Category Archives: Product Reviews

Mock meats of Ottawa’s Chinatown, Part 2

From Yves Veggie Cuisine to Tofurky to Gardein to Sol to the offerings in the President’s Choice Blue Menu line, the variety of mock meats in supermarkets has exploded in recent years. Ottawa’s Chinatown is a fantastic resource for lovers of mock meats. This is the second in a series of posts to introduce readers to the treasures they can find in Chinatown and meals that can be made with them.

This time, we return to Phuoc Loi on Somerset to seek out a truly amazing invention, mushroom chicken.

These are two styles of packaging you might encounter. They have identical stuff inside.

[Update and a caution to vegans: Yesterday I noticed a sticker I had never seen before on a package of mushroom chicken: “ovo-vegetarian”. I phoned the distributor, Chialee, and they told me that there are two kinds of mushroom chicken, one containing egg and one not. The eggless ones should be stickered “vegan”.]

What can you do with it? 

You can take it out of the package, shake some salt onto it if you want, and eat it. Warning: it’s addictive! (Don’t thaw it in the microwave though. For some reason, that turns it gross.)

It’s great in stir-fries, of course. And it makes a good chicken salad, chopped up and mixed with celery and red onion and Vegenaise (although I prefer the President’s Choice mock chicken in chicken salad sandwiches).

A favourite cold-winter-day meal in our house is chicken soup made by following this soup recipe from VegWeb, minus the dumplings, plus mushroom chicken. Cut up the mock chicken, lightly brown it in a frying pan, and add to the soup just before serving.

The recipe I am going to highlight today, however, is one you can serve when you have friends over to watch sports. Yes, get ready for vegan chicken wings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of mushroom chicken
  • Your favourite barbecue sauce

Toss the mushroom chicken with barbecue sauce to coat it. Spread out the pieces on a baking sheet. Bake at 400°F for 12-15 minutes, or until the wings begin to blacken at the edges.

Vegan chicken wings before baking

A plate of vegan chicken wings

On a sad note, since my last post the sign on New 168 Market has changed from “Store Renovations” to “For Lease”. Phuoc Loi and New 168 Market have been my main sources of mock meats since I moved to Ottawa, so it’s a pity to see New 168 go. However, there are other nearby sources of these products. If you visit Montréal, drop by Paradis Végétarien Chi-Ming at 4381 Saint-Denis Street. They carry all these products, and some of them in bulk, so you can bring home extra for your friends. You can also order some of these products online from Viva Vegan. (They ship in insulated cold packs so that the mock meat stays good in the mail.)

Veganity 101: The joys of Purse Food

by Jen Lahey

One of the greatest things about being a vegan is exploring all the delicious food available to you. Increasingly, there are options available in restaurants, at corner shops, and at farmers’ markets. But what about those days when you’re on the run, or you’re out for a pint at a less than vegan-friendly pub and you find yourself with a roaring case of the hungries?

Being a healthy, happy vegan, I am a high energy sort of person, the kind who has trouble sitting still for long periods of time. But as my partner and friends and family will attest, if I don’t get in enough foodies my energy and mood flatline and I turn into a non-reactive zombie woman (vegan zombie: “Graaaains, graaains!”).

This, my friends, is where Purse Food comes in (Murse Food for those gentlemen who carry a man bag). It’s become a running gag amongst my friends that I have a constant stash of snacks hidden away in the folds of my roomy Mat and Nat bag, always ready to go for when I find myself peckish in a situation with few vegan options. A tidy stock of Purse Food is one of the greatest tools in a vegan ninja’s arsenal of tricks.

Dried fruit and pre-wrapped vegan snacks (a.k.a. Purse or Murse Food) should always be kept nearby in case of a hunger emergency. This tiny purse is holding dried apples, Late July cookies, a PC Organics crispy brown rice bar, and a peanut butter Cocoa Camino snack bar.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not an advocate of going out with friends to places where the “vegan option” on the menu is an iceburg lettuce salad, and part the fun of strengthening your vegan values and lifestyle is choosing to support places that support us. And I am lucky to hang out with nice people who take into account my veganity and more often than not like to go to places where we can all find something good to eat. But it’s good to be armed for situations that are less than perfect, and being an easy-going, always-prepared person gets you far in the battle to show the world how relaxed and non-complicated being a vegan really is.

