Putting up the tree menu

One of my very favourite things: making menus to match occasions. Yes, even occasions like putting up the Christmas tree. I can’t help it!

I wanted a menu that had a distinctively festive feel, but only festive light. I’ll be having three Christmas dinners this year, and I don’t want to be bored of the dishes before I even get to the December 20s! I also wanted the dinner part to be light enough that there was still comfortable room for cookies and egglessnog. Here’s what I ended up with…

The main: Moroccan Chickpea Vegetable Phyllo Rolls with Balsamic Maple Sauce from Eat, Drink, and be Vegan by Dreena Burton.



To me, this is a full 5-star recipe. The filling smells amazing when it’s baking, and the final product looks really quite fancy for something so easy to pull together. As for the taste… delicious! Rich, slightly spicy, savoury, and slightly sweet all at the same time.

Served with: Kale Slaw with Curried Almond Dressing from Let Them Eat Vegan by Dreena Burton.



I made this salad for the first time at Thanksgiving last year and have had repeated cravings for it even since. The curry flavour is very mild, and the bright green of the kale, sprinkled with dried cranberries gives the dish a nice festive feel. The two dishes worked great together and made for the exact balance of indulgent but room-for-cookies that I was after.


And then the cookies…

Dreena again (she’s been nicknamed the vegan cookie queen for a good reason!): Pecan Date Nibblers from Let Them Eat Vegan.



These cookies are impressively decadent for such a healthy recipe (oil-free, sugar-free, GF option), and orange rind gives them a nice seasonal touch.

The shortbread is Old-Fashioned Pie-Plate Shortbread from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero.



I didn’t have stamina to deal with chocolate as well, so I bought the truffles. @Fueled by Fruit, I’ll try your black bean ones next time!



And, finally, the egglessnog. So far, my favourite of the recipes I’ve tried is Raw Vegan Eggnog from This Rawsome Vegan Life.



Yes, there was still time to get the tree up ; )


Cooking when you’re too busy to cook

Back in August, I went through a very busy time with work – straight through two weekends, and several days that passed 12 hours. It’s not the first time I’ve done this to myself, but this time was different. I stayed sane – beyond outer appearances! Putting some extra planning into my food was no small part of this, and this little cookbook was a huge help:

 One-Dish Vegan by Robin Robertson:


First, there was the Artichoke Spaghetti Pie. I loved that this recipe felt kind of fancy, but was super easy to make. Just boil the pasta, blend everything else, mix together, and bake.

Spagetti pie uncookedspagetti pie cooked


The recipe makes a sizable pie, which is great for having leftovers. Not too shabby for a super quick lunch!

spagettie pie leftover

Oh man, the corn was good this year!

Then there was the chickpea and cauliflower laced Indian-Spiced Risotto. This recipe won’t replace taking a whole afternoon to cook up your favourite Indian dishes, but it’s a fantastic weeknight tribute to many of my favourite things about those meals.

Indian risotto in pot Indian risotto on plate

There is a whole chapter on chili in this cookbook! I chose the West Coast Chili because I had some lovely little zucchinis in my fridge, as well as the remnants of a can of chipotle chilies in adobo sauce – and I don’t think I’d ever tried adding wine to chili before (beer, yes).

West coast chili in bowlsWest coast chili on balcony table

Most of the leftovers went into the freezer for lunches, but I kept one portion out for Friday night nachos (this is another keep-your-sanity trick I’ve discovered… even if you’re going to work straight through the weekend, it still does good to mark the end of the week).

This isn’t a super thick chili, so I added some kidney beans before pouring it over the tortilla chips.

West coast chili as nachos

Overlapping ingredients is always a good thing, especially when you’re busy. In this case, zucchini, chickpeas, chilies and cilantro for Oven-Baked Indian Vegetable with Chickpeas. This is a wonderfully easy recipe as you basically throw everything together in a baking pan, then shove it in the oven.

oven roasted Indian vegetables with chickpeas

It’s rare that I make lunch from scratch when I’m busy, but I still had chickpeas on hand (I cooked my whole pressure cooker full) and mangoes were on sale.  This Smoky Chickpea Salad with Mango and Avocado is delicious! This is my favourite of all the roasted chickpea recipes I’ve tried so far, and mango worked great as the base for the dressing (I chose the mustard variation).

