Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bringing Veganism to the Youth

Meatless Monday

Veganism is a constant learning process. Sometimes, I spend literally hours per day surfing and searching the internet for recipes, ideas, facts, new research, new vegans, etc... Sometimes, I wonder how I don't get fired from my day job, I'm surfing so much! I'm not even sure what got me on the path today, but it seems there's a youth movement afoot. Granted, the exciting stuff that is going on is vegetarian and not quite vegan, it is still pretty progressive.

If you look at some of the great changes we've gone through as a society over the past thirty years, like wearing seatbelts, eradicating smoking (at least, in public), significantly reducing drinking and driving, and recycling, they were a success because the youth were educated with the facts and benefits. Good or bad, it all starts with the youth - they do grow up, after all.

The school board in Baltimore, Maryland, USA has officially designated Mondays 'Meatless Mondays'. That means, every Monday the 80,000 public school students in the Baltimore system will be served only vegetarian food in their cafeterias. They will still be serving dairy products and eggs, but, hey, it's a start.

This initiative is in response to the obesity epidemic that is plaguing the continent. Hopefully, the students will be provided with facts about the evils of factory farms and the harm animal farming does on the environment.

This has inspired Being A Vegan Athlete to start an e-mail campaign to lobby the many, many levels of Canadian government to get a program like this running in Canadian schools sooner than later. As the responses roll in (it's government, so please - no breath holding), good or bad, they will be posted on the blog.

For further reading on the Baltimore project read:

'Meatless Mondays' is not something new that is starting with Baltimore. Meatless Monday is actually a non-profit initiative in association with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health. The goal of Meatless Monday is to reduce meat consumption by 15%. Their website is an excellent source of information and provides all you need to know about the initiative.

Interestingly, they chose Monday because studies suggest that behaviors begun on a Monday are most likely to maintain throughout the week. According to the website's history page, the initiative was actually started during WWI to try and conserve food. Meatless Monday was reborn in 2003 with a goal to reduce the risk of preventable disease.

The Meatrix

Hopefully, the school boards, as they jump on board, can use 'The Meatrix' as a learning tool. Despite the fact that 'The Meatrix' is all about ending factory farming and not about going vegan or even vegetarian, it is still information that can have an impact on the future vegans out there. 'The Meatrix' is a series of animated shorts that spoof 'The Matrix'. It brings to light the incredible cruelty in the factory farms and can be a catalyst in the decision to cut the flesh from the diet.

I encourage all of you to contact your local government officials and your local school boards and bring to light that our children's diets need to change - now.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Vegan Friendly Restaurants: Karine's in Toronto

In my quest to seek out and inform the Vegan community about great Vegan-friendly restaurants, I believe I came across what possibly is one of the best there is as far as quality and value.

Karine's is a 100% Vegan restaurant in downtown Toronto, located at McCaul and Dundas. Run by Maggie and daughter Karine, the restaurant features gourmet food for cafeteria pricing. Everything they make is homemade and 100% free of dairy, gluten and animal products. They specialize in Mediterranean, European and Lebanese cuisine.

Taking their passion for the environment to a higher level, Karine's encourages all patrons to bring their own mugs and food containers.
The menu includes such exotic sounding (and tasting) delights like:
  • Armenian Salad
  • Fattoush Salad
  • Potato Frittata
  • Plaki
  • Pesto Crushed Organic Tofu
  • Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

Their menu is listed in full on their website and explains the above dishes in every mouth-watering detail.

I was fortunate enough to have Maggie answer some questions about the restaurant. Some of my questions are pretty lame and need re-tuning, but, god bless her, she made the best of it.

Q. Since you serve meals containing animal products as well as vegan, what percentage of your customers would you say are vegan?

A. I guess we have 65% Vegan and Vegetarian.

Q. Have any customers ever claimed that your food was the reason they went vegan?

A. I have gotten the best compliments and great Thanks from my people but I don't think they went Vegan because of me. They find it FUN, Very Tasty and not Boring.

Q. What is the weirdest question you've had about vegan food from a non-vegan customer?

A. "Oh my God! These people are Vegan! What is Vegan by the way?

Q. Which gender of customer do you find more often orders vegan?

A. I guess the female gender is the winner so far but truly we do have lots of male Vegan patrons. Chapeau!!!

Q. Have any celebrities ever eaten from your vegan menu?

A. Over the years we have had many celebrities that we catered for in our Maggie's All Day restaurants in Toronto and London but I don't recall any of them being Vegan.

Q. Who is the most famous person to eat vegan at your restaurant?

A. The mayor of London Anne-Marie Decicco Best is Vegan and she truly supported my restaurant in London for years. Hi Anne-Marie! Missed u!!! (being a former Londoner and as big a London Knight fan as Anne-Marie - she's pretty famous in my books)

Q. What is the rarest, most exotic ingredient you use in your cooking?

A. I don't know how to answer to this question. I just can tell you that the most exotic ingredient in my cooking is Love and Passion.

Q. Is is a prerequisite for all your employees to be vegan?

A. The most important task for my employees is to learn the menu.
Not only the title but all the ingredients in every dish.
We do believe in serving our patrons with knowledge.
We care about their allergies and we make sure they get out from our restaurants Happy and Fully Satisfied.

Karine's is also a big supporter of ScotiaBank's Nuit Blanche in Toronto. This is a very unique cultural event that takes place this coming Saturday (October 3). What it is in a nutshell is a massive art exhibit that takes place throughout downtown Toronto, indoors and out. The really unique thing about Nuit Blanche is that it takes place from dusk Saturday until dawn Sunday morning. Last year, an estimated 1 million people took part. The TTC and city council co-operate so that selective transit lines stay open throughout the event.

I will be attending Nuit Blanche with my family and will be eating at Karine's! Thanks Maggie so much for helping me out with this post and all the best to you, your family and, of course, the restaurant!

