Thursday, 20 April 2017

Pizza Pizza - Beamsville

4322 Ontario Street
905-687-1111



Well, Pizza Pizza is not going to be the most glamorous restaurant covered here, but it is vegan-friendly. We ordered a large pizza and I held my breath, wondering if the non-dairy cheese was going to be any good.

We did the multi-grain crust with Italian homestyle tomato sauce. My half of the pizza was green olives, mushrooms, grilled zucchini and the vegan cheese. A cool aside, when I asked the person taking my order if there was some way to denote which side of the pizza had my cheese on it, he suggested getting an additional topping on my side (which he did not charge me for), to ensure that there would be no confusion. (I didn't need to worry about differentiating the cheese in the end,...the vegan cheese looked nothing like the melty mozzarella.)

Other vegan options included:

Garden salad - Balsamic or Zesty Italian dressing
Greek salad, hold the feta, Balsamic or Zesty Italian dressing
Crunchy dill pickles
Potato Wedges
Onion Rings
Fries

Sauces:
Chipotle, Italian Marinara Dipping, Hot, Frank's Red Hot, BBQ, Italian Homestyle Pizza, Bruschetta, Sweet Chili Thai

Breads:
Tortillas, Whole Grain Dough, Classic Dough

I want to mention that looking at the menu, I can't figure out where they use the tortillas. Also, the cheese. I know you're waiting to hear about the cheese. The brand is Violife. I didn't love it; it had that faint chemical taste that I also find with Daiya products. It melted okay and tasted better when hot, but I would be tempted to try it without the cheese next time.

For me, this would be an 'in-a-pinch' restaurant option, and I would probably stick to the sides above instead of ordering the pizza next time. Having said that, if you enjoy the Daiya cheeses, you will probably enjoy this Violife cheese as well.

Hours:
Sunday to Wednesday: 11am - 10pm
Thursday: 11am - 12am
Friday and Saturday: 11am - 1am

How To Connect:
Website
Facebook
Twitter


Monday, 17 April 2017

Salad Dressings

I know that vegans eat a lot more than just salads, but now that the weather is turning a bit warmer, I have to admit that my palette is getting a litter lighter. And salads fit the bill perfectly.

Here are the two most-used recipes at our house:


GREEK VINAIGRETTE

3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil (I often use garlic flavoured)
1/2 tsp sugar (if desired)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine and shake well. If the ratio of more vinegar to oil is too tart for you, just increase the olive oil until you achieve the combination you prefer. At our house, this vinaigrette is perfect with cucumbers, black olives, red onions, and mandarins added to our salad.


BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil (again, adjust to your own preference, I keep it closer to 1/3 cup)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine and shake well. This recipe is also fabulous on grilled veggies.


If you're not the type to make your own dressing, here are a handful of accidentally vegan options that you can find in any grocery store:

Kraft
Balsamic, Classic Catalina, Creamy Italian, Fat-free French, Zesty Italian, and Fat-free Zesty Italian (source)

Newman's Own
Balsamic, Lite Balsamic, Lite Italian, Raspberry and Walnut Lite, Olive Oil & Vinegar, Red Wine Vinegar & Olive Oil (source)






Thursday, 13 April 2017

Fiddler's Pour House - St. Catharines

149 St. Paul Street
St. Catharines
905-345-1225




Though some in our party weren't as happy with the ambience as I was (college kids were playing euchre at the table,...gasp, said the curmudgeons),.....we all agreed that the food was fabulous.

I helped with the samosas for a starter with some awesome peanutty dipping sauce,...then followed up with roasted cauliflower and fries. Delish. The roasted cauliflower came with vegan cheese, dried cranberries and almonds. I thought this sounded like a strange combo, but it totally worked. The cauliflower would have been equally good without the cheese.

Fiddlers has a menu with many specific vegan-option available items, including:

Appetizers:
Samosas
Kettle Chips
Battered Pickle Fries
Sweet Potato Fries

Mains:
Chicken Wings
Nachos
Chicken Tenders
Fiddlers Salad`
Garden Salad
Roast Cauliflower
Grilled Cheese

There are also many gluten-free options and vegan chicken and pulled pork can be added to most dishes, if desired. I asked about non-dairy options for coffee or tea and was told that although they do not have them usually, if I were to call ahead, they would make a point of picking some up and having it on hand. Pretty cool.

Parking is street parking with a somewhat pricey lot two doors down.