Smoky chickpea mango salad


Finally, so I don’t come off as more culinarily virtuous than I actually am, I should also thank vegan freezer products for helping me get through that busy stretch. Lucky for me, these are super easy to find in my neighbourhood – there are 3 separate places where I can buy vegan freezer pizza within a 10 minute walk of my apartment! Beyond pizza, other freezer favourites are Gardein seven grain crispy tenders and golden fishless filet and SoL Cuisine burgers.

Double mushroom burger

SoL Cuisine mushroom and rice burger – doubled up with a roasted Portobello. I was really hungry that night!

As for the non-food things that helped keep me sane… Living with someone who does a pretty good job of tolerating my high-gear incarnation, yoga, getting enough sleep, the adorable fuzzy company of our cat, and long summer evening bike rides to the less urban parts of the city.

River at sunsetKitten Pants


Quick & easy whole food vegan Thanksgiving

Off the bat, I’ll confess my idea of an easy meal isn’t everyone’s. I mean easy on the celebratory made-from-scratch scale, where it gets a 9/10. If I had to rate it as just plain easy, hmmm… maybe 6.5/10. That’s counting dessert, so still pretty good for a big, guest-worthy holiday meal!

For dinner:

Festive Chickpea Tart from Let Them Eat Vegan by Dreena Burton


Festive chickpea tart

I’m a pretty compulsive recipe sampler, so it’s a real tribute to this tart that I made it again this year. As I picked a rich desert, I baked it without the crust and the slices still held their shape perfectly.

Caulipots from Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz


Who knew cauliflower is the trick to super delicious, beautifully creamy mashed potatoes!

Roasted fall veggies from the market

I loved this mix of brussels sprouts, yam and parsnips. All of these vegetables really invoke fall for me, they make for a pretty colour combination, and they taste great together. I just added a bit of olive oil and a good sprinkling of pepper, but I imagine some maple syrup would work nicely if you want to go a bit sweeter.


Quick Gravy from Happy Herbivore: Light & Lean by Lindsay Nixon


Last year, I opted for a sage-flavoured gravy, but the spice profile of the chickpea tart is so nicely balanced I wanted to try something more neutral this time – and I also wanted something fast.

Lindsay Nixon is a self-proclaimed gravy addict, and so has a whole list of recipes you can choose from (all fat-free). It’s hard to pick a favourite, but this is definitely the one I make the most often. It truly is quick, and toasting the flour and nutritional yeast first gives an extra richness that I find kind of addictive. Being Thanksgiving, I jazzed it up with a couple of splashes of port at the end.

Traditional Cranberry Sauce from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan by Dreena Burton


Super easy + so good = Dreena is absolutely right to claim you’ll never buy another store-bought cranberry sauce after trying it.

To drink:

Local-brewed “Coeur à Tout” crackling apple cider


I love apple cider as an accompaniment to fall meals. So seasonal and a nice balance of sweet and sharp flavours. Available in a large bottle (as opposed to the more casual feel of a 6-pack), it’s also an economical way to add the elegance of bubbles to your table.

For dessert:

Pumpkin Cheesecake (gingersnap crust option) from Vegan Pie in the Sky by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero


IMG_1550 IMG_1551


The day before:

Made sure I had all the pantry ingredients on hand:

Tamari/soy sauce
Rolled oats
Frozen spinach
Dried cranberries
Veggie broth
Nutritional yeast
Whole-wheat flour
Maple syrup
Balsamic vinegar
Silken tofu
White & brown sugar (it’s a special occasion!)
Coconut oil
Corn/arrowroot starch
Pumpkin puree

The night before:

Left cashews and chickpeas soaking.

The morning of:

Cooked the chickpeas in the pressure cooker (or use tinned to be even quicker).

