Monday, January 30, 2012

Blueberry Waffles

I'm doing a pretty crappy job of sticking to my new year's resolutions. That alcohol-free January turned into a couple beers at a pub on Saturday night and while I may have been laying low on the baking end of things, I've been consuming more than my fair share of sugar via sauces and marinades lately. Sigh.

There is one resolution I'm holding strong to, though. Naturally, the one that sticks is the one that involves making and eating food.

This year, I resolved to set aside one weekend morning a month for homemade breakfast production. Restaurant-style. I made this one of my resolutions because I so often ignore breakfast as a fun time to experiment in the kitchen and I'm constantly bookmarking vegan breakfast recipes that I never really end up making.

I actually almost forgot about this resolution, too, but thankfully remembered at the last minute, with just one weekend remaining in the month.

The last few breakfasts that I have actually made have been of the savoury variety, so for January's Breakfast-of-the-Month I decided to go with sweet. I recruited the help of VeganYumYum, stole my mom's waffle iron, and got to work on a snowy Sunday morning.

This recipe calls for vegan blueberry yogurt, so it presents the perfect opportunity to gush about my latest product addiction - coconut milk yogurt! So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt might be old news to those of you south of the border, but this container of magical goodness has just now found its way into my neck of the woods.

If you follow me on Twitter you might remember a TwitPic from a couple weeks back, featuring a vegan yogurt breakfast parfait from Cafe Pyrus in downtown Kitchener.

I ordered the parfait and one of their lovely staff members brought it to our table. I savoured the first couple bites before sharing one with Paul and he looked at me kind of funny before saying, "Are we sure this is vegan? This can't be vegan." It tasted so much like traditional yogurt that we thought we maybe got confused while reading the daily specials and ordered ourselves a non-vegan dish (which the odds were not in favour of - Cafe Pyrus is 99% vegan). In panic, I went up to the counter to ask and they showed me the So Delicious container, which proudly boasts the "V" for Vegan symbol on the side.


Of all the things you learn to (and then happily) live without when going vegan, yogurt doesn't usually rank all that high on the list. I mean, yogurt? But honestly, after four years without, it turns out that I forgot just how much I used to like eating yogurt.

The problem now is that this product is not necessarily cheap and I am eating entirely too much of it. Although Yogurt Spoons have replaced Peanut Butter Spoons in my snack repertoire and that is certainly a move in the right direction.

Now, before I continue, I have a confession to make. The only kind of waffle I've ever made is the one that goes from the freezer aisle to the freezer to the toaster. And because I thieved the waffle maker, I didn't have an instruction booklet or any sort of working knowledge about how to operate it. My many thanks to those on Twitter for walking me through the process!

Lauren Ulm of VeganYumYum tops these waffles with a lemon icing. I didn't have enough icing sugar to make it. Instead we opted for agave nectar, because those freezer aisle-freezer-toaster waffles I used to eat were always topped with honey, and golden syrup is what I most associate with this kind of breakfast. From there we topped them with fresh fruit and packed 'em back in our pajamas while making our way through the Lost series for the millionth time.

Waffles are a little annoying to make with a single-serving waffle iron like the one I used, because there's no way to do a bunch and then sit down for a leisurely breakfast. They take about 5-10 minutes apiece to make, and they don't stay warm for very long. You have to eat those suckers piping hot, right off the iron, while the next one is cooking up. But that's okay, too.

If you don't have a copy of VeganYumYum, you can also find this recipe for blueberry waffles here, on Lauren's blog.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ginger, Maple & Mustard Glazed Tempeh with Patatas Bravas

If you ever want to buy me a present, cookbooks are usually the way to go. I am obsessed with them and have way too many already, but am always searching for more. Everyone knows how I feel about vegan cookbooks, so it is always the go-to gift idea for Christmases and birthdays and I could not be happier about it.

One of the awesome new cookbooks I got for Christmas last month was Spork-Fed. Paul picked it up for me because we have a running joke in our house regarding the massive quantity of meals we cook that would ideally be eaten with a spork, a kitchen tool we don't have. At least twice a week we stand at the utensil drawer trying to determine if a spoon or a fork is the best food shovelling tool for whatever has just come out of our kitchen. As an aside, do you know how hard it is to find a spork that's not plastic or part of a Swiss army-style set of utensils meant for camping and outdoor shenanigans? Oh yes, we've looked.

