Vida Vegan Con

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It’s taken me the week of being home from Vida Vegan Con to get my emotions in check enough to be able to write about it without blubbering.  What is VVC, you say?  Well, let me tell you!  It’s a gathering of vegans of all stripes to come together to talk about blogging/marketing/social media marketing as it relates to veganism, food styling/photography, fitness and nutrition, travel, feminism and body image, and a whole slew of other amazing stuff.  I’m sorry to say, though, that this was the last VVC.  I know; I’m bummed, too.  But I can only imagine how much work it was to put this amazing event together, and the 3 organizers did it all in addition to having other life commitments/jobs/family stuff!  I can’t even imagine and am so grateful they were able to put it on for as long as they did—and that I was finally able to attend one after only dreaming about it for the years prior.  I came away from it feeling profoundly changed for the better, and a stronger, more committed, smarter person in a lot of ways.

The thing is, it can be tiring being “the vegan in the room” all the time.  Not so tiring that I would ever consider not doing it, but nonetheless it can be hard constantly being at odds with defensive jerks, constantly having to defend your decision to put compassion first, and put up with armchair nutritionists, who—upon learning you’re vegan—get “concerned” where you get your protein.  And having to do it all while smiling, lest you want to be labeled “that angry vegan” and in one fell swoop ruin someone’s impression of your entire ethos.

So things like VVC are important from the perspective of self-care and nurturing.  To get together with people who get it and that interaction is like a battery recharge.  I have lots of support in my daily life (my husband is vegan [20 years!], so is my brother, and I’m active in the local scene), but also a lot of my favourite friends live at a distance and getting together face-to-face sometimes is important.

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Capital City Bakery cookie <3

Without exaggeration, I came away from the event feeling like maybe the world isn’t so doomed if the people in that room are at the helm of change.  From Miyoko Schinner creating some of the world’s most gorgeous cheeses, to Gene Baur heading up America’s first rescue for farm animals—there is no shortage of chutzpah in the vegan world.  I was humbled when I would look around at people’s nametags and realize that I was among the folks behind Vegucated, Veg News, and some of the best blogs in the world.  It was truly an honour and a privilege to learn from them and be inspired by them.

Thank you, thank you.  I am grateful for every single one of the people that attended VVC and I truly believe in the collective power of people who give a shit.

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I still need to do a round-up of the food!  I heard that Austin Texas was a bit of a mecca of vegan awesomeness, and naturally I had to do some “research” myself.  Ahem.  Tasty, tasty research to follow.

Beet-Walnut Tacos with Pineapple-Jalapeño Pico de Gallo

Life has been so stressful lately (we bought a house and are in the process of packing up the apartment we’ve lived in for 7 years!  And in between now and moving day, we have a few trips planned!  Gah!) and I haven’t been spending as much time as I’d like in the kitchen.  Then I had the realization—if I’m stressed, this is the time I should be spending the MOST time in the kitchen, as it’s a big stress reliever for me.  Funny how that works; the more stressed we are, the more we pull away from things that reduce our stress.  For me, it’s cooking/baking and going to the gym.  And lo, I have hardly done either in a number of weeks.

Anyway, I’ve been making little efforts to stop eating so much takeout falafel and actually cook my own damn meals again.  And tacos are a good place to start.  Or finish.  Or eat whenever because TACOS.

Speaking of tacos, Is anyone else going to Vida Vegan Con?  I am!  And I’m so excited.  Glad I finally decided to go this year, because I hear it’s going to be the last one.  The taco segway is because it’s being held in AUSTIN TEXAS aka Taco Heaven.  I’m about to get my food truck taco on in a big way.

walnut beet tacos with pineapple pico de gallo

I found this recipe on The Sexy Vegan, but will re-post here for your convenience.

4 large beets, peeled and diced (you’ll need 6-8 cups)
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 cups raw walnuts (halves and pieces)
2 cups diced onion
pepper to taste
12 tortillas
sprigs of cilantro, for garnish
½ cup finely shredded green cabbage
1 cup vegan sour cream
Pineapple Salsa (recipe below)

Preheat your oven to 350° F. In a mixing bowl, add the beets, lime juice, 1 tablespoon of oil, chili powder, cumin, paprika, and salt. Toss until the beets are well coated. Spread the beets out on a lined baking sheet, and roast for 1 hour, tossing half-way through, until fork-tender. Let cool.

