Meatless Monday – A Labour of Love

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It’s the first Monday in September which means Labour Day here in Canada. Labour day was born out of workers campaigning for better working conditions, fair treatment and equitable compensation for their toils. It is also a time that signals the end of summer, back to school and the coming of that dreaded time – cool weather and diminishing sunlight.

This Meatless Monday takes it easy this holiday and offers up ideas for food prep that is not labour-intensive. Happy Labour Day!

  • Quinoa, couscous and pasta are quick cook foods that complement any savoury dish, hot or cold. Choose the whole grain variety of couscous or pasta (e.g. spelt, whole wheat, kamut) for a better nutrient profile. Rinse very well or soak your dry quinoa prior to cooking. This helps remove the bitter saponins it contains.
  • Vegetables, a good quality oil with a moderately high smoke point and a little sea salt and pepper are your buddies. Just wash the vegetables, slice and dice them, then splash and sprinkle with some oil and seasonings. Grill them, bake them or eat as is ; red pepper is best eaten uncooked in order to extract its nutrients.
  • Fruit is simple as. Just wash and eat. This time of year there should still be a reasonable quantity of decent berries and stone fruit that are sweet enough on their own. No need for an accompanying cake or crumble.
  • A handful of nuts and seeds will provide you with protein, the good fats and some important nutrients. Soak them first and if you have time, let them sprout. This process helps with better digestibility and nutrient availability.
  • Canned beans, either flavoured or plain, only require heating; no need for several hours of soaking and cooking. A little bit of onion, garlic and tomato sauce are all that’s needed to dress up a can of kidney beans.  Eden® Organic is a company that has a variety of prepared beans in non-BPA lined cans. (Hint: BPA is bad for you.)

The Benefits Of Soaking Nuts and Seeds
from Food Matters® You are what you eat.

Are You Up for the Challenge?

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The annual Vegetarian Food Festival is fast approaching and I have decided to take the sugar challenge – well sort of. The original challenge issued on the website for the documentary Fed Up is 10 days long but I ‘m starting with baby steps.

The Fed Up Sugar-Free Challenge

Starting September 1st, I will be doing my own 5 day version of the sugar-free challenge followed later in the month with another 5 day sugar-free challenge. So in total I will have done the full 10 days.

The Veg food fest is not the same without the sugary treats to try. Carnivores have their carnival food (e.g. Krispy Kreme doughnut burger) eaten once a year at the fair and plant eaters have the equivalent in vegan cupcakes and cookies. When eaten in moderation amongst a mostly healthy diet, ethically sourced natural sweeteners aren’t so bad. However, sugar is pervasive and we end up consuming more than we realize.

Obvious Sources
Pop, cakes, cookies, candy, jams/jellies, drinks (juice-natural and artificial, fancy coffees, sports drinks)
Not so obvious Sources
Condiments such as mayonnaise (even the vegan kind) and ketchup; medications; processed and packaged foods (e.g. canned, frozen, cereal etc…)

There are also certain carbohydrates (e.g. white flour and white rice) that quickly turn to sugar when digested. This can quickly raise one’s blood glucose levels. The sugar-free challenge dares you to cut-out all natural and artificial sweeteners, the obvious and not so obvious added sugar in your diet and any refined products that are high on the glycemic index.

Glycemic index – a numerical measure of how quickly food raises blood sugar once eaten

With sugar so ubiquitous in our diet it is a huge undertaking to quit all forms of it cold turkey. (Hence, my split into a two-part 10-day challenge.) Realistically, it is not feasible for some – medication must still be taken (unless you can find an equivalent alternative) and wasting food (either throwing it out or spoilage as you ignore it for 10 days) is just, well, wasteful. Whether you go hard-core with this challenge or not I think what’s important is to take stock of what you are eating, how much sugar you actually consume on a daily basis and realize that you would be much healthier and better off consuming considerably less of the sweet stuff.