Made the Traditional Cranberry Sauce.

Made the Pumpkin Cheesecake (it needs to chill a minimum of 3 hours).

Easy afternoon:

Leisurely trip to the market for produce:

Brussels sprouts (on the stock!)

Thank you Thanksgiving for making sure I squeezed in a trip while all the harvest goods are out!

IMG_1526 IMG_1524 IMG_1522 IMG_1521 IMG_1520

And there was still time for a walk in the park before starting with the rest of dinner prep!

IMG_1535 IMG_1519

Final prep:

Assemble the chickpea tart & prepare the tray of roasted veggies while the oven heats, then stick both in at the same time.

While they’re baking…

Boil the potatoes and cauliflower for Caulipots (in the same pot = wash-up friendly!).

Make the gravy. If you turn off the heat before it gets too thick, you can just leave it sitting on the stove until you’re ready to heat it up for the table.

Take the tart out of the oven and let it sit 5-10 minutes.

Mix and mash the Caulipots and turn the gravy back on.

Take the veggies out of the oven.

That’s it! Delicious and decadent, but won’t leave you feeling sluggish and heavy, dinner ready to go.


Beloved appliances (and some nice spring cooking)

There are three things I use mountains more since cooking vegan: spices, maple syrup (good thing I live in Quebec!), and appliances. Each appliance was a big decision, both for cost and space considerations, but I am so grateful for these machines. These are my big three, in the order they were added to my kitchen:

Food processor (previous model):


It only took a few months of vegan recipes to burn out the motor on my old food processor, and I have never regretted my decision to replace it with a better quality, more heavy-duty machine. Even if space is tight, I highly recommend choosing something with a larger bowl, and that’s speaking as a two-person household.

High-power blender:


I really, really love this machine and gets loads of use out of it, but I have to admit I do still question the value. Had I not received it as a very generous Christmas gift from my parents, I probably wouldn’t have one, and would probably be making do quite fine with the Breville I almost bought as a compromise. Basically, if you can afford it and actually make things that require a strong blender, you’re going to love it.

Pressure/slow/rice cooker:


This one is just a couple months old, and my only regret is that I didn’t buy it sooner. I have used it loads, and figure it will pay for itself in dried versus tinned beans by the end of the year. The rice cooker function is a bit particular (they’re not kidding when they say you need to get the rice/water ration *exactly* right), but I love that the bowl is stainless steel.

I’ve been spending my Sundays cooking, and I was particularly filled with gratitude for these kitchen aids this week. Here’s the menu and my proof that these gadgets really are worthy of the space they take up in my kitchen!

Heavenly Carrot Cake Baked Granola by Oh She Glow


  • Food processor: grated carrots


Healthy Lemon Tarts by My Whole Food Life


  •  Food processor: made the crust
  • Vitamix: made the lemon custard filling

 Chipotle Lime Two-Bean Hummus From Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan by Dreena Burton


  •  Instant Pot: cooked chickpeas and kidney beans
  • Vitamix: Pureed the hummus

 Spinach and Wild Rice Salad by My Whole Food Life


  •  Instant Pot: cooked the rice
  • Food processor: grated more carrots

 Borscht – my own improvised recipe

  • Food processor: grated beets and even more carrots


Pesto Sauce – my own improvised recipe. Actually, I often wonder if I can legitimately call my version pesto. There’s no parmesan (not vegan), no garlic (can’t digest it), or pine nuts (not willing to pay for them), and I use way more spinach than basil (tasty, nutritious, and less expensive than straight herbs).

  • Food processor: processed ingredients into a sauce


In short, I recommend all of these appliances – and all of these recipes!

Hockey Night in Canada menus, Round 4: Chili

A tale of four chilies…

I decided to start classic – Meaty Beany Chili from Isa Does It.


Image I was killer impressed with this recipe. The ingredients are super basic and the recipe is as straight forward as can be, but the result was probably the best veggie chili I’ve ever made. It was great with a side of toasted herb bread. Very annoyingly, I can’t digest garlic, so this has been my substitute for years.


