Category Archives: Product Reviews

Free vegan pizza this Tuesday night

I try to exert my vegan influence on most people I come into contact with, and in no case is that influence stronger than with my husband, Yves.

He knew when he got involved with me that veganism is a huge part of my life (um, it touches every single meal!) and has embraced it in his own diet (he calls himself “vegan by marriage”), and taken it upon himself to learn about it and understand the issues.  His label reading skills are nearly as strong as my own!

Filming the Top This! promo video.

Likewise, I have tried to give his board gaming hobby a shot, sitting through long nights of games during which I am badly beaten, struggling to understand up to three new sets of rules in an evening (and refusing to play Agricola, an animal husbandry game).  It’s a give and take thing.

When he told me he was developing a pizza flicking board game, I frowned. “Well, what are the toppings?”  I asked. The pizza was cheeseless, he said, but there was pepperoni.  Ok, well that could be vegan pepperoni easily enough.

But Yves decided to take it a step further. What if he created a “veganized” version of the game, with a bonus set of spinach tokens? Would “my people” be interested in something like that?

I wasn’t totally sure. I mean, these are the same people who will spend $8 on a small clamshell package of vegan marshmallows, and $12 for a pint of vegan ice cream. But would they support a vegan-by-marriage in his attempt to design and sell a pizza-flicking board game?  Only time will tell.  It’s the only game Yves knows of that is actually designed and marketed with vegans in mind— so maybe consider supporting it!

Top This! is a quick dexterity game for which players flick wooden “pizza topping” pieces onto a pizza-like game board in order to fulfill orders. Top This! is aimed at families, and gamers.  It is currently being crowdfunded on Kickstarter.  (You can contribute by clicking the link and following the procedure to back it.) Crowdfunding is being used to generate interest in the game and to fund its production. If enough people support the project, the product will be produced.

The game’s publisher, UniForge is hosting a Top This! Peekaboo Pizza Party at The Grand Pizzeria & Bar (74 George Street) to give people an opportunity to try Top This! on Tuesday July 3rd from 5:30-7:30 pm. Everyone is invited to attend.

There will be free pizza- including vegan pizza. There I go exerting my vegan influence again!

The Top This! crowdfunding campaign runs from June 6 to July 22, 2012. Special bonuses are in place for overfunding goals, giving backers additional incentive to encourage others to back the project.

Hope to see you there!

Nadia is sweetly tempted by Jacqui O’s treats

By Nadia W.

(Editor’s note: Nadia wrote this post at the same time as Erin wrote this post about Jacqui O’s Sweet Temptations.  We decided to run Nadia’s review later, and later is now.)

Anyone who knows me is aware of my love of vegan, and raw vegan desserts. I remember my sheer joy when Auntie Loo’s bakery opened. And today I’m proud to say, I’m addicted to the peanut butter chocolate cupcakes, and scones, and nanaimo bars…well you get the picture.

A while back, one of my Facebook friends posted the news that a new vegan baker in town named Jacqui O would be selling her treats at the farmers’ market. Another vegan baker?! In Ottawa?! Selling peanut butter cookies?! I simply had to investigate.

My weekly trip to the farmers’ market happens on Sundays and my first stop was the Jacqui O’s Sweet Temptations table where I encountered peanut butter ba-bombs, sticky buns, chocolate chip cookies, and cupcakes, to name a few. I was excited to get home to taste my finds. Words cannot truly describe the experience, but I’ll try my best.

The sticky bun was one of the best I’ve had–and believe me, I’ve had my share of sticky buns. The chocolate chip cookie rivals any chocolate chip cookie made by an omnivore–yes, I said it.

But my favorite was the peanut butter ba-bomb cookies. The fist bite had me holding on to my kitchen counter for support. My knees buckled from the taste. Inside of the cookie is a generous serving of peanut butter. You heard me. A generous serving of peanut butter surrounded by a chocolate cookie. I had two of them with a glass of almond mylk.

Well, that’s a lie.  I should be honest with our readers; I had four of those amazing cookies with a glass of almond mylk. That’s how seriously I take my role with the NCVA—I am willing to gain weight, or even subject myself to possible ridicule for going a bit overboard, all in the name of providing this essential public service.

But don’t just take my word for the greatness of her treats, be sure to stop by the Lansdowne farmer’s market  on Sunday to purchase some treats. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.

Jacqui O’s Sweet Temptations
Specializing in Vegan & Gluten Free Baked Goods
Custom orders available
Jacquios.bakery@gmail.com
(613) 709-5283
On Facebook
At the Landsdowne farmers’ market until the end of the market season

Cheeeeezburger!

By Nadia W.

A few weeks ago, I was heading out of town for a week on a well deserved vacation.  It was Saturday night, and  I was stumped about what to prepare for supper because my fridge was bare.  My weekly visit to the farmer’s market occurs on Sunday, so by the time Saturday rolls around it’s slim pickings.

I had a bit of a hankering for a burger, was resisting. I really did not want to make one. But I happened to have some Gardein beefless burgers in my freezer, and not much else.