Monday, September 28, 2009

8 Great Vegan Excuses

Yes, I know we shouldn't hide who we are. Sometimes, though, it's just easier that way. Keep in mind, this post is meant to be somewhat humorous! There are times where telling little white lies, instead of getting into the in-depth conversation about your diet, is acceptable. My parents are well into their 80's. These are people that come from the meat and potatoes era and when they were kids you were damn lucky to even have that - so they say... The incredible amount of stress it would cause them and myself to explain that I don't eat all the things they were brought up to know everyone had to eat (my Mom is famous for dipping bread in bacon grease, for Christ's sake!) is just not worth it for me. Besides, at their age, they'd forget the whole conversation ever happened and we'd have to go over the same thing at the next meal. (If you ever get a computer and happen to read this - Sorry, Mom and Dad!)

There are other times, as well, where you may be at a large or not so large dinner party with people you don't know and maybe don't feel all that comfortable around. This is also a time when you may want to avoid the spotlight attention that mentioning you're Vegan inevitably brings.

So, here's my list. I have used some. I have actually used more far-fetched excuses but I don't feel they are appropriate on this blog. I most likely will use some or all of these again on occasion. I'm sure you will too!

  • I'm lactose intolerant. (the easiest)

  • I have diarrhea. (the questions will cease immediately)

  • I have a minor procedure tomorrow and can't eat anything for 24 hours. (a little far-fetched but good for a laugh. watch your spouse or significant other try and keep a straight face)

  • Oh, I already took some meat, it's underneath my mashed potatoes. (this one works well. try and immediately draw attention to someone else at the table so that everyone doesn't continue to stare at your mashed potatoes)

  • I'm part of a paid meat-deprivation experiment and I can only eat vegetables for the next couple of days. (this will draw just as much attention, but it'll be more fun because you're making up a whopper of a story)

  • My wife is pregnant and even the scent of meat on me will make her vomit. (not good at the in-laws - unless you wife really is pregnant)

  • My timing is all off today - I just had a huge meal before I came here - I'll just have some salad and maybe I'll take some left-overs home with me for later. (the most practical and easy excuse to pull off)

  • I was picking away at the turkey in the kitchen while you were preparing this delicious feast and now I just want the mashed potatoes. (this is the one I pull on my parents - works every time)

Once again, I'd like to emphasize that we should never be embarrassed of who we are and we should try and promote our lifestyle choices whenever possible. But, sometimes you just have to lie like a rug!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

3 Great Blogs in the Vegan World

Lately, I've been scrounging through google to find really interesting vegan voices out there in the world wide web. I've found a few that are extremely interesting and I'd like to share them with you. At some point, I'd like to interview the authors of these blogs, if they're willing, as they are unique characters in our vegan world.

animal rights and animal liberation: empathy for animals

This is a great blog on current events surrounding animal rights and animal liberation. The author, The One And Only Hypnos, is from Belgium but is not bound by international borders when bringing issues of animal injustice to light. Updates are often and quite detailed. Hypnos is a great writer and a great 'voice' for animal rights and veganism.

Barefoot Adventures

Barefoot adventures is a blog by a very entertaining Floridian named Sean Dietrich. Sean made the move to being Vegan a few years ago but more interestingly has been running barefoot for even longer! As the pictures he posts on his blog will attest, he is quite a sight running down the road with his long red hair and beard waving in the wind and no shoes on his feet. He has run marathons barefoot and is looking to run an ultra. Currently, he is pondering a trail run across the state of Florida. Sean is also an accomplished musician. His band, The Sean Dietrich Trio, has a website that can be accessed through his blog.

Christine "Peanut" Vardaros

Christine is a professional cyclist out of California, USA. She is currently working the Cyclo-Cross circuit in Europe. She is honoured at Vegan Voices as a leader within the Vegan movement. Her blog is very cycling oriented with not a whole lot of Vegan information but it is a great read.

Personal Update:

I've postponed my 24 hour fast experiment planned for later today. My schedule for today and tomorrow is too active and physically demanding.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Vegan Friendly Restaurants: Magic Oven

I, like most vegans out there, find that the biggest challenge is finding restaurants that 'understand'. I'm never selfish enough to force my omnivore family and friends to go to a vegan-only restaurant, but it is nice to find middle ground and find a restaurant that caters to both worlds. Your big-chain 'roadhouses', as I like to call them, usually have one item out of dozens that can be considered vegetarian. If you ask for that meal without the cheese, then, voila, you have one stinkin' vegan dish. I was in one of these restaurants in Niagara Falls recently and had to walk out. Not a single item on their menu did not contain meat - not even their salads.

Anyhow. On to the real subject. Magic Oven is a chain of 7 restaurants in the core area of Toronto. Founded in 1997 by Tony and Abby Sabherwal, all the Magic Oven restaurants take pride in cooking vegan-specific items and vegetarian-specific items as well as dishes made with organic meats. All vegetarian dishes can be made vegan with the substitution of always available vegan cheese.

The Magic Oven group pride themselves on being friends of the earth using bio-degradable packaging when possible and using recycled cardboard and paper. An interesting note is that all the restaurants are reclaimed sites that were saved from demolition and all furniture and fixtures are recycled.

Not including all their vegetarian dishes that can be veganized with the substitution of vegan cheese, there are several vegan items on their menu. Some tasty delights include:
  • Vegan Magic Pizza topped with tomato pesto sauce, zucchini, artichokes, portobello mushrooms and roasted peppers.

  • Whole Wheat Penne with a mix of garden vegetables in a rose sauce.

  • BBQ Tofu with Spinach, warm grilled ciabatta sandwich.

  • Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Cake or Carrot Cake.

  • Edamame - Steamed baby soybeans.

  • Green Tea infused organic tofu fingers.

  • Mixed Beans & Grains in curry-lime.

There are several more and they all sound delicious!

