4th Totally Fabulous Vegan Bake-Off – I was there, were you?

  I’ve been waiting for this day since the last totally fabulous vegan bake-off in October of 2010, the 4th Totally Fabulous Vegan Bake-Off. This time, with my delightful co-pilot, JC. I was at a volunteer orientation for Social Media Week Toronto at the Entrinsic Office immediately before the bake-off event was to start, so I got there much later than I wanted to and we saw this: Crazy lines are the price of success I guess! On the plus side, my concerns of not being able to find the place were unfounded. There is nothing like walking down Bathurst from the TTC station and seeing a huge line, and just knowing that it was because of the Vegan bake-off. Once we got in, there were several categories, but many of them were already sold out (like the Professionally Crafted Vegan Classics (no surprise there!), Cupcakes/tarts/pastries, and cookies) but we did get two plates of Gluten-free treats – regular and chocolate based, the decadent raw sweets, and vegan bars. We started with the plate of general gluten free sweets. First thing I noticed – I didn’t notice a missing gluten flavour in any of them. You’ve come a long way gluten free baby, keep up the good flavours. Gluten-Free Sweets 30. Brown Bag Donuts 31. Half-Moon Spectaculars! 32. Morning Glory… That is my story…. 33. Strawberry Coconut Tart 34. Too Die for Coconut-y Carob Banana Balls I think the Half Moon Spectaculars were easily my favourites, and then looking closer, I…

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Date Night at Hogtown Vegan

JC and I went to Hogtown Vegan for dinner on Tuesday. Now I feel as though I have to take everything negative I’ve ever said about them back. But no, my thoughts were valid at the time, but the improvements are substantial from the last time I was there. Our server was friendly, upbeat, and helpful. We were well watered, and boozed (since they are now licensed to serve alcohol). We started with the Fries Supremacy since even when I didn’t like the atmosphere at Hogtown Vegan, I still liked those fries. That still applies. But this time they were even better. The fries were still shoe string just not too thin, with housemade cheese sauce, cashew sour cream, and sliced up green onions. We also ordered the The Big Hog, which somehow reminded me of a Big Mac (since that was the intention) but without being gross. Two thick veggie patties, with melted daiya cheese, lettuce, pickles, and House Mayo. All on a sesame seed bun. Huge, flavourful, delicious. And did I mention huge?  Huge.  Paired with a side of french fries, it was perfect. Then it was time to switch plates. We had also ordered the Southern Combo, with two breaded spears of soy chicken, garlicky collard greens and a bit of macaroni and cheese. It was okay, but the Big Hog was the clear winner at dinner. A friend had recommended the fried apple pie, and since we were going for nostalgia anyway, we ordered it. It came with…

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Social Winning and Sew Much Better.

As I mentioned, yesterday I was playing with the idea of signing up for a sewing class. There is no avoiding it now, I’ve put down a deposit, and next week I’ll be there. Now I have to find some supplies before the class (or if I can’t/don’t find them, I can get everything I need at TheWorkroom. But that just seems too easy.) This seems like a great opportunity and excuse to explore the Fashion District (that we live so very close to) and find fabric I could imagine myself sleeping on (we’re going to be sewing a pillow cover!) Materials List 1/2 yard (1/2 metre) of fabric at least 45″ wide (recommended choices: cotton canvas, linen, wool, dupioni silk, denim, ultra suede, and upholstery fabric.) For ethical reasons I’ll be skipping the wool, silk and suede, but everything else is fair game. a spool of matching all-purpose thread 16″ square pillow form Other than just picking everything up at The Workroom, I might try to find some smaller stores around the city to visit. Like Sew Sisters, which is a quilting store far far away in north Toronto (Downsview TTC station – oh my!) Or Designer Fabrics (1360 Queen St W) right on Queen West. Being a fabric shopping newbie, I looked for advice and direction from Toronto Bloggers, finding a post about Designer Fabrics on little House blog and I found an inspirational blog from a biomedical engineer with some lovely projects on it: Sewing in Toronto. In the…

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Lazy Weekends and Crazy Plans.