 What’s wrong with sugar?
Check out the documentary film Fed Up – Official Trailer
A list of several links on a Google Search (search “the problem with sugar”)
A list of links on a Google Search – Sugar and slavery

The question is:
Are you up for the challenge?

Meatless Monday – A Survival Guide in Seafood Land

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This week’s Meatless Monday looks at A Vegabond Voyage in one of Canada’s original founding provinces, Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia is surrounded on 3 sides by water so it is no surprise that the typical fare is seafood. However, with local and imported goods a vegetarian/vegan can still eat well here without much difficulty.

I began my journey with an indulgence of french fries.

 

Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Bud the Spud is an iconic chip truck located centrally on Spring Garden Road in Halifax. Though individual tastes prevail, the way to eat them is with malt vinegar, salt and ketchup. They even offer a salt substitute for those concerned with their sodium intake. Vegetable oil is advertised as the frying oil of choice.

Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After consulting Happy Cow listings for Halifax I managed to find two terrific meat-free establishments: Fruition and EnVie.

 

Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Fruition is located in Seaport Market near the Pier 21 Museum and sells its raw and vegan food to go. As the sign suggests, this food is vegan, local and tasty-it certainly was. My food highlights:

  • garden burgers – sunflower seeds, carrots, spices and sun-dried tomatoes. Great for a protein snack on-the-go.
  • sweet and tangy cashew mayo – cashews, dates and a vinaigrette make a great dip for garden burgers. I could have eaten it with just a spoon.
  • blueberry macaroons – luscious in their simplicity: wild Nova Scotia blueberries, organic coconut, raisins and fair-trade vanilla bean.
  • Kelp Krumbles – something to sprinkle on your salad for a bit of seaweed ooomph.

EnVie-A Vegan Kitchen is a sit-down establishment and sells a full menu of beverages, meals, and desserts. They also offer cooking classes. My food highlights:

  • gluten-free mini chocolate doughnut – held together like a gluten-full doughnut and chocolate topping tasted like just that, chocolate. Commercial chocolate doughnut icing is usually made with cocoa powder, some sort of fat and a copious amount of liquid glucose.
  • King Mushroom Chowder (pictured below).  Herbaceous rosemary and creamy cashew make this dish sing. I was so inspired I attempted my own chowder. And making a guest appearance is a non-yeasted spelt and millet sourdough bun from the Halifax Farmers’ Market.
Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And when you’re stuck there’s always the Atlantic Super Store and local Farmer’s Markets. The former did not disappoint as they have a selection of organic produce, salad kits, to-go meals and vegetarian/vegan products. I fell in love with the organic chia seed and soba noodle salad kit. It is a meal in itself and even comes with a fork.

During summer, there are a number of farmers’ markets throughout Nova Scotia and you will likely find some wild blueberries, baked goods and meals that fit the vegetarian/vegan category. The usual guidelines apply for eating meat-free here. The places that will likely have respectable choices for the vegetarian/vegan are:

  • heavily populated areas such as big centres and capital cities
  • ethnic restaurants (i.e. Middle Eastern, Indian)
  • farmers’ markets and grocery stores

Rest assured that those on a plant-based diet in this seafood-centric province won’t go hungry.

Links:
From Weal World Travel:
Nutrition & Travel – A Taste of Nova Scotia

From Happy Cow:
Vegetarian Restaurants and Health Food Stores – several listings throughout the province.

 

 

Bread & Social Status – The Staff of Life Series

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Behold the peasant bread, fresh from the King’s Bakery in the Fortress of Louisbourg.

 

Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

I was recently at the Fortress of Louisbourg in Cape Breton Nova Scotia. This heritage site recreates an 18th century French fortress with staff in period costume and interactive activities depicting daily life. The King’s Bakery is a fully functioning period kitchen that produces hundreds of loaves of bread daily which are for sale to visitors to the site.

Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

There were 3 types of bread for sale coming in loaf or bun form. According to the head baker the bread was labelled upper class (100% white flour), middle class (50% white and 50% whole wheat flour) and peasant bread coming in at 80% whole wheat and 20% rye.

Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

It is interesting to note that the healthiest bread is given the lowest title. White products (i.e. flour, sugar, etc) have long held the status of being as refined as those who could afford them. But the brown stuff, i.e. unrefined, is making a come back. Nowadays it is the artisanal loaves made with whole grain flours that have the status that white bread once did.

Here’s an interesting read on the subject of bread and social status:

The History of Bread as a Social Marker from the website Mother Earth News.

Meatless Monday – A Continental Divide

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I’ll make this quick – I’m on the road in a thunderstorm and the wi-fi could go at any minute! (Oh the excitement of blogging on the road).

A few nights ago I stayed in a university dorm. It is an option for budget accommodation during summer travels. Students are away and the university still needs to make money. For the low price of $42.71 per night I got a private room with shared bath and a full continental breakfast was included too at no extra charge. This week’s Meatless Monday looks at typical offerings for the vegetarian/vegan.

A continental breakfast is usually a light fare of pastries, juice and coffee/tea. Hotels often expand into a full continental and offer an assortment of meat, cereal, bread and fruit along with beverages, breads and pastries.

For the health-conscious plant eater the pickings can be slim. If you are vegetarian you can load up on the eggs, French toast and pancakes or have some cereal with milk or yoghurt. The vegan is usually relegated to fruit, oatmeal and toast. If you want cereal bring your own milk and if you’re going for the breads and pastries, take note that they are usually made with refined flour and contain unnecessary quantities of sugar. Oh yes, many of them are also made with dairy and/or eggs.

This got me thinking about the vegetarian/vegan bed and breakfast that I would like to open some day. On my menu, I would offer:

  • Steel-cut oats, not too watery, served with sliced banana and a bit of brown sugar
  • Whole grain bread (freshly made by me of course!) and a selection of fruit spreads (less sugary than jam) and an assortment of nut/seed butters
  • An egg station for the vegetarians: French toast, scrambled, poached, omelette
  • A fruit salad bar with in season fruit
  • Reduced fat and naturally sweetened muffins
  • Juice, fair-trade coffee and tea (black and herbal)
  • Granola served with your choice of almond or rice milk

Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day and should include all of the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat) along with fibre. This combination will set you up with sustained energy and a stable blood sugar level as you start your busy day of touring.

 

 

 

 

Meatless Monday – On The Road Again

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Taking a road trip away from the confines of a cosmopolitan centre can seem a little trepidatious. Vegetarian/vegan options may be scarce on the road so this week’s Meatless Monday partners with our sister site Weal World Travel to bring you A Vegabond Voyage, one of our series in Travel & Nutrition.

Though french fries and salad count as vegetarian food, who wants to rely on those as the main sustenance on their travels. Besides being unhealthy and an incomplete meal, it’s boring! And while there may be some great vegetarian/vegan restaurants on the road, who wants to spend precious touring time trying to find them?
Here are some tips so you can eat healthy on-the-road and on-the-go.

Things to bring:

  • Protein to go
    An abundance of good quality plant protein on-the-road may be a challenge to find. Bring protein bars, a small jar of nut/seed butter or a bag of raw/sprouted nuts and seeds. Vegetarians can usually find cheese and eggs to eat. Finding rennet-free cheese may be a bit more of a challenge. When in doubt, desperate and hungry there is always Laughing Cow/La vache qui rit cheese which is usually rennet-free.
  • Supplemental
    You may not be able to get your quinoa sweet potato burger and fancy plant-based casseroles so bring some super food and vitamin supplements to ensure you get enough nutrients on the road. These often come in powder form and usually combine greens like spirulina and wheat grass with vegetable concentrates and vitamins and minerals. Mix the powder with a little lemon juice and water and drink on-the-go as you tour around. Oh yes, a small container of lemon juice is worth packing too in your luggage. Add it to water or tea for flavour or use it on food to brighten up a dish.

    Photo by Kimberley (c)2013

    Photo by Kimberley (c)2013

  • To-Go Container
    Bring a small food safe container and pack all your supplements inside. When it is empty you can use the container to transport any fragile souvenirs you may have bought.