Hours:
Tuesday to Sunday: 11:30am to 11pm
Monday: 3pm to 11pm
(last call 2am)

Ways to Connect:
Website
Facebook
Twitter



Monday, 10 April 2017

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia - 5 Reasons to Eat Chia Seeds

Chia Seeds

Though we probably all remember seeing the commercials for the chia pets growing up, chia seeds took their place in our kitchens much more recently. Due to their inclusion on most lists of superfoods, people are adding them to cereal, baked goods, smoothies, salds, soups and stews, and for good reason. Let's take a look at what chia seeds bring to the nutritional table:

Omega-3 fatty acids
Chia seeds contain "five times the omega-3 content of a 1/4-cup serving of walnuts." (source) Omega -3's are known to benefit the body by reducing the risk of heart disease, fighting inflammation, improving bone and joint health, and aiding with a host of other body system ailments.

Protein
Protein, protein, protein. As vegans who hear never-ending concern about our protein intake, chia seeds are a windfall. Chia seeds are a complete protein and contain nearly 5 grams of protein in just 2 tablespoons.

Fiber
A single tablespoon has just over 4 grams of fiber (source) which aids in digestion, as well as staving off hunger pangs.

Minerals
"Chia seeds are an excellent source of many essential minerals. They are high in manganese, phosphorus, copper, selenium, iron, magnesium and calcium." (source)

Calcium - 1 ounce of chia seeds = 233mg (compared to 6 ounces of milk - 224mg)
Iron - 1 ounce of chia seeds = 2.19mg, nearly 1/3 of the daily requirement
Phosphorus - 1 ounce of chia seeds = 244mg (compared with 140mg for 1 ounce of salmon)

Egg Substitute
It's starting to look like the benefits of chia seeds are never ending. You can even use them to replace your eggs in baking. Super easy: 1 tablespoon of chia seeds combined with 3 tablespoons of water and 5 minutes of letting it set. That's it.




Thursday, 30 March 2017

Eh Amigos Cantina - Port Colborne

20 Clarence Street
Port Colborne, ON
L3K 3E8

905-835-8989



This is the third time I've been to Eh Amigos Cantina, and I've had the same thing all three times because I love it so much: Veggie Burritos. Yum. The beans, rice, veggies, and pineapple make for a flavourful, moist burrito. Sometimes when you skip the dairy, it can be dry. Not so here.

Before penning this little review, I wanted to see what other menu items could be made vegan, so I sent a note to the restaurant, and here is their awesome response:

"Hi Terry!  We have veggie burritos or bowls that are loaded with veggies that does come with cheese sour cream and aioli however you can omit those items to make it vegan.  We can also make vegan tacos with whatever toppings you like that may include refried beans black beans lettuce pico de gallo guacamole peppers grilled pineapple jalapenos amd so on.... We also just introduced vegan ice cream and brownies for dessert   I hope this helps. we make everything made to order so u can build a burrito or taco anyway u like it!"

Obviously I was thrilled to receive such a fabulous response - even vegan ice cream and brownies?!!!! Check out the menu here. They also suggested that they are very open to talking with their vegan customers and that "sometimes the best thing to do is come talk to the cook directly and tell us how you like it and we will try our best to accommodate."

Parking is street parking. There are parking spots along the canal walkway that are free, and so far I have always found several to be available.

Washroom is in keeping with the rustic mexican decor and clean. Love the sugar skeletons on the walls.

Hours:
Monday, Tuesday: 11am - 3pm
Wednesday to Saturday: 11am - 9pm

How To Connect:
Website
Facebook

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Root 8 - Beamsville

5041 King Street
Beamsville, ON

905-563-1155



I was super excited to hear about an all vegan restaurant coming to Beamsville and Root 8 did not disappoint. The restaurant has a real cafe feel to it with its turquoise distressed wood decor.





The menu consisted of salads, wraps, bowls, chili, panini, and little dishes of mac and cheese, and tofu nuggets.  There is also a smoothie and juice menu, along with daily specials that included a hummus tray, french onion soup, and a burger with all the fixin's on the day that I went.

I ordered the panini with sweet peppers, zucchini, portobello mushrooms, spicy mayo, and mozza cheese (cashew cheese). I also enjoyed a chocolate, almond butter 'muffin' for dessert. Loved them both. I ordered take-out so I cannot speak to the wait-staff's attentiveness, but I was thoroughly charmed by the person who took my order. She was informative about the menu items and friendly without being intrusive while I waited.

Panini with sweet peppers, zucchini, portobello mushrooms, spicy mayo, and cashew mozza cheese.

Chocolate, almond butter 'muffins'

Plus, in keeping with their environmentally friendly philosophy - I received this lovely take-out bag and will, in future, receive $1 off my meal if I bring it in. Great idea.

$1 off my next meal if I remember to bring it in


Parking is free in this mall.

