Laika Magazine

I recently subscribed to, and ordered the back issues of, a new(ish) publication called Laika (pronounced ly-ka). The magazine, created and curated by Julie Gueraseva, is a beautiful, glossy, art-fantastic fashion and lifestyle magazine from New York City – the capital of the western world and a place of lights and promise. What makes Laika truly wonderful is that it is a love story to the burgeoning vegan culture that is taking our civilization by storm. Not only does it bring to the surface harrowing stories from the front lines of the animal rights movement, it also draws attention to strong and empowering vegan individuals from across the world, cruelty-free couture in fashion and beauty, and recipes that inspire the palate. I’m a huge fan of Laika, and devoured the four issues currently in print shortly after receiving them in the mail.

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Only four issues, though? Its hardly enough to sustain someone yearning to feel connected to a universe full of people like me. It is this longing for more relevant media that has me so inspired to promote on every platform possible that Laika has launched its own Kickstarter.

I’m a huge fan of crowdfunding and have supported a handful of other vegan and animal-related projects on Kickstarter – all of which were successful. Laika’s goal is not a lofty one, and I’m proud to support such a worthy endeavour as this, even in the small way that I am able. I hope that if you’re reading this that you’ll visit Laika’s website and their Kickstarter page. Please, if you can, support this publication. I firmly believe that print will never die, and that our vibrant vegan community deserves to find, among the current crop of mainstream magazines, a vivid and unique voice packaged in a product that is exquisitely designed and developed to satisfy the plant-based person’s appetite.

Product Review: Gardein Crispy Chick’n Sliders

There is a lot of talk about faux meats in the vegan world. Many vegans don’t understand the appeal of fake-meat burgers, hot dogs, ground “meats”, etc. Those vegans tend to state that they don’t miss the tastes and/or textures of meat, and therefore have no desire to consume any products made to resemble them. I happen to be on the other end of this particular teeter-totter. I, and many vegans I’ve talked to online, LIKE faux meat products – they help fill a void left by those foods we were all raised to eat, are used to eating, and might miss for some reason or another.

Last week I decided to try my first Gardein products – I had heard of the brand before, had even seen their products in my usual grocery store, but had never taken the leap to actually trying anything by them. The date of purchase, though, I just happened to be Craving (with a capital ‘C’) a chicken burger so gosh-darned bad. I know that sounds terrible, and I’m not proud of myself, but it just was what it was. So, I grabbed a box of these Chick’n Sliders to try.

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When you open up a box of Gardein Crispy Chick’n Sliders you find yourself with two plastic-wrapped packages. Inside each package is two small slider burgers, buns and all. For my first go, I chose to make two of the burgers instead of all four, and picked the quickest way to get them into my belly, which was using the stovetop. I heated just a touch of oil on a skillet and then fried each of the burgers for about five to six minutes per side. The recommended cooking time is only three to four minutes, but I like everything a little extra crispy so I kept the patties on longer. In the last minute of cooking I added the two buns, face down, as directed by the cooking instructions on the package. After I took the skillet off the heat, I swiped a layer of Veganaise on to each side of the bun, added  lettuce, and then patties.

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As far as taste and texture go, the chick’n patties met my expectations. Though small, the burgers were hearty and filling, and pleasing to the palate. I wouldn’t say they tasted exactly like chicken, but that wasn’t what I was expecting anyways. The most important thing to me was quieting that annoying craving without heading to my nearest McDonalds; I’m happy to say that my hunger for “flesh” was more than satisfied. My only complaint about the Chick’n Sliders pertains to the buns. For some reason I found the slider buns sweet, which put me off a bit. The buns are also slightly domed, so when I heated them up on the skillet the crest of the top over-cooked while the rest of the bun remained slightly chilled. Next time, I will look for Gardein patties specifically, and get the bread to go with them separately.

The only OTHER downside to the Gardein Crispy Chick’n Sliders is the ingredient list. As any successful vegan will tell you, eating whole foods is the way to a healthy and happy body. Often the complaints regarding faux meat products is how chemically processed they tend to be, and Gardein’s sliders are no exception.

