See ya around, internet

I’ve decided to not renew Naked Vegan Lunch when it expires on August 1.

When I first started the blog in 2010, it was a different world for vegans.  Accessibility of vegan options in grocery and restaurants was much more limited than it is now.  There wasn’t as many voices online espousing how tasty vegan food was, and in general it was a lot easier to maintain a good readership and level of engagement on one’s blog.

Also, the nature of how we share online has changed.  Blogs are becoming an antiquated medium and folks are using things like Instagram more.  I used to have an Instagram but I’m really not a fan of the platform so I cancelled that a while back and I can’t see myself returning.

The good news is, veganism is big now and I feel like it’s here to stay.  Go to places like Costco and you’ll find prominently labeled vegan goods without much effort.  Local restaurants, both chains and independent, are more in the know and offer a great selection of vegan things.  It’s an AMAZING time to be vegan.

With all these changes, I’ve been feeling it’s my time to bid this little corner of the internet adieu.  There’s not much more for me to say that others haven’t already eloquently said!

It does feel like the end of an era for me because I’ve spent a great deal of time and resources over the years creating content for the blog, so it’s bittersweet.  But, I’ll be choosing not to renew on August 1st, so if you’ve any favourite recipes, save ’em now!

For whatever reason you’ve read over the years—for the animals, for the environment, for your health, or simply a curiosity about what the f*** vegans eat—I’m grateful for your viewership.  I’ll see you out there—I’ll still be around, tracking down and devouring vegan noms all over the world.  Maybe I’ll find a new way to share that in the future; who knows.

Love love love!

Crystal

Banh Mi, Banh You

Back when Mr. Lunch and I were little wee sprouts living in the big city of Toronto as students in the early 2000s, we discovered the joys of Banh Mi subs.  Toronto’s primary Chinatown district has its share of hole-in-the-wall, non-descript-from-the-outside little sandwich shops slingin’ these Vietnamese bad boys for, at the time, about $1.50 a pop.  For a couple of dreadfully poor kids on a very, very tight budget, getting a big French loaf stuffed with tofu, cilantro, chilis, pickled veggies and cucumber was just the ticket.  For the authentic experience, you must rip the bag open the moment you leave the shop and eat it while sauntering down a smelly Chinatown alleyway.  But I digress.

Our love of Banh Mi has followed us throughout the years, and dare I say, we’ve gotten pretty good at making them at home.

Vegan Banh Mi

The one thing missing from the at-home experience is being shouted at by a small, sweet Vietnamese lady from across the counter, “little spicy?” to which you say “yes!”…only to discover what she really meant is she is going to hide a large, fully intact Thai bird’s eye chili somewhere inside your sandwich for you to find later.  At which point it will feel like your eyes are going to bleed.

What You’ll Need:

  • a couple good, crusty French sandwich loaves
  • daikon radish and carrot
  • cucumber
  • cilantro
  • vegan mayo
  • fresh chilis or sriracha
  • a block of tofu

Get your tofu going.  Create a quick marinade with chopped lemongrass, chopped fresh garlic, soy sauce, chili flakes, turmeric, a drizzle of oil, and thinned with a bit of vegetable stock.  Cut your tofu into slabs and dredge your pieces in said mixture in a pan and let marinate for as long as you can, or for as little as 10 minutes.  Reserving your marinade, take your tofu and drop it in a hot oiled pan and fry until golden brown.  Throw your reserved marinade on and let bubble away until reduced.  Boom.  Done.

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Make a quick pickle out of julienned daikon and carrot.  I love this recipe from The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook.

Cut your sandwich loaf in half lengthwise, slather with mayo, chuck in your tofu, generously pile on your pickled veggies and cucumber, top with cilantro (and peanuts if you’re feeling fancy), add your chilis or sriracha, and enjoy.

Refrigerator Soup (and a biscuit or two)

I do love a good batch of Refrigerator Soup.  Make it a million times and it’s never the same twice.  What the hell is Refrigerator Soup, you say?  You know it well already.  It’s the soup you make, perhaps in your slow cooker, of all the bits and bobs left in the refrigerator (and perhaps, pantry).  The great thing about making it in the slow cooker is that slow cookers have the magical ability to transform even the weirdest things (okay, most things), meld them all together and make them great.

