Tag Archives: Christmas and holiday season

Ecology Ottawa’s Eco Gala

On Thursday, November 17th, 2016,  Ecology Ottawa will be holding its annual Eco Gala, a night of food, networking, and entertainment  at the St. Elias Banquet Centre.

According to the Ecology Ottawa’s website,

“The 2016 Eco Gala will include the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Dr. Dianne Saxe, as our guest speaker, a delicious meal prepared by the Green Door, a silent auction and an opportunity to connect with the people and community groups growing the environmental movement. This event sells out every year and for 2016, we plan to have over 550 guests attend!”

This year, the NCVA will be sending 4 of its members to the Gala for a discounted price of $70 per person (the usual rate is $75 per person). Vegan food, prepared by the Green Door, will be served!

If you are interested in attending, please make sure you’re a member of the NCVA (that is, that you have a membership/discount card that is still current). If you are a member (or if you sign up for membership as soon as possible), you’ll be eligible to buy one of our discounted tickets for the Eco Gala! For more information about becoming a member, please click here.

To buy your tickets from us, please e-mail ncva.avcn@gmail.com and pay via e-transfer to treasurer.ncva@gmail.com

Additionally, we are looking for volunteers who are not attending the event as guests but would like to help run the booth that the NCVA will have at the event. Contact us at ncva.avcn@gmail.com to let us know if you are available!

Recipe: Homemade Chocolate Bark

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This recipe is super simple but creates elegant-looking pieces of chocolate bark that you can serve at a party, give as a gift or use to satisfy a chocolate craving.

It’s also highly versatile so feel free to play around with different mix-ins. If you’re a fan of the popular Peppermint Pretzel barkTHINS for example, you could use chopped pretzels, candy cane pieces and a pinch of sea salt. If you like the pecan-caramel combination, try chopped dates and pecans and a handful of toffee pieces. If you prefer fruit and nut chocolate bars, try adding chopped almonds, peanuts and cashews and raisins.

Enjoy!

Homemade Chocolate Bark
Vegan | Gluten-free | Soy-free | Nut-free option

Makes one large baking sheet of bark

Ingredients:

  • 500 grams good quality dairy-free dark chocolate
    (baking chocolate, molding chocolate and chocolate chips/bars should all work well)
  • 1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
    (Costco sometimes carries Sunblest brand, which I love because it doesn’t have sulphites)
  • 1/2 cup seeds and/or nuts
    (I wanted a nut-free version so I used sunflower, pumpkin and chia seeds)
  • 1/3 cup dried fruit
    (I used unsweetened cranberries and wild blueberries)

Directions:

  1. Melt the chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, checking it often and stirring frequently so that it doesn’t burn. While the chocolate is melting, prepare 1 large (or 2 medium-small baking sheets) with a layer of wax paper or a silicone baking mat.
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    Start heating the chocolate slowly…

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    … until it’s fully melted.
  2. Once the chocolate is fully melted, remove the pan from the heat and add in your mix-ins. Stir gently until they’re well incorporated.
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    Add all of your mix-ins into the saucepan.

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    Stir gently to combine.
  3. Spread the mixture out onto the wax paper or baking mat, ideally in the shape of a rectangle, so that it’s about half a centimetre thick. Place your baking sheet in the fridge and let the chocolate cool until its hardened (about 30 minutes).
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    Spread the mixture out evenly into a rectangular shape.

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    Chill for about 30 minutes until the chocolate has hardened.
  4. When the chocolate is fully cooled, gently peel it off the mat/wax paper and break it into medium-large chunks. Try to work quickly so that the chocolate doesn’t melt – it needs to stay cool to ‘snap’ nicely into pieces of bark.

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    Break into various-sized pieces to create your ‘bark’.
  5. Store the chocolate in the refrigerator until you’re ready to enjoy. If you’re going to give it as a gift, just package it in some cellophane or a glass jar, add a ribbon and you’re good to go!

12 Gift-Giving Ideas You Can Feel Good About

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With the winter holidays fast approaching, you’ve probably already started thinking about potential gift options for the special people in your life. For most of us, it feels great to be able to give someone you care about a present that you know they’ll love. But it feels even better when you can feel good about where that gift came from.

