Nadia’s vegan story

By Nadia W.

People who knew me before I went vegan are always surprised to learn that I am vegan. After all, I grew up on a typical west Indian diet which consisted largely of oxtail, pig feet, pig legs and other animal parts. After I moved to Ottawa from Montreal for university, I remember going home on breaks and my request for a homemade meal would be oxtail with rice and beans. This was a favourite of mine before I went vegan, and before I really understood what I was consuming.

So, how does a person go from eating all parts of an animal—even the ones most people consider to be “gross”-and consuming their secretions, to never eating any animal ingredients at all?

My pathway to veganism began with yoga. Before I become vegan, and to this day, I practiced yoga on a regular basis. As you may know, one of the teachings of yoga is non-violence. As I continued to practice and then would go home to a meal of dead animal flesh, I became consumed with guilt.  I became acutely aware that the roasted chicken on my plate had been a living being, a being who wanted to live. My need—or rather, my desire—for flesh to satisfy my taste buds, played an important role in ending that life.

With my consciousness raised, I began researching and reading about vegetarianism, and eventually my research led me to veganism. I must admit that giving up dairy was not difficult for me. Once I was aware of the pain associated with diary, the decision to remove it from my diet was simple. No hand wrenching, no tears, no thinking, “I can’t do this.”

I realize some people find it more difficult than I did. I’m fortunate that the transition was easy for me, but it was easy in part because of the reality that faces dairy cows. The life of a dairy cow is tragic. She is forced to breed constantly to satisfy the taste buds of human beings, who steal something which she creates not for us, but for her unborn calf.

I wonder sometimes whether society would be willing to accept this if this practice was associated with dogs. Would we sit back and allows dogs to be milked over and over again to simply satisfy our desires? Or would we revolt and gather our placards and march on Parliament Hill and demand change?

My point is, there is no difference between a cow and a dog, at least not one that justifies the systemic abuse of one over another. Or any other animal. I refuse to buy into the attitude that we are the stronger species, and therefore animals exist for our use. I will never accept that the animals are put here for us to do as we please with them. After all, this was the same mentality which allowed for the enslavement of blacks for so many years.

Some people don’t understand why I am vegan, and why I feel so strongly about living a vegan lifestyle.  I’ve been accused of having a “superiority complex.” Being vegan has nothing to do with feeling superior, and everything to do with feeling compassion for these creatures. Knowing what I know, I simply feel that I have no other choice.

It saddens me that any female would be repeatedly forced to become pregnant, and endure the agony of losing her baby, her maternal instincts unfulfilled every time. Her daughter will become enslaved as a milking cow, and her son will be killed as a juvenile to become veal.  I’m not a mother, but I can’t imagine how that wouldn’t resonate with human mothers.

So I implore people, the next time you sit down to a meal, stop and think about what you’re eating. Your juicy steak is not just a steak, but is a cow who had his or her life ended to satisfy your taste buds. The next time you sit down to enjoy your ice cream think of the poor baby calf who had to go without his or her mother’s milk, because you love ice cream. Please, think.

And once you’ve thought about it, please consider going vegan.

Pantry scrounging meal idea: Orange Ginger Cashew Stirfry

By Nadia W.

If your household is anything like mine, as the week progresses there is less and less produce to prepare a meal. This was my situation a few weeks ago.  I came home to one carrot, one orange, some broccoli, red and green pepper, and zucchini. In my pantry, I found a handful of raw cashews, some long-grain brown rice, and some spices purchased in bulk from a local health food store.

I decided to get creative, and ended up creating the following recipe. Please keep in mind that since I was working with odds and ends from the fridge, I don’t have exact measurements. But that also means it’s easy to sub in whatever you have on hand.

Orange Ginger Cashew Stirfry


Red/green pepper
1/2 to 1T Oil
Raw cashews (pre-soak for 30 minutes)
Tumeric (about 1/4 teaspoon)
Cayenne pepper
1 to 2 garlic gloves (or powder)
Poultry seasoning
1/2 orange, juiced
Orange zest
Tamari sauce or light soya sauce
Sea salt (pinch)


1. Heat oil in frying pan; sautee garlic.
2. Add vegetables, spices, ginger, cashews, tamari or soya sauce, orange zest and orange juice.
3. Sautee to desired consistency.
4. Plate with rice or your favorite grain.

In my opinion, Gardein beefless tips would be a great addition to this meal. Please note that spices can be purchased in bulk at a very low price;  it’s definitely possible to create healthy, nutritious, and flavourful meals… based on what’s already in your pantry!

Vegans love lava…and good deals!

By Nadia W.

All of the cute t-shirts and other vegan gear at Vegans Love Lava are on sale as the online store is closing.

One of my duties as the NCVA’s business development lead is to always be on the lookout for great vegan products and deals to bring to our members.

