Eating at La Belle Verte

By Pamela

It’s my birthday, which means it was up to my sweetie to figure out dining plans. He decided on La Belle Verte (166 rue Eddy in Hull).  It opened around this time last year, which is super awesome for anyone who is interested in healthy eating. We don’t get there very often because it has relatively short hours, and we rarely brave crossing the river during rush hour.  But for my birthday, we made an exception.

This is the appetizer we ordered, and devoured.

For those of you who don’t know, La Belle Verte is a mostly-vegan (some dishes contain honey), mostly raw-food restaurant in downtown Hull about five minutes over the Chaudière Bridge.  It’s mostly a lunchtime destination. The place is cheery and open concept, with mismatched tables and chairs and an old piano (which someone played beautifully through much of our meal.)  A display case shows off the desserts, and you can watch while your meal is prepared if you choose.

Kale chips = Nom.

We ordered a raw appetizer, that consisted of various raw pates and cheezes along with raw vegetables and dehydrated seed crackers. It was nice.  The proportion of stuff to dip into was pretty well matched with the number of things that were dippable.  I also ordered a side of kale chips, because LBV makes delicious kale chips. I have a dehydrator (which I purchased as a result of being inspired by LBV’s kale chips) but my chips are not as good, no matter how hard I try. Having them is a treat for me, because they aren’t really a budget-minded option.  I’ve had many omnivores try them, only to be very surprised by their deliciousness.

For my main course I had the peanut thai tofu sandwich, which comes on chapati bread with carmelized onions, red peppers, alfalfa sprouts, and shredded carrots. It also comes with some mushrooms, but as I loathe and detest them I requested they not be on my sandwich. My partner had a tofu mushroom burger, which was similar to mine only inverted (lots of mushrooms, less tofu) and came with a generous salad. I actually forgot to take photos until I’d already finished eating it. The sandwiches were delicious.

I actually skipped dessert as most of them combined chocolate with fruit, which isn’t a favorite of mine. The chocolate tarte, which I have enjoyed in the past, seemed to have raisins in it this time. Raisins are another thing I intensely dislike.  However, if you’re looking for extremely decadent, yet surprisingly healthy vegan desserts, LBV is a great place to find them.

If you’re looking for a light, healthy, but delicious meal, this is a good place to come. If you’re looking for super-rapid and attentive service, that is not the forte here. But that’s ok. They’re plenty nice, you just might have to remind the server that your meal came with a salad.

Septembre. ~ 12 weeks.

To close, I’m going to share a photo of my adorable kitten, who I love very much. She sat beside me while I wrote this. Her name is Septembre. Her mom was a stray my cousin took in. Please say no to breeders, and always adopt!

Holiday gifts for the veg-minded eater on your list

NCVA Holiday Gift Memberships

Not sure what to give the anti-commercial, veg or veg-friendly person on your Christmas list? Consider giving them the gift of an NCVA membership.

We'll even throw in this cute little envelope and an NCVA magnet with your gift membership, or when you purchase one for yourself.

It’s a gift that keeps giving all year: the $20 membership fee supports the NCVA’s work in the community. But not only that, it entitles the NCVA card holder member to discounts at many of Ottawa’s finest veg and veg-friendly restaurants. Plus, you’re not buying something that will go in a landfill or end up at a thrift store.

Your gift membership will include the membership card in a festive envelope, a list of applicable discounts and a cute little NCVA magnet to put to good use on the fridge! Gift memberships will be available at the December potluck, and at The Table Vegetarian Restaurant on Sunday, Dec. 12, betwen 11:30-1:30 and 5:30-7:30.

Cardholder discounts include:

The Table Vegetarian Restaurant
Green Earth Vegetarian Restaurant
Auntie Loo’s
Host India
Zen Kitchen
Cafe My House
Coconut Lagoon
Lieutenant’s Pump

For a complete list, or to become a member online click here:

http://www.ncva.ca/membership/

If you buy a gift membership online, please email ncva.avcn(at)gmail.com separately and immediately with the recipient’s name and contact info.

Wear your politics

The t-shirts look exactly like this.

The NCVA is also selling these fab “Eat like you give a damn” t-shirts, that would make a great gift!

The t-shirts are made by (sweatshop-free) American Apparel. At the moment, we have a full range of sizes for men and women. These normally sell for $21 + shipping + tax + customs through online stores, but we are selling them for $20 each.

They can be purchased at the December potluck (this Saturday, Dec. 11) or at The Table on Sunday, Dec. 11 between 11:30-1:30 and 5:30-7:30.