Stocking your bag with a selection of goodies means you never have to worry about what to do when you feel your energy dropping in the middle of a busy day at work, when you’re stuck in a meeting, or when you’re out running errands. It also means you can choose to have healthy things stashed, so you don’t have to settle for processed crap from the 7-11 or stale, questionable baked goods at conferences and meetings.

A good place to start your harvest of Purse Food is the local health food store. A few suggestions to get you going: Raid the bulk food section for goodies, such as tamari almonds, sesame sticks, and dried fruit (mango is my current fixation). There’s lots of other items to suit the cause; these are just a few of my stand-bys. Then meander over to the snack shelves and snag some Lara bars and vegan jerky. I also found my new favourite stash at the Hartman’s Your Independent grocery store on Somerset: wasabi cashews (WASABI CASHEWS! So. Good.)

Cut up veggies and fresh fruit can work, too, though they’re better for times when you know you’ll be eating them within a few hours (finding annihilated fruit in the bottom of your bag days later = fail). Then head on home, divvy your finds into small containers or resealable bags, and venture forth confidently to rock your own vegan world.

Mock meats of Ottawa’s Chinatown, Part 1

From Yves Veggie Cuisine to Tofurky to Gardein to Sol to the offerings in the President’s Choice Blue Menu line, the variety of mock meats in supermarkets has exploded in recent years. Ottawa’s Chinatown is a fantastic resource for lovers of mock meats. This is the first in a series of posts to introduce readers to the treasures they can find in Chinatown and meals that can be made with them.

Our first stop: Phuoc Loi on the northeast corner of Somerset and Booth. If you’re driving, you’ll need to find street parking or use the pay parking lot at the southeast corner of Somerset and Lebreton. Head to the freezer section in the back right corner of the store.

You’re looking for this: 

It may look “grim”, in the words of my big sister, but this is the best mock ham I have tried.  A caution to vegans: I have seen similarly shaped mock ham that includes whey or egg — be sure to read the ingredients.

What can you do with it?  A few ideas…

Slice it thinly, sear each side briefly in a hot frying pan, and put it in sandwiches.

Slice it thickly, glaze it with a mixture of maple syrup and mustard, and bake in the oven.

Cube it and add it to a tofu scramble, as suggested in this previous post.

Or, try this recipe for Ham & Cheese Biscuits.  These biscuits proved very popular at a potluck.  They will also cause any dogs who happen to be nearby to cluster around your legs and stare at you hopefully.

  • Mix 2 cups of flour, 3 tsp. of baking powder, and ¾ tsp. of salt.
  • Cut ¾ of a stick of Earth Balance margarine into small pieces and blend it into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or with your fingers.  (A stick is equivalent to ½ cup.)
  • Mix in ¼ cup of diced mock ham and ¼ cup of Daiya cheddar style shreds.
  • Add a splash of vinegar to ¾ cup of soy milk, and mix with the dry ingredients to form a dough.
  • Knead the dough briefly, folding it over no more than 5 times.  This will give the finished biscuits nice flaky layers inside.
  • Flatten the dough to about ½ inch thick. Use a sharp knife to slice it into squares.
  • Bake at 450°F for 13 minutes.

The photo of the biscuits has one pulled apart to show the flaky texture (and delicious bits of mock ham and cheese) inside.

I have also found the mock ham at New 168 Market on the southwest corner of Somerset and Breezehill (just west of the O-Train tracks).  They’re closed for renovations right now, but when they reopen they might be more convenient for those doing errands by car, as they have a small parking lot just west of the store.

Next instalment: vegan “wings” that are way better than the real thing.

More joys of nutritional yeast

By Pamela

When I was first thinking about becoming vegan, it was long before vegan cheeses were palatable or even available. I used to post on a well-known vegetarian message board, and it was there that a very kind vegan took me under his wing and introduced me to nutritional yeast. He even sent me some by mail all the way from the Southern United States, because I had no idea where to buy it in Ottawa.