Next up was White Bean Chili by Vegan in the Freezer.


I didn’t have my beautiful new slow/pressure cooker yet, so just made it on the stovetop. This is a very tasty chili, but the tinned green chilies I used were definitely NOT mild. It came out super spicy (and I have an I-lived-in-Korea-for-three-years high tolerance for spicy). I cooled it down by adding more stalk and stirring in an extra cup of mashed up white beans.  It was still hot enough to make our cheeks tingle, but tasty.

I like things to match… I figured white beans go with cauliflower, a white vegetable, so… Cauliflower Sandwich Bread by Vegan Richa.


Bread and pastry are two of my only somewhat well-founded mental cooking blocks. I had to work myself up to trying this recipe, but, when it came down to it, I just followed the steps and it came out great.


The following week was more experimental – Red Lentil Thai Chili from Isa Does It.


It is what it sounds like – Thai curry meets traditional chili. I was open-minded about the idea, but didn’t expect to like it quite as much as I did. I’ll definitely be making this again (after I finish the leftovers I put in the freezer).


Last, but not least, my favourite colour – green! Chili Verde con Papas from Appetite for Reduction.


This is a fantastic, crazily nutrient-dense recipe. In addition to more standard chili fare, there’s a whole bundle of kale cooked in. I didn’t even attempt to go looking for fresh tomatillos, but I found the tinned version easily enough in the Mexican section of a little local grocery story.

Image The corn muffins from the Meaty Beany Chili link above were a perfect match for this chili. I had some cilantro and a lonely jalapeno on hand, so mixed those in for some green flecks and a bit of zing.


Typed up in the adorable lap-hogging company of Benjamina Kitten Pants ; )


 Are you done yet!?


 Next up: I’m thinking Mexican.





Hockey Night in Canada menus, Round 3: Pizza!

I make homemade pizza reasonably often, but I wanted to use my Hockey Night menus as a chance to try a few recipes that were either a bit unusual or more work than I usually put in. Remembering that The Sexy Vegan Cookbook had a whole chapter on pizza, I decided to start there. I picked the Mush-A-Boki – a mushroom-loaded pizza with a cashew ricotta base. And spinach. I love spinach on pizza.



As much as I enjoy reading through this cookbook and have been impressed by all the recipes I’ve tried, the Sexy Vegan’s kitchen stamina has me completely outpaced. Accurately predicting that I’d run out of steam by the time I finished with the dough, ricotta, and mushrooms, I decided in advance to skip the Not-zzarella and homemade vegan parmesan toppings. This pizza was great without them!


Next up was a recipe I’d flagged as intriguing and had been sitting on my must-try list – Shepherd’s Pie Pizza from VegKitchen. Think mashed potatoes instead of tomato sauce, covered in homey veggies cooked up with shepherd’s pie seasonings.



If you used a store-bought crust and had leftover mashed potatoes, this would be fantastic as a quick weeknight meal.

If mashed potatoes could work so nicely on pizza, why not beans!? I loved this Mexican Pizza recipe by Veggieful – served up with nice big dollops of vegan sour cream and guacamole. I substituted sweet peppers for corn (my partner isn’t a fan), but I’m sure corn would be great too.



The next week was crust experimentation… I was very curious to try this flour-free Incredible Squash Pizza recipe by Wholehearted Eats:


The squash is made into a dough that baked nicely into a crust by adding chickpea and almond flours. I liked it, but I have to admit I didn’t love it. I found it a bit too sweet.

I winged it with what I had on hand for the toppings. For the pesto sauce, this meant kale, basil, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, nutritional yeast, and green onion. For the veggies – roasted tomatoes (sprinkled with one part salt, one part pepper, and one part sugar – really good!), spicy roasted cauliflower, and sweet peppers. I thought it looked very pretty when it all came together.


Last but not least, just a plain old classic “sausage” and “bacon” pizza – with my first attempt at homemade vegan mozzarella!


Sadly, the cheese didn’t set properly and I wasn’t able to grate it, but it still tasted good and browned up nicely. The recipe I tried was from Mouthwatering Vegan, and isn’t online. The azuki bean bacon recipe is though!