I was able to ask Tony a few questions about the restaurants and here's what he had to say:

Q. Since you serve meals containing animal products as well as vegan, what percentage of your customers would you say are vegan?

A. We have 5-10% of Vegan guests.

Q. Have any customers ever claimed that your food was the reason they went vegan?

A. They are appreciative of our vegan choices and our commitment to vegetarians and vegans. I know of lots of meat eating people who have shared vegan dishes with their company and loved it.

Q. What is the weirdest question you've had about vegan food from a non-vegan customer?

A. "What kind of people eat this?"

Q. Which gender of customer do you find more often orders vegan?

A. 50:50 split.

Q. Have any celebrities ever eaten from your vegan menu?

A. We do not track such sightings/events.

Q. Who is the most famous person to eat vegan at your restaurant?

A. I thought fame was equal - 15 minutes each. (awesome answer!)

Q. What is the rarest, most exotic ingredient you use in your cooking?

A. Green Tea Infused Tofu Fingers - it is not rare - it is the preparation and the chemistry within the body that makes it unique. All our pizza dough is vegan.

For store locations, hours of operation and full menus including pricing, check out their website. As for what I'm ordering next time I'm there:

  • Green Tea infused organic tofu fingers

  • Bombay Green Salad

  • Garlic Lover's Magic Pizza (sans asiago cheese)

  • Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Cake

  • Beer! - all restaurants are licensed

I would just like to thank Tony Sabherwal for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions and I wish him the best in his endeavors.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Recipe: Eddoes / Taro Root

For some reason, Price Chopper, a discount grocery store in Ontario that is affiliated with Sobeys, is my town's best source of exotic, foreign or off-beat fruits and vegetables. A regular in their produce department is Eddoes. Eddoes are a root that look similar to a potato but with an outer skin that looks more like coconut.

I've bought them before and simply peeled and baked them with a mixture of potatoes, yams, and some other veggies. I bought a bunch this week and after doing a little research into how they're traditionally cooked, I came up with a recipe of my own that tasted pretty darn good.

First, some facts on Eddoes or Taro Root:
  • grown as a food crop in West Africa, much of Asia, Central America, South America, the Caribbean and Polynesia
  • most known as the main ingredient in the Hawaiian dish, Poi
  • juices secreted while peeling the raw Eddoe can cause skin irritation
  • the raw Eddoe can be toxic and should only be eaten cooked
  • great source of fibre, protein, calcium and phosphorus

The Recipe:

We'll call it 'Mashed Eddoes with Tomato, Celery and Onion', for simplicity sake...


  • 5 or 6 Eddoes, peeled and cut in chunks
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 sticks of celery, diced
  • 2 good sized tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper, thinly diced (optional)
  • 4 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil


  1. peel and wash Eddoes
  2. cut Eddoes into chunks (2-3 per)
  3. boil Eddoes until flesh is tender when poked with a fork or knife
  4. drain and rinse Eddoes
  5. mash Eddoes with a masher and leave in pot
  6. in a frying pan, saute onions, pepper and celery until onions are yellow and translucent
  7. add tomatoes and simmer for about 10 minutes
  8. add the contents of the frying pan to the pot of mashed Eddoes and stir

What you get is a great tasting side dish that most would think are mashed potatoes with a distinctively different, tasty flavour. Or, if you're like me, this amount will serve as a full meal for dinner and the next day's lunch...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Race Rating: Run for the Grapes Half Marathon

The Run for the Grapes Half Marathon is run in St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada and the vineyard region on the western outskirts of town. The race is run in September. My overall view of the race is that it is well organized, scenic, fast, and an overall good experience for most any runner.

1. Bathroom facilities - 1 (As far as I could tell, there were only 6 portapoddies for 1000 runners and their families and friends - however, I may have missed something as the lineups weren't outrageous. Therefore, I'll give the benefit of the doubt with a 1 instead of a 0.)

2. Race day organization - 3 (Fantastic. This was a very smooth operation from the minute you pulled into town.)

3. Course scenery - 2 (City, vineyards, corn field. It is the Run for the Grapes...)

4. Course creativity - 2 (There was only one out and back section. The starting and finishing 4 or so km were duplicated but, not being from there, I hardly noticed...)

5. Value - 3 (Entry price was quite reasonable. The shirt and medal were good quality and some of the best I've seen. Parking was cheap, ample and close.)

6. Shirt or gift - 3 (The Merrell shirt is truly one of the best I've had in 20 years of running, as is the medal. I have a picture of both up on the race report post.)

7. Parking availability - 3 ($2 flat rate - not as good as free but pretty darn close. The municipal lots were within a very short walk of the start / finish.)

8. Website quality - 2 (The site had all the necessary information but had an awkward design due to it being part of a whole running series at the same site. The site lacked any photos or race history.)

9. Online registration - 3 (Very simple link from main website.)

10. Accessible for spectators - 3 (Very spectator friendly. Those on bikes could follow the race as the roads were only closed to traffic on one lane.)

11. Convenience of race packet pickup - 3 (There was no unnecessary picking up of race packet the day before. Because of the later, 9:00, start time, there was plenty of time to accommodate everyone before the race start. There was no race day registration, so everyone was there to simply pickup.)

12. Pre-race expo - 0 (There was none.)

13. Entertainment on course - 0 (None.)

14. Post race food - 2 (Standard. Although, this was the first time I've ever been limited to one trip through the food line - ensured with a bingo blotter stamp to my race number.)

15. Race day vendors/exhibitors - 1 (Merrell, of course, had a big set-up. Other than that, just the usual back specialist and a table with some running pamphlets.)

16. Volunteers / marshalls / police & emergency services support -3 (Awesome as usual. The Niagara Regional Police were some of the friendliest cops I've ever seen marshall a race!)

