Thursday, January 31, 2008
Following a link for the NoMeatPoWeek I stumbled upon The League of Maternal Justice. Run by two vigilante moms (with monacures: Pregerella and Lactivista) who have dedicated this site (and perhaps their lives when not breastfeeding) to various 'missions' that have the end result of saving the environment, detoxing communities and saving animals from the slaughter house. With the big goals come a great deal of attention and awareness raising. Way to go! I am happy to report that the 'boob squad' are Canadian moms and are so cool that they use comic book lingo and decals in their attempt to wave their diaper bags at the evils of the world.
I have to say that I am intrigued by the way these women subvert the stereotype of the 'mom' with their 'fighting the big fight' with our babies on our hip images. I quite like it. Through university and the last few years, one starts to feel that a choice is made at some point: be a super sassy vixen of a vegan with a PhD, save all the kitties, chickens and cows at risk, own a vegan restaurant, and have a couple of novels selling out around the world OR be a mom. It is nice to see women continue in the vein of my mother and her good friend mary rose who decided to be world champions and raise their children.
Let's hear it for breast milk!
I wadded through the pregnancy/breast feeding-this, and weight loss-that (all of which I am sure is useful to loads of women - but not this one) and found some rather good posts on travel, natural beauty, sleep (see last post), cooking, non-profits, and books.
I also fell pray to thinking about 2008 in a goal oriented frame of mind. Goals are great, but I like to plan my year with crazy inventions like: the days of the week (saturday is my favourite), hours, months, calendars (the chinese one is pretty happening with all those animal friends to hook up with). But now, inspired by a Boca-advertisement-party of a contest, I am seeing the upcoming months slip away to be replaced by "wellness goals".
So here are some of my wellness goals for the year of the rat:
1. Eat less tofu and chick peas. Now, now. Don't get me wrong. I love tofu. I adore a good can of chickpeas. But, I have become analogous to the mom who reaches, without thought, like a robot for the box of Kraft Dinner, because, hey, it is Wednesday and we always have Kraft Dinner on Wednesday. I have it all there. The TVP, the lentils, the white beans. I just have to use them a little more. You can't have your vegan recipes going stale. That would be silly. And besides - I have a growing K at home to think about.
Update: for dinner, following the day that gave birth to this post I actually ate a stir fry that was comprised not ONLY of chickpeas, but of some left over tofu as well. Nice job.
2. Spend more time under the covers. I am getting better. Really, I am. The spring loaded 'up and at them' device has been disengaged (almost) on the weekends, but I have to learn to slow down, to soak up, to hunker down (into the duvet) and snuggle in.
3. Spend more time exercising outside. The gym is amazing! I love having it all to myself every morning. The machines are great, lots of free weights to keep my pipes a'pumping (kiss, kiss). But, I live in a great place for outside run-fun. Brussels is flat with mostly manageable temperatures (remember: I am Canadian - the idea of even (shock, horror) -5 in the winter months is essentially inviting me to run in my shorts!)
That all seems quite manageable, healthy and fun. Happy Goals = a Happy VeganCowGirl
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Sunday and Monday night were anomalies in my sleeping pattern. It wasn't that I didn't manage to get tucked in at a reasonable hour. I was de-socked and in my really ugly pyjamas at a reasonable hour. It was due more to worries and nerves (meetings, interviews, increases in work responsibility, stressed out kids and other concerns propped up my heavy eyes). Last night was a late night with purpose. K and I joined Andrea, James and Sarah (intrepid traveller on her way to Bangkok! Go Sarah Go!) for a fantastic Ethiopian feast.
After a drink and a nip home to tidy myself up, we headed out to Kokoba, where we have eaten before, and thought would be wide open and free for five people on a Tuesday night. It must be the Manikin Pise, because, this place was packed. No chance.
Hungry and disappointed we got back in the car and patched together a plan that included a hasty call to another restaurant of similar ethic leanings to double check on the vegan options - no problem! We met up at Salaam, which is located across the street from Dolma restaurant and bio shop on Ixelles (just a little north of the ever-severed Flagey). The atmosphere was modest and a little on the nineteen eighties side of family-restaurant dinning experiences, especially when compared to the original destination of Kokoba - which is swanky and uber-designer-conscious. But, I think, that is part of the charm and appeal of this new favourite. The down to earth and laid back feeling of the decor was reinforced by a charming proprietor who offered great service by pretty much leaving us alone for the night to enjoy the food and the great conversation.
