Meatless Monday – What a Tangled Web

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…we weave, when first we practice to deceive.

Clearly meat is not vegan but so many other products aren’t vegetarian and/or vegan either. Some may surprise, others may not. This week’s Meatless Monday looks at things that may shock the meat-eater or flexitarian about certain food items.

White sugar
“Cream butter and bone char sugar together, then sift in the dry ingredients.”  Wait a second, the only cows in cakes should be the butter. White sugar gets that way through refining and cow bones have assisted with this process. See Is Your Sugar Vegan? on the Vegetarian Resource Group website.

Yoghurt
The low-fat or zero fat ones tend to be the worst culprits. Once fat is removed from a product it is replaced with something else and in the case of yoghurt, that is usually gelatin.

V8
Apparently animal parts may have been lurking in the production of this often high sodium vegetable drink. See what the Food Babe has to say about V8 and ‘natural flavouring’.

Soup
And on that note, many soups use animal stock (often chicken) as the base for their vegetable soups. Food Babe also did some investigation into Campbell’s soups.

Drinking alcohol
Animal products have been used to refine wine, beer and spirits. See our original post and check out Barnivore, an online directory of vegan alcohol.

Cheese
Rennet is an animal-derived enzyme used to make cheese. There is vegetable rennet, however, (I still have no idea what that is) and some vegetarian cheeses employ the use of a microbial enzyme.

One of the advantages of being vegetarian/vegan is that you really get to know where your food comes from and get to learn what’s really in processed foods. The food labeling laws in North America, or lack thereof, keep many in the dark about what ingredients are used in food products. Us plant eaters may just be the modern-day version of the whistle blowers of the commercial food industry.

 

Busy Bea Baking…Orange is the New Cake

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My kitchen was ablaze with orange: apricots, carrots and vegan cheddar. With free time on my hands and a bunch of ingredients, I finally got around to trying recipes on my to-do list.

Eat your veggies!

Carotenoids are credited with giving fruits and vegetables their colourful hues of yellow, orange and red. These organic compounds have been found through studies to help reduce the risk of certain cancers and promote eye health. So forgo the cupcake craze and get on the carotenoid bandwagon. There are a variety of ways to prepare these foods and the health benefits will catch up with you sooner or later. Then, once you’ve eaten your veggies, I can say “orange you glad you did?!” (Cheesy I know! And thus concludes the food puns in this post.)

The role of carotenoids in human health on PubMed

Moroccan apricot chutney Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Moroccan apricot chutney
Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Apricot jam Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Apricot jam
Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Peach chutney Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Peach chutney
Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

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Vegan gingerbread lobster cookies Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Vegan gingerbread lobster cookies
Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Brand new cookie cutter-now broken in. Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Brand new cookie cutter-now broken in.
Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Golden kiwi fruit and coconut milk frozen treat with organic raspberries Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Golden kiwi fruit and coconut milk frozen treat with organic raspberries
Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Sea-gan chowder Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Sea-gan chowder
Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

A lobster mushroom represents real lobster Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

A lobster mushroom represents real lobster
Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Vegan cheddar 'bacon' scones Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Vegan cheddar ‘bacon’ scones
Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Vegan cheddar 'bacon' scones Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Vegan cheddar ‘bacon’ scones
Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Gluten-free pancakes with banana and crushed hazelnuts Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Gluten-free pancakes with banana and crushed hazelnuts
Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Banana everything cookie Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Banana everything cookie
Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Carrot cake frozen dessert (vegan) Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Carrot cake frozen dessert (vegan)
Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Kiwi lime curd Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Kiwi lime curd
Photo by Kimberley (c)2014

Meatless Monday – Cashews and Coconuts

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Another September and another vegetarian food festival done. This weekend saw the 30th edition of Toronto’s Annual Vegetarian Food Festival. It is considered the largest of its kind in North America and is put on by the TVA, Toronto Vegetarian Association. The festival is free and features talks, cooking demos, films, and the ubiquitous booths selling all manner of vegetarian/vegan food products and food prep tools. There are also a number of animal rights group giving out information.
This week’s Meatless Monday serves up some of the highlights from this year’s festival.

Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival
Toronto Vegetarian Association