For a grand total of 34. This score makes Run for the Grapes my highest ranking race by 1 point over Toronto Pearson Runway Run 5k and Rattlesnake Point 12.7 Trail Run. I will do this run again - maybe not next year because I really do want to get to Montreal in September...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Race Report: Run For The Grapes Half Marathon

Honestly, I didn't know what to expect when I arrived in St. Catherines Sunday morning for the Run For The Grapes Half Marathon. I'd never heard of the race before and despite travelling through St. Catherines quite often, I've never really stopped to take a look around.

Overall, it was a great experience. The 500 or so entrants made it just the perfect size race, not too crowded, yet you were in contact with other human beings at all times. The weather was incredible. I would put the start line temperature at around 15 degrees Celsius and according to my internal thermometer it never rose above 20 degrees during the race. However, my internal thermometer has never been known to be incredibly accurate! Add to that, sunshine and a slight breeze and the conditions were very comfortable.

My one concern was the lack of washroom facilities at the start / finish line. By my count, there were only 6 portapoddies available for around 1000 runners (there was also a 5k event). I may have been misinformed because I did see runners entering a government building adjacent to the start area. It didn't bother me much as the parking spot I chose was in a perfect treed corner of a lot near the start...

The course was nice. For maybe the first and last 5km, we ran through the downtown and residential areas of St. Catherines. The in-between 10 or 11km were run on rural roads to the west of the city. Most of the rural route was through vineyards. I was a little misconceived by the elevation profile on the official website. It looked to me like it would be a fairly hilly course. It wasn't. I didn't actually look at the elevation intervals on the profile map beforehand and they were indeed quite small.

An interesting quirk about the race was the periodic 'cannon fire' in the vineyards. Also called 'bird-bangers', these are propane powered blasts to scare the birds away from the grapes. There were a few times when I was zoned in on my running and one of the blasts would scare the shit out of me. These periodic adrenaline boosts are probably partly responsible for me shaving 10 minutes off my last half marathon time.

I would also like to apologize to the female runner that was ahead of me at around the 14km mark. I looked up and saw her move from one side of the road to the other as if in search of something. I then forgot about it and zoned out. Soon after, I heard rustling in the bush at the side of the road. For some reason, despite not hearing any barking, my active imagination assured me that a farm dog was loose and about to rush through the bushes at me at any time. I, of course, craned my neck to see where this 'dog' might be. When I realized, too late, that it was the unfortunate female runner having what seemed to be a very urgent and possibly painful pit stop, I was rather embarrassed. At least, I didn't yell out to those behind me, "Watch out for the dog!"

If the goodies are one of the reasons you enter races, I have to say that the shirt and medal were the best I've ever seen. If parking and convenience are on your list, this was also one of the best. Despite the fact that St. Catherines doesn't have free parking on Sundays like a lot of municipalities, the parking was a very reasonable flat rate of $2 and was steps away from the start / finish.

As for my personal race, I started strong and remained strong. I concentrated on turnover rate and not getting lazy and moving to a longer, slower stride. My time was 1 hour 51 minutes and although not my personal best, it was 10 minutes better than the Mississauga Half earlier this year and not far behind my best ever at the Toronto International a few years ago. My goals for the race were to complete the race injury-free - which I did; To beat 2 hours - which I did; To enjoy my experience from start to finish - which I did; To partake in the wine festival that the race was a part of - which I did not...

My race rating for this run will follow shortly.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Run For The Grapes - Race Strategy

The Run For The Grapes Half Marathon in St. Catherines, Ontario is upon me. Tomorrow morning at 9:15am, I will join approximately 500 others to run 21.1km through the city of St. Catherines and the wine country on the outskirts of town.
The forecast is looking great with a morning temperature of 13 degrees celcius, going up to a high of 23 with nothing but sunshine. Can you ask for anything better in the latter part of September in Southern Ontario? Unlike this morning, I shouldn't have a layer of ice on my windshield when I get up...
Judging by the profile on the official website, there will be a few more hills than I've had in most of my race events this year. This is not a bad thing as my training runs in and around Orangeville are never, ever flat.
My goals for this run are:
  • To complete the race injury free.
  • To beat 2 hours.
  • To enjoy my experience from start to finish.
  • To partake in the wine festival that the race is a part of.

Pretty simple. The conditions are good. The course is good. The number of entrants is neither too many or too few. My health is excellent. This should be a good time! Plus, the gift is a tech shirt from Merrell - a nice change from NB...

Off The Beaten Path - Longans

I was at my favourite Thai-Vietnamese restaurant the other night, 7 Stars in Orangeville, and was chatting with the owners after my usual meal of Vegetable Curry Pad Thai. I noticed behind the counter there was a bowl of little light brown berries that I'd seen at the Chinese markets in downtown Toronto.
Of course, as soon as I asked what they were, I was soon walking out with a bag full of them. Afterall, these are the same wonderful people that shopped around for Dragon Fruit and called me at home to come pick that wonderful fruit up - on the house, of course.

These little guys are call Longans. They are similar to the more popular Lychee in that their flesh is translucent and is quite sweet. They are simple to eat raw by biting down on the outer shell to 'crack' it and pulling out the flesh, making sure to discard the pit. In fact, I think a Longan pit spitting contest would blow away a cherry pit spitting contest because the pit is very smooth and a little bigger than a cherry pit - making for less friction and more momentum. In fact, stay tuned to BeingAVeganAthlete - that contest might just be in the works!

In China they are commonly referred to as Dragon Eyes. This will become evident by looking at the fruit without its outer shell. Because of the translucent flesh, the black seed within makes it look like an eyeball.

The fruit is packed with vitamin C and has fairly significant amounts of riboflavin, potassium and copper. But, what the Longan is great for is, like the cherry, is being a great snack that you can munch on all day without worrying about calories or fat.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Off The Beaten Path - Ackees!

Native to Africa, the Ackee was brought over to the new world in the late 1700's by Captain William Bligh. It was brought to cheaply sustain the diets of slaves. It is now the national fruit of Jamaica and a staple in most every Jamaican's diet. Although usually associated with the Jamaican National dish of Ackees and Salt Fish, Ackee's are also used in meatless dishes as well.