I ordered the vegetarian platter and I was really pleased with the array of choice - lentils, amazing spinach, a small salad, curried veg, beans, and of course - the ethiopian bread. Ahhhhh it was fantastic. Everyone else, meat eaters included, seemed to enjoy their meal, and everyone was pleased with the hummous and m'table that started our experience.
Writing this piece, and some conversation with my kids this morning, reminded me of a post about a great little vegan Ethiopian place in Toronto that I blogged about in the sweaty days of summer. If you are a hungry vegan in Toronto - check out Yummy's on Queen (in Parkdale), but maybe read this post first.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
There was a time in the past when every trip to the video store included a hunt for the Woody Allen film: Husbands and Wives - and, never, to any avail. Now, let's make it clear: video shops were once as regular as my vitamins, as usual as my breath, as constant as the sun. Every night. Every single night. Despite the melange of shop floors tread upon over four longish years of Blockbuster and Independent customership there was never a copy of this long sought after, and much acclaimed by K-before-K, film. It was, apparently "the best Allen movie to be seen". Until tonight. The White Knight on the corner (a Euroversion of Mac's Milk) has a basement video store with an array of titles. Everything from Jesus Camp (great, yet freaky, documentary that was the impetus to my mac being dropped on the floor last Valentine's Day...) to all of the Six Feet Under T.V. series (might look into that). There it was with a wide selection of Woody films, indicating the person in charge of acquisitions must have some taste.....I snatched it up and here I sit enjoying and watching after a yummy and spontaneous meal of 'stacks'.
The Stacks were excellent. We came up with the notion while standing on the street on the way back from an evening drink on the square (yah!! Way to finish your reports!). They turned out amazingly - and they were dead simple to make.
What to get (you could really do just about anything you wanted with these - go nuts):
Tofu (sliced into 1 inch steakettes)
12 mushrooms (sliced)
zuchinni (1 sliced into coins)
1 red pepper (sliced into 4 segments)
tomato sauce and one tomato
What to do (keep in mind the oven is broken - under normal circumstances, and when ours returns from MediaMarkt, I would broil/grill these rather then frying them)
After warming the oil in two pans I added the tofu to one and let the onions and mushroom soften in their own good time. I browned the tofu and added some basil, flipping them occasionally with a total cooking time of about 15 minutes.
After the onions became nice and squishy I added the zucchini. K busied himself with taking on the responsibility of cooking the red pepper slices over the open flame. To quote: "I might swear more aggressively if I burn myself, but you are more likely to burn yourself" - he was right. I let him enjoy the flame.
I made a quick tomato sauce with fresh tomato and some canned tomatoes, to which I added some fresh coriander. I added the sauce to two wide bowls - just to coat the bottom. I then stacked the remaining ingredients on top of the red pepper bits. Red Pepper - tofu - mushroom/onion - zucchini - tofu - mushroom/onion - zucchini. Yummy. It was amazingly good to eat. I enjoyed mine with rice cakes, and K ate a flame roasted pita.
Husbands and Wives. Tofu and Mushrooms. Perfect.
K knows his film references.
I am reading an excellent fiction book right now. I can't remember the exact name of it, so you will have to wait until I dig it out of my gym bag. I am dying to read some Anne Carson right now....does anyone know where my Anne Carson books are? The Beauty of The Husband....Hmmm...Carson, Cranberry Bubble Bath and the potential of early Bed Time. Maybe a Edith Piaf CD.....Nice. This vegan is signing off.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
As my evening accompaniment I have The Dears and the clinking of the dishes being done by someone else (one of the BEST benefits to cooking dinner). We just finished scarfing down a double curry and quinoa dinner. I tried a dry curry: cauliflower, peas and onion. But, damn it, I added too much cumin at the end and made something that I was anticipating a little less appetizing. The carrot, squash and sweet potato/tomato curry was much better, and will be a lunch feature next week.
I had a wonderful day today, a mirror to the golden day that kept a quiet cap over Brussels from early morning until the sun dipped down a few minutes later then it did the week before (so...around 4 4 5pm). We saw a rare saturday sunrise, as I couldn't keep myself asleep this morning - which, I am sure is a direct result of drinking way too much last night, and needing water more than I needed a couple more minutes of sleep. Luckily it was Saturday and I was off breakfast duty and had the pleasure of lazying about while the food I was about to break a fast with was being made for me. Not long after eating we were off and headed in separate directions for primming and preening - teachers can be pretty too. A quick customary coffee at The Coffee Club on Balli and we started for what was supposed to be a trip to Zara on Ave. Louise (continuing my endless search for 'pants' - which has only been made worse by leaving my favourite pair of black work pants at my mom's), however, before long I had found my way into my favourite funky shop and had snatched up the cutest dress and skirt.