Paul liked the look of the recipes, although neither of us knew about the Spork Sisters Jenny Engels and Heather Goldberg until we already had the book. Which is weird, because they are so well-loved in the vegan world! These lovely ladies own and operate Spork Foods out of Los Angeles and along with catering they also offer vegan cooking classes and in-home dietary consultations. Spork-Fed is an amazing way to let those of us who aren't fortunate enough to live in the vegan heaven that is L.A. try some of their recipes.

This is the first meal we tried out of the book and we are madly in love with it. Gluten-free and full of flavour, combining it with a salad or some steamed greens makes it a great weeknight dinner.

These little potatoes are lethal. You will fight over the last bit of them and you will be more than comfortable physically attacking someone you love if it means you get one extra bite. The flavour comes from a combo of ketchup, vegan mayo and the most glorious component of all - a healthy dose of smoked paprika. Organic, sugar-free ketchup is best, although I'll admit that this time I was bad and used the sugar-laden variety that no one should ever eat. There are also lots of options for vegan mayo - premade Vegenaise works, or you can make your own at home with silken tofu. There are even a few nut-based raw vegan mayo recipes floating around the web that would work, too (this one from one of my favourite blogs, Addicted to Veggies looks particularly wonderful).

I'm sure you've already seen this article in one of its many incarnations floating around the web over the last week or so. You have no idea how much I used to be like this girl. I went vegan for the animals, but my love of chicken fingers and nuggets never went away - I just chose not to eat them. Now, I love to indulge that side of me with a plate full of tempeh fingers!

The ginger, maple and mustard flavour is amazing; reminds me a bit of the honey concoction I used to dip those god forsaken chicken nuggets in before I went vegan.

Because Spork-Fed is a relatively new cookbook, there isn't all that much online about it quite yet. I haven't got a digital copy of either recipe for you either, sadly - you'll just have to check out the book. I still wanted to share the pictures, because these are two of our favourite new recipes.

While I can't share the recipes, I will use this as an opportunity to talk about tempeh. I'm overwhelmed at the amount of support my previous post on soy received! It's a very controversial topic and one that I think no one is right or wrong about - we all need to decide if and how soy fits into our own diets.

Tofu is definitely the more easily identified soy product, but tempeh is slowly starting to give it a run for its money. Although by no means a thorough analysis of the differences between tofu and tempeh, here is a basic list:

- Tofu is made by curdling soy milk with a coagulant. The curds that result are then pressed into blocks. Tempeh, on the other hand, is made with whole soy beans rather than a milk. It is produced via a fermentation process that involves soaking and cooking the soybeans with a mold and then allowing it an appropriate amount of time to incubate. Yes, I'm aware of how gross that sounds, but this process actually makes the soybeans and their many nutrients more easily processed by the human digestive system. Similarly, the fermentation process seems to neutralize the more controversial components of soy, such as phytic acid.

- While tofu is essentially tasteless, tempeh has a uniquely nutty, earthy flavour that is loved as much as it is hated. The intensity of this taste depends on who you ask. Tempeh newbies seem to notice/fear it the most. It can be mellowed out by boiling or steaming the tempeh block before proceeding with baking, pan frying or grilling. I did this for years, but now we're at the point where we love a nice, strong tempeh flavour. If I'm feeding a non-vegan, however, or a newly transitioned vegan, I wouldn't think of giving them tempeh that hasn't been boiled for a solid ten minutes first.

- Tempeh has more calories than tofu, but it also has more protein and fiber. Double the protein and six times the fiber, actually.

- While tofu comes in many forms and consistencies, tempeh really only comes in one shape. There are differences in flavour combos, though - Red pepper, curry and kasha are some of my favourites. Henry's Gourmet Tempeh is my favourite brand.

- There are some dishes where tofu works best, but a lot of the time tempeh makes a great substitute. Here are some of my favourite ways to use tempeh.

Which do you prefer, tofu or tempeh?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sesame Tofu Bowl with Peanut Dressing

Ah, the great soy debate. It comes to mind every time I post about a tofu dish, because I often wonder what side of it my readers fall on. Health food? Not a health food? Okay in moderation? Not okay at all?

This much we know about tofu: It is high in protein. Complete protein. It's also very high in calcium. It's versatile - it can be used instead of meat; it can be used instead of cheese. It can be baked, broiled grilled and fried; it can thicken smoothies and frost cupcakes.

A lot of people are allergic to it. Many more, still, have a lot of difficulty digesting it.