At times in history, the Ackee has been outlawed in some countries, including the USA. The reason being that the Ackee can be rather toxic, carrying hypoglycin A and hypoglycin B. However, once the fruit has ripened and opened up naturally to reveal the fleshy, edible arils, the toxicity subsides and for the most part disappears, existing only in the seeds that, of course, should not be eaten. When you get sick from eating unripe Ackees, it is considered 'Jamaican vomitting sickness'. does not recognize Ackee's but food value information from Mexico states that the fruit is high in protein, calcium, phosphorus and iron.

I put away a can of Ackees today for the first time. I used a recipe from that was completely vegan and quite delicious. Of course, I bastardized it ever so slightly like I do with every recipe!

This is the original:

1 can Ackee
2 oz. cooking oil
1 large onion
2 plum tomatoes
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp black pepper


In a frying pan, sauté onions and tomatoes, without burning onions, until onions are soft.
Open the can of Ackees and drain off the brine.
Add Ackees to onions and tomatoes and fold together.
Cook for 2 minutes and add salt to taste.

Here's my version:

1 can Ackees
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (give or take a tbsp or 2)
1 large onion (yellow, cooking)
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 heaping tbsp black pepper
1 heaping tbsp garlic powder

The instructions are the same as the original. I changed the tomatoes simply because that was what I had in the garden. I subbed the garlic powder for salt because I've never believed in adding salt to anything. Olive oil is most always my choice of cooking oil.

What the fruit comes out of the can looking like is scrambled eggs. In fact, in certain cultures the translated name is somewhat equivalent to egg-fruit. Many other local names refer to the Ackee as brains.

The final product I found to be amazingly like scrambled eggs. I read that in Jamaica, the people almost consider it a meat more than a fruit. With the nutritional makeup and the taste, I can see why. It was great tasting. I had it on top of a few slices of bread and I had two plate fulls. I would have had more but there was none!

Unfortunately, I can't buy Ackees at this time in my town. There is a Caribbean specialty market about a half hour away, at the north end of Brampton, that does carry them, though. I will be stocking up this weekend when I pass through. I may even be able to pawn this recipe off on my carnivorous family if I tell them that it's scrambled eggs!

Monday, September 14, 2009

24-Hour Fasting

I've been doing some reading for some time about fasting. I think I lead too active a life to go the 3+ days that are recommended as an ideal fast. However, a 24-hour fast which has been proven to be beneficial to our health is within my means.
Benefits of a 24-hour, water-only fast include:
  • cleansing of the pancreas
  • reduction in your desire for sugar
  • reduction in blood pressure
  • more efficient energy usage
  • weight reduction
  • digestive system 'vacation'

It is also said that fasting as short a time as 24 hours reduces tiredness, bloating and gas and is good for the brain. It is also said that regular 24-hour fasting, as much as once per week, can significantly extend life expectancy by simply decreasing stress on the organs and creating a more efficient system. Also, it may even be beneficial in avoiding diseases such as cancer.

I plan on experimenting with my first intentional 24-hour fast on Saturday, September 26. I say intentional, because I know there have been times when I have gone that long without eating but it was due to illness or the after-effects of a night of drinking alcohol. I plan to have my last meal on Saturday afternoon at around 2:30 so that I'm ready to start at 3:00. This would give me time to get in a workout and run in the morning and would give me enough time for both Sunday evening before 10pm hockey.

I am going to keep a diary of weight and pulse. I would like to monitor blood pressure and blood sugar levels but do not have the equipment. I have concerns about sodium loss and will be doing more research about that but I haven't found anything written, so far, that it is a concern.

I would love to hear from anyone who has tried this or does this on a regular basis and I look forward to my little adventure in less than two weeks.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Recipe: SQA Chick Pea and Friends Salad (Simple, Quick, Awesome)

To me, avocados and artichokes are the cream cheese and sour cream of the vegan world. They're just two ingredients that if included in a recipe make the recipe awesome no matter what else is in it. This is quickie that can be put together in a matter of minutes. It's a meal for me, but would make a great side when entertaining.

Chick Peas - one 540ml can
Whole Artichoke Hearts - one 398ml can
Pitted Ripe Black Olives - one 375ml can
Peas - one 398ml can
Avocado - one ripe, cubed
Ground Pepper - 1 TBSP
Ground Cumin - 1 TBSP
Garlic Powder - 1 TBSP

1. Drain all the fluid from the cans and rinse.
2. Put all ingredients in a salad bowl.
3. Mix.
4. Serve.

Yes, it's really simple but tell people you had to soak the chick peas overnight two nights ago and marinate the whole salad overnight last night - they'll think you're genius.
You get a kick-ass amount of protein, fibre, vitamin C and Iron as well as decent amounts of calcium and vitamin A.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

My NHL Predictions For 2009-2010

Time for a little fun. I have watched the NHL for a good 35 years now, and I believe I'm pretty good at seeing talent and trends and making predictions. In keeping with the vegan athlete theme, by default George Laraque's team, the Montreal Canadiens, get an automatic first place prediction in the Eastern Conference's Northeast Division! I'm predicting regular season division standings only. Oh, and that it will be a Chicago vs. Montreal final for the first time since 1972-73.

Eastern Conference
North East Division
1. Montreal Canadiens
2. Boston Bruins
3. Ottawa Senators
4. Buffalo Sabres
5. Toronto Maple Leafs

Notes: It's more than just Georges Laraque that will propel Montreal into the first place finish - New ownership and new exciting acquisitions in the off-season make the Habs the team to beat. Boston will be a strong second but just doesn't have what it takes. Ottawa will be a surprise 3rd place after finally off-loading bad attitude Dany Heatley. Buffalo is just Buffalo. Toronto will hopefully not win a single game along with the New York Rangers, the two teams that are single-handedly responsible for the greed and high prices in the game.

