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Last night was the African Harvest event to celebrate 35 years of Farm Radio International. Not able to make the event but still want to try some amazing African flavours and help the cause?? Well – now it’s in two steps but still totally do able!

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African Harvest Chefs – Andrée Riffou and Jeff Crump

First – in recognition of 35 years, Farm Radio is hoping to get 35 new monthly donors. You could be one! Click here form more information.

Next the African flavours… this was a soup I made at Cardamom and Cloves last Saturday for my cooking demo – they happen every Saturday at 11am in store (440 Preston Street) and the first 4 to arrive are guaranteed a sample of the dish that is made.

This recipes uses berbere spice – a flavourful African spice mix of 13 ingredients including paprika, ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and allspice to name a few.

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Carrot and Berbere Spice Soup

Ingredients
2 TBSP Olive oil or butter
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
2 TBSP Berber spice
2 cups veggie stock
1.5 pounds of carrots, peeled
Sea salt
Black pepper
4 dollops of sour cream
Additional Berber spice for garnish

Heat olive oil or butter in a large pot. Gently saute onions until soft – about 4 minutes. Add carrots, garlic, Bay leaf, berbere and stock. There should be enough liquid to just cover the vegetables. If not, add water. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer until carrots are very soft, about 15 minutes.

Cool slightly. Remove bay leaf. Puree with a hand blender or in batches in a regular blender. You can reheat and season to taste now – or season it, cool it and serve cold.

Serve with a spoon full of sour cream and a sprinkle of berbere spice if you like!

 

Too busy to read?? Here is a clip of me on CTV making the soup!

http://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=353660&binId=1.1487308&playlistPageNum=1

 

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My personal “vegetarian challenge” is really no longer a challenge of any kind. I only eat meat 2-3 times a week and it really has just become a way of life. Because I’m drawn to veggie options, it is usually easy to eat out with friends who are vegan or 100% of the time vegetarian.

Then there is my Mom. She puts me to shame. Her and her partner eat, for the most part, a gluten free vegan diet. I know. It is a level of dedication I just can’t reach. Probably because of a love affair I have been having with cheese, bread and tuna (though not together… never let your mistresses meet!). I just can’t fully commit to a vegetarian life, never mind the rest.

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I thought this might present a problem when going to dine out with her when she was in town recently. But I shouldn’t have worried. Ottawa’s restaurant scene is so diverse, in a few moments I had a multitude of options. From Korean, to Thai, Zen Kitchen and the Manx. All could offer up great fare.

In the end we decided to check out The Green Door Restaurant (198 Main Street). I had never been, though I had been to The Table which was started by some former employees of the Green Door and has a similar idea.

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All vegetarian food, set up like a buffet. Take what you like and pay by weight. A great way to grab some take out for home, or a great meal in. They have so many options, it is really easy to over do it – so the take home containers are a great option.

I had heard some talk that it was a little expensive for what you got, and though the style of the restaurant is skewed towards comfort rather than high end – I really think the quality of the food is worth it. In the end our meals averaged out to about $15 a person.

You may find this hard to imagine… but I can be a bit picky.

I’ll let that sink in a bit.

Not in the pretentious, I only drink free range water, kind of way. But I’m still a child deep down. I don’t like raw onions. Even red ones. Yes… I know they are sweeter. Ick. I have never really liked peppers of any colour. I’ll choke it down… but you aren’t winning me over.

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Everything I tried from the veg lasagna, to the beet salad; marinated mushrooms to homemade rye bread was really tasty. There might even have been some of those sneaky onions or peppers in there… even so, I’d gladly chow down there again.

And with helpful signs on each dish letting you know what allergens are or are not in the dish, it’s a place everyone (even the picky) can enjoy.

recipes

It has been a long time since I have been a devoted subscriber to a magazine. Sure I buy them every now and then, but to trust that each month’s articles are going to be worthwhile… not since I was 10 with my National Geographic for Kids. Which, by the way, I’m still kind of bummed that I tossed out. Especially the month about optical illusions.

But in July I picked up a copy of Food and Wine in a doctor’s office. When I found myself wondering if anyone would miss it if it fell into my bad, I decided a subscription was in order.

It was great! And it actually inspired me to make these little babies. Apparently the future of steaks, is vegetable steaks. According to chef Joshua Lawler from The Farm and Fisherman in Phili, “Steak is boring, vegetable steak isn’t”.

It had never actually entered into my head to slice a thick piece of cauliflower, marinade and grill it like a steak. Not once. But I knew after reading about it that I had to try it.

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Also, I had for some reason thought I was going to eat a head of cauliflower all by myself and was quickly reminded how much that actually is to a person on their own.