We got excellent mileage out of this recipe, which I initially cooked up as part of Sunday brunch. The first round of leftovers went into an avocado and bacon sandwich (yum!) and I saved the rest for pizza.

The Steamy Beany Sausages were also leftovers from earlier in the week. The recipe is in Isa Does It and isn’t online, but the Simple Italian Sausage recipe on her blog is identical.


Along with a mound of mushrooms, green pepper, and red onion, this did a great job of imitating a takeout pizza I used to love.


Next round: chili!

Hockey Night in Canada menus, Round 2: Take-out made in

My next round of Hockey Night in Canada cooking…

Menu V: IndianImageI received my beautiful new copy of Isa Does It that week, and the central dish, Coconut Chana Saag, is from there. Easy and delicious! The recipe isn’t available online yet, but I can’t recommend this cookbook enough. It is BEAUTIFUL in every way! It’s also insanely reasonably priced ($20 at amazon.ca). I tried to wait and put it on my Christmas wish list, but didn’t even manage to hold off past the pre-order date.



I’ve been big on cauliflower lately, so I went searching for Aloo Gobi recipes as the side. Not surprisingly, I chose a recipe from my Indian cooking go-to, Vegan Richa. This recipe is her dad’s favorite, and I’m guessing he really knows his Aloo Gobi. Again, easy and tasty!



I’d never made mango chutney before, but remembered spotting this straight-forward little recipe in Veganomicon and figured this was a good chance to give it a whirl. Wish I’d tried it sooner! No more store-bought chutney for me. It really does take only 5 minutes to prepare, though it does need time to cool.


Menu VI: Sushi

For years, I thought sushi was something best eaten in restaurants. I’ve done a full 180 on this one. I LOVE making sushi at home and I really enjoy coming up with vegan combinations. For this batch, I marinated and baked a block of tofu three different ways: curry, hot sauce, bbq. I also try to use a good mix of colors and textures with the veggies: sweet potatoes, green onions, bell peppers, avocado, and rocket/arugula.

As much as I like to mix up the filling, you’ll see I’m totally boring when it comes to the size of the roll. I find small ones too rice-y, and never was a fan of the big fancy ones that require multiple bites and inevitably make a mess.

Image Image


We managed to eat this whole platter in just two days!

Menu VII: Chinese



I’ll admit I was pretty proud of how this turned out!

The Sticky Orange Chicky Stir-Fry is also from Isa Does It. This is a great recipe if you like sweet and tangy. Stir-fry aside, the chickpea seitan was fantastic in and of itself. The leftovers went into a nice dumpling stew and also worked well as “chicken” salad filling for sandwiches. Not online though, sorry.

The Garlic Chive Seitan Potstickers are from Terry Hope Romero’s Vegan Eats World. Since the stir-fry already used seitan, I decided to substitute tempeh, and I also had to omit the garlic (I can’t digest it). Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly, and these turned out great. There’s something so luxurious about taking the time out to make dumplings from scratch. OK, almost scratch – I bought the wrappers.

The rice is Unfriend Fried Rice from Appetite for Reduction. Isa really does rock at ditching the unnecessary crap, but keeping the taste!

Menu VIII: Thai

Pad Thai (of course!) and Mango Friend Rice. Both recipes are in Isa Does It, but they were first introduced on her blog, Post Punk Kitchen.



Both recipes are super nice and a big treat, but I have to admit this was my least successful batch of Hockey Night cooking so far. Partly, it was because I should have picked one or the other, and then gone with a lighter side dish – in spite of it being so perfectly take out-ish to have noodles and fried rice for dinner. But, mostly, I didn’t end up with the proper amount of time to spend in the kitchen that day. My veggies lost their bright crispness and things stuck as I scrambled around getting ready for my mom to arrive. I even forgot to snap a picture!

I will go back to both of these when I can give them the time and attention they deserve, maybe trying the pineapple substitution for the rice next time.

