Maverick and Cloe say "Hi!"

Hey folks!

I know it’s been a while, but such is the life of a working student of Education: busier than a one-legged woman in an ass-kicking contest. So, I just celebrated my first year as a vegan and it was a bit anticlimactic, but I think that just means that being vegan has become totally normalized for me. It’s a part of who I am and who I will continue to become. It informs many of the decisions I make and keeps me conscious and thinking about the wide world that exists outside of my head.

A few notable things have changed over the year:

  • I lost several dress sizes. This is a bonus of the vegan lifestyle.
  • I haven’t had a single cold or battle with the flu.
  • Aside from winter-induced melancholia, I have more energy than I’ve ever had. I sometimes feel so energetic, it’s like my blood cells have been replaced by teeny tiny Energizer bunnies. Feels fantastic!
  • I have a little more hope for the world. I still get upset and self-indulgently depressed over widespread human stupidity, but being a vegan has allowed me to be the change I want to see in the world (I think Gandhi told us all to do that, right?).
  • I know more stuff. Simply put, I know more this year than I did last year, namely about animal welfare issues and corporate greed.
  • I am more empowered! This is one of the best changes. I decide what I buy and put into my body (even if it’s not always the healthiest choice), and no one has the power to take that from me.
  • I cook more! Close friends and family can attest to this, and so can their fully satisfied tummies.
  • I’ve become more bold. I am not as fearful of standing apart from the crowd. I revel in being a shit-disturber with divergent views. I’m not a nonconformist for the sake of being a nonconformist, but it gives me a great sense of pride knowing that I think for myself even when I put myself at risk of being viewed as a freak. I let my freak flag fly freely and with reckless abandon!
  • I’ve had a positive impact on people. There will always be naysayers and those who are not supportive of my life practices and principles, but they can bite my vegan ass. Since I’ve gone vegan, my husband has joined me, my mom goes vegan one day a week and vegetarian on another day, my best friend has cut out a lot of dairy and meat from her diet, etc…. Other friends rub their meat-eating in my face and refuse to consider alternative ways of life, so I don’t bother myself with them too much any more. But I have seen a lot of positive change in my life and am super stoked about that.
  • I have become more conscious of the truth of things. I know this is way ambiguous but I am more awake that I’ve ever been. I see things more clearly and have been able to experience first-hand the truth about ignorance and fear of change and the unknown.
  • I’ve helped to raise more awareness of issues that affect not only animals, but humans and the environment — all of which are equally sacred and important.

This has been an incredible year — one of the best,  and I wouldn’t change a single thing, even the screw ups since I learned the most from those. Being a vegan has enriched my life in so many ways and has made me a better, more well-rounded person than I was before. If you are curious to learn more about the vegan lifestyle (those of you who have not yet converted, LOL), try it for a week, a fortnight, a month or for an indefinite period. Only good things and an unmatched learning experience can come of it.

Thanks for reading and for supporting me through this — my first year of REAL growth as a human! 😀

This was my first Christmas as a freaky vegan and it wasn’t bad. I’ve read many stories about how challenging it is to eat a plant-based diet when hunks of meat feature prominently during the holidays, but the diet itself is not the challenge. Oh no, it’s never the food — that’s the easy part. When my uncle with a pained expression asked me if it’s hard being vegan, I told him that the hardest part is dealing with people, especially family. And I mean that with no disrespect, but you omnivores sure know how to make it hard for us. Just chillax and try some lentil loaf.

Vegans out there know what I’m talking about: the jokes, the jabs, the questions about protein and flavour deficiencies and so on. Seriously — it’s really no big deal. We’re not trying to convert you. Well, not all of us anyway….

But Christmas was great. I spent all day Christmas Eve making meatless tourtières, recipe courtesy of local chef, Ricardo. This is Quebec after all, so a traditional spicy “meat” pie was in order, but one made with mushrooms, chickpeas and leeks. My French Canadian aunt gave me a nod of approval when I brought one for Christmas dinner at my parents’ the following night.

After making the pies, I chopped and simmered my way through preparations for a romantic Christmas Eve dinner for me and my honey: kale, garlic and potato soup, a refreshing vegetable and tempeh casserole and apple crisp with a gingerbread cookie crust for dessert. ‘Twas glorious!

Like I said, being vegan is not hard if you like cooking and finding plant-based substitutes for animal products, and don’t mind reading labels — to put it in the simplest terms. However, habituating to different attitudes and reactions requires the utmost patience and a shitload of diplomacy. I bite my tongue when someone takes a stab at my dietary choices even though it’s just too tempting to return the favour with a shocking retort. But bringing food to share makes a family feast a little less awkward.

