Wednesday, February 27, 2008

eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!



Lookie at what I got in the (e-)mail:

"Dear all.

This is to confirm that you have been assigned to the Introduction to Tropical Ecosystems
module offered by David Currie and myself. We will be updating the course website
(http://www.science.uottawa.ca/~gblou656/cours_tropical/index_trop.html) over the next
few months and will inform you once it is done.

Looking forward to meeting you all,

David & Gabriel"


AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!! I'm going to Costa Rica next reading week to study tropical ecosystems. Look at the course website, its intense beyond believe *SCREAMS* OH MY GOSH IM SO EXCITED IM GONNADIEEEE!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Vegan Stars

You know, it's really great finding out your favourite 'famous' people are vegan.

Not long ago I discovered Dan Piraro, writer of the Bizarro comic which has been my personal favourite since I started reading the funnies in the Globe and Mail (Toronto Newspaper), is vegan. I always knew he was very much for animal rights, as many of his cartoons sent very strong messages, and let me tell you--I have tons of those, plus many others that are just about issues today or just funny in general are pinned up ALL over the pinboards in my room and kitchen, and stuck all over the fridge too. I checked his website recently and it turns out, he's Vegan!! He's actually one of the founders of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary (http://www.woodstockfas.org/about.shtml)! I sent him an e-mail letting him know how much I admired him and that he truly was an strong influence that led me towards being who I am today and guess what? He took the time to send me one back! Not just a "um thanks k bye" but a real, thought out, response. <3

Then today I find out Nathalie Portman, my favourite actress of all time, is Vegan! Not just that, but she's launching a Vegan Shoe line and her shoes are GORGEOUS (helps that one of the reasons I like her so much is I really like her style.)

I demand everyone go out and buy as many shoes from her brand as possible so it stays up and running. DEMAND.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Farmers Market

Sorry it took so long! Here's a bit of a photojournal of the experience as there's not much to explain. I'll say it now that there was a LOT more than what I just photographed--the entire town turns into one big market on market day. So amazing.













20 euros--that's including the soy yogurts, oat milk, and artesanal bread! (Each about 2 euros) Not bad eh? I can't WAIT until the summer when I come visit and the earth is literally exploding with food!


Here is some of the stuff I did with it:

Makin' soup!

Potato Leek and White Bean Soup.. SO GOOD! I'll post the recipe for it later, its a MUST as its really really amazing.


Baked Apple... mmm.. the carmel that came out of this was soo good.. apple carmel YUM.. (I used it to decorate the apple.. and ate up whatever else I could!)



Artichokes! I used an orange and some ginger to help flavor them, but they really kept their artichoke flavor. Yummm. I'd been craving artichokes for so long...










Monday, February 18, 2008

Calçotada!



Vegans are the very image of beauty and grace.

In Catalunya, calçots are loved and adored. (see: http://www.pilotguides.com/destination_guide/europe/spain/calcotada.php) My family is no exception. My aunt has her "salsa pels calçots" (not actually a 'salsa' as we think of it, but a really really creamy beautiful dipping sauce) integrated into her lifeblood, we have our own special calçotada bibs and we are all more than happy to get down and dirty for this fun and festive (vegan) tradition!

Here are the calçots (aka resprouted onions), in various stages of their DOOM.





We grill them on an open fire, charring their outside skins and letting them steam themselves. MUAHAHAHA. (And who said Vegans weren't masochistic?)

It takes a long time to get them all done. My father, grandfather, and I sat around at the table eating the dipping sauce with bread and drinking wine. Lots of wine. So much wine. Here we are with our bibs!



Here they are, ready to be devoured--we wrap them in the newspapers to keep them warm as we carry them in and as we eat them, so as you go you unwrap another package and thus your food is always warm!



We then peel off the dirty, sooty, charred skin to reveal a tender, sweet onion! mmm.



Dip that in some of the salsa de calçots and DOWN THE HATCH! (Usually you tilt your head back like in the topmost photo.. this one was just really hard to bite apart without some fingerhelp... and my cousin decided to take advantage of the opportunity, lol.)