Nutritional yeast.

(He actually sent it twice, because the first time he sent it, it was confiscated by customs! I eventually received the first package many months after the second one arrived.)

Nutritional yeast is super healthy (as its name implies), and also very delicious. Not so much on its own, but it is very versatile and can be used to make nice cheezy sauces. Given that I used to be a cheese-a-holic in my pregan days (yes, it IS possible to stop eating it and still enjoy food and life), that’s a good attribute for something to have.

Nutritional yeast is a source of protein and vitamins, especially B vitamins, and is a complete protein. It’s also low in fat and sodium. Some brands, although not all, are fortified with vitamin B12. Nowadays it can be found at virtually any health food store, it’s at Loblaws, and even Bulk Barn.

"Faux poulet"
I’m going to share one of my favorite nutritional yeast recipes, that also incorporates another favorite at our house: faux chicken. I’m not huge on fake meats, but this one, like nutritional yeast, is amazingly versatile and can stand in for any recipe that calls for chicken breast. They’re made by President’s Choice and are widely available at Loblaws and its sister stores for about $12.99 for eight “breasts.” As the five year old at home puts it, “Le faux poulet…c’est très bon.”

Here’s my recipe (original as far as I know, I didn’t source it from anywhere). Please forgive me if it comes out a bit weird, I don’t actually follow a recipe for this and it’s my best guess:

Cheezy pasta with greens
(Serves four)

About 300 grams of rice pasta (rotini or penne)
2 breasts of faux poulet, cut into strips
3 cups of kale/spinach (small pieces)
One tomato, diced
about 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 TB olive or flax oil
salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp. Red pepper flakes (optional, to taste)

Cook the pasta. Drain. Rinse.

While it’s cooking, in the biggest frying pan you’ve got water saute the greens, tomato and the faux poulet until greens are limp and the poulet is warmed through.

Dump the pasta in. Stir everything around. Add the oil, nutritional yeast, seasonings. Stir it all around until well-combined. If you’d like it to be a bit creamier add some more oil or water. Keep on low heat until ready to serve.

Enjoy!

Cheezy pasta with greens.

Tales of Cake and Frosting

By Erin

I’m not sure how many of you know this, but the NCVA is developing a restaurant outreach program whereby we try to encourage and teach local omni restaurants to be more vegan friendly.

As part of our restaurant outreach package, I wanted to include a really easy and delicious dessert recipe since, even at the veg-friendliest restaurants, vegan desserts are rare.

I settled on chocolate cake since there are so many great vegan ones out there. Specifically, I opted for one of the recipes that helped Chloe Coscarelli win on the Food Networks “Cupcake Wars.”

Check out an article on her win at http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/06/tasty-vegan-food-cupcakes-show-it-can-be-done/.

She was also interviewed recently on “Animal Voices” a Toronto-based radio show. Check that out at: http://animalvoices.ca/2010/10/05/vegan-fitness-nutrition-ultramarathoner-brendan-brazier-dr-occhipinti-chef-chloe-coscarelli/

Anyway, I’d already tweaked the recipe a bit…a little less sugar, instant coffee because I never have espresso powder…but now I wanted to do a test run with the recipe as a two-layer cake. No big changes required, just needed to find the right baking time. Looking at other layer cake recipes, 350 for somewhere between 28 and 36 minutes seemed the norm.

I figured since this was an experimental cake, I’d run another experiment while verifying the bake time. Have you ever noticed how adamant vegan bakers are about not overmixing cake batter? Apparently it leads to tough cakes, fallen cakes, cakes that don’t rise at all, and various other types of badness.

But if that’s the case, why do all boxed cake mix instructions tell you to beat the hell out of their batter for two minutes?

I don’t get it.

So I decided to put it to the test. Layer number one was “mixed lightly until just incorporated” while layer number two was beaten violently à la a boxed mix.

