Kinda Vegan February 

My stomach has been a bit off since returning from my holiday trip so I’ve decided to keep a food journal and dabble with the elimination diet. First to be eliminated was dairy – which meant the first half of February was almost vegan (apart from some eggs). Friday was my birthday celebrations and the end of my two weeks without dairy so I have been enjoying cheese all weekend (with no ill effects). Maybe my tummy troubles were just a fluke?

This Quinoa with moroccan winter squash and carrot stew from Bon Appetit was a wonderful warm winter meal. And I got to use some of the saffron I picked up in the Dubai spice market:

The Oh She Glows Cookbook has been at my side for this adventure.Enlightened miso power bowl – why yes I do!
 The Super Foodie Superfood Breakfast Bowl from Camille Styles was another good winter recipe. Gets you ready to face a cold winter day.

And finally – another warming bowl for our cold February – Chickpea and Butternut Squash Curry. I substituted the curry/korma paste for a lot of curry powder which I had on hand and it worked out pretty well.

There were lots of other recipes in the kitchen over the past few weeks too (including a few pre-dairy elimination):

Home DIY – The Guest Room


We are making our way through the few projects we knew we wanted to tackle on our new home from Day 1. I’m happy to report another one is finished… our guest bedroom has been completely refreshed – and just in time for my mom to visit for the weekend.

Here are some of the before photos of the space… be glad we don’t yet have smell-o-vision so you aren’t subjected to the cat hair fumes coming out of that old purple/burgundy carpet!

Other than the carpet it isn’t terribly offensive, but it wasn’t really our style with the light purple walls. And there was a lot of stuff in a little space… which it seems even the previous previous owners had too:865266_14

So first things first, we got rid of the carpet. There was asbestos in the tiles below so we had this professionally, safely done, but then tackled the rest ourselves – from a fresh coat of paint to new laminate floors. A custom-made trunk my grandfather made for me many years ago fits perfectly in the small bump-out and leaves plenty of room for the bed and nightstand.

A perfect pillow from HomeSense confirmed our light grey paint on the walls and inspired Brent to unroll some Black Keys posters hiding in a closet and put them up on display.
  P.S. Don’t look in the closet – still under construction!

#VeggieTravels to Glasgow

You know I’ve fallen behind in blogging when I’ve been to another continent since the trip I am currently reviewing. Ooops!

ANYWAYS… back in October on our UK trip we went North to Scotland. I was excited for the food in Glasgow as I’d seen it was named the most vegan-friendly city in the UK.

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Our first stop, just after we got off a train and dropped our bags at our hotel was a cute little pub called Munro’s. We spotted in as our cab drove down Great Western Road and we made our way back to it and were so happy we did. Not only was it a cute pub – it was a craft beer pub – our favourite! And they had a soup & wrap combo for 5 pounds! We were sold!

 

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We both had the yummy soup of the day – B had the falafel wrap and I had the red pepper and goat cheese wrap. It was a very solid lunch and had us set for our first day in Scotland. Our server also gave us some great tips. Plus the decor was fantastic and it had a nice community vibe – boardgames, local sport team support. Way to go Munro’s.

#VeggieTravels Report Card – Munro’s

Décor and Atmosphere: A+

Variety of Options: A

Quality of Food: A

FINAL REVIEW: A

 Next up was dinner and a show at the 13th Note. It seems that all the vegetarian places in Glasgow are also clubs/venues. Maybe this is true of all restaurants in the city, but it was something I was not used to and thought was really cool. The 13th Note had a show on that (Wednesday) evening so we figured why not?!
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We started with some local brews – WEST was recommended by our earlier server – and while apparently this German-style beerhaus has veggie options we didn’t get a chance to check out their food, just the drink. We sure did get food at the 13th Note though – check out this huuuge veggie burger!