Finally… I know, I know! I left out the most obvious of all take out foods – pizza! That’s because the next batch will be all pizza – including a rather experimental shepherd’s pie one.

Hockey Night in Canada: sports bar menus

One of my very favourite things about cooking is picking food to match the setting and circumstances. It’s as if this part of my brain doesn’t shut off and I’m constantly sorting recipe ideas into some kind of giant mental filing cabinet. The list is of folders is pretty endless, and all the better if I get to cross-reference them – season, time of day, number of people, who the people are, if avocados are on sale, unusually hot, unusually cold, after boxing, after yoga, after the pool, feeling run down, celebratory, on the balcony, on the sofa, at the park, actually at the table, if I’m craving cauliflower, if I’m craving beets, things to cook for fellow vegans, things to cook for non-vegans, dishes that go with wine, dishes that go with beer, dishes that feel like Friday night, Sunday dinner, dishes that will yield leftovers for lunch, things that are fun to cook with others, etc. If you’ve ever mentioned a favourite food or a food you don’t like in my presence, I have a brain folder for that too! But instead of all this (and I’m really only scratching the surface here!) making for a lot of noise in my head, the order and balance of it makes me feel calm and centered.

My work life has been particularly hectic lately, and I pretty consistently need to work 7/7 to stay on top of things. This has made getting to Saturday evening and cooking for Hockey Night in Canada a treasured ritual of protected free time. Even though I’ll confess I’m still learning the ropes of watching hockey, I love dreaming up menus that have that flop on the sofa and watch something sporty feel (cross reference sporty feel, with on the sofa, with Saturday night, with fall has set in, with goes with beer, with…).

Here’s the first batch, inspired by sports bar classics.

Menu I: Burger & Fries

I knew I wanted to start hockey season off with burgers and fries, and figured this was a good chance to try something new from the FULL chapter on burgers in Dreena Burton’s Let Them Eat Vegan. I picked the Lentil Walnut Burgers:


I topped them off with heaping dollops of Creamy Grilled Eggplant Dip from the same cookbook. The two recipes worked great together! This dip is truly amazing – as in one of the best dips I’ve ever eaten kind of amazing. It’s not online though, sorry. That said, if you like cookbooks, this is one I go to over and over again, and am never disappointed.

For the fries, I went no frills. Just a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then threw them in the oven until they looked right.

Menu II: Nachos


I really, really love nachos and used to imagine no vegan version would ever quite live up to their more traditional form (if you can call nachos traditional). How wrong I was!

I wanted to focus on the dips, so went quite simple with what I put on the chips: just VegKitchen’s Easiest Hot Bean Dip and a bit of Daiya cheese.


Instead of tinned, I used the unfried refried beans recipe from Appetite for Reduction in this dip. They’re a snap to make, and are a good bit cheaper, healthier, and tastier than the tinned version. Unfortunately, and quite surprisingly, they’re not online.

The cheese “KD Dip” is another Dreena Burton Let Them Eat Vegan special. Yum yum, but not online either.

I don’t usually use a recipe for guacamole (how can you go wrong!?), but I had broccoli on hand and a remote memory of having flagged a guacamole recipe that used it. This recipe by Vegangela was totally worth digging through my bookmarks for! Not just healthier, but really, truly tastier than the broccoli-free version.


Finally, the salsa. No recipe here – just fresh tomatoes, red onion, chilies, cilantro, and lime juice.

Actually, the chips themselves are worth mentioning. I’m not sure how widely distributed Nacho Villa is, but I love the multigrain ones – really grainy tasting (corn, amaranth, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, flax, sesame, and brown rice) and they keep their crisp.


Menu III: Falafel


I love homemade falafel + love finding ways to stuff extra veggies in things =  I had to try the Gourmet Vegan’s Popeye Falafel.


Topped off with my favourite vegan tzatziki sauce. I have recommended this recipe many, many times.


And then a nice big side of tabouli salad. Another no-recipe dish for me – there just needs to be loads of parsley and loads of lemon.