We had a great lebanese lunch (I ordered a veg platter and only had to sacrifice the tzatizki and some fried cheese stick (always am I being reminded why I love the choice I made to be a vegan). After a brief Tori and Megan sighting (let's all say a prayer for M tonight.....Brussels needs more Megan), we headed for the antique shops behind Sablon and although we failed to find the bargain of a life time we had a million laughs, circa January 2008.
A quick pop into Tan, where we found (and bought) the biggest block of Tofu, some Spirulina tablets and some organic vanilla, we continued our trek home.
And here we sit with Quinta do Bispado in our hands and The Dears on the radio.
I am a snow horsie!!!!
Thursday, January 24, 2008
1 handful of organic boston lettuce
about 20 coriander olives purchased last night on the market
some sultana raisins
5 or 6 asparagus tips (thanks Annie)
4 stuffed grape leaves
a couple of rice cakes
and....I think I might get around to a pear. Oh, wait. I need some tea. Ok, I am set.
Why am I home and enjoying a match making documentary compliments of This American Life? Well, today was my interview at the Ixelles commune. Despite the horror stories about Belgian bureaucracy, it was actually quite simple. Only a 5 minute delay. Rather then rushing back to work, I decided to lounge about in my new official status. Whop. Whop.
Beyond my self-reflections and this interesting documentary, I am also digging through a new 'blog network': SlashFood. I can't help curiosity, despite an awareness that Slash is connected to Turner Media. I admit to already finding a couple of interesting articles - not so bad. I want to believe the 'uncensored' testament I found on their About Us page...hmmmmm.
The tea was great, and the documentary a touch depressing. I have 21 little people to get to - the pear will have to wait.
Monday, January 21, 2008
The vegan delights of the holiday season hardly stopped there. My mom and dad were thinking with their European thinking caps on when they purchased for me the only footwear truly accepted in Brussels - Boots. Vegan boots from Vegetarian Shoes - thanks mom! They fit just fine and have already taken me to school on more than one occasion.
Hmmm...I also have to share a new/old dish that I have played with a couple of times since getting back. It is an oldie, but goodie - that I haven't made for ages, and that I added white beans to this evening, opting to forgo the 6 dollar bottle of chickpeas at Tsampa. This dish was originally invented by Nicola and served to myself and Lisa one rainy night whilst lesson planning and hanging out with Sunday. It was a brilliant dish, and I have been trying to recreate the yummie goodness, but, alas...I don't think those stars will ever align. Find my try just below.
1 can of white beans (or chick peas)
1 onion - sliced
4 carrots - halved and then sliced thinly, but not so thin as to rob the sticks of their staying power.
1 clove of garlic
1 thumb of ginger - diced
olive oil/sesame oil
spinach (tonight I was sans spinach, so I just served the cook bit on a bed of organic boston lettuce)
I cooked off the onion for about 20 minutes, using the olive oil as my non-stick base. I added the carrots and some dates and let it cook for about another 10 minutes. I chucked in everything else and let it sit for about 20 minutes.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Lack is one thing that this pizza did not exude. It was everything a little vegan (and her donkey) could want in a pizza. In a meal. In a last supper. My mom bought a vegan pizza crust from Fortinos and used my once loved pizza stone to create this masterpiece.
I can't be sure of the ingredients, but I do know that there was olive oil, fresh herbs, tomato, roasted red pepper, mushrooms, and.......oh god...chickpeas atop this little whole wheat bed of heaven.
Let's give it up for Omnivore moms who invest time, love, Google research and thought into cooking for their crazy vegan daughters (and sons!) around the world.
I love my mom. And I love her pizza!!!
Monday, January 14, 2008
Sitting in our comfy apartment in Brussels, free from any more neurotic health worries, I was contemplating making a little treat I saw on one of my favourite blogs: Fat Free Vegan Kitchen . To qualify this: I never actually make any of the recipes fat free...Olive Oil is too yummy and let's not even imagine a world without sesame oil.
Here I sat, pondering Sichuan Tofu with Garlic Sauce, when my brain was whisked away to the night markets of China and the street smells of roasting corn, really gross snails (which everyone assured me tasted great), and the quintessential Chinese treat - stinky tofu. With this olafactory memory I remembered that I have some 700 photos from China saved on Flickr, which, thanks to tonight's brain wave, I will have to dole out to you precious reader, on occasion.