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I would call this place a more traditional vegetarian restaurant – both in terms of menu options (good options, good variety, a bit on standard/international side) and decor (hippie-vibes)

#VeggieTravels Report Card – The 13th Note

Décor and Atmosphere: B

Variety of Options: A

Quality of Food: A-

FINAL REVIEW: B+

Our final Glasgow meal was lunch at a Brewdog pub. We tried a couple of (really really good) Brewdog beers at GBK in London where our server told us they were from Scandinavia. Imagine our surprise coming across them again in Scotland and learning that is actually their homebase.

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Now, not only does this company have great beer, but it’s an insanely cool collective. Brent loved the opportunity to read a prospectus called “Equity for Punks” while making our way through two flights

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img_4307And we also got the chance to try some veggie haggis – in “baw” form.

 

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We were more into nibbles and beer here so I offer only an asterisk in my report card as very little food was tasted.

#VeggieTravels Report Card – Brewdog

Décor and Atmosphere: A+

Variety of Options: A

Quality of Food: A*

FINAL REVIEW: A*

Overall I was thrilled with the variety of options in Glasgow and that the prices were more reasonable than in England, but I didn’t see anything on the menus for any of the places that really captured my imagination… it was very traditional veggie fare.

But more on creativity next time… C

Eating, drinking and being Merry 

My kitchen has been a slower place than usual over the past month.

First we had the whirlwind of December with parties, visits, trips to a cottage, and a whole lot of fun. I did have friends over for two different dinner and whipped up some new recipes – My New Roots Parsnip (I went out and bought parsnips after this meal – said my friend), Winter Veggie Quinoa Tart, and Winter Kale and Wild Rice Salad (this was fantastic!).

I also tried making candy for the first time. I attempted this Maple Bourbon Caramels recipe, but something wasn’t working for me (maybe my stove, maybe my new candy thermometer, maybe my brain?) and the first batch turned into a bit of a caramel sauce and the second into a brittle. I guess when life gives you the wrong kind of candy you can make a scrumptious ice cream sundae?

 

Reason #2 for the slow kitchen was our holiday trips to see family in Southern Ontario and then in Dubai. So lots of other people’s home cooking (thanks moms!) and dining out (more on that to come soon with #VeggieTravels). In Dubai we also had the opportunity to go to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding for a traditional Emerati breakfast. This food was all delicious! Their website has details on some of the goodies. 

And finally, reason #3 was an illness at the end of my trip to Dubai which has meant a lot of boring, bland food for the last couple of weeks.

Regardless I can also add the following to my made list:

And all in all I made 139 new recipes in 2015! Not too shabby, but certainly room for a few more in 2016 🙂

2016 I’m a coming

My start to the new year has been slightly delayed, firstly by an amazing vacation, secondly by a less-than-amazing illness, but 2016 I am now ready for you.

This year I want to do so many things – among them have a fantastic “authentic for us” wedding, spend more time with friends, settle into my home, cook a bunch of delicious meals and blog some more.

I’m also progressing on my creativity project – I started learning to knit (finally! yay!) This year I want to create some art, some wedding, DIYs, maybe write a bit of fiction, and anything else that catches my attention.

As a start I picked up Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear”. I’ve been interested in giving this a read for some time and the pretty cover (previously with a 40% off sticker) made me pick it up. Review to come…

Before the holidays I attended a lunchtime talk at the University about Creative Thinking. The presenter, a cognitive science professor, was really interesting and gave me lots to think about. Did you know you are more creative in a green room and more task-oriented in a red room and that 70db is the optimal noise for creativity? That must be why so many people (myself included) like to work in Starbucks! His own research was also quite interesting – how do you teach a computer to be creative?!?

I’ll leave that to him and focus on myself for now… back next time with some recipe adventures!

 

What’s cooking

I just realized I have completed forgotten to take any photos of recent meals so this post is not going to be too visually-exciting.

But I have been cooking my way through three new cookbooks. I took all of these out from the library to start to see if I need my own copy. “My New Roots” has been added to my own collection – not only is the food elegant and tasty but the photography is show stopping! 

