Attend Veg Ball and Say “Yes” to Wildlife in Need

Some passengers waiting at an O-Train stop noticed that an adult skunk had been hit, and rescued two orphaned babies who were huddled close by.

In my last post, I mentioned that I’d share some more info with y’all on the recipients of the proceeds from Veg Ball’s ticket sales. Today I am going to talk about the Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary (RVWS).

In a nutshell, the Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary rehabilitates injured, sick or orphaned wild mammals and turtles, and returns them to the wild.

Now, I know all you out there in blog land aren’t so much with the attention span, so I won’t go too much into the details of what goes on there. A lot of laundry. A lot of little fingers grasping little syringes full of squirrel/groundhog/skunk/deer/raccoon formula. A lot of volunteers gazing into pair after pair of small bright eyes and hoping they’ll all get the chance to shine on.

Instead, I’m going to tell you about what supporting the RVWS can do for you: It will give you the chance to say “yes” to wild animals in need.

Three raccoons were left abandoned in a cardboard box near the parking lot at Old Quarry Trail in Kanata. Although they were severely dehydrated and emaciated, they recovered and were successfully released.

I know most of us have been there: looking at a nest of newborn squirrels that has fallen from a tree, a fox with a broken leg, a bunch of baby raccoons hovering by the side of a highway, trying to return to their mother who was hit by a car.

And most of us probably did nothing. Not because we’re bad people – were it a dog or a box of abandoned kittens, no problem! We’d grab them, take them to the vet, whatever. But we don’t have the knowledge, authority or resources to deal with wild animals. So we say no.

But with places like the RVWS around, we don’t have to say no. There’s a place for that nest of squirrels. There’s someone fix that fox’s leg. There’s help to get those baby raccoons away from the highway before the inevitable happens.

And the more support the RVWS gets, the more resources it can devote to outreach, and the more people will know that they have that option of saying “yes” to wildlife in need.

So say “yes” to wildlife this Christmas. Of course, we recommend that you do so by buying your Veg Ball ticket. But if you’ll be out of town or are committed to attending a far more boring event with crappier food, then do consider donating to the RVWS directly, or perhaps volunteer!

George the groundhog was found by a dog, but he mended beautifully

One of the RVWS's many orphaned raccoon kits. Raccoons are kept in quarantine for 30 days, and then bundled with other singles from the same area to make a litter of four to six raccoons.

NCVA top 10 picks for awesome local and vegan holiday gifts

The holidays can present a minefield of issues for vegans, including vegan unfriendly events and parties, receiving unvegan gifts from well-intentioned friends and family, and finding gifts to purchase for others that fit within the vegan ethical framework.

The amount of money that is spent every year on useless and unwanted gifts is astounding, and much of it lines the pockets of big box stores rather than the local establishments, owned by community members who contribute to a sense of community.

With that in mind, I decided to create a list of some of the best vegan-friendly holiday gifts, the purchase of which supports local, ethical businesses. When you purchase the gifts listed here, you can rest easy knowing that the money you spend will stay within the community, will support local business owners, and will be in accordance with vegan ethics.

1. Hand made gifts by Tweal

A yoga bag by Tweal.

Local artisan Judy Panke is the creative force behind Tweal, a small online business that sells eco fashions, quilts, bags and accessories, all handmade with love using re-purposed re-used, recycled and upcycled fabrics.

All items are one-of-a-kind and made without a traditional pattern, so you’re guaranteed to be the only person with any exact item! All pieces are individually sized with exact measurements given in inches. To check out Tweal’s creations, visit Judy in person at the Craftalicious sale on December 10, at 217 First Avenue, or visit and order through the online store.


2. Organic vegetables for the whole family

This suggestion may be best for the patient people on your list, but is one of those gifts that just keeps on giving. Local vegan farmers Jim and Gen of Our Little Farm offer Community Supported Agriculture baskets of the freshest, organic, and began vegetables around, available at two convenient pick up spots. This is a great way to not only give the gift of healthy produce, but it also supports a farmer and their family living within the community.

For more information visit their website.