Hours:
Saturday, Tuesday, Wednesday: 11am - 6om
Thursday, Friday: 11am - 7pm
Sunday, Monday: Closed

Hours will be extended in the summer.

How To Connect:
Facebook
905-563-1155

Monday, 20 March 2017

What Vegans Eat

Much as some of would like, we can't eat out all the time. It isn't practical, and frankly, a lot of the time, I enjoy my own prepared food better anyway.

I start off with a general plan so that every Monday I do some version of soup and a sandwich or salad, every Tuesday is a rice/grain bowl, etc. I find that this theme-based menu makes it a lot easier for me to plan.

So here is a sample menu with some of the recipes linked up for a typical Monday to Friday dinner meal plan.

MONDAY - soup with sandwich or salad

Slow cooker white bean soup and Mediterranean vegetable sandwich.

Slow Cooker White Bean Soup - Budget Bytes


TUESDAY - rice bowl (or other grain)

Red beans and rice, and roasted veggies (leftover from Monday's sandwich prep).

Red Beans and Rice - Budget Bytes


WEDNESDAY - pasta or rice dish

Creamy lemon asparagus pasta, oven-roasted broccoli/cauiflower/fennel.

Creamy Lemon Asparagus Pasta - Minimalist Baker


THURSDAY - potatoes and veggies

Roasted sweet potato medley, balsamic mushrooms, and garlic broccoli.


Garlicky Broccoli - The Woks of Life

FRIDAY - bread/pizza/tortilla/pastry

Pizza, kale salad with garlic dressing.

Kale Salad - Minimalist Baker


SATURDAY

Out somewhere. :)

SUNDAY

Everyone fends for him/herself.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

The Black Forest Inn - Hamilton

Black Forest Inn
255 King Street East
Hamilton, ON

905-528-3538



If you ever heard of or been to the Black Forest Inn, you are very likely to be surprised to see a review about it here, and not just because it's located in Hamilton. This restaurant is super heavy on animal products and normally I would not be found in this type of restaurant. However, due to family circumstances, this is exactly where I ended up.

I called ahead, on three separate occasions to try to talk to different people about vegan options, because each time I was completely unsatisfied by the options. Or lack of. And I didn't get the feeling that anybody cared that I was going to be attending lunch and not really going to be able to eat anything.

There was one single menu item that was available to me as a vegan: vegetable plate. It is listed on the menu with a fried egg, so obviously I skipped that, still quite uncertain as to what to expect. Well, I was most pleasantly surprised. The vegetables are cooked with margarine, and I was promised that it was vegan.

My plate was overfull and contained cabbage, mushrooms, carrots, sauerkraut and the most flavourful potatoes I've had in a long time. I almost couldn't finish it (almost), and I completely enjoyed it.

Having said that, I want to be very clear - there was no hope of having coffee or tea unless I wanted to drink them black, and the dessert menu was not even close to being vegan friendly. I could have started with a salad and a vinaigrette, but the salad was a meagre iceberg lettuce version that I could not even bear to try.

Bathrooms were an adequate size and very clean.  Decor was Austrian/German and looked old and outdated, but again everything seemed very clean.

Parking was available in a city lot across the street, as was street parking.

They do not take reservations.

Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 11:30am-9pm
Friday and Saturday: 11:30am-10pm
Sunday: 11:30am-9pm

How To Connect:
Website
Facebook
Instagram
Twitter


Monday, 13 March 2017

6 Ways to Use Aquafaba

If you haven't heard about all of the fabulous uses for aquafaba, you might be surprised at all of the cool things that you can do with it. First of all, what is this stuff? Well, literally it translates to water bean. Not so literally it is the thick liquid that is leftover from cooking beans. I must admit with some embarrassment, that I have always rinsed away this gold mine thinking that I was doing a good thing by reducing the sodium. I have recently reconsidered.


Soup:
When making soup, don't rinse those beans. Dump the entire can in (or the beans and the cooking water if you're doing it old school). The aquafaba adds great body to a broth soup making it taste and feel that much more decadent.  Bianca's Kitchen has a yummy-looking vegetable soup recipe.

Breading:
When making your favourite eggplant parm, dip the eggplant (or any other veggies) into the aquafaba prior to breading for a crispy result. Don't have your own recipe? No worries, head on over to Veginspired.

Whipped cream:
Super easy: aquafaba + cream of tartar + vanilla + sugar = whipped cream. Check out Peta's recipe here and start enjoying more desserts.

Binding:
When I first switched to a vegan diet, I have to admit that making veggie patties was a real adjustment. I couldn't get the egg substitutes to work well for me. Step in aquafaba and suddenly it's easy. Use 3 tablespoons of aquafaba for every egg that you wanted subbed. Glue and Glitter has a great-sounding squash patty recipe here.