I must admit, I was hesitant to try them. I tend not to eat a lot of processed foods and well, these burgers are definitely processed.  You’re probably wondering, am I a food snob who hates processed foods? No, no, not at all but I prefer whole foods to their processed counterparts.

But, I was starving and needed something for the night. I decided that in order to bulk up the veggie side of things, fries would be part of the menu, so I purchased two sweet potatoes, enough for myself and guest.

So what’s my verdict on the burger? It was delicious! Succulent and juicy- words that most people think can only be associated with burgers made from dead animals.  I’ll be honest, veggie burgers on the whole aren’t great. They’re sort of a vegan necessity, and most menus have one these days, but they’re not the sort of thing I would normally go out of my way to consume.

But these? They were light tasting and did not have that frozen taste. These burgers are great for those ‘I don’t know what to feed my family’ nights.  Normally, when having a burger, my toppings would include avocado, tomatoes and kale, but the only things I had on hand were mustard and Daiya vegan cheese.

It wasn’t a banner night for healthy eating for me, but it did the trick and it was very satisfying.
Here’s the recipe for the fries:
Spicy Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients:

– 1 to 2 sweet potatoes 

– 1 TB oil

Roughly equal amounts of each of the following:
– Poultry seasoning
– Cumin
– Garlic powder
– Salt
– Cayenne pepper
Method:

– Wash sweet potatoes
– Cut into wedges
– Pat dry with dish clean cloth or paper towel
– Transfer to bowl
– Add dry ingredients and oil
– Mix together
– Transfer to baking sheet
– Bake at 350F until cooked

New Vegan Baker, Fresh From Toronto

So Neil and I went to the new Preston St. farmer’s market last weekend. It’s a very little affair – maybe 12 or so vendors. Mostly veggies. Joel’s coffee (not organic, but Fair Trade and good – and the vendor gives samples, just like with wine!). Moksha Yoga was there too, looking vaguely out of place as they did upward dogs and sun salutations, but good on them anyway.

Jacqui O at Lansdowne Farmer's Market

What we were quite shocked to find at the market, however, was a new vegan bakery. It’s called “Jacqui O’s Sweet Temptations,” and it offers a variety of cupcakes, muffins, and cookies, as well as baklava, brownies, focaccia and sticky buns. I’d say at least half of its offerings were gluten free, and some were sugar free as well.

In the interest of doing a thorough review, I bought several items: sticky bun, brownie, cupcake, baklava and a cookie.

My expectations were pretty high. As a holder of many university degrees of varying usefulness, I get excited by credentials and Jacqui was trained at the George Brown Culinary Institute.

I can, in general, say that I was pretty impressed. The chocolate peanut butter pillow cookie represented the best execution of that recipe I’ve tasted so far (except for Neil’s, but I suspect I’m biased). The cinnamon buns were GOOD. I’ve never had a vegan cinnamon bun that was good before. Other than mine, but again I’m probably biased. And in fairness I’ve never tried either Pamela’s or Auntie Loo’s.

The lime-coconut cupcake was also the best execution of a citrus-based cupcake that I’ve had. Aw crap, except for my orange one, of course. And her frosting is actually better than Aunti Loo’s and Thimble Cakes’. Very lime-y without being runny – how’d she do it?

The baklava, which I bought based on raves from Jacqui’s other customers, was really good too. But honestly I think all baklava tastes the same.

I wasn’t wildly impressed by the brownie at first. The texture was good but it was a little on the bland side. It lacked the rich fabulousness of  – dare I say it? – “The World’s Best Fudge Brownie.” It grew on me as time went on however. Largely, I think, because the ganache topping tastes like Smartie chocolate. Yes, that’s right. The chocolate inside of those little candies that vegans can’t eat. Once I ate all that off the top, I was in a fine mood and the bottom somehow just seemed tastier.

Anyway, she’s on Preston St. on Saturdays, Lansdowne on Sundays. Check her out there and visit her facebook page. It looks like she does way more than what she sells at the farmer’s markets, and from the looks of the pictures, the other stuff is amazing!

Daiya spottings in Ottawa

Last June just after Veg Fest, Daiya started trickling into Ottawa stores, much to the immense excitement of vegans across the city and beyond.

For the uninitiated, Daiya is the first vegan “cheese” that’s actually really good.

Daiya spotted at Baseline/Merivale Loblaws.

OK, that may be a bit subjective. But only a bit.  It melts, and it substitutes perfectly for mozzarella and cheddar shreds in a wide variety of culinary applications. And, did I mention that it tastes good?

Locally, restaurants like Trella, the Arrow and Loon, Credible Edibles, Cafe My House and Green Earth have made it a part of their menu.

Daiya products do not contain many common allergens including soy, dairy (casein or lactose) gluten, egg, peanuts, and tree nuts (excluding coconut).

At my house, we buy cheddar Daiya by the five pound bag at Rainbow  Foods. It’s imply the most cost effective way for a family of four to get its fix.  But most normal people buy Daiya in little half pound bags that could be purchased only at select health food stores.

