Tag Archives: vegetarian

12 Gift-Giving Ideas You Can Feel Good About

Français

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!

Becoming (and Staying) Vegetarian

Français

When I tell non-vegetarians or vegans that I don’t eat meat or fish, they usually respond in one of two ways: they either look surprised (sometimes pleasantly, sometimes less so) or they say that they’re impressed, because, while they like the idea of vegetarianism, they don’t think they could ever do it. The reality is though, it’s not hard to make the transition if you’re committed to it.

It probably seems as though I’m preaching to the choir here – and to an extent, I am. But given that October is Vegetarian Awareness Month it seems like a good time to share some tips for those who have perhaps ‘flirted’ with vegetarianism or those who like the concept but aren’t sure if they’re ready to actually become vegetarian.

These tips are based on my own experiences with giving up meat. I became vegetarian in 2010 after thinking about it for several years, and was happily surprised that it was easier than I thought it would be. (I made the transition to veganism in early 2014 and will cover that in a separate post.)

I hope you find these suggestions helpful. If you’re already veg and you have other suggestions, ideas or personal stories to share, please post them in the comments below.

Tip 1: Know why you’re doing it.

There are many good reasons to go veg, whether it’s for moral reasons or because you want to improve your health or lessen your carbon footprint. Taking the time to think seriously about why you want to be vegetarian is important, since there may be times when you feel like giving up and it will help to remind yourself of why you made the decision to go veg in the first place.

Tip 2: Decide on an approach.

Some people stop eating all meat and fish immediately, while others opt for a more gradual approach. I personally was worried that I might relapse if I gave it up overnight, so I decided to eliminate one animal from my diet at a time. I eventually became vegetarian after several months of cutting out animal products and experimenting with vegetarian recipes. I suggest that you do whatever feels right for you.

Tip 3: Look for alternatives to staples in your diet.

If you consume a lot of meat/fish or have favourite dishes that include animal products, it’s not a bad idea to find substitutions so that you can still enjoy foods you know you like. For example, there are some very convincing ‘faux meats’ that are popular among many vegetarians and vegans (like products by Yves or Field Roast) and meat alternatives like soy, tempeh and seitan. If you’re used to having spaghetti and meatballs, try adding lentils or roasted vegetables to your pasta instead. Used to having turkey on a sandwich? Hummus is a great alternative. It may feel like a bit of hassle at first but I promise, there are so many delicious vegetarian options out there that you won’t feel like you’re missing out.

Tip 4: Do your homework.

A lot of processed/pre-packaged foods contain ingredients that are not vegetarian, or that may come from non-vegetarian sources. You’ll have to carefully check labels for things like gelatin (found in marshmallows and gummy candies, for example), shellac (common in candies with a shiny coating), anchovies (in Worcestershire sauce and Caesar salad dressing), rennet (in some cheese/dairy products), carmine (used as a colouring agent), stearates (like calcium or magnesium stearate) or any derivatives of glycerine (like mono and di-glycerides, which are found in most commercial bread products). Some of these ingredients can be derived from plant sources, but more often than not they are not suitable for vegetarians. It’s also a good idea to get into the habit of asking questions in restaurants. Although almost every menu has at least one vegetarian option, seemingly innocent items like soup are often made with animal broths.

Tip 5: Talk to your friends and family about your decision.

This is especially important if most of the people you’re close to are omnivores. I recommend telling the people in your life about your new dietary preferences and your reasons for becoming vegetarian, since they will likely want to know the reason for the change and may wonder what you expect from them. Ask them to support you in your new lifestyle and suggest ways to make the transition easier for everyone. For example, you may need to be a little more involved in planning the menu for your next family gathering, or you could offer to prepare something the next time you go over to a friend’s house. Ultimately it will be up to you to work out the logistics (it will be more of an issue for some people than others) but it’s usually a discussion worth having.

Tip 6: Pay attention to your body.

Most people seem to feel great after ditching meat and fish from their diet. Before long, you should start to see and feel positive changes in your body such as increased energy, easier digestion, deeper sleep and of course, a clearer conscience if you’ve gone veg for non-health reasons. However, it’s important to make sure you’re eating balanced meals and getting the right nutrients (this goes for everyone, regardless of how they eat). If you start to notice any negative changes that don’t clear up on their own, like low energy levels or significant weight loss, it may be worth seeing a doctor or nutritionist. Eating a variety of fresh, whole foods should leave you feeling strong and healthy, but you may need or choose to supplement your diet with extra doses of vitamins and minerals like iron, B12 and calcium.

If you’re thinking about making the switch to vegetarianism but don’t feel ready to give up meat/fish completely, just do what you can at first. Some people do meatless Mondays, or follow a weekday vegetarian diet, or make 2 out of 3 meals each day vegetarian. Every little bit helps your body, the planet and the animals. And when you’re ready to fully commit to being vegetarian, you’ll already know which vegetarian meals you like and which restaurants in your area offer good veggie fare.

Stay tuned for another article with tips on becoming vegan, coming soon!

Getting Borracho with Burritos! (Pub night)

Burrito BorrachoRiding on the success of the inaugural pub night, we have planned to have another one in less than two weeks. A.k.a. you now have plans for Thurs. Feb. 24, 2011 after work/school. So come and be a part of this new movement of vegetarian pub-goers who are not only trend-setters, but pretty fabulous at any rate.

In support of the NCVA Restaurant Outreach program, we are duly holding the upcoming pub social at Burrito Borracho in Byward Market. This new Mexican restaurant has just been newly renovated and is bound to impress with a brand new liquor license and everything on their menu prepared to be veganised. Who wants delicious Mexican grub and beer? Todos nosotros!

