Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Review: Caffé Demetre's Vegan Sundae

Thanks to a Facebook group I'm a part of, I found out that Caffé Demetre had included some vegan options to its menu. Home to crepes, waffles, sundaes and much more, I mentally added this into the "vegan folder" in my brain, knowing it would come in handy one fine day.

That day came when my good friend Gohar (💗💗💗) came to Canada for a visit, and taking her to some old and new vegan joints became the theme of her short time here. And pretending to be at the CN Tower like good tourists of course:
I took her to my all-time favourite comfort food-based vegan restaurant, which is Hogtown Vegan. I don't go there too often, but when I do, I'm known to order the exact same thing every time, convincing myself that "next time" I will be more adventurous:
I recommended my favourite meal to Gohar, which is the unchicken Caesar wrap (always add pickles) with the fries supremacy (upgrade on the regular fries), and then surprised even myself when I ordered the exact same thing. #WorthIt.
The meal got the sexy Gohar stamp of approval!
Anyway, on her last day here, we could only meet in the evening, and since the subway line was being repaired (of course), Eglinton/Yonge was our safest bet. Before I thought about where we could get dessert, it hit me like a wrecking ball tidal wave: Demetre had a location there. It was perfect.

The menu has four vegan options: three smoothies with fruit, and one double-take worthy sundae option. Titled Beaches And Cream, it has a coconut sorbetto base, topped with French dark chocolate sauce, sliced bananas and caramelized coconut flakes. It had me at "sundae."
I never thought I would say this, considering the many delicious vegan options out there that I love, but after my first spoonful I realized this was the best tasting vegan ice cream I had ever tasted. It was beyond creamy, and the chocolate sauce was actually rich (aka not a watered down version), and the caramelized coconut flakes added a perfect touch, providing some crunch and really fantastic flavour.
I had eaten quite a filling dinner at my cousin's house previously (aka all of the hmoz), so I surprised even myself when I finished the entire thing, with no regrets. It cost $11, and it was worth every penny. While there are three other vegan options, and they do look pretty good for smoothies, why be cool and adventurous when you could be like me and order the exact same thing every time all of the time?
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Monday, July 10, 2017

Request: Vegan Food Recommendations in Greece

Hello blog friends far wide! I come to you today with a request: I leave for Greece soon and would love some suggestions on traditional vegan Greek food to try (& blog about*)!
I know how to do the whole appetizers-for-dinner thing, which I love, but since it's my first time there, I want to make sure I try any traditional or vegan-by-default dishes and specialties that the land of olives has to offer. I know from experience in Armenia, Turkey and Georgia that there are plenty of delicious local dishes free of meat, dairy & eggs, and want to make sure to try similar options in Greece.

So if you are a local who knows all the vegan options your country has to offer, or are a vegan traveler who has figured it out, please send me an e-mail at thetravelingchamelian@gmail.com and share some of that sweet, sweet knowledge! If not, I will happily eat all of the olives all day every day.

Thank you! <3

P.S. While restaurant suggestions are also more than welcome, since I will be traveling throughout the country, I prefer names of local dishes I can try and get anywhere rather from a specific restaurant. All ideas/tips are welcome though and appreciated!!

*I will of course credit you ;)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Zatik Sunscreen Review

Hello dearest blog babies! For those of you who check out my blog, you know I did a review of Zatik's deodorant, which I absolutely love since it single-handedly upgraded my standard of what deodorants should be able to do for a person.

The wonderful Zatik team were kind enough to send me some samples, along with the Zatik Mineral Sunscreen Moisturizer, which I have been impatiently waiting to try out (summer in Canada this year is a rainy fall in disguise). According to the website, it is:
"Formulated with: non-nano zinc oxide incorporated with organic ingredients and light on-skin oils for daily UVA and UVB protection while providing needed facial hydration. This moisturizer is rich with vitamins, succulents herbal extracts and oils that balance natural delicate facial and neck oil levels."
While some of my previous posts have alluded to the fact that nothing annoys me more than applying sunscreen--even if just on the face, I do make an effort to wear it to avoid getting burned, especially since 98.5% of hats are always too small for my apparently ginormous head. I also go for long walks during the day (my excuse to listen to full albums) and make an effort to avoid the dreaded "sunglasses tan" by wearing it on my face, neck and exposed areas, but still hate every second of it (#adult).

