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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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.

We’re Still Alive

Oh, hi!  Long time, no talk.  We’re still eating delicious food, but various life factors have been preventing us from being good bloggers lately.  Which is dumb.

Want a little recap?  Some proof that it’s still good to be vegan in our world:

Balcony season!  We’ve got some terrible construction happening out front, but that doesn’t stop us from enjoying the amazing Bajan “Beef” Stew from Caribbean Vegan.

This sandwich from the cookbook Vegan Diner happened.  Thinly sliced seitan in caramelized BBQ sauce, with creamy slaw on a bun.  WOAHMYGOD.

Local vegan & gluten free bakery, Sweet Lemon Bakery, does whoopie pies.

Starbucks changes their Strawberries and Cream frappuccino mix to be vegan; so now ordering one with soy and no whipped cream will get you a milkshaky tasting drink.  Not super healthy, but a nice summer treat.

I have not been able to satiate my love of avocados lately.  Sprouted grain toast, smooshed avocado, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.

We went to Montreal and visited the Viva Vegan Shop.  They had cupcakes, sandwiches, ice cream cones and a whole retail shop.  So cute.  We sat and had some sandwiches (végépaté) and drank kombucha.  They have an online shop as well, and we’ve been getting orders from them for years.  Lovely folks!

In Montreal we also went to Aux Vivres.  Pictured here is the chana paratha appetizer, the “lox” wrap and the creamsicle smoothie.  We both agreed that Aux Vivres is one of the best all-vegan restaurants we’ve been to yet.  Look at this menu!  It’s not fine dining or anything, but the food is so fresh and hearty.

And again for brunch.  My waffles were really only so-so, but Trevor’s “Le Complet” plate was amazing.

I’m going to try to stop being such a slacker with taking photos (having an iPhone/Instagram has sort of ruined me for using my camera…).

I don’t make a lot of recipes up and mostly cook from cookbooks, but I still like to share because I hope it provides a realistic view of what a couple of vegans eat.

– Crystal

Wha Me Eat

I had to post this because it’s pure awesome.  Next time someone asks me what the hell vegans eat, I’m going to bust out this song.  Wha me eat?

– Crystal

Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary

On Saturday, January 21st, we headed to Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary to help out and hang out with some animals.  What an amazing organization; they rescue farm animals who then come to the farm to live a life free of suffering and pain.  The working visits are a great opportunity for people to come and interact with the animals and see firsthand that they are all really full of personality and are just like you in a lot of ways; wanting love and affection, have the ability to express a full range of emotions (including being silly!), like being clean, fed and housed properly.  Here’s a few photos from our trip, including a few of the vegan potluck we had with the group of volunteers and the owners, Siobhan and Peter.  I wish I had taken more of the food because we really had an amazing spread, but I think we were all pretty hungry and tired by that point so photos weren’t my first thought.

Chickpea the cow getting some love!  She was nuzzling and kissing like crazy.

Trevor + pigs

Eric.  He watched guard as I cleaned out his enclosure and occasionally came over to give me love nibbles, licks and headbutts.

Beautiful long-legged Charlie!

Afternoon snooze

Now, to the food…we didn’t just have baked goods, but that’s all I seemed to take photos of!  We brought tempeh sausage pastry puffs (from Vegan Brunch) which were a hit.
Cinnamon pull-apart buns

Lemon poppy seed in the front, apple streusel in the back

Decadent fudgy chocolate cake

Siobhan’s hearty crockpot soup

See you later!
– Crystal

Mega MoFo Quiz

MoFo DISASTER!  Our oven broke and much of what we had planned was baked or roasted or otherwise needing the oven!  Our landlords aren’t the most prompt folks ever, so I guess we just stay tuned until it gets fixed/replaced/whatever.  For now, it’s quiz time!  These always float around every MoFo and I find them interesting.  I hope you do, too.

1. Favorite non-dairy milk?
Natur-a organic soy.  It’s so creamy and delicious.  I like the strawberry and chocolate varieties for a quick “milkshake”, too.

2. What are the top 3 dishes/recipes you are planning to cook
I assume this was meant to be answered at the beginning of MoFo, but I’ll answer now with what we’ve got planned for the rest.  We are going to be making Hungarian crepes called palacsinta, smoky maple sausages, and talking about the art of Big Salads.

3. Topping of choice for popcorn?
I’m not terribly in love with popcorn, but when I do eat it, I like nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, salt and pepper.

4. Most disastrous recipe/meal failure?
I was making the Spanakopita from Vegan with a Vengeance which is this really labour-intensive recipe.  I had made all the filling and the last step was putting in the nutmeg.  The lid opened up on my nutmeg and probably 1/2 cup fell into the bowl with the filling.  I tried scooping as much of it out as I could (it was only supposed to have a pinch!) but it was still super nutmeggy.  To this day, I can’t stand the smell or taste of nutmeg.