Atlantic Division
1. Philadelphia
2. Pittsburgh
3. New Jersey
4. New York Islanders
5. New York Rangers

Notes: Philadelphia is going to bully their way to the top just like they did in the 1970's. Pittsburgh's defence is just too questionable - Malkin and Crosby can score a lot of goals but not that many. In Jersey, will this be the year that Brodeur acts his age? All I have to say about the Islanders is poor, poor John Tavares (please trade him or send him back to the Knights for one more season of junior). Rangers will finish last just like the Leafs.

South East Division
1. Washington
2. Carolina
3. Tampa Bay
4. Florida
5. Atlanta

Notes: Ah, the indifferent division. Throw your names in a hat and draw to see who finishes first. Washington is a one man show. Carolina is a collection of no-name diggers and has-beens. Tampa is on the rise with Lacavalier and some good young talent. Florida - do they still have a team? Atlanta is just another place where hockey does not belong. Hell, hockey doesn't belong in the South East Division at all. Sorry - I'm Canadian - teams belong in Winnipeg, Quebec City, Halifax, Hamilton, London and Regina and not places where you go to the rink in shorts and a t-shirt in the middle of winter.

Eastern Conference
Central Division
1. Chicago
2. Columbus
3. St. Louis
4. Detroit
5. Nashville

Notes: This is the year for Chicago to finally knock Detroit out of the #1 spot. Columbus is led by the London Knight connection of Rick Nash, Marc Methot and Steve Mason. St. Louis is just too fun to watch and they look like they're having too much fun playing the game - and why not - they're mostly kids barely out of diapers playing a game for a living and getting paid millions. It's finally time for Detroit's fountain of youth to run dry - sorry. Nashville... see my above notes about the South East Division.

Pacific Division
1. Ananheim
2. San Jose
3. Los Angeles
4. Dallas
5. Phoenix

Notes: I had San Jose pegged for #1 until today when news broke that Heatley was going there in exchange for Cheechoo. Anaheim now has the edge. It's such a waste for San Jose to finish at the top of the division anyway when they inevitably choke in the playoffs. Los Angeles will fool all the experts and actually have a decent season - the law of averages says so. Dallas - whatever... The Hamilton Coyotes will start their re-building process while still in Phoenix so they start the 2010-11 season with a bang.

North West Division
1. Calgary
2. Vancouver
3. Edmonton
4. Minnesota
5. Colorado

Notes: Calgary will fire on all cylinders this season - possibly with Theo Fleury in the lineup - as stick boy or something. I'm not against Sweden, but sorry Vancouver, too many Swedes! The Oil will be mired in mediocrity yet again but at least they know that everyone in Canada loves them like the little brother that is hopelessly lost in the world. Minnesota - whatever... Go Colorado! - Collect those big draft picks!

Of course, good or bad results, I will do a follow up post every 20 games or 1/4 season. I would love to hear anyone else's predictions or opinions on mine. If you're from the Southern United States - again, sorry...

Friday, September 11, 2009

An Inspirational Passage From Laird Hamilton

"The point is: Your path is yours alone. And if it's the path less traveled, that's absolutely fine. The world doesn't need more conformists. The world needs more people who create and question and search. If you don't fit in, celebrate that, and then get ready to stand your ground. Our society has some rigid roles for people, and when you decide that you don't want to play the same game as everyone else, you might not get much support for your decision. Don't let that discourage you. The best way to find your path is to start with a dream and then refuse to listen to anyone else's opinions about what you 'can' and 'can't' do in the pursuit of that dream."

This is a paragraph from Laird Hamilton's book Force of Nature. Laird is not a vegan or even a vegetarian but is an incredibly inspirational athlete and person. Despite that, I find this paragraph to so powerfully represent those who have boldly moved on to veganism. Although this piece by Laird holds a lot of meaning to me outside of my diet, it really can be pieced apart to represent all that we believe in and are going through.

Your path is yours alone. Go to school. Be a good boy. Get a good job. Eat your meat and potatoes. Adults don't play games. Retire at 65 and prepare to die. Screw that! We're not in training for the real game. This is it! This is the real game. There are no reset buttons. You don't get to do it again so, do it right now! We don't need anyone's approval to do what we want to do in our lives.

The world doesn't need more conformists. The world needs more people who create and question and search. The only people who want us to be conformists are the government, Nike, Mcdonalds and the rest of the corporate world so profiting off us is as easy as possible. Sandra Winn, a great writer from Pensacola, Florida, has a great post on how the term Un-American is being thrown around as soon as someone fails to conform, questions or searches for better answers. Imagine a world where people are truly free to do what they want instead of spending time trading hours for money at an unproductive job then spending the rest of their time mindlessly watching a very minute portion of our population on a flat lifeless screen re-create what the ideal world should be. All our worldly problems would be non-existent and we'd be off to space to explore the infinite worlds that lay beyond us.

Get ready to stand your ground. Becoming vegan, or doing anything outside of the norm, will always be met with friction. This friction comes from people who are ashamed of their own fear to follow their dreams. This is your chance to be a positive influence and lead by example. You don't need to argue your situation. You don't need to fight back. Don't be self-righteous. Just stand your ground and stay the course. Be positive and others will see your success and happiness. They may not come around to support you but they will stand down.

You might not get much support for your decision. Don't let that discourage you. You are living your life and no one else's. The only support you need is from inside. If you have a significant other that doesn't support you, you may need to do some serious thinking about the compatibility between you and him/her.

