Saturday, 24 September 2011

Hearts on Noses mini pig sanctuary.

I was extremely fortunate today.  I went to visit Hearts on Noses mini pig sanctuary in Mission, British Columbia.  I had a wonderful time.  Although I don't think I can encapsulate the entire trip eloquently in words, I took lots of pictures, so hopefully they will give you an idea.  I highly suggest that you contact Janice Gillett, the owner of the sanctuary, and go visit if you are interested.

Hearts on Noses is a sanctuary specifically for pigs that were formerly pets.  There are a few larger pigs (commonly referred to as "hogs", although they are just large pigs, the word "hog" is really a bit negative as Janice explained to me today, which I do agree with), but overall, they are mostly potbellied pigs that were bought as pets.  The sanctuary is located on 2.5 acres, with large pens for the pigs to run around in, and depending on the pigs and their dispositions, sometimes multiple pigs will be living in a pen together.  One pen had an entire family of about eight, but only because they got along well together.  These are hugs pens, so don't worry, the family of eight did not seem cramped in at all - although I'm sure they would rather be running around!
When we arrived, we walked up the driveway and were greeted by the "house pig" of Janice's.  All of the pigs are amazingly warm, affectionate and friendly.  The pig that greeted us (unfortunately I can't remember his name!), came right up to us and let us pet him.  Janice was very welcoming as well.  She clearly has a love for these animals that I would defy any animal lover to match.  It was easy to see why she loved them so much.
Every day Janice lets a group of the pigs have the run of the property.  Today was the day for the big pigs.  Janice let Rose and Comet out of their pens and gave them some food.  Rose is a big lady, and she daintily munched on her breakfast, then, just as she finished, remembered that there might be some food at the rear of the property and RAN there as fast as she could, which was surprisingly fast!  I had a good laugh at that.  I don't think I've ever seen a pig run, and certainly not that quickly (and gracefully).  It was a sight to behold.  Rose also has one very bad hip, which has caused her leg to atrophy, so it was even more impressive that she could move so swiftly having only three fully functioning limbs to run on!
Comet was similarly charming. He has the most endearing habit of throwing himself down on his side whenever you pet him - because he wants you to rub his tummy!  It's amazing that an animal of this size would be so playful and sweet.  I told Janice that I was going to have to point out that he wasn't dead when I took the pictures, because it's just such a strange sight to see a big pig like this lying down in this way!
We also got to see some younger potbellied pigs.  There were two named Olive and Truffles that live together in the same pen.  They move even faster than the larger pigs, and their tails wag just like a dogs, wagging constantly.  I sat next to Olive while she was eating and her mouth made the sweetest little noise when she chewed, "Smack, smack, smack."  I immediately wanted to take her home, which is exactly what the owners of all or most of the pigs at the sanctuary were probably thinking, before the pigs got too big for them to take care of.
The sadder side of the sanctuary is seeing the pigs that have either been abused or neglected.  Although they are all happy, loved and well-socialized at the sanctuary, and have their every need met, it is sad to think that this was not always the case. The pig in the following picture was missing a tusk and an ear.  If I remember correctly, the owners of the pig (prior to being brought to the sanctuary), let their dog rip the ear off.  I can't remember what happened to his tusk but I can imagine.
When I was watching Rose, one of the big pigs, as she was eating, I was reminded of the pigs ears (see this link for just a few reasons why they should not be eaten by dogs, quite aside from the reasons relating to killing animals) that are sold at pet stores.  I mentioned this to either Janice or her sister, who was also at the sanctuary this morning, and she told me that she had seen a package of pigs' snouts (don't click on that link if you aren't prepared to see what they look like - some people are more sensitive than others, think twice before you click) at the pet store.  I had never seen a pig's snout in action before this morning, but you would be amazed at how much they can move around, how sensitive and fantastic they are.

For those of you that live in the Lower Mainland, here is my Eco-nomical Living tip for the day: go and check out Hearts on Noses and other farm and animal sanctuaries in the area.  It is free to go and have a tour, it is heartwarming, and it is time very well spent.  Hearts on Noses, because it doesn't have any dogs and cats, has a harder time than many sanctuaries in raising the funds it requires to continue operating.  People look at dogs as pets and pigs as food.  Janice does not preach or even mention anything about the eating of animals, there are no questions asked about your preferences in this regard.  It is just a great place to visit, and a worthwhile organization to support, if you are so inclined.  No matter what is on your plate, no animals deserve to be abused and neglected because someone bought them as a pet and later decided they didn't care enough to take proper care of them.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Harvest box.