Well, I found something great; however, this news is bittersweet. Vegans Love Lava ( is closing its doors, but the good news is that everything is currently on sale.

In addition to great deals on DVDs, footwear, t-shirts, veggie gear and more, shipping is free. Yes, you read this correctly, free!

So, head over to their website and let’s show them a great farewell.

NCVA experience inspires and motivates teenaged volunteer

Guest blogger Shannon O’Brien-Leblanc volunteered with the NCVA for the first time at the Eco Fair on Saturday.  She wanted to share her experience, so here it is!


As a relatively new member of the National Capital Vegetarian Association (NCVA), I was honoured when I was invited to volunteer to represent the NCVA at the Ottawa Eco Fair. The prospect of having the opportunity to represent the most well-known Vegetarian association in the greater Ottawa area seemed unreal, and exciting.

You see, I am 16-years-old, and live in a very rural community about an hour east of Ottawa.  I can pretty much say my sister Erika, my mom Kelli and I are the only vegans out here, and at times it can be isolating. That the President of the NCVA, Josh Flower, would be training us (my sister and I), would prove to be an experience I will never forget.

Shannon (in red) pictured with sister Erika (in purple), NCVA president Josh Flower (far left), and volunteers Kim and Lennox.

On Sept. 17 I walked into the Carleton University fieldhouse, where the Eco Fair was being held, not knowing what to expect. This was my first Eco Fair, despite being vegan for nearly five years and vegetarian before that, and to be honest, I wasn’t really sure what to do.

We had some extra time before our shift started so we gazed around at the other vendors and see what they had to offer. After exploring what the Eco Fair had to offer, I felt highly motivated and ready to start volunteering.

When I got to the NCVA booth, I was met by Josh Flower, the president of the NCVA. He greeted us with a warm smile and welcoming charm. This made me feel very welcomed and appreciated. He said that we could observe for a while to see what goes on. We had never done this type of volunteering before, so we wanted to watch to see how it was done by those who had plenty of prior experience. After a while, we joined in with the other volunteers.

As the day went on, we handed out brochures, educated people about veganism and of course distributed delicious free cookies that were baked by volunteers.  I was getting involved and speading awareness about veganism, which is something that I’ve always wanted to do. The only thing stopping me from doing so before was the fact that I had no support. But thanks to the NCVA’s support, I now feel inspired to spread awareness about veganism to everybody I know.

In addition, I was asked to play a role in developing an up and coming Youth program for the NCVA, intended to educate youth about the benefits of veganism, and offer support to those wanting to move towards a plant-based diet.  The idea is that as a teenager, I’m someone who (aspiring) vegetarian/vegan  youth can relate to. I would be honoured to do so.

By the end of the day, I was delighted by the new responsibilities I had taken on, and with my overall experience as a NCVA volunteer. I look forward to volunteering again and I look forward to my future role within the NCVA. I no longer feel like “we are the only ones,” and I am truly inspired.

Next on my check list, trying to initiate a Veg Club in our very “meat loving” High School (Rockland District). It may only be my sister Erika and I at the beginning, but we are hoping that we can change that. Afterall, if Texas can do it, I think we can too!


Shannon and Erika’s mother, Kelli, operates the Westminster Pet Sanctuary,  a registered charity which specializes in special needs animals. Because she is vegan, she refuses to hold fundraising BBQs or events that harm animals. For more information, or to make a donation, please visit the website.

NCVA at the Ottawa Eco Fair

The NCVA has participated as an exhibitor at the Ottawa Eco Fair for years, and we were there again in full force yesterday, Saturday Sept. 17.

Our volunteer cookie bakers baked late into the night to prepare bite-sized deliciousness to entice people over to our table to talk to us about the many benefits of plant-based diets. I’m beginning to think that Earth Balance should be paying us for every time we answer the question, while savouring our cookie creations, “What do you use instead of butter?”

It was a good day all-around, and a good opportunity to talk to people, make connections, become better acquainted with each other, and wave at Miss Kate and Auntie Loo who were across the corridor from us selling goodies.

A big thank you to our tabling volunteers: David, Markey, Erin, Neil, Amanda, Shaun, Kim, Josh, Shannon, Erica, Isabelle, Len, Raphael, Madeleine, and Michelle! We always receive so much good feedback about how friendly and helpful our volunteers are, and yesterday was no exception.

And thank you as well to our cookie bakers, who baked more than 500 cookies and other treats! The feedback on those was stellar, as usual!




Just say no to eating turkey- and learn about the other options!

Deb Gleason prefers when turkeys are alive and well.

The NCVA recently learned the unfortunate news that Credible Edibles, a veg-friendly cafe in Wellington Village, would be discontinuing its operations as a cafe.

