Making Trash Panda @ The Merry Dairy

This week I got to live out a life-long dream I never knew I had until it happened: I got to help a local ice cream shop create a vegan ice cream flavour. But not just any flavour. The ultimate flavour. A flavour named after one of my favourite animals. TRASH PANDA.

What, you might be asking yourself, is Trash Panda? It’s a delicious concoction created by The Merry Dairy featuring a chocolate coconut base with drool-worthy chocolate covered pretzels, Oreo bits, and in-house fudge & raspberry drizzle. It’s a kitchen sink kind of flavour that is like a raccoon’s buffet. And I got to try it. It is INCREDIBLE.

I met up with Amelia, head ice cream maker, who has worked at The Merry Dairy for five years. She walked me through the process of creating their delicious flavours and I got to learn all about what led them to their newest vegan flavour.

The Merry Dairy is a local ice cream shop that started their plant-based journey by creating a vegan coffee coconut flavour. They got their name because of the happy, merry-like and joyful experience that comes along with enjoying a good ol’ scoop. Since then, they’ve created over 30 ingenious flavours like Sugar Plumped Fig and Earl Grey or the wildly popular Radler Sorbet. We joked that one day, they might even become the Merry Non-Dairy, because their vegan flavours fly off the shelves. So much so, they had to create a dedicated scooping freezer in the front of their store. (Way to go vegans!)

Back to Trash Panda, though. I’m a sucker for their vegan coffee flavour, but after today I might be a convert. Seriously, it took everything in me to not to ask for a funnel so I could just down the whole batch. As Amelia says, their vegan flavours are created with the coconut base top-of mind. They choose ingredients that will enhance and work with their plant-based option – a dance of flavours. It’s truly an art to watch them work their magic. Everything is made in house, with the exception of the oreo crumble mixed in. They create their own vegan base,  fudge and raspberry drizzle. All the way down to drizzling chocolate on the pretzels and chopping them up. Are you drooling yet?

Well, I’m happy to announce that Vegan Trash Panda is now available in store at The Merry Dairy. Head on over to 102 Fairmont (or order online for delivery!) and try it for yourself!

GIVEAWAY: Want to try the Trash Panda Flavour? Share our Instagram or Facebook post and tag us at @vegottawa. Every post that tags us will be entered to win a tub of their incredible new flavour!

REVIEW: Penny Lane Farm Sanctuary Walking Tour

Lying east of the city of Ottawa is Penny Lane Farm Sanctuary, a safe haven for non-human animals that spans 58 acres. This vegan oasis is home to all sorts of creatures including horses, cows, goats, sheep, cats, turkeys, chickens, pigs, quails, geese, and many more.

Like many organizations affected by the pandemic, Penny Lane was forced to close their doors to visitors for many months. Now, they are offering self-guided walking tours that allow visitors to explore the grounds and meet the Penny Lane residents in a COVID-safe way.

The walking tour is about 0.5 KM in length and takes you around the farm sanctuary grounds covering all of the enclosures on the property, including the forest and butterfly garden. To keep things fun, the tour has 8 stations that have a fact sheet about the residents such as their weight, age, and story before coming to Penny Lane.

Throughout the tour, on-site volunteers are happy to answer questions and share more information about each of the residents. I was lucky enough to meet several residents like Jade the horse, who suffered in Quebec City’s caleche industry before retiring to Penny Lane, and Suzie, a 6-week old calf who is one of Penny Lane’s newest additions.

The capacity that non-human animals have for compassion and forgiveness always amazes me. Despite their tragic histories (which often involved abuse and mistreatment), the majority of Penny Lane’s residents showered me with affection throughout my visit. I felt deeply loved as they nuzzled against me or followed me as I walked around.

Residents who are not interested in spending time with humans are given plenty of space and not forced to interact with visitors if they don’t want to. Instead, I was able to appreciate them from afar.

All in all, I highly recommend taking one of Penny Lane’s walking tours as it is a great experience to share with kids, friends, family members, or co-workers. Visiting the sanctuary can also be a great way to share the values of veganism with others by allowing them to interact with some pretty amazing farmed animals. Penny Lane gives visitors the unique gift of seeing animals who are free to just be (which is the sanctuary’s slogan!).

Photo credit: Jon Godin

To learn more about Penny Lane Farm Sanctuary, check out their Instagram and Facebook. To learn how you can support the sanctuary or to schedule a tour, please visit their website.

Jade Conrad is President of VegOttawa Association. She participated in one of Penny Lane’s walking tours on September 12, 2021. This post is not sponsored by or affiliated with Penny Lane Farm Sanctuary.