I'm working on translating the recipe for the salsa de calçots from my aunt... not Catalan to English, that's easy but "oh about a pan full" to "10 tomatoes". :P Shall post that soon!



Oh, and I went to market today! Lots of great photos from that and a potato, leek and white bean soup recipe, but I really must go out and play for a bit! See you later!

Huge-Ass Post

Got my uncle's digital camera a-uploadin'.. wow have I got a post for you.... Actually, these posts are best seperate, so I think I'll make them seperate anyway. Here's that pear tart as I promised.. its from VwaV, except I didn't have cranberries, so I soaked raisins in hot water for a bit (they were still raisin-y, I just didn't want them to soak up moisture.) I had no almond extract so I used vanilla, umm.. a few other modifications occured, including the fact that the only pan I had was for roasting and that the oven had no temperature settings so I guessed. It was amazing amazing amazing anyway!






This had ONLY JUST made it out of the oven and was being devoured!! Wait, wait I say! Even though the recipe said to let cool, and even though this was baked at around 270*F rather than 375, and even though... yeah... despite all that, it came out flawlessly good. Mmm. The ginger-almond-pear combo with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg was simply divine!!! I used almost twice the amount of ginger. Oh, and I had no measuring cup or spoons, so the flour/almond/sugar ratios were ballpark: Which ended up being a good thing as the pan was too big, but I'd made a bit more than the recipe called for.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Breakkie!



Blogslut? Why yes!

Here's my breakfast! (Notice that we have no mugs/cups in this house, so bowls it is. That's ok, I like LOTS of tea anyway.)



(Oh, and I had some yogurt and raisins after--one breakfast is never enough for me!)

Valencia orange (Valencia isn't far from where I am) and pomegranate, fresh from the market.. oh goodness this was good!!!!



Haha, this is my wonderful teapot. My kitchen is a little rustic, I'll show it in more detail later.



Well, chances are you'll get another update within the day, so keep checking. ;)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Spain

Hm, where to start. With the flight I suppose. I had it explained to me that vegetarians can indeed eat fish when I went to see if, last minute, I could possible have a vegetarian meal. (So it wasnt their fault they couldn't provide me with that: I really gave almost no notice--I was really absent minded when my dad was booking and forgot to ask him to ask them for one.)

The flight itself was cool though, as I ate the grapefruits, dried fruit and nuts, and ginger candies I'd packed myself (it was a night flight so I didn't exactly need an arsenal of food) I chatted with the boy (who I later found out is named Clive) about veganism. He himself was completely omniverous but really really curious to know as much as he could about how I live, what I eat, and how he could go about learning to make more veggie-based meals. The only thing he did 'wrong' was he KEPT assuming vegan=healthy. I tried to explain to him how I feel about that: that being vegan isn't intrinsically healthy, its just when you're thinking that hard about what's going in your body and obviously have that much willpower--making the healthier choice isn't a huge leap. That and dude, half of my groceries come from health food stores.

He was shocked and appalled to learn Oreos are vegan. In a good way. ;)

Anyway... Spain:

It's LOVELY here.. how happy I am that not only is there no snow, but I can go around in my sweater alone!! I LOVE it here love love love.

Oh, and I found out there is quite the population of strict vegetarians here. I went to the small health food store in town and what a surprise not only to see a variety of soy milks, but a variety of rice milks, almond milks and, get this, oat milks. I had never even HEARD of oat milk! I bought a plain soy milk because I was tired and wanted to eat, but I promise I'll buy some oat milk to review. Has anyone ever heard of this?

They also had more soy yogurt varieties than I'd EVER seen before! Four brand names, two of them "dessert" yogurts that came in gorgeous individual glass containers, one of them had yoplait type drink tubes, flavors like lemon, apricot, dried plum, pomegranate, passionfruit, (plus all the usual like chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, field berry, blueberry, peach, etc.) I was BLOWN away. I got plain though, as its my favourite, and as its the only one of other brand names I've tried so it would make it easier to review. I LOVE apricot though.. and am addicted to dried prunes.. and LOVE lemon yogurts.. so.. I think you will get to see some variety soon enough.

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link to larger image, if you want to see the flavors in more detail: (I know I was curious..) http://img89.imageshack.us/img89/1847/feb15012cix6.jpg

Here's the plain one I bought (I didn't photograph even a SMALL portion of the stuff they had..) (oh and I'm totally showing off the view from my balcony.)



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It was amazing!!! So wonderfully creamy and smooth--it didn't have the strange aftertaste I find from So Nice. It was a thicker, smoother, better version of the home made soy yogurt I made, but for 1.70Euro and zero time commitment! Absolutely amazing.. it makes me cry that I don't have this at home.

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Here's one of the brand names of soy milk they had. The taste was ok--a little on the watery side, and a little nutty. It sort of reminded me of tigernut milk (very common here in spain.. oh I guess that's another vegan option isn't it! But its a dessert here so its very very sweet!) which was a nice childhood memory sort of thing.


Then I pulled my trolly to market. (I have to take a photo of my trolly--just bought it and i LOVE it to bits.. its bright orange and has huge wheels so it doesnt jiggle to hell and back on those cobblestone roads! Definately bringing it back to Canada!)

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So much variety, almost all nuts were raw with only a few to "snack on now"--Spaniards appreciate cooking with nuts and the beauty of home roasted nuts.. which also makes a raw diet much easier! I didn't take photos of the many many fruit stalls and vendors but I should have. Monday is real "market" where all the farmers and other merchants come to town so you'll have wonderful photos of that!

I bought the most beautiful raisins there

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I mean I KNOW you can get mixed raisins anywhere, but these just seemed so gorgeous...

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The HUGE vats (I mean huge--I could've easily fit in one!) in this stall were impressive! They all cooked different sort of beans and some 'deli salads' of sorts--all vegan really, as they were made with simple, fresh ingredients... and that doesnt include milk or egg.

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(This is actually from a different shop, but of the same idea) MMMM THIS is how garbanzo beans are meant to be bought.. they were perfect absolutely perfect. I'd never tasted chickpeas quite so gorgeous!!!!

Here's me, happy with my chickpeas:

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I proceeded to then COOK!

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I stewed some tomatoes in a tad of water, added in some garlic, and then olive oil, thyme, and 3/4 kg of chickpeas.. Mmm this was AMAZING. Everyone devoured it!!

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Roasted butternut squash with cloves and cinnamon, and a dash of nutmeg, ground with mortar and pestle and tossed with olive oil. SO GOOD.

I also made an pear tart, inspired by a recipe in VwaV, but the photos of that is yet to come as I used my uncle's camera for that.

Oh, and I have found some of the most gorgeous plates and cutlery odd and ends in storage, which I'm taking back, and a store that sells some fancy cool plates and stuff that I'll check out in more detail on Monday.

I'll also share photos of what its like to cook with an oven with absolutely no temperature indicators, no food processor, blender, measuring cups, or most other normal utensils. Its a blast.. honestly everything keeps coming out really great! See you later alligators!

xoxo.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Leaving On a Jet Plane....

So I'm headed to Spain for 10 days, leaving in about two hours. Very excited! My father is from Spain and so I'm going for several reasons including the fact my grandparents are very old ( :( ) and 'it shows' if you know what I mean... and my cousin is in her last trimester and I can't wait to see her belly big and swollen!

Market is on Monday and I just can't wait to go out and see what there is. I'll be sure to take as many succulent photos as possible! I have LOTS of homework to do while I'm there so I'll have my laptop, and consideirng how often I post.. I wont miss a beat.

Hasta Luego!

(Actually I come from north eastern Spain where we speak Catalan predominantly, but shh.)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Sunergia Blue Cheese

So I'm reviewing the 'blue cheese', as promised. When I opened the 'cheese' from its packet, the aroma hit me first--it smelt just like, well.. blue cheese! As I cut into it I realized the texture is much like that of firm tofu: it holds together, it will crumble if you make it but it definately doesn't stick to the knife or crumble apart on first touch.

It tasted quite good--first I was a little dissapointed as I realized I could taste a hint of tofu underneath the spices, but then as I chewed I realized it really was a good sub--well spiced, has that blue cheese flavor and a good aftertaste.
My dad (who is omniverous, though tends to eat a lot of vegan food--one of the vegan restaurants on campus knows him by name and even gave him a christmas gift! He goes every day! Sometimes I get him to take me, hehe! ^__^) stole some and really liked it--he told me that I have to buy a few next time I'm in kensington! I think that does say something indeed.
I took some and crumbled it into a pear, walnut, radish and arugula salad with a balsamic vinagrette. Mmmm. Deeeelish!

And just to prove to you that it is indeed low calorie (150 for the whole circle), here's the back. I also like how something so seemingly processed has such simple ingredients.


Overall I definately liked it and am looking forward to getting the other flavors.
PS i rate my review 6/10: I wish I was better at this. Practice makes perfect?

Mushroom Mushroom!



Yesterday I decided to help myself to some of my mums dried mushrooms. Mmmmm. I love mushrooms. (So much I made them into a heart! Actually that was a bit of an accident, hehe.)

Traditionally these are cooked with meat and they tend to soften and become infused with the runoff fat from the animal. It's really easy to cook them without meat of course: It's just necessary to keep in mind the implications.


Dried mushrooms first need to be soaked--the wood ear mushroom (the one that's thin and curly, a personal fave) only needs to be soaked 15 minutes or so. I then marinade it for as long as possible (less marinade just means add more soy sauce at the end) in a mixture of rice wine vinegar, soy sauce and sweetener. Finally, I steam it for 5-10 minutes until heated through. This goes fabulously with sticky rice for a quick, simple treat.


The shiitake mushrooms need to be soaked overnight, as they're much tougher. They're a great addition to miso soup, as a sort of vegetarian dashi. They an also be steamed until tender or added to almost any clear soup. They add a noticable, but (I find) pleasant flavor to any dish.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Kensington Exploration Supreme!

So I today I went to Kensington Market and got BLOWN AWAY by the great vegan selection in the health food stores there!!! Like, here in high park I have more than my fair share of health food stores (4 within walking distance, at least) and a really great selection at all the grocery stores, and figured myself lucky.
Kensington is just... wow. And the prices... wow. I went beserk with my cell camera, as you can see below:

Huge ice cream selection--I just photographed the stuff I hadn't seen elsewhere: Soy ice cream is really really common and easy to find in all my supermarkets etc, but I'd only seen one or two types of tofutti cuties before so:
They even sold them individually! I know this summer that's how I'm going go try my first tofutti cutie (I've never been a big ice cream person so I'd probably never buy a box, especially without trying one first!)

They also had soy delicious bars individually:


They had a HUGE selection of Vegan cheeses!




When I saw the blue cheese--for only 3 bucks, and it was a brand I hadn't heard of or seen before, and it was pretty low calorie (I care..) I HAD to buy it. Product review to come!



They had a lot more stuff, actually I think the store owner was vegan because I was talking to him (he apologized profusely for the mess by the way, when I asked if I could take pictures--he was in the middle of stocking the fake cheese/meat area so it was all jumbled) one of the workers came up and told him that someone had brought them a cake, only it was a 'dairy-cake' and he was like "oh well... someone will eat it maybe? That was nice anyway." So yeah..

The prices in the store were all great, I was very happy--unfortunately little ol me just had my half filled knapsack from class instead of a cart of some sort. Definately going to go sometime with a trolly to be able to do some proper grocery shopping. I went to another healthfood store right after with slightly different selection, still lots of stuff, and slightly better prices on what was in both stores. Very impressed overall.

Kensington is great too because it has lots of Produce stores, and is right beside chinatown. I got kumquats, snow pea stalks and bananas from chinatown. Yummm soo gooooooood. (The kumquats really are in season! My mom got mad that I didn't buy more than a pound or so--it IS chinese new year after all!) (Ps. my mom is from Hong Kong)

(I'm getting better at this photography thing, aren't I?)

Oh, this is a meal I had a while ago, and I felt like photographing it. Sliced tomato drizzled with oil, turnip fries, mixed veggies, miso soup and green tea.


This was the kicker--SO GOOD. Frozen strawberries with mint green tea poured ontop. I'm not patient enough to leave strawberries out overnight.. this made them SO sweet it seemed impossibly good, with a small hint of the mint. Mmmm. Tastes better than it looks.