It's also continually voted Most Likely to be Genetically Modified. And highly processed. And put in places it has no business being. Places where people have no idea they are even consuming it, because it's hidden amongst a novel of preservative and chemical ingredients on the package of a convenience food. Subsequently, it can be quite dangerous.

So what is it? Good or bad? Neither? Both?

Soy (tofu particularly) experienced the backlash that all popular products experience:

Step one: Someone says Product is awesome. Says it has immense health benefits. It's going to extend our lives.

Step two: Because we are creatures of excess, we stuff ourselves with insane amounts of Product, three times a day, even though the studies we used to discover how great it is clearly show how moderately it is to be consumed. At the same time, industry competitors grow alarmed at how much Product is cutting into their market dominance and launch a backlash.

Step three: Someone/many someones fall ill, because they consumed Product three times a day for a year, because someone told them it was a health food and it was going to save their lives. Industry competitors use this as an opportunity to show people how awful Product is in an attempt to once again secure market dominance.

Step four: Panic.

Soy is a classic case of mainstream success turning into mainstream backlash. A couple decades ago it was going revolutionize our health. Then soy milk became the first alternative to animal milk to be mass marketed and people slowly began swapping out cow's milk.

Naturally, the dairy industry was not amused. They're still not. Every year, the United States meat and dairy industries fund a colossal amount of anti-soy research. The results, in turn, get presented as a part of a larger anti-veg*n project, because let's be honest - they're a business, just like any other, and we are cutting into that business. Soy is the natural front-runner for criticism, because it is so popular among vegans and is such a prevalent symbol of veg*ism in the mainstream.

The thing is, they are not completely wrong about soy. And while the vegan community rarely agrees with anything that the animal agriculture industry has to say, there are many health-oriented vegans that similarly support the notion that soy is bad. In the same way, many factions of animal agriculture rely on soy as an inexpensive way to sustain the animals that are to be sold to slaughter and are thus more moderate about the issue than their counterparts. This is not a black or white issue for either side.

The bottom line is this. If you eat ten pounds of soy every day, you're going to have problems. If you're one of the many, many people that has a soy allergy or intolerance, you're also going to have problems. Even if you have just a little bit. Statistics on increased cardiovascular health and the anti-inflammatory properties of tofu mean nothing to you if you cannot digest soy properly. For you, it's not a health food. For you, it's a sourcer of stomach aches. And just like those with a peanut allergy aren't going to be PB-ing their morning toast anytime soon, you aren't going to rush out and try the latest tempeh flavours.

I've been studying soy for years and I personally believe that the more major accusations against soy (that it "causes" cancer, that it "causes" infertility, that it will always lead to estrogen dominance, etc.) are quite unfounded and bordering on malicious. In fact, there's even been some evidence of soy playing an important role in the prevention of cancer and may even increase fertility when part of a well-balanced vegan diet when compared to the Standard American Diet. Unless, of course, soy is all that you eat. Remember, the important word in that sentence is well-balanced.

Me? I'm a proud Soy Moderate. Too much of it and I feel like crap, so I only eat it once or twice a week at the most. Some weeks I have none, some weeks I have more. I have non-dairy milk everyday, so I use unsweetened almond instead of soy. If I had a health issue related to excess estrogen I would probably consider removing it from my diet entirely. But I don't, so I don't.

The soy I eat is always organic. Non-GMO, obviously. Unless I'm being bad and indulging in something deep-fried and completely unhealthy for a whole host of reasons other than the fact that it contains soy. I'm not above admitting to being a bad vegan now and again.

I'm also quite fond of fermented soy, such as tempeh and miso. The fermentation process neutralizes the phytic acid and soy isoflavones, which are what researchers point to in the great cancer debate (although there is really no concrete proof of the connection existing the in the first place). Tempeh also has more protein and fiber than tofu and in our house we use it a lot more often than tofu. Between the two, tempeh is clearly the healthier choice.

Within the vegan community, the line between soy support and soy backlash is usually drawn between those who went vegan for the animals and those who went vegan for their health, although once you're vegan for awhile that line tends to get blurred. Neither side is particularly wrong or particularly right, I don't think. Originally coming to veganism as an extension of my animal advocacy only to later discover the immense health benefits of plant-based living is probably why I started out as an avid soy supporter and now take a much more moderate stance. While I choose not to consume it all that often, for me it is always a better choice than supporting the violence built into the Standard American Diet. I do, however, also believe that soy is immensely abused within veg*n communities and should return to its rightful role as a moderate component of a whole food, plant-based diet. That being said, I fully support those who choose to completely abstain from soy as much as I support those who select a soy product instead of chicken. We each have the right and responsibility to create a version of vegan that works best for us.