Some Tried and Tested Ethiopian Wat Recipes

As promised a few weeks ago here are two recipes I’ve made and really enjoyed. These are best enjoyed with some fresh injera. (Ethiopian bread)

Mesir Wat

Ingredients:
2 onions, chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely minced
2 tsp ginger, peeled and minced or grated
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tablespoons berbere
2 cups red lentils, rinsed
4 cups, water or broth
salt & pepper, to taste

Directions
Place the onion, garlic and ginger in a food processor or blender and puree. Add a little water if necessary.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium flame. Add berbere and stir rapidly to color the oil and cook spices through, about 30 seconds.

Add the onion puree and sauté until the excess moisture evaporates and the onion loses its raw aroma, about 5-10 minutes. Do not burn.

Add lentils and water to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are cooked through and fall apart, about 30 to 40 minutes. Add water if necessary to keep the lentils from drying out.

Stir in salt and pepper to taste and serve.
Kik Alicha

Ingredients
3 cups water plus 2 tablespoons (divided)
1 cup dried yellow split peas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1 inch-long piece fresh ginger, peeled,
finely chopped 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt

Directions
Place 3 cups of the water and the peas in large saucepan. Heat over high heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium; cook until almost tender, about 40 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat; cook onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and turmeric; cook 1 minute.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons water; cover. Cook on low heat 3 minutes. Add mixture to cooked peas; stir in salt. Simmer until peas are very soft, about 30 minutes. Taste; adjust seasonings.

Vegan Cookies Take Over Jack Purcell Recreation Centre on December 11th!

Photo by Wenday 😀

By Erin

The NCVA has decided to host an impromptu vegan cookie exchange. It will be at the December potluck (Saturday, December 11 at 6:30pm).

Here’s the basic idea: You bring a batch of vegan cookies (at least 12). Then you get to take home 12 cookies that you mixed and matched from the batches other people brought. 12 cookies in, 12 cookies out, but now you have lots of different kinds instead of just one kind.

It’s a fun way to try out lots of different kinds of cookies and to get an instant cookie assortment to serve at holiday gatherings.

Some important details:

1) The cookie exchange is a totally separate thing from the potluck, so please don’t forget your potluck dish in your haze of cookie-induced excitement.

2) Each contributor gets to take home 12 assorted cookies, so must contribute a minimum of 12. If you can bring more, that’s great. If supplies allow, we’ll let non-contributors fill a bag with 6 cookies for a $2 donation to the NCVA. As a means of generating social pressure, I will note that I am bringing no fewer than one dozen each of 4 varieties of cookie. Bringing 12 cookies for the exchange and using the remainder as your potluck contribution will be noticed and commented upon derisively behind your back.

3) In addition to cookies, we welcome bite-sized vegan baked goods of any geometric shape (balls, bars, squares, etc.). Just be sure your offering can be transported in a paper bag without getting squished or oozing onto its neighbours.

4) I guess I don’t have to mention again that all contributions must be vegan, right?

5) Paper bags will be provided, but bring your own rigid container if you can. Better for the environment and the cookies.

So get your cookie on and come out to Jack Purcell this Saturday!

And while you’re in the Christmas spirit, don’t forget that the NCVA will have gift memberships available at the potluck, and “Eat Like You Give A Damn” t-shirts for the ethical eaters on your Christmas list.

Another Great Green Earth Meetup

By Erin:

For those of you who don’t know, we host a Meetup at Green Earth on the first Sunday of every month. By “we” I actually mean Vaalea (from Ireland). But since Neil and I bring an NCVA sign, the NCVA gets the credit and Neil and I get endless accolades (well, mostly from Greg) for our tireless organizing.

Anyway, we had another one today. It was the usual fare. Brown and white rice (which I don’t touch), a couple of salads (which I hear are good but which I also don’t bother with), and about eighty pounds of fake meat at varying levels of fried-ness. This stuff and those heavenly little squares of cheesecake are where I focus my attention.

It was a complete madhouse in there today – Very few empty tables and at least one other large group. A bit loud, but I was so pleased to see Green Earth doing such cracking business despite its unfortunate eschewal of alcohol. Plus the proprietors kept the food coming fast and furious so we certainly didn’t suffer from the business.

There were many familiar faces, including local celebrities Joe Vegan and Alex the Carrot. Several lovely first-timers as well, who I hope to see at our next potluck.