The image I share from tonight was one taken whilst sitting right beside a night market. This 'noodle man' who made spaghetti - and was apparently the only spaghetti man in all of Beihai, in a most dramatic fashion, constructed the noodles right there in front of you. You could even get a vegan tomato sauce to go along with the yummy noodles. After a night of noodle eating, one could hardly turn down a pineapple on a stick.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Friday night was a superfabulous food festival. I made a couple of new dishes, which turned out wonderfully - (let's ignore setting the sweet potato fries on fire. We didn't need them anyway...right?).
The thai-curry squash and walnuts were inspired by late night cookoffs compliments of Oakville's one and only midnight food fairy - who just happens to be a pediatric nurse by daylight. The pallenta covered tofu steaks, where an inspiration from last months Vegetarian Times magazine *(thanks mom!).
The squash started with some olive oil and thai curry paste in a heavy pan, with the heat on a lowish setting. I added a handful of sliced onions and let it cook down until the onions were brown. I cut the squash into chunks and threw them in. The squash cooked quietly on their own for about 15 minutes, before I added some walnuts and covered the pan with a tight led. I left them for about another 20-25 minutes - turning only when I smelled the potatoes, which were in the oven, smelled a little funny (what can I say? I was marking Travel Guides).
The tofu steaks were dead easy and super good - though, if you are a mild mouthed mamma you might want to avoid the heat I added to the marinade. In a large bowl I added diced garlic, soy sauce, olive oil, pepper, a bit of sea salt and a whole load of chillis. I sliced some really firm and organic tofu into 2 inch thick slabs and dredged them through the marinade - once coated, I left them to sit for about 5 minutes. Oven was turned up to just before max and I hassled K into finding the pallenta for me (it was somewhere in the recesses of the high shelves that this five foot lady never explores). After the five minutes I pulled the steaks through some pallenta and slammed the four steaks onto a cookie sheet (note - cover with a tiny bit of oil or you might get a bit of stickage). I cooked them for about 30 minutes and oh my! They were crispy, spicy and oh so yummy. We ate the squash and tofu with some avocado and raisin salad...and enjoyed some organic wine.
To top of the gastro delights of this vegan friendly weekend we managed to pick up a really great juicer! I have used it twice since yesterday afternoon - the purchase was worth the trip to sticking City 2. The St. Gilles market was made rich from my juicing dreams, we escaped with apples, pears, carrots, ginger, a silly amount of passion fruit, and of course tulips (who doesn't love tulip juice?) Oh...and I picked up a Sigg bottle, which, despite its aluminum insides, is apparently much better to sip from then the dreaded Nalgeen.....hmmmmm.
I love Sunday afternoons - they are always so full of surprises!
Friday, January 11, 2008
Their new album The Con, which comes complete with a DVD collection of videos etc, is just about the nicest thing I have ever heard. I swear, in a flight of narcissism, the girls were reading the diary entries from the entirety of my last serious relationship. Despite the heart string snappings, this album is funktastic - the perfect food making, elliptical machine attacking, kitty hunting, Brussels street walking music.
The best song, by far, is Relief Next To Me. Go out, right now, and buy this album.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
I made a really fantastic dinner last night (If I do say so myself), and if only for personal posterity sake I wanted to record it in this, my electronic recipe box. But if you are going to make this dish you have to make it to the sounds of Santa Maria Da Feira, the best track form Banhart's Cripple Crow C.D.
This curry was originally conceived to be a stir fry....but with the absence of any tofu in the friendly neighbourhood Delhaize and the find of the night (a new coconut and lemon grass curry sauce) the curry was really the only choice.
1 onion - chopped
thai curry paste (red - I used the OX brand)
1 courgette - cut in diagonal slices
3 carrots - cut in diagonal slices
5 fat brown mushrooms - sliced
cilantro (I might bend on the whole aubergine/courgette thing, but screw you and your coriander)
1 can of chickpeas
generous amounts of coconut/lemon grass curry sauce (you could totally substitute this for coconut milk)
I heated the olive oil up in the wok (the one without the burn marks all over the bottom), and added the onions, using K's trick of letting them sit for about 20 minutes before adding anything else. In this time I busied myself by dreaming about buying some thia-ish/Chinese-ish tool to turn my carrots into little flowers, wilst having to settle for diagonal slices. I added some soy sauce occasionally to the onions. I added the carrots next, waited about 10 minutes, covering them for some steam.