While I do reach for the tempeh more often than I reach for the tofu, one of the few times I prefer tofu to tempeh is in bowls like the one pictured at the top of this post. Tempeh has a great nutty flavour and aroma that works well in so many dishes, but I find that it can also overpower them. Tofu, on the other hand, is much more mild and lets the flavours of the other dish components do the talking instead.

There is also something super magical about tofu in a peanut sauce.

The recipe for this meal comes from the Show Me Vegan blog and you can find it here. I love it, because it's another one that combines raw and cooked components. In conjunction with the tofu and brown rice, I chopped up some raw baby spinach, bell pepper, green onion and red cabbage. I'm actually coming around to cabbage, I can't believe it! It has to be raw, though. The thought of cooked cabbage still gives me the heebie jeebies.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Vermicelli, Chickpeas and Vegetables in a Creamy Curry Sauce

I'm starting to feel like all I talk about/post about is curry. I wasn't joking a few posts back when I said I was obsessed with it. If you read the blog, you already know all that I know about curry and why I love it so much, so I won't go down that road again.

Instead, I will talk about another food item that I've come to love: Rice noodles! Especially vermicelli rice noodles.

My love for them is much more simple than my love for curry. I love them because they are gluten-free, and I love them because they are so stinking cheap. Like, obscenely cheap. One pack cost us about $1.00 and I made three meals out of it. They are also super easy to find. Even our quite poorly stocked local supermarket had a bunch of varieties in their international aisle. I've, of course, eaten them many times in many restaurants, but I'm new to the world of cooking with vermicelli.

Up to this point, I've been quite fond of using soba and udon noodles in stir-fries and other Asian-inspired dishes. However, when I pledged to cut down on gluten in 2012 I thought it might be a good idea to search for alternatives. Udon noodles are always wheat-based. Soba noodles are supposed to be gluten-free because they are made from buckwheat, however a lot of the mainstream brands seem to be made with a combination of buckwheat and regular wheat flour, making them not gluten free. While I'm (quite obviously) not completely gluten-free, when I do find a reasonable substitute to a gluten-based product, I almost always bring it in. As such, I'm super excited to now have vermicelli as a part of my noodle arsenal.

So great is my love for these skinny little noodles that they've made their way into many different dishes, like this tofu noodle soup that I made a couple weeks ago!

The recipe for this meal comes from Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson, but sadly I've not been able to find a digital copy to share with you all.

I honestly probably could have stopped right here with the recipe and been more than satisfied with the dinner - veggies and chickpeas and curry, what's not to love? The recipe doesn't call for broccoli, but whenever I make one of these meals I try and make it a fridge-cleaner, tossing in spare veggies that have accumulated throughout the week so I can be sure that they don't go to waste. I also put in a teaspoon of red pepper powder to zip things up a bit.

While the curried veggies would have been good on their own, this creamy sauce (courtesy of silken tofu and coconut milk) transforms them into something great.

If you have a copy of Vegan Planet, be sure to check out the recipe on page 264.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Quick & Easy Chocolate Cake (with Raw Vegan Soft Serve)

I am so not supposed to be baking. And I'm certainly not supposed to be eating what I bake. But it's mid-January. High time for the new years resolutions to go by the wayside, no?

I'm kidding. I've not forgotten my pledge to consume less sugar in 2012. But to be fair, I never said I was going to consume no sugar in 2012. So technically I'm not breaking anything. Right?!

This is turning into a textbook case of addiction. I'm going to press on anyway.

We had friends over for dinner last week and I don't feel right about not serving dessert when I cook for people. The fact that it was chocolate cake with chocolate frosting was totally my fault, though, as I've been craving it for what seems like an eternity. I'm sure I could have done something healthier with fruit. But I didn't.

Anyway, I chose this recipe because our dinner date was on a weeknight and I didn't have time on my side. It comes from Vegan Express and much to my drooling over the last couple years, it's featured prominently on the cover of the book. While Vegan Express has guaranteed that many quick dinners have made their way to my kitchen table, I hadn't tried anything from the dessert section until this cake. Vegan Express is the book I tend to grab when it's just me and Paul trying to survive the work week. Since we never have luxuries like cakes and sweets when it's just the two of us (see, I'm not that much of a sugar monster!), I've never really had the need to get a dessert together quickly.