  • Veni, Vidi, Vici Vegan!
    He came, he spoke, he conquered. Bryant Terry, author, chef and activist gave a talk on food justice and a cooking demo on one of the recipes in his book Afro Vegan. Both workshops were packed. I was turned away at the door for his talk because the venue was at capacity. With perseverance and hope, though, I managed to get in as some people had left early. And I got him to sign the cookbook of his that I just bought, The Inspired Vegan.
  • Mac and cheese X 3
    I had the most divine gluten-free mac n’ cheese made by Doug McNish. There was no fake cheese product in it, just butternut squash and nutritional yeast as the base for this creamy cheese-like sumptuous goo; a recipe I intend to replicate now as his cookbook containing said recipe is only due to be published in the spring of 2015.
  • The Evolution of Vegetarianism
    The TVA presented a chronological pictorial of the history of plant-based and animal-cruelty free eating. It was a succinct way to show all attendees of the festival that this vegetarian thing is world-wide and has been around since the time of the Buddha.
  • Terry’s Back
    Terry Hope Romero returned to offer some cooking demos from her new book Salad Samurai.
  • Everything’s coming up…
    Coconuts and cashews. From sweet to savoury, creamed or mashed these ingredients du jour are in just about everything. Versatility, taste and health benefits make them popular and marketable to a vegan and/or raw food crowd.
  • Food activism
    Though animal rights, sustainability and food security have long been issues of concern in the vegetarian world, they are now coming to the forefront in discussions around plant-based eating.
  • Don’t sweat it!
    Tip of the day came from Ikelia Wright of One Love vegetarian restaurant in Toronto. Instead of cooking your onions in oil, cook them in water on slow heat. Doug McNish offered a similar tip by saying to cook onions low and slow to caramelize them. No need to add unnecessary fat and sugar to make your allium member taste good. Patience is key in the kitchen.

allium – a genus of flowering plants that includes onion, garlic and chives.

 

The Gauntlet Was an Oven Mitt

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I was inadvertently issued a challenge to go sugar-free for 10 days. I agreed to do 5 days and this is how it turned out.

What started as a challenge turned into an experiment and then became an exploration. The challenge was to go without sugar, the obvious and the hidden, for 10 days (5 in my case). Cookies, cakes and candies were clearly not allowed along with the following:

smoothies, ketchup, mayo, salad dressing, packaged and processed foods such as crackers, vitamins, bread made with white flour, white rice, certain brands of peanut butter, jam, chutney, fruit juice, natural sweeteners, cereal, sports drinks, energy bars

This is not an exhaustive list. There are many more items I’m sure, but you get the idea. The two things I conceded was my thyroid medication (many medications use some type of sugar as a filler) and the greens supplement I take which is sweetened with a minute amount of stevia.

As a result this became more of an experiment in discovering just how many foods contain added sugar as well as an exploration of what is there left for a vegan to eat?
These 5 days forced me to be more creative with my food (e.g. steel cut oats with naturally sweet tasting cashew and coconut butter as a snack), find alternative brands (an unsweetened calcium/magnesium/vitamin D supplement powder) and use ingredients that I had been meaning to make use of for some time (quinoa and canned chickpeas).

The original challenge is from the website for Fed Up.

And speaking of which…two buttery thumbs up for Fed Up. (Yes movie theatre popcorn with real butter is one of the concessions I make in an otherwise vegan diet.)
This documentary film by Stephanie Soechtig is a lightly sautéed exposé on the food industry and their dirty little candy-coated secret: sugar.

Sugar in all its incarnations is in practically everything. For many it tastes good but too much of a good thing is a bad thing, even if it is ‘natural’. The wallets of big food giants seems to mirror the expansion of many people’s waistline as they unwittingly consume more sugar than they realize. This film touches on a number of issues that are worth further investigation:

  • Excess dietary sugar is said to depress the immune system and is implicated in a number of diseases e.g. obesity, Type II diabetes, heart disease, cancer.
  • The physiological effect of sugar on the brain is similar to that of cocaine. Sugar is like an addiction – the more you eat, the more you want and the more you have, the more you need.
  • The World Health Organization had a recommendation on the table to reduce the daily amount of calories acquired from sugar consumption. Previously it was 10% and the recommendation was for 5%. This equates to 25g (about 5 teaspoons) or 100 calories of sugar per day for the average adult. This has yet to be approved and enforced so there is currently no guideline for daily sugar consumption.
    As a reference, 1 glass (about 250mL or 1 cup) of unsweetened orange juice contains about 20g of sugar.

Breakfast: the most important meal of the day
How many sugars do you take in your coffee/tea? Did you have a smoothie instead? Or how about that ‘healthy’ granola cereal you may have had? Or the jam? Or the muffin? Or the ketchup/HP sauce on your egg? Was the toast/bagel whole grain and/or commercially prepared?
A typical full North American breakfast can easily exceed the proposed guideline from WHO for daily sugar consumption.

And my sugar-free conclusions?
In spite of the negatives concerning sugar, I still like the sweet stuff. I derive much satisfaction from baking (though it is bad for business to promote being eternally sugar-free!) I also like to enjoy the occasional indulgence which is manageable in an otherwise healthy diet.
I think most people have an innate sweet tooth but we can retrain our taste buds to eat less sugar and appreciate the flavour and moderate consumption of naturally sweetened goods.

How does one reconcile the enjoyment of sweets with the negative impact of sugar? Here are some tips:

  • Reduce the amount of sugar in recipes by half. For the most part, the recipe will still work.
  • Use natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup and agave. They are sweeter than refined sugar so less is required.
  • Try the sugar-free challenge to retrain your taste buds.
  • Enjoy fruit in its entirety; skip the juices.
  • Become food aware and learn what is really in your food. Better yet, make it yourself from scratch so you have control over the ingredients.

 

 

 

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.