Meatless Monday – Bunner’s and the oven

Honourable mention goes to:

Though expensive and with extremely sweet treats, Bunner’s makes gluten-free and vegan taste wonderful.

Bunner’s is a bake shop with 2 locations in trending areas of Toronto: the Junction and Kensington Market. Though not originally catering exclusively to a gluten-free clientele, Bunner’s does just that now. See their website for a brief history of their crumble beginnings. 

I first became acquainted with Bunner’s at the annual vegetarian food festival held every September at Harbourfront.

Cinnamon buns are one of my Achilles of indulgences so I was easily persuaded to give their wares a try. Though the taste was decidedly beany (they use a chickpea flour based gluten-free flour) I was intrigued enough to go back for more…and more…and still more…

Photo by Kimberley (c)2016
Photo by Kimberley (c)2016

Bunner’s offers both sweet and savoury items. You can enjoy their treats fresh and at full price or check out their day-old selection at a slightly reduced cost. Bunner’s also sells a cookbook that includes some of their most popular recipes. At $25 plus tax, it is a purchase where I have gotten more than my money’s worth. My favourite recipes: lemon curd and mac and cheese.

Special dietary requirements are not necessary for a visit to Bunner’s. Their food is suitable for gluten-free, vegan or just plain foodie customers.

My recommendations:

  • mac and cheese
  • supersonic cookies
  • loaf of bread
  • pumpkin scones with maple icing (scones usually available weekends only)
  • specialty cupcakes (I keep missing the lemon meringue pie one)




Meatless Monday – Cashews and Coconuts

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

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 were my thyroid medication (many medications use some type of sugar as filler) and the greens supplement I take which is sweetened with a minute amount of stevia.

As a result this became more of an exploration in discovering just how many foods contain added sugar as well as an experiment in 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 i.e. 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.

 Article from PLOS Blogs Network: The worst thing you can eat is sugar: an update