Anyway, just a note to thank those who came out and to encourage those who didn’t to try to make the next one…East Africa Restaurant on Sunday December 19th at noon. The fake waterfalls alone are worth the trip!

Unscrambling the Mystery of the Perfect Tofu Scramble

I have eaten many tofu scrambles in my life. From Sadie’s Diner in Toronto, Joseph’s in Woodstock, New York, Veg Out in London, Café My House here in Ottawa, The Cornerstone in Guelph….

Ingredient-wise, they are all pretty much the same. A bit of oil for frying, various kinds of veggies, tofu, tumeric to make it yellow. And yet, they range in palatability from divine to vomitous.

Successful tofu scrambling, you see, is all in the technique. I am going to share it with you all today so that you can a) create your own marvellous vegan scrambles at home and b) share the info with those foolish restaurants that continue to charge for the masses of tasteless slop they have the nerve to call tofu scramble.

So here’s your ingredient list:

1. 1 block of extra firm tofu. Not lite, not “silken.”
2. ¼ cup olive oil (or less if you’re all skinny and boring)
3. 2 large onions, diced
4. ¼ cup diced celery
5. ½ cup carrot matchsticks
6. ½ cup red pepper matchsticks
7. ¼ cup sliced mushrooms
8. 1 cup canned or fresh diced tomatoes
9. 1 bouillon cube (a crumbly one)
10. 1 tsp tumeric (optional, for colour)
11. ½ cup crumbled faux sausage or ham (slices of Yves breakfast links or tufurky sausages work too)
12. salt and pepper to taste

Now, this is the veggie mix I like….you can really use whatever you want. Though if you don’t use the tomatoes, you might want to throw in a tsp of vinegar for the acidity.

Now the important part: technique.

1. Cook onions in oil on medium heat until soft and carmelized, about 15 minutes.
2. Add veggies and stirfry on medium-high heat for a 3-4 minutes until just beginning to soften (you may want to add the harder veggies like carrots first and the softer ones a couple minutes later)
3. Add crumbled tofu (not diced – diced won’t absorb the flavours), crumbled bouillon cube, faux sausage and tumeric. Cook on medium high using the “smash and scrape” technique. You scrape the browning stuff of the bottom of the pan, and smoosh it into the scramble…Repeat this for 3-5 minutes until the scramble is pretty dry. This is really the key part – incorporating the yummy scortchy stuff from the bottom of the pan and evaporating the flavour-killing liquid from the veggies and tofu.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Might as well throw on some Daiya too, while you’re at it.

A side note – if you leave out the faux sausage and replace the tomatoes with salsa, you can make pretty darn good faux huevos rancheros…just serve wrap the scramble in a tortilla and serve with avocadoes, salsa and vegan sour cream.

So there you are…happy scrambling to all!

‘Tis the season for soup

By Pamela

All summer long, soup is the enemy. It’s hot, it’s hearty, and it’s the last thing I want to eat when it’s 30C. But now that winter is arriving, the soup’s on nearly every night.

Currently, my favourite soup to make is one I just made up: kale and white bean. It of course has lots of garlic as well, some tomato, and I even throw some nutritional yeast in. It’s the total package. Kale is about the healthiest thing ever, and the other ingredients aren’t too shabby either. Everyone at my house loves it. It’s also supergood to send in someone’s lunch the next day. The best part: it’s really easy to make, and uses simple ingredients.

Kale and white bean soup
Serves 6

1 onion, finely minced
A bunch of garlic, also finely minced
One tomato, chopped up
6 cups vegetable stock
2-3 cups of shredded kale
1 can of white beans
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
A generous amount of pepper

Sautee the onion in some olive oil. Throw in the garlic and tomato.

Add veg stock, and the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Eat, with crackers or without.

More joys of nutritional yeast

By Pamela

When I was first thinking about becoming vegan, it was long before vegan cheeses were palatable or even available. I used to post on a well-known vegetarian message board, and it was there that a very kind vegan took me under his wing and introduced me to nutritional yeast. He even sent me some by mail all the way from the Southern United States, because I had no idea where to buy it in Ottawa.

Nutritional yeast.

(He actually sent it twice, because the first time he sent it, it was confiscated by customs! I eventually received the first package many months after the second one arrived.)

Nutritional yeast is super healthy (as its name implies), and also very delicious. Not so much on its own, but it is very versatile and can be used to make nice cheezy sauces. Given that I used to be a cheese-a-holic in my pregan days (yes, it IS possible to stop eating it and still enjoy food and life), that’s a good attribute for something to have.