So, mis amigos, below are the details to note in your social agenda:

  • Event: NCVA Pub night
  • Location: Burrito Borracho (105A Clarence St.)
  • Date & Time: Thurs. Feb 24, 2011, 6:30 pm onwards

To RSVP, please check out the NCVA Facebook event page. Hope to see you there!

Another new NCVA member discount: Credible Edibles

Credible Edibles, a local, eco-friendly business, has approached us to offer NCVA members a 10 per cent discount on their purchases.

One of the lunchtime accessories offered at Credible Edibles.
“Credible Edibles is Ottawa’s first explicitly environmentally-friendly and healthy café and caterer. We aim to offer convenience without compromise. Busy people can get a healthy, earth-friendly lunch quickly and not too expensively,” explains its proprietor, Judi. “We opened on Earth Day 2009. We focus on unique, globally-inspired, locally-sourced seasonal menus which are 80 per cent vegetarian and 40 per cent vegan, as these are the most earth-friendly.”

Judi is a committed vegetarian and aspiring vegan, who wants to recognize and encourage others who are on the same journey. “I think the NCVA does great work and this is a way to support the organization,” she says.

In addition to the lunch time café Credible Edibles specializes in green catering for breakfasts and lunches. It uses no disposable items in our catering service. It also offers cooking classes, workshops and private consultations, and sells environmentally-friendly lunch time accessories.

Its menu features a mostly plant-based selection. For the winter months Credible Edibles is offering vegan choices including Senegalese peanut soup with ginger and fresh cilantro, red and napa cabbage salad with spiced pecans, local cranberries and apple, toasted dulse, lettuce and tomato sandwich, grilled veggie wrap, New Orleans-style Muffuletta, and many of its dessert options are vegan and/or gluten-free.

For more information:

Credible Edibles
Slow Food for Fast Lives
78 Hinton Avenue North, Ottawa
www.credible-edibles.ca
613-558-SLOW

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!

saladinasteakhouse.wordpress.com (for more posts by joe vegan)

Have you been to Cafe My House?

Back in May, the NCVA was excited and intrigued to find the word “vegan” appear on the sign of a cafe in Ottawa’s South end. It was for Cafe My House, and thanks in part to the NCVA’s promotion, word has spread like wildfire about this little cafe, where the menu is about 75 per cent vegan and where even raw foodists and gluten-intolerant people can find a good meal.  And did we mention it’s mostly vegan?

NCVA volunteer Tanya Hanham wrote the following review for Capital Veg News:

Cafe My House's "Healthy Me" vegan brunch platter. Side of potatoes is optional.

I had heard rumblings about a new vegan-friendly restaurant on Bank Street and I had to try it myself. Check it out, even the sign prominently declares its animal friendly nature. Needless to say, I was excited.

Cafe My House is reincarnated from its previous (more) east end location and is a family owned business that appears to focus on healthy food. While there are a couple of meat options, there are approximately twenty choices on the menu that are vegan and that does not include sides, drinks or extensive smoothie list. Impressive, to say the least.

Breakfast boasts vegan versions of the usual options like pancakes, french toast and (tofu) scramble while also including the intriguing Moroccan Quinoa Pilaf. Vegan breakfast sans oatmeal is hard to come by in Ottawa restaurants so Cafe My House is a welcome sight for hungry brunching vegans. I didn’t eat breakfast during my visit but that just means I have an excuse to go back.

Lunch looks promising too. They have a few different soups, salads and sandwiches as well as tasty sounding starters they call “House Bites.” I’ll probably try the quesadilla or the mango-zucchini roll next time I stop by for lunch.

Finally the main courses. I had a lot of trouble deciding what I wanted and who wouldn’t with choices like Creamy Sesame Soba Noodles, Earthy Vegetable Curry and Tofu Mushroom Steak. In the end, after a recommendation from the friendly server, I chose Vegetarian BiBim-Bop. What now? This was a tasty Korean rice dish topped with a variety of delicious sautéed vegetables and nori all covered with a spicy chili sauce. I ended up asking for extra chili sauce because I like things with a lot of heat and flavour and the extra kick made for an excellent dish.

What about dessert? Of course I couldn’t pass up the vegan dessert of the day, a black bean hazelnut brownie. The brownie was fudgy and dense and not too sweet, pairing nicely with the light warm fudge sauce poured liberally over top for a lovely presentation. Decadent.

But don’t take my word for it. Make your way down to 1729 Bank Street, just south of Heron, and try out Ottawa’s newest vegan friendly restaurant for yourself. I dare say you won’t be disappointed.

For contact info and restaurant hours, click here:

Cafe my house

Veg Fest ’09 and ’10

The NCVA is small, but mighty: In 2009 and 2010 we put on two Veg Fest events at Ottawa’s Glebe Community Centre, which attracted a combined 4,000 attendees! Pretty amazing for a tiny, 100% volunteer-run organization.

Each Veg Fest (title sponsored by The Table Vegetarian Restaurant: http://www.thetablerestaurant.com) featured roughly 30 exhibitors, three food demonstrators, and three guest speakers. A silent auction raised funds for the NCVA. Other sponsors have included ZenKitchen, Green Earth Vegetarian Restaurant, Rainbow Natural Foods, and Market Organics.

Our guest speakers have included high profile names including Brenda Davis, RD (www.brendadavisrd.com), Jae Steele (www.getitripe.com), Gene Baur (www.farmsanctuary.org), and Dr. Michael Greger (www.drgreger.org).

We are currently sorting out the details for Veg Fest ’11. Stay tuned for more information!