If you enjoy cooking your own food I would heartily recommend doing a Google search for "community supported agriculture" and "[your city]".  I had never heard of this before, but what community supported agriculture is, is the cheapest and most likely the easiest, way to guarantee that you are going to receive local organic food regularly.  I can't guarantee that you are going to receive only the vegetables that you already use and love (as a matter of fact, I can foresee that you probably won't!), but I don't look at that as much of a problem.  I'll explain.

First of all, as you may remember, I am a vegan.  This means I should at least attempt to make friends with most vegetables.  I do love vegetables, but I admit, I tend to stick to the same handful of vegetables every week (lettuce, bell peppers, cucumber, kale, onion, shallot, green onion, broccoli).  There are also a number of fruits that we buy regularly (and beans and legumes, so don't worry, we're eating enough!), but still, I think that we could be eating significantly more vegetables than we have been.

Also, when I go to the grocery store, I'm not as conscious as I should be about buying local.  Particularly when I go somewhere like Whole Foods, that always has a mind-blowing array of different veggies, I tend to go a little crazy!  So it is nice to have someone else do the thinking for me.  It's great to support local farmers.  CSA provides farmers with a regular and predictable source of income.

So today, for $20, we got a box with the following:

  • large golden beet (and tops)
  • red beet (and tops)
  • two yellow onions
  • three pattypan squash
  • seven carrots, with tops
  • bunch of black kale

So my plan tomorrow night is to make some sauteed beet tops with onion and garlic and a shredded beet and carrot salad.  Stand by for recipes and pictures tomorrow night!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Lower Mainland Green Team.

Following close on the heels of my post about, I wanted to make sure to give some more information for one of the groups that I joined as a result of checking out the site.  The group that I joined that I've actually attended meetups for is The Lower Mainland Green Team.  Joining and participating in their activities is free (or at least the meetups that I've seen recently on their page). This past weekend, Tim and I went to an Ivy Pull at Capilano River Park.  Here are the pictures from this weekend.

Next weekend I'm going with my friend (due to my status as a football widow, my husband cannot commit to activities on Sunday!) to do riparian restoration at Guichon Creek in Burnaby.  This time we are not only pulling ivy, but we also get to plant some native plants!

The following weekend, Tim and I are going to go to Delta (again with The Lower Mainland Green Team) to help the Earthwise Society harvest their organic produce.  The Earthwise Society's goal is to increase awareness about the value of local food production.  They also donate harvest boxes to local families that are in need, so they are a good organization for us to support.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Geez, I just recently realized just how much is going on these days that I should be blogging about.  I'm trying to keep up, but it is definitely hard!  Before I forget, I wanted to make sure to mention, which is something that I recently discovered that I believe every "eco-nomical" person, whatever their other interests, should at least check out. is an online resource for people to find other people with similar interests.  You can search in your area for people with interests in anything under the sun.  For instance, I did a search for my postal code in North Vancouver and "sustainability" and came across The Lower Mainland Green Team.  It bills itself as follows:
We’re a group of people from all over the Lower Mainland who get together once a month (often more) to help an environmental group, non-profit organization, charity or city tackle an environmental issue that needs co-operation and teamwork to get done
I also became a member of Vancouver Meatless Meetup, Veg Meetup Vancouver and Organic Vegan Living. You have no obligation when you join a group to participate in any of the activities of the group (although why would you join a group if you don't want to participate in its meetups?), and depending on the group, them may meet once in a blue moon or even weekly.  Some activities are completely free, where you are essentially volunteering your time or just meeting with others with similar interests, some things are just fun things to do that don't cost much (going to see movies, dinners, etc.), and some groups bring in presenters and essentially host seminars that can be fairly pricey.  Depending on where you are there may be few or many groups.  I highly recommend checking it out and seeking out people that have similar interests to you.  Social isolation in modern society, besides being the name of a book, is a reality of this day and age.  Get out there and meet people!

Sage lentil soup.

This morning I woke up early because I shamed myself by falling asleep at 8:30 because I was so tired from the ivy pull at Capilano River Park earlier in the day.  I think this was really my first experience with the pulling of any invasive plants, and it was both fun and exhausting!  Tim came with me, so it also doubled as "bonding time" of sorts.