Nutritional yeast is a source of protein and vitamins, especially B vitamins, and is a complete protein. It’s also low in fat and sodium. Some brands, although not all, are fortified with vitamin B12. Nowadays it can be found at virtually any health food store, it’s at Loblaws, and even Bulk Barn.

"Faux poulet"
I’m going to share one of my favorite nutritional yeast recipes, that also incorporates another favorite at our house: faux chicken. I’m not huge on fake meats, but this one, like nutritional yeast, is amazingly versatile and can stand in for any recipe that calls for chicken breast. They’re made by President’s Choice and are widely available at Loblaws and its sister stores for about $12.99 for eight “breasts.” As the five year old at home puts it, “Le faux poulet…c’est très bon.”

Here’s my recipe (original as far as I know, I didn’t source it from anywhere). Please forgive me if it comes out a bit weird, I don’t actually follow a recipe for this and it’s my best guess:

Cheezy pasta with greens
(Serves four)

About 300 grams of rice pasta (rotini or penne)
2 breasts of faux poulet, cut into strips
3 cups of kale/spinach (small pieces)
One tomato, diced
about 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 TB olive or flax oil
salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp. Red pepper flakes (optional, to taste)

Cook the pasta. Drain. Rinse.

While it’s cooking, in the biggest frying pan you’ve got water saute the greens, tomato and the faux poulet until greens are limp and the poulet is warmed through.

Dump the pasta in. Stir everything around. Add the oil, nutritional yeast, seasonings. Stir it all around until well-combined. If you’d like it to be a bit creamier add some more oil or water. Keep on low heat until ready to serve.

Enjoy!

Cheezy pasta with greens.

“Enviropigs”- A needlessly complex (and unkind) “solution”

Last week The Globe and Mail ran an article about transgenic pigs, that are being developed to be more enivronmentally friendly. They’re dubbed, “Enviropigs.” The article can be read here:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/time-to-lead/global-food/canadas-transgenic-enviropig-is-stuck-in-a-genetic-modification-poke/article1812708/

The NCVA sent the following response as a letter to the editor:

Re: Canada’s transgenic Enviropig is stuck in a genetic modification poke

It is clear from this article that there is a widespread and growing acceptance that our current system of agriculture is environmentally unsustainable. For many people, this alarm was first sounded with the 2006 United Nations report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” which emphasized the environmental degradation caused by much of the world’s love affair with meat. The livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions – 18 per cent – than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation.

Acknowledging that a problem exists is the first step towards finding a solution. However, the solution that’s being touted—producing genetically modified, so-called environmentally friendly livestock—is an unnecessarily convoluted and problematic response, especially considering that there is a much simpler, safer, and kinder option.

Perhaps transgenic livestock have the potential to relieve some environmental burden, but that solution does little to address the additional environmental issues arising from raising livestock, and nothing to address the moral and ethical aspects that we must—as a thinking and supposedly just society—take under consideration.

There are plenty of protein and nutrient rich foods that people can eat and thrive on, and bypass all of these concerns, such as lentils, beans, rice, leafy green vegetables, nuts, legumes, grains and seeds, and hemp. Plant-based foods by nature require less resources to produce, and are less polluting.

A 2010 United Nations report ( the UNEP’s international panel of sustainable resource management) stated that a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change. The report stated, “Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth increasing consumption of animal products…A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”

Unfortunately many people still associate meat with affluence, but their health, the environment, and the animals pay dearly for this perception. The good news is that there have never been more resources available to people who are willing to make this shift, and there’s never been a better—or more important time—to do so.

National Capital Vegetarian Association
Ottawa
http://www.ncva.ca

Tales of Cake and Frosting

By Erin

I’m not sure how many of you know this, but the NCVA is developing a restaurant outreach program whereby we try to encourage and teach local omni restaurants to be more vegan friendly.

As part of our restaurant outreach package, I wanted to include a really easy and delicious dessert recipe since, even at the veg-friendliest restaurants, vegan desserts are rare.

I settled on chocolate cake since there are so many great vegan ones out there. Specifically, I opted for one of the recipes that helped Chloe Coscarelli win on the Food Networks “Cupcake Wars.”

Check out an article on her win at http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/06/tasty-vegan-food-cupcakes-show-it-can-be-done/.

