Vegan Story Time, Layla from Clean Cheaters

A few days ago, I opened an invitation to fellow vegans to share their story on how they became vegan or to share their favourite vegan recipes. I really like hearing these stories when I meet vegans in real life, and so I thought it would be nice to hear more of them. It’s always encouraging to see that others are making the switch, and I love learning from others’ experiences: everyone has a different favourite recipe, one ingredient they can’t live without or a special trick that will make all our lives easier. It’s so great to feed on these stories because it really creates a sense of community and sharing.

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In the next few weeks, I will be sharing some amazing stories that I have received. I extend the invitation to every vegan out there! If you want to see your story featured here, contact me!

Today, I’ll be sharing Layla’s story. She has a great blog where she shares recipes and musings from her life. Go take a look!

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So, this is my ‘vegan’-story. I never really cared for meat. I’ve been vegetarian off and on for about 6 years, only eating meat when I was still lifting weights, and I didn’t know I could get all the protein I needed from plants. I still had to learn a lot you see 😉

In January 2015, I started eating vegetarian again, already looking towards the vegan diet. I did feel weird in my stomach every now and then, especially after my oatmeal with milk. Just for fun and giggles, I tried soy and oh my, did that work! My stomach felt better and my skin looked so much better. Cutting out milk and eggs in my own cooking was easy, cutting out these ‘hidden’ ingredients was harder since they seem to be hidden in everything.

For me, the hardest part about going vegan is going out for food. It’s getting easier, since it’s getting more mainstream, but I always look for places to eat before going somewhere, and I always bring a snack.

My tip for new vegans: try to find websites with easy recipes (like mine :P) that don’t require a lot of ingredients. That made the switch easier for me.

My go-to recipe is definitely my ‘paprika’-pasta. I used to make it a lot when I was in school because it’s super cheap to make. I replaced the real bacon with tempeh-bacon to make it vegan. And it’s delicious! Apart from that recipe, I think everyone should try my recipe for vegan chili. Yes, even now that it’s summer. It’s easy to make, and it doesn’t need a lot of stuff or a lot of skills to prepare.

 This takes me to the ingredient I can’t live without. Actually, I can’t pick ONE ingredient, I need 3:

  • Low sodium soy sauce
  • Liquid smoke
  • Chili sauce

 Thank you for reading my story and I hope to see you soon on Clean Cheaters!

I hope this was as interesting to you as it was to me! Watch out for the next Vegan Story Time, as this one came to me in the form of an amazing recipe. Don’t forget that if you want to participate, you can!

 

Calling out to other vegans!

I hope this message finds you happy and inspired! I’m always on the look out for new blogs, fun food and other vegans to share stories, finds, new ingredients and, of course, amazing recipes. So, I had an idea!

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The vegan community has been an incredible source of motivation and support when I became vegan, and still is now. I love stumbling on new blogs, and I feel really happy that more and more people are switching to this more respectful way of living.

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So, I would like to invite you to share your stories: why did you become vegan? What was difficult about the switch? What was fun? What are your tips for new vegans? I would also love to see what your go-to recipe is: if you had to live on only one recipe, what would it be? What is one recipe every vegan should try? What is one ingredient you always have in your kitchen?

I would love to read your stories and discover your recipes, but I would also love to share them here, on my blog. Here are a few guidelines: your post should be maximum 350 words, and include at least 1 picture. Make sure you include your blog’s name if you have one, and if you don’t, well don’t worry about it! I would love to start posting your posts next week, so get on writing!

If you are interested in participating, send me a message using the contact form, and I’ll get back to you! I can’t wait to read your posts!

 

Because Outer Happiness is pretty great!

A few days ago, I contacted Outer Happiness, an Montreal-based Etsy store specialized in vegan body products like bath salts, body scrubs, masks and even candles. The products looked really cute, and the scent combinations sounded amazing! Marina, the shop owner, was kind enough to give me a few samples to try out: how exciting!

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I took advantage of the rainy week-end to pamper myself. It is so important to take a break from time to time and just take care of ourselves! The first product I tried out was the white tea and ginger revitalizing boy scrub.

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Now, I have to tell you the smell of this is INCREDIBLE! The ginger makes this scrub super energizing and fresh. Made with Himalayan and Dead Sea salts, this is a perfect body scrub as it is quite chunky. Enriched with vitamin E, avocado oil and almond oil, it is also super hydrating and soothing to the skin. It left it smooth and so soft!

After that amazing scrub, I relaxed a bit with a strawberries and champagne bath. Doesn’t this sound amazing? Well it was!

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The smell of this is wonderful: you feel like you are bathing in a giant strawberry candy! Made with Epsom salt and bicarbonate of soda, this bath salt is super detoxifying and relaxing. I felt like my muscles were unclenching one by one. It was great!