Thankfully, as more and more people become conscious of where they shop and what they shop for, we’ve seen the advent of countless new companies and products that use sustainable practices. So whether you’re a vegan and/or a hardcore environmentalist, or you’re just trying to be a little bit more ethical in your shopping habits, you shouldn’t have to look too far to find gifts that align with your values.

The following is a list of great cruelty-free gift ideas, many of which are local, that you can feel good about purchasing.

1. Bath and body products: If you want something that’s made here in Ottawa, Sud With Me has a range of natural, vegan personal care products (and all of the profits go to the Sit With Me Dog Rescue, so it’s a win-win!). Purple Urchin is another independent, Ottawa-based company that sells natural soap and skincare products. There’s also Druide, which is based in Quebec, and Lush of course. If you’re feeling creative you can even try your hand at DIY homemade bath and body products – there are endless ‘recipes’ available online on sites like Pinterest.

2. Books: There are so many fantastic books out there that can educate people about how to live more ethically and healthily. A few examples include the Ecoholic books by Adria Vasil; The Simply Raw Living Foods Detox Manual by Natasha Kyssa, owner of Ottawa’s Simply Raw Express; Vegan for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Be Healthy and Fit on a Plant-Based Diet by Jack Norris and Virginia Messina; or Vache à lait: Dix mythes de l’industrie laitière by Élise Desaulniers.

3. Cookbooks: If you need a gift for someone who enjoys spending time in the kitchen, some of the most popular plant-based cookbooks on shelves at the moment are Angela Liddon’s The Oh She Glows Cookbook, Robin Robertson’s Vegan Without Borders: Easy Everyday Meals from Around the World, Nava Atlas’ Plant Power: Transform Your Kitchen, Plate, and Life with More Than 150 Fresh and Flavorful Vegan Recipes, Mayim Bialik’s Mayim’s Vegan Table: More than 100 Great-Tasting and Healthy Recipes from My Family to Yours and Emily von Euw’s Rawsome Vegan Baking: An Un-cookbook for Raw, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Beautiful and Sinfully Sweet Cookies, Cakes, Bars & Cupcakes.

4. Homemade treats: Who doesn’t love a batch of something homemade? You could make vegan peppermint bark, gingerbread cookies, Turtle oatmeal cookies, magical coconut bars, peanut butter fudge or snickerdoodle cookies. Put your goodies into a nice tin, jar or gift box, add a bit of ribbon and a bow and voilà – you have an inexpensive and one-of-a-kind gift that’s perfect for the sweet-lover on your list.

5. Experiential gifts: Want to avoid giving someone a “thing”? Plan an outing to the theatre (try the Great Canadian Theatre Company, Ottawa Little Theatre or The Gladstone, La Nouvelle Scène) or a museum or gallery. Or, organize a short trip to a nearby city or a wellness retreat, such as Sugar Ridge in Wyebridge, ON or Shanti on Wolfe Island, near Kingston, ON.

6. Eco-friendly items for the home: Help your family members and friends be kind to the planet by giving them something useful and sustainable, such as a set of mesh produce shopping bags, a reusable silicone baking mat, stainless steel or cast iron cookware, biodegradable dishes and utensils or napkins, placemats and sheets made from hemp, linen or organic cotton. If you need more inspiration, Terra20 has a holiday flyer with tons of other great ideas.

7. Tea and coffee: There’s nothing like a steaming cup of your favourite brew to warm you up on a cold winter’s day, so why not put together a selection of sustainably-sourced teas and coffees? Stash has a line of organic, fair-trade teas and Angela Liddon, who’s based in Toronto, has just opened the Oh She Glows Tea Shoppe, featuring a range of delicious-sounding organic, loose leaf tea blends. Bridgehead sells organic, fair-trade, shade-grown coffees and organic, fair-trade teas. Adria Vasil (known for her Ecoholic book series and website) recommends the Jane Goodall Institute Blend coffee, which is organic, fair trade, shade-grown, bird-friendly and Rainforest Alliance Certified. In Gatineau, the Cha Yi Tea House offers a vast selection of organic and natural teas and herbal teas. Daniel, its owner, travels each year to Asia where he  buys high quality teas directly from small tea farmers.

