going veg : part two

Living veg is wonderful, that is assuming you live alone or live in a veg-friendly home. Outside the four walls of your cruelty-free sanctuary can often be tough to navigate. This journey might feel daunting and lonely. People will question you and your choices and you may wonder if it’s all worth it.  Stay strong and have faith in yourself and your beliefs. You will come up against a lot of questioning, teasing and sometimes just plain rudeness. I look at this as an opportunity to engage and educate. In my experience I’ve found the people around me extremely receptive to my life choice and I think people are more open than we give them credit for.

For example, at a work picnic, a very thoughtful co-worker made potato salad and brought a little bowl of vegan potato salad for the veg folk in the group. My dear friend Natalie went well out of her way to ensure I would have something to eat for dinner at her upcoming wedding reception. For every jerk that asks you “would you eat pork chops for a million dollars,” there are really amazing and considerate people in the world.

going vegan :  part two - danielle felip

Continuing the Going Vegan blog series, this post will answer the common diet-related questions you may encounter as a vegan and will provide you with more information about this lifestyle.

HOW TO EAT

Invest in a few great cookbooks, this will help you with meal planning and grocery shopping.  My favourites include: The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon, Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, the Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone, UnDiet by Meghan Telpner and reFresh by Ruth Tal.

Vegan / vegetarian blogs (ahem…) will be your new best friends for support and amazing recipes. Here are some fabulous ones: Oh She Glows, Happy Herbivore, Vegan Culinary Crusade, Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen, Cupcakes and Kale and A Dash of Compassion.

Consider taking a vegetarian cooking class.  If you live in Toronto check out: Marni Wasserman, Meghan Telpner, Arvinda’s and Live NutritionThe Big Carrot and Loblaw’s also offer vegetarian workshops.

WHAT TO EAT

When I first went veg I consumed a lot of faux meat products. Slowly, I became more comfortable in the kitchen and before you know it, I was in school for Holistic Nutrition. A great way to get people on-board the vegan train is through food, often dessert. You will hear “this doesn’t taste vegan” a lot. You just have to roll with it.

Breakfasts may include oatmeal, organic cereals and smoothies. Snacks could be hummus and veggies, trail mix with nuts, seeds, raisins and shredded coconut or simply a piece of fruit such as a banana or apple. Dinner is just like any other dinner…without the meat, dairy and eggs. Salads, rice and beans, steamed veggies, stir-frys, stews, soups. The possibilities are endless as long as you keep an open mind. Some fun treats that you can purchase at health food stores and select grocery stores include kale chips, raw macaroons, coconut ice cream, vegan pizza and more!

going vegan :  part two - danielle felip

 

SO…WHAT ABOUT THAT PROTEIN?

The most common question vegans are asked is “where do you get your protein?” Meat has protein, yes. But so do plants, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes. The difference between the two lies within the amino acid profile. Amino acids are the building blocks that make up protein molecules. The human body can produce all but nine of the 22 amino acids we need. These nine “essential amino acids” must be obtained through food. Once consumed, proteins breakdown in the body to their various amino acid components and then build new protein molecules. Animal protein is considered to be a complete protein, meaning it contain all essential amino acids whereas protein from plants typically do not. Animal protein is more similar in structure to ours and therefore is easily used by the body.

However, having a whole food plant-based diet that is full of variety can ensure you are receiving all the amino acids you need.

Some great plant-based protein sources are: spirulina (a blue-green fresh-water algae available at health food stores in liquid and capsule form), quinoa, hemp seeds, chia, buckwheat and kale. There are some high quality protein sources available including Vega and Sunwarrior.

VEGAN SUBSTITUTES

There is without a doubt a veganized version of everything – from nuggets, ground “meat,” milk, ice cream, pizza and butter.  Unfortunately, many of these are options are junk and really not healthy. There is a term, “junk food vegan” which describes people who live a vegan lifestyle but not in a balanced and healthy way. The thought is, if it’s vegan, it’s ok to eat.

That is not necessarily true. While it’s ok to get caught up in being able to have ‘regular’ food that you can eat, these vegan substitutes should be consumed in limited quantities. Too much processed food, sugar and soy is no good for our health. We are far better off with well-rounded diet that includes fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, whole grains and superfoods.