I baked layer number one for 33 minutes. It fell a little bit, making me think I should do layer number two for 35 minutes. Which I did, and, when it came out of the oven, I honestly thought that it was the winner. It was big and poofy and had a smooth, glossy surface. I envisioned myself calling out all the know-it-all vegan chefs and telling them to stick their light incorporation and accept that fact that, evil omni or not, Duncan Hines has been doing cakes since they were in short pants so if he says beat, dammit, beat!

But then layer number two deflated. Here’s a shot of the two layers side by side. The one on the left is the beaten one. Quite the difference in looks!

Now on to the icing.

I recently found a recipe for great fluffy vegan icing. Turns out the secret is a pound of fat. Ever notice how often the secret ingredient is a pound of fat?

That recipe is below:

4 cups confectioners’ sugar (Wholesome Sweeteners does one using unrefined sugar, for a mere thousand dollars a bag)
½ cup Earth Balance buttery spread
Pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat until fluffy (about 5-7 minutes). For a chocolate version, add ½ cup of cocoa.

I was planning to go with that recipe. But then I discovered Mimicreme Healthy Top whipped topping. While this stuff is healthy only in comparison to sucking on the tailpipe of an idling car, it is very delicious. Plus, it boasts a level of fluffiness that simply cannot be achieved using traditional ingredients.

So I decided to try mixing some sugar, coffee and cocoa into the Mimicreme to create a fluffy mocha icing.

I began by pulverizing some sugar and instant coffee in my partner’s coffee grinder (I’m sure he didn’t mind), then tossed that and a few tablespoons of cocoa into the unmixed Mimicreme. The stuff looks terrifying just out of the box, by the way. Remember when Tyler Durden retrieved the bag of fat from the liposuction clinic dumpster? Like that, only square.

Then I whipped and beheld the miracle that I had created.

The stuff was yummy, but seriously weird. First, even though I’d added a good half cup of dry ingredients to the cream, it was runnier than the stuff I’d made on a previous occasion with no additives. How does that work?

Second, it was neither liquid not solid. I actually put it in the fridge before putting it on the cake, hoping it would firm up a bit. When it hadn’t changed much after half an hour, I decided to go ahead. I dumped it all on top of the cake, then began spreading it carefully over the edges. I fully expected it to pour over, making unappealing puddles around the base of the cake.

But it didn’t. The semi-liquid cream sort of clung to the sides of the cake. I was amazed! Then I decided to tempt fate by trying to smooth out the clinging cream. No way was I getting away with this, I thought. It’ll peel away from the sides of the cake, or start running down, or something.

Nope. It was amazingly malleable. I spread, I swirled, I smoothed, and the modified Mimicreme just sort of went with it. It was kind of like the bowling ball mattress – touching any given bit of icing only moved that bit – the stuff around it stayed put.

Very weird.

Anyway, here are a couple of pics of the finished cake, with and without espresso chocolate shavings. I’ve got a couple of taste testers coming by later to see if hey can tell the difference between layers one and two.

Oh, and here is the final cake recipe:

3 cups flour
1.5 cups sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp salt
2 cups coconut milk
1 cup vegetable oil
4 tbsp vinegar
4 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp instant coffee

Preheat oven to 350
Line the bottoms of 2 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper

Mix wet ingredients
Mix dry ingredients
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and “mix lightly until just incorporated”

Divide batter between cake pans and spread it around (it’s a thick batter)

Bake for 32-35 minutes.

The additions to the Mimicreme were 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp instant coffee and 4 tbsp cocoa.

Mat & Nat handbag sale in Montreal

By Kim

When most people hear about veganism they think food. It’s pretty easy to find food labeled vegan nowadays. Do you ever go shopping and find boots or handbags labeled ‘vegan’? It’s usually more challenging to find clothing and accessories that are completely vegan.

Cute pink Mat & Nat wallet!
Yesterday I went to Montreal for the Mat & Nat Sample sale. Mat & Nat is a popular Montreal-based company that specializes in making designer, eco-friendly handbags and accessories.
Mat & Nat clutch
I’ve always wanted a Mat & Nat handbag but didn’t want to splurge. I thought, why spend $200 on ONE handbag when you can get four at H&M for the same price? By the time they fall apart you are usually looking for a change anyway.The 90 per cent off regular price tag at the sample sale seemed like my kind of a deal. It was. I ended up getting a pretty sweet handbag, and a wallet. They even gave me a free clutch when I told them I came all the way from Ottawa!