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Once out of the bath, the Argan oil left my skin soft and hydrated. Plus the strawberry smell lingered too, which was fun! I can’t wait to use this salt in my bath again! It’s so great!

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If you like pampering yourself, I really encourage you to try out Outer Happiness products because they are AMAZING! The packaging is reusable and super cute, and they really make you feel like you are using luxurious products, while not breaking your bank. These little wonders are very affordable and are also helping the world be a better place as one dollar per sale goes to Save the Children. How great? I will totally be buying some of her products in the future as I think they would make perfect gifts. Marina is super friendly so don’t hesitate to get in touch with her if you have an idea for a custom order. Make sure to go check her store out! It’s amazing! And support her amazing work by liking her Facebook page. Let me know if you try out some of her products!

Ottawa Veg Fest

Today we drove off to Ottawa to go to the Ottawa Veg Fest! We had already visited the Montreal’s vegan festival last fall. I really love vegan fairs because they are the perfect opportunity for me to discover new products and to stock up on my favourites at a discounted price. Last fall, I had revamped my spice stash for next to nothing.

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Ottawa Veg Fest was a little bit smaller than Montreal’s. However, the location was more spacious and comfortable. We got to try out food from different local restaurants, and I have to say it was amazing! There seems to be a lot more going on in Ottawa and Gatineau in terms of vegan restaurants and bakeries.

Compared to Montreal’s fair, there were a lot more animal protection groups and associations than food products being presented. It was nice to see all these passionate people and to see what projects they were working on!

As for my find of the day: vegan marshmallows! I’m really excited to review these and to see how they compare to the traditional version. Rice-crispy treat here I come! Let me know what your town’s vegan fest is like or if you attended Ottawa’s veg fest!

 

A few tips for vegans… and other humans!

In the last few days I have looked at different things I do in order to save time, be happier and generally make my life easier. I hope these tips will help you out too!

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  1. Keep your space positive: I feel that as a vegan it is very easy to get overwhelmed by negativity: videos/articles/pictures of animal suffering filling your digital space; people criticizing and judging your decisions and looking at your everyday choices like if it were their business; and even self-doubt sometimes.
    • I became vegan because I love animals, and I do not want to passively or actively participate in their suffering. Seeing animal cruelty videos does not reinforce this resolve: it makes me sick, sad and depressed. I’m not saying that this type of information is not relevant. A lot of vegans made their choice after being exposed to such information, and people should know what it going on. But in my case, the images stay in my brain and create a negative blur that prevents me from focusing, creating and feel good. So, I have taken the habit of systematically blocking groups that diffuse this type of information. It doesn’t mean that I don’t see any of it, but a lot less. I prefer to focus on the positive things about being a vegan.

    • With time, I found out that trying to justify my veganism was not a good strategy when faced with people ignorantly and aggressively judging it. When faced with such situations (and it happens), I usually say that being vegan is my personal choice, that each person is different and that this suits me. The discussion usually ends there because I try not to fuel the deb20141231_182853ate. Over time, I find that this strategy and being a positive example of a healthy vegan helps people not feel threatened and encourages them to be curious, in a more respectful way.
    • Self-doubt is normal! I find that every time I do anything, from changing coat to becoming vegan, a fair amount of self-doubt is involved. And it’s healthy too! Without self-doubt, how could we evolve? When this feeling is pulling me down, I look at my cat and think of all the reasons why I became vegan in the first place. This usually does the trick!
  2. Take the time to meal plan: Sitting down with my cook books once a week and selecting recipes that I want to try out has two advantages:
    • I get to really use my cookbooks. It also keeps the meals interesting as I try out new recipes regularly.
    • I make a shopping list with only what I need for the week. Like this, I avoid over-buying and waste.
  3. Buy legumes in bulk and dry: This is less expensive, and it usually involves less packaging: good for your wallet and the planet!

  4. Prepare legumes ahead: As a vegan, a good portion of my proteins comes from legumes. A good idea is to mix a variety of dried legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas for example) in a big bowl and let them soak overnight before cooking them for an hour or so. It is important to mix them to make sure you have the full spectrum of amino acids everyday: each legume type usually contains only a partial number of amino acids. By combining them you have a greater variety of amino acids which makes your body happy! I store a big batch of these in the fridge so that I can add them to everything all week long.

I hope these are helpful! Let me know if you have tips of your own: I’m always on the lookout for ways to make my life easier!

3 books every (vegan) bookshelf should have

I’m not going to lie here; I am totally a book hoarder. We had to buy a bookshelf for our kitchen area because we were overflowed with cooking and gardening books.

As an excuse, I’ll say that every time I am curious about something, I usually end up buying a book on it. Which is good right?