The good news though, is that it will now operate as a plant-based cooking school, under the leadership of owner Judi Varga Toth. This coming September 29, Holistic Nutritionist Deb Gleason (of Wellness Warrior Coaching) will be a guest instructor, leading a class called “A Vegan Thanksgiving.”

During the class, she will teach students how to make a delicious Stuffed Tofu Turkey with all the trimmings: Sage stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes with gravy, roasted seasonal vegetables and apple crisp with vanilla cashew crème.

It’s a great opportunity for either vegetarians/vegans, or those who might be cooking for one, to master holiday cooking just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas!

The class runs from 6:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. Bring an empty stomach, as each participant will have an opportunity to partake in the class’ creation. Hand-outs and recipes will be included, and the cost for each three-hour, hands-on class is $45/person or $75/couple + HST. All classes take place at Credible Edibles, 78 Hinton Avenue North.

To register, call 613-558-7569, by email, or online at Please register as spaces are limited to ensure the best possible experience for all participants. Also, visit the website to see the full range of classes being offered.

Say no to eating turkey this Thanksgiving. Need another idea? This is the class for you.

We asked Deb a few questions about the class she will be instructing.


Q: What gave you the idea to do a class like this?

A: I have been thinking about a vegan thanksgiving class for a long time. For the last 10 years I have been making a “tofu turkey” every thanksgiving and sharing it with friends and family. People always love it and they are so interested in how I get the stuffing inside so I thought it would be a lot of fun to teach a class and show people how easy it is.

Q: How did you become partnered with Judi at Credible Edibles?

A: I have been aware of the great work Credible Edibles is doing in the local community for a while and a good friend of mine put me in touch with Judi, the owner and we immediately hit it off. She was really excited about the idea of a vegan thanksgiving theme and said creating a “tofu turkey” was something she has been wanting to learn for a long time.

Q: What’s different about this kind of class, compared to others that might be similar?

A: Many of the classes at Credible Edibles are vegetarian and there is now a series of vegan classes called “Forks Over Knives” which I think is amazing. Judi is helping those who have seen them movie learn how to create plant-based meals that will change their health. My class is 100 per cent vegan with a focus on nourishing whole foods that taste really good. It is my philosophy that if it is easy to make, highly nourishing and tastes great people are more likely to turn vegan food into a habit.

Q: What can people expect to experience, and learn?

A: Credible Edibles has set up something really special in their space. They are providing a very rich learning environment and nice way for the community to connect. Participants put on an apron and help create the food. Once all the food is prepared the group sits down to enjoy their creation as they enjoy appetizers, the main course and dessert. As a bonus participants are encouraged to bring their tupperware and the leftovers get sent home along with the evening’s recipes.

In my vegan thanksgiving class people can expect to learn about how delicious and easy a plant-based diet is. I will touch on the health benefits and will share tips and tricks for replacing meat, dairy and eggs from recipes. The “tofu turkey” is a really fun thing to learn how to prepare and I hope that participants will wow their families a week later when they prepare their own “tofu turkey” at home for thanksgiving. We will also prepare sage stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, wonderful gravy, roasted seasonal vegetables and cap it all off with an apple crisp and vanilla cashew creme.

Q: Who is this class intended for? Is this food that everyone can enjoy?

A: This class is for anyone who loves to eat good food. It does not matter if you are a new vegetarian that wants to learn more, a long time vegan or an omnivore that simply wants to include more healthy options in their diet. Everyone will get what they need from this class.

Q: What advice do you have for vegetarians and vegans who are dealing with “meaty” family traditions, and may not know how to handle the situation?

A: Family gatherings can often be challenging for people who have decided to avoid animal-based foods. My best advice is to enjoy your family and friends first. The food may seem like the centrepiece but it is the connection with those you love that is truly the reason for getting together. If you are worried that there will not be much for you to eat offer to bring a couple of your own dishes in quantities that are large enough for others to try. Remember that your life is your message and graciously showing others that your diet is abundant and delicious may help open their minds to the wonderful world of plant-based living.


By Nadia W.

A few weeks ago, I was heading out of town for a week on a well deserved vacation.  It was Saturday night, and  I was stumped about what to prepare for supper because my fridge was bare.  My weekly visit to the farmer’s market occurs on Sunday, so by the time Saturday rolls around it’s slim pickings.

I had a bit of a hankering for a burger, was resisting. I really did not want to make one. But I happened to have some Gardein beefless burgers in my freezer, and not much else.

I must admit, I was hesitant to try them. I tend not to eat a lot of processed foods and well, these burgers are definitely processed.  You’re probably wondering, am I a food snob who hates processed foods? No, no, not at all but I prefer whole foods to their processed counterparts.