Vegan Minestrone Soup

Today’s Refrigerator Soup is riffing off of a minestrone vibe: chunky cut veggies in a tomato base.  We’ve got celery, carrots, cabbage, some leftover marinated artichoke hearts, cauliflower, chickpeas, and winter hardy garden kale, with broth, tomato paste, canned fire roasted tomatoes and tomato juice.  I also have several jars of balsamic caramelized onions that I keep in the freezer, and a spoonful of that goes a long way in creating a great flavour base.  So I added some of that, some garlic, some dried herbs (basil, oregano, parsley) and set it to simmer all afternoon.

While that was cooking, I whipped up a batch of Isa Moskowitz’s Sweet Potato Drop Biscuits from her book, Appetite for Reduction.  Except, I had no sweet potato and I had an open can of pureed pumpkin from pumpkin waffles this morning—so I made some tweaks and we have been noshing on pumpkin biscuits all afternoon.

Vegan Pumpkin Biscuits

Pumpkin Drop Biscuits

Makes 10 biscuits

1 cup pumpkin puree
3 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 F.

In a medium bowl, mix together the pumpkin, oil, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, and salt. Sift in the flour, baking powder, and nutmeg.

Fold the flour into the pumpkin mixture with a wooden spoon until the dry ingredients are moistened; be careful not to overmix. Knead with your spoon about 4 or 5 times. Don’t knead too much or it will toughen the biscuits.

Drop the dough in golf ball-size pieces onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned and firm to the touch.

 

What is your favourite Refrigerator Soup mix?

London (Ontario) Vegan Guide now up!

I love my city, I really do.  We lived in Toronto for a stint, and while I currently appreciate how close I am to it for impromptu day trips and hang outs and love Toronto dearly, I am so happy we’ve made London home.  We bought a house in 2015 here, and I couldn’t be happier with the decision.

downtown-london

I’m also pleased that we’re becoming something of a little vegan mecca!  For years and years we made do with a small amount of great restaurants serving up vegan fare, but in recent years there’s been a bit of an explosion in options.

Because I can no longer count the vegan options available here on one hand, and I get asked all the time for recommendations, I decided to create a comprehensive guide that would serve both residents and visitors to the city as a compass of sorts, to help you find the best vegan stuff available.  And let me tell you…there’s plenty. So, here it is;

The London, Ontario Vegan Food Guide

Enjoy, and as we enter the new year with many people opting to do Veganuary/Meatless Monday/etc challenges, please reach out with any questions you might have — I promise, no judgement or shame — and I’ll try my best to help.

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Chili el mole

Happy new year, Naked Vegan Lunchers!  I hope your holiday season was as delightful and full of ridiculous amounts of grub as mine was.  I am very fortunate to be part of several families who are all so accommodating and wonderful about the whole vegan thing.  We did Christmas dinner at home on Christmas Eve with my family and it was a fully vegan affair; with not so much as a peep of disapproval from our omnivorous guests (but, like, who is going to complain when I’m serving them Chocolate Pecan Pie with Coco Whip?).  Christmas Day was another great meal that left us popping the buttons on our pants, oh, and then another one on Boxing Day…

It’s now freezing cold up here in Canada, and for today, with snow squalls and minus reallyfuckingcold temperatures, chili was just the ticket.  I had leftover red wine in the fridge from serving guests at Christmas, and I don’t drink booze so I wanted to find a way to cook with it.  This chili el mole came to mind, with all the complex, toasty flavours you’d expect from a mole without the laborious, 25+ ingredient prep.

I’d recommend serving it with a wedge of the Pumpkin Corn Bread from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s new book, The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook: Entertaining for Absolutely Every Occasion.  I got it for Christmas and have been pawing through it at every occasion since.

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Chili el mole

Serves 4-6 people

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 chipotles, deseeded and finely minced
2 small zucchinis, diced
1 cup cremini mushrooms, diced
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp chili seasoning
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp cumin
1 cup water
1/2 cup red wine
2 cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can lentils, drained and rinsed
1 large (28 oz.) can stewed tomatoes
salt to taste
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
A handful of crushed tortilla chips, as garnish (optional)

In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat, to which you will add the onions and saute until pearly and translucent. Add the garlic and chipotles and saute for a minute longer. Add the zucchinis and mushrooms, and cook until they’ve sweat out liquid and have softened. Add the tomato paste, chili seasoning, cinnamon, cumin, water, red wine and salt to taste. Stir until incorporated. Add the kidney beans, lentils, stewed tomatoes. Stir everything together, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and let simmer for 30-45 minutes. Remove from heat and add the chocolate chips, letting them melt and then stirring to incorporate. Taste for salt, top with optional crushed tortilla chips, and dig in.