Mayo:
I have yet to try this out, but it is definitely on my list. I have visions of adding in extra garlic or chipotle powder, maybe some onion powder (not all at the same time) and creating new versions. Foodal has a recipe for you here.

Butter:
I love the idea of making my own butter so I don't have to contribute to the hideousness of the palm oil industry. Nina's game changing vegan butter can be found here.

There are thousands of sites you can go to for further reference, but one of my favourites for beginners is Aquafaba FAQ. Check it out for explanations and recipes and directions to the facebook page where they talk about nothing but aquafaba. 

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Hippocrates' Daughter - Grimsby

1 Mountain Street
Grimsby

289-235-8841



This little vegan gem recently (July 22, 2016) sprouted up in downtown Grimsby, thrilling the vegan and vegetarian community. The decor is eclectic and fun with mismatched tables and chairs, tables sawn in half and hung on the wall for decoration, and a huge window for people-watching.

On this Friday night, 10 people from the Niagara Vegan group met to enjoy the new menu. A menu that no longer contains any oil and covers everything from apps, bowls, and sammies to main salads, entrees and desserts. Check it out here.

 The first time I ate here, it was taco Tuesday. I had a pulled jackfruit taco and a fish taco. Both were amazing, but the fish taco (my first) made me into a lifetime fan. The portions were hardy, fresh, and delicious.



This time, I had the beanloaf with mashed sweet potato and spinach. The loaf was moist and held together well. It had a subtle sage and fennel flavouring, topped off with a ketchup glaze that added a nice sweetness and pop of tomato flavour. The mash was delicious and creamy.

The rest of the gang ordered the Kevin Fakin' Burger (black bean patty, cheese, portobello bacon), the mac and cheese (the recipe for which could not be pried out Aisha), and the Laughing Buddha bowl (chickpeas, avocado, sweet potatoes, spinach, marinated cabbage, and tofu fried rice topped with turmeric tahini dressing). When the food arrived, the noisy room silenced. Everyone was eating, concentrating on all of the flavours, and very happy.

For dessert, we were offered date squares, brownies, and an off-the-menu treat of chocolate chip bars. I tried the chocolate chip bars which had a real blondie feel to them, and they were amazing. Soft, chewy, full of vanilla and chocolate flavour. The date squares and brownies were also very moist and flavourful.

Hippocrates' Daughter is located in downtown Grimsby with street parking available, in addition to the mall parking across the street and the lot behind Giant Tiger. All easy to find and less than 5 minutes' walk.

Isn't licensed.

Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday - 12pm to 8 pm
Closed Sunday and Monday.

How to Connect:
Facebook
Website
Instagram
Twitter

Monday, 6 March 2017

10 Awesome Accidentally Vegan Snack Ideas

For the most part, I try to reach for fresh veggies and fruits when I'm looking for a snack, but sometimes, I just want a cookie or a candy or chips without spending a small fortune on a specifically veganized product.

Here are some of my favourites:

FRITOS
Both original and BBQ are vegan-friendly.



Barbecue, Classic, Deli Style Original, Dill Pickle, and Lightly Salted are all vegan varieties.



Stick to the hard candies. Watermelon is my absolute favourite.



These are fun treat.



Mmmmm,...buttery goodness without any butter. I could eat an entire box in a sitting. Ahem.



Stay away from the Parmesan Garlic and the Sour Cream & Chive and all of the rest are deliciously vegan. I love the Cracked Pepper. Yum.




When I first adopted a plant-based diet, I nearly cried with delight (and relief) when I found out that Oreo cookies are vegan.



Stick to the dark chocolate - 70%, 85%, or 90%.



For a more comprehensive list of accidentally vegan snack foods, check out PETA's list. 











Thursday, 2 March 2017

Kully's Original Sports Bar - St. Catharines

223 St. Paul Street, St. Catharines
905-684-1771

Kully's Original Sports Bar



We wandered into Kully’s after our initial restaurant choice was discovered to be closed for lunch, so I hadn’t prepped and called ahead and mapped out a plan. That’s something I always like to do, given a chance. No worries though, Kully’s did not disappoint.

This was a just a quick lunch, and I noticed a veggie wrap on the menu that looked close to vegan. Though it listed goat cheese, I was assured that sans cheese, it was vegan. The wrap was pretty good, made with peppers, onions, roasted beets (nice unique touch), and a balsamic vinaigrette. I prefer my wraps to be warm, so I should have asked, as this is served cold. Still, it was delicious and filling. The fries were exceptionally good, obviously hand-cut, and cooked to perfection just slightly on the dark side.