We rented a zipcar and went out to Mississauga yesterday. It’s a sprawling suburb outside of Toronto, full of giant box stores, residential areas, and as I found out, a surprisingly great restaurant. We went to Heartland for shopping, it’s a massive commons area, and pretty overwhelming after getting accustomed to the density of Toronto. But near this shopping centre extravaganza, there is Cholan, a vegan friendly East Indian restaurant. Complete with various dosas, soups, curries, and papadams. We left absolutely full, happy, and for a great price. I would definitely go back again (and I’m pretty sure JC agrees with me!) I’m playing around with the idea of sewing my own wedding dress. I realize this is probably misguided, and absurd, and considering I have next to no skill in sewing with a machine, unlikely. But, and of course there is a but, I like a challenge, I like learning new things, and taking sewing lessons isn’t the worst idea I’ve ever had. It’s not like I’m the only one (like Melissa Fehr from Fehr Trade, Lisa Welge now Bardot from Lisa Welge Photography, and various other crafty people). JC and I live near the Parkdale neighbourhood in Toronto – conveniently, there is a studio called The Workroom, which offers sewing, quilting, and crafting classes (here is a pdf for this month) right in the neighbourhood. I will start small with Sewing Machine Essentials. It’s a minimal investment both in cost ($55) and time (3hrs). I’ll be honest, I’m…

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Tuesday Tasty Treats – Savory Mini Polenta Pies.

Oh Tuesday, I’d say it was my favourite day of the week, but I feel that way nearly everyday. What tasty baked item is going to appear out of my oven today? My premise, for Tuesday is still to bake something, and make sure it’s tasty, and treat sized. Well, after the pie making fun of this weekend, I really wanted to do it more, but with something savory. And something smaller than a whole pie. Well, I took stock of the vegetables I had left over from the weekend’s Thanksgiving extravaganza, realized I had used up all of my unbleached flour, and decided to make savory mini polenta pies. Unfortunately, about midway through the process, my camera batteries needed recharging so the rest (and it pretty obvious which are which) are taken with an iPad. I wanted it to be a little meal about the size of a cupcake. So I gathered up the eggplant, carrots, onions, garlic, celery, and mushrooms, cleaned them up, and put them together in a bowl to keep myself organized. I’ve also gotten into the habit of cutting up twice the amount of veggies in order to freeze them for later. As soon as it got cold outside, I started squirreling away odds and ends of veggies even though we have four or five grocery stores within walking/easy busing distance. Left over habits from living in Saskatoon during the winter and hibernating I suppose. I took all the corn meal I had left (which…

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Vegan MoFo: Day 1!

Oh Vegan Mofo. Every year I start strong (or maybe just with the best intentions of starting strong), and lose energy right in the middle of the month. But then, I post a bunch during the last week. I’m aiming to do better this year. October is a big month of food here, it’s harvest and apple picking season, Canadians (like me) celebrate thanksgiving, and all sorts of autumn events are happening this month. This time around I’ve opted to do a themed day to keep myself motivated, and keep things fun in the kitchen. Hopefully it’ll stick. I’m also aiming to leave at least five comments on blogs every day, because I read so many blogs everyday, and sometimes I’m just too shy to say anything, but I want to break out of that habit. Starting today! My themes are (subject to change…) but I’m thinking: MoFo Monday – where I take a recipe I find from a fellow MoFo’er (or more) and make it at home. Terrific Tuesday Tasty Treats – Baked tasty treats! How can I go wrong? I can’t! Gluten Free Hump Day every Wednesday – I will be recipe testing a gluten free cookbook this month (and probably November) and experimenting with gluten free baking, so I’ll be sharing the process (but not the recipes!) Things I love Thursday – I make a list of things I love every week on Thursday, but I rarely share it publicly, but I think it would be nice to…

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Conscious Food Festival

I went to check out the Conscious Food Festival this weekend. I didn’t go last year, but the reviews generally complained of a lack of non alcoholic options and minimal vegan options. This year, it seemed to have something for everyone (alcohovore, herbivore, omnivore, or whatever.) There were options from restaurants and local breweries, presentations by local chefs at the Conscious Food School, as well as a Conscious Food Battleground where chefs went head to head with different challenges. Chefs Darren Stoute & Shawn Lane of Stoute Catering offered a local stuffed field tomato dish. I was waiting for some kind of obscure non vegan item in the tomato, but was happy to hear there wasn’t anything weird in it. The tomato dish was complex and flavourful option, stuffed with roasted root vegetables, corn, black beans and drizzled with a four herb and lime infused olive oil. Pizzeria Libretto / Enoteca Sociale showcased a crisp cucumber radish salad. I have never been to Pizzeria Libretto or Enoteca Sociale, but after that salad, I’m sincerely tempted to do so. Marben (488 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON) was showing off their versatility and partnership with The New Farm with a rich mustard based potato salad and a spicy red gazpacho. This was an exciting revelation for my non-vegan partner, because he’s loved that place but since it’s generally known as a meat heavy restaurant, we’ve never gone there. I spoke to one of the chefs a little further, and he mentioned it…