Free vegan pizza this Tuesday night

I try to exert my vegan influence on most people I come into contact with, and in no case is that influence stronger than with my husband, Yves.

He knew when he got involved with me that veganism is a huge part of my life (um, it touches every single meal!) and has embraced it in his own diet (he calls himself “vegan by marriage”), and taken it upon himself to learn about it and understand the issues.  His label reading skills are nearly as strong as my own!

Filming the Top This! promo video.

Likewise, I have tried to give his board gaming hobby a shot, sitting through long nights of games during which I am badly beaten, struggling to understand up to three new sets of rules in an evening (and refusing to play Agricola, an animal husbandry game).  It’s a give and take thing.

When he told me he was developing a pizza flicking board game, I frowned. “Well, what are the toppings?”  I asked. The pizza was cheeseless, he said, but there was pepperoni.  Ok, well that could be vegan pepperoni easily enough.

But Yves decided to take it a step further. What if he created a “veganized” version of the game, with a bonus set of spinach tokens? Would “my people” be interested in something like that?

I wasn’t totally sure. I mean, these are the same people who will spend $8 on a small clamshell package of vegan marshmallows, and $12 for a pint of vegan ice cream. But would they support a vegan-by-marriage in his attempt to design and sell a pizza-flicking board game?  Only time will tell.  It’s the only game Yves knows of that is actually designed and marketed with vegans in mind— so maybe consider supporting it!

Top This! is a quick dexterity game for which players flick wooden “pizza topping” pieces onto a pizza-like game board in order to fulfill orders. Top This! is aimed at families, and gamers.  It is currently being crowdfunded on Kickstarter.  (You can contribute by clicking the link and following the procedure to back it.) Crowdfunding is being used to generate interest in the game and to fund its production. If enough people support the project, the product will be produced.

The game’s publisher, UniForge is hosting a Top This! Peekaboo Pizza Party at The Grand Pizzeria & Bar (74 George Street) to give people an opportunity to try Top This! on Tuesday July 3rd from 5:30-7:30 pm. Everyone is invited to attend.

There will be free pizza- including vegan pizza. There I go exerting my vegan influence again!

The Top This! crowdfunding campaign runs from June 6 to July 22, 2012. Special bonuses are in place for overfunding goals, giving backers additional incentive to encourage others to back the project.

Hope to see you there!

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


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

New Vegan Baker, Fresh From Toronto

So Neil and I went to the new Preston St. farmer’s market last weekend. It’s a very little affair – maybe 12 or so vendors. Mostly veggies. Joel’s coffee (not organic, but Fair Trade and good – and the vendor gives samples, just like with wine!). Moksha Yoga was there too, looking vaguely out of place as they did upward dogs and sun salutations, but good on them anyway.

Jacqui O at Lansdowne Farmer's Market

What we were quite shocked to find at the market, however, was a new vegan bakery. It’s called “Jacqui O’s Sweet Temptations,” and it offers a variety of cupcakes, muffins, and cookies, as well as baklava, brownies, focaccia and sticky buns. I’d say at least half of its offerings were gluten free, and some were sugar free as well.

In the interest of doing a thorough review, I bought several items: sticky bun, brownie, cupcake, baklava and a cookie.

My expectations were pretty high. As a holder of many university degrees of varying usefulness, I get excited by credentials and Jacqui was trained at the George Brown Culinary Institute.

I can, in general, say that I was pretty impressed. The chocolate peanut butter pillow cookie represented the best execution of that recipe I’ve tasted so far (except for Neil’s, but I suspect I’m biased). The cinnamon buns were GOOD. I’ve never had a vegan cinnamon bun that was good before. Other than mine, but again I’m probably biased. And in fairness I’ve never tried either Pamela’s or Auntie Loo’s.

The lime-coconut cupcake was also the best execution of a citrus-based cupcake that I’ve had. Aw crap, except for my orange one, of course. And her frosting is actually better than Aunti Loo’s and Thimble Cakes’. Very lime-y without being runny – how’d she do it?

The baklava, which I bought based on raves from Jacqui’s other customers, was really good too. But honestly I think all baklava tastes the same.

I wasn’t wildly impressed by the brownie at first. The texture was good but it was a little on the bland side. It lacked the rich fabulousness of  – dare I say it? – “The World’s Best Fudge Brownie.” It grew on me as time went on however. Largely, I think, because the ganache topping tastes like Smartie chocolate. Yes, that’s right. The chocolate inside of those little candies that vegans can’t eat. Once I ate all that off the top, I was in a fine mood and the bottom somehow just seemed tastier.

