathleen (I figured that after over two years, I should stop hiding behind just a letter! ;))

So, it would appear that we are 9 days out from Christmas (which may or may not be putting me into a mild state of panic- I have one gift and it is in progress; a scarf for my brother that is about half knit) and I have been meaning to post some gift suggestions and I think it is pretty much now or never. If you happen to be like me and still have a list of folks to buy for, maybe I can be of assistance. Today, we are covering the foodie:

Under $20:

How cute are these whisks? And at $10 these would be a great stocking stuffer or small gift for a friend (hostess gift?) They also come in a bird variety.

Cookie Cutters are always fun and there are endless varieties and you can pretty much always find cute ones locally. This set is from amazon but Ikea and Michaels both have nice sets as well.

A silpat! This one from amazon is $18.07, which seems quite reasonable (I recall seeing them in stores for much more than that) however for those of you trying to purchase from stores I am pretty sure Williams Sonoma carries them (and probably other fancypants kitchen goods type stores) but I would guess it will be pricier. I have a silpat and it’s pretty much the best thing ever. Greasing baking pans is pretty much the bane of my existance, and with the Silpat ‘t you don’t have to and you needn’t worry about having to chisel burnt cookie bits off your pans either. It’s great for roasting veggies too! Needless to say, this comes personally recommended.

A good silicone spatula that won’t melt. Another thing that would be pretty easy to find locally, a fun stocking stuffer type gift, and really who can’t use another spatula?

$20-$100:

Ice cream maker. You can really choose how much you want to spend on them. The one pictured is very similar to the one my parents have and it works quite well, albeit does require some planning as the insert must be frozen for at least a day before you can use it. It would also be super cute to gift this with a vegan ice cream cookbook inside.

Cookbooks are always a good bet, especially if it comes personally recommended and you have favourite recipes to tab. Or how about a cookbook with a favourite recipe highlighted and the ingredients to make it? Some of my favourite cookbooks are Veganomicon; Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan; The Voluptuous Vegan (I really like the desserts that I have made from it, but definitely more time consuming); Vegan Yum Yum (Eve has been cooking up a storm from this one lately); Vegan Cookies InvadeYour Cookie Jar (a cookbook of cookie recipes, need I say more? Not health food though, just saying! ;))   

 

Over $100:

A Vita-Mix. Okay, so this is an awfully pricey gift, but really, Vita-Mixes are all kinds of amazing and if you are looking for a big gift, you should definitely consider one. Eve and I each have one and we use them all the time, and in our current living situation we have them on either side of the sink- duelling Vita-Mixes!! Amazon sells them and I know Costco has had them as well from time to time.

Food Processor. I have a Cuisinart, which is what I grew up with and I have been really happy with the quality (I think my parents replaced theirs after 20+ years of heavy use)  of it and I love the attachment blades. I got mine as a package from Costco a few years back and it came with two blades, a slicing and a grating blade, and I use the grating blade all the time! I linked to a really expensive combination pack on Amazon, but you can definitely find way cheaper options out there, so do shop around.

Happy Shopping and here’s hoping you are further along than I am!

-K

***Have you checked out our tea giveaway yet? There’s going to be two winners, and the prize is awesome! The contest ends tomorrow, so go enter now! :)***

This past Sunday I made caramels, and took pictures! I also learned a few things along the way:

1) Making candy is exciting! Really exciting!

2) I can’t be around delicious candy without eating too much and slipping into a sugar coma.

3) Therefore, candy is best left un-made or shipped to unsuspecting individuals post-haste.

I used this recipe for salted caramels from CHOW, and made a few alterations. I used Silk coffee creamer for the cream, Earth Balance for the butter, and cut the salt back to only 1 tsp. to compensate for the salt in both those products. If you make them, make sure NOT to freeze the sheet of caramel ‘rock hard’ like the recipe instructs, because it will shatter everywhere if you try and cut it! Now, pictures:

Boiling the cream....

....and getting ready to add various sugars (and eventually butter/vanilla).

Boiling caramel with a desperate/ingenious thermometer grasp, and a wooden spoon/back of a spatula handle. Classy.

Scraping the caramel into a dish to set and harden....

...and form a most unwieldy slab!

The slab was portioned into ~1M. little cubes. The recipe claims it makes 85, but I know better. The hand I used to push the knife through the caramel still hurts!

I attempted (and succeeded?) to temper chocolate in my ghetto double boiler.....

....and make a rather unholy mess of the kitchen, and myself. I had chocolate everywhere from my forehead to my socks. True talent!

If I were a conscientious blogger, this is where there would be an amazing, out-of-the-kitchen photo of the finished caramels, but I can’t say I took any such pictures. 😦 Nevertheless, they were delicious, and I hope that the tin I sent to my family will be thoroughly enjoyed! 🙂

-Eve