Mother’s Day

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. I haven’t forgotten about the blog, though. In fact, it’s been a nagging thought in the back of my mind. I’ve been wanting to kind of start a new blog. ‘Almira goes vegan’ doesn’t really sound right since I’ve been completely vegan now for over a year. (Yup, I missed posting about my celebration. It was completely fantastic – my co-workers hosted Newton Physio’s 1st Annual Vegan Fest complete with vegan pizza, soy ice cream, home-made cookies, Indian food, Swedish berries, and many gifts for me.) In addition to making my one year veganniversary, another big change has happened in my life. I have decided to move to Edmonton, Alberta for two years this September. I will be attending the University of Alberta and studying to get my MOT (Masters of Occupational Therapy). This change seems like a good time for me to start fresh with a new blog style, or a new blog entirely. I want to post about veganism in Alberta, everything I’m learning in school, and my somewhat-newfound passion for running. So, for the rest of the time until then I might update occasionally, but it’s not my focus for right now. That being said, I needed to post today. It’s Mother’s Day.

My mother is fantastic. Everyone says this, but mine really is. I could say a lot about her, but I’ll keep this vegan-focused. About 14 years ago, I came home announcing I was a vegetarian. (A vegetarian who didn’t give up chicken nuggets and hamburgers right away, mind you.) Instead of freaking out, telling me I would die, and refusing to support me, my mom jumped right on board. Soon after, my mom became a pescetarian herself. She continued to cook about four meals each night, one to please each member of our family. She packed my lunch until the very last day of Grade 12, always making sure I had plenty of delicious and nutritious food, and I never once suffered from protein deficiency!

When I left home to start university, I truly realized how much work she did for me. I had to learn how to do a lot of things on my own (like cooking) and always loved coming home on the weekends to my favorite meals prepared just for me. One day, about five years later, I came home and announced I was going vegan. Just like 13 years earlier, my mom embraced this change with open arms.

She was the one who had to listen to me moan about how no one got it, about how the poor cows and chickens and pigs didn’t care whether they were free-range or not, about how Starbucks had no vegan pastries, about how my brother threw a steak at me (true story), etc… She received all my emotions on the matter because I knew she would love me no matter what.

The transition for me was fairly easy because I still hadn’t set my cooking style in stone. My style was more 1) boil water, 2) add pasta, 3) open jar of sauce, 4) mix together. But my mom had been cooking for a long time, had grown up in Switzerland (land of the cheese and the chocolate) and also had to feed my father and my meat and dairy loving brother. But, somehow, she found a way. She discovered Veganaise, veganized our favourite soups, learned how to replace eggs in our familiar pear muffins, and even tried nutritional yeast (and liked it!).

Today, she is about 99% vegan and definitely 100% amazing. I love her with all my heart and she truly is my favorite woman, my role model, and a dear friend. I will miss her incredibly when I move away, but will be comforted in knowing that whenever I come home there will be vegan versions of all my favorite foods waiting for me.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Packing It In

Two posts in one day. Must be Sunday.

One of the most common questions I hear when people find out I’m vegan is “What do you eat?”. Most people have a hard time conceiving of a meal without meat, let alone one without cheese, milk, or eggs. The simple answer to that question is ‘a lot’. My favourite answer to that question is ‘plants’. But, the best answer might be ‘let me show you’. Because you know, a picture is worth bla bla bla.

As I was packing up my food for tomorrow I decided to take some pictures. A few days a week I work really long hours. This, combined with my 75 minute commute each way puts me out of the house from about 6:45 am to 8:00 pm. As a result I bring a lot of food.

First up, breakfast – oats with flax meal, raisins, and cinnamon. I microwave this with some water once I get to work. The raisins add all the sweetness you need.

Lunch varies but this is pretty typical. A sandwich on sprouted grain bread with Tofurky slices, cucumber, spinach, tomato, red onion, and dijon mustard; raw veggies; and a Granny Smith apple, which is the best variety of apple ever.

By about 4:30, I am in need of some more food. My snack needs to be pretty substantial because I work until 6:30-7:00 and on Mondays I do a short run (3-4 miles) after work. Sometimes I will eat a Clif Bar, but today I packed some raw broccoli which I will steam in the microwave at work and some pretzels.

I always never head out the door without my (full) coffee mug and my water bottle.

