Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Six Must-Try Vegetarian Restaurants in Winnipeg

Whether you are a resident of Winnipeg or are here visiting, here are 6 must-try vegetarian (or veg-friendly) restaurants. You definitely don't have to be vegetarian to enjoy these restaurants. Check them out if you're curious about vegetarian food or just looking for somewhere new to eat.
Boon Burger (100-141 Bannatyne Ave / 79 Sherbrook Ave)                                            
Boon Burger hails itself as the  "world's first vegan burger cafe" and was born here in Winnipeg in 2010. They have since opened a second location in Winnipeg and another in Barrie, Ontario. There are now plans for a Boon in Toronto. I can't say enough good things about Boon Burger. From the customer service, to their ever-growing menu, and environmentally friendly practices, it is all around an amazing place. Anytime I want to introduce someone to vegan fare who is skeptical about it, I bring them to Boon. Everyone I have brought here has been pleasantly surprised at how delicious and filling vegan food can be. Almost everything is made in-house and includes healthier takes on burgers, hot dogs, pizza, salad, fries and coconut-milk soft serve ice cream/shakes. There are many gluten-free options, a kids menu and delivery available. Boon has also been featured on the Food Network television show You Gotta Eat Here!  Boon Burger is my top pick for vegan food in Winnipeg.
 Must Try: Chili-Cheez Fries, Cowboy Burger, Prairie Fried Chick'n Burger, Boon House Salad, Buddha Burger, Shakes
Affinity Vegetarian Garden (100-208 Edmonton Street)
I have been a regular customer at this Taiwanese-Chinese restaurant since it opened in May 2001.  The service is very friendly, you will likely be welcomed by more than one person upon entering. The msg-free menu offers around 65 items including appetizers, soups, noodle dishes, veggie fish, mock-meats and more. What brings me here most often is their pay-by-weight lunch buffet (Monday-Friday) that features approximately 10 different dishes each day, though the fried rice, chow mien and sushi are standard. You can try a little bit of everything and are charged by the weight of what is on your plate. Take out is also available for the lunch buffet. I love coming here and often come alone for lunch, as many diners do. It is a fast, healthy and reasonably priced vegetarian lunch option downtown.
Must Try: Eggplant with Black Bean Sauce, Kung-Pao Gluten, Spicy Szechuan Tofu, and Crispy Yams
 Delicious Vegetarian Restaurant (1467 Pembina Hwy)                                   Delicious Vegetarian is a favorite in Winnipeg for Chinese food. It is situated in a small space on one of Winnipeg's main routes but boasts an extensive and creative menu. I have been coming to Delicious since 2002 and still haven't tried everything on the menu. You can find mock-meats (including shrimp), rice/noodle dishes, soups, congee, appetizers and desserts. Many popular traditional dishes are available in vegan form here. The portions are big enough to share and there is a good chance you will have leftovers. Check out the lunch specials here during the week that include your choice of soup and a spring roll.

Must Try: Hot and Sour Soup, Sweet and Sour Gluten Balls, Deep-Fried Mushrooms with Spicy Salt, Eight Treasures, Vegetarian Beef Chow Mein
 Kokeb Ethopian Restaurant (266 Edmonton Street)                                                   My favourite Ethiopian restaurant in Winnipeg. It is not fully vegetarian but does have a number of options that are marked on the menu. Kokeb offers a veggie plate with an assortment of their dishes serves on top of injera. If you enjoy spicy food, try their hot sauce with your meal. The food can take a while to prepare but if you come during the week there is an all-veggie buffet at lunch time. Very filling and delicious food.
Must Try: Lunch Buffet, Veggie Plate, Samosas, Hot Sauce