Grilled Cauliflower Steaks
Makes one steak

1/4 cup olive oil
2 TBSP red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp finely chopped capers
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper
1 inch slice of Cauliflower, as if you were cutting a piece of bread from a round loaf

Season the cauliflower with salt and pepper as you would a piece of meat.

Combine all other ingredients in a bowl and pour over cauliflower steak. Allow to marinade for at least an hour.

Grill on medium heat, 5 minutes aside until desired consistency. Enjoy!

Angry Dragonz?? Is that anything like Angry Birds you might ask.

No. It’s not. What a dumb question… me.

Angry Dragonz is a food truck on Gloucester and Lyon serving up some of the best Asian fusion food in the downtown core period. Not best for a food truck. Best. Period.

My friend Shirley, who has become a fixture at this truck, took me for a visit. I really wasn’t sure what to expect but was happy to find many veggie and vegan friendly options.

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I went with a veggie, tofu pad thai, egg roll and drink. For $10 – it was a hell of a deal. Especially since I got 2 meals out of the wicked awesome thai noodle dish.

To say I was delighted, impressed and all around in love with the dish is a bit of an understatement. I dare say it is some of the best pad thai I have ever had. Including all the stuff I ate in Thailand. Was it authentic. No. It was fusion. But I think that’s why I liked it more. The tofu was so well done, crispy and flavourful, I was actually seeking it out in my dish. Never, have I ever, thought tofu was the star of anything before now.

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And don’t skip the egg roll. For an extra dollar you will be thrilled with its yumminess. Though it does have meat for all of my strict veggie friends.

This is a truck worth seeking out…. and with their brand new, and I’m sure MUCH quieter, generator – you will not regret it. And if you fall as deeply in love with them as Shirley and I have, I accept egg rolls as thank you gifts.

And just look at all the other dishes I still get to try and fall in love with… life is good.

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In the summer I took part in a vegan food swap organized by the lovely MeShell from MeShell in Your City. It’s a cool monthly event that pairs you up with another vegan food lover and has you send them a few goodies (to a maximum of $20) and you get some in return from another participant!

This month my treats came from Rebecca from Our Vegan Adventures!

There were all kinds of goodies – but I think my favourite had to be the mixed nuts. I know – sounds boring. But I loved that they were salt free! I eat a lot of nuts and seeds and if they were all salted I would have problems. It also had cherries in it which is pretty rare for trail mix.

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I also loved the raw chocolate banana nutmeg bar. I’m picky about banana flavoured anything, but I loved this! Real dried banana pieces. Too yummy for words.

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The ‘golden berries’ were interesting. Turns out they are dry ground cherries. They start off sweet, and quickly turn tart. They were an experience that I had to taste a few times.

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The hemp hearts were also very neat. They had a softer texture than I was expecting and a lighter taste. They would easily blend into granola and give you an added boost of iron!

Thank you so much Rebecca for your wonderful treats.

 

From other posts I’ve done you know I love books and movies about food. Think Wheat Belly, Supersize Me, Waste, Tomato Land, Out of the Box, Food Inc, Knives over Forks, Blood into Wine, Sharkwater… the list goes on. And on. And on. And on.

The problem is that every time I read or watch something I become so impassioned by it. I think “YES!! THIS is how I will live from now on!! No more ______ (insert item here)”

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I’m convinced it is bad for the planet, myself and everyone else.

Then I start thinking. One tells you to eat organic and local, another tells you that organic doesn’t mean as much as you hope it does and you should really be eating a vegan diet – full of meat replacements. The next thing you read/watch tells you those meat replacements are made of Monsanto soy so you might as well be buying straight from the devil.

Eat lots of fruit – but not Dole bananas because the pesticides used are killing all those who work the farms. Eat veggies, not meat – but not Florida tomatoes because of the modern day slavery used in their harvest.

Give up wheat – it’s making you fat and killing you… but feel free to eat as much cheese and meat as you like.

It’s easy to get confused and frustrated and feel like there really isn’t anything you can eat anymore.

Then I take a breath and remember the wise and wonderful words of Michael Pollan. Words, that for the most part encompass all of these points of view.

Eat food.
Not too much.
Mostly plants.

If you could add in – buy it locally and don’t waste it. I think that covers most of it.

Now I can exhale and go back to trying my best to eat responsibly. Until I discover the next big documentary / book and get all frazzled again. Someone please bookmark this to send to me when you need to talk me off the ledge.

I’ve recently been introduced to the neatest program. It’s a food swap! Heard of them?? Well in this one, you sign up and are given the name of a food blogger (who happens to be Vegan or at least interested in Vegan food *cough cough… me*) and another blogger is given your name. Then you send your match a box of your favourite vegan goodies – $20 max – and await your own box of goodies!

Everything IS better with sprinkles!