From “But I Could Never Go Vegan” from the blogger behind Keeping It Kind I made:

  • Carrot Cumin Pate – I brought this to work for a Halloween snack get-together and everyone was digging in and it received many compliments.
  • Balsamic Maple Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potato – just ok
  • Potato and Pea Samosa Cakes – these were excellent and really easy
  • Sesame-sriracha tofu sandwiches – Brent (the spicy fan) really enjoyed these. Very versatile too, not just for sandwiches
  • Chickpea omelets – another one that Brent enjoyed a bit more than I did
  • Lentil, chard and sweet potato curry – even I found this one a bit bland, but that can be fixed with some added spices
  • Savoury overnight quinoa oatmeal – neither of us were a bit fan of this

A bit of a mixed review for the first book – so I’ve jotted down a few of the other recipes I want to try and will come back to again in the future. Book #2 is Whole Grain Mornings. Lots of cute sweet stories to go along with breakfast recipes. Every since my trip to 26 Grains I’ve been stuck in a moment with porridge and oatmeal so this book was a great find. Less great is the rut that happens when the time changes so mornings have not been super productive for me so I’ve only ventured to “The Very Best Oatmeal” which definitely lives up to its name as does the suggestion to make a double batch and then re-heat throughout the week.

Can you tell I’ve been making a lot of vegan recipes lately?

“My New Roots” is a beautiful book from the blog of the same name. I’ve made a few of her blog recipes over the years so I was excited for this to come out. Most of the recipes do require a bit of time or pre-planning so it’s not quite as easy to make on a whim, but when you do make it I think it’s worth it. I hosted a small dinner party last week and made Roasted Butternut Squash with Grilled Halloumi and Dukkah on Kale. It was so good – I made it again last weekend! Dukkah is an egyptian spice seasoning that did take quite a bit of time to prepare (and I should have done ahead of time), but it was well worth it and now I have lots more for other toppings. I’m looking forward to making many more of these recipes soon.

And a few others from a variety of other sources:

  • Hot for Food’s strawberry cheesecake bites – I also made these for my dinner party. Really quick and easy to make and then able to serve whenever you are ready.
  • Tofu and Black Bean Burger from Chatelaine. I’m a texture person, and the texture here didn’t really work for me.
  • Roasted Red Pepper mac and cheese – one of those nights where the darkness so early was getting to me and I wanted some good old mac and cheese, but decided to see if I could jazz it up with some ingredients I had in the house – and this worked really well!
  • A staple these fall days has been lentils. This Zucchini Red-Lentil Curry from Dishing up The Dirt was tasty as was the Crockpot Red Lentil Curry from Pinch of Yum. The last one I cut the recipe in half and still had it for days – but it was good even on toast for lunch!

Well that has made me pretty hungry – off to find a snack!

The Coffee table project

One of the first projects we identified for our new home was updating our Ikea coffee table to match the space.  While the minimal black table worked well in other spaces it didn’t really fit in our warm, colourful family room.

Here’s another “before” shot from our condo. You can see how it worked well with the stark white walls and dark furniture.

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We were inspired by a table the previous owners of our home had I commented on every time we came for a showing or looked at their photos on the listing. Brent probably said something like – ‘I can make that’ which I didn’t see as a reality until we ended up with this place and it’s shed and garage perfect for storing hardware!

Not that we got a lot of equipment to make this project happen. Most of it was borrowed from the Ottawa Tool Library – a fantastic new initiative to allow residents of our city an opportunity to borrow and share equipment for a minimal annual fee. We are so on board!

Speaking of boards – these planks are the highlight of our new table! Don’t they look fantastic?! And really pull together with our hardwood floors and butcherblock counters.  For the bottom of the table we visited Malenka Originals a small shop around the corner (nearly!) and picked out this Old Violet Annie Sloan chalk paint.