The whole family was delighted with our goodie bags of hand-made Christmas cards, Ricardo’s (my Ricardo, not the chef) gingerbread cookies and my chocolate truffles. This has been our Christmas tradition for the last four years since my family stopped doing the over-the-top-buying-too-many-presents-and-going-into-debt thing years ago and adopted a Yankee Swap gift exchange instead. But we still wanted to give a little something to everyone anyway.

An aside: The Yankee Swap is way more fun than a traditional gift exchange since it’s cheaper, less stressful (I’m a reformed Grinch), more creative and allows you to steal a potentially better gift from someone. I lucked out this year and got the last number in the hat giving me free reign to steal any gift. I wanted the fleece blanket my Grandma stole from my cousin, but when I looked into her eyes as she all-too-eagerly handed the blanket to me (out of Grandma-love, not a dislike for said blanket), I backed away and snatched by brother-in-law’s bottle of bubbly. I just couldn’t take it from her, but bubbly has similar warming qualities to a blanket so it seemed like a good alternative.

For the goodie bags, I found a vegan chocolate truffle recipe and it was the best I ever tried: the truffles were rich, chewy, sumptuous nuggets that slowly melted in your mouth and drenched you in a glow of contentment and oneness with the universe… drooling on keyboard… so good. Ok, I’m exaggerating just a touch but those mofos were so scrumptious I almost punched a non-sentient inanimate object. I do that with really good chocolate.

If you want the same sensation, here’s the recipe — adapted from The Vegan Table:

  • 1 8 oz container nondairy cream cheese (the Tofutti brand works)
  • 2 tbsps agave nectar
  • 3 cups high quality nondairy semisweet or dark chocolate chips, melted (I used Swiss chocolate)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Cocoa powder for dusting

Melt chocolate in a bain-marie. Blend “cream cheese” and agave nectar in a food processor. You can add a tbsp or two of extra flavour, like Irish whiskey, orange rinds or peppermint extract — all fabulous. When the chocolate is melted, fold the “cream cheese” into the chocolate until well-blended; the mixture should be shiny.

Let the ganache set in the freezer for at least an hour. Before setting, you can transfer it to a pan lined with plastic wrap if you want to cut your truffles rather than roll them. They taste the same either way, but cutting your truffles into squares is less messy but somehow not as fun as making a total mess of yourself and your kitchen. After setting, use a melon-baller to scoop up the mixture. Roll in clean hands or cut ganache (if set in a pan) into bite-sized cubes with a hot knife. Dust in cocoa powder or another topping of your choice. Make a bunch!

So my first vegan Christmas was a success with many more to come. Happy New Year!

Photo courtesy of Holt Renfrew

Montreal’s The Gazette just published an online article on Montreal vegan retailer, Matt and Nat. Founded by Inder Bedi, the company operates according to vegan principles of compassion and abstinence from animal products – even employees are expected to adhere to these principles while at work, whether they are vegetarian, vegan or not.

Their bags are not the cheapest, but they are beautiful and delightfully animal-free. I do not own one since I’ve never been inclined to ever spend more than $30 on a purse, but if you have the cash and want a bag that was made according to principles of compassion, Matt and Nat may be for you.

Then again, I bought a faux leather bag from H&M for $15 a couple of years ago and it’s still in one piece, so it is not necessary to put yourself in the hole to afford a vegan purse. However, I’m sure a Matt and Nat bag lasts way longer and is of better quality, but you buy what you can afford.

Even though I will not be rushing to the store to buy my own $200 Matt and Nat bag, I appreciate their adherence to vegan principles and for helping to bring them to the forefront of pop culture. Vegan ideas are no longer as alien as they were once considered to be, so retailers peddling vegan products are OK in my books if they help spread awareness of undeniable animal use, abuse and exploitation, environmental issues and the health benefits of a vegan lifestyle.

Way to go Inder Bedi and Matt and Nat!

I know it’s been a little while since my last post, but I’m back in school and dog-paddling my way through presentations, papers, projects and exams — oh my! But I figured I’d squeeze in some much-needed blog time. One problem: about what shall I blog? Well, it’s been 9  months of living the vegan life, so why not share some of my favourite vegan items?