When I contemplated going vegan, I bought many books and read them with a lot of interest. Over time I accumulated quite a lot of recipe books and also more “veganism theory” books. However, if I had to throw all my books away, and only keep three on this subject (oh dear! How awful would that be!), here are the volumes I would keep.

  1. Vegan for Her or Vegan for Life (oh my, I already start cheating and give you two books instead of just one!) – This book is great if you are considering going vegan because it will give you all the information you need on how to properly nourish yourself without creating imbalances. Vegan for Life is more general and tackles children, women, men and old age, whereas Vegan for Her is specific to women and goes through the different phases of a woman’s life. And yes, protein will be addressed… IMG_2071.JPG
  2. The China Study – If you are interested in looking at health benefits of veganism, and love statistics and tables, this book will satisfy your thirst for information. I also like that they included sample meal plans and recipes too. And, this book is mentioned almost everywhere in the vegan world, so you might as well go back to the source. IMG_2073.JPG
  3. Isa Does It – This book is packed with great recipes for all meals and occasions. The flavours are unique and varied. However, what I like most about this book is that the recipes are full-proofed and very easy to make: the ingredients are clear and accessible, and the steps are very well explained. If you wanted to invest in only one cooking book, this would be the one I’d recommend. IMG_2068

I hope this will help you make your trip to your local library or bookstore easier and clearer. I remember being stuck in front of tons of books without really knowing which one was best. As a result, I ended up buying way more than what I needed at the time. Seriously, I think these three are a great place to start and should keep you busy for a few months!

Let me know if you have other suggestions!

Family Friendly Daddy Blog- Featuring me!

I can’t believe how exciting this is! Seriously, totally changing my views on today: it’s also parent-teacher night, and as a teacher, those are quite exhausting especially after a full day of teaching: 12 hour workday, here I come!

Me inside today!

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon Family Friendly Daddy Blog which is a very nice and happy place where a dad shares tips and tricks, thoughts and stories about being a dad, vegan, and many other fun things (movie reviews are really useful!). The particular post that hooked me in was a call for submissions.

So I wrote a post and sent pictures, and I’m featured! Please go check it out as this article tells you a little bit more about my vegan journey now that it is past my 2 year milestone.

Enjoy! 🙂

 

 

Montreal Vegan Fest

So yesterday was the Montreal Vegan Festival. Needless to say, I was really excited and had spent last week planning which conferences I wanted to go to, which stands I really wanted to go spend my money at, and what cooking demos I wanted to watch. I had planned to go with my friend La Végé d’à Côté, and we were just really excited about this!

Well, I didn't have enough energy to wait for his cooking demo, but it was nice to see the Vegan Black Metal Chef!

Well, I didn’t have enough energy to wait for his cooking demo, but it was nice to see the Vegan Black Metal Chef!

And then reality caught up with me.

As a teacher, there are several week-ends in the school year when you just want to curl up in your bed and disappear until report cards are far, far away. This week-end was one of those week-end. After correcting my last projects for the term until 12.30am on Friday, I still had to compile all the grades and finish everything so that all my 192 students would have grades in their report card to fuss about. So, I was late for the Vegan Fest which was a bummer because as I was quick-walking my way to the Marché Bonsecours, I was thinking that I had already missed the one cooking demo that I was really excited about: The Frangipane- Ginger Pie with Véronique Saint-Pierre (Rose Madeleine).

And then I got there… as 10 000 other people did.

There was quite a line up to get it...

There was quite a line up to get it…

At first I was a little bit overwhelmed by the crowd, but then it got me really excited and positive. Isn’t it incredible that so many people are willing to wait in line, fight for hemp bars, and spending a beautiful Saturday afternoon indoors buying vegan pastries and cakes? Yuh-yuh!

In the end, I couldn’t meet with my friend because she was in the conference room, and after waiting for an hour outside to get in, I really didn’t want to wait again to get in there. So I went around the stands two times, enjoyed a really nice almond roll from Rose Madeleine’s bakery and bought a few things. Alright, I bought a lot of stuff, but I’m very excited to review them and enjoy them! I was also a little bit overwhelmed by the crowd and did not stay for the demos.

I got the Afro Vegan cookbook, Rose Madeleine's vegan pastries book, wonderful spices from Arayuma and a free hemp bar. Exciting stuff!

I got the Afro Vegan cookbook, Rose Madeleine’s vegan pastries book, wonderful spices from Arayuma and a free hemp bar. Exciting stuff!

So, overall, this was a fun afternoon, but not what I had planned. Next year, I really hope this totally free event (amazing!) will be in a different more open place so that the lines are not such an issue. I’m really happy with my book finds and spices. So what’s your city’s vegan fest like?

Happy World Vegan Day!

November 1st is here! This means Halloween is over (snif, snif!) and World Vegan Day and Month are here!