So this morning I woke up bright and early and knew that at some point during the day I would need to make some sage lentil soup, so I thought I would get up and get to it.  I love cooking early in the morning and getting it out of the way!

Here were the ingredients that I used (adapted from this recipe):

  • 4 field tomatoes (you can use any large tomatoes or a combination of other tomatoes)
  • 1 cup of organic tomato sauce
  • equivalent of 2 bouillon cubes
  • 1 litre of water, plus whatever is necessary to bring the soup to the consistency you would like
  • 2 cups of dried yellow lentils (any type would be great!)
  • 2 tbsp oil from my jar of sun dried tomatoes (normal olive oil would be fine as well)
  • 1 shallot
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic
  • 30 medium sage leaves, chopped finely
  • 3 tbsp fresh italian seasoning
I first submerged the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute to loosen their skins, then removed them from the water and rinsed them under cold running water to cool them.  If you use fresh tomatoes instead of canned (there are good reasons not to use canned tomatoes or anything from cans that are lined with BPA), just make sure not to touch the tomatoes before you've cooled them sufficiently, otherwise you're going to burn your hands!

Once I had cooled the tomatoes, I cut them in half, removed the area where the stem was, and pulled off the skins.  I squeezed out the goo (although you probably don't need to), and cut them up as small as possible.

In the meantime, I heated the oil on medium high heat, then sauteed the shallot for a couple minutes.  I added the garlic and sage and sauteed everything for another couple minutes.  Then I added the rest of the ingredients and brought them to a boil.  Once the soup came to a boil, I reduced the heat and simmered the soup for 50 minutes.  I added boiling water a couple of times because I think I had my heat on too high and I lost a lot of water (or the lentils absorbed it all).  Without adding any water, the soup would have had the consistency of a very thick daal.  I probably added about another litre, maybe a bit less.

Once I had removed the soup from the heat, I let it cool for about 30 minutes and then put it all through the blender to give it a more "cream of lentil" consistency.  I hadn't chopped up the tomatoes small enough, so I still had pretty big chunks at the end of my journey, so I figured this was a great way to solve that problem!  We both had a nice bowl of soup for dinner (me as my entire dinner, Tim as his appetizer), and I must say, it was delicious, hearty and a really nice change from the typical lentil soup.  The sage adds a lovely sweet note that is subtle and tasty!

Creamy avocado pasta sauce.

I love being a vegan!  I love it so much because there is one important aspect of veganism that is particularly appealing to me: you have to be willing to try things out of the ordinary.  As some doors close, other, more wonderful doors, open.

One such closed door was Alfredo sauce.  I was never the hugest fan of Alfredo to start with, but sometimes at restaurants I would find myself with few other appealing options, so I would indulge. When I was in university I used to eat a lot of Alfredo with pasta, so I think I was burnt out on it.  And its artery-clogging-ness.

So yesterday when I was searching for Angela Liddon's blog to grab her Weekend Glow Kale Salad recipe that I was making with dinner last night, in the Google search bar, I noticed that Angela had posted this recipe for 15 Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta.  I had a half of an avocado left over from making the Kale Salad, so I thought I would go for it.  I'm going to do the Grouse Grind later today, so I thought it would be a great idea to have some whole wheat pasta for lunch.

As always, I altered the recipe somewhat.  Here's what I used:

  • 2 tbsp minced garlic from container, plus 1 tbsp of the oil the garlic was in
  • 1.5 tbps lemon juice
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 6 pitted kalamata olives
  • large pinch salt
I put the ingredients in my food processor and processed until fairly smooth.  I cooked the pasta in accordance with the directions on the package.  Once the pasta was cooked and strained, I just poured/scooped the sauce onto the pasta. It was delicious.  Absolutely fantastic.  I love garlic, olives and avocados.  The sauce is so creamy!  It is just so good! I really recommend trying this recipe, either with or without olives.  If I could do it again, I would perhaps not use any salt (the original recipe uses basil, but I used olives, so I think they added a lot of salt, making the salt in the recipe superfluous), and I might use this recipe to make two servings instead of the whole recipe to make only one serving of pasta.  Either way, it was absolutely one of the tastiest pasta sauces I've ever had, so I can foresee me experimenting a lot with this one!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Kale salad.

