Category Archives: veggie thoughts

Baby Carrots: What I’m feeding them

My blog has been on a bit of detour while I’ve been pregnant/nursing, because I honestly haven’t really been thinking about food. I know I should have been a pillar of health consciousness, but I haven’t been. I’m human. And I like cake, and french fries, and cream cheese. So I’ve been giving myself a break and I haven’t been thinking about it.

Until now.

Now, I have two little mouths to feed and food choices are a very prickly reality that I find I need to think about. All. The. Time.

So far, my babies are these perfect little vessels that have never had meat, or dairy, or sugar, or wheat, or gluten, or gelatin, or rennet, or modified soy ingredients, or red dye #2. The task of deciding what to put into them is daunting.

I’m typing this sitting on my driveway while they sleep in the car with the windows down, so I’ll be brief. I’m going to outline what I’m feeding them now, and why, and I think I’ll make this a bit of a series as what I’m feeding them changes and develops.

But let’s start at the beginning.

I gave them brown rice cereal at 4.5 months, because my doctor suggested it might help them sleep. It did not. But I was still breastfeeding, so I figured it couldn’t hurt. I’ve since read a lot to suggest it MIGHT hurt – the WHO now recommends exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months – but what’s done is done, and my mom keeps telling me how parents used to feed babies Pablum at 6 weeks back in the day, so I’m not stressing over it. For the first few weeks I fed them brown rice cereal, pureed banana, pureed avocado and pureed poached apple. I started bringing in some pureed vegetables, oat cereal and barley cereal, and by the time they were 6 months, they were also eating sweet potato, zucchini and tentatively, toast wedges.

And all was well. No allergies, no change in behaviour, no diarrhea (although the poop changes. Oh how the poop changes…). So then I got bold and started just giving them food. Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots (all steamed), toast with coconut oil spread on it, oatmeal, vegetable soup broth. Pretty much the plain version of whatever I was eating. I know it’s not exactly baby-led weaning (just google it, takes too long to explain, and EVERYONE has an opinion on it…). I just decided not to stress over it. I’m keeping sugar to a minimum (there was some molasses in the bread I gave them), and I’m steering clear of dairy and eggs for now.

So about meat. I’m petrified of them having it. I know that it’s going to come up, but the thought of them eating dead animal will bring me to tears if I think about it too much. I don’t even think my husband knows yet how strongly I feel about it. No one’s asked me about it yet, and I know at some point in their lives I’m going to have to let go, but it saddens me, and pains me.

And that’s where we’re at. Letting go and not following a particular baby food philosophy has worked really well for us. I’m feeding them three meals a day now, but I’m not being sticky about what time it’s at. They are still breastfeeding like champs, and “food before one is just for fun” so I’m trying to keep it fun. They love to eat, they watch us eat with so much interest, and they get really excited at meal times. And that’s how I want to keep it. Interesting, fun and exciting.

More to come!

Wasn't too sure about broccoli the first time...

Wasn’t too sure about broccoli the first time…

Loves broccoli!

Loves broccoli!


The Lessons of an Epic Fail

Have I mentioned I don’t consider myself a cook or chef? I like what I know and I know what I like, and that’s about it. I play around with recipes, I experiment here or there, but my mild dyslexia when reading recipes and my mild ADD which leads to little patience often limits me.

Lately I’ve been feeling more confident. Too confident. Last Thursday I embarked on a meal that may have been a bit…ambitious.

First I made some lentils. When I cook lentils from dry, I usually cook red lentils, that turn all mushy, like a really thick gravy, and always turn out perfectly. On this particular Thursday I used brown lentils, that don’t get mushy, but I didn’t realize that and I cooked them wayyyy too long. I mean, so long they burned. Black char kind of burning.

I can't even show you what they looked like after I was done with them...

Then I started experimenting with the leftover wild rice I had on hand. “Wouldn’t it be fun,” I thought, “if I could magically turn this plain old wild rice into yummy fried rice balls? That would be amazing.” Ah, so many good intentions. I mixed the wild rice with some oats and a flax egg (ground flax and water) and tried to mush it into balls. It didn’t stick very well, so I started adding some arrowroot powder. Then I added some more. Then some more, until finally they stuck together. Then I rolled them in oat flour and fried lightly in some canola oil. You know what they tasted like? Nothing. Kind of like eating plain oats, but maybe even less flavourful than that.  It reminded me of when I used to feed my dolls oats mixed with water, so we’re talking food that I was making when I was 4.