In a food processor, add the walnuts and pulse until ground into a coarse meal. Then add ⅓ cup of the roasted beets, and process until a crumbly (but slightly sticky) consistency is achieved.

In a large skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of oil to medium. Add the onion and a healthy pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until tender with browned edges. Add the roasted beets and the walnut mixture to the pan and stir until it’s all combined and heated through (2 to 3 minutes). If the mixture gets too dry and it’s very crumbly, add some water, a teaspoon at a time. The mixture should stick together somewhat. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside and keep warm.

Pineapple Pico

2 cups finely diced pineapple
4 green onions, thinly sliced
4 teaspoons chopped cilantro
1 to 2 teaspoons seeded and minced jalapeno (depending on your heat preference)
2 tablespoons lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Mac and Cheese Burger

I kinda love the tv show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  I am not so much a fan of Guy Fieri himself, though I do love to impersonate him (“That’s out. of. BOUNDS.”, “This is killer, brah.”).  I also like to daydream about how I’d veganize some of the monstrosities he eats.

The thing is, veganism and being a health buff aren’t necessarily intrinsically linked.  At least, for ethical vegans it isn’t.  It’s simply about causing as little harm as you can.  And while I eat chard and lentils and smoothies most of the time, I also eat things like the behemoth below.  Part of it might also be that vegans are always told how inferior their options are.  I kind of like to make things like this as a “fork you!” to haters.  Between shit like this and the fact that vegans have recently tackled the age old meringue problem (that’s been blowing up my social media feeds lately), there really isn’t a whole lot that we can’t enjoy.

Vegan Mac & Cheese Beet Burger

The burger itself is Isa Moskowitz’s Beet Burgers (recipe can be found here), which are totally my favourite burger patty.  So meaty and full of goodness; brown rice, lentils and beets.

I love mac and cheese, and there are far more nuanced and interesting ones out there, but sometimes when you want something really cheesy/gooey this one is the only one that cuts it.

1/2 lb dried elbow macaroni

1 tbsp Earth Balance margarine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
1 to 1 1/2 cups cheddar Daiya shreds
salt and pepper to taste

Melt earth balance in heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir until well mixed and bubbly and the flour gets some golden colour on it. Look at you! You’re making a roux! Now remove from heat and add milk, stirring until well blended. Return sauce to heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat, add daiya sheds and stir until fully melted and incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.

While you’re doing the above, cook your pasta and drain.  Return to the pot and slowly pour cheese sauce over until smothered.

Of course, it’s all about balance, so today I pumped my body full of goodness with a clean-out-the-fridge juice.  Beets, celery, cucumber, apple and ginger.  YUM.

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Ethiopian party!

The first time we went for Ethiopian several years ago, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  It’s a damn shame that Ethiopian food/culture/music doesn’t get more visibility because it’s all so awesome!  The food has quickly become one of my favourites and I’m super pleased that I was able to help my friend Kittee from Cake Maker to the Stars test recipes during the creation of her new book, Teff Love.  It’s been released now; mine just came in the mail on Friday and I’m already digging in.

We are fortunate that the closest restaurant to us—literally, like a 2 minute walk—is an Ethiopian place.  We go there for their DELICIOUS vegan platter (suuuper cheap too) often, and they sell injera (the spongy, sourdough flatbread that you scoop up your food with) by the bag.  So, it’s ridiculously easy for us to buy a bag and whip up a spontaneous Ethiopian feast.  Lucky, I know.  It’s a part of why I’m so attached to living in our neighbourhood!

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Clockwise, we’ve got ye’tikil gomen be’karot (ginger-garlic cabbage and carrots), ye’kaysir atakilt (beet salad), ye’dubba alicha (roasted butternut in a spicy sauce) and ye’misser wot be’timatim (red lentils).

Bonus: these recipes utilize super cheap ingredients (lentils, cabbage, beets, squash!) and make a tonne so we have meals for days.