3. New American Vegan

Don’t let the name fool you; New American Vegan is the work of Ottawa vegan Vincent Guihan. Ottawa-born and bred he is not however; Guihan grew up near Chicago, and was fed American comfort food until he went vegetarian, and later vegan, as a teenager.

This cookbook is a nod to that upbringing, but which incorporates kale, collards and other greens into a substantial number of recipes. If you are considering a cookbook for anyone on your list, New American Vegan would be a great option.

Order it through Amazon, or Chapters.


4. Cooking classes with Credible Edibles

Credible Edibles offers a range of informative, interactive cooking classes, including sensational soups, holiday cooking, kids kreative cooking, Full of Beans, and Forks Over Knives. If there is someone on your list who is interested in taking a cooking class, this is an ideal gift.

Credible Edibles sells gift certificates for the classes, in any denomination. They are redeemable for any class of the person’s choice. Owner Judi Varga-Torth is aiming to have the January-February schedule ready by end of this month so that it can accompany gift certificates for the holidays. Check out the website for more details about the types of classes that are offered.


5. Dr. Michael Greger’s vast wealth of knowledge

Dr. Greger is not from Ottawa, but he was a speaker at Veg Fest 2010, wowing the audience with his interactive presentation and vast wealth of facts and information.

Whether you want to get healthy for Hanukkah, feel less crummy for Christmas, or get trimmer for 2012 — or just want to spread the word to everyone on your gift list — Dr. Greger has just posted a new holiday DVD sale on his website.

For a limited time only, you can order a set of all six volumes of his Latest in Nutrition DVDs (which includes eight disks) for $75. He is even willing to include a personalized gift note, if you ask nicely. As always all proceeds are donated to charity.


My husband and I's foster squirrels, Terror and Erebus, from the Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary.

6. A Charitable Donation

There are a number of worthy local charities dedicated to helping animals, most of which are entirely volunteer-run, and all of which need support. Some are even run by vegans. When people ask me what I want for Christmas, donating to charity is my response, because the animals need the help more than I do.

A few examples of local animal-helping charities doing great work, and who are in need of support include Westminster Pet Sanctuary, Teja’s Animal Rescue, Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, Wild Bird Care Center and New Moon Rabbit Rescue.


7. A NCVA Membership

This is another gift that gives all year long! Only $20, a NCVA membership entitles card holders to discounts at many local restaurants and services, including The Table, Green Earth, ZenKitchen, Cafe My House, Lieutenant’s Pump, and many more.

Order them online through Paypal, and just be sure to note that it is a gift membership, who it is for, and where it should be sent. We will take care of the rest, including a festive card that informs the recipient of your gift.

Order an NCVA membership by clicking here.


8. Simply Raw Detox Program

Natasha Kyssa

The 28-day SimplyRaw Detox Program is a natural approach to improved health that will help you to both cleanse and nourish your body with nutritious fresh plant food by making gradual week-by-week changes, encouraging the consumption of natural whole plant foods, rich in antioxidants, and eliminating processed, acid-forming foods.

Natasha Kyssa, who runs the program, has been a pillar of the Ottawa veg community for years, and brings a wealth of knowledge and endless encouragement to those participating in the program. The next group class starts Jan. 8, 2012, and meetings are held on Sundays from 6 pm – 7 pm.

If you have someone on your list who is more of a do-it-yourselfer, consider giving them Natasha’s book, the Simply Raw Detox Manual, available on Amazon.


9. Purple Urchin Soaps

For those on your Christmas list who like smelly bath products, consider Purple Urchin. I first met the proprietors of Purple Urchin a couple of years ago at a Christmas craft sale. They were new to Ottawa, and selling mostly (although not all) vegan soap products that are handmade from scratch. Purple Urchin makes 100 per cent natural products, which are either unscented or scented with essential oils, and 97 per cent natural products, which are scented with high-quality fragrance oils.

I recently learned that they have opened a small shop in Ottawa’s Chinatown neighbourhood, selling their handmade soaps and other goodies like soy candles. Why pick up a chemical-laden soap basket at the drug store when you can have the all-natural goodness of Purple Urchin, AND support a local business in the process? (Read the ingredients though- not everything is vegan.)