Mat & Nat handbag
Unlike shoes or boots, I have usually been able to find stylish vegan handbags at most stores. One thing that I never really thought about was, what are the cheaper bags made from? They are usually constructed of PVC or some other less than environmentally-friendly material. Mat & Nat uses recycled bottles and non-animal products in all of their creations.

I recently heard an interview with the creative director of Mat & Nat on CBC. He said that they have a vegan-only lunch policy at the office and when they go out to lunch during work hours. Although that might be a little authoritarian, I think it’s good in keeping with their environmentally friendly lifestyle of the company. Most workplaces have a dress code in place, so why not have a food code?

If you are going to Montreal this week, you should definitely stop in at the sample sale and pick up a new handbag, wallet, or laptop bag (Mat & Nat products are not just for women!) at the sale price.

Men's laptop bag by Mat & Nat

The location is 333 Chabanel, Suite 505. Just off Autoroute 40 near the Saint Laurent/Saint Denis exit. Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the week and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. After shopping, why not pop in to Aux Vivres (http://www.auxvivres.com) for a coconut blt wrap and a bombay banane smoothie for lunch! That’s what I did! 🙂

If you can’t make it this week, Mat & Nat products can also be purchased online: http://www.mattandnat.com/

Vegan Mac & Cheez

By Pamela

Daiya vegan cheese appeared in the Ottawa market in June 2010, opening up many new culinary opportunities for vegans, many of whom had come to accept that may never enjoy the stringy goodness of cheese again.

Daiya’s cheddar variety melts and tastes nearly identical to its cow’s milk counterpart. It’s quite a marvel, really, that a company can take coconut, tapioca, and a few other ingredients, and somehow make it mimic the “real” thing… minus, of course, the saturated fat, cholesterol, and goodness knows what else you might find in cheese made from cow’s milk.

My favorite thing to make using Daiya is vegan mac & cheese. I have made it for many vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores, and many of the omnivores did not even realize that it was vegan. My partner’s children love it, and my non-veg dad does too. In what follows, I will describe roughly how it’s made (I don’t usually measure things).

Rice pasta
Start by boiling water, and getting some pasta going. I personally prefer rice pasta. For this recipe, make about a pound.

Earth Balance
While that’s underway, melt about 1/3 of a cup of vegan margarine in a small saucepan. I like to use either Earth Balance, or Becel Vegan. Both are non-hydrogenated, and vegan. Earth Balance gets the leg up for being a bit more healthy.

Once the margarine is melted, it’s time to add the Belsoy creamer.

Belsoy creamer
Soy milk or any other kind of milk is not a sufficient substitute for this. If you are against soy, you could possibly substitute Mimicreme creamer, that has an almond and cashew base. However, while this works, the end result is not as delicious as it is when the soy creamer is used. Whisk it all together over low heat.

Next, whisk in about 2 teaspoons of soy sauce (this dish can be gluten-free if a wheat free soy sauce is used), and half a cup of nutritional yeast. Spices that are needed included about 1/4 tsp. of black pepper, 1/4 tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. of garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp. onion powder. Adjust these to suit your taste.

Nutritional yeast
Cashew butter.

Keep whisking frequently. Add water as needed so that the sauce doesn’t get too thick. Then, for added smoothness, add about 1 tablespoon of cashew butter.

By now, your pasta should be pretty much done. Strain and rinse it, and put it into a 13 * 9 baking dish, preferably glass. Pour the sauce over the pasta and mix it together. Sprinkle with Daiya cheddar cheez.

Pop it in the oven, which should be pre-heated on broil. Cook for five to ten minutes, watching carefully to ensure it doesn’t burn. Serve.

The finished product

I’m not going to lie to you; this is not health food. But it’s way more healthy than traditional mac & cheese, and it’s just as delicious. It’s also kinder to animals! At our house we usually serve it with a nice big salad, or a green smoothie.

Try it on your non-vegan friends and family. I promise you, they will love it.