La Fiesta Cafecito (Unit M - 730 St. Anne's Road)                                                                                                                                          This is an El Salvadorian restaurant in the South end of Winnipeg. It is not fully vegetarian but does have some options that you won't find anywhere else in the city. The staff here are very friendly and helpful with the menu. Be aware, the food does take some time to prepare, especially if it busy. There are usually only 1-2 people serving even on the busiest nights. It is worth the wait as it is one of the only places to get authenthic El Salvadorian cuisine in the city. Only open for dinner and closed Sunday, Monday and Holidays.
Must try: Corn Tamal, Bean or Quacamole Enchilada, Bean Pupusa, Vegan Combo Platters, Fresh Juices
Stella's Bakery and Cafe (5 locations)                                                                     Stella's is a local favourite that has grown to 5 locations across the city. Although the menu is not strictly vegetarian, they offer many dishes that are vegetarian or that can be altered to be made vegetarian or vegan. Moderately-prices with large portions (I end up with leftovers the majority of times I dine here). The service is generally very good, with the knowledgeable and friendly staff. They also offer specialty-coffee drinks that can be made with almond milk.
Must Try: Vegan Mexican Breakfast, Garden Burger, Chickpea Curry, Dragon Bowl (add grilled tofu)

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

4 Easy Breakfast Smoothies To Fit In Your Busy Schedule

green smoothie, healthy smoothie, nutrious, breakfast, healthy breakfast, beets, variety

It has been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it is also the most frequently skipped. Time is likely the #1 reason why people skip breakfast, with today's busy lifestyle it is easy to run out of the door without getting in a meal.

Starting the day off with a nutrient-rich breakfast is essential for good health and brain-power throughout the rest of the day. Including a balanced breakfast can help with concentration at work and school, a recent study claims children who eat breakfast score higher on tests. Other benefits include boosting metabolism, keeping you from over-eating later in the day and is a great opportunity to include a meatless meal in your day while getting in much-needed fruits and vegetables. My favorite way to do this is with a morning smoothie. It can be as simple or as complicated as you wish or have time for.

Getting In Your 8-10 Serving of Fruit & Vegetables Each Day
The Canada Food Guide recommends adults get between 7-10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. I try to include some type of vegetable into every smoothie. Not only for myself, but also because I share my morning smoothie with my parrot. My parrot is a picky eater, she loves fruit but hates vegetables. This is often the case with children, making a morning smoothie a great way to get in those vegetables for them as well.

Some of my favourite vegetables to include in smoothies are organic spinach, kale, beets, and carrot juice. Fresh spinach has a very mild taste and can be added to any smoothie recipe. Although fresh greens are best, they do spoil easy. I have a solution to always have greens available. Purchase a bag of pre-washed organic greens (spinach, kale, or a combination of greens) and freeze it. You can put the bag right in the freezer and take what you need each day. You can also buy already frozen greens. 

Frozen fruit is another essential to have on hand. Berries, mangoes, and pineapples are a few fruits I always like to have available in my freezer. Bananas are another great ingredient that can be added fresh or frozen. If you buy a bunch of bananas and don't have time to use them all, you can peel them and freeze them in an airtight container. Frozen bananas are great to help thicken and can also be used to make a milkshake-like chocolate smoothie.

Variety is Key
A variety of different liquids can be used in your breakfast smoothies, depending on your preferences.  I like to use of a dairy-free milk and a combination of fruit and carrot juice (when appropriate). For dairy-free milk substitutes, the ones I use most often are either soy or almond beverage. Soy is high in protein and essential nutrients, my favourite is Silk Vanilla which provides 6g of protein per cup and is relatively low in sugar. Unsweetened almond, coconut or cashew milk are good options as they adds creaminess without much taste. 

Ideally, a fruit juice free of added sugars and preservatives should be used. If sugar is a concern for you, diluting fruit juice with some water can help keep blood sugar levels balanced. I like to combine fruit juice and carrot juice. Carrot juice has less sugar than fruit juice and a nice level of sweetness without being an over-powering flavour. It is also very high in Vitamin A, something most fruits contain very little of.

Coconut water is a nice addition that contains valuable electrolytes and can be substituted for half of the juice in a smoothie.

Making a Good Thing Even Better
There are a few other ingredients I add frequently to my smoothies to make them more filling and balanced.