Some of the other choices that could be made vegan:

Kully’s classic salad - romaine, iceberg, spring mix, cherry tomatoes, roasted red peppers, balsamic dressing - $8.99 (ask for no croutons and cheese)
Stir-fry - peppers, onions, mushrooms, broccoli with rice and teriyaki sauce - $11.49
Veggie burger - black bean and veggie patty with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle (hold the Kully’s sauce) - $11.49
 - Additional burger toppings: grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, jalapeños, banana peppers, and avocado at $0.99 each

House-cut fries - $4.49
Kettle chips - $5.99
Sweet potato fries - $5.99
All three of these come with dips, but none of the dips in the restaurant are vegan. Ketchup or vinegar are probably your go-tos.

When I called it was also suggested that the white pizza could be made vegan by dropping the cheese option. A note to keep in mind is that the red sauce for the pasta and pizza both have parmesan cheese right in the sauce and so, obviously, are a no-go.

Kully’s is a typical sports bar - “Let’s raise a glass to the game.” Though the lunch crowd on Monday was moderate, I can imagine that game days in the city are hopping. If that’s your thing (or perhaps more poignantly, if that isn’t your thing), you might want to check the schedule of the local teams, especially the Ice Dogs, to see if there is a game or not before booking your reservation.

Kully’s decor is classic: deep rich woods accented by ebony chairs and fixtures. TVs abound so everyone in the bar gets a good view of the game. Walls are adorned with the smiling faces of athletes (Wayne Gretzky, Muhammad Ali, Joe Montana, and Michael Jordan, to name a few), plus a wall-sized chalkboard near the front windows shows what’s happening every night of the week. And something is always happening here.

Hopefully, you fill up on your entree because there is no dessert option there at the present that could be made vegan. Also, they did not have any non-dairy creamer or milk for coffee or tea.

Washrooms: Sorry, didn’t need to check them out here.
Parking: Street parking, pretty busy.

Hours:
Daily: 11am - 2am

How to Connect:
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Phone: 905-684-1771

Monday, 27 February 2017

5 Tips for Dining Out as a Vegan

Considering there are only a handful of vegan restaurants in the Niagara region, most of us will end up in restaurants that don’t specifically cater to our food choices. Never fear, it’s still very easy to get something decent to eat at almost every places Here are five tips that will help along the way:

1. Call ahead

If I have any heads-up as to where we are going, I will call ahead to ask questions about the menu. If it is at all possible, I will also call on off-hours (not during the lunch or dinner rush) so that the server will have more time to talk to me about choices. This can alleviate any discomfort you may feel by being the centre of attention, and gives the server or kitchen staff the time to investigate questions they may not know off the top of their heads.

2. Check menu for items that may be easy to alter.

Often times, you can tweak an already existing menu item to make it vegan which makes it a lot easier for the kitchen to comply. A grilled veggie wrap can quickly be made vegan by ditching the goat cheese for example or a pasta dish can be veganized by foregoing the parmesan and prosciutto. Just make sure to check that all of the other ingredients are in fact vegan.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions.

Just as you shouldn’t be afraid to make suggestions, some establishments are quite vegan savvy, and you may end up with better items by asking for their ideas. I have often dined in restaurants where the chef offers to make up something entirely different from anything on the menu, and every time this has happened, the chef’s choice far outdoes anything I would have thought up.

4. Be sure to lay out what you can/can’t eat (not everyone knows what is meant by vegan).

After telling someone that I am vegan, I have been offered eggs, cheese, fish (that doesn’t count right?), and dairy. Some people have not had the exposure to vegans and don’t really understand what we eat. Not to mention all of the vegetarians (or often omnivores) who label themselves as vegans and then go on to eat animal-based products, adding confusion to the mix. Let the restaurant know what you don’t eat so they can accommodate you appropriately.

5. Keep snacks in a pocket or purse.

Sometimes, regardless of your preparation or polite attitude, there are times when the restaurant is just not going to be able to offer you anything decent and the sparse green salad or plate of fries isn’t going to cut it, so have a backup plan. Keep small snack baggies in your purse or pocket. Nuts, dried fruits, granola bars, muffins, soup/stew in a thermos (that you can chug in the parking lot, yep, been there, done that) - all are easy to make ahead and carry around with you.

Keep a positive attitude (I firmly believe that the vegan message is best furthered by being polite and agreeable), and perhaps you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well you can eat out, vegan. 

Thursday, 23 February 2017

de la Terre Bakery - Vineland

3451 King Street, Vineland
905-562-1513

de la Terre Bakery


De la Terre Bakery "specializes in organic artisan breads and pastries made in-house and features coffee and tea & espresso-based drinks." They are focused on organic and sustainable agriculture practices and support local whenever possible.