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The Hogtown Vegan

From the same folks that opened up Hot Beans in Kensington Market, The Hogtown Vegan (834 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON – Bloor @ Shaw) is a new vegan comfort food place near Ossington Subway station. That area is getting fantastic for vegan food options. Leaving Ossington Subway you have a choice of going right or left at Bloor Street, and either way you’ll get a decent vegan option within a block or two (Hogtown Vegan or Nazareth Ethiopian or heck… even Disgraceland.) I’ve been to The Hogtown Vegan twice in the last month, and I really wanted to like this place. Other than it’s lovely veganness, it’s got a lot of things going for it. A sit down restaurant within walking distance from my home that serves North American style cuisine? What’s not to love? Well, there is stuff not to love. But there is also lots of stuff to love. The first time we went in, the service was great. I’ve seen the same server at Hot Beans, and she’s always been friendly and helpful. It was another one of Toronto’s hot hot hot days, and they didn’t have the air conditioner running (yet.) Overall I felt hot and probably drained three jugs of water all by myself (to her credit, our server was awesome and kept us well watered.) We started with the Hogtown Wings, which turned out to be my favourite item, on both occasions. On our first visit they were moist in the way most foods…

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E.L. Ruddy – A kitschy little place you’ll want to visit.

Inconsistent hours, no air conditioning (though there are a couple of fans) and construction blocking your every move on the way in. Sounds great right? No but really, it is great. However, the first time we tried to go to E.L. Ruddy (1371 Dundas West, Toronto, ON,) we were stopped by a big sad “CLOSED due to construction” sign. This time, I went with a friend visiting from out of town, and it was actually open. Hurrah! A friendly server welcomed us in, and we took a seat at one of the tables, each with multiple hot sauce options and an old mill pepper grinder. It was empty, except for us, but they weren’t really supposed to be open anyway since it was Monday. I have heard great things about the grilled cheese sandwich (huge amounts of twitter enthusiasm), and I’m assuming it has something to do with the in house baked bread (because daiya is daiya, but the bread is quite lovely.) Recommendations aside, I opted for a BBQ Tofu Sandwich instead. What arrived was a big sandwich with a couple of pieces of marinated tofu, sprouts, a few tomatoes and covered in a sweet salty sauce, all in a thick slices of wholewheat bread. It was tasty and filling, and I’d definitely recommend it (and I’d order it again, though probably pair it with a salad next time.) My friend ordered the huevos brunch, with salsa (which she loved), re-fried beans (which I noticed she kept adding pepper, salt, etc…

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M & B Yummy – Seriously… it’s Yummy

A week or so ago, a few friends and I went over to M & B Yummy in Parkdale (1263 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON.)  I wasn’t sure anything would beat the awesomeness of Nazareth, but I kept my mind open and my belly hungry. It’s kind of easy to miss, lacking all of the shiny look-at-me signage that seems to be appearing along Queen Street, but I don’t think it needs it.  I heard about it within weeks of arriving in Toronto, and kept hearing about it so I’m glad it was suggested. All of us ordered the “beef” vegetarian combo, and when the food arrived… I think we were all pretty shocked at the portion sizes. It’s kind of hard to figure out what each item on the plate is, but I can tell you that they were all very delicious. The beef tibs, made with tofu, were sauteed and garlicky. There were spicy dark green collard greens, a couple of lentil stews, a cabbage dish, green beans and carrots, the green salad in the middle with a light dressing and a generous helping of injera (we noticed that we’d be charged for extra pieces, but unlike the experience I have had at most ethiopian restaurants, there was more than enough injera on the plate). Then we ended our meal with one of each of the desserts from Sweets from the Earth they had left. Carrot Cake, Chocolate Cake and a piece of cheesecake.

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