A few people know this about me, but I love getting things in the mail. Real, snail mail. There is just something about a letter or a package… kind of like your birthday year round. As a lazy teenager getting up to walk down to the mail box and see if anything had arrived was one of the few reasons to wake up before 11am in the summer.

So this is a program for people like me! Of course I was to send a box to the originator of the program and I have to say… I choked. After seeing the box that my lovely partner sent to me, I know I have to step up my game for next time. The products I sent were awesome of course, and pretty Ottawa-centric if I do say so myself. But of course I forgot to send a card talking about what I sent, just wrapped it up in plain newspaper and sent large versions of the products, thus fewer things than I could have with my budget. D’oh!

To MeShell from MeShell in Your City I sent a Michael’s Dolce Jam, Major Craig’s Chutney, Kawalsa Salsa and Siren Bakery Granola.

Back off cat, get your own peanuts

From the super adorable Megan Muggins at the Vegan Cookbook aficionado I got so many wonderful things!

– Coconut Curry Lentil Soup Mix
– Saskatoon Rhubarb Jam
– Spicy Mango Chutney
– Puffed Kamut Squares (so THAT’S what a sugar crisp is!)
– Chocolate Espresso Bar
– Strawberry Pepper Chocolate
– Zinger Peanuts (made with maple and cayenne)
– Sour berry gummy bears
– Chick-o-sticks (awesome peanut butter candy)
– Cosmic Cookies that she made herself!!

Way to put me to shame Megan. PS – you make a kick ass cookie. Thank you.

PPS – if you want to sign up for the vegan food swap click here!

This isn’t quite a review… mostly because after my afternoon of wandering around Wellington West I was pretty stuffed by this point. But still interested in checking out Simply Raw Express (989 Wellington West).

A raw food eatery, this neat addition to the Wellington / Hintonburg area offers up some quick to-go items. Even if you are only going as far as the tables out front. 99% of all the food is served raw with a focus on gluten free, organic and plant based offerings.

That hot afternoon the smoothies seemed to be the biggest draw. I had a sample of the My Thai and the Tropical Mint – both were packed with flavour and I gotta say I felt pretty healthy for having them. Even if it was just a sip. Even if it was right after eating a doughnut ice cream sandwich. They were pretty darn tasty.

I’m looking forward to saving enough room on my return visit for a smoothie of my own, or maybe I’ll check out some of the great salads, shakes or pre-bottled juices that the store offers.

Time for a little update with my vegetarian challenge.

It is 100 times harder in the winter. Spring, summer and fall I was able to eat veggies all the time no problem. I even craved it. I loved light and fresh meals made from my local farmer’s market.

The winter is a barren wasteland with nothing but squash and root vegetables as far as the eye can see.

I can’ts stands it no more!!!

Ok I’m being over dramatic. But I do find eating a vegetarian diet, to say nothing of a vegan diet much MUCH harder to do in the winter months. It’s not so much that I’m craving meat, it’s just that my winter cooking style seems to gravitate towards it. Sure I’m still eating pastas and chili and risotto that are veggie based, but the pot pies and other comforting dishes seem to call out for meat!

It also doesn’t help that I’ve been practicing my French cooking through ‘The Bonne Femme Cookbook’. The french don’t have as many vegetarian options as one might wish for.

So I guess this vegetarian thing isn’t always as easy as I had grown accustom to. What’s life without some challenges?!?

Thanks so much to Tairy for making the winning bid of 16 pairs of underpants for Underpants Up! A project that seeks to provide 1017 pairs of new underwear to Ottawa shelters by the end of the year. This is my last auction for Underpants Up – thank you so much to everyone who has bid. Ottawa is such a generous town! This week I have 3 veggie cookbooks that I am almost sad to give up… but it is for a good cause so here goes!

The first book is Cooking Vegetarian – which obviously is full of vegetarian recipes.

The next is Fresh – from the owners of Fresh Restaurants in Toronto comes another great cookbook (the other is reFresh which I love). Veggie eating at its best with a whole chapter dedicated to smoothies. Wish I could find a bigger picture – but if you win the book you can see the full size cover!

The final book is Everyday Raw Express. Eating raw has never been easier or quicker with a book filled with recipes that take under 30 minutes to make.

Let the bidding begin. Just comment on this post – remember that you bid in pairs of underpants and need to live in the Ottawa area because I deliver the books myself! Thank you!!

I Say Random Things On Twitter…

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Instagram Photo Oddness...

Awash in hickory smoke... This Kansas City BBQ blend is in this month's subscription! Can't wait to hear what you think. 
#instoretoday #reicpesthisevening #bossmommacandoitall #coffeeplease Multitasking. Listening to this on the way to #spicebaby's 4 month check up.

#womeninbusiness #entrepreneur #girlboss #supportlocal I need to up my herb pun game... #netflixanddill #spiceshop #613 #supportlocal

Past Foodie Adventures…