My lovely husband, Tim, bought me not one, but two, edible kale plants this week, and we went back to the gardening store and bought two more.  I decided that today I was going to make us one heck of a nice kale salad.  I decided to make the Weekend Glow Kale Salad recipe that Angela Liddon has on her blog Oh She Glows.

The salad comprised of:

  • 7-8 kale leaves
  • 1/2 sweet onion
  • 8 heirloom tomatoes (small kind)
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1/3 english cucumber
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tbsp black sesames
Although this doesn't exactly match Angela's recipe, it's pretty close, so I'm totally giving her the credit she deserves, particularly because I also made the tahini-lemon dressing she provides the recipe for on her blog.  In the end the salad, accompanied by some sage roasted sweet potatoes and eggplant and broccoli rogan josh, came together to make one of the best dinners I've ever made at home!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


I am thinking that this topic is going to generate a few posts, as it is very much at the forefront of my thinking recently.  As I mentioned in previous posts, I was working on becoming a weekday vegan a while ago, as I read a lot about the environmental impacts of the dairy and egg industries and generally thought that if I could further reduce the animal products I consumed (even if I wasn't planning on becoming a vegan), then this would be an admirable goal.

Part of what I do whenever I make a lifestyle change is I learn as much as I can about the topic, and so I started learning everything I could about the dairy and egg industry, as well as regulations surrounding the organic dairy industry, etc.  And what I learned did not make me happy.  I thought that by eating and drinking organic dairy products and buying free range and organic eggs that I was doing everything I could. Unfortunately, the more I learned, the more I came face to face with my own excuses and justifications for my continued support of the meat industry - surprising but true. I will not cover this topic in this post, but even for a long-term vegetarian, it is humbling to learn how wrong about these things I have been.

The amount of dairy in my diet has been fairly negligible for the past couple months, so I thought that perhaps I was mentally ready to cut the last few things out of my diet.  This weekend at the Living Naturally Fair we tested Daiya Vegan Cheese and I loved it, so that eliminated one of my concerns.  I also bought my first carton of Ryza, which is a fortified beverage made from whole grain brown rice.  I had about half a litre of skim milk left in the fridge, and decided that I was ready.  So I've now finished my skim milk, as of this morning, and had my proverbial "last supper" (whole wheat pasta with browned butter and sage and some asiago cheese on top), and I think I'm ready to fully embrace veganism, for the second time in my life.

In other vegan news, I tried tempeh for the second time in my life this weekend and it was really good.  I forgot to note the brand, but I will definitely be mentioning it again.  The guilt of knowing everything I know about animal cruelty, the environmental impact of the dairy industry, and the health benefits of a vegan diet have all contributed to my decision to become a vegan now.  I am truly looking forward to it!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Public transit.

Today was the first day of my program in Sustainability Management offered through UBC's faculty of Continuing Studies.  I am not sure if I have mentioned this before, but I generally do not take public transit, although I would love to start.  As I live on the North Shore and my program takes place at UBC's Robson Square Campus, I thought that this would be a wonderful opportunity to start using public transit.  And it doesn't hurt that getting from Lonsdale Quay to Downtown Vancouver is probably one of the most scenic trips you can take in the Lower Mainland, as you must take the Seabus.

The Seabus is a relatively small commuter ferry departing from Lonsdale Quay and arriving at Waterfront Station.  The trip takes 12 minutes and requires a two zone fare ($3.75 absent other fare saving discounts).  During the day the Seabus leaves every 15 minutes and in the evenings it leaves every half hour.  The trip is worth making even if you don't have something to cross the Burrard Inlet for, but if you do, it is a thousand times better (and quicker - well, maybe not a thousand) than driving across either of the bridges that are available.

Once I arrive at Waterfront Station in Vancouver, I can then walk to UBC Robson Square, which is about a seven block walk.  With my trusty seatbelt back in tow and the sun shining, it was a great walk today.  I don't know how much I'm going to enjoy the walk when it's raining out (or at night), but so far I'm definitely enjoying using public transit and the old standby - my feet!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

16th Annual Living Naturally Fair.

I love the summer.  It is a magical time of year, and not just because I live in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, which means the rest of the year we endure an inordinate amount of rain.  I do love the sunshine, but I also love the addition of farmer's markets to our normal grocery shopping options.  I've been attending the weekly farmer's market in North Vancouver at Lonsdale Quay, but then discovered that there is a weekly farmer's market within walking distance of my home, in Parkgate Plaza.  Doh!