10. A Gift Certificate for someplace new

As a vegan, it is very important to me to introduce people to vegan culinary delights; to show non-vegans that there is great food to be had, and it aint at Swiss Chalet.

So next time you need to go the gift certificate route for someone on your list, consider giving them a gift certificate for ZenKitchen…or Café My House…or Auntie Loo’s Treats… or any of the wonderful vegan or vegan-friendly that we patronize, that make eating out enjoyable for us year-round. There is no reason why our omnivorous friends and family wouldn’t enjoy a meal there, but they may never give it a shot without the added incentive.

So, don’t be afraid to support our local businesses this way; it is an important step towards normalizing our lifestyle to the masses.

Thousands of Furry Reasons to Attend the Ottawa Veg Ball

Previous blog posts have focused on how awesome the Dec. 10th Ottawa Veg Ball will be, and future posts will provide even more fabulous details.

But that approach will not do it for everyone. Some of you might be thinking that the better the party is, the more likely you are to overindulge in food and drink to the point that you have to be rolled home by an indignant partner and spend the whole next day awash in self pity while sprawled on your blessedly cool bathroom floor.

So better just stay home, right?


Because while we surely want the guests at Veg Ball to enjoy themselves, this event is about something much more important.

It’s about these guys:

These are some of the residents of the Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary and New Moon Rabbit Rescue, the recipients of Veg Ball proceeds. I’ll write some more about these amazing organizations in the coming days.

In the meantime, just remember that every hors d’oeuvre you stuff in your face, every glass of wine you down because there’s no way you’re dancing sober, every eye you blacken on the dance floor while geekily flailing, it’s for them:

The baby squirrels who have so much energy you wonder if they’re literally going to explode.


The baseball-sized, tufty-tailed baby skunks who remind me of little leather-jacketed bad boys, with all their swaggering ‘tude.


The baby raccoons who look in your eyes with acute intelligence and hold on to your fingers with their almost human hands.


The rabbits whose personalities are rich and diverse and so little understood by the misguided people who pick them up as Easter novelties and cast them off once their purpose is served.



So look again at the pictures. Embrace the guilt, the love, that crazy Christmas spirit that always swells in your heart even though you think it’s all a big commercial sham or you’re Buddhist or Hindu or just haven’t been to church since your twelve-year-old self was dragged there by your grandma.

Embrace it, people! Then buy your ticket, come to Veg Ball, and help make sure that all these little guys wake up to full stockings this Christmas morning.

*Remember, while we’ll have some tickets at the door, buying yours in advance will let us plan more effectively and ensure a successful event 🙂

Eat your heart out at Veg Ball: Confirmed sponsors promise a night of unbelieveable eating

Imagine getting to enjoy delicious food from many of Ottawa’s best veg restaurants...all in one place.

Don't let this guy eat all the food himself! Come to Veg Ball.

What you’re imagining is pretty much what Veg Ball is going to be.  To ensure that as much money raised as possible goes to New Moon Rabbit Rescue and Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, the NCVA has partnered with some of Ottawa’s favorite veg businesses to provide complimentary food for Veg Ball attendees to snack on during the event.

It will be a food lovers’ delight. Where else, other than Veg Fest, can one feast on the delicacies from all of these establishments, all in one place, and for as little as $20 (NCVA members; $25 for non-members, $30 at the door).

“I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am about the amazing food that will be served at Veg Ball,” says NCVA President Josh Flower. “This is a fantastic opportunity to enjoy food from many of our favourite eateries, while also helping animals in need.  It is a win-win situation.”

The following businesses will contibute hors d’oeuvres to Veg Ball, including:

* ZenKitchen

* Café My House

* The Green Door

* Credible Edibles

* Green Earth Vegetarian

* B. Goods cookies

* Auntie Loo’s Treats

“It is our sponsors that make it possible for us to put on events like these,”  Flower says.  “I won’t let a single piece of food go to waste, so if you don’t come to Veg Ball I am just going to eat it all myself.”

Everyone is welcome at Veg Ball- it isn’t an event just for vegetarians and vegans. Bring non-veg friends and family along to experience some of the best Ottawa has to offer.