8. Ready-made meals: If someone on your list is perpetually short on time, they may appreciate receiving food that’s already prepared. Erika LeBlanc has a 100% vegan catering company, appropriately named Erika’s Vegan Catering, which offers salads, entrees and desserts that feed 6 or 12 people. You could also have a restaurant or take-out place deliver food to a friend’s house regularly for a while to save them the trouble of having to cook every night.

9. Themed gift baskets: Assembling your own baskets can be a lot of fun because you can create unique gifts tailored to the people on your list. If you have a friend who’s obsessed with all things chocolate for example, pick out an assortment of nice, cruelty-free chocolate bars, hot chocolate mixes and chocolate-covered snacks like pretzels and raisins and put them into a decorative basket. Add some tissue paper and a little ribbon and you’ve got a fancy, thoughtful gift that your friend will love (and the basket and tissue paper can be reused).

10. An evening out, on you: If you need a gift for someone who already has everything, you might want to pick up a gift certificate for a veg or veg-friendly restaurant. The Table, Café My House, Simply Raw Express and The Green Door are great all-veg establishments. Popular places with good vegetarian/vegan options include A Thing for Chocolate, The Manx Pub, The Daily Grind and Oz Kafe.

11. A donation to a good cause: No matter what your loved ones are passionate about, chances are there’s an organization dedicated to it. If you’ve got any animal lovers on your list, consider making a donation in their names to the Sit With Me Dog Rescue, Hungry and Homeless Cat Rescue or Big Sky Ranch Animal Sanctuary (all local) or the Humane Society International or Mercy for Animals Canada.

12. An NCVA membership: Belonging to the NCVA will not only bring your gift recipient into a supportive community of people who follow a plant-based diet, but it will also give them access to great discounts on a wide range of veg-friendly foods, products and services.

If you’ve got other ideas for ethical gifts, please share them in the comments below!

Being veg over the holidays

Just say No!Politely declining a slice of Auntie Bertha’s fruitcake over the holiday season is to be expected. But how do you “politely” justify turning down your mother-in-law’s pot roast or her home-made butter cookies?

Let’s be honest, it’s all about food for the holidays. It’s that time of year more than any that you find being veg is not so easy. And I’m not talking about cravings for the unsavoury foodstuffs. I am addressing the bewildered faces and sighs of incomprehension when you make clear that you will not be eating any animals or animal products for the season (much in line with your eating habits every other day of the year). Some people believe that just because it is the holidays, you should try to at least fit in and relax your anti-social eating tendencies just to make others happy. The question is, do we relax any of our other ethics during the holiday season? Why should you consume animal products only to appease a group of people whom–though you probably love–don’t understand you fully? You need not be a militant activist vegan to just say no to the bombardment of animal food options. We’re all pressured either by others or our own traditional upbringing or tastes to indulge on something we normally wouldn’t, but perhaps from experience you’ll learn that you don’t ever feel better after doing it. The problem is how to not come across as the weird one who has joined some hippie cult and is only at the party to make others feel bad about themselves. So what do you do?

My advice? Just say no, thank you. Be polite, but firm when you are presented with food you don’t eat. If you were allergic, it might be easier to say no, but as it stands, allergies generally are treated with more respect and understanding than not eating certain food items for the sake of veganism. I can’t recommend whether or not you should elaborate on your reasons behind saying no. You may be prompted or questioned in some way which gives you no choice, but nothing is stopping you from putting a smile on your face and saying, “Let’s just leave it there. I’m happy that I am able to eat what I want without feeling scrutinised by others”. People need to learn to let you live your life without feeling threatened. If you are comfortable enough going to a holiday dinner where they serve meat and where many people will be eating it in front of you, then you should be confident that others should also feel comfortable with you declining those options at the dinner table.

For those of you who are surrounded by vegans and vegetarians for the holidays, count yourselves among the lucky few. But if you’re like me and find it hard to resist the disapproval of your family and friends during this time of the year just because you won’t eat their food, keep in mind that you’re not alone. Stick to your morals, avoid confrontation and debate, and remind your family/friends that in the spirit of the season, you are thankful that you can be together, sharing this moment, and respecting everyone’s personal wishes wholly.

Happy Holidays!

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