And come together quickly it does. So quickly, in fact, that I made it on my lunch break and frosted it just before our guests arrived in the evening.

It's just what you want out of a chocolate cake - moist and rich, the icing is a firm alternative to the traditional buttercreams that frost the majority of chocolate cakes and is made from dark chocolate, almond milk and a spoonful of peanut butter for good measure, this cake is the ideal end to a spicy dinner (we had chipotle sweet potato enchiladas). Perfect with a glass of ice cold unsweetened almond milk the next day, too.

And as a side note to this chocolate cake, I want to say a little something about homemade vegan soft serve, because what is better with chocolate cake than a little bit of ice cream?

Cakes themselves are enough of an indulgence. Adding ice cream to them crosses a line. At least for us sugar-limiting folks. Unless it's homemade raw vegan soft serve!

Vegan ice creams are delicious, don't get me wrong, and when you really want to treat yourself to something similar to the non-vegan ice creams of your youth, there is nothing wrong with them. The problem comes when they stop being treats and start becoming habits. It's problematic not just for our health, but for our pocketbooks too, as they don't come cheap without a coupon or some sort of supermarket blowout sale.

Making vegan soft serve at home will cost you under $1.00 per single serving, saving you money while providing an icy treat with less calories than pretty much all of its freezer aisle counterparts. Certainly less than any kind of traditional non-vegan ice cream! There is also the added bonus of avoiding artificial flavours and refined sugars.

All you need is a banana and a food processor. No sugar. Not even any milk, really, unless you want to thin it out a bit.

You freeze the banana and then give it a whirl in the food processor until it achieves the consistency of soft serve ice cream. Then you eat it. Done.

You will be so surprised at how deliciously refreshing this is. It's great on it's own, but you can also make it in different flavours. For vanilla, add a dash of vanilla extract. For chocolate, a little cocoa or cacao powder. Frozen fruit works great, too (especially strawberries!). Peanut butter, mint extract, maple syrup. Fresh walnuts or pecans for topping. My personal favourite involves adding a scoop of pureed pumpkin and a sprinkling of dark chocolate chips. The possibilities of this cheap and easy vegan ice cream are endless! These days, we even opt out of ice cream when we make milk shakes, using pureed frozen bananas instead.

One banana yields about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of this soft serve, depending on the size of the banana. For best results, always use a food processor and not a blender. Especially not a high-power blender. My BlendTec in particular tends to completely liquify frozen bananas, which is a sign that it's a great blender, but is not what I want out of my soft serve ice cream. It's great for milkshakes, though!

You can find the recipe for the chocolate cake and frosting here as well as in the Vegan Express cookbook.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tahini Noodles with Raw Vegetables

I'm not very good at uncooking. I really like eating raw vegan food at restaurants, but when I try to make it at home it rarely turns out right. You know how when you order a salad at a restaurant and it's really good, so you try and replicate it at home and even though you have all the exact same ingredients, it never tastes right? The lettuce is soggy, the carrot isn't shredded quite right and the tomatoes leak all over everything? That's pretty much the story of my experimentation with raw uncooking.

I haven't been able to put my finger on what exactly I'm doing wrong, but it has been pretty discouraging in the past. I think the main problem is that the recipes I'm trying are too advanced for someone who doesn't know what they are doing. "Attend a raw cooking class" is on my agenda somewhere; I just need an alternative in the meantime.

Because I've never been big on the taste of most raw vegetables, a couple months ago I decided that my best course of action would be to ease into uncooking by incorporating raw components into non-raw meals. At least until I get used to the taste of raw vegetables and have a chance to work on my uncooking skills. So, instead of roasting or stir-frying veggies to go with a grain, I've tried throwing them in completely raw, or at the very least, lightly steamed.

Kind of lame of me to be so timid about this, I know. But it's a step in the right direction, no?

It seems like I might not be the only one slowly wading into the raw uncooking pool, because this recipe from VeganYumYum is exactly what I'm talking about. Cooked whole grain spaghetti noodles and a super spicy tahini-based sauce, and then big bowl of raw vegetables requiring no more prep than washing and chopping.

Paul got me the cookbook for Christmas and there is so much that I'm excited to try. I've been a huge fan of Lauren's blog of years (seriously, if you haven't tried her alfredo sauce you need to stop everything you are doing and pull out your blender right this instant) and am excited to see what the cookbook has to offer. I chose this recipe to try first because of its nod to the whole-foods approach to eating and because it's January and we're all resolving to take better care of ourselves in the new year.