I almost always pack my lunch. There are some vegan options around work, but packing stuff from homes saves me money and is definitely healthier. I do this the night before because my alarm goes off 20 minutes before I leave the house – just enough time to get dressed, brush my teeth, and make coffee. I know lunches can be a lot more interesting than this, but I think this is a good representation of something you can put together in ten minutes without much thought. So yeah, that’s what this vegan eats. A lot of plants.

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Spring Has Sprung!

To celebrate the first day of Spring (the best season; fall comes in a close second), I decided to make some spring-themed snacks for the classes I teach on the weekend. Part of the program is meant to expose kids to healthy snack options so they can make wise decisions later in life. This is important for all kids, but perhaps even more so for kids with special needs – the rates of overweight and obesity tend to be higher for that population.

In the past I have brought cut up fruit, home-made granola bars (of the Quaker and NutriGrain type), healthy muffins (carrot raisin, pear sauce, and blueberry bran), heart-shaped sandwiches for Valentine’s day, and trail mix consisting of Shreddies with raisins and craisins.

This week I thought I’d bring out the big guns and make some butterflies! Celery filled with hummus make up the body of the butterfly, pretzels are stuck in for wings, and tiny bits of raisins are used for the eyes. I knew hummus might be a little much for some of the kids, so I also made some with Tofutti cream cheese as well. They were pretty adorable. I think they would be great with a nut butter as well but we do the classes in an elementary school gym and I’m pretty sure they have a no nut policy (and though none of the kids are known to have an allergy, some probably haven’t had nuts before and I don’t want to be the one to find that out).

So, will kids eat celery and hummus if they’re offered in the shape of a butterfly? Mostly no, but some will. And it makes me look pretty great in the parents’ eyes. (Also makes me look like a huge loser since yes, I spend my Friday nights making lesson plans, looking up cute snacks, and covering old cereal boxes with coloured paper to use as bowling pins). I did learn a few lessons though. Lesson #1 – 7-12 year old boys don’t go as gaga over butterfly shaped snacks as younger girls. Lesson # 2 – cream cheese is more appealing than a random beige spread you’ve never heard of. Lesson # 3 – to elementary school-aged kids, Tofutti tastes pretty darn similar to regular cream cheese since I got no weird looks or questions. Lesson # 4 – some of your volunteers may be more hesitant to eat vegetables than the kids. Lesson # 5 – a few butterflies on the way home in the only thing you need to relax after an hour of complete chaos.

On a brief last note, the bake sale at Radha was a huge success. The bake sale itself raised $1,600 and, since one of the bakers’ employer matches any donations made by their employees (an awesome policy), we were able to donate $3,200 to the BC SPCA! Another vegan bake sale is in the works as part of the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale which takes place the last week of April, so if you missed this one be sure to come to the next. If you’re not in Vancouver, there are bake sales going on everywhere during this week so find one near you!

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Vancouver is Awesome and I Suck at Blogging

I guess I didn’t really succeed with the cookbook challenge. I lost a bit of interest after a few weeks of not having the cookbook in question, going to Tofino, my friend Joe being in town, and adding yet another volunteer commitment into my week. I shouldn’t be complaining though – I finally get to volunteer at Sunny Hill, a place I dream of working at one day.

Tofino was great. My family and I stayed at Middle Beach Lodge and I would highly recommend this place to anyone looking for an affordable yet very, very comfortable place to stay. The continental breakfast every morning is something to look forward to and they have lots of vegan options. I usually had some cereal with soy milk, toast with PB and jam, and fruit. They did have bagels but the staff were not certain about their veganness and I didn’t ask about the granola because most have honey, but you never know… We basically spent our time walking along the beach, “surfing”, and eating breakfast. Oh, and watching the Canucks of course.

Well, enough about me and more about this amazing city I live in. It seems as if every day Vancouver gets just a bit more vegan friendly. Not only do we have a few 100% vegan restaurants, there are many vegetarian and non-vegetarian places with great vegan options, not to mention a multitude of grocery stores carrying vegan items. Then there’s Karmavore – an all vegan everything store -, and though it is in New West, it’s honestly two minutes away from a Skytrain station so quit complaning and go eat some croissants. And now, we have Nice Shoes and Edible Flours.