That is, until now. Today I spotted Daiya at Loblaws on Baseline and Merivale. My Facebook post to that effect garnered an enthusiastic response, with other Daiya sightings shared as the excitement grew. It’s not just that Daiya is more easily available for vegans and vegetarians who want it, it’s the sheer excitement that a cherished vegan substitute is being prominently displayed in front of a mainstream, non-vegan audience. How many people will see it and give it a try, who otherwise wouldn’t because they’d never seen it?

So in addition to the usual suspects (Rainbow Foods, Market Organics, Natural Food Pantry), and Loblaws Baseline/Merivale, Daiya has also been spotted at Superstore and Independent stores in Orleans.

Please share in the comments if you’ve spotted Daiya somewhere else in Ottawa!

NCVA volunteer Deb Gleason put it best: “This makes me so happy. Daiya has gone mainstream. LOVE IT.”

Vegetarian….haggis?

By Kim

Vegetarian Haggis. You read correctly. Now, how can one make a vegetarian version of a sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs, cooked with oats, suet, onion, and spices in a sheep’s stomach?

I really would like to know so I can make some and eat it next Robbie Burns Day. Although, why would I even try to make it when I can buy it in a can at the Scottish and Irish Store for only $7.99!? Seriously guys, this stuff exists. And yes, I have tried it. Yesterday.

There is not much I can write about. I was hoping that this can of haggis would blow my mind and I would be able to write a thesis-length blog post about it. Nope.

On the can, it said to eat it with mashed turnip or mashed potatoes (Neeps or Tatties). I wasn’t about to be having two piles of mush for dinner, so I made home fries to accompany my brown mush haggis. It also said, on the can, that you can add mustard to the haggis for flavour. I put a dollop of fine Dijon mustard on top. Lovely. And, since I don’t like scotch, Kyle drank some for me. A nice glass of Smokehead, straight up.

Haggis with neeps and tatties.

That’s it. Nothing much to say. It tasted like refried beans with a different seasoning. Maybe if you are Scottish you might like it.

If you want, you can make it at home. Here is a recipe I found:

Vegan Haggis

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Finely chop ½ of one small onion, ½ of one carrot and ¼ cup of mushrooms.

Heat 1 TB of sunflower oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onions, carrots and mushrooms. Sauté gently for 5 to 10 minutes or until the onion is clear and the carrots are tender.

Add ¼ cup of red lentils and 1 ½ cups of vegetable stock to the skillet. Combine 1/8 cup of red kidney beans to ½ cup of vegetable stock and mash the mixture to form a thick paste in a small mixing bowl.

Add the bean paste, ¼ cup of ground peanuts, 1/8 cup of ground hazelnuts, 2 TB of soy sauce, 1 TB of lemon juice, 2 TB of dried thyme, 1 TB of dried rosemary and a pinch of cayenne pepper to the skillet. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes.

Add 1 cup of ground oatmeal to the skillet. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Add a few tablespoons of water if the mixture becomes too thick.

Spray a one-pound loaf pan with cooking spray to coat. Transfer the vegetarian haggis mixture to the pan and place it in the pre-heated oven. Bake for 30 minutes.

Serve with Neeps and Tatties and a glass of scotch.

Say no to Reese’s, and YES to Camino!

By Pamela

There is one food combo that I love probably more than anything else in the world: chocolate and peanut butter. In fact, I just finished an Auntie Loo’s chocolate and peanut butter cupcake. It was divine, and a lovely occasional treat.

And who didn’t love Reese’s Pieces and Reese’s Peanut Butter cups when they were kids? Heck, I imagine most adults probably still love them. But for vegans and anyone even remotely health conscious, they are pretty sinister; chock full of saturated fat and hydrogenated oil, not to mention cow’s milk derivatives. It’s amazing how a childhood treat can look so different through the vegan lens.

I used to make my own peanut butter cups at home, using melted fair trade organic dark chocolate, organic peanut butter, and icing sugar. And Alicia Silverstone has a good recipe for them, which you can find here. They’re great, don’t get me wrong. But they require time and effort, and sometimes I just don’t have that. And sometimes Auntie Loo’s is closed. So what’s a choco-pb fiend to do?

Camino chocolate snack bar.

Thankfully, Ottawa-based Camino has come up with a fantastic solution: chocolate and peanut butter snack bars. They also make them with almond butter. The 180 calorie bars are organic, vegan, and fair trade. But perhaps most importantly, they are absolutely delicious. You can buy them for between $1.39 and $1.79 at places like Rainbow Foods, Herb and Spice, Natural Food Pantry, and Bridgehead. Find out more information on their Web site. They are also super convenient. You can add them to your purse food repertoire.

A great purse food option.
A word of warning though: These are highly addictive. They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right? Well, I kind of have a problem. They are currently my favorite thing to eat. I still forcefeed myself vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, but it’s Camino snack bars I’m yearning for. What’s not to love? They are every bit as delicious as a Reese’s PB cup, without the bad stuff, and with many additional benefits. So pick one up soon, and get ready for deliciousness!