– Crystal

Curried Pumpkin Apple Soup

I am unabashedly all about pumpkin during autumn. I make up for the apparent white-girl-ness of pumpkin love by experimenting with flavours that are outside of the realm of pumpkin spice everything – Caribbean flavours LOVE pumpkin!  So grab a couple of those adorable pie pumpkins that are at the store and instead of using them to make yet another pie, pop one in a soup pot and enjoy this variation on the fall flavours you love.

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1 tbsp olive oil
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 scotch bonnet pepper, seeded and finely minced (or as little as a 1/4 if you don’t like heat)
1 pie pumpkin, approximately 2 lbs, peeled, guts removed and diced into 1″ pieces
1 small apple, peeled and finely diced
large pinch thyme
1 bay leaf
1-2 tbsp Jamaican curry powder
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
Salt and pepper to taste

Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.  Sauté the celery, carrot, onion and scotch bonnet until the onions are translucent and softened, about 7 minutes.  Add the thyme, curry, ginger, bay leaf and a pinch of salt, stir, then add the pumpkin and apple.  Add enough water or vegetable broth to cover the vegetables and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Remove bay leaf and taste for salt and pepper.

You have three options: serve it with chunky vegetables in a clear broth, blend half and return back to pot for a creamy soup with some texture, or blend it all.  Any way is good.

Midsummer Bowlin’

What I’m feeling lately is effortless bowls chock full of veggies, grains and delicious sauces.  It’s all about the sauces and finishing touches, man.  You could have the same bowl ingredients but switch up the sauce and have a whole new take on dinner.

I’ve been suuuper digging the bi bim bap bowls from the Korean place in Covent Garden Market for delicious and fresh lunch fare.  I keep craving those flavours, so I decided to make it at home.

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This was a base of brown rice, fried puffy tofu seasoned with s&p, sauteed swiss chard, shredded carrot, pickled beet spears, seasoned with soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, plenty of sriracha and sprinkled with toasted black sesame seeds.  Dinner on the table in the time it takes the rice cooker to cook the rice = priceless.

And my friend D from over at The Elizavegan posted a recipe for some ridiculously easy, super quick, cheap-to-make-but-healthy noodles.  Meet Coconut-Sesame-Peanut Noodles.  These will become a regular around these parts for sure.  I made several modifications based on what I had on hand and how lazy I was feeling (very), and it still turned out great.  I didn’t cook the sauce and just opted to whisk it together, so I only added one big fat garlic clove because without cooking the 4 cloves it’d be too much.  I also omitted the scallions from the sauce because I didn’t have them.  For the base, I used whole wheat spaghetti for the noodles, swiss chard leaves and stems in place of the broccoli, shredded cabbage in place of the bean sprouts, and opted for some simple pan-fried tofu in sesame oil and soy sauce.  Et voila, dinner.

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Also, super in love with the new title from Terry Romero, Salad Samurai.

This is the Tempeh Reubenesque salad.  We’ve made tons from this book already and everything has been super awesome.  This was like a deconstructed reuben sandwich; in other words, amazeballs.

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– Crystal

Le Creamsicle

Continuing on my theme of recreating Aux Vivres dishes…my favourite smoothie there is le creamsicle!  It tastes just like its namesake.  The menu says it’s made of coconut milk, orange juice, carrot juice, dates, vanilla…so I set to work and think I pretty much nailed it.  I think they add ice to theirs to make it more frosty, but I liked it as a juice consistency.

And since I juiced the carrots myself, now I have all this pulp that I will either make into Aux Vivre’s vegé lox or maybe these raw carrot cake cupcakes.  Waste not and all that.

The original.
The original.

Creamsicle Smoothie
Makes enough for a blender full

1 can light coconut milk
2 cups orange juice
3/4 cup carrot juice
1 tsp pure vanilla
8-10 pitted dates (I used Parnoosh sayer dates – they’re my favourite)

Blend, blend, blend until the dates are pulverized and everything’s nice and silky.

For the record, I’m going through the exercise of recreating all my favourites because I live a 10-hour drive away from Montreal.  But if you can go there easily, go!  It’s an awesome place and should be supported.  Until I can visit again, I’ll be busy in my kitchen trying to recreate those flavours.