I chose well, because the recipe is really delicious. It's not something I would normally make and being that I'm not usually big on cold noodles or raw vegetables I was surprised at just how much I liked it. The tahini sauce is especially delicious - spicy but creamy, it packs a nutritional punch thanks to its sesame seed base (calcium and B vitamins galore - learn more about sesame seeds and tahini and their role in preventing osteoperosis, certain cancers and other diseases here). I loved this meal so much. Even with cabbage in it! So much, in fact, that I ate it for three meals!

The only problem with it is that it's winter. It's cold out. And eating cold noodles and vegetables isn't as appealing right now as it will be in July. Not to mention that the raw vegetable selection in January in Canada is pretty abysmal. I'll continue making this one, for sure, but I think it will be even better in the summer. It would make a great side dish at a summertime cookout!

If you don't have a copy of the book, you can find the recipe here on the VeganYumYum blog.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Menu at Thrive Juice Bar, Waterloo

I'm very pleased to report that Thrive Juice Bar, located in the Bauer Buildings in "midtown" Waterloo, has a brand new menu, offering up more vegan goodies than ever before. In fact, they are now pretty much entirely vegan! They may even be completely vegan - the only reason I hesitate to say this is because organic goat cheese is offered as a pizza topping option on their website and I'm not sure if this is just a relic from the old menu or if they have carried it over to the new one. Regardless, the way I understand it, the menu items as they stand are now all 100% vegan. There are even some raw vegan options as well!

I am very, very excited about the changes they've made. A big fan of Thrive since my very first meal there, the only teeny tiny issue we ever encoutered involved menu discrepancies regarding vegan versus vegetarian options. A couple times that we visited, there seemed to be some confusion among staff about which items were vegan and which were not and even though it's totally understandable when you have that many offerings, it made me a bit apprehensive about ordering some items after we accidentally ended up with something non-vegan. The confusion usually involved the bread products being used for certain menu items, but I'm told that they now have a reliable vegan bread supplier and all sandwiches (and other menu items) are completely vegan!

My many thanks go to Team Thrive for so diligently working toward an entirely vegan establishment.

I stopped in there for a quick smoothie over the holidays and when I spotted the menu I cursed myself for having had breakfast already. So, to celebrate the return of my appetite post-stomach flu, Paul and I popped in for lunch on Saturday afternoon and tried out their revamped veggie burger!

Veggie Burger Melt
From the menu: our house made one inch thick black bean, portobello mushroom & wild rice veggie patty - lightly toasted organic whole wheat kaiser bun with vegan daiya cheese, chipotle aioli, fresh tomato, red leaf lettuce & avocado served with vegan kettle chips & house made coleslaw.

Except on Saturday, instead of kettle chips they were serving the burgers with a wonderful salad of grilled potatoes tossed with sauteed onions, fresh greens and a vegan aioli. I should have taken a picture of it but apparently I was too busy licking the bowl clean.

Our one regret was that we didn't make it in time for their newest feature - VEGAN BELGIAN WAFFLES! Click here for a picture of them, courtesy of the Thrive Facebook page. I'm told they are available in traditional wheat as well as a gluten free option. They are served until 11am, however while in there a little birdie told us they are thinking - maybe just maybe - a move to all-day waffles might be in the near future.

They've also got tons and tons of vegan and raw vegan desserts up for the grabs now too. Since I was just coming off the flu and I stupidly resolved to consume less sweets in 2012, I didn't get a chance to try any this time. I did indulge my sweet tooth with some fruit, though - with one of their many fruit smoothies:

Speaking of smoothies, Thrive has also launched a "Green Leaf Project" for 2012, in an effort to cut down on waste and do their part to contribute to a more sustainable planet. Bring your own cup, mug or canister and receive 10% off of your drink order!

If you're in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, stop by Thrive and let me know which new menu items you tried - can't wait to head back and fall face-first into those waffles of theirs.

Thrive Juice Bar
The Bauer Buildings
105 – 191 King Street South
Waterloo, ON
(519) 208-8808
Find out about daily specials via Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Tofu Noodle Soup & Pumpkin Cornbread

It's kind of funny that I wrote that great New Year's post about all my resolutions and goals for 2012. That I started a brand new fitness plan on Monday. That I was focusing more on whole foods and less on glutens and sugars. That I even played into supersitition a little bit by making black eyed peas for health and wealth on New Year's Day.