5. Favorite pickled item?
I love pickled things!  Regular ol’ cucumber pickles are great, but I also like pickled peppers, mushrooms, cauliflower, carrots.  I also like Indian pickle as well, which is usually pickled lime.

6. How do you organize your recipes?
Ha!  “Organize”.  I have some in a special folder in my email; that was my system before I discovered Evernote which easily clips recipes for me without me having to email them to myself.  I also have a ton bookmarked in my browser.  AND I have some organized on my desktop.  AND some printed out.  AND in recipe books, of course.  I know where to find each recipe, but I still don’t think my system really counts as organized.

7. Compost, trash, or garbage disposal?
Recycle and garbage.  We live in an apartment and tried balcony vermicomposting one summer; it was a smelly and liquidy adventure.  The city we live in unfortunately doesn’t have a composting program yet.  Sometimes scraps go out to the squirrels, though.

8. If you were stranded on an island and could only bring 3 foods…what would they be (don’t worry about how you’ll cook them)?

Marmite with toast, peanut butter, mac and cheese.

9. Fondest food memory from your childhood?
Even though our MoFo has been centered around the Hungarian influence of my maternal grandmother on my cooking, I have to say that my most fond memory of food when I was young was in my paternal grandmother’s kitchen.  She was a very 50’s housewife-style cook, lots of jello molds and such.  But she made me feel very special, I had my own apron I was able to wear and she would let me help and I’d feel like a “big girl”.

10. Favorite vegan ice cream?
Purely Decadent peanut butter zigzag.  That stuff is like crack.

11. Most loved kitchen appliance?
My “borrowed” Cuisinart food processor from my mother-in-law.  It’s so awesome!

12. Spice/herb you would die without?
Cinnamon

13. Cookbook you have owned for the longest time?
“How It All Vegan” by Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard.


14. Favorite flavor of jam/jelly?
Raspberry or my fresh strawberry freezer jam.

15. Favorite vegan recipe to serve to an omni friend?
Some sort of fancy chocolate cake with a couple different buttercreams.

16. Seitan, tofu, or tempeh?
Tofu. ❤

17. Favorite meal to cook (or time of day to cook)?
I like to cook in the evenings.  I love baking in my pajamas at night.

18. What is sitting on top of your refrigerator?
A juicer, crockpot, roll of paper towels and Trevor’s coffee bodum.

19. Name 3 items in your freezer without looking.
Seitan loaf, lulo pulp, orange juice cans

20. What’s on your grocery list?
We just went shopping yesterday, so nothing, really.

21. Favorite grocery store?
Whole Foods in Yorkville, Toronto, Ontario.

22. Name a recipe you’d love to veganize, but haven’t yet.
Ice cream.  Yeah, you can buy vegan ice cream easily, but I’d like to be able to make my own flavour combos.  I need an ice cream maker but I don’t have the room for it in our closet-sized kitchen.

23. Food blog you read the most (besides Isa’s because I know you check it everyday). Or maybe the top 3?
Refer to the right side for the blogs I read on the regular!  I can’t limit it to just 3.

24. Favorite vegan candy/chocolate?
Go Max Go’s Twilight bar.

25. Most extravagant food item purchased lately?
2 packs of Dandie’s marshmallow, to just eat and to have in hot cocoa.

26. Favorite pumpkin thing to eat?
Pumpkin pie!

– Crystal

What Keeps Me Going

There are so many resources out there which could tell you better than I can the environmental impact of animal farming for food.  Even more resources to tell you the suffering endured by chickens for both meat and eggs, cows for both meat and milk, pigs for meat, sheep for wool, and so on.  More resources still linking animal foods to health concerns like diabetes and cancer.  Largely, I’m preaching to the choir; if you’re reading this blog you are probably already aware of those issues to some degree.

All of those great reasons aside, these are my main reasons:

Because I love my furry beasts so much it hurts, and I cannot stand for a moment imagining what it would be like if they were mistreated, used and slaughtered for human consumption, I am vegan.

Because I am an intelligent human being who can make decisions based on ethics and morals and am not required to do things just because my ancestors did, I am vegan.

Because cows are rad, pigs are awesome, chickens are great, fish are amazing, sheep are gorgeous, bees are necessary, I am vegan.

Because my ethics are more important than convenience, I am vegan.

Vegans:  What motivates you and keeps you going in a world which would much rather you just homogenize yourself, stop being a pain in the ass and just eat some damn bacon already?

– Crystal