Shelled hemp seeds can be included to add protein, iron, and healthy fats. Another good option for fats is Udo's Oil. I have been using Udo's Oil for over 5 years. It is a balanced source of Omega 3, 6, and 9. It can be found at health food stores. Chia seeds are another great add in that contain calcium, fibre, protein and Omega 3 fatty acids. If using chia seeds, it is ideal to consume the smoothie immediately as chia seeds thicken significantly once they absorb liquids. There should always be a source of fatty acids in every smoothie as it helps the body to absorb nutrients.

A tablespoon or two of oatmeal can be added to add fibre and whole grains. Keep in mind too much oatmeal can change the consistency of a smoothie and make it gritty if your blender isn't very powerful. Oatmeal also helps balance blood sugar.

Dairy-free yogurt alternatives can be added in any recipe. These yogurts are available at health food stores or most supermarkets. There are soy-based, almond, and coconut dairy-free yogurts that are rich in probiotics (which help with digestion.)

Hemp protein is another great addition. I use hemp protein most often because it doesn't alter the taste much, has a high fibre content, is a good source of iron, and has an impressive amino acid profile for a plant-based protein. 

smoothies, kale, healthy, spinach, apple, orange, lemon

4 Smoothie Recipes

All personal recipes. From most time-consuming to easier to prepare

(Apple, Beet, Carrot)

  • 1 apple (washed well and cut, omit core/seeds. I like organic Macintosh or Gala)
  • 1 small beet, or 1/2 a large (peeled)
  • Juice of half of a lemon (remove seeds if possible)
  • 1/2 cup of strawberries or raspberries  (frozen)
  • A handful of spinach (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2" chunk of fresh ginger (peeled) *if you really like ginger, feel free to increase
  • 1/2 cup of fruit juice (orange, apple, mango, or combo)
  • 1/2 cup of carrot juice
  • 1/2 cup of dairy-free milk 
  • Optional Add-Ins: 1 Tablespoon of hemp protein/1 Tablespoon oatmeal/1 Tablespoon hemp seeds (or substitute chia or Udo's Oil)
Blend all ingredients until smooth. Makes 2 servings.

This is my current favourite breakfast smoothie. The ingredients complement each other very well. Ginger is great anti-inflammatory and adds a little kick to the smoothie. If you dislike ginger or beets, they can be omitted, but I recommend first trying it with them. 
Another option to make this smoothie is replace the apple with an orange (peeled) and the strawberries with mango chunks. 


Tropical Twist

  • 1 cup of mango chunks (fresh or frozen) *can use 1/2C Mango & 1/2C Pineapple
  • 1/2-1 banana (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 avocado with pit and peel removed
  • 1 kiwi (peeled)
  • Handful of spinach 
  • 1/2 cup of dairy-free milk of your choice
  • 1/2 cup of carrot juice
  • 1/2 cup orange, mango, or pineapple juice
  • Optional Add-Ins: 1 Tablespoon of hemp protein/1 Tablespoon oatmeal/1 Tablespoon hemp seeds (or substitute chia or Udo's Oil)
Blend all ingredients until smooth. Makes 2 servings.

Surprisingly tasty and kid-friendly option. The addition of avocado makes it creamy and filling. If you happen to have a parrot, please don't share this smoothie as avocados are toxic for them.


Berry Banana

  • 1 cup any frozen berries (your choice or combination)
  • 1 banana (fresh or frozen)
  • Handful of spinach
  • 3/4 cup apple or orange juice
  • 3/4 cup dairy-free milk of your choice
  • Optional Add-Ins: 1/2 cup strawberry dairy-free yogurt, 1 Tablespoon of hemp protein/1 Tablespoon oatmeal/1 Tablespoon hemp seeds (or substitute chia or Udo's Oil)
Blend all ingredients until smooth. Makes 2 servings.

A classic, quick and easy recipe, it can be made with very little time available. Kids will love this smoothie.


Guilt-free Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter (almond butter can be substituted)
  • 1 cup of dairy-free milk
  • 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
  • Optional Add-Ins: sprinkle of cinnamon, handful of spinach, 1/2 cup vanilla or chocolate dairy-free yogurt, 1 Tablespoon of hemp or vanilla/chocolate vegan protein/1 Tablespoon oatmeal/1 Tablespoon hemp seeds (or substitute chia or Udo's Oil)
Blend all ingredients until smooth. Makes 1 servings. 