She was also interviewed recently on “Animal Voices” a Toronto-based radio show. Check that out at: http://animalvoices.ca/2010/10/05/vegan-fitness-nutrition-ultramarathoner-brendan-brazier-dr-occhipinti-chef-chloe-coscarelli/

Anyway, I’d already tweaked the recipe a bit…a little less sugar, instant coffee because I never have espresso powder…but now I wanted to do a test run with the recipe as a two-layer cake. No big changes required, just needed to find the right baking time. Looking at other layer cake recipes, 350 for somewhere between 28 and 36 minutes seemed the norm.

I figured since this was an experimental cake, I’d run another experiment while verifying the bake time. Have you ever noticed how adamant vegan bakers are about not overmixing cake batter? Apparently it leads to tough cakes, fallen cakes, cakes that don’t rise at all, and various other types of badness.

But if that’s the case, why do all boxed cake mix instructions tell you to beat the hell out of their batter for two minutes?

I don’t get it.

So I decided to put it to the test. Layer number one was “mixed lightly until just incorporated” while layer number two was beaten violently à la a boxed mix.

I baked layer number one for 33 minutes. It fell a little bit, making me think I should do layer number two for 35 minutes. Which I did, and, when it came out of the oven, I honestly thought that it was the winner. It was big and poofy and had a smooth, glossy surface. I envisioned myself calling out all the know-it-all vegan chefs and telling them to stick their light incorporation and accept that fact that, evil omni or not, Duncan Hines has been doing cakes since they were in short pants so if he says beat, dammit, beat!

But then layer number two deflated. Here’s a shot of the two layers side by side. The one on the left is the beaten one. Quite the difference in looks!

Now on to the icing.

I recently found a recipe for great fluffy vegan icing. Turns out the secret is a pound of fat. Ever notice how often the secret ingredient is a pound of fat?

That recipe is below:

4 cups confectioners’ sugar (Wholesome Sweeteners does one using unrefined sugar, for a mere thousand dollars a bag)
½ cup Earth Balance buttery spread
Pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat until fluffy (about 5-7 minutes). For a chocolate version, add ½ cup of cocoa.

I was planning to go with that recipe. But then I discovered Mimicreme Healthy Top whipped topping. While this stuff is healthy only in comparison to sucking on the tailpipe of an idling car, it is very delicious. Plus, it boasts a level of fluffiness that simply cannot be achieved using traditional ingredients.

So I decided to try mixing some sugar, coffee and cocoa into the Mimicreme to create a fluffy mocha icing.

I began by pulverizing some sugar and instant coffee in my partner’s coffee grinder (I’m sure he didn’t mind), then tossed that and a few tablespoons of cocoa into the unmixed Mimicreme. The stuff looks terrifying just out of the box, by the way. Remember when Tyler Durden retrieved the bag of fat from the liposuction clinic dumpster? Like that, only square.

Then I whipped and beheld the miracle that I had created.

The stuff was yummy, but seriously weird. First, even though I’d added a good half cup of dry ingredients to the cream, it was runnier than the stuff I’d made on a previous occasion with no additives. How does that work?

Second, it was neither liquid not solid. I actually put it in the fridge before putting it on the cake, hoping it would firm up a bit. When it hadn’t changed much after half an hour, I decided to go ahead. I dumped it all on top of the cake, then began spreading it carefully over the edges. I fully expected it to pour over, making unappealing puddles around the base of the cake.

But it didn’t. The semi-liquid cream sort of clung to the sides of the cake. I was amazed! Then I decided to tempt fate by trying to smooth out the clinging cream. No way was I getting away with this, I thought. It’ll peel away from the sides of the cake, or start running down, or something.

Nope. It was amazingly malleable. I spread, I swirled, I smoothed, and the modified Mimicreme just sort of went with it. It was kind of like the bowling ball mattress – touching any given bit of icing only moved that bit – the stuff around it stayed put.

Very weird.

Anyway, here are a couple of pics of the finished cake, with and without espresso chocolate shavings. I’ve got a couple of taste testers coming by later to see if hey can tell the difference between layers one and two.

Oh, and here is the final cake recipe:

3 cups flour
1.5 cups sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp salt
2 cups coconut milk
1 cup vegetable oil
4 tbsp vinegar
4 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp instant coffee

Preheat oven to 350
Line the bottoms of 2 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper

Mix wet ingredients
Mix dry ingredients
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and “mix lightly until just incorporated”

Divide batter between cake pans and spread it around (it’s a thick batter)

Bake for 32-35 minutes.

The additions to the Mimicreme were 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp instant coffee and 4 tbsp cocoa.