Looks promising?

Finally, I had thrown a squash into the oven at about 7:30pm, thinking it would take about 40 minutes to bake. Apparently, I had just encountered the world’s hardest squash because it did not take 40 minutes to bake. It took 2 hours. At that point, I wasn’t even frustrated anymore, I just left it in the oven, I think The Husband threw it out the next day.

I salvaged some lentils and dressed them with olive oil and vinegar.

The Husband made an omelette.

Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you want them to.

All you can do is look at the lessons. Here are mine:

  1. Be more mindful. Did I need to leave the lentils unattended? What was I doing that was more important in the other room? I need to be more present in the tasks I’m doing.
  2. Keep it simple. This seems to be a running theme in my life. What was wrong with the wild rice that I needed to make it more complicated?
  3. There is a time and place for everything. 7:30 at night might not be the right time to start cooking a giant squash. I could’ve steamed broccoli instead, and saved the squash for the weekend. Which leads me to my final point:
  4. Planning. I am not a planner, but maybe it wouldn’t hurt to start trying to do some more planning. My schedule is so busy with work and yoga, that I find I have less time than I’m used to. A little planning might not hurt.

I took a little hiatus from cooking this weekend, which culminated in some daiya cheese nachos on Saturday evening, but I’m geared up for this week when I start my December Project (aka: Eat your heart out, Martha Stewart!). This week I am hoping to tackle gingerbread cookies.

In the meantime, I am still enjoying my weekly bin from Ottawa Organics, but I have a question: Is local better, or is organic better?! The husband thinks local is better, but I am worried about pesticides and bad growing practices. Is it okay to be eating ginger from Peru and getting hot peppers from California just because they are organic? I am torn. Let me know what you think!

What’s more important?! Local or Organic?

Have a great start to your week!


How I eat MORE now that I eat a plant-based diet

This pyramid is FULL of food. I learned to embrace (almost) all of it.

I was a picky eater as I child. Have I mentioned that before? If food wasn’t cooked, cut or served a certain way, it was NOT passing my lips. I can remember calmly sitting at the dinner table until bedtime because I refused to eat something my mom had made. I would’ve sat there until hell needed to open up a North Face due to below zero temperatures before eating something I didn’t want to eat. When I cut dairy and junk food (I had been a vegetarian for almost 10 years when this happened) out of my diet, I was left with startlingly few choices (so I thought), and so began my plant-based journey to abundant food. Here are just a few of my discoveries:

  • Whole grains are the spice of life. I didn’t know that there was more than white pasta and uncle ben’s rice. It took a few times to get quinoa and millet down (note: always rinse quinoa before you cook it, and try dry-pan frying millet before you cook it too, it gets a nutty taste this way). I was slower to warm up to brown and wild rice, but they’re a staple in my pantry now. Choosing different grains can change up a meal and add some excitement to your dinner. My next experiment will be amaranth, the journey continues!
  • Not all vegetables are created equal. There used to be a long list of vegetables that I wouldn’t go near with a 10-foot pole, but I slowly started experimenting, and now I count vegetables as my friends. After my raw-food stint of eating a salad at least once a day, I got to know vegetables really well. The trick? Organic tastes better than conventional hands down. I’m not a strict organic buyer, I look for local first and foremost, but once I cut out the junk food and my taste-buds start recovering, I definitely noticed a difference in quality produce. A tomato in January seems unappealing? It should, it’s definitely not growing naturally around here. Buy it canned instead, make a soup, and wait it out until spring. Confession: I still can’t stomach cucumbers. I know I’m crazy, but I just can’t do it. I have a goal to slowly introduce cucumbers in my juicing, like a centimetre at a time, but we’ll see…I’m scared.
  • Beans really are magical! I used to have lentils every now and then, but in the quest for a balanced diet, I realized I can put beans in almost anything.  Beans started showing up in my salads, in pasta, cooked with rice, in soup, in chilli, alone as a side, in dips and spreads. I am working on getting beans into my desserts, and the bean take-over will be complete. I often use canned beans, even though I know dried is better for me. And I know there aren’t any excuses for not putting beans out to soak at night, it takes five minutes, but honestly, I’m not yet a meal planner. I think up what we’re having for dinner about 5 minutes before I start making it. So except for lentils (which miraculously take the same amount of time to cook as pasta or quinoa and even less than rice!) I keep a couple cans of beans handy. If you’re using canned beans just make sure to rinse them really well before eating, since they tend to have a lot of sodium added.
  • Recipes can be a drag. I learned that I need to trust my gut when it comes to cooking, and while recipes can be a great starting place, food can be just as good, if not better, if you veer off the beaten path. I learned about substitutions and what can work instead of what. A potato stew can taste just as good with celery instead of fennel. Don’t be afraid to try a recipe if you don’t have all the ingredients.
  • SNACK! Don’t let hunger play a part in what (or where) you choose to eat. I travel everywhere now with tamari almonds, or raisins and cashews, or dried apricots or mangos, or a straight up apple or banana. No one makes good decisions when they are starving, so don’t let yourself go there. Also, it makes for smaller portion sizes at dinner if you don’t feel the need to inhale everything insight because you haven’t eaten since lunch.
  • Find substitutes. At first I missed cheese a lot. But really, cheese is just a fat, so I turned to my good friend the avocado. I was a bit of a guacamole addict for awhile, but it fed my craving, and once I didn’t have the craving anymore, I moved on (hummus, you rule my world).
  • Keep It Simple Stupid. I’ve learned to appreciate basic meals: beans and rice, or sweet potato and quinoa, or a straight up salad. You don’t need to get fancy in order to enjoy good food. You can be healthy, and not slave away in the kitchen for hours. Keeping it simple means that when you do treat yourself to a gourmet meal, it will be all the more special. I know, we all drool over the fancy blogs and cookbooks, and I agree gourmet cooking is an awesome treat every once in awhile, but don’t put pressure on yourself to do it every day. Enjoy a sliced avocado with lemon and salt; baby carrots, cherry tomatoes and hummus; sliced apple and almond butter; simple but delicious and filling!

My change didn’t happen overnight, but learning to listen to my body opened up a brave new world of food for me. Once the processed junk was gone, I could hear what my body wanted, and I now probably eat more varieties of food than I ever ate before.

…and I’m working on those cucumbers.

How about you? What new foods have you discovered that you never would’ve touched before (or had never heard of?)

Sarah xoxo

Vegan MoFo #20: Where do we go from here?



Well, Vegan MoFo is over, and after a month of blogging every week day (except the last 3 days, stupid work getting in the way of my blog!), I started to think about what I am going to do next.  Writing everyday can be difficult, I squeeze it into my lunch hour, swearing at my ancient computer that takes forever to upload photos. I’m not at all technologically inclined: there’s so much I’d like to do to make my blog prettier! I don’t strive to be a chef or a photographer, so neither my cooking, nor my photos are in any way above average. Over the weekend, I began to resign myself to the fact that maybe I’m just not cut out for this blogging thing.


Except…This past month I have been happier and more confident in my choices than I have since I first said “no” to the Easter lamb back in 1995. I feel like words and ideas that I didn’t even realize were building up inside me, have been flowing out. I think (I hope) that I have maybe even been able to inspire a few other people too. I have been able to vent, the share, to create, and most importantly, to vocalize what it’s like to eat differently from the mainstream.


Now, as I type this, my work colleagues are off at a Halloween pizza party, I will be joining them shortly. Last week when everyone was signing up for pizza, I decided not to. I felt the pressure to just go along with everyone else, but I also knew that I wouldn’t feel good eating pizza. I’m about to go warm up my left over chilli with vegan cornbread and daiya cheese. This is part of my journey.


So here is my promise to you, blog world. I’m in if you’re in. Who knows where this will lead me.

Here is some of what you can expect in the future:


Snacks: I’m a snacker, I love to nibble. My personal challenge is to do this healthily.

Kale chips! I'm still perfecting them, but I know I'll get there one day. Even the fails taste good.


Lunch: I work a 9-5 job, so look for lunch experiments.

A fancy lunch (trust me, they're not all like this!): Creamy kale salad, hemp seed hummus and juice pulp crackers. That is SERIOUSLY healthy.