Great if you are craving chocolate or sweets. You can adjust the amount of dairy-free milk used to make it thicker or thinner. Healthy and delicious alternative to a milkshake.


A smoothie in the morning is ideal as it is versatile, can be made quickly and can be taken with you if you are crunched for time. Something I do to save time is to prepare some of the ingredients for the night before and store them in the fridge in my blender. I use the The Nutri Ninja and highly recommend it. It has a powerful motor and is a good value at around $100 for the 900 watt model. It  can be found at Walmart and Canadian Tire. Fresh fruits and vegetables, protein, seeds and oatmeal can be prepared the night before. Then in the morning you simply add whatever liquids you are using and the frozen ingredients. I wouldn't recommend adding the frozen fruits or vegetables until you are ready to blend. 


Tuesday, 3 November 2015

5 Ways You Can Benefit From Eating More Plant-Based Foods

The decision to stop eating meat came to me suddenly at six years old while I was home sick from school. There was a segment on the news that showed a clip from inside a slaughterhouse. It was the first time I had ever seen an animal being killed. I haven't eaten meat since and have been vegan for the better part of ten years.

I was lucky that my parents didn't force me to eat meat. They knew how much I loved animals and perhaps they were surprised at my compassion at such a young age. I grew up as the only vegetarian in my family and in my class at school. I remember my mother telling my doctor that I didn't want to eat meat anymore. Her response? "There's nothing wrong with that, vegetarians are probably healthier than the rest of us." Which turns out to be true.

A recent study has emerged linking the consumption of processed meats to cancer. Though the link between meat and cancers is not new, it has become more  prevalent lately. People who follow a plant-based diet have lower risk of heart disease, obesity, and some types of cancers.  There are plenty of health-related benefits associated with a vegan diet or by consuming less animal-products. You can even lessen your environmental footprint by cutting back on them. I often encounter people who are curious about the vegan lifestyle or want to eat less meat, but don’t know where to start. My goal is to help make this transition easier. My focus is on encouragement over criticism. 

It is a common misconception that it is difficult to be vegan. This could not be farther from the truth. It is easier than ever. Nearly every major supermarket has a variety of mock-meats, tofu and dairy-free alternatives. My suggestion is to try a variety of different brands of mock-meats and dairy-free milk substitutes, you are sure to find products you enjoy. Mock-meats can be helpful when transitioning to a vegan diet. They are generally high in protein and easy to prepare. 

In future posts I 'll share tips and tools to live more compassionately, reviews on vegan-friendly products (including food and skin care), and some of my favourite recipes. Any major animal-welfare related news and victories may be featured.

With over twenty years of meat-free living, I have encountered many challenges along the way but the rewards have been much greater than any obstacles I have faced and I look forward to sharing my knowledge with you.

5 Ways You Can Benefit From Eating More Plant-Based Foods

  1. Save money. Plant-based foods are generally more affordable than meat products. Staples like beans, tofu and grains are inexpensive and nutritious. Even replacing one meal a week can save you money. Meatless meals at restaurants tend to be less expensive too.
  1. Be healthier. Eating more vegetables and fruits are linked to a lower risk of some cancers, lower cholesterol levels and lower risk of diabetes. Having more energy is another positive side effect many people experience when eating more plant-based foods.
  1. Peace of mind. Every time you choose a meatless meal, you are reducing the demand for meat products and saving lives.  According to PETA, vegans save 198 animals per year! If you are not ready to make the switch to a fully vegan diet, even cutting back on your meat and dairy consumption will make a difference.
  1. Lessen your environmental footprint. Meat and dairy production have a negative effect on the environment. Cutting back or eliminating these products helps the environment by lessing the demand.
  1. Influence others. Compassion is contagious. Leading by example and sharing knowledge will make an even bigger difference in the lives of animals and the environment.

I strive to inspire others to live a compassionate lifestyle and make changes to support animal-welfare, the environment and their health. Feedback is encouraged and appreciated. I welcome any comments you may have about my posts, suggestions for future topics you would like to see covered, or any questions you may have.