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But, for a quick fix, or to soothe the savage hunger beast in your belly, these will definitely do in a pinch.

Recipe Review: Mushroom Stout Pie with Potato Biscuits

My younger brother Stephen moved home this summer after spending three years in Newfoundland. While he was on the east coast, he found work at a St. John’s restaurant called The Sprout, which served vegetarian and vegan fare. Since Stephen has been back, he has only cooked for me a handful of times – but every experience has been amazing.

This week I wanted to share a recipe that my brother made for us called Mushroom Stout Pie with Potato Biscuits. Now, sadly, he was limited with cooking apparatuses so we weren’t able to have the potato biscuits baked on top, but once my kitchen is properly equipped we’re definitely going to have to try again with what I imagine could be the best part of the recipe (I’m addicted to biscuits of all sorts).

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There is nothing like coming home after a stressful day at work, walking through your front door, and smelling warm home cooking. Nothing! This stew smells, and has your house smelling, oh so heavenly. One of my favourite things about one-pot meals that you can leave sitting on the stove for an hour or two is the aroma. It is like getting to enjoy your meal for longer, and on an entirely different level. To be honest, there wasn’t much time between me taking my shoes off and me scooping hot stew into a bowl! Actually, I’m not even sure I’d taken my shoes off before I had the lid off the pot and was sticking my nose in the steamy air as it and the accompanying smells of deliciousness escaped.

Now, I haven’t had a proper stew in years. My mom used to make it all the time when we were kids, but of course it would always have the traditional beef stew chunks in it. As you’ll see in this recipe, there are no meat or animal-related products to be found; the heartiness of the dish comes from mushrooms, carrots, and yummy beans. I wasn’t expecting the broth to be so like a traditional gravy, but it was just as thick and satisfying as I could have hoped for. The vegetables and beans were tender and delicious after having been on the stovetop for a few hours. And my favourite part? The smoky flavour added to the stew by the stout that Stephen had chosen made the dish feel like a reprieve from the cold of winter.

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Of course, the type or brand of ale you choose is going to alter the flavour of the stew over-all, so make sure you pick one you like. My brother used Tenaya Creek’s HaulingOats Oatmeal Stout that, to my great delight, can be found listed on Barnivore’s website as a vegan beer. As a side note – Barnivore is a fantastic resource. I found the information I needed when I couldn’t find it anywhere else, so be sure to check out their website at http://www.barnivore.com/.

You can find this recipe on the homepage of its creator at http://www.theppk.com/2013/03/mushroom-stout-pie-with-potato-biscuits/. Thanks to my brother and to The PPK for a yummy dinner!

Product Review: Dr Lucy’s Maple Bliss Cookies

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I am an undeniable cookie-a-holic. I love cookies. As I have gotten older, my tastes have expanded from strictly the softest of soft chocolate chip to encompass all the flavours and tastes of cookies available to me. Transitioning to vegan means that the wealth of baked goods available to me directly off the grocery store shelves has decreased a hundred-fold, which makes satisfying my sweet tooth a little bit trickier. As I have come to learn, a woman can only eat so many Oreos (an accidentally vegan product) before she simply cannot stomach them anymore!

On my latest off-the-beaten-path shopping trip, I found a new brand of cookies called Lucy’s. There were two different flavours displayed: Ginger Snaps and Maple Bliss. I decided to try one flavour for my first go, just to see what I thought of them, and went with the Maple Bliss.

The cookies, once I finally broke down and ripped open the adorable package (which was SO CUTE I couldn’t bear to wreck it), are just a little bigger than bite-sized. In the picture below, you can see that one of them fits perfectly into the palm of my hand.

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When you crunch into a Maple Bliss cookie the first taste that you get is of oatmeal, though these cookies are much lighter and airier than your average Dad’s Oatmeal cookie. Intertwined with that is the sweet maple, which lingers on your tongue long after you’ve swallowed the last tasty morsel. With an almost unnoticeable touch of salt that nevertheless tickles those particular sections of your taste buds, these cookies cover all the bases.