To reserve your spot at Veg Ball, click here. And remember, it only gets more expensive if you wait until you’re at the door.  Do yourself a favour, and don’t leave it to chance.

Some of the many reasons you need to get your Veg Ball tickets today

With the NCVA’s Veg Ball fast approaching (Dec. 10), I asked NCVA President Josh Flower for the inside story on this first-time event.

Q: So what is unique about Veg Ball?

CarrotSanta will make an appearance at Veg Ball.

A: Veg Ball presents an opportunity for people to not only help two worthy charities, and have an evening of fun, but also to sample the cuisine of a number of Ottawa’s finest veg dining establishments. Many local vegetarians and vegans will already know these places– such as Auntie Loo’s Treats, B. Goods Cookies, ZenKitchen, and Credible Edibles– but it will also be new for some of this audience. We want Veg Ball to be an event where a vegan or vegetarian can bring their non-veg friends or spouses, and introduce them to the fact that it really aint so bad to be vegan- even if only for the evening. The event will be educational for those who are just exploring the lifestyle, and what Ottawa has to offer, and will create a social setting in which vegetarians and vegans don’t feel out of place.

Q: Why Veg Ball?

A: Well Pamela, there are a number of reasons behind our decision to hold an event like this. First and foremost, we wanted to create a special holiday themed event for the veg and veg curious community. The holidays are a time of great food and company, and we feel it is an opportunity to offer something unique and fun at this magical time of year.

Another key reason is personal to our board, volunteers and association members. I think I can speak on behalf of everyone involved with the NCVA when I say that we are animal lovers. We wanted to find a way to tie that love for animals into a unique event. As a leading voice for the vegan and vegetarian movement here in Ottawa, we feel it is our responsibility to offer events that are unique and fun, but maintain a clear focus on compassion towards animals.

Also, as many people may know, the NCVA stopped holding our monthly potlucks several months ago. One of the main reasons for that decision was that we wanted to focus our energy on a more diverse range of events, that would attract new audiences. The potlucks were great, and a good way to introduce the NCVA to the community, but they had run their course. Since then though, we have held a summer picnic and BBQ, restaurant and cafe meet ups, a fall harvest potluck, and participated in the Great Glebe Garage sale and Pride Parade. Thus far we are achieving our goal, but certainly want to continue with an eclectic array of events.

Q: How did you choose which charities would benefit from Veg Ball?

A: Quite frankly, it was both an easy decision, and a difficult decision. There are a number of wonderful animal helping charities in the area, and it was painstaking for us to choose only two to be our benefactors. Ultimately, what it came down to was those charities’ connections with the NCVA. Both New Moon Rabbit Rescue and Rideau Valley Wildlife Centre were exhibitors at Veg Fest 2011, and several of our board members have fostered rabbits and/or wildlife for these organizations. If we do an event like this again, we will try to share the love with other worthwhile charities.

Q: What will be the highlight of Veg Ball?

A: It really depends on who you ask. I know that Corrie, the Veg Ball coordinator, would probably say DJ Sweetcheeks. Erin, one of our dedicated board members, would no doubt say the food. I am going to be a bit brazen though, and say that I think the highlight will be the one-time opportunity to sit on CarrotSanta’s lap. Yes, that’s right, the NCVA carrot mascot–decked out in Santa gear–will be on hand at Veg Ball to hear the Christmas wishes of all the good girls and boys. Seriously though, it’s just going to be a lot of fun, with a lot of great food and dancing, and all proceeds will support very worthy charities.

Q: Should people buy tickets now, or at the door?

A: Well, tickets will be available at the door, but only a limited number. It really helps us out with planning if people buy their tickets in advance, plus, that ensures your place at Veg Ball and it’s a few bucks cheaper. So why wait?


Veg Ball “tickets,” and more information, are available online.


Who: Put on by the National Capital Vegetarian Association

What:  Ottawa Veg Ball

When: Dec. 10, 2011, at 8:30 p.m.

Where: Montgomery Legion (downtown)

Why: To have a good time, and raise funds for two worthy charities.