Menu IV: Sloppy Sandwich & Fries


I flagged this BBQ “Chicken” Sandwich from Vegan in the Freezer as a hockey night must as soon as I saw it.


Instead of store-bought mock chicken, I prepared tofu in the way used as the base for this Tofu Chicken Salad recipe from the Fatfree Vegan (which I also highly recommend).


It turned out fantastic, and the leftovers were great in wraps.

I also wanted to take advantage of having time in the kitchen to initiate my beautiful, beautiful new cookbook, Isa Does It. I picked the Baked Garlic Curry Fries, and oh were they good (even without the garlic, which I can’t eat) – and a perfect fit for the sandwich!


Not only is Isa Does It a beautiful and insanely user friendly cookbook, but it was also such a steal that ordering it alone didn’t qualify for free delivery on Amazon. The perfect excuse to finally acquire Terry Hope Romero’s Vegan Eats World… From it, this Harissa Carrot Salad rounded out the meal perfectly.



Up next in Hockey Night in Canada menus: take-out made in.

A perfectly fall menu

Probably my biggest cooking pleasure is assembling a menu that is a perfect match to its circumstances. Something about the order and balance of it calms my mind. This perfect fall menu simply fell into place, starting with Two Bean and Leek Sausages by The Gourmet Vegan.


I make my own vegan sausages reasonably often, and all of the other recipes I’ve tried use vital wheat gluten to get a sausage-like texture; these don’t. They’re bound with just beans and breadcrumbs, more like many of the bean burger recipes I’ve used rolled into a sausage shape. They were super easy to make (especially if you follow the instructions and mash everything up with your hands), held their shape well, and tasted great. The leeks (which I love) make them a wonderful tribute to fall.


Just fry the leeks until they’re soft, dump them in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients, and mash it all up with your hands.

The sausages were just going to be a quick and simple Friday night dinner, but then The Ordinary Vegan posted this recipe for mushroom gravy.


Tasty stuff! The recipe keeps it chunky, which I’m thinking would be fantastic with chickpea cutlets. This time, though, I opted to puree it with an immersion blender.


Being fall, the grocers in my neighbourhood are flooded with beautiful big heads of locally grown cauliflower (for just $1!). So I figured, why make mashed potatoes when you can make Caulipots instead? From my number 1 go-to cookbook, Appetite for Reduction:


I love the blend of cauliflower and potatoes for its own sake, but it’s also a great trick for cutting calories if you’re watching them (if you reduce/omit the olive oil). This recipe comes out beautifully creamy.

And finally, for the green, what says fall more than brussels sprouts? Also from Appetite for Reduction (scroll down to the bottom of the post):


Image Image

I’m one of those unfortunate people who can’t digest garlic, which this recipe calls for a lot of. While I’m sure I’m missing out, it still tastes fantastic with just the onion.

Image All that was missing was my dad’s beet pickles!


The “fitspiration” bombardment (sorry, no food talk this time)


I recently posted the article “The 6 Most Shockingly Irresponsible ‘Fitspiration’ Photos” (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/kevin-moore/fitspiration-photos-_b_3908741.html) by Kevin Moore on my personal Facebook page, because I thought it was really great and because it touches on a lot of issues that have concerned me increasingly as I’ve stepped up my exercise routine. I guess it’s only fair to place myself on the fitness spectrum at the outset here. If left is absolute couch potato and right is fitness-obsessed every waking minute of every day, I’m probably slightly right of center. My current base routine is 2 yoga classes and 2 Savate (French boxing) classes a week. Plus, I live blissfully car-free, which means a lot of walking and a decent amount of biking. While I’ve never been inactive, I did identify as profoundly un-athletic, and there’s a very deep sense of accomplishment around shedding that identity – one that reverberates well beyond my improved physical condition.

This article resonated with a lot of my friends as well – but not at all with one who has been on a similar, albeit more intensive, physical (and dietary) journey. This is what prompted me to give the points the author raised even more thought. To me, the friend who took issue with its critique of “fitspiration” messaging seems a model of the kind of good fitness the article stands for: she has integrated a rigorous exercise routine into a busy life; she pushes her body hard, but without serious injury; she enjoys the aesthetic reward, but is not driven by being hung up on it – and at the same time makes real time for her family, friends, and non-physical goals. So, then, how could we have such different reactions?