At this point I threw in the various sauces, in about tea spoon amount quantities - adding, tasting, adding.....adding. I finally threw in some chilli and became immediately worried about the level of heat ("an 'owwwww I burnt my tongue' dance was performed in the living room) and upon the ever oracle-like advice of my very own nigel slater I began a hunt for citrus. With a lack of lemon (a direct result of our holiday...the apartment is drastically low on a variety of items that are only discovered to be drastically low in mid-cook) I went for the juice of half a grapefruit.
I let it sit for quite some time - cracking open a really nice white wine (thanks to Jim and his Old Mill choice, I have a new addiction) and staring adoringly out of my apartment window.....when the wait was over...it was so worth it. Oh my god. It was delicious. I ate mine with some multigrain rice cakes, but it would have been equally as tasty with some jasmine rice or some soba noodles.
Make it Make it Make it.
Friday, January 04, 2008
Being at home, with all of its vegan options, lululemon retail shopping experiences (which, thanks to the lulu love of a certain nerd boy, I took full advantage of), sushi restaurants, National Art Galleries and really great Tofu Wellingtons (thanks mom!), has left a funny feeling in the heart of this vegan cowgirl.
When I flew off to the wilds of Belgium one balmy August morning I wasn't sure. I was saying I was sure, and I was hoping I was sure....but I still cried myself silly at US customs. However, that trepidation, uncertainty and wobbly-leg feeling has been replaced by a concrete and positive solidity where my new not-so-vegan friendly home of Brussels is concerned. And I like that.
Self realizations aside: Some good food was had by all: Fresh, Sushi , The Table (in Ottawa), The Old Mill (Ancaster) The Cornerstone (in Guelph) and of course - the old standby - La Luna. With family, shopping, an adventurous and slippery holiday just outside of Sharbot Lake, loads of 'and this is where I skinned my knee when I was five', 'and this is where Amber and I used to go to buy Butter Tarts when we were done our paper route' I barley had time to catch up with friends. That was the only downside to this visit. But maybe I needed it? I know that I left Brussels with the intent to seek solace...and Sharbot Lake and my parent's house definitely allowed for some quiet moments.....moments so different from my life in Brussels.
I am really looking forward to finding some time over the next few weeks to write about some of the amazingly nice people I met this last two weeks...and sharing the slippery stories about George and his goats. But for now, I want to take a quick second to record the actions of one really cool girl who works at the Cornerstone Cafe in Guelph, Ontario:
Have you ever been? If not? Go! Even if it is a drive from some urbanista utopia like Toronto. Hiring a car (not from Discount if you know what is good for you) and driving to 'the ever encroaching on Halton Hills and other more quiet spots' Guelph is totally worth it if you are able to grab lunch, dinner or dessert (or even my Brits' favourite standby: A black coffee) at The Cornerstone. Brenda introduced this spot to me the day before I was heading across Canada in 2006. I admit that despite the expanding speedometer record on my Focus that often found me dinning in the vegan friendly world of Guelph during this time in my life, I had NEVER stepped foot in the Cornerstone. It looked more like one of those run down 'hotels' that don't serve anything that isn't in one of those half size hospital glasses that I remember Michele P drinking out of at The TownHouse in first year.
Low and Behold: not only does Guelph house the world famous Salsateria and Carden Street cafe, it also has a much more laid back and funky little eatery...The Cornerstone. The decor is totally functional - well done chalk boards, used furniture, a cute little wood bar that wraps around the front of the house....comfy and cozy and oh so cute. I remember enjoying a great lunch in 06', a wrap from their extensive and fun vegan and veggie menu. And I was totally impressed this holiday season. Christmas Eve...a nice drive through southern ontario after a lunch of Indian (stay away from the Cabbage in ANY buffet situation) and I was hankering for a hot chocolate. Not only was I satisfied with my hot chocolate, but the
waitress (with a super cute t-shirt and the prettiest eyes) offered me a vegan chocolate cheese cake. Sold! and down it went.....quickly to be sure, but hey! I wasn't eating it alone. I traversed the 20 year ago polished wood floor to pay for my great winter treat...and guess what? In front of me was plopped half of the cheese cake I had just enjoyed (ok...inhaled). I was stunned, and oh so thankful. She quipped a quick response to my sheltered-in-vegan-desert-free Brussels gushing that "we are closed for two days and you liked it so much...makes sense". Did it ever! I loved it...and I was so pleased with that woman's kindness. Excellent way to showcase Canada - thanks!
Well. That's about it. Can't wait to get home. This snow horsie is exhausted.