Anyway, she’s on Preston St. on Saturdays, Lansdowne on Sundays. Check her out there and visit her facebook page. It looks like she does way more than what she sells at the farmer’s markets, and from the looks of the pictures, the other stuff is amazing!

Daiya spottings in Ottawa

Last June just after Veg Fest, Daiya started trickling into Ottawa stores, much to the immense excitement of vegans across the city and beyond.

For the uninitiated, Daiya is the first vegan “cheese” that’s actually really good.

Daiya spotted at Baseline/Merivale Loblaws.

OK, that may be a bit subjective. But only a bit.  It melts, and it substitutes perfectly for mozzarella and cheddar shreds in a wide variety of culinary applications. And, did I mention that it tastes good?

Locally, restaurants like Trella, the Arrow and Loon, Credible Edibles, Cafe My House and Green Earth have made it a part of their menu.

Daiya products do not contain many common allergens including soy, dairy (casein or lactose) gluten, egg, peanuts, and tree nuts (excluding coconut).

At my house, we buy cheddar Daiya by the five pound bag at Rainbow  Foods. It’s imply the most cost effective way for a family of four to get its fix.  But most normal people buy Daiya in little half pound bags that could be purchased only at select health food stores.

That is, until now. Today I spotted Daiya at Loblaws on Baseline and Merivale. My Facebook post to that effect garnered an enthusiastic response, with other Daiya sightings shared as the excitement grew. It’s not just that Daiya is more easily available for vegans and vegetarians who want it, it’s the sheer excitement that a cherished vegan substitute is being prominently displayed in front of a mainstream, non-vegan audience. How many people will see it and give it a try, who otherwise wouldn’t because they’d never seen it?

So in addition to the usual suspects (Rainbow Foods, Market Organics, Natural Food Pantry), and Loblaws Baseline/Merivale, Daiya has also been spotted at Superstore and Independent stores in Orleans.

Please share in the comments if you’ve spotted Daiya somewhere else in Ottawa!

NCVA volunteer Deb Gleason put it best: “This makes me so happy. Daiya has gone mainstream. LOVE IT.”


By Kim

Vegetarian Haggis. You read correctly. Now, how can one make a vegetarian version of a sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs, cooked with oats, suet, onion, and spices in a sheep’s stomach?

I really would like to know so I can make some and eat it next Robbie Burns Day. Although, why would I even try to make it when I can buy it in a can at the Scottish and Irish Store for only $7.99!? Seriously guys, this stuff exists. And yes, I have tried it. Yesterday.

There is not much I can write about. I was hoping that this can of haggis would blow my mind and I would be able to write a thesis-length blog post about it. Nope.

On the can, it said to eat it with mashed turnip or mashed potatoes (Neeps or Tatties). I wasn’t about to be having two piles of mush for dinner, so I made home fries to accompany my brown mush haggis. It also said, on the can, that you can add mustard to the haggis for flavour. I put a dollop of fine Dijon mustard on top. Lovely. And, since I don’t like scotch, Kyle drank some for me. A nice glass of Smokehead, straight up.

Haggis with neeps and tatties.

That’s it. Nothing much to say. It tasted like refried beans with a different seasoning. Maybe if you are Scottish you might like it.

If you want, you can make it at home. Here is a recipe I found:

Vegan Haggis

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Finely chop ½ of one small onion, ½ of one carrot and ¼ cup of mushrooms.

Heat 1 TB of sunflower oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onions, carrots and mushrooms. Sauté gently for 5 to 10 minutes or until the onion is clear and the carrots are tender.

Add ¼ cup of red lentils and 1 ½ cups of vegetable stock to the skillet. Combine 1/8 cup of red kidney beans to ½ cup of vegetable stock and mash the mixture to form a thick paste in a small mixing bowl.

Add the bean paste, ¼ cup of ground peanuts, 1/8 cup of ground hazelnuts, 2 TB of soy sauce, 1 TB of lemon juice, 2 TB of dried thyme, 1 TB of dried rosemary and a pinch of cayenne pepper to the skillet. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes.

Add 1 cup of ground oatmeal to the skillet. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Add a few tablespoons of water if the mixture becomes too thick.

Spray a one-pound loaf pan with cooking spray to coat. Transfer the vegetarian haggis mixture to the pan and place it in the pre-heated oven. Bake for 30 minutes.

Serve with Neeps and Tatties and a glass of scotch.

Say no to Reese’s, and YES to Camino!

By Pamela

There is one food combo that I love probably more than anything else in the world: chocolate and peanut butter. In fact, I just finished an Auntie Loo’s chocolate and peanut butter cupcake. It was divine, and a lovely occasional treat.

