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Well, I’m back! I’ve scrubbed the dirt out of all my crevices, uploaded a billion gorgeous pictures of natural beauty and human wackiness, rubbed my belly after meal upon meal of delicious vegan forest food, and now I’m finally ready to get back to city life… and update my blog!

So this is the humble kitchen, rather unassuming by day (though inviting), and positively radiant by tiki torch at night. There was always fresh fruit and whole grain breads around, and a steaming gigantic decanter of yerba mate for the lacking-in-energy camper to drink copious amounts of (4 mugs a day, anyone?)

One afternoon Star and I even discovered sushi being made! Forest sushi! It took all of 3 seconds for her to jump into the kitch and start showing off her fantastic rolling skills. There was even apparently onigiri with pickled plum being made later, which I unfortunately missed, but still… that’s damn cool.

Here’s me (on the right), grabbing some killer miso soup from The Great-Smelling Pot of Giganticness. I always had to stand on tiptoes to see what was inside!

And here’s the bounty of fresh herbs and vegetation at the right of the kitchen, which gave the food this wonderful vitality. (note to self: donate something that is green and growing in a pot next year)

The tea tent! It was this dear little spot, glowing white and smelling of herbs/the always-lit iron stove that kept the kettle boiling outside. There were teas for everything — lung cleansing, ephedra-energizing if you wanted it, lucid dreaming, even getting in a sexy mood! With agave nectar, fresh citrus to cut, ginger, books on herbs, and just a great atmosphere all around.

The fact that I could stumble down to the kitchen area, grab my colourful breakfast and realize I was munching in front of killer art like this was all part of the fun.

And E-balls! E for energy, of course. Yum, yum, yum, and I have a new appreciation for hempseeds now. Especially the crunchy black unhulled ones, they’re SO much fun to eat!

Okay, onto the plates. (every attempt I made to take night photos got thwarted, so none of the dinners got photographed, but rest assured they were pretty involved and distinctive and delicious, even moreso than the first two meals of the day. ah well.)

This was my first breakfast – note the conservative portions, before I realized I could totally take my fill from the table – morning quinoa with hempseeds, soaked/raw whole wheat granola, and spicy applesauce.

First lunch – creamy coleslaw with fresh herbs, split pea dhal, bannock, and fruit salad.

Yay, oatmeal! I loved the announcement of breakfast that morning – the whole kitchen in unison shouting “Gruuuuuuuuel!!!!!”

Oops – this is the one standout meal that sucked for me. 1 out of 21 ain’t too shabby at all, though! Another split pea dhal with much much less flavour, and saltless dry millet. Still – totally healthy.

This was way (way!) better! Quinoa with fresh oregano, vegan caesar salad, and a beautiful hearty bean and vegetable stew, with beets, wakame, squash and barley.

Most colourfullest breakfast EVER, and it tasted even better than it looked! Tahini-dressed salad, quinoa with star anise and clove, apple chutney, pickled carrots, fruit salad with papaya, pineapple, watermelon, pear, orange and honeydew, and one of those awesome E-Balls.

Maybe my favourite lunch, too – miso soup with gorgeous huge pieces of seaweed, whole juicy shitake mushrooms, roasted squash seeds and my new cracker obsession, rye Wasa.

And the last brekky – creamy rice pudding with apricots and sunflower seeds, sugarless (yet sweet) cocoa apple crumble/granola, a citrus-y salad, and a slice of dense rye with apple butter. Plus a view to totally die for…

More often than not, I skipped the smoky campfire scene and hiked a few minutes away to a secluded sunny rock with my meal to listen to mild ripples and rustling trees instead. You could have given me a half-eaten Boca burger in that setting and I would have been in foodie bliss anyway… but really, in conclusion, I got totally inspired by the spices and innovation that I saw at Om, and the dedication that the kitchen organizers had to keeping 500+ people fed and nourished all day, every day, for a whole week! For one – I’m gonna start respecting the “mere” salad a heck of a lot more, play with grains and seeds more, put tahini in more stuff (because tahini = AWESOME), and basically just focus on health and colour instead of rigidly following silly things like recipes all the time. I’ve even put it into practice at home, but that’ll have to wait for the next post. ;)