Things to buy:

  • Bakeries are your buddy
    Every town, city and village has one and they are not difficult to find. Opt for the good carbs i.e. whole grains rather than refined flour, individual portions (e.g. buns) rather than bulk (loaves). Ones made with oats, nuts and seeds also help up the fibre and protein content of your selection.
  • Productive Produce
    Farmers markets are a great way to connect with the locals, take some really cool pics and get some fresh produce. If you are stuck, grocery stores are usually easy to find and also carry some sort of edible produce. Opt for items that require little preparation such as apples, bananas, grapes, berries, sweet peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and spinach. Use clean water to wash them and they are ready to go – a raw treat to munch on that provide nutrients and enzymes. Some nut butter and lemon juice can serve as ingredients for a vegetable dip. (Idea: 1 Tablespoon of almond butter mixed with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Tip: A Tablespoon is about the length of your thumb and 1 teaspoon is about one-third that size.)

And there’s always Happy Cow. Check out this Healthy Eating Guide online for a list of vegetarian/vegan restaurants and cafés in your destination. And if you find one not on the list, consider submitting a review to Happy Cow.

 

Canned

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It’s Farmers’ market season and there is a dearth of fresh fruit everywhere going cheap. What’s a girl to do? Get creative in her kitchen of course.

Ontario may be a part of the Great White North but for part of the year she produces an abundance of berries and stone fruit.  Many farms, some organic and some conventional, exist outside of the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) with the Niagara region being renowned for its wine and peaches (amongst other things).

Jams, cakes and scones can all be made with fruit but a quick jam, sans canning, is a great way to make good use of the abundant fruit during this time of year.

Canning requires precision and technique – who wants to get botulism from improperly preserved produce? But I’m not talking canning so as to stock up for the winter.  Forgo the official canning process and use the quick cook method instead to turn your fruit into tasty spreadable treats.

  • Cut fruit into bite-size pieces and place into stainless steel pot.
  • Add sugar. This is personal. Apparently there is a rating as to how much sugar classifies a jam versus a jelly versus a spread. Canning authorities will have you believe that a whole field of sugar cane is needed in order to set the jam. Fruit in season is sweet enough. Add a little natural sweetener of your choice i.e. coconut sugar, muscovado sugar, honey, etc.
  • Cook on medium heat to loosen up the pectin (usually found in the skin of a fruit). The pectin is what helps set or gel the fruit spread. I like to use agar agar as well for extra gelling action. Using vanilla flavoured agar (as easy to find as the plain agar) is an ideal choice in this situation.
  • When fruit mixture is bubbling and the fruit is softened (5-10 minutes depending on your heat source) turn heat to low and mash the mixture with a potato masher. Continue on a simmer until most of the liquid disappears and the mixture starts to thicken.
  • Remove from heat and place in clean glass container. Herein lies the tricky part. Good canning theory states that the jar should be sterilized and the product canned immediately with some head space to prevent bacterial growth. Personally I throw my mixture into a clean jar and refrigerate. Consult a recipe book that specializes in canning or take a course to learn the proper method of safe canning procedures.

Properly canned/preserved goods should last a long time while this quick cook method does not. Eat within a week of making just to be on the safe side. (*Any product that looks or smells off should not be eaten-period.)

Uses:

  • Mix with some coconut milk and freeze into popsicle or ice-cube moulds for a frozen treat.
  • Spread on toast.
  • Spread between a layered cake and/or mix in with cake batter.
  • Make sandwich cookies.
  • Mix with melted dark chocolate for the ultimate anti-oxidant spread. However, refrigeration may set this mixture into a paste. In this case, use it as a filling for chocolate truffles.
  • Mix into veggie burgers or serve as an accompaniment to a main meal. Peach chutney anyone?
Strawberry kiwifruit jam & Peach Rhubarb Ginger Jam Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Strawberry kiwifruit jam & Peach Rhubarb Ginger Jam
Photo by Kimberley (c)2014