Carrot and Santa cartoon elements by Hana Schwarzová and Kristijan Hranisavljevic.  Licensed through iStockphoto.

All about Miss Kate, the hottest cake decorator in town!

Come out, come out! No more hiding behind that cupcake, Miss Kate!

The bakery may be called Auntie Loo’s treats, but it’s the fabulous Miss Kate behind the scenes, decorating beautiful wedding and special occasion cakes with gorgeous sugar flowers and whatever your imagination can dream up. Miss Kate and Miss Loo have been working together as a team since the bakery opened, and Miss Kate’s cakes have wowed and inspired many.

We got the opportunity to talk to Miss Kate to learn more about her unlikely foray into cake decorating (she has a B.Sc. in Animal Behaviour!), and to get the inside scoop behind Ottawa’s most beloved bakery.

VegOttawa: Have you always wanted to be a cake decorator? How did you end up becoming one?

Miss Kate: Cake decorating was never on my radar as a potential career or hobby. I went to university and earned a Bachelor of Science in Animal Behaviour, and moved to England in 2008 to pursue my passion for animal rehabilitation and conservation. Unfortunately, several factors meant this was next to impossible. I lived in a tiny village in the country with no driver’s license, one bus stop that was a 40 minute walk away, all during the worst part of the UK’s recession.

Mack and Molly

After realizing I was not going to be able to get a paid position in any of the nearby animal sanctuaries, I took a job in town at a family-owned gift shop. While it wasn’t what I had envisioned myself doing, it was a solid job and I met some fantastic people. Unfortunately, in 2009 the recession claimed another victim, and the shop had to be closed down.

As I was no longer able to afford my rent, I moved in with my mum’s cousins, Joan and Dave, who were kind enough to take me in as a lodger. Joan had been attending sugar flower classes for many years, and encouraged me to join her. I went along for one class, and I was hooked. It was an informal gathering of the sweetest older ladies who used the weekly meet-up to gossip and as a form of therapy. Everybody had their own projects on the go, and the teacher, Sue, would help when needed.

Sue took me under her wing, and soon I was attending two or three classes a week to learn as much as possible. I started making flowers as gifts on a regular basis. Even at this point, I didn’t have much interest in the actual cake aspect of these sugar flowers.

When I moved home to Ottawa in May 2009, I packed up all of the tools and supplies I had gathered over the three months I spent learning the craft, and I realized I should learn more about cake decorating in order to make full use of these sugar flowers. I began to teach myself the basics, and would practice on family birthdays and anniversaries. It took very little time for me to get fully attached to the craft.

Kate (right) with Auntie Loo (centre) and Kelli from Westminster Pet Sanctuary.

Q: Tell us about the first time you met the legendary Auntie Loo.

A: In July, 2009, I began applying to several retail jobs to get back into the working world after my return from the UK. I was perusing Craigslist, and came across an ad for a “fondant chef.” I was intrigued, and after reading the position details, I decided to take a risk and send an e-mail.

A few hours later, I received a response requesting a meeting the next day, downtown at Bridgehead. I was informed to look for “the lady with the “leopard print scarf”… She had me before she even met me!

I stayed up all night printing out any pictures of the few cakes I had made, and all of the flowers that I’d made to date. I walked into Bridgehead, we sat down, and we hit it off right away. I showed her my tiny portfolio (I honestly still can’t believe I applied, given how very little experience I had), and we bonded over the fact that I had made a cake for my Grandad, and that we were both self/family-taught.

By the time I left the interview, I was genuinely more absorbed in her becoming successful in her business venture than I was in actually getting the job. I believe I even came home and wrote on my Facebook, “I just met the nicest person on the face of the planet.” That pretty much sums it up.

A Kate creation.

A few days later, she called to inform me that I got the job, and I was both ecstatic and completely panicked!

Q: What is an average day at the bakery like for you?

A: I spend the most time at the bakery when we have a wedding, and this is generally a two-day process. We bake everything to be as fresh as possible, so if the wedding is on Saturday, I’ll be baking everything early Friday morning.