The selling point to Lucy’s little masterpieces, though, has to be the texture. While there is a lot in these cookies that can be compared to an oatmeal cookie, these maple bliss babies hold together well until you pop a piece into your mouth – that’s when they yield to your salivary glands and crumble in a soft, buttery way, surprising considering there is absolutely no dairy in this product.

From the peanut gallery: I had a few non-vegan coworkers try these cookies and they were blown away by how good they are. There was more than one surprised “yum” from those expecting dry and flavourless cardboard after hearing the word vegan, which I find is the best compliment a person can give a sweet treat.

The Maker

The culinary hands behind – and the namesake for – Lucy’s cookies is Dr. Lucy Gibney. She began creating allergen-free recipes for her young son, who suffered from severe food allergies. Her line of tasty baking currently consists entirely of a variety of cookie flavours that are all 100% free of gluten, milk, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts. You can see all her amazing products and which stores carry them (or you can even order them online!) at her website, http://www.drlucys.com.

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Renewable Energy in Canada

As I mentioned in a previous post I am currently enrolled in a renewable energy program offered online through Lakeland College, an Albertan post-secondary institute. I am just wrapping up my first two courses, and let me tell you – what an incredible amount of information I’ve had filtered through my brain these last couple of months!

One of the methods of learning we participate in includes writing posts for our online discussions page on a variety of topics, and responding to the posts of others with our own opinions, ideas, etc. Normally nobody comments on my posts because they’re pretty straightforward and entirely lacking in controversy! I’m excited, though, because our last topic – on the particular challenges Canadians are confronting when trying to integrate renewable streams of energy – has a few responses on it from other students!

I’m including my post here in case you are interested in what my thoughts are at this point in my education on this particular issue. Keep in mind I am not a scientist, an engineer, or even an individual conversant with technology – this is just a melange of opinions on a topic I’m just starting to delve deeper in to.

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It is wonderful to feel the grandness of Canada in the raw, not because she is Canada but because she’s something sublime that you were born into, some great rugged power that you are a part of. - Emily Carr

Regardless of exactly where in Canada you were brough into life, chances are you feel a particular kinship with that particular corner of the country you initially called home. I have never met a Newfoundlander who was glad to be away from the rocky, windblown land they came from; nor a British Columbian who was entirely at peace in another province, away from the glorious green forests and untouched niches of pristine beauty found only in B.C. We are all rooted in the varied soils of our country, and that gives us an inherent passion for unearthing new and novel ways of building Canada into something wonderful. I feel that the best way to ensure a safe and environmentally sound world for our children’s children is to increase the use of renewable resources; I believe integrating renewable energy into our everyday lives will not only stave off further destruction of our natural environment, but could potentially (optimistically) undo the damage we have already done.

Renewable energy in its current incarnation is flawed. In the assignments for the two initial courses of Lakeland College’s Renewable Energy program, I have learned of so much potential and so much innovation when it comes to using renewable energy to heat our homes and power our machines. What I have also learned is that no matter what aspect of renewable technology we are discussing, everything seems to boil down (no pun intended) to efficiency, or the lack thereof. Yes, Canada is composed of varied landscapes that each offers its own particular challenges when planning for the use of renewables; but the lack of efficiency in renewable technology is a global issue. I believe that if overall efficiencies improved substantially, we would see an immediate surge in the use of renewable technologies.

A crucial aspect of efficiency that is especially important to Canadians is the amount of reliable energy we require to heat our homes in those coldest months of the year, the months of snow and ice that far outnumber those of sunshine and blooming buds. Not only do we require enough heat to keep our homes and the infrastructure within them from succumbing to freezing temperatures, we require even more heat due to the amounts that are lost every second due to lack of appropriate insulation, lackluster building quality, or even simply homeowner ignorance. North Americans are decried for the amounts of resources we waste every day – I think it is time we change that, starting with making simple decisions like choosing energy-efficient windows, using digital thermostats that monitor the home’s temperature needs down to the nth degree, and using higher-efficiency insulators when possible.  