Here is a list of things I love (not in any particular order):

1. “How it all vegan” by Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard. This cookbook is awesome! It has everything from tasty animal-free recipes to home-made cosmetic products. My favourite recipe is the Tofu Scramble, also delicious with tempeh.

2. Skinnimini Edibles cookies. This little company sells their yummy baked goods at various Java U coffee shops and health food stores across Montreal. Their vanilla chocolate cookie or “blondie” is scrumptious with a medium-roast coffee with soy milk.

3. Crazy Rumours “Brew” lip balms. The peppermint lemongrass is so refreshing. All natural yummy goodness.

4. Toasted sesame oil. I love this stuff. Since I started cooking with it, I make veggie stir-fries a few times a week. Add some to a mixture of sriracha chili sauce, grated ginger, grated garlic and tamari sauce, and pour over a stir-fry of Napa cabbage, baby corn, carrots, courgettes, red and green bell peppers, mushrooms and tofu. Eat with jasmine rice or rice noodles. So simple and so damn good!

5. Coconut Bliss dairy-free ice cream. This is the best ice cream ever created. It contains no dairy or soy and is made with coconut milk. Dude.

6. Sol Cuisine Solgurt (vanilla). More like custard, this vegan yogurt is a must if you miss the “real” stuff. It pairs wonderfully with warm apple crisp.

7. Druide hair care products. With my snake-like tresses,  I need a hair gel that can charm my locks into submission, and theirs does the trick… most of the time.

8. Lush Fizzbanger bath bomb. It snaps. It crackles. It pops. And it smells like a spicy slice of apple pie. So irresistible is its aroma that you will not want to bathe for days…but you should.

9. Weihenstephaner wheat beer. This is the best beer I’ve ever had and it just so happens to come from the oldest brewery in the world. It is slightly sweet, citrusy and has a real zing to it. And it’s vegan since it’s brewed according to the Beer Purity Law of 1516 which means that no ingredients other than hops, barley, yeast and water go into their bottles and barrels. I found this stuff at the LCBO.

10. Like, all fruits, vegetables and pulses. I love them all, especially asparagus, beets, lentils, chickpeas, raspberries, avocado, artichoke, and… well, the rest of them. Except for Brussels sprouts. I don’t like them and they don’t like me.

So, if you’re a vegan or know a vegan and want to know where to get animal-free products, I hope my little list points you in the right direction. And although I’m not really down with the whole corporate-plugging shop-til-you-drop shiznit, I sincerely like these products. And I would much rather plug smaller brands that I trust.

Happy Holidays!

I want to share two very exciting things with you this blog. My first Borsht and a bit about a class I had a couple days ago that covered the topic of children and movement education in nature.

A lot of you know I am a nature-lover. So, it was such a pleasure to go to class on Wednesday and be greeted by a guest speaker, Dave Hill, who takes youth out to endangered forests to re-connect them with nature and foster a love and respect for all living things; this is called “biophilia“.

Dave is also a member of a wonderful organization called Leave No Trace Canada and an advocate of the No Child Left Inside Coalition — a US policy in which more money is being out into outdoor education for children as a way of reversing the negative consequences of a sedentary lifestyle that is disconnected from nature: obesity, ADHD and an absence of environmentally responsible behaviours, to name a few.

Dave’s presentation was inspiring and eye-opening and confirmed what I already felt about children, nature and the advent of the digital/gaming age. Too many children are stuck inside, plugged to one device or another, or are being shuttled back and forth from soccer practice, ballet or whatever other structured extra-curricular activity parents have their children enrolled in. Children are losing the opportunity to play freely and interact with nature, and subsequently develop feelings of care and consideration for the natural world of which they (we) are a part.

I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to the environment and see the natural world as a part of me, just as I am a part of it. I don’t believe that there is any separation between myself and an animal, plant, insect or body of water. We are all one and the same. May sound corny, but it’s the truth. Maybe James Cameron was on to something in Avatar.

Dave mentioned a book called Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, co-founder of the Children and Nature Network. My teacher for this class (one of the best teachers I’ve ever had!) recommended this book when I told her that I wanted to do a paper on children and movement in nature. I had to return it to the library before I could finish it (it was recalled by a grad student most probably), but what I read in those first 150 pages was like a reflection of my deepest instincts about children and their relationship with nature. I was sad but also emboldened to make it my mission in life to encourage young people to chill and play in nature and reconnect with the ultimate Mother.