Nice Shoes is an all vegan shoe store that sells cruelty-free (animal and people) footwear, along with belts, bags, wallets, etc… It is located on the east side of Fraser Street between 19th and 20th. I kinda hate shoes, not the wearing part because I realize they are fairly essential, particularly for me and my weird feet, but just the obsession with having many pairs of non-functional and painful shoes that only shorten your Achilles tendon and destroy your lower back, and the general consumer culture that goes along with coveting designer shoes. So, I probably won’t be Nice Shoes’s best customer, but it’s still pretty awesome that they exist. One day, I’ll probably stop being such a man and go out and buy some pretty shoes. Edible Flours, on the other hand, is more my kind of store because they sell food. This bakery will be opening in Kitsilano some time in late March. They also carry gluten-, wheat-, soy-, and sugar-free treats. If I do end up going to UBC in the fall, I’m fairly certain I’ll end up here a lot. Especially during exam times.

Lastly, Vancouver is also home to a bunch of really cool vegan people. Some of these people have organized a bake sale to benefit the BC SPCA. I’m delighted to be a small part of this fundraiser (I’m making macaroons and something else, currently undecided) and I really hope you stop by to support the SPCA and fill your tummy. There will also be really, really good raffle prizes (I can confirm this because I know what they are and I want them all) as well as live music by ARCTIC around 8:00. The event is on WEDNESDAY, MARCH 9TH, from 6:30-9:30 at RADHA YOGA AND EATERY (728 Main Street, a bit North of the Main Street Skytrain Station). Edible Flours will also be donating some baked goodies, so if you can’t wait for the end of March, come get them now. There will be gluten-free stuff as well as some pies from the upcoming Isa + Terry Pie Book (the third in their dessert series). So, seriously. Come. Bring Tupperware.


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Week 5 – eat, drink & be vegan

I took this book out of the library and then had to return it before this week. I copied some recipes down by hand and so were kind of limited to those.

On Sunday I made the Cinnamon-Lime Quinoa with Apricots and Almonds and the Tamari Roasted Chickpeas, served with roasted yams and a salad. The quinoa was really good even though I switched the lime juice with lemon juice because we didn’t have a lime and had to omit the zest as well. It wasn’t the prettiest so I didn’t take a picture. Next time I make it, I’m going to try with red quinoa and see if it looks a bit nicer.

The chickpeas were also awesome. We ate them warm but I’d like to try them cold as a little snack one time. I’m not sure if I should have left them in the oven longer because they weren’t totally crunchy.

Today, I made the Orange Sesame Tofu. I’ve tried a few marinated tofu recipes but tend to like tofu better in a stir-fry or scrambled. I have been on a quest to find a baked/grilled recipe I like and this one might just be the one! It was ‘sweet and sour-y’ and very flavourful. Better yet, it was very simple and did not require any difficult ingredients (one complaint I have about the baked goods section of this book).

We ate the tofu with some brown rice and a broccoli recipe I found on VegWeb ( I modified it a little bit and it was really nice. I added the upper limit of red pepper flakes and the sauce had a nice kick to it.

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Week 4 con’t – FRITA-TA!

That’s how I say frittata. I made the ‘sun-dried tomato and asparagus frittata’ for dinner tonight, alongside sweet potato fries and a green salad. I didn’t have asparagus because I’m trying to eat as in season as possible, so I used broccoli and olives instead. Yes, olives are not local at all, but we had some in the fridge. I also didn’t use fresh basil because that would have cost about $5.

It was tasty, but completely fell apart when serving. It looked more like a scramble than a frittata. Not sure how to fix this… Anyway, because it didn’t look like much and because I’m super lazy, there are no pictures.

I actually followed a recipe for the fries because I was feeling cookbooky and Isa did make some spice suggestions – no salt, but cumin, coriander, and pepper. They were really, really good. I’d make them again with these spices for sure.

I really did make three meals from this book. I’m pretty impressed with myself because usually I just cheat and make three recipes in the same meal. I might even bake something on Saturday… I’m thinking ginger-raisin muffins.

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Week 4 con’t – Carrot Bisque

It’s cold again. I just wish spring would hurry up and arrive even though its only February 1st. I guess I can take solace in the fact that winter = soup and I love soup. We have a massive amount of carrots in the fridge so I decided to make the carrot bisque from Vegan with a Vengeance since I am cooking out of that book this week. This soup uses a lot of carrots. A lot. So I guess we had a massive amount of carrots in the fridge would be more correct.

The soup was pretty good. Next time I’ll add more curry powder and salt. I drizzled some sriracha on it at the end and my dad opted for some red pepper flakes. It just needed a bit more of a kick.

We ate it with some roasted yellow peppers and kale chips. My new favourite way to do kale chips is to really sprinkle on the Parma! before putting them in the oven. I definitely eat up all the fallen off Parma! at the end.

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