Refuse to listen to anyone else's opinion. Opinions are formed from something as simple as a drunken conversation with a stranger at a bar 5 years ago in a city 500 miles from home. Read reviews from if you want to see how many widely varying opinions people can have about the same resort/hotel/attraction. My parents were skeptical about me running right from the beginning because they had one friend who used to be a runner and injured his knees. The reason why the friend had a hard time walking in his 70's was because of running and only because of running, according to them. He was a runner in the days before Bill Bowerman and proper footwear. He had arthritis that certainly wasn't caused by running. But, that is how the opinion was formed and solidified - 1 person's experience. You have a better chance of dying from hypothermia in Cuba than you do during a running race yet when someone does (probably someone who hasn't trained 1 single kilometer in their lifetime before the run) it makes headline news and the running nay-sayers come out in droves.

This, of course as we all know, applies to veganism in an extreme measure. I tried going without meat once (for 2 days), I just couldn't survive on lettuce. Heard that one before? People don't know the facts, try something and when it doesn't perform miracles immediately they write it off as bullshit. I don't want to waste away, be pale, lose my hair, lose my teeth, be weak... Take a look at Mac Danzig, Carl Lewis, Woody Harrelson, Alec Baldwin, Georges Laraque, etc. Do they look sickly to you? Please try and tell Mac Danzig he looks sickly and weak!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Associated Content Article - 10 Benefits to Being Vegan

This is a link to an article I've posted at Associated Content. It's a somewhat light-hearted look at the top 10 benefits of being vegan.

Check out my recently published content on AC:

Top 10 Reasons to Go Vegan

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How PETA Is A Useful Tool For New Vegans

PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, might be on the extreme side for a lot of people's tastes but they can be used as a great resource for vegans new and old. Their website is full of stories, support, recipes, and videos pertaining to the prevention of cruelty to animals and to the vegan lifestyle.
Understand, that shock-value is a necessary tool of theirs. If you're like me and not into scaring people into decisions, look past the shock-talk and simply use it as a resource.
I found the videos regarding factory farming and cruelty issues in the farming industry to actually be a big help in fortifying my resolve in the first couple of months. Watching these videos would turn anyone with an ounce of compassion off eating meat.
The dietary information is a great help for those who are immediately bombarded by friends and well-wishers with myths about the vegan diet. The testimonials from celebrities that have made the change can instill confidence and pride in those who are having doubts.
I suggest everyone who has not checked out the site to do so. Don't get caught up in the hype, or do! It's up to the individual. Maybe, the reason for changing to a vegan diet is solely because of compassion for animals and not for health or diet reasons and you want to put some effort into helping the cause.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pinery Provincial Park - Outdoor Fitness Hotspot

For the Labour Day long weekend, I made my return to Pinery Provincial Park for the first time in 22 years, give or take. The park, located a short drive southwest of Grand Bend, Ontario, is one of the province's busiest.

Despite my usual complaints about crowds, inadequate washroom facilities, high fees, too-small dog beach, crowds, oh - did I mention crowds... I enjoyed the park for what it is, a recreation area. Ontario Parks may have a different idea about that, considering it a Natural Environment class park.

The park has 10 'Interpretive Walking Trails' ranging from 0.8km up to 3.0km. These are well-groomed trails with no serious technical terrain. These are perfect for those living the shareware, bubble-wrapped version of Life 1.0 but not much of a challenge for any serious athlete. Yes, that was a little harsh, but I don't mean it in a condescending way - really. Click here to view the park's trail map.

However, most of the trails are connected via a 14 km biking trail that loops around the park. Still not overly technical, the bike path does provide endless possibilities as far as distances are concerned. Add to that the beach that runs on seemingly forever and a municipal trail that runs along highway 21 from the park gates 8.5km to the town of Grand Bend, and you can put in some serious running while enjoying the great outdoors.

Possibilities for water sports are endless at the Pinery. Canoeing and kayaking can be done on the river or on Lake Huron. Swimming is great in Lake Huron and the water is clear enough for snorkeling, however, there probably won't be much to see other than sand, old band-aids and the odd rock.

I should say something about my earlier complaints. If you're like me and don't much like crowded trails or crowded anything for that matter, do not go to the Pinery on a long weekend in the summer! The park becomes one giant mass of humanity. Trails are crowded, beaches are crowded, roads are busier than a city street with drivers travelling at well over the speed limit and kicking up dust.

As for the washroom facilities, they would be fine if the park was running at about 30% capacity. There are 100 sites per section and you'd have to figure an average of 3 people per site. That's 300 people sharing 6 toilets (3 men's and 3 women's). If you have a site within a few hundred feet of the washrooms, you will smell it and it won't be nice.

There are 9 parking areas/beaches. One of them, #9, is the only one where dogs are allowed. Parking for this beach was overflowing by noon on any given day. The other 8 beaches had ample free parking and were not nearly as crowded. It looks like there are a lot of people camping with man's best friend these days and the park needs to allot more space to accommodate.

And lastly, the fees... Close to $37 per night is now the going rate for a basic site with no electricity or water. That is getting up there with the price of a cheap motel room. At least put in some extra bathrooms to justify the cost!

As far as being environmentally conscious, the park has a good idea in promoting their 'park once' program. They encourage people to park their vehicle when they set up camp and not move it until it's time to go home. Great program. Large park. They could probably throw in a shuttle or two for trips to the beach, etc. Also, I think making sections where you park in a large lot and have to hike in your equipment would be a cool idea. This would certainly encourage guests to avoid their vehicles as it would be a hike just to get back to them. It would be so nice to not have cars constantly whipping by your site, kicking up a perpetual cloud of dust on all your belongings.

Would I go back? Yes, but as I couldn't state any clearer, not on a long weekend.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Midsummer Night's Run Photos

Posted on the Midsummer Night's Run website, there is a picture gallery from Vlad Litvinov with many, many pictures of the run. I was fortunate enough to be in two shots. Unlike most runs, Vlad's pictures are free to download. Thanks, Vlad!

Above are my two shots. I'm the one in the ratty Adidas hat, blue shirt and green shorts. In the first I'm way at the back but the second features my sorry ass.