It’s unfortunate that our technological age and paranoia has chased children into the confines of their bedrooms and living rooms, and this has lead to what Louv calls “nature deficit disorder“, a disconnection from nature that is injurious in the physical, emotional, social, psychological, aesthetic, environmental and spiritual domains.

Since children are the future of the human race and the planet, it is our responsibility to get them back outdoors and connecting with Mother Nature since they will be the ones who will be championing the cause of environmental sustainability and respect for the planet and all of its sentient and non-sentient life. If we leave them in front of the computers, they’ll not only get fat and sick, the planet will suffer greatly. You don’t want to wait and see.

Anyway, if you have the time (make the time!), read this book and share it with everyone you know. I just ordered a second-hand copy from Amazon and can’t wait to finish it. If any of you know me personally, I can lend it to you.

Now for some food! Since it’s getting really cold up here in Montreal, I decided to try my hand at making vegan Borscht. It was a success. Here’s is my recipe:

Robyn’s vegan Borscht

Ingredients

– 2 medium carrots, grated

– 2 stalks of celery, chopped

– 3-4 cooked beets, peeled and grated

– 1 zucchini, grated

– 1 onion, diced

– 2 cloves of garlic, diced

– 2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite-sized cubes

– salt and pepper to taste

– 2 tbsp of dill (or to taste)

– 2 tbsp of vegetable bouillon powder

– about 2 litres of water (depending on how chunky you want your soup)

Instructions

Ok, this is too easy. Sauté your veggies for a few minutes, then pour in the water and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about half an hour or until the potatoes are tender. Just make sure you cook your beets before so you don’t slice and dice your hand when grating them. It tastes even better on the second day.

Enjoy!

To conclude this blog, I would like to share some photos Ricardo and I took last weekend. Dedicated to all the children out there who have not yet had the opportunity to experience the sublime beauty of nature:

Maverick was profoundly moved by the awesome beauty of the first snow.

The first snow is always so stunning in the country.

You know how I love snapping photos of the trees. They will never cease to amaze me.

The surge of energy you feel when you’re outside surrounded by nature is unmatched by any video game out there. You only need to unplug yourself and take a walk on the wild side.

Thanks for reading.

Hi folks,

First and foremost, I just want to tell you a bit about a up-and-coming fashion maven and eco-conscious couture extraordinaire, Janice Louise Miller of Glaciermilk! We used to work together years ago, pulling espresso shots, and I was always in awe of her radical creativity and use of recycled materials to create one-of-a-kind fashions.

Although I am not a really fashion-forward person (I opt of practical comfort with the occasional hippie twist), I have a deep appreciation for art, especially if it has a conscience. Janice has managed to take environmental consciousness and marry it with thrift store goodies and a trip down psychedelia lane. She has participated in Montreal and Boston Fashion Week and is launching a new line called “Twenty Twelve”. With a tag line like, If the Mad Hatter invited Marie Antoinette for tea on the eve of 2012, what ever would she wear?, how could you resist at least one peek at her avante-garde and totally playful collection.

Resources:

Shop for Glaciermilk couture HERE

Glaciermilk Facebook page

Now for a yummy recipe, adapted from How it All Vegan:

Peach Ginger Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • egg replacer (equivalent to 2 eggs; I used ground flax seed mixed with water)
  • 2/3 cup sour soy milk (soy milk + 3/4 tsp apple cider vinegar)
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 3 peaches, chopped

Instructions

Preheat the oven 400°F. In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients and ginger. Add agave nectar, egg replacer, sour milk, peaches and oil. Mix together gently until “just mixed”. Spoon into lightly oiled muffin tins. Bake for about 20 minutes. Makes 6-8.

Happy shopping and baking!

Just wanted to share a little something with you all. Here’s another great TED talk by an omnivore who says, “stop eating so much meat!”:

Although he is not even vegetarian, Mark Bittman makes some interesting points about what we’re doing to the environment by eating the way we do. Enjoy!

Oh, and I have to confess that I was a naughty little vegan this past weekend. I think the Indian food Ricardo and I had while in Toronto contained yogurt. And I indulged in sour cream and onion chips despite my better judgment. Never again. It was a moment of weakness and I will do everything in my power to be a better vegan. Ugh, why am I even trying to be a purist? Whatever. I’m learning and still transitioning. I just had to absolve myself of my minor vegan sin so that I can learn from it and move on. Why can’t the world be vegan already? It would make life just that much easier.