The next essential component of transforming our civilization from oil-dependent to ecologically self-sufficient is to change the standards for new home builds. A common theme in our reading has been that retrofitting a home to be powered by eco-friendly energies is far too expensive for the average homeowner to undertake without large subsidies from already financially strapped (or so they say) governments. Nobody is as skilled as a contractor is at finding the least-expensive way of getting a job done; why not make the installation of renewable energy technology in the building of new homes the rule? This would give an entirely new industry incentive to participate in green energy innovations, while removing the cost of retrofitting entirely. 

Next, while our mountains are impossibly large, so are our fields. As has been noted by other students, we in Canada have the privilege of space – a much sought after commodity in other parts of the world. Here in the prairies we have the room for wind farms populated with enough horizontal-axis turbines to produce amounts of power substantial enough to lessen significantly our oil-and-gas-related dependence. On the flipside of that, unfortunately, is that our prairie provinces are land-locked; but for our coastal provinces, wave power is a promising venture. I am not a supporter of damming projects, despite the proposed environmental benefits. I feel that the damage done to the ecospheres affected by damming far outweighs the benefits that damming offers. Wave power, on the other hand, does not interfere with the biosphere in the same harmful ways; the creation of efficient wave technologies could supply coastal provinces with abundant energy, harness-able for communities hundreds of kilometres from the shoreline.

As for solar energy, our beloved country is not well positioned to take advantage of the sun’s bounty. We do not get much opportunity for sunshine, especially here in Alberta, and we never seem to keep Mr. Sun around for very long periods. Still, I am – maybe a bit naively – optimistic when it comes to this particular topic. I think there are ideas out there in the solar industry that, if properly developed, could make it possible for those of us in the northern hemisphere (and especially those of us above the 60th parallel) to not only collect, but to also store, enough solar power to ease our need for other energy sources year-round. Maybe someone from this very program will be the one to uncover a genius way to collect the sun’s rays when they are plentiful and store them for those days when there is barely enough natural light to see a foot in front of our faces. 

Ultimately, I think that when it comes to Canada, geographically we are blessed more than hindered. I believe that we have the space and the resources to change our energy future; and, most importantly, I believe that we have the heart. All we need is the technology – but don’t look at me for that just yet… I’m still learning!

Thank You

I followed a link that a friend posted on Facebook that took me to a Buzzfeed video called “How to Make Vegan Junk Food.” I watched it and think the recipes look delicious; honestly, seeing how simple they were to throw together made me want to follow chef Leslie Durso (of http://lesliedurso.com/) right over a cliff and into a huge ocean of tasty yummy bad-but-good foodiness that just happens to be vegan.

Unfortunately, the comment section of the video seemed to have devolved into nothing more than a foul-name-spouting, insult-swinging battleground. I know, I know – reading comments on an internet video is enjoyable in the same way picking a scab is: it doesn’t exactly feel good, but there’s something appealing about the sensation; then, afterwards, when you’re left with a big gaping sore, all you feel is regret. But, my attention was drawn to the length of heated discourse that had sprung from what was essentially an inoffensive and completely benign video intended to spread an individual’s own tips for eating healthier (and, yes, vegan).

Something that breaks my heart that I’ve come across in all of the vegan groups I participate in online is that it seems like discussions about veganism seem to incite serious bullying. The occasions where people post about positive conversations they have had with meat-eaters do appear, but they seem to be a lot rarer than those tales of vegans who have been ridiculed for their beliefs. And I’m not saying that vegan people are perfect, because there’s more than a few who can be preachy and holier-than-thou. We’re all flawed; nobody is perfect. But there’s no excuse for bullying of any kind.

I just want to say thank you to all of my friends. Thank you for not posting offensive comments on my Facebook when I write about veganism, or when I share petitions, or when I re-share meat-free recipes that I think look delicious. Thank you for not insulting me or my choices, for not starting fights with me about our differences in opinion on certain topics, for not saying things that are supposed to be funny but that are actually hurtful. Thank you for letting me express myself without fear of reprisal.

Transitioning to veganism is turning out to be a lengthy process for me, and it is really lonely at times; I can’t imagine how it would be if I didn’t have the love and understanding of you all. .

If you’re interested in watching the mouth-watering video and picking up a few easy snack night ideas, just click here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/abefg/how-to-make-vegan-junk-food#2oyf0pd.