The following breads are vegan:
Country baguette
Multi-grain
Niagara sourdough
Olive
Spelt
Whole-wheat and rye
Whole-wheat oat and raisin

Loaves can be ordered ahead of time, left whole or cut, stored in paper or plastic. Just ask.

They have also just opened a cafe in Jordan. More to come on the cafe.


Hours:
Daily - 8am to 4pm

How to Connect:
Twitter
Facebook
Website
Phone 905-562-1513

Monday, 20 February 2017

Homemade Pizza

I really wondered if I was going to have to give up pizza when I adopted a plant-based diet. I ordered pizza without cheese from our regular shop but it didn't really light a fire for me. It was just okay. Then I discovered two things that changed everything: parmesan cheese and Sensations pizza crust. Woohooo.

For starters, I found the parmesan cheese recipe on the Minimalist Baker site. She calls for cashews in her version, which I sometimes do, but most of the time I use almonds instead. We have some cashew allergies in the family, so it's easier to just use almonds. You can find her recipe here and if you haven't already checked out her recipes, do that too. I have had great success with all of the ones I have tried.




Secondly, the crust. I have to credit my mom with finding this crust at Sobey's. It's called "original thin pizza crust" and it's the Sensations brand. I checked the ingredients and all was well until I got to the dreaded "MAY CONTAIN" disclaimer, may contain milk. So I contacted the company and asked what they meant. Here is their response:

"When it comes to allergy warnings on our packages, anything used in the product will be listed in the ingredients. The "May Contain" statement you were referring to is meant to warn about cross contamination through the same manufacturing line or plant, not in the actual ingredients, as we do want to make customers aware if there is a risk for the main allergens. We hope this helps, let us know if you have any other questions!"

I know there are some people who are not comfortable eating products with this type of disclaimer. If that's you, then I'm sorry but this pizza crust isn't going to work for you. I will eat products with this waiver because I believe it to be a legal manoeuvre and not anything really to do with a plant-based diet. If that's your philosophy, then definitely pick up this crust. It's delicious.

For the pizza toppings, I sautéed some peppers, onions, and mushrooms and sliced fresh avocado on top. The parmesan was sprinkled both on the naked sauce and then on top as well. Lots of basil, oregano, salt and pepper to finish. I popped it into a 400-degree oven on a preheated pizza stone for about 12 minutes. Easy peasy with that premade crust, and oh so delicious.



Thursday, 16 February 2017

The Office, Tap & Grill - St. Catharines

22 James Street
St. Catharines

905-984-4440, Reservations recommended.


The Office, Tap & Grill

The Office is a casual, comfortable restaurant. Wooden booths, warm colours, soft lighting, and interesting art work. It has a hip vibe, but we saw customers that ran the gamut from toddlers to senior citizens, all appearing equally at home. If you are a vegan who may dine with an omnivore, the menu would have you both covered.

The vegan menu had some great-looking choices on it for both appetizers and entrees:

Frites and dip $6
Kale Caesar $12
Spinach Salad $12
Meze Platter $13
Buffalo Cauliflower $9
Quinoa Falafels $9

Veggie Burger $14
Penne Puttanesca $12
Zen Noodles $12
Tofu Caesar Wrap $14

I started with the buffalo cauliflower. It arrived on a slender platter with mixed greens in the middle and a thick drizzle of peanut sauce. The cauliflower pieces were a moderate size, easy to pick up with a fork, and lightly spicy. Dredged through the peanut sauce, they were delicious and addictive. With salad or fries, there was enough to make an entree.

For my main meal, I had the veggie burger. It was made with quinoa and lentils. The patty held together fairly well but was a little on the dry side. The burger was served with a corn cilantro salsa that was not memorable, but did add some needed moisture along with tomatoes and pickle. I had it with the fries which were also good, a nice crispiness and good flavour. All in all, both orders were a success.

To go along with your meal, they have some fun wine and beer options. You can bring your own wine for a corkage fee (Mon-Wed = free; Thurs = $5; weekends = $12) or choose from the wine list. They offer reds from California, Argentina, and the Niagara Region; whites from Ontario. Additionally, they offer ‘cheap and cheerful’ wines that they change up for $1/ounce. The beer is typically from micro breweries and runs $5.55 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

On the down side, they only offered dairy milk/creamer for the coffee and tea, though one of the proprietors (Greg Pearson) mentioned that “as the vegan menu rises in popularity, I'm sure it (a non-dairy option) is something we can add.” We were too full to order dessert and I didn’t think to check the menu, but Pearson mentioned that, “We currently have a vegan pumpkin pie on the menu with a cashew filling and rolled oat and date crust. It has yet to be added to the menu full time, but is getting very good reviews.” Sounds yummy.