Dinner: More Fast Food, Good Food dinners! I hope to have some more in depth dinners to share too, but if you’re like me, there’s not much time in the day for dallying.

Another curried chickpea dinner. Legumes and a salad just go so well together. Even through in a grain if you're super hungry. fast, so good.


Words: I am a writer first and foremost, so you’ll probably be hearing a lot more of my views on the world, from plant-based issues, to yoga, to just things on my mind.


Thank you for the past month, I am overwhelmed and grateful for the response to my little corner of the internet!


So many thanks,



Vegan MoFo #18: My Coffee Story

Vegan MoFoDisclaimer: There is lots of contradictory information out there about whether or not coffee will contribute to good health, and about the amounts that are safe for consumption. Since I am not a scientist, I will tell you my story and leave it up to you to experiment with what works best for your body.

 When I was 4 years old my babysitter would give me coffee. She would only fill the cup up with a drop or two, the rest was milk and sugar. But my love affair started. I loved coffee. When I was 16 I asked for a coffee maker that I kept in my room and set on an automatic timer as a way to get me out of bed in the morning. I remember my first caffeine overdose at a high school event where I’d probably had four or five cups, my heart was racing, but I was laughing and having so much fun. I felt like coffee gave me the strength to be an outgoing, life-of-the-party kind of person. In university, my roommate and I always had a full coffee pot on the warmer, and as I became snobbier about my coffee I moved to freshly ground espresso pressed in a bodum.

The first time tried to stop drinking coffee, I was floored by a 3 day headache that was unlike any headache I’d ever had before. That was the point when I thought, oh, I AM addicted to coffee! I walked around in a fog for a week, hardly being able to see anything. It didn’t take long to start drinking it again. After all, I reasoned, everyone did it. And I was really only having one or two cups a day. That was considered a safe amount by anyone’s standards.

The problem was, after that first time that I’d stopped drinking coffee, I became aware of the fact that a) I was addicted and b) coffee had a huge effect on me. I already know that if I had a coffee in the afternoon or evening, I would not be able to sleep at night (this was new, in high school and university I could drink it 24/7). Then I started noticing how fast my heart would beat after the first cup, how I would get a little sweaty and over-excited. I had a picture in my head of the grumpy morning-person who hasn’t had their first cup of coffee, but to be honest, if any approached me after my first cup I was more likely to overreact or get agitated.

Then I started doing some research. A lot of what I found said the same things we always hear, one or two cups a day shouldn’t affect your health. But it WAS affecting me. So I kept looking. I started to learn about how caffeine affects hormones (I’ve always had horrible cramps during my period) and it affects the absorption of other minerals and nutrients. I started putting the information together in a way that made sense to me. If caffeine wasn’t letting me absorb the nutrients I needed, in particular calcium, magnesium and iron and it was releasing too much estrogen, then it made sense that my period was so intense.

I made a choice last January to stop drinking coffee. Luckily I didn’t have as a bad a headache as the first time I stopped coffee. I was definitely a little foggy, and very very sleepy. I switched to green tea in the morning (which also has a bit of caffeine in it, but not nearly the same amount) and after a week or so I switched entirely to herbal teas. I allowed myself to indulge in all the herbal tea I wanted. I bought some fancy expensive teas and some medicinal teas. I dusted off my old teapot and made a ritual of boiling the water and steeping the tea. After a week or so, my energy levels rose, and I started noticing the benefits. I didn’t crash after lunch anymore. I didn’t get the cold sweats that I used to get after my second cup. I didn’t find my heart beating out of my chest. I’m still working on my menstrual issues, but I did notice that my period is shorter and more manageable (sorry if this is TMI, I’m just trying to be honest!).

In my experience, I can’t have caffeine on a daily basis. Not even as recommended by Internet doctors. If I have a piece of chocolate past 9pm I lie awake in bed well past midnight.  

I should mention that every other Sunday or so, I indulge in a decaffeinated soy latte. I will always love the taste of coffee. But my thinking has changed. If I know I have a long day ahead of me, I make sure I don’t have any caffeine, because I know that the effects will hinder me, not help me.