But, I was starving and needed something for the night. I decided that in order to bulk up the veggie side of things, fries would be part of the menu, so I purchased two sweet potatoes, enough for myself and guest.

So what’s my verdict on the burger? It was delicious! Succulent and juicy- words that most people think can only be associated with burgers made from dead animals.  I’ll be honest, veggie burgers on the whole aren’t great. They’re sort of a vegan necessity, and most menus have one these days, but they’re not the sort of thing I would normally go out of my way to consume.

But these? They were light tasting and did not have that frozen taste. These burgers are great for those ‘I don’t know what to feed my family’ nights.  Normally, when having a burger, my toppings would include avocado, tomatoes and kale, but the only things I had on hand were mustard and Daiya vegan cheese.

It wasn’t a banner night for healthy eating for me, but it did the trick and it was very satisfying.
Here’s the recipe for the fries:
Spicy Sweet Potato Fries


– 1 to 2 sweet potatoes 

– 1 TB oil

Roughly equal amounts of each of the following:
– Poultry seasoning
– Cumin
– Garlic powder
– Salt
– Cayenne pepper

– Wash sweet potatoes
– Cut into wedges
– Pat dry with dish clean cloth or paper towel
– Transfer to bowl
– Add dry ingredients and oil
– Mix together
– Transfer to baking sheet
– Bake at 350F until cooked

Who doesn’t love banana bread?

By Nadia W.

(Nadia is on the NCVA’s board of directors. This is her first blog post, and definitely not her last.)

This is one of my favourite things to make, or bake. Actually, it’s the only thing I do bake.

I don’t consider myself a baker. Truthfully, I find it stressful and tedious. Perhaps it’s the measurement and the stress of wondering whether whatever I’m baking will turn out to be edible.

But this banana bread bread recipe has yet to fail me. It is one I made before going vegan and I found it was quite easy to veganize. I simply omitted the butter and eggs. Bananas are so moist and binding that you don’t need those things in any banana bread recipe, so it’s a bit ridiculous that they’re still included in so many.

Without further ado, here’s my no-fail banana bread recipe.


4-5 ripened bananas

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup maple syrup

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup spelt flour

2 T baking powder




What to do

In a bowl, mash bananas. Stir in oil and maple syrup. Add flour, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking powder. Mix together. Grease baking pan with earth balance. Pour batter in pan Bake at 300 to 350F until cooked (about 45 minutes to an hour.)

Eat smart; make Curried Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

The NCVA is pleased to present a new guest blogger, Kathy Smart. She is a local nutritionist, holistic chef and a plant nutritionist with more than 14 years of experience in the health and fitness industries.

Kathy excels at creating delicious gluten free, vegetarian and vegan  recipes that not only taste good but are good for you too! She’s the author of four cookbooks and the Host of ‘Live the Smart Way,’ a gluten free and vegetarian cooking show with Rogers TV launching Fall 2011.

The NCVA/VegOttawa invited her to occasionally contribute to the blog, in the hopes that she will motivate, inspire and educate you toward healthier eating. And, having a contributor with “smart” as her last name can really only make us seem, well, smart!

So, over to Kathy…


Hey everyone! This recipe is a favourite of mine and all my vegetarian clients, especially with fall coming. The rich creaminess is achieved not by cream but by using a combination of coconut milk, butternut squash and apples combines to ultimate perfection. Enjoy this vegetarian, gluten free and vegan soup. From my kitchen to yours!

Curried Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

 Makes 10 servings


2 cups (500mL) onion, chopped

2 tbsp. (30mL) coconut oil

1 tbsp. (15mL) ground cumin

1 tbsp.(15mL) garam masala

2 tsp. (10mL) ground coriander

2 tsp. (10mL) sea salt

6 cups (1.5 kg) butternut squash, peeled and chopped

2 cups (500ml) sweet potato, peeled and cubed

2 cups (500mL) apples, peeled and chopped

6 cups (1.5 L) vegetable broth, low sodium

1/2 cup (125mL) coconut milk


1. In a large soup pot, sauté the onions and coconut oil until the onions are soft and translucent.

2. Add all spices, sea salt, vegetables, apples, broth and coconut milk to the onions.

3. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes until the ingredients are soft and tender.

4. Puree with a blender or immersion blender. Serve soup with a swirl of coconut milk on top.

Nutrition facts are listed below.

Kathy Smart
Follow me on:


‘ Live The Smart Way”


– Kathy Smart


Nutrition Facts

Serving size: 1/10 of a recipe (322 grams).

Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients.

Amount per Serving

Calories 137.03

Calories from fat 43.41

Total Fat 5.07g

Saturated Fat 3.65g

Cholesterol 6.11mg

Sodium 744.17mg

Potassium 492.67mg

Total carbohydrates 23.55g

Fibre 3.52g

Sugar 7.75g

Protein 2.07g