While the vegan diet is a large component of the lifestyle, there are many other factors that go into living vegan. Stay tuned for more posts!

“Just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else? If contributing to the suffering of billions of animals that live miserable lives and (quite often) die in horrific ways isn’t motivating, what would be? If being the number one contributor to the most serious threat facing the planet (global warming) isn’t enough, what is? And if you are tempted to put off these questions of conscience, to say not now, then when?” – Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals

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toronto veg food fest

This past weekend in Toronto was gorgeous – sunny and warm with a nice breeze. The perfect weather for being outdoors. Even better for celebrating the 30th Veg Food Fest at Harbourfront.

VFF is one of my favourite weekends of the year. Harbourfront fills up with compassionate, cool and interesting folks all with one common interest…food and products that take into consideration ethics and the environment. What I love about the Veg Food Fest is that it is very inclusive, you don’t have to be vegan to attend, just have an interest or curiosity to learn more about the lifestyle.

I also love the dessert. All of the dessert. Veg folk really love their cupcakes. There were loads of vegan bakeries, some of my favourite desserts included Sweets From the Earth’s Whoopie Pies and Bunner’s Creamies cookies. Other great products include: Truly Organic Foods Salted Caramel Walnuts, Yamchops Coconut Bacon and Pekoe Kombucha in Oolong Sunrise.

Here are a few snaps of the Veg Food Fest from my perspective:

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veg food fest

Shout out to the hardworking team at Toronto Vegetarian Association for making the Veg Food Festival possible.

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chocolate-cherry almond balls

I love the flavour combination of chocolate, cherry and almond.  Each on its own is good but when combined together is just heavenly.  So chocolate-cherry almond balls seem perfect right?

Maybe a visual is necessary to illustrate my point…

chocolate-cherry almond balls

Convinced?  Good.

I think these are one of the tastiest creations to ever come out of my kitchen.

Make them now and thank me later.

chocolate-cherry balls
CHOCOLATE-CHERRY ALMOND BALLS

1 cup almonds
1/4 cup cashews
1 cup Medjool dates, pitted
1/2 cup dairy-free chocolate chips or a dark chocolate bars, chopped
1/3 cup dried cherries (the no sugar, no sulfite variety)
1 tsp raw cacao powder
pinch of sea salt

Add almonds and cashews to a food processor and process until crumbly.  Careful not to over-process, this will let too much oil out of the nuts.  Remove, place in a large bowl and set aside.

Add dates, chocolate chips, dried cherries, raw cacao powder and sea salt to food processor and process until well combined.  Remove and add to bowl of nuts.

Using a wooden spoon or fork combine nuts with date mixture.  You can use your hands too to help combine the ingredients. Once all the ingredients are combined, roll into small balls and top with a whole almond and chocolate chip.

Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes before serving. Makes about 15-18 small balls.

 

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going veg : part one

VEG 101

You’ve decided to go vegan or explore the idea of plant-based living. Congratulations! You’ve made a great choice for yourself and the planet. Veg eating uses less resources such as water, food and reduces your carbon footprint. There is also a huge emotional and spiritual component to plant-based living as well.

Vegan and vegetarianism have become increasingly popular and as such, there are plentiful resources about transitioning to being plant-based. Adopting a veg diet and / or lifestyle may seem overwhelming at first.  Most people cut meat out of their diet and look down at their dinner plates only to realize that the plate is half empty and wonder what the heck they are suppose to eat. This series of posts are a condensed version that I hope will set you on the right path to a healthy and meaningful veg lifestyle.

going vegan

When I first decided I would stop eating meat – March 1, 2008 – the night before I decided to commit to a vegetarian lifestyle I got a quarter chicken dinner from Swiss Chalet and chowed down. It wasn’t my finest moment, but it was what I needed to do at the time. My journey to veganism stemmed from a traumatic and sad experience; I saw someone end their life and it profoundly affected me. I came to really understand the value of life – all life, whether human or animal. Life is precious and fragile and for me it no longer made sense to eat what was once a life.

There are many reasons why people choose to go vegan; namely ethical, health and the environment. Whatever the reason, it is a completely personal life choice. At first, your friends and family may question you decision and think you’ve totally lost it. When family and friends find out about your new lifestyle they are going to have questions.  Your 83-year old great aunt might not get it when you tell her you no longer eat meat or want ice cream.  Have patience with them, it might take some getting used to. It is my feeling that if I want tolerance towards my beliefs than I need to practice tolerance for others, no matter how much I may disagree with them. Sure, it is absolutely annoying to be teased and constantly questioned about your lifestyle – life choices are a funny thing, everyone seems to have an opinion on things that don’t really concern them.  At the root of it, the vegan lifestyle is based in compassion for all beings that roam the Earth. Exhibiting compassion to all only makes the world a kinder place and makes people more receptive and responsive to your veg-loving message.

grapefruit

WHAT KIND OF VEGGIE ARE YOU?

When it comes to the various veg lifestyles, there are two camps – the ones whom want to have clearly identified “labels” and the ones who think that these “labels” don’t matter. Both have valid points though I tend to be on the side of choose what is best for you, understanding the various terms in the veg community may help with your long term goals and if you like labels, you’ll have one!  There is a fairly broad spectrum within the world of vegetarianism and where you fall in said spectrum is totally your choice. Do what works best for you and your body, both physically and emotionally. You are of course, never confined to these categories and this is what make labels challenging.

Here’s a run down of the different types of veg lifestyles that exist:

VEGETARIAN – Includes animals products like eggs, dairy and honey.  Within this there is Lacto-vegetarian, includes dairy but not eggs and Ovo-vegetarian, includes eggs but not dairy.

VEGAN – Abstains from all products that come from an animal, this includes meat, dairy, eggs, leather, fur, feathers, products tested on animals, products with animal ingredients and honey.

RAW - Can be vegan or not.  A raw diet means no food is heated above 118 degrees and diet consists of 75-80% raw foods.

Other diets that tend to get lumped into this group are…

PESCATARIAN – Avoid all meat products with the exception of fish. From an ethical standpoint, this is not a true vegetarian diet…fish are animals.

SEMI-VEGETARIAN / FLEXITARIAN – Let’s call it like it is…you’re technically an omnivore who eats more plants. I don’t know where all these strange terms came from.

cauliflower

When it comes down to it, veganism is not a diet based on restriction, deprivation or dedication. It is based on choice and values. The choices YOU make and the values YOU want to live by. At the end of the day, you need to eat however it is that brings you the most health and happiness. Some non-veg folks make the assumption that we’re somehow…missing out by eating this way. I have never once felt like I was missing it, because if I did want say, a steak well then I’d eat it. Except I don’t want that and haven’t in all my years as being vegan. It’s a choice and I choose to live this way. When people ask you silly questions like, “don’t you miss [insert food here – usually cheese or meat]” or the classic, “where do you get your protein from?” just role with it and take it as an opportunity to educate and not preach.

Transition in a way that works for you. If you want to go all in, go it! If you want to start slowly by cutting down your meat consumption or becoming more aware of what cosmetics you have that test on animals, do it! Find the thing that works for you and continuously learn and build on it.

“It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.” – Albert Einstein

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lentil + vegetable soup

I love soup. I don’t care that it’s August and 27C plus humidity outside. Soup makes me happy. Soup is easy to make, easy to transport, easy to digest and very grounding.

The boyfriend and I receive a weekly produce delivery of organic fruits and vegetables from the fabulous Mama Earth Organics. The fridge was stocked full of gorgeous vegetables perfect for making a light yet chunky soup. I like this recipe because it is extremely versatile based on what ingredients you have.

lentil and vegetable soup by danielle felip

LENTIL + VEGETABLE SOUP

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
1/2 cup sweet potato, chopped
½ cup dried brown lentils
½ teaspoon ground cumin
3-4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup broccoli florets
salt to taste

Heat olive oil in a medium heavy bottom pot. Add the diced onions and cook on medium heat until soft. Add garlic, carrots and sweet potato and sauté for about 30 seconds. Next add the lentils and cumin and stir for 10 seconds.

Pour in 3 cups of vegetable stock. Depending upon how thick or thin you prefer your soup, feel free to add 1 more cup of broth. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to simmer, cover the pot, and cook until the lentils are soft – about 30 minutes. Add broccoli, stir and cover for another 5 mins until broccoli is bright green and tender. Add salt to taste. Serve with crackers or gluten-free bread.

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