The washrooms were decorated in a shabby chic style, leaning just slightly too far toward the shabby. The stalls were tight, requiring a bit of a gymnastic move to get out of the way of the door to close it. The taps were too small for the basin and barely stuck out far enough to get my hands under for washing. Having said that, the washroom was very clean and sported the coolest vanity top positioned under a large mirror; a perfect place to rest your purse for touchups, yet out of the way of the sink.

The Office is located in downtown St. Catharines a block up from the market and half a block from St. Paul Street. In addition to street parking, there is a paid parking lot directly across the street that still had many available spots when we left at 7pm on a Saturday night. Reservations are recommended, and by 6:00, the place was pretty much full. Would definitely recommend the food at The Office, but the lack of dairy substitute was a negative.

Hours:
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday - 5pm to 12am
Thursday - 11:30am to 12am
Friday - 11:30 to 2am
Saturday - 5pm to 2am
Closed: Sundays, holidays

Monday, 13 February 2017

Pumpkin Muffins


I think that the biggest learning curve I experienced when I began following a plant-based diet was baking. Mostly it was substituting for eggs.  It took me a long while to get the hang of flax eggs and egg substitutes.

Fortunately, this muffin recipe doesn't require any hassle in this department. Super easy, super tasty.

Head on over to see Christine's recipe on her blog, Apple of my Eye. I made a few changes: subbing nutmeg in place of the ginger; adding chocolate chips and pumpkin seeds in place of the pecans on top; and making only 12 instead of her suggested 14 (which meant a bit longer cooking time).

When the muffins had cooled, I put them on a tray and popped them into the freezer. Once they were all frozen, I put them into a ziploc baggie and put them back into the freezer. Now when I'm feeling like one of these beauties, I pull one out of the freezer and microwave for one minute. Perfect.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Seasons - St. Catharines


55 Carlisle Street, St. Catharines
950-688-6868
905-688-6861

Seasons



I don’t often think of a restaurant as being ‘fun’ (especially when you don't get any crayons), but Seasons is definitely that. At least for your first visit it is. The decor is clean and crisp and minimal, very Japanese feel. We were shown to a roomy booth and given an iPad menu. Here is where it got really cool, really fast.

The iPad menu, as you might gather, lists all of the dishes that are available, along with a descriptive photo. You can scroll through the items, which are categorized by course: appetizers, rice dishes, noodle dishes, sushi, nigiri, etc. You add a ‘plus 1’ (or however many you want), beside the dishes you want and when you are ready for round 1, you hit ‘check order’ to flag. At this point, a server comes around to confirm your order and submit it.

Within minutes, the courses that you have chosen begin to appear at your table. I started with seaweed salad (a favourite of mine no matter where we dine and certainly not a disappointment here), edamame, and spring rolls. The tempura batter contained milk so that was a category that was off limits to me. No matter, lots of other choices.

I also enjoyed the vegetable curry with rice, sautéed mushrooms (very garlicky, very delicious), udon noodles with vegetables (veggies were delicious, wasn’t a fan of udon noodles as it turns out). Then we moved onto the sushi and I tried the cucumber and avocado rolls, as well as the mushroom rolls. Both of the sushi were phenomenal - so fresh, the rice was plump and just the perfect amount of sticky.

For dessert, I actually ordered two more spring rolls, and felt delightfully mischievous about it. I didn’t check to see if any of the desserts were vegan, but upon looking at the menu now, there are none. Perhaps the only downfall of the restaurant for a plant-based eater.

The pricing is an all-you-can-eat price of $27.95, tax included. Drink pricing was reasonable at less than $6 per glass of wine or beer. The service is exceptional. The table is cleared almost immediately upon you creating an empty dish. To start we were given chopsticks. I do not have any trouble using them but my dining partner was struggling. Without having to ask, suddenly a knife and fork appeared for him to use. Attentive and intuitive.

Let’s talk washrooms. Um, let me say that the washroom was very clean but in rough shape - chipped tiles, rusting spots on doors, super tight stalls, broken soap dispensers. Not fabulous at all.

Parking turned out to be very difficult at 5:30 on a Saturday night. The two lots that we passed were full and the street parking was tight as well. We finally lucked out after driving around the block a few times and found a street spot a couple of blocks away.

We made reservations that seemed laughable at 5:30, but by 6:30 when we left, there was a line out the door. Better safe than sorry I would suggest.

They also have a takeout menu and free delivery on orders over $30.