And then I came down with the stomach flu or food poisoning or some other horrid variation of gastrointenstial torture, not even two days later.

Oh, irony. You are not lost on me.

It's been five years since I've had this sort of stomach illness and needless to say, I did not handle it well. I am normally a pretty positive and cheerful person, but the second some germs get into me I am ripe with self-pity. So an apology is in order to the Twitter followers who were subjected to my whiny tweets on Wednesday - just be thankful you are not married to me! Ha!

I'm much, much better now, thank you for wondering. Whatever it was left as quickly as it came and two days later my ravenous appetite and desire to get back to that new fitness routine have both returned.

I did spend a couple days laying low on food, especially super spicy foods with competing flavours and components. This tofu noodle soup from Vegan Soups & Hearty Stews for All Seasons was the perfect way to transition back into food after not being able to eat for a day. Because I was still a bit queasy the night I made it, I decided to skip the dill and just sprinkled a little bit of poultry seasoning into the broth. The noodles are rice vermicelli. Warm, comforting and reminiscent of that other noodle soup from your childhood, it's the perfect thing for those feeling a bit under the weather. If you don't have the book, Vegan Break has a cool video demonstrating how to make it and you can find it here.

Because I wasn't able to eat for nearly 24 hours, I also decided to indulge in some homemade pumpkin cornbread too. The recipe comes from Never Homemaker and it is found here (I used the vegan version, obviously).

Being sick reminded me that I wanted to say a little something about being sick.

And that is that vegans can get sick too. We live in the same world as everyone else, and while I do believe that most vegans who are doing it properly develop better armour against illnesses than many of those who are fueled primarily by the Standard American Diet (SAD), we are still humans and we are still living in the same germ-infested world as our non-vegan counterparts. And sometimes those little germy buggers get through our armour.

This is probably very obvious to the lot of you, but I mention it because sometimes we vegans feel like we're not allowed to get sick. We feel like we have to be in perfect health, one hundred percent of the time, because we're considered examples for a life philosophy that is often so openly challenged by the mainstream with regard to its dietary appropriateness. I suppose we shouldn't care what anyone thinks, but I understand why we do. It's important to us that the mainstream finds veganism a viable and appealing option because there is so much more at stake than dietary choices. How we convey veganism affects not just us, but the animals and the earth, too. Our diets are but one component of a larger peaceful life philosophy, based on the concept of inherent dignity and compassion for all living creatures. If we're talking about how awful we feel, no one is going to want to go vegan, are they? So, you see, there's a lot at stake when it comes to how we present ourselves.

Denying sickness when it finds us becomes a kind of defense mechanism against the constant barrage of anti-vegan propaganda thrown in our faces on a daily basis. Because if we have a bad day, if we come down with the flu, if we're stressed out now and again, it almost always comes back to our veganism. About what we're "missing" in our diets, about how much of such-and-such food item we are/are not eating and essentially what's wrong with us and not what's wrong with the cold/flu/stressful situation. It's just easier to pretend like we are in perfect health, all of the time.

It's also true that just like we vegans can get sick like everyone else, we can also not take care of ourselves sometimes. And it has nothing to do with the overall compassionate philosophy of veganism and everything to do with how we "do vegan" on a personal level. About how we ([[cough]]-I-[[cough]]) decide to exist solely on seitan, sugar cookies and vodka for an entire month and maybe feel a wee bit sluggish when the bender is over. The way the "vegan diet" is lumped into one all-encompassing entity and then blamed for the ailments of some of our vegan friends is probably the most frustrating thing of all (pretty sure none of these folks practice vegan with the same irresponsibility that I did last month!).

I will note that since I went vegan, the only time my immune system lets up enough to let a virus in is when I fall under the lusty spell of proccessed vegan treats and neglect my fresh, raw, gloriously green veggies. Without fail. And even then, my body bounces back so much quicker and with so much more vigour than it ever did when I was SAD-fueled. Proof that it's not veganism that's helping me get sick, but the exact opposite - my deviation from it in it's truest sense, and that is with vegetables at its core. Veganism gives us everything we need to survive and thrive. It's up to each individual vegan to decide what they partake in and it's not fair to judge the entire cause based on each individual's choices. Or mistakes. Because even the most seasoned vegans make mistakes sometimes. Veganism as a philosophy is completely and totally separate from each individual diet. The two should never be confused and the fact that they so often are is likely one of the reasons vegans feel they can't be honest about their health when they're feeling unwell. Promoting the difference between the vegan philosophy and the individualized vegan diet is the key to encouraging honesty within the vegan community, I think.