While I do tend to buy and use "natural" sunscreens that are at least free of a bunch of unnecessary fragrances and ingredients, they are usually more expensive and take a lot longer to evenly spread out and get absorbed by the skin. This results in me looking like I am wearing a foundation 18x lighter than my skin tone meant for a self-conscious ghost. The greasiness--that takes 3 hours to absorb--also means my nose becomes extra...slippery, resulting in my sunglasses slowly but surely sliding off. Reason #486 why I hate applying sunscreen.
I feel you, little child.
Once I had Zatik's Argon & Yarrow option, I tried it out on the first relatively sunny day (mid-June). It is SPF 25+ (from 10% non nano zinc, castor/argan oil and Ester C) and let me just say that I had to remind myself I was using a sunscreen. It is so light, and your skin essentially sucks it up as soon as it is applied, with no foundation-esque residue left behind. It is fragrance-free, but the scent is wonderful, I guess as a result of the argon and yarrow. With my sunglasses defiantly firmly planted at the top of my nose, I went for my walk and returned home with no traces of a burn, absolutely delighted that it worked.

For a cruelty-free, vegan, natural broad spectrum sunscreen, Zatik has yet again raised my standards and I now refuse to walk around looking like I'm competing with Voldemort (poser reference since I don't read or watch Harry Potter). In the pictures below, I compare/contrast Zatik and its application with that of my other natural sunscreen brand*, which is SPF 30. I dedicated one-half of my face to each option, putting about the same amount on each side.
Second brand on the left, Zatik on the right

Note that Zatik is on the left (therefore right side of my face). While the other brand's application looks dramatic and almost purposely not spread out, I promise you this is after about 30-45 seconds of vigorously applying and spreading it. The second photo is about 20 minutes after the initial application (I wanted to wait longer but also wanted to swim), and you can still see that damn white residue refusing to become one with my skin!

In terms of face and neck for everyday use, Zatik is my new No.1 choice for sunscreen. The bottle I have is $24 USD, and unfortunately it won't be available at Winners like the deodorant, so if you are in Canada and want to check it out, ordering online (or picking it up on a trip to the U.S.) is your best bet!

*I'm not naming the other brand because although it leaves behind an obvious residue, it does work and I do intend to finish it, so I don't want to give it negative 'publicity'. I just prefer Zatik!

**My eyebrows aren't usually so uneven (I hope), the second sunscreen slicked one down during application :D

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mini Obsession: Stainless Steel Straws

I don't even care how random this post is. When I drink water--and yes, I am the annoying person who drinks a lot of water and then has to pee all of the time--I enjoy it best with a straw. I use straws for most cold drinks, including my smoothies (fascinating stuff, I know).
I get why you are so happy
We had a package of plastic straws from some time ago, so I would use one (washing it from time to time) and reuse it until it would essentially disintegrate. I knew it was wasteful, but since we already had the straws I just figured I would use them until they were finished and then drink water with my mouth like a commoner.

Before my supply dwindled too far, I searched for BPA-free plastic reusable straws, and that search led me to find metal or stainless steel options. I initially thought they seemed silly since they would not be flexible, but then decided to get into obsessive mode and hunt them down and see them for myself. I considered ordering them online when I couldn't find them in any shops or supermarkets, but then one day a friend found them in Whole Foods while I was somewhere in the chocolate section:
It was love at first sight. A four-pack stainless steel straw set and it even came with a mascara wand/cleaner. I was sold. I took them home, washed them, and used one right away. Verdict? These straws have changed my life. I kid you not, they make drinking anything more enjoyable. They keep the liquid colder and mine have a little curve (there are straight options too) so when I am in my angry-eyebrow work-mode, I just keep my water by my computer and conveniently take sips of that cold delicious drink, which is perfectly positioned thanks to the straw.