Also, I've started another blog featuring a picture each day from my travel collection followed by a little commentary on the shot. It's a pretty simple project but the pictures are pretty cool.

Favourite Workout Playlists

A little bit of an off-topic subject, but a fun and revealing one. I've read in a number of places on the web, people wanting to know what music others workout to. My listening tastes cover a very, very broad spectrum. However, there is one mixed CD that I listen to more than any other while lifting weights. Consisting of 18 songs, the mix is geographically varied with music that originated in Canada, USA, Germany, Australia and UK. The one thing they have in common is that they are the furthest you can get from ballads!

  1. Oasis - Song 2 The woohoo song! So fitting to start off the workout with this song as it has been used so often to bring pro hockey teams onto the ice for the pre-game skate.

  2. Rob Base and DJ Easy Rock - Joy & Pain An oldy but a goody. This song reminds me of my 3rd unsuccessful attempt at college.

  3. ACDC - Beating Around The Bush Off the Highway To Hell album back in 1979. It wasn't a huge hit, but I remember it fondly from my grade school days. Probably the most up-tempo song on the album.

  4. Sammy Hagar - Where Eagles Fly I first heard this song in the backseat of a 442 with the stereo blaring at ear-drum destroying levels. Not only an adrenaline pumping song, but like a lot of Sammy's songs, the words are quite inspirational.

  5. Metallica - Fuel What would a workout CD be without a little Metallica?

  6. The Headstones - Smile & Wave Often referred to as the 'other' band from Kingston, Ontario (The Tragically Hip being 'the' band). The Headstones are one energy filled band.

  7. Danko Jones - Crazy Bitch Don't play this one with the kids around! Just simple old-school rock and roll.

  8. ACDC - Thunderstruck Once again, a song every hockey fan has gotten pumped to before the opening face off or between whistles.

  9. Alice Cooper - Clones What?? Oldie and probably not considered a goodie but it's got the right tempo and it's an old favourite of mine.

  10. Black Eyed Peas - Hey Mama They're just far enough to the left of cookie-cutter pop for me to like.

  11. The Trews - So She's Leaving The Trews are an awesome band from Eastern Canada. The have a number of great songs that are full of adrenaline.

  12. Beastie Boys - No Sleep Til Brooklyn Often I workout out to just the Beastie Boys. They are the most energetic trio I've ever witnessed. Check this out on YouTube - just the way they explode onto the stage, I find amazing. MCA, or Adam Yauch, is a Buddhist and Vegan. Despite my age, every once in awhile I still fantasize about donning an NHL jersey and jumping on the ice in front of thousands - often I'm in a Rangers jersey and this song is playing as we step on the ice...

  13. Green Day - American Idiot Green Day's punk sound just begs you to push yourself to the limit.

  14. Black Eyed Peas - Pump It Same reason as Hey Mama...

  15. Danko Jones - Sticky Situation Once again, it's just good old rock and roll. There's no hidden message in these lyrics...

  16. Van Halen - 5150 My favourite by Van Halen. Once again Sammy's vocals and words are so motivating.

  17. Rammstein - Feuer Fei Means 'Start shooting' in the German military. Rammstein never made a song that wasn't pure energy. All the lyrics are conveniently in German so you don't even have to think about what's being said! This song was featured in the Vin Diesel movie 'XXX'.

  18. Stone Temple Pilots - Down Just one damn good song!

This, of course, doesn't even come close to representing the music I listen to on a daily basis. Over the last few years, I've developed a taste for anything not English. Examples would be Control Machete (Mexican Hip Hop), Manu Chao (several types of music performed in spanish, english, french portugese, italian, etc.), Mago de Oz (old school metal group from Spain that is kind of a mix of Metallica and Great Big Sea) and Los Tucanes De Tijuana (Traditional Mexican music with a slight modern twist).

I would love to hear anyones opinion and their choice of workout music.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Off The Beaten Path - Star Fruit

Over 20 years ago, I worked as an employee in the produce department at a major grocery store in my hometown of London, Ontario. Often, on the night shift, away from the watchful eye of management, a buffet of exotic fruit was to be had. One of my favourites was the Star Fruit. This yellow, psychedelic delight was too expensive for me at the time but the price was right in the back of the produce cooler.
It took me until now to rediscover the Star Fruit. It's still relatively expensive and sometimes hard to get, but it is still a damn good tasting fruit.
Star Fruit, also called Carambola, is believed to have originated in southeast Asia, specifically Sri Lanka. It has been cultivated in southeast Asia for hundreds of years. The fruit we get in North America is a variation called Golden Star and is grown in Florida, California, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
The fruit grows up to 5 inches in length and is generally yellow in colour. There are 5 distinct ribs so that when the fruit is sliced it forms the shape of a star. When picking one from the grocery store to eat, the edges of the ribs should be slightly brown but the fruit should not be spotted brown throughout.
Two taste comparisons I've read are 1. a mix between an apple and a grape and 2. a mix of papaya, orange and grapefruit. I see it simply as having it's own distinct flavour and not really comparable to anything. The best way to find out how one tastes is, of course, to try one out!
A serving (132g) of Star Fruit packs a punch of vitamin C, providing 76% of the normal daily value. It provides 15% of your daily fiber intake and has significant amounts of folate, pantothenic acid, potassium and copper.
There are warnings about Star Fruit, however. If you suffer from kidney failure, eating Star Fruit can prove to be a fatal mistake. Like the grapefruit, it contains oxalic acid which can lead to hiccups, vomiting and nausea in patients.
On the bright side, if you are taking medication for illnesses other than kidney failure, Star Fruit contains enzymes that will actually increase the effectiveness of the dosage inside the body.
Try Star Fruit raw. Try it in juices. Try baking it in pies, if you have that ability. My next experiment with Star Fruit will be as part of a tropical fruit salad with Dragon Fruit, Cantaloupe, Water Melon, Honey Dew, Pineapple, Grapes and Mango.