( Oh, and I wish I could have taken a picture of the meal that I helped prepare, it was my favourite of all the dinners (maybe I’m biased, but it WAS amazing). Just imagine saffron-coconut apple soup, fried bananas, truly spicy aloo gobi, and cardamom-almond rice. OMG. I weep for the lack of picture! :O )

I’m going camping in a few days. Camping at the Sumkidz Om festival for a week of community-building discussions, burlesque workshops, art jams, fire spinning, gigantic Ontarian skeeters, the smell of fresh woods, and hopefully spending a good chunk of my time in the free open-air volunteer kitchen that they have every year. Open-air and vegan, even. There’s a special meal planned for the full moon on wednesday, and the annual 1000-garlic clove firey Shanger Sauce for friday! Not to mention the actual solstice night meal… I’m pretty excited. The food runs entirely on donations by festival goers, so amidst mountains of oranges and potatoes there are always some crazy treasures like chia seeds and galangal and ume vinegar that get used in the most tasty of ways. The salads alone are a touch of exquisite!

I even made some homemade larabars to take with me for tent-munching, aren’t they adorable? :D

I can’t wait to get out of this city and get rid of a few of my less-useful ideas about the world to make a fresh clean start in the second half of the year. And I’ll for certain have copious feast photos and a few more culinary tricks up my sleeve when I get back around the 24th!

One last thing I have to post about is this beautiful burrito picnic we had a few nights ago to say goodbye to the city. Except for the chips, everything was homemade, even the whole wheat flax tortillas. The salsa was piquant and freshilicious, there was creamy cheesy cashew dip, the best guacamole I’ve ever had, refried black beans I would give my eye-teeth to get the recipe for, rice, lettuce, cilantro, lime, and little purple plums for dessert. Like kings we ate, and played guitar, and watched the park get soft and dusky to the sound of a raining fountain, bellies full of cumin and feeling no lack for anything, at least on that night.

Back in ten days!

Curiously enough, I have a habit when drinking to RUN NOT WALK to the kitchen and see if I can’t whip up something edible with blurry vision. And I usually can! Maybe it’s the challenge… and it’s certainly better than singing off-key, I should think.

My most classic preparation is some sort of seitan barfood after stumbling home. I guess 3 am and soused isn’t the best time to attempt to recreate a vegan hotdog, but I tried! It wasn’t hotdogg-y, but it was delicious, even if J was passed out like a rock by the time I set down a warm fresh chapati with a seitan-dog and all the fixins in front of him. (It made a perfect breakfast the next day, though!)

A week or two later some crepes were made, and turned out more perfectly than any sobre pancake I’ve ever attempted. The Vcon recipe is lightning-fast, delicious, and got rave vegetarian reviews (“these are even better than the kind with eggs! more flavourful and chewy!”). I did add a bit of extra oat flour, too, which gave them a nice homey touch.

Yum jam! Strawberry, blueberry, merlot, sour cherry, plus caramel sauce, cinnamon and fresh peaches.

And then last night (we all get off work on wednesday. we call it “fake saturday”), some whiskey prompted a mini-muffin adventure. What kind? Uhhhh…. banana! With blueberries! (we are also blueberry fiends, oh my yes). Use a recipe? Bah! That takes time and reading. Better to just throw some whole wheat pastry flour in a bowl with some ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, soymilk, brown rice syrup, oil and vanilla. And they TOTALLY turned out. Not too sweet, loaded with berries and banana, and perfect for munching on while playing with plastic dinosaurs and discussing 37 ways the world is an unfathomably weird place. Rarr brontasaurus rex!

There were even 3 (oops, I ate one – 2) left over the next day!

Smashed Vegan’s Warning: please please please do not attempt to drink and bake at home, unless you’re of legal age and are prepared to find a huge mess waiting for you in the morning. I don’t want to be a bad influence… :o

Well… like a lot of bloggers it seems I have to bear the news that I may not be able to keep up with commenting or even posting quite so often as before (still often – blogging gets my sillies out, and is thus very vital!). I think it’s a summer thing. Also, much MUCH drawing to be finished, books to read, hanging out to do… the usual.

Anyway, that craziness up there is natto! Weird food, but strangely delicious. It’s a fermented soybean that they eat a lot in japan, with brown rice, chopped scallion and soy sauce, and I’ve gotten kinda hooked on it. It’s full of B12, too (the absorption of which is still in debate, but I’ll take my nutrients as I get ’em).

And I tried, oh I did, to give up the oatmeal thing in the morning, but I was crazy hungry by 11 am and went screaming for banana oatmeal bread – go figure. So I’m back, but I’m switching up the flavours and it’s so much more fun this way! So far I’ve tried it with gomasio, kelp and toasted sesames (very good, savoury… completely unphotogenic though), and this morning was amazing – ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, candied ginger, dates, flax seeds and lots of perfect fresh blueberries.

Dinner number 2! Clockwise from the left, it’s leftover paratha; sliced mango and avocado; steamed kale; smoky red bean and quinoa croquettes; Vcon gazborscht; big green salad; and get this —- Aux Vivres chana masala!! P brought it from work and it’s the exact stuff they put in my favourite menu item there, the chickpea chapati wrap. It’s fatty and addictive and hee hee! We have secret restaurant food! :DD

*sexy shot of the oh-so refreshing gazborscht with homegrown cilantro*

*sexy shot of the quinoa croquettes* (recipe follows, ooh!)

Smoky Red Bean & Quinoa Croquettes (makes about 15, maybe… I’m guessing)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups cooked red quinoa
2 cups cooked red beans (or blackeyed peas)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions, diced
1 small sweet potato, diced and steamed
1/2 red pepper, diced small
1 cup spinach, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 tbsp gluten flour
2 tbsp flax meal
1 tbsp almond butter
1 tbsp Braggs or tamari
3/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
juice of 1/2 lime
1/8 tsp Liquid Smoke
2 tsps olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Mush half of the beans and leave the rest whole. In a large bowl, combine everything together along with the beans and mush with your hands until it forms a very thick paste.

2. Scoop out about a 1/3 of a cup and form it into a patty. Repeat, repeat.

3. Heat a bit of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and cook for about 4 minutes each side, or until nicely browned and slightly firm. Serve with guacamole and chips, or fresh corn, or mango.

Sorry, I just have to blog about this one meal – it was fabulous. P and I ran around our tiny kitchen and managed to concoct this feast pretty quickly, and it was so colourful and nourishing and involved more organic foods than ever! Clockwise from the rice, it’s Rice Pilaf with Dates and Almonds from the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home; steamed kale, yellow zucchini and purple beans (that turned green once cooked but were positively eggplant-coloured before); sprouts as always; fresh dill dressing for a green salad of organic spinach, cucumber and peppers; Vcon shredded parsnip and beet salad, and Vcon tangerine tofu. She’s inspiring me, to say the least. :D

And the best parts were leftover in copious amounts the next day (I love how full of yum our fridge is right now). The rice pilaf and the beet salad were sooooooo freaking good. Best breakfast ever!

Speaking of which, I’ve decided with the change in the seasons and the opportunity to try more creative food than ever to drop my oatmeal habit and start eating what my body wants me to eat in the morning. I’m even getting on the raw train (aaaah, it actually happened!). I’m figuring more grains, more cold food, more oil and less (no) refined sugar. I used to be afraid that lightening up my eating would make me float right off the face of the earth (spacey? me? noooo…..), but I figure with a good basis in cooked ‘heavy’ food like rice and root veg and beans I can make the rest of everything else fresh-off-the-vine tasty. I’m gonna look into my LifeFood Recipe Book today!

Just a quick update, a couple photos that have been on the computer for a few days…

In retrospect I think this was turnip, but the mashed rutabaga recipe from Vcon was nonetheless amazing, especially with corn (lime, coconut + corn? yes!)

And I’m really not exaggerating when I say this is my favourite tofu marinade yet – it’s a Swell Vegan tester recipe for maple-mustard-chili tofu, and it’s awesome. The salad paled in comparison, and the second half of the batch got eaten straight up, with glee, much like a plate of chicken nuggets of yore or something. Total make-again recipe!

And more pizza! I’m pizza-obsessed! J says I’m also crust-bubble obsessed, but he’s quite allowed to say that because… I am. This is only my favourite crust-bubble, and there were many, each with a photo… I am a nerd. :D

And J is still staying with us, and my new roommate is a kitchen-goddess in her own right and works at the best vegan restaurant in the city, so we’ve been collaborating on dinners! Her own component of a brown rice macro bowl was so delicious there wasn’t a speck of leftovers to take a photo of the next day (imagine perfectly cooked rice, confetti-bright vegetables and toasted sesames everywhere), but there was a little bit of my curry around for lunch the next day, so here it is. Aloo paratha, gajar salad, lentil sprouts and a really nice katirikka rasavangi (south indian eggplant curry). I think I might explore this south indian thing a bit more, I’m adoring the heat and the coconut.

And woo! Blackberry-lemon verbena sorbet success! I don’t have an ice cream maker, so I had to nurse this stuff over the course of a few days, stirring it constantly and waiting for my wonky freezer to make it scoopable (I also had to add a bunch of water to help with the freezing, but I was really happy to do that, it was a little sweet in the beginning). Anyway, I’m totally hooked on this sorbet thing! It’s so refreshing, and the herbal bit was transcendant. I’m thinking of trying vegan addict’s Black Hole Sorbet next – it looks sooo decadent. yum!

Moving day this weekend. And moving day again, and again and again… my two best guy friends J and W moving to different apartments and a new roommate for me. It’s been change! And a lot of fun, actually, even though I’m pretty sure my arms have doubled in size due to a constant and unending parade of boxes and audio equipment.

There’s my man J, taking a well deserved break (silly man was so excited to move that he didn’t sleep the night before and became Zombie J of the Wobbly Muscles). Note the wrought iron and the heavy-ass keyboard cases that evidently weigh about as much as 13 me’s. (what, 1.3 tonnes?? okay….!)

You know what eases all this pain though? Vegan ice creamables. Well, not ice cream, and I admit I gazed longingly at the green tea gelato, but opted for the best of the options available to me, which was a nice mix of mango and strawberry sorbert. I’ve had better sorbet (namely, stuff that has flavour beyond “sweet and vaguely fruity”, but still, the treat was super nice.

And then when all was finally done (okay, when the guys were done moving at least) we felt this huge empanada craving, so we headed to La Chilenita on St. Laurent ave, which does this otherworldy good Chilean food. I got the burrito grande, which I (eloquently) described later as “melt-in-your-mouth-face-stuffy”. Everything I was craving and more.

I don’t remember precisely what was in here, but I think this bad picture might refresh my memory… okay, Chilean black beans, slurpy sweet onions, rice, avocado, spicy red sauce, and YES YES TOFU! Not to mention multiple hot sauces on the side for slathering, which was particularly awesome because on the way to this place I specifically wished for rice in a burrito with multiple hot sauces on the side. There must have been restaurant fairies in the air.

Not vegan, but pretty funny — J couldn’t decide which nacho was the most ultimate of nachos worthy of becoming his last bite, and the competition between the two chips got a little out of hand, becoming what I can only describe as Mount Nachos (or alternatively, they kinda look like boobs).

(the one on the left-hand side was declared the unequivocal winner, by the way)

After the dust settled J stayed with me for a few nights before his own plans got worked out, and I took the opportunity to get some real food into his system. Can I mention here that getting food on the table is a whole ‘nother world compared to all-day creative culinary noodling? I thought I did okay here, though. I made Vwav braised cauliflower with 3-seed sauce, chickpea cutlets curry-style (cumin, cayenne, turmeric, lime juice and cilantro), and some peas, for the green factor.

And then a mess of vcon brooklyn macaroni salad, which disappeared over the course of today, amidst a lot of slurping and crunching and digging into tupperware containers. No radish to be had, but I think I prefer it this way with red pepper and scallion instead!

Finally, my new roommate P showed up and we helped her with her own load of boxes, and an offhand suggestion of brownies to commemorate the occasion got followed by the fastest baked good I think I’ve ever thrown together – a nice half-batch of Vcon blueberry brownies. And I think you can tell that patience was none of our virtues and warm gooey blue choco-cakeness was needed in our mouths, and who needs tidy edges anyway? For some crazy reason blueberries and chocolate marry like epic lovers here. I’d ask “who knew?”, but obviously a lot of people did. I’m just super glad I’m in on it now.

Weeeeeeeeeeeeee! Okay, now I sleep forever, and ever and ever and always. Except not, because I’m up tomorrow at 6 for school. But shhh! There’s brownies for breakfast. And that makes everything very OK. :)