Hours:
Mon to Thurs, and Sun: 11:30am-10pm
Fri to Sat: 11:30am-10:30pm

How to Connect:
Website
Phone: 905-688-6868, 905-688-6861

Monday, 6 February 2017

Posting Schedule

I've made up a plan for the blog scheduling and wanted to share it with you.

Every Thursday, you can expect to see a restaurant review. Just in time to make reservations for the weekend.

Every Monday will be something else. Maybe a post about a product (e.g. Frank's Red Hot sauce), or information about a restaurant that I haven't yet visited, or an event that is happening. Could be anything, but it will definitely have a vegan twist.

Some of the upcoming features:

Seasons, St. Catharines
Kully's, St. Catharines
de la Terre, Vineland
The Office, St. Catharines

If you have any requests, please feel free to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you.



About

If you're a vegan you know it can be difficult to get a decent meal when you try dining out. Constant frustration and unpleasant surprises can be the norm.

So what do you do? Miss out on opportunities to connect with friends or family over a meal? Risk spending money on a disappointing meal at a restaurant you don't know? Or settle for the old salad and fries standby?




You don't have to, because I am doing the leg work for you. Typically, once a week hubby and I try a different restaurant, and every Thursday I will post a review. You'll find lists of the vegan offerings, warnings about things to avoid or watch out for, and my two cents on whatever we personally ate.

You'll save time, money, and tantrums.




Follow our facebook page for updates.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

The Vegan Hippie Chick - St. Catharines




54 Church Street
St. Catharines, ON
905-978-1536

Mandy, the Vegan Hippie Chick, is an absolute doll. I know, I know, that shouldn’t matter when we’re talking about eating vegan, but it had to be said. I met her at the Sweet Street Cafe located in the St. Catharines library building, and she made me the best lunch. If you enter from the James Street side, the cafe is right there, housed in a greenhouse-like vestibule that is airy and light (see below). Check out the cute cafe-style table and chairs in the photo above. Adorable.



The Sweet Street Cafe has other offerings, but Mandy takes care of the vegan items. Today there were veggie wraps, eggless salad sandwiches, and raw protein balls. I opted for the sandwich and, ahem, balls. Wowza. That’s what I am actually going to say about it - wowza.

The sandwich was on the freshest of bread and full of flavour. The not-so-secret ingredient is chick peas. I’ve made this at home, but not nearly as delicious as this one. The protein balls came in pumpkin, walnut and almond. Of course I had to have one of each. These were sweet without being sickening and really filled me up. I was only able to eat two, and saved the other one for later. I also had a coffee with soy milk. It was exceptionally good. I wished I had bought the larger size.



The menu changes so it’s best to check her Facebook page for the daily specials and when she will be at the cafe. Typically she is there most days, but her schedule can vary.

Parking is street as well as several lots in the area, one right at the library, underground parking at the library, and the market lot. I didn’t have any trouble finding a spot at noon on a weekday, $1.50/hour.

Washrooms were the library washrooms; sparse, utilitarian, but very clean.

In addition to the cafe menu, Mandy also has a catering branch, and she also sets up a space at the St. Catharines market (typically Thursday and Saturday). Her catering menu includes appetizers (zucchini fritters, stuffed mushrooms), burgers (quinoa, lentil), flat breads, salads (caesar, creamy potato), soups (potato leek, quinoa minestrone), mains (lasagna, shepherd’s pie), savoury pies (tortierre), and sweets. Oh my, the list of sweets is amazing: brownies, cakes, croissants, pies, cookies, and muffins. Plus, she will deliver for free in the Niagara region on all orders over $150.


How To Connect:
Website
Instagram
Facebook
Twitter

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Eating Vegan in Niagara

As many of us plant-based eaters know, it can be difficult and sometimes intimidating to figure out what to eat when you're dining out. Is the rice made with chicken stock? Are the potatoes fried in lard? Does the deep fryer for the fries do the calamari as well? Additionally, it can be tricky to find restaurants to accommodate both us and our omnivore friends and family members.

Because of this, I wanted to create a place to talk about restaurants in the Niagara region that aren't strictly vegan. Obviously, we can all find something amazing to eat in vegan joints like Rise Above (swoon) or Hippocrates' Daughter (yum), but what about regular restaurants.

This is a real beginner list, but I will be adding to it all the time. Part of the notes will be experiences that I have personally had at a particular restaurant, what I ate, and what I learned about other options. Another part will involve me calling and speaking with representatives from restaurants and posting their suggestions as to what vegans can eat.

Please feel free to message me if you have any questions or suggestions. I hope that you get something out of these reviews and that perhaps your experiences while dining in Niagara are just a little bit easier.

With compassion,
Terry Cohoe

Apologies for the under construction aspect of this blog. I'll get it figured out asap. :)