And who didn’t love Reese’s Pieces and Reese’s Peanut Butter cups when they were kids? Heck, I imagine most adults probably still love them. But for vegans and anyone even remotely health conscious, they are pretty sinister; chock full of saturated fat and hydrogenated oil, not to mention cow’s milk derivatives. It’s amazing how a childhood treat can look so different through the vegan lens.

I used to make my own peanut butter cups at home, using melted fair trade organic dark chocolate, organic peanut butter, and icing sugar. And Alicia Silverstone has a good recipe for them, which you can find here. They’re great, don’t get me wrong. But they require time and effort, and sometimes I just don’t have that. And sometimes Auntie Loo’s is closed. So what’s a choco-pb fiend to do?

Camino chocolate snack bar.

Thankfully, Ottawa-based Camino has come up with a fantastic solution: chocolate and peanut butter snack bars. They also make them with almond butter. The 180 calorie bars are organic, vegan, and fair trade. But perhaps most importantly, they are absolutely delicious. You can buy them for between $1.39 and $1.79 at places like Rainbow Foods, Herb and Spice, Natural Food Pantry, and Bridgehead. Find out more information on their Web site. They are also super convenient. You can add them to your purse food repertoire.

A great purse food option.
A word of warning though: These are highly addictive. They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right? Well, I kind of have a problem. They are currently my favorite thing to eat. I still forcefeed myself vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, but it’s Camino snack bars I’m yearning for. What’s not to love? They are every bit as delicious as a Reese’s PB cup, without the bad stuff, and with many additional benefits. So pick one up soon, and get ready for deliciousness!

Learn to Love Salad Again

By Erin

Once upon a time, salads were made with iceburg lettuce and provided vegans with hours of crunchy fun.

Then came the 21st century, when the so-called top chefs of the world decided that iceburg lettuce was for rednecked mouth-breathers and that refined palates crave the nutritious leafy greens that both look and taste as though they were collected from someone’s front yard immediately after said yard was treated with pesticide.

You know the stuff of which I speak. And despite the sycophantic head-bobbing and mmm-mmm-ing you feel compelled to do when presented with these bitter snarls of limp weeds, you know you hate it too.

Alas, the food snobs have the backing of the nutrition people who proselytize so violently about the health benefits of leafy greens that I’ve become convinced that I will die of malnutrition if I fail to consume them in the recommended vast quantities.

My solution: the Salad Roll.

1) Rice Wrappers. These are available in any Chinatown grocery. Try to find the rectangular ones – some sadist came up with the round ones just to screw with people.
2) Weeds (i.e. leafy greens)
3) Fake meat – my favourite is Nelakee ham log. Tofurky will do in a pinch.
4) Other fruits and vegetables. Use ones that can be sliced into long skinny strips, which keeps them from falling out of the roll. I like apples, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, avocados, enoki mushrooms, etc. I’d advise against celery, unless your teeth have horselike snipping powers.
5) Salt and pepper
6) Toasted nuts. This is optional, but it does add a whole other yummy dimension to a salad roll. Slivered almonds are my favourite, but whatever you have on hand will work – I used walnuts for the ones pictured below.

Now for the wrapping part…

Set up your rolling area near the kitchen sink.

Prepare all of your fillings and have them within easy reach.

Make sure your ingredients are ready - once the wrapper is wet, your rolling window is narrow

Place a pan large enough to accommodate your wrappers in your kitchen sink and fill it with very hot water.

Submerge your first wrapper in the water (one at a time or they’ll stick together) for about 5 seconds. If you are too lazy to get a pan, holding it under the faucet works too.

Place the wrapper on a flat, clean surface. Load it up with your fillings. Pile it on – you’d be amazed how well leafy greens compress. Add salt and pepper.

Roll it as you would roll sushi or a cinnamon roll – not trying to get the wrapper around all of the filling at once, but sort of spiraling the filling in. If you’re very dexterous, you can try tucking in the ends, but it really isn’t necessary. If your veggies are in long strips and your roll is pretty tight, everything will stay in.

Finished mixed green/carrot/tomato/pepper/walnut/avocado salad rolls

And there you are.

If you had to eat this as a salad it would take you all day and, if you’re like me, you’d just wind up picking out all the tasty stuff and leaving the greens.

Some final notes:
1) Try slicing harder veggies like carrots with a veggie peeler instead of a knife. Less risk of wrapper breakage.
2) Don’t use kale. This salad-improvement strategy can handle the woody bitterness of leafy greens, but the vinyl tarpaulin that is raw kale is a whole different level of eew.
3) Individuals who have served these to new romantic partners have reported some awkwardness.

This one is spinach/tomato/avocado/celery(bad!)/pepper/walnut