First of all, I think part of the reason is that various things going on in my life (and in my province) have made me spend a lot of time thinking about diversity lately. While I do have a list of issues with being bombarded with images of “hot” bodies at every turn, it’s not that I think they should go away. Nor, for that matter, do I believe their disappearance would suddenly make everyone find their way to accepting their body. What I do wish for is a range of models of what stands for good fitness, not just in terms of body shape but also of approach. Beyond the need to protect against injury (which, I’ve learned, happens shockingly often), do we really want to define good fitness as nothing short of obsession?

I know people make up a lot of excuses not to exercise (I did this plenty myself), but not all reasons are excuses. Life is a balance of many things, and I sure haven’t found a way to add extra hours to the day. There should be no shame in bumping fitness lower down the list when this matches your current priorities, or in taking time off when you are injured. Yet, almost anyone who has ever talked to me about doing either was wracked with guilt. In fact, I think it should be a matter of pride to be capable of stepping back from your fitness routine if it is damaging your body or interfering with other things you actually value more. Too much is just as problematic as too little. It takes strength to know what’s best for you and shut out all the voices, internal and external, that tell you you’re weak, lack motivation, aren’t truly committed, etc. Just as lots of people make excuses not to exercise, lots of people use intensive exercise as an excuse not to face other things – a message you never see integrated into athletic ads or fitspiration photos.

During our debate (if you can call writing bits back and forward on Facebook a debate), my friend made the very valid point that 5 hours is a totally reasonable amount of time to spend at a gym if you are training for a marathon. True! I don’t mean anything I say to challenge this. I can imagine perfectly good reasons to spend 12 hours a day exercising. Kudos to those few who have the stamina! Still, I think we would be better off if we backed away from seeing this level of commitment to fitness as inherently good in and of itself. I mentioned earlier that my current level of fitness is reasonably new, but I’m far from new to being rigorously committed to something. These are issues I first started to reflect on during my PhD. Yes, learning is important and, just like exercise, one of the very best things you can do for yourself. But it’s also all too easy to blind yourself with this value, slip into obsession, and not take sufficient note of what your commitment asks of those around you – or of how many other things you’ve eliminated during its pursuit. This doesn’t mean it isn’t important to ask (yourself and others) for the space to indulge in these things when they are right for you, or to support people who make this decision.

I loved this article because I found it a call to engage in fitness as rigorously as makes sense for you and to constantly reflect on and re-evaluate what this means. It’s about the importance of asking the questions – not just once, but over and over and over again as your body, priorities, and circumstances change. I get that “Don’t think, just do!” might be more helpful when the alarm goes off and you’re trying to stick to a commitment to get up at 5.30am to run before work, but that doesn’t mean you should never reflect on whether those runs are actually bringing good things to your body and your life. If the answer is no, then what exactly is strong or smart about carrying on with that particular routine? The trick is to develop the self-awareness to know when no is for the right or the wrong reasons – and this article strikes me as bang on with its critique of all of the ways these images tell us to simply silence that voice, rather than do the difficult work of learning how to best interpret and engage with it.

I know I’m no expert, and I have to admit to feeling like something of an imposter writing about fitness, but it really does seem to me that diversity and self-awareness are the keys to fitness that not only reduces injury, but also promotes healthy relationships with our bodies. Diversity, not just from person to person, but also within ourselves, as recognition that the nature of our days and our lives is in constant flux. Self-awareness, not just of how our bodies work and what they need, but also of how, where, and why we integrate exercise into our lives. If these kinds of fitspiration photos inspire you in a healthy way to be where you need to be right now, great! But the fact that they speak to some people some of the time doesn’t make their single-minded, all-or-nothing approach unproblematic. It means they have a place, and, yes, I do believe it would help make the world a better place if we did a better job of reducing them to this.