In case anyone is wondering, this is not a paid advertisement. I just really really really love these straws and they have changed the part of my world connected to drinking. I went from being an annoying person who always wants water to an annoying person who travels with stainless steel straws and there is no going back from here. I even told a friend in Armenia I would give her one and now plan to "forget" so I can have them all to myself.

I paid either $7.99 or $11.99 for these babies and they were worth every penny (aww I still keep forgetting the penny is out in Canada and still try and use them).
Me at every shop before I am gently embarrassed
In all seriousness, not only are these straws great, they are a much better option than plastic straws. Try them out and join me in mocking mouth-drinkers!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Review of Beyond Meat's Beyond Burger

Hello! I finally got to try the bleeding Beyond Burger in the United States and did a review for Clearly Veg. You can check it out right here! I will add it to my review post as well.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

DIY Healthy & Filling Muesli/Granola/Cereal

Oh man this post was a long time coming. I love cereal, muesli and granola, but because I'm never fully satisfied with any store-bought options ("oh this would be perfect if there was just a touch of cinnamon, blah blah blah") I knew I would have to make my own eventually. Even "healthy" muesli brands I have checked out can be loaded with a bunch of extra and unnecessary sugar, even when they are already packed with dried fruit.

My last straw was recently, when friend #1 liked muesli so bland that it seemed like it was meant for serious old people with digestive issues (sorry!), and friend #2 liked it with a ton of ingredients, leading to a painfully sweet final product. I mixed both to find a happy medium Goldie Locks-style, and promised myself I would finally make my own exactly to my liking, friend #1 & 2 be damned! You can of course personalize the recipe to suit your own preferences, and if you don't have some of the below ingredients it's not a deal breaker--just get creative!
What you need:
-1/2 cup puffed quinoa
-1/2 cup puffed brown rice
-1 cup rolled or steel cut oats
-7 dates (medjool are my go-to choice, but I found a different type in the fridge hiding away and went with those, I would use less if using medjool)
-Handful of almonds or walnuts
-2 TBSP hemp seeds
-Handful of goji berries (I had those but you can use raisins or any other dried fruit)
-A few pinches of cinnamon
-Sprinkle of PB2
-1-2 TSP almond extract
-1-2 TSP vanilla extract
-Optional: pinch of sea salt

Just a note, I am OBSESSED with puffed grains since they are generally like healthier versions of rice crispies and make everything so much funner to eat. I tried puffing my own quinoa recently and while they did "pop," when I opened the lid they were all burnt to a crisp :( I will try again but for now I just buy puffed grains anywhere that has them in bulk with a quick turnover rate to avoid them being stale. 

The first items on my ingredient list (quinoa, brown rice, oats) are the bulk, the dates and goji berries are the sweeteners and provide the chewiness, the almonds and hemp seeds are for some crunch, with the cinnamon, PB2 and extracts added for flavour. All together, this mix is a great filling breakfast or snack, packed with protein, carbs, EFAs and fibre!

Directions:
-In a food processor, process the oats until they are coarse. The goal is not to turn them into a powder, just smaller than they once were. 
-Add the almonds and process until they are also coarse. Pulse is your best bet here.
-Throw in the dates. Even when a package claims the dates are pitted, be skeptical. TWO esheg pits almost destroyed my food processor. Before I could even daydream about making millions from a lawsuit, I noticed this:
-You can now add the cinnamon, PB2, vanilla/almond extracts, and salt and give the mixture a few more pulses. Transfer it to a large container. It should look something like this (and smell wonderful):
-Next, add all the other ingredients--the puffed quinoa, brown rice, hemp seeds, and goji berries. 
-Now it's the fun part. SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE (please close the lid first):
-Yay! Open it up and take a whiff of that sweet, sweet goodness! Mine looked like this:
You can bet your boots I snacked on it like crazy (no photos tee hee). So delicious, so filling, and so healthy--I love it as a snack, with some almond milk as a power breakfast, or even as a topping on my banana ice cream! This specific recipe is my current obsession, but I am always willing to experiment, and will add in some different grains and flavours (aka chocolate) next time.