Vegans, it's okay to be human. It's okay if you're not "on" one hundred percent of the time. It's okay if you're sick through no fault of your own. It's also okay if you're sick because you chose keg stands over lemongrass shots - just as long as you don't make it a habit. The vegetables are ready and waiting for when you are ready and waiting to feel better. It's important to the vegan cause that overall we are healthy and happy people. It's important to our individual selves, too, of course. And I suppose it might hurt the vegan cause to appear weak via illness now and again, but I think what hurts it more is not being real and honest about ourselves. Especially when it comes to our newly transitioned vegan friends who are still learning the ropes with regard to doing vegan properly - how frustrating must it be for them when everyone seems to be thriving and offering no admission of ever having made dietary mistakes or poor decisions now and again. This is probably where we come off elitist. Where we lose a lot of people.

Maybe I'm wrong. This sentiment isn't felt by other vegans as strongly as it is by me and that's okay too - another example of how "doing vegan" is an individualized process. Just know that I will always strive to be one hundred percent honest with you. If I feel like crap it's most likely my fault and you're probably going to have to hear about it. And if you're feeling like crap I'm happy to hear about it too. Maybe we can figure out a game plan together. I've been vegan for three and a half years and I will be the first to say that I still have a lot of questions. Veganism has the answers; we can work together to find them.

In summary. I got stomach flu/one of its horrid gastrointestinal counterparts. I'm better now. Feeling great, actually, and I can't wait to get back to my new running schedule. Sorry for complaining. Vegans get sick sometimes and that's okay. Taking care of yourself is important, but no one should judge you if you make mistakes now and again, because no one is perfect, not even them. Eat this soup. And the pumpkin cornbread, too.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Hottie Black Eyed Peas & Greens with Ginger Mashed Sweet Potatoes & Apples (Happy New Year!)

2011 was not the best year. In the grand scheme of the universe and its problems mine don't even register, so honestly I feel a wee bit dramatic whining about it. But all the same, I hope 2012 has good things in store for me and the creatures I care about.

I'm not a superstitious gal, but I don't want to take any chances this year. So, I took a page from the book of southern cooking and made black eyed peas for dinner last night.

A tradition that dates back to the Civil War, black eyed peas are thought to bring prosperity and and good luck for the coming year to those who consume them on New Year's Day. When served with greens, the peas represent coins and the greens represent paper money. Combining the peas with tomatoes is thought to represent not only wealth, but health too.

So I covered all my bases and made a big batch of black eyed peas and collard greens, with a cup of cooked tomatoes mixed in for good measure.

The recipe comes from Appetite for Reduction and it is absolutely amazing. Amazing! I won a copy of the book during Vegan Mofo from the wonderful blog Vegan and So Forth and finally had my chance to try it out. I love it when the first recipe from a new cookbook turns out great because it lets me know that I didn't pick up a dud. Not that I've ever not liked an Isa Chandra Moskowitz cookbook. Anyway, much thanks to Vegan and So Forth for doing the giveaway!

(Wo)man cannot live on black eyed peas alone, so at the cookbook's suggestion I paired them with mashed sweet potatoes and apples that are steamed, sweetened with agave and flavoured with ginger and cinnamon. A perfect winter side dish.

You can find the recipes for both the black eyed peas and the mashed potatoes here.

The heartiness of this dish and the ease with which it comes together were very welcome after the insanity of New Year's Eve. We spent it with our friends on the dance floor of our favourite club, Starlight - here are some pictures of us all dressed up!

There is only one word to describe my December and it is a word that a woman my age probably shouldn't have to use: Bender. Along with the holidays, the bender is over for another year and it's time to get things under control once again.

I'm not typically one for resolutions, but this year I hope to continue to take my health and wellness seriously (far more seriously than I have in the last month), limiting (although not eliminating - let's not get carried away) sugar and gluten. January is going to be a completely alcohol-free month for both of us and we're also both starting new fitness regimes today.

Let's see how long this lasts.

And one more, fun resolution that runs completely contradictory to my other resolutions - every month, one weekend morning will be set aside for a big vegan breakfast feast.

Hope that the new year finds you happy and healthy. A special warm welcome to those of you who have resolved to go vegetarian or vegan for 2012 - I hope that you find This is Vegan useful as you transition!

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