I know, you’re raising your eyebrows at your computer and thinking, “yeah but at least allow me this one pleasure! I eat right, I exercise, does a little coffee really hurt?!” It might not hurt you. Maybe I’m hyper-sensitive to it for some reason. But maybe it does hurt you. Maybe it is inhibiting all the good things you are doing from really having an effect. It’s like trying to put up beautiful expensive wallpaper in a house that has no walls. What is the wallpaper going to stick to? Putting organic vegan whole foods into your body but maintaining a caffeine habit could be stopping your body from actually reaping the benefits of your diet. I’m just puttin’ it out there!

Do some research, make your own decisions, and experiment with what works for you. I have been caffeinated-coffee free since January 2011, and I’ve never felt better.  

Tomorrow I will be writing to you from beautiful Niagara Falls.

Also, still no new baby in the family, C’mon little one, I promised you brownies, what more do you want?!


Vegan MoFo #15: More on Relationships

Vegan MoFoI was thinking about my Omni/Herbie relationships post. I realize that I am lucky enough to be in a relationship where my food choices are respected, but what if you’re a vegan who is not supported by your significant other? Or what if the fact that your partner eats meat around you really turns your stomach, or makes you upset? So I came up with some tips more so for those who have recently switched to a plant-based diet while in a relationship. Below are a few different scenarios and some examples of ways to deal with them – or at least ways I would deal with them. If anyone else has any suggestions or stories of how they explained it to their significant other, please share!

If you have recently changed your diet for health reasons:

Introduce your partner to some vegan athletes, like Brendan Brazier or Rip Esselstyn.  You may want to start by reading the books yourself, and pointing out any interesting facts you find. Sometimes it seems like my husband isn’t listening to me when I blabber on about cancer rates vs. milk consumption,  but every once in awhile I overhear him re-telling the same statistic to someone else, so I know it’s getting in there!

If you haven’t had the conversation yet, maybe your partner is worried that the way you are eating is not healthy, so information is key! Even if part of your reasons for eating a plant-based diet are for animal/environmental reasons, try focussing on the health first.  I know my husband relates to the health aspect more than the other reasons. For now at least.

If you have recently changed your diet for animal rights/environmental reasons:

If you have switched to a plan-based diet for these reasons, you need to make this clear to your partner as well. The most important piece of advice I can give you is to be strong and confident in your decision. Your partner may want to blow it off, or laugh about it, but you need to be clear right off the bat about what is or is not acceptable to you. Here are some lines that may help you:

“I know that this is different from how we were eating before, but now that I’ve made the connection between my food and animals, I just can’t pretend I don’t know anymore. I’m scared about this change too, but I know it is right for me.”

“I am not asking you to change the way you eat, but it makes me uncomfortable to have meat products in the house, the same way you were uncomfortable when…(using a comparison may help him/her to understand). What you eat outside of the house is up to you, but it would make me really happy if we did not have meat (or animal) products in the house.”

“Just because I have changed my diet doesn’t mean the way I feel about you has changed. I am doing this for myself, and I would really appreciate your support.”

Be kind, clear and direct. If after all this your partner is still not respecting your decision, well, you may need to do some meditating and decide if this relationship is serving you. One thing I haven’t talked about yet (I’m saving it for an upcoming post on raw food), is how changing your diet may affect your life. Eating cleanly can sometimes allow you to see things with more clarity, and this may mean recognizing when a relationship (significant other, friend, family member, teacher) is not working in your life. That’s been my experience anyway. Of course it’s more complicated than just saying sayonara to someone, I’m just sayin’ you need to respect your choices and know your limits on what you will or will not tolerate.

Next week I will be at a conference in Niagara Falls, so there will be some posts on eating well while travelling, and I’m also preparing a little something about coffee, a contentious issue I know, but one that maybe we don’t talk about enough.

Have a great weekend!


Vegan MoFo #12: How to Eat in Public

Vegan MoFo

Okay, that title is a little misleading; obviously eating in public is not hard, or something we need to be instructed on. What I want to discuss today is issues with eating healthy plant-based meals in a work-place environment that may not appreciate “healthy plant-based meals” (or know what it means!).

I will start with a conversation I overheard in the lunchroom at my work the other day:

Girl 1: I have these “thin” bagels for breakfast because they’re low fat or something, but they never fill me up enough.

Me: Yeah, for the extra 50 calories, you might as well just have a regular bagel.

Girl 2: You know what has surprisingly good ingredients in it? Wonderbread. It really doesn’t have that many calories at all, and they fortify it with all sorts of nutrients.