Peruvian Grilled Tofu

Trevor has become quite the grillmaster this summer! While barbecuing veggies is wonderful and gives them that unmistakable, smoky richness you can only get from the grill, cookin’ up slabs of tofu on the grill is a wholly satisfying experience as well.  He made this crazy-good Peruvian-style tofu the other day that was so unbelievably juicy, and just…amazing. Please definitely make this and make sure you use FROZEN TOFU! I used to be big on freezing and thawing my tofu as it creates this entirely new texture in the tofu…it’s so meaty and chewy.  I forgot about that for a while, but I’m back to always keeping a couple blocks in my freezer for impromptu chewy-tofu needs.

Vegan Peruvian Grilled Tofu

Peruvian Style Grilled Tofu

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp ketchup or tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 block of frozen extra firm tofu, defrosted (it’s important that it’s been frozen!  It gives it a really meaty, chewy texture)

Combine everything but the tofu in a shallow dish, mix and set aside.  Cut your tofu up into 8 slabs (cut the whole block in half width-wise, then each half in half again, then  each quarter in half), pat dry with a papertowel (squish it a bit to remove as much water as you can) then soak in the marinade for at least an hour but up to overnight.  Reserve leftover marinade.

Clean and oil your grill, get it up to a nice heat and then slap those tofu babies on there.  Minimize how much you flip it, baste it along the way, and get a nice grill on both sides.  Serve with leftover marinade on top for some extra juiciness + rice + greens (Our garden was overflowing with Swiss chard so we sauteed some up with raisins — raisins in savoury things is typical of the region and this worked well!).

 

Summer in #ldnont

It’s nearly summer here and based on the heat we’re feeling today, I’d say we’re pretty well there. And I feel ready to enjoy it. The last 365 have been crazy…and I don’t do well with crazy. I’m perpetually drawn to the safety, the routine, the comfort I can create for myself. The last year has taken me far, far outside my comfort zone, kicked me out of the car and drove off.

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But here we are. A year in our new home that we own (well, okay, the bank owns it but we’re closer and closer every mortgage payment).  A tumultuous two job changes for me, after leaving my employer of the last near-decade…the only employer I had since college. I miss the routine, the familiar — but I’m slowly working on building that again. Despite setbacks with my mental health. Despite the little things that happen in my day to day that because of my mental health affect me deeper than  someone who, you know, doesn’t have a severe anxiety disorder. Hey, I’m still standing, so that’s something.

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The world around me continues to be increasingly vegan friendly, almost to the point of (delightful) ridiculousness. In London, we said goodbye to Veg Out as the owner moves on to a new chapter in her life, only to welcome Glassroots and Plant Matter Kitchen.

Glassroots Vegan Restaurant
Glassroots.  Top left clockwise: roasted veggie chip amuse-bouche, local vegan cheese plate (with Nuts for Cheese cheeses), lemon-cran cheesecake, tofu scallops entree.
Plant Matter Kitchen Vegan Restaurant
Plant Matter Kitchen. “Chick’n” Caesar wrap, with accompanying sides of ‘kraut and salad. I was super impressed with this.

America now has vegan Ben and Jerry’s!  And I have nice pals who smuggle some over the border and share with me.

Vegan Ben And Jerry's Ice Cream

It’s amazing but also kind of weird.  I’ve been vegan for a decade now and it’s a bit surreal to see how this thing that has been a separator, a divide between myself and a lot of people is now this thing that people are embracing. I hope it can stay about the animals and not another fad that gets disposed of as quickly as it becomes a “thing”.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the years of bakesale-ing, of making food for people, of doing punkrock catering gigs and all the people that have told me I shouldn’t be a graphic designer, I should be doing food for a living. I’ve been listening. But thanks to the aforementioned fear of uncertainty and danger, I’ve not jumped into action. If I’m being honest, I’m afraid of the market becoming too saturated and me still just sitting on my hands never realizing my dream.

What my dream is, I’ll never tell, lest some fancy serial entrepreneur who’s not even vegan goes and takes my idea. I hope I end up doing it once and for all eventually.

For now, I’m becoming quite the grill master, quite the amateur gardener, and enjoying feeding all the chipmunks in the yard. Each one of them is named “Chippy”.

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Baby’s first raised garden beds!  Tomatoes galore, brussels, several varieties of peppers and chilis, two types of kale, chard, beets, radishes, turnips, lemongrass, nasturtiums, mint, Thai basil.

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Next up: preserving and pickling all the things.  Strawberries and wild blackberries will become jam, gardeny things will become pickled accouterments for my virgin bloody marys.