Fridays are also spent making any decorations that need to be made in advance in order to make sure they are fully dry. Early Saturday morning, the cakes come out of the fridge to be brought to room temperature. When the cakes are ready, they are covered in fondant, and the fun part can begin!

Decorations are made and applied, and my two fantastic assistants (Kate 2.0 and Charlotte) are usually with me now to help out with some smaller details that can be incredibly time-consuming. Kate 2.0 started delivering cakes with me this summer, and her position mostly entails keeping me calm. She does a great job of it!

When the cake is ready, we pack it up separately, and head off to the venue. I always find the delivery to be stressful. That moment right before I open the trunk when we arrive at the venue always makes my stomach flip. Luckily, I haven’t opened the trunk to see a disaster yet! After we set-up the cake at the venue, we take our pictures, and head out. When the delivery is all over and done with, we head for a celebratory veggie burger and cold drink. A lovely end to a long day!

Four tier cake!

Q: What’s your favorite thing about working at Auntie Loo’s?

A: My first and foremost favourite thing about working at Auntie Loo’s is the people. We are a family, and we always look out for each other. The bakery has grown so much since it was just Mandi and I when we opened; we have been incredibly lucky to find the people who help us continue to grow. Every day at the bakery is a new experience, and is such a learning process. I am so fortunate to have a job that I love and am passionate about.

Q: What is the source of your creativity? Adorableness?

A: I try to bring something unique to any cake or confection that I create. I want to make cakes that are personalized to their recipient(s), and that have never been made before. This is why I don’t replicate cakes that other cake artists have made, or even that I have already made myself. Making cakes that are a bit quirky or cheeky is always my goal, even if it is in small details that will likely only be noticed by the myself and the couple.

For example, one of our grooms this summer is a big fan of the artist M.C. Escher; in order to incorporate this into the cake, I put Escher’s “interlocking birds” design on top, where it would only really be noticed upon closer inspection. These little details are what I think makes a cake truly unique!

...With a tiny bride and groom.

Q: What is the most challenging cake request you’ve had? Do you have some personal favorites you’re willing to share?

A: Sometimes the most challenging parts of a cake are not what you’d imagine. Cake toppers can make or break a cake, and when a couple provides a topper that does not fit with the theme of the cake, the challenge is then to figure out how to make it work. I’ve come across this a few times now, and luckily they consistently work in the end.

When we arrived at the venue for one of our cakes this summer, we were surprised to see the couple left these tiny toothpick bride and groom figures that were to be placed on the cake. This was a big, four-tier cake with bright flowers that filled the top of the cake and cascaded down the side. I had a moment where I thought, “What on Earth am I going to do with these?!”

After staring at the cake for about 10 minutes, I finally decided on placing the bride and groom on a lower tier, surrounded by some of the cascading flowers. When I stepped back, I was in love with them! It was a subtle detail that you would only notice on further inspection, and it worked so well.

Q: Do you have a favorite Auntie Loo treat?

A: I have a few favourite treats. When it comes to cupcakes, Earl Grey Lemon will always prevail for me. I love the Gluten-Free brownie for something rich, and the mixed berry oat bars if I need a morning treat. Our amazing baker Mattycakes has created a new treat that is being launched this week… Our smore-flavoured whoopie pies! I was forced to taste test it (I know it’s a hard life), and let me tell you, it’s divine…

Mack and Molly: Ridiculous BFFs.

We recently teamed up with a friend of our baker Charlotte, who is supplying us with Charmallows – vegan marshmallows! Matt used these to create a marshmallow frosting … trust me, it will become an instant Auntie Loo classic!

Q: Who the heck are Mack and Molly?

A: Mack and Molly are the two silliest cats that I have ever met. I have had Mack since I was 13, and he is my baby. He lives to eat, and doesn’t mind reminding us at 5AM that it’s time to be fed. He spends a lot of time searching for warm places to sleep (which, unfortunately, often means sleeping on the stove under the overhead lamp). He was referred to as a “garbage cat” when we got him, and his love for food has gotten him into all kinds of mischief. I’m constantly finding garbage cans knocked over around the house – evidently in hopes of finding some extra treats!