BLOOPERS/OUTTAKES: I thought it would be really funny to "wink" like in my chameleon photo on my main page but forgot I cannot wink without looking creepy and then I also found another photo where I unintentionally looked at the finished product a little too lovingly:
My nose looks like Gérard Depardieu's

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Banana Ice Cream Three-Ways!

I wrote about when I first experimented with banana ice cream last year, and how impressed I was with how delicious it was. What I should have noted though, was that bananas are not one of my top fruits--and I don't like banana flavour or chunks in ice cream, and never add them to my smoothies. So no one was more surprised than I was when I realized that FROZEN banana as an ice cream base is the best.

Frozen bananas that are blended or processed provide an incredibly creamy and sweet base, and the flavour is neutral enough that you can make them taste like just about anything. So while I enjoyed my almond butter ice cream from last year, it was time to experiment, and experiment I did. The three flavours I focused on were chocolate coconut, matcha green tea, and mint chocolate chip. All options are three ingredients or less, and no ice cream maker is required!

Just a note: If you have a Vitamix (one day I will join you) you don't need any liquid. My food processor and Magic Bullet need a little help from their non-dairy milk friends to get things moving along.

Chocolate Coconut:
What you need:
-1 to 1.5 frozen bananas (I did a photo-guide here)
-1-2 TBSP cacao or cocoa powder (make sure there are no additional sweeteners/ingredients!)
-Optional: coconut flakes or 1 TBSP of coconut milk

Directions:
-Blend or process it all together. Really. As mentioned above, I do not have a Vitamix :( so I have to add some liquid-power to get it properly blended, which is usually almond milk.
-Top with some coconut flakes and enjoy! If you are going for coconut milk, just blend it with the other ingredients.

Matcha Green Tea:
What you need:
-1 to 1.5 frozen bananas
-2 tsp matcha green tea powder--just a note, while matcha can be pretty pricey, as is the case with most things buying in bulk is much cheaper, and I even found it at Bulk Barn (times are a-changin')
-Optional: goji berries

Directions:
-Blend or process it all together.
-Top with some goji berries (again, much cheaper when bought in bulk)--they will freeze a bit but then provide such a nice crunch, followed by some serious chew. And the colours complement each other nicely.

Mint Chocolate Chip:
I know you are supposed to lie and say you love all your babies creations equally and alternate them fairly, but I am in obsessive-mode with the mint chocolate chip option. I always loved that flavour in general, and seeing how easy it is to make has opened a new world for me, and I am enjoying this one regularly now. Join me.

What you need:
-1 to 1.5 frozen bananas
-1-2 tsp peppermint or mint extract. Just a note to go easy on the extract since the first time I made this I went wild and put in way too much and it felt like I was eating spearmint gum-flavoured ice cream.
-Optional: dark chocolate chips, chunks, or cacao nibs

Directions:
-Blend or process it all together.
-Top with some form of chocolate (you can also add them in while blending).

Update: I recently had an insatiable sweet/chocolate tooth so I just skipped the chocolate chips and put two heaping tablespoons of cacao powder along with the peppermint extract and it was dangerously good. The photo is not great, but only because I was in such a rush to swallow it (and because I suck at photos). This is my new favourite child version:
So there you have it. With frozen banana as your base, you can mix and match flavours and get creative with delicious results. Next for me is a sorbet-inspired option (sour power). The world is mine!

Reflections: The dates I added last year were completely unnecessary and I never add them now. So the only sweeteners in these ice creams are the bananas themselves, making the ice cream 1000x healthier than any store-bought option (yes, even vegan ones). And to save on time and to make sure I always have access to banana ice cream, I just keep a bag of frozen bananas in my freezer at all times, which makes this dessert not only super easy and healthy, but also super quick to prepare. So instead of eating one banana plain, use these recipes to add some mint, matcha, or chocolate to your life!