Yesterday when I went to go and do the grocery shopping at Whole Foods at Park Royal in West Vancouver, I saw an advertisement for the 16th Annual Living Naturally Fair at the Whole Foods on Robson St. This Fair is put on by the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation, which is right up my alley. Tim and I had to go downtown to have Loki groomed, so we decided to go and check out the fair while we were waiting.

The Fair was terrific!  There were lots of local farms and food producers there with stands, such as OriginO Organic Farms (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers), Organic Lives (raw vegan restaurant), Anita Organics (grains), Daiya (the best vegan cheese on the market), Vij's (excellent Indian fusion restaurant in Vancouver), along with non-local companies such as Greens Plus and Clif.  All of the participants offered samples, and I was so glad that we went.  We were only there for a half hour, but we left full of good food and with lots of great ideas for things to cook up at home!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Kale chips.

One of the true joys of raw food, not that I am a raw foodist, but I do truly enjoy eating raw foods whenever possible, is kale chips.  I suppose there are many different flavours you can make, but my favourite uses nutritional yeast.

To make kale chips you can either bake them in the oven or use a dehydrator.  I have made them before in my oven, but because it doesn't have a low enough setting (the lower temperature, the better), I decided to ask for a food dehydrator as a Christmas present last year. I have gotten a lot of use out of it, making not only kale chips, but also fruit roll-ups, various other types of chips and dehydrated tomatoes and apricots.  I'm always looking for ways to use my dehydrator because I find it has such a nice effect on the taste of many foods.

After you have cleaned and torn up a bunch of kale into bite sized pieces, you get as much of the water off of the kale as possible then make the sauce that you will use to flavour the kale.  I use about a 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast, 3 tbsp of light soy sauce, 3 tbsp of apple cider vinegar, 1 tbsp of pureed garlic and 2 tbsp of tahini.  I love the tahini in the kale chips, it really makes them feel more substantial than they are (once the kale finishes dehydrating, it will be papery thin).  You will notice that I don't use any oil, but that is a matter of preference more than anything else, I don't find it adds anything, so I don't bother.
You then add the washed kale and massage the kale with the sauce until it is as evenly coated as possible.  You will find that despite your best efforts, there will be some pieces with more sauce than others.
You then spread the kale out (I do it piece by piece) evenly on whatever surface you intend to use to bake the kale on, be it a baking pan (if you are making the kale chips in the oven) or on the dehydrator trays.  If you are going to use a dehydrator, it will take about 3-4 hours to dehydrate the kale at 105 degrees fahrenheit, and you will have to switch the direction the trays are facing half way through because they most likely will dehydrate more quickly in the back of the dehydrator.  If you are using an oven, I can't remember what the timing is like, but it will be much faster and I advise that you spray some cooking spray on the baking sheet so the kale won't stick.  When I made my chips in the oven, I baked on 200 degrees fahrenheit (the lowest temperature on our stove) and after about fifteen minutes started taking the chips out of the oven every ten minutes to check on them.  The kale chips are done when they are dry and crispy.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Spinach goma ae.

Mmmmm. Spinach goma ae.

I often remark that my food cravings, of which I have been known to have many, must be indicative of some sort of a deficiency.  If it's not kale chips, or fresh figs, or pomegranates, it's always going to be something.  Sometimes it's not the healthy foods that I crave, but luckily I have been craving good-for-me foods recently. Today (and this past week), I have been craving spinach goma ae, a popular blanched spinach dish served in sushi restaurants.

To make the spinach goma ae, I purchased a large container of organic spinach from the grocery store.  I brought a pot of water to a boil then put half of the container in the boiling water for 30 seconds then poured it into a strainer, rinsed it in cold water, then placed it back in the pot and filled the pot with cold water to let it sit while I made the sauce.
For the sauce, I mixed 1 tbsp of sugar, 1 tbsp of miso paste, 1 tbsp of tahini, 1 tbsp of rice wine vinegar (weird, I know, but I didn't have any mirin or cooking sake, so it was the best I could do), and 1 tbsp of soy.  I whisked this together and it made about twice as much as I needed.

To put it all together, I strained the cold water off of the spinach, then grabbed the spinach by handfuls and pressed the water out.  I put them in a bowl, poured the dressing on, and enjoyed!  Best part: it completely satisfied my craving for spinach, AND it only took ten minutes to make!