Molly is almost two years old, and is a total bully. She does love Mack, but she also loves to remind him that she’s twice his size and can boss him around at her leisure! She consistently tackles him, and if he is asleep, she will wake him up by steamrolling him. They chase each other around, and play quite a bit, which has been a blessing for Mack; it has been a long time since he has been so active!

Every once in a while, when they think nobody is looking, we’ll catch them curled up together and cleaning each other. Well, actually, Molly just makes Mack clean her (see photo above-right)…. what a lazy kitten!


For more information about Auntie Loo’s Treats (507 Bronson Avenue), visit the website.

Learn to cook inCREDIBLE meals with Credible Edibles

It seems like just yesterday that Credible Edibles was one of Ottawa’s hottest veg-friendly cafés, with Judi Varga-Toth and her crew slinging tofu and ladling out soup at a record pace. 

But in a decisive move, Judi recently ceased cafe operations, and converted her business to a full-scale cooking school.  We caught up with the always bubbly Judi to find out more about the vegan cooking classes that she is offering.

Q: Credible Edibles was a pretty fab café. Why the decision to cease cafe operations and focus on the cooking classes?

A: Running a café is a lot of work and very unpredictable. While I had a lot of regular and very regular customers there was a lot a variation from day to day in the number of people who came to the café. This made it difficult to plan and schedule staff. And because the café kept me so busy I was not able to offer cooking classes. My first passion has been to teach and inspire others to create their own wonderful, healthy plant-based meals and I love to interact with people and get to know them better.

Q: What did you learn from the café experience, and how will that be applied to your business going forward?

A: Through the café I learned which dishes were the most popular and these are the ones I am now teaching people to cook for themselves. I also met many, many wonderful people who have become my friends and also participants in many of my classes. The café was a joyful place and proved to me that Ottawans are ready to eat healthy, environmentally-friendly food! I am hoping that the good reputation of the café will help spread the word about the great cooking classes we offer.

Q: Why vegan cooking classes? Who is taking your classes, and who should be taking them?

 A: There is growing evidence that plant-based eating is not only the best option for environmental reasons but also the best for our own health. While I have been vegetarian for many, many years it is the recent movie Forks over Knives that convinced me that plant-based eating was essential to good health. I offered one trial workshop called Forks over Knives last summer and it sold out. Since then I have offered it five times and the interest in plant-based eating keeps growing.

I think many people worry that vegan cooking is complicated or boring or needs too many special ingredients. My classes focus on amazing recipes that you can get on the table as quickly as 20 minutes with basic ingredients you would normally have on hand in your kitchen. I also provide participants with an essential pantry list and a list of places in Ottawa to buy what you need to make plant-based cooking as easy as ABC.

Q: Tell us about what you’re offering.

A: Every month I offer eight to ten classes that introduce people to different aspects of plant-based cooking. I teach most of the classes myself but also partner with other skilled vegan chefs in town to offer a wider range of classes. Each class lasts about 2.5 hours and includes a full meal, four to six recipes, hands-on training using both basic and more unusual ingredients, hand-outs to simplify and demystify plant-based eating and extra food to take home to share with others. The classes range from the introductory Forks over Knives class to specific classes on using soy, legumes, making soups, incorporating chocolate, seaweed and more.

Q: What is your teaching philosophy?

 A: I love to teach and inspire. I believe everyone can cook and get pleasure out of cooking for themselves and others. Every single class includes hands-on cooking rather than just demonstrations. People learn best by doing. I also share tips and suggestions about cooking more healthfully, choosing the best ingredients, where to buy things in Ottawa, where to go out to eat, what books and movies will support your journey and so on. There is also plenty of opportunity for people to learn from each other in my classes. Everyone who attends a class has some experience that benefits the rest of us so I make sure to have time for everyone to contribute. Finally, the most important element is to sit and eat together. Sharing a meal (especially one we all made together) is fundamental to experiential learning. And it is so much fun!

Q: What are your goals for the Credible Edibles cooking school?

 A: My goal is to expand the school to be able to offer more classes to meet the needs of everyone who is interested in transitioning to a more healthful, ecological way of eating. I would also like Credible Edibles to be a place where people come to connect with others making changes to their lifestyles so we can all encourage each other on this path to greater well-being.

