Friday, December 19, 2008


Noel Nog

For me, this beverage doesn't have to be too thick or too sweet - a spiced milk with a slightly yellow hue suits me just fine. And personally, I like it best warmed. The coconut milk is an option for those wanting a richer milk (but then you should really use the greater amount of syrup), the booze an option for those who dig it.

4 cups almond milk (unsweetened pref. - soymilk will also do if you like and tolerate it)
1/2 cup coconut milk (optional)
2-3 tbsp. maple syrup (to taste)
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/3 cup (or so) brandy or rum (optional)

Pour the almond and coconut milks in a small saucepan and heat on medium-low. Whisk the syrup and spices together in a small bowl, until no clumps remain. Add the spice mixture to the saucepan and simmer for about 4 minutes, never allowing it to come to a boil as the milk may separate. If you want smooth velvety drink, pass the liquid through a fine mesh strainer (otherwise just leave it - some spice "grit" will settle at the bottom of each glass, but you can call it 'rustic nog'). Mix in your alcohol of choice if you fancy. Serve warm (nontraditional) or transfer to a jar and chill in the fridge for one hour before serving cold.
Makes 4 servings.

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Simple Feasting Recipes

If I offer you two simple recipes that would make flavourful and nourishing additions to your holiday table, featuring locally-sourced produce, would you forgive me for the lack of photographs?

Simple n' Smooth Squash Soup

I love the subtlety of the flavours in this soup - not too much spice so that the squash can shine though. And there's just enough coconut milk in there to make it creemy, but not too rich.
1 medium-large butternut squash, roasted
1 tbsp. non-hydrogenated coconut oil or olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 large or 4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. freshly grated ginger root
1-2 tsp. ground cardamom
1-2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1-2 tsp. ground turmeric
1-2 tsp. sea salt
3/4 - 1 cup coconut milk (or 1 can 'lite' coconut milk)
3 1/2 - 4 1/2 cups filtered water

Scoop the soft, roasted squash flesh out of its skin and set aside (discarding the skin).
Heat the oil over medium in a large soup pot. Toss in the onions and stir, cooking for about 5 minutes, until they begin to soften. Throw in the garlic, ginger and other spices (weighting each one as your taste buds dictate - and if you want this to be a curried soup, throw in a tsp each of ground cumin and coriander, too). Stir to evenly distribute the spices and make sure nothing's sticking to the bottom of the pot (if it is though, a splash of water and/or a slight adjustment of the heat should do the trick). A few more minutes in (everything should be lovely and fragrant), add the roasted squash, salt, coconut milk and about half the water. Bust out your hand blender and move it around in that soup pot till everything is nice and smooth (if you don't have an immersion blender, you should - but until then, you can carefully portion the soup out into a blender or food processor and give it a whirl in there, then return to the pot to reheat). Mix in the rest of the water (to reach desired consistency and serve - maybe over fresh baby spinach or steamed kale, and maybe topped with lightly toasted and salted pumpkin seeds.
Makes about 8 servings.

Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

They make these at my work (though I'm not positive the ratio's the same), and it's hard to resist ordering them every day I'm there! Even people who've always thought they didn't like Brussels sprouts (which are fantastic for your liver, by the way) should give these a try. Note: Brussels sprouts are in the "clean thirteen" meaning even if they're not organic, they're not so heavily sprayed.
25 or so Brussels sprouts (all about ping pong ball-sized)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. filtered water
1/2 tsp. sea salt (or to taste)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350oF.
Trim the ends and any funky bits off the Brussels sprouts and place in a baking dish that fits 'em all in one cozy layer. Drizzle evenly with the balsamic, oil and water, cover (with a lid or tin foil) and bake for 30 minutes. Remove them from the oven, sprinkle on the salt, stir to coat in the brown juices, and return to the oven uncovered for another 20 minutes or so (checking and stirring after ten minutes, adding another splash of water if they're drying out), until they are tender right the way through. Season with pepper, and serve hot.
Makes about 3-4 servings. (I ate 'em out of a little dish just as you see here for dinner tonight.)

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Exciting news (turns into shameless self-promotion)!

What a thrill to wake-up this morning and find an e-mail notifying me that Get It Ripe has won a Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best Vegetarian Book in Canada, 2008!
(This also puts it in the running for the Best Vegetarian Book in the World, but we won't hear about that till next May.)

If you don't have a copy of the book yet, you really have no excuse now not to get your hands on one. Do you realize how many opportunities you have to buy it online? My preference would be that you take your business to these guys (over the big online booksellers):
* Arsenal Pulp
* Herbivore
* Powell's Books
* Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe
(And if you already have the book, it'd be great if you posted a review on these sites.)

Want an autographed copy to arrive before Christmas/Hanukkah? No problem! I'll be honest, it's not the cheapest option (postage! postage!), but I'm happy to do it - just e-mail me ( for deets.

Okay, the shameless self-promotion will take a different turn now - I wanted to let you know I've been on the radio twice in the past wee while, and you can here the interviews online:
* Vegan Radio
* CKUT Montreal

In both cases, there's something you have the option to skip over at the beginning. On Vegan Radio I'm the second interview in, and on CKUT there's a longish song at the beginning that has no relation to the interview. Enjoy!


Monday, December 08, 2008

Wholesome Holiday Feasts

I gave a lecture on this topic at The Big Carrot here in Toronto last week, but as most if not all of you who read my blog were not there, you get your own special web version.

You might have read this in Get It Ripe, but I first became vegan in late fall of 2000 when I was living on a small farm in Nova Scotia. And when I came home for Christmas that year, my family wasn't quite sure what they could feed me. Christmas dinner itself that year was hosted by my step-grandparents in Mississauga (west suburbs of Toronto, for those of you not too familiar with Ontario geography) and my step-grandmother, Sheila, was thrilled to be able to offer my dairy-egg-and-meat-free-self a portobello soup she had prepared as everyone's first course. I hungrily polished off three bowls while everyone else was digging in to plates of turkey and gravy, and after dinner I asked Sheila for the recipe. She began to describe: "You start with some chicken stock...." I was horrified, kicking myself for not being more thorough in my initial ingredient investigation.

...And my dietary needs have only gotten finickier since then, so I know about the challenges of eating in social situations, which is why I thought you might need a guide, too.

To start, let's talk about food choices and how to plan an awesome holiday feast.

Any well-balanced meal requires:
* Greens: Raw or lightly steamed, dark green veggies (kale, collards, broccoli, spinach, chard, etc) give you vital nutrients and freshness in an otherwise often heavy meal.
* Colour: The more naturally varied the rainbow is, the more micronutrients you're getting out of your meal.
* Something raw: Living foods put some important nutrients and enzymes into the mix to aid digestion and assimilation. Your whole meal doesn't have to be raw, but something raw - a salad, some sprouts on top of roasted veggies or soup, some raw veggies with dip - would be good.
* Protein: Vegetarians and vegans often load up on starch-heavy foods when in the company of meat eaters. Getting some legumes or other more concentrated sources of protein (nuts, seeds, more proteinous grains like quinoa and millet) will help satisfy and ground you, and keep you from gorging on too many desserts!

Specific considerations for vegetarian and vegans:
* Choose hearty flavours: roasted vegetables (Maple Roasted Roots!), mushrooms, sweet potatoes, etc.
* Make your own gravy: Get It Ripe's got great recipes for cashew and miso gravies, and at least one of my zines has one for rosemary mushroom gravy. (If you're dining elsewhere, it easy to make in advance and ask your host for a little saucepan to heat it up when you arrive.)
* Protein (yup, again): may be as simple as a cooked green lentils with onions and spices or herbs that compliment the meal, some pesto'ed white beans, chipotle black-eyed peas, or marinated and grilled tempeh.
* For pie crusts: use non-hydrogenated coconut oil in lieu of butter or lard.

And of course you know Get It Ripe's all wheat-free, and got lots of gluten-free, sugar-free, soy-free and nightshade-free recipes that are sure to impress you and your guests should you need 'em (but of course you already know that!).

Advance food prep will keep things from feeling hairy in the kitchen on your days of festivities. Choose your menu NOW (Get It Ripe Chirstmas menu ideas are on page 255; The Healthy Hedonist Holidays or Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates are other great resource) and identify:
* what will freeze for weeks (like soups, pie dough and cookie dough)
* what will keep a few days in advance (dips, gravies, confections)
* what really can only be made on the day of (baking of pies, roasting veggies)

Are you someone who gets nervous about baking? Have you watched this? It might help.

...But I would be remiss if social dynamics didn't come up in a conversation about celebrating with food, when so many of you have some sort of "alternative" diet, so let's move on to that.

Advanced warning is important no matter which shoes your standing in for your feast. If you're a guest, be sure to present your food issue(s) to your host in a positive light. Something like "Oh, if you've got some veggies roasted in a separate pan from your turkey/ham/beef, that'll be great for me," is going to be far less daunting than "I can't have this or this or this or this....". And if you compliment the host of the feast on the nutritious things they have done, they may do more next year. I was watching an episode of Gilmore Girls (yeah, yeah, laugh it up) the other day where Sookie said: "I never go anywhere without a casserole," which is certainly another way to go. Bring something that is simple to set up in someone else's kitchen ("Mind if I slide this dish of stuffed peppers/squash au gratin/shepherd's pie/lasagna in your oven to warm up?") and will satisfy you even if nothing else on your host's table does... but do bring enough to share so you don't start panicking once everyone else discovers how delicious what you made is. If you're hosting, try to plan for what your guests would like. The fewer allergenic foods you have at the table (dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts), the more inclusive you’ll be for guests that may have sensitivities!

Digestion can be compromised at a big meal, and while you may not have control over the foods available, you can choose which ones at the table you might eat (no one's forcing you to have a third roll or cover half your plate with mashed potatoes when there are greens available), the speed at which you eat them (breathe between bites!) and in which order (if food combining is your thing).

No matter what's available on the spread before you, or how obnoxious your relatives may be, focus on the lovely energy of social eating and thinking positively about food. Do not comment negatively on the food or what's available. You want to be sure to stay positive (whatever you eat will be better digested that way anyway) and not make anyone else uncomfortable (emotions can run high when it comes to food).
Also to that end, avoid discussions about WHY you're veg/vegan/what ev. Nip it in the bud with a statement like "It seems to be the diet/eating style that feels best in my body/works for best me" – if you personalize it, people won't get offended. If you're going to convert them at said feast, do it with your stunning food, not a heated debate.

And remember, unless you find yourself feasting most of the time, eating a few less nutritious meals won’t kill you. So enjoy!

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"Domestic affair... do you think it's a funny title?" I asked a friend.
"Funny ha-ha?" she responded, "well, no not really."
"But 'domestic affair', it's like what's going on in the nation, but it's also me, being drawn to all these domestic tasks - knitting, cooking, caring for small children..." I tried to explain.
"I like that it has the word affair in it," she concluded.

jae's first book!

Get It Ripe cover Have you seen my award-winning whole foods cookbook Get It Ripe: a fresh take on vegan living (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2008)? Keep your eyes peeled for it!
To join the Facebook group for the book, go here.


about the blog:

about the cookbooks:

While I love hearing from you, and read each and every one of your e-mails, please understand that I just cannot respond to all of them due to the rate at which they're coming in these days!

If you have a question, I might have already answered it here.

in the press

live in person!

come see me:
* Vida Vegan Con in Portland, OR, August 26-28, 2011.

...but better yet, check the calendar for details!



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    * Spring Cleansing
    * Warming Up to Better Digestion
    * Kick a Cold
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    * Realistic Resolutions: Developing a Wellness Plan You Can Actually Stick To
    * Grains / Wheat Alternatives
    * Vermicomposting
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