Still wondering when dairy products will cease to taste and smell good, even though they are gross beyond measure. As much as I love being vegan and feel that this is the right way for me to live my life, it’s hard when all of your friends and family have a radically different diet and worldview and when some food tastes better than it should be allowed to taste. Where the hell is my quinoa and dark organic chocolate sans dairy?!

 

I was watching some videos on TED and came across an astounding talk by Christien Meindertsma, a Dutch artist. She discusses how a single pig was used to create almost 200 different products. As a vegan, I knew a lot of this, but some objects really surprised me, like, did you know some bullets, artificial heart valves and sandpaper contain pig parts? Makes you realize how little we know about the products we use.

Check out the video:

September is apple-picking season, which means everyone and their dog is gravitating towards the province’s many apple orchards to enjoy this season’s harvest. Not only are apples delicious to just munch on, you can make yummy cakes, muffins and crisps, like the one I made on vacation way back in May (check it out HERE). MacIntosh, Gala, Spartan, Cortland and more — they’re all scrumptious. Here are some photos we snapped:

Ricardo, some friends and their kids and I went to an orchard called À la Croisée des Pommes. It cost about $20 for two very large bags to fill with apples. Considering how many apples you can fit into a bag, that’s a pretty good deal.

I don’t remember which variety these were, but they were delicious!

Ricardo picking some apples! Or just posing for a geeky photo op.

Happy (almost) Halloween!

Autumn bounty: pumpkins and squash. Soup, anyone?

Getting a little bit of llama-loving. She was so affectionate, can you tell? I know, I know, petting farms are so not vegan, but this is farm and orchard country, so domesticated animals are a-plenty. But unlike the omnivores we all know and love, we vegans prefer to love these animals rather than eat or wear them.

No matter where we are, Ricardo seems to attract wayward kitties. This one was such a doll, but was happy as a clam hanging with the farm animals.

Ricardo’s friend’s little girl having a blast filling up that bag with juicy yummy apples.

Obviously, we had a great time. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves local food and refreshing trips out of the city. Here are some more photos I snapped over the past few weeks as the season changed. Farewell Summer!

Early morning fog. It was so pretty and so creepy.

Looks like somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, right? Nope. This is in Quebec’s Laurentian mountains.

Awwww! A tribute to love. By me and my sister.

A very happy dog.

Lovely autumnal foliage.

This is why I love Fall. Summer has nothing on Autumn’s palate.

On our way back to the city, we passed a tree farm full of lounging cattle. They seemed quite content to relax amid the trees. Although I don’t believe in the ridiculous concept of “happy meat”, I have to say that these lovelies have a better life than those who live their short lives in factory farms.

“Please don’t eat me!”

That’s all for now, folks. Thanks for reading!

As a lot of you know, I’ve been vegan for about 6 months. Now that I have transformed my diet and grocery list (we try to shop exclusively at TAU for organic whole foods), I have started to phase out other non-food animal products. Since it’s getting pretty chilly up here in Montreal, I had to start thinking about a fall/early winter jacket since the only ones I currently have are made of wool.

So, last week I took my wool jackets and wool sweaters and donated them to charity. I couldn’t wear these products in good conscience.

I also have a small collection of leather shoes from my non-vegan days which I threw out since they were looking pretty ratty anyway. I also have a $300 pair of designer Mary Janes given to me second-hand which will find a cozy home on my mom’s feet.

When Ricardo and I went to Ireland last October (oh, how I miss that beautiful country), I bought myself an Aran wool scarf, tuque and mittens. I got a lot of wear out of these last winter, but am now ready to give them away. Because they have tremendous sentimental value to me, I’m giving them to one of my omnivore friends who dreams of going to Ireland. I know she’ll take care of them.

Now, here’s the challenge. I have a down-filled coat for the winter. Winter’s here can be frigid and unforgiving, so I don’t think I can get rid of it until I can afford a suitable and equally warm alternative. I also have a really old second-hand pair of Sorel boots which have some leather on them. Since I’m a full-time student again (yay), I have minimal funds and have to be wise with my spending.

As a treat, I bought myself a new fall/early winter jacket made of beige canvas — animal-product-free and oh-so comfy. Now, I have to think about alternatives for winter ware, but I may have to wait until finances allow. I could also go to Salvation Army to see what’s in store there…

Any ideas and advice? Are there any online vegan shops that have good deals on winter coats and boots … and I mean, like, really good quality that will last for a really long time? Please share!

Thank for reading! 😉

moi

Eat a veggie, eat a grain;
from animal products, I shall refrain.

Archives

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5 other followers