Apparently this has been created by the UK based Vegan Society to promote and celebrate veganism. What a great idea!

So on this day, I thought it would be interesting to reflect on what I learned the past few years as a vegan. In the last few weeks,  I have been thinking a lot about what veganism meant to me, and I realized that my vision of things has changed quite a bit. So here are five things I want to share with you.

Pretty lettuces!

It’s much easier to be a vegan if you so it for the right reasons. I became vegan for ethical reasons. I did not what to hurt animals myself, and so I felt uncomfortable to ask someone else to do it for me. Also, the automation and systematical way of treating animals gave me nightmares. I did not want to be part of a system where respect of animals, individuals and the environment was missing.
I feel like have these reasons helped me keep in line better than if I had been focusing on health issues. Of course these reasons are extremely valid and relevant, but they are also easier to negotiate with your mind: Sure, ice cream has a lot of fat, but I’ll just go to the gym later!
When you start being vegan for ethical reasons, it is much more difficult to negotiate with your mind, and thus a lot easier to follow.

You do not have to justify yourself. When I first started my vegan journey, I felt like I had to justify my lunches, my protein intake and my ethics to everyone who asked me questions, and even to innocent bystanders. Not only was this process draining emotionally and mentally, it was also useless and often led to frustration. I also noticed that most people asking questions are trying to reassure themselves that a ‘conventional’ animal based diet is the best diet. Because of this, dialogue and healthy discussions are often out of the question. I soon realized that the best answer to all types of questions is simple to say that it is a personal choice. More often than not, when faced with this answer, people who were looking for reassurance are reassured, and the others feel like they can keep up the discussion. Way easier than to explain that there are proteins in the plant world!

Cravings and slip ups are usually there because you are out of balance. Yes cravings and slip ups are part of the way. Are they something terrible to look down on? Not really! This is a journey, and there will be moments where you feel like going back. Often though, I find that when I am craving omelets or butter, I’m really just craving the feelings associated with these foods or I’m just plain hungry. As time goes by, I found dupes for most of my cravings and built confidence to stay on track. Cut yourself some slack, and be patient!

It’s important to step back and to have fun with veganism. I find that sometimes, especially when I am busy, it is easy to go through meal planing in a mechanical way and play things like: cold tofu with rice and kale. Very exciting, I know! Or soups for three weeks in a row (I’m so glad the last batch I made is gone!)… Of course there are moments when being in the kitchen is a chore. In these moments, I like to step back a little and see how I can make regular dishes more fun. I like to buy one extra ingredient that I don’t know a lot about and try to incorporate it. The last addition: cranberries! They can make the simplest dish exciting and fun again!

Preach through example. Finally, if you feel like more people should join the vegan movement, the best thing you can do is to harass them by criticizing their lunches, their weight and health issues… or maybe, just show them how happy and healthy your are with your new way of living.

I hope these thoughts were relevant and helped you through your vegan transitions. What are some thoughts you have on veganism? Let me know! 🙂

Quick Tip: Making it easy!

I decided it would be good for me to track down all the things I eat in a day to make sure that I get enough nutrients, protein, calcium, etc…

After just one day of doing so, I was surprised and chocked to see that my raw vegetable and fruit consumption was very low. I mean, we do it a lot of vegetables in the form of soups and stir fry, but raw, not so much. Clearly, this had to be changed!

By thinking about it a few minutes, we realized that this was mainly laziness: we did not like to spend extra minutes on peeling, cutting, packing raw vegetables for our lunches. This usually meant that we also wasted a lot of the food we bought because it just got pushed to the back of the fridge (yup, we got a couple of walking eggplants and lettuce heads in the past…) Now that the problem was identified, it was easy to resolve!

So here is a quick tip to make sure you grab at least a handful of raw vegetables every day!

Instead of cutting your vegetables everyday, multiple times a day, it is possible to cut your vegetables up to five days in advance and still preserve their nutritional value.

Of course, the cutting will lead to some loss, about 10-25% of the vitamin C will be gone after 5 days.However, it is also after this amount of time that the vegetables will look bad, and you should throw them out. Another thing to consider is that you limit the loss of nutrients by cutting the vegetables in large pieces.

Avoid shredding, and you will maximize the amount of nutrients that stay in your veggies!

Finally, you want to make sure you keep your vegetable in air-tight containers to help keep them fresh.

So, we had a blast of a vegetable cutting party where bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, zucchini, and celery got cut into little pieces! Stored them into mason jars, and they are ready to go! We cut enough for 3 days, just to make sure that the veggies stayed fresh and good.

This makes it a lot easier to grad vegetables, which is great! We have been doing this for a few months now, and it really helps eating more fresh vegetables. Our wallet is also very happy because everything that is in the fridge gets eaten. Hooray!