 To view the schedule of cooking classes, click here.

Credible Edibles
Slow Food for Fast Lives
78 Hinton Avenue North, Ottawa

Nadia is sweetly tempted by Jacqui O’s treats

By Nadia W.

(Editor’s note: Nadia wrote this post at the same time as Erin wrote this post about Jacqui O’s Sweet Temptations.  We decided to run Nadia’s review later, and later is now.)

Anyone who knows me is aware of my love of vegan, and raw vegan desserts. I remember my sheer joy when Auntie Loo’s bakery opened. And today I’m proud to say, I’m addicted to the peanut butter chocolate cupcakes, and scones, and nanaimo bars…well you get the picture.

A while back, one of my Facebook friends posted the news that a new vegan baker in town named Jacqui O would be selling her treats at the farmers’ market. Another vegan baker?! In Ottawa?! Selling peanut butter cookies?! I simply had to investigate.

My weekly trip to the farmers’ market happens on Sundays and my first stop was the Jacqui O’s Sweet Temptations table where I encountered peanut butter ba-bombs, sticky buns, chocolate chip cookies, and cupcakes, to name a few. I was excited to get home to taste my finds. Words cannot truly describe the experience, but I’ll try my best.

The sticky bun was one of the best I’ve had–and believe me, I’ve had my share of sticky buns. The chocolate chip cookie rivals any chocolate chip cookie made by an omnivore–yes, I said it.

But my favorite was the peanut butter ba-bomb cookies. The fist bite had me holding on to my kitchen counter for support. My knees buckled from the taste. Inside of the cookie is a generous serving of peanut butter. You heard me. A generous serving of peanut butter surrounded by a chocolate cookie. I had two of them with a glass of almond mylk.

Well, that’s a lie.  I should be honest with our readers; I had four of those amazing cookies with a glass of almond mylk. That’s how seriously I take my role with the NCVA—I am willing to gain weight, or even subject myself to possible ridicule for going a bit overboard, all in the name of providing this essential public service.

But don’t just take my word for the greatness of her treats, be sure to stop by the Lansdowne farmer’s market  on Sunday to purchase some treats. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.

Jacqui O’s Sweet Temptations
Specializing in Vegan & Gluten Free Baked Goods
Custom orders available
(613) 709-5283
On Facebook
At the Landsdowne farmers’ market until the end of the market season

It’s surprisingly hard to think of a serious blog title containing the word “beavers”

Some weeks ago, beavers Lily and Lucky moved into a floodwater pond in Stittsville.

NPS photo

The city claimed the beavers posed a serious flood risk and intended to kill them. A group of local activists called for the city to find a humane alternative.

I heard about the whole thing through the Ottawa Animal Defense League’s facebook page, and wrote my obligatory letters to Mayor Jim Watson and Councillor Shad Quadri. I received similar responses from both, basically saying “beavers = flood = dead beavers”.

A demonstration was set for yesterday. Even though I’m no longer much of one for protests, and even though I thought there was not a snowball’s chance in hell that this one would make any difference, I decided to go – mostly to support the activists who were trying so hard to save these beavers.

I got there late, and was stunned to discover that I’d just missed the Mayor and Councillor, who announced that plans to kill the beavers were on hold until more humane approaches could be investigated.

I am writing this blog post for a couple of reasons: First, to celebrate the beavers’ hopefully permanent reprieve; Second, to congratulate all the activists who helped make it happen; Third, to applaud our Mayor and Councillor for being responsive to their citizens; Fourth, to inspire everyone out there who does not believe civic engagement can make a difference.

In fact, I’ll note that this is the second time in the last few months that the apparently impenetrable bureaucracy has responded to “my” demands. The other was a call to reopen a fence that had been erected to block bikes and pedestrians from crossing the transitway.

Small things, some might say. But not to the beavers. And maybe not to people like me who keep voting, keep writing, keep hoping that their representatives will listen.

In closing, I invite everyone to write the Mayor ( and Councillor ( and congratulate them for their wise and compassionate decision.