(That’s when I left the kitchen)

Here’s another one, also overheard in the lunchroom:

Guy1: Ugh, what is that? Is that vegetables? I hate vegetables. I honestly don’t think I’ve had one in like 10 years.

And finally, the most common:

Anyone: What are you eating?

Me: It’s *enter some sort of vegan health-food dish*

Anyone: Vegan? Like no milk or cheese?

Me: Nope, no eggs either.

Anyone: So how do you get your protein? I could never give up cheese.


I know I’m not alone in being barraged with remarks like this in the workplace, or anywhere you might be sharing a meal that you’ve brought from home. It can be easy to get frustrated and annoyed (I should walk around with a pamphlet entitled “Where I Get My Protein!”) but there are a few things I like to remind myself of that I want to share with you:


1.       People love talking about food! Especially people who don’t know each other very well. Food is an easy way to bond. No matter how you eat, people will want to talk about food. I think it’s because people like to find similarities. You like tomatoes? I like tomatoes! You like sprouting chickpeas? I like sprouting chickpeas! So remind yourself that when someone starts a conversation, it might not be a judgement on how you eat, but just that you eat in general.

2.       Any opportunity to talk about why you eat this way is a good opportunity, even if it feels hostile at first. Look, I’m not going to lie to you. It doesn’t get any easier. I have no idea the percentage of herbivores vs. omnivores, but I assume it’s still pretty low. You will be asked the same questions about food over and over again, for the rest of your life. But think about the flip side of it. You might be the 3rd or 4th person the questioner has met who does not eat animal products. And maybe it will be the 10th person they meet that make it sound not so crazy. You might be a step for them, that is inevitably leading them to a more accepting place. Maybe even a place where they want to stop eating animals too!

3.       Don’t forget about preconceptions. For those who have never met a vegan before, they might have ideas in their heads that you will gag and vomit just looking at meat, and you’ll throw red-paint on their leather boots and you’ll show them pictures of animals in factory farms. Sometimes, when someone seems a bit nervous asking me about how I eat, I remind them that I ate meat once too, and that many (almost all) of the people I love in my life still eat meat. I tell them that this is right for me right now, because I have done my research and I know that I don’t need meat to be healthy, which leads to my next point.

4.       They have been told their whole life that eating meat is healthy. Think about it, we are basically running around saying that the world is round instead of flat. Most people, including doctors, nutritionists, television, smart people everywhere, believe that eating meat is healthy. Telling someone the opposite is not going to change their minds over night. It might get them thinking though.

5.       Keep bringing in food! Don’t let stares or comments stop you. Sometimes the best way to win people over is by showing them, not just telling them. As you sit around the lunch table gobbling up left-over vegan shepherd’s pie and slurping on a green juice, show them how tasty it is, how healthy you are and how easy it can be. They ask for a recipe? Give it to them! They suggest a pot-luck? Bring enough vegan shepherd’s pie for everyone!  

6.      Say nothing. I bet you didn’t see that one coming. There are some people out there that just won’t get it. They will always think that meat is the basis of a meal. They will always think you’re a crazy tree-hugger, and they will ignore any common sense argument that you can think of. These people will just never see the world the way that you do. And there’s nothing you can say to change that. Sometimes you just have to smile and walk away. Don’t take it personally. And don’t waste time being angry or sad. Read your favourite blog, pick up the latest Brendan Brazier book, and remember that you’re not crazy, and you’re not alone.

Here’s one last conversation I had a few weeks ago (I’m paraphrasing a bit, but you’ll get the idea):

T (My husband’s cousin who is now eating a plant-based diet): Just think of how many people’s lives you’ve affected by eating the way you do.

Me: Huh?

T: When we first met, I thought you were crazy, but now I don’t eat meat anymore, and I never would’ve thought that was possible until I met someone who was doing it.

Me: I had never thought of it that way, I was just doing it because it seemed like the right thing to do.

And maybe that’s the lesson. If you’re living authentically, just doing what you know is right, you affect those around you, whether you realize it or not.

Tomorrow I will get you the recipe for The Husband’s Vegan Shepherd’s Pie. He makes up his recipes, so I’m working on getting it out of his head and written down!  Here’s a teaser: