100-Year-Old Life Hacks

There are so many ways that we, as a society, could live much simpler lives. I’ve been trying to pare down my lifestyle this year. I am much more conscious of the water I use (and potentially reuse); I do not buy as many consumer goods as I used to; I check labels and try to direct my dollars to those products that are manufactured locally, or at least in North America; I tried my hand at gardening for the first time this summer; and, I’m transitioning to living a fully vegan lifestyle.

But living simple doesn’t have to include making substantial changes to the who/what/where/when/whys of your life. I saw a list posted on Facebook (I believe by George Takei) of simple and effective tips on disentangling one’s self from different life situations and after clicking on the link was charmed by the vintage artwork and delightful content. While numbers eight and ten aren’t really up my alley, I found the remaining collection of life hacks pulled from an advertisement campaign in the 1900s to be surprisingly on-target, and let out a few “aaaahaaaa’s!” while I read. I’m especially excited to try the following tips: “How to Extract a Splinter,” “How to Light a Match in the Wind,” and “How to Make a Water Filter.” 

I think there are so many things we could learn from those that came before us – here is but a small sample!

http://guff.com/100-year-old-life-hacks-that-still-work-today/how-to-make-a-water-filter

Just disregard the fact that these hints were printed by a cigarette company and keep them tucked away in the back of your mind for whenever the opportunity to try them out arises!

Eggplant, Onion, & Tomato Stew

So, remember in my other post how I treasure one-pot meals? Here is the newest one I’ve tried.

This was my first time using eggplant in a recipe, though not the first time I’ve ever had it in my kitchen. I bought an eggplant once before (this was years ago) and had NO IDEA what to do with it. Sorry to say I likely tossed it out in frustration after cutting it open and being at a loss. I wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice – not only is wasting good food a crime against nature, it’s also a crime against a person’s wallet. 

Armed with another excellent recipe from One Green Planet I arranged all my ingredients on the counter alongside my trusty cutting board and set to work. Chopping vegetables is almost meditative for me – is that weird? With music playing and the house to myself I can easily get lost in the repetitive motions of slicing and dicing. If I was a prep cook in an actual restaurant, though, I doubt the novelty would last as long. But back to the recipe! While I had to make a special effort to pick up the eggplant from the grocery store, everything else in the recipe was already on hand. I didn’t have pink Himalayansalt so I substituted kosher salt and that seemed to work just fine. I also didn’t bother with purified water – not sure if this made any kind of difference, but I was willing to take that chance. Lastly, I added extra shallots because I like them and had some leftover from a different recipe – waste not want not!

stew2

stew 

I served the stew over plain white rice with some finely ground black pepper. Yum! 

The only thing I would change? I would definitely cut the eggplant into smaller pieces, and simmer them a little longer. Some of the chunks were still a touch stringy and tough. This made me question how interested I would be in using eggplant again, but to be fair, I will try this recipe at least once more with that little revision, to give it a fair shot. Also, next time I might consider throwing in some zucchini as well, just for a little more veggie power. 

You can find the recipe here: Eggplant Onion and Tomato Stew.

 

Light Summer Saute

I am a HUGE fan of one-pot meals. If a recipe has less than ten ingredients and can be cooked in just one pan or skillet or pot, sign me up! I like the absence of dishes to do when the cooking part is over. And, since starting my transition to veganism, cooking one-pot recipes has allowed me to flex my culinary muscles just the slightest bit and broaden my taste buds, trying out some new vegetables and spices. 

This summer, I’ve been super keen on working with asparagus. I know nothing about the vegetable, and up until this year, could not describe its smell, its taste, or its texture. Then, thanks to One Green Planet’s newsletter (a wonderful source of earth-friendly stories and information) I was provided with one of my new favourite recipes: Early Summer Light Veggie Saute. If you think the name is a mouthful, wait until you taste it!

So, not only does this recipe have asparagus, it also has my new favourite veggie zucchini (which I’d also never tried before this year). And, with only nine ingredients, the recipe fits all of my criteria. The steps are so clear and easy, there was no way I could screw this up! Okay, so maybe I did just a little… I may have overcooked (or over-sauteed, if you will) the vegetables just a touch, but that wasn’t enough to diminish the fresh, light-tasting meal that resulted. The only picture I took is of the finished product, with a side of plain white rice, packed up for my lunch. Perfection! Well, it might not look like perfection – everything is a little more brown that it probably should be – but it tasted fantastic! 

Veggie Saute

 

You can find the actual recipe (and a much more attractive image of the end result) here: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-recipe/early-light-summer-veggie-saute/

Mongolie Grill

One of my favourite restaurants as a budding vegan is the very veggie-friendly eatery  Mongolie Grill.

The way that Mongolie works is simple: after offering you your choice of soup (wonton, hot & sour, or curry lentil), the server gives you a large bowl; you take your bowl up to the ingredient bar, which borders the large round cooking surface where a group of chefs are busy at work, and you fill your bowl with whatever fresh ingredients you’d like! There is so much to choose from – tons of veggies, noodles, a variety of meats, seafood, peanuts and occasionally tofu.

Next, you add scoops of whichever mixture of sauces you desire (there are about twenty different sauce options) and then a chef takes your bowl, weighs it, and stir-fries your custom meal. The stir-fry is then served to you with your choice of rices (jasmine, coconut, plain white) or, a recent addition, rice noodles. Rice wraps are also offered to you at your table. The cost of the meal is determined by weight, so if it is your first time visiting Mongolie you might want to be a little more conservative with what and how much you fill your bowl. As an added bonus, if your bowl is veggie or vegan you receive a discount!

I visited Mongolie yesterday with my good friend Lisa and in my stir-fry I had baby corn, kale, red onions, a mountain of chickpeas, pineapple, some dried cranberries, broccoli, and mushrooms. For sauces I mixed three scoops of teriyaki sauce with one scoop of Korean peppercorn sauce and one scoop of something else that I have completely forgotten!! All the sauces I chose were fully vegan. There is a chart at the sauce station that lets you know which sauces are vegan, vegetarian, spicy, etc.I used to ask for the steamed white rice to accompany my stir-fry but the last few times I’ve switched to coconut rice and I love it! Coconut rice seems much more moist and flavorful.

Mongolie Grill stir-fry

Mongolie Grill vegan stir-fry

While I’m not sure what the full nutritional information is for my meal (who cares how many calories or how many grams of fat) I know that what I am eating is completely cruelty free and that I don’t need to worry about hidden substances in my food. I also like that there is a small reward for keeping your meal meat-less. I heartily recommend visiting a Mongolie Grill if you are lucky enough to live near one – you won’t be disappointed.

Live Clean

When making the decision to transition to living a wholly vegan lifestyle it is extremely easy to forget that being vegan involves more than just altering your diet. I have been very focused the past several months on eliminating all animal products and animal-derived products from my refrigerator and pantry that it wasn’t until this July that I finally started taking a look at the various home products I use every day.

Posts on the vegans-in-transition group I belong to on Facebook reassured me that it is completely okay to replace lifestyle products as they run out, instead of going through the home and purging everything all at once. While things have improved greatly over the last few years, vegan products do tend to run a little more expensive, and it can be difficult to match your ethics with your bankroll when it comes to buying groceries.

The first thing I’ve finished and that I wanted to choose an ethical replacement for was my shampoo and conditioner. I’ve been a long-time fan of Herbal Essences products, and was devastated a month or so ago when their name came up on a list of companies that still test their products on animals. I went to the Herbal Essences website and found on their frequently asked questions page that they vehemently deny testing on animals. While I find this very reassuring, for the time being I think I would prefer to support a fully vegan company. So, when I went shopping I chose to try Live Clean. I went with their Clean Air shampoo and conditioner, and let me tell you, I’m very impressed!

The shampoo is thick and smells amazing. It also lathers up really nicely, although not as much as my Herbal Essences did. I used about a loonie-sized drop and it covered my super long hair. The conditioner is also really nice – it doesn’t have as strong a scent but is also thick and left my hair soft and untangled. I’d also like to note that as gross as this is, I haven’t washed my hair for three days (I HAVE showered though) and my scalp isn’t greasy at all! Knowing that I’m getting use out of a great product that is also environmentally friendly makes me *that* much happier.

Conditioner2Shampoo2

 

Update August 6 2014:

After using live clean [clean air] shampoo and conditioner for the last couple of weeks I have to say I am noticing a definite improvement in my hair! My hair is lighter, and noticeably softer. I’d also like to add that the shampoo smells amazing – simple and fresh and just a little bit sweet. Love love love.

Skinny Chunky Monkey Cookies

Last week a friend of mine on Facebook shared a recipe for Skinny Chunky Monkey Cookies. Always on the lookout for easy, straight-forward vegan recipes (especially the sort that involve chocolate!) I saved the recipe and thought I’d give it a try over the weekend. My only other experiences with vegan baking were several years ago when I made vegan carob chip cookies for my vegan friends as a small gift, which I never actually tried myself; and, a few months ago, when I made a blueberry vanilla protein cookie that turned out horrendously awful. I’m no whiz in the kitchen so I was pretty wary of how this undertaking would turn out.

Thankfully, the Skinny Chunky Monkey cookies are a cinch to make. The ingredients are all standard things you’d likely have already; all I had to pick up from the grocery store was the applesauce. The recipe itself is short, sweet, and completely, blissfully idiot-proof; you don’t even have to pull out a mixer (a huge selling point). 

The finished product:

Skinny Chunky Monkey Cookie

So how did they turn out? Actually, really good! The cookies are very soft and a little sticky so you may want to keep them refrigerated so that they don’t get goopy all over your fingers. They are very dense, so a couple of cookies will satisfy your sweet tooth easily; but, I’ll admit that they are a tad bitter thanks to the cocoa. I think next time I make these I will dust the cookies with a fine coat of confectioner’s sugar/icing sugar once they are done baking – this will help make them a little less sticky and a little bit sweeter. All in all, though, delicious results. I realized I forgot to pack some in my lunch for today and am super disappointed!

I can’t figure out where exactly the recipe originated, so I’ll include the one I found on MyRecipes.com that matches what I found on Facebook. I obviously did not create the recipe, and do not make any claims to it whatsoever.

  • 3 bananas
  • 2 cup(s) oats
  • 1/4 cup(s) peanut butter $
  • 1/4 cup(s) cocoa
  • 1/3 cup(s) unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon(s) vanilla

Preparation

  1. Directions:
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Mash bananas in a large bowl, then stir in remaining ingredients. Let batter stand for approximately 20 minutes, then drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Just a note: I did end up baking both batches of cookies for closer to 17-18 minutes, so check them at the recommended time and put them back in for longer if need be.

 

Sunflower

This summer I am taking advantage of the small plot of earth I own that faces the southern sun to actually grow a garden. I selected a small variety of vegetables to plant: onions, broccoli, and tomatoes. Then, because my significant other was adamant about it, we filled in the back of our little triangle-shaped garden with sunflower seeds.

While I’ve been focused on the burgeoning vegetables growing and how my broccoli plant has attracted a pet butterfly I failed to notice just how fast our sunflowers have been growing! I think we may see actual flowers bloom some time in the next couple of weeks.

What is the first thing you planted when you had a bit of earth all to yourself?

Sunflower in July

Sunflower in July

Moby; or, My First Vegan

When I became a fan of Moby (after seeing his video for Natural Blues on MuchMusic circa 2000 and becoming completely and utterly enchanted) one of the first things I learned about him was that he was vegan.  Fourteen years later I still consider Moby a revolutionary musician and artist, and an animal-rights champion I not only admire, but whose complete commitment to living a cruelty-free life inspires me on so many different levels.

I just found this article that Moby wrote for Rolling Stone magazine in March of this year. Give it a read – even if you’re not a fan of his music, Moby’s unflinching devotion to leading a compassionate life is so inspiring.

http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/opinion-why-im-vegan-by-moby-20140318