OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI make a lot of salads. My salads are very good, very simple and very fair.

First off I really am that person who takes the time to wash and chop vegetables and greens immediately after shopping…in fact I often fill the sink and throw them in water as I am putting away the rest of the groceries. Once they are in the sink there is no getting out of it. It takes five minutes to quickly chop, spin (invest in a salad spinner if you don’t have one…one of my favourite kitchen tools) and bag. I have some washable mesh bags but admit sheepishly I also use large zip locks (I reuse them but even so I feel a bit icky about it). The weeks I don’t do this are the weeks we eat far less salad.

The veggie content in the fridge is large and a varies but we always have the following staples (if the organic option is to expensive we don’t buy it that week)…I am also adding a few other favourite salad ingredients here…

  • LEMONS (truthfully if I run out of lemons I can’t make a salad…I can’t really make anything)
  • Limes
  • Tomatoes (this time of year usually grape or cherry)
  • Red onions
  • Green onions (scallions)
  • Avocados
  • Spinach (I go through a ton of spinach)
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Romaine
  • Iceberg (I love the crunch of iceberg in the mix)
  • Purple cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers
  • Bell peppers (yellow and red)
  • Hot peppers (love)
  • Mushrooms (all kinds- whatever catches my eye)
  • Potatoes (make it into dinner salads sometimes)
  • Green or yellow beans
  • Sprouts (I am on a bit of a sprouting kick again- mung beans are so good and dead easy to sprout)
  • Any kind of legume (love chickpeas in a salad)
  • Organic hemp hearts (they add a great nutty flavour and a protein hit)
  • Nutritional yeast (a great addition- adds kind of a cheesy flavour and it’s full of B vitamins)
  • Capers
  • Olives
  • Pickles
  • Pickled beets
  • Garlic (fresh)
  • Ginger (fresh)
  • Herbs (I always want cilantro)
  • Olive oil (The best I can afford)
  • Salt (anything but iodized table salt- I love salt and have a bunch of options- chunky sea salt is a front runner, especially for salads)
  • Pepper

Ok so here is where the simple comes in. I don’t make salad dressing anymore. I put all the greens into a big bowl and toss them with fresh lemon juice, sea salt and a tiny drizzle of olive oil. In the photo above it’s kale, spinach, chard and romaine. I then grab all the other veggies etc..I want to include and chop them equally into as many bowls as there are customers for the salad (usually two- wish I could say my kids were eating these but they are not…they love the lemon and sea salt but just on romaine…it’s a start).

So this is where the fair part of my salad story comes in. I’m certain my dedication to equal salad ingredient distribution is both mocked and admired by those who watch me meticulously count out carrots rounds, but I truly enjoy eating and serving to others more, a salad that has been prepared this way. Knowing that every bowl has exactly the same amount of every ingredient gives me pleasure.

The finished product is also beautiful and I love beautiful.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Next grab your favourite bowls. Serve out the greens at the bottom and top off with all the other ingredients. Once tossed together add hemp hearts, fresh garlic, herbs…sprinkle with nutritional yeast. The sky is the limit. I love capers, olives or even chopped dill pickles in a salad (nice salty additions..especially if you are missing cheese).

You get the idea and I am really not telling you anything you don’t already know but I remind you to keep it simple. Don’t drown your salads in dressing and make them fair. Your family, friends and every cell in your body will thank you profusely.



As with every January for as far back as I can remember I am filled with hope, and thinking lots about the coming months. I’m setting goals in all areas of my life…not just health. My first full year as a vegan lies ahead and my dedication, interest and excitement just keeps growing.

Here is a quick recap of the last three months since I made the switch to a 100% plant based diet.

  • firstly…it wasn’t as hard as I expected- the benefits both mental and physical far out weigh any sense of deprivation or added challenges around feeding myself
  • speaking of out weighing I am giddy to report that I not only made it through December not gaining the usual few pounds but I actually managed to lose a few- eating mindfully is incredibly rewarding…I can’t stress this enough
  • I had some blood work done as part of a regular yearly physical (I was really nervous about results) and blew my doctors mind…she literally flipped out…this test was done two months into my becoming vegan- both myself and my doctor cannot wait to retest a year or so from now to see if anything changes. To quote her “I can’t imagine you can top this but am very excited to see you do it”
  • I have been cooking and experimenting as I always do and am NEVER bored or disappointed…in fact the opposite is true….I am buzzed by every meal (as is Jay- for real)
  • I enrolled in a course to become a Certified Vegan Educator at The Main Street Vegan Academy in NYC (oh my god am I excited)…the course is just under a week long in early April…I am diligently working my way through an extensive and intensive reading list and am obviously very excited to add this experience and knowledge to help me find my voice as a Vegan Nutritionist…

There is so much more and I will begin blogging again hopefully on a by-weekly basis. That is one of my goals anyway!

To finish this up I made cheese last night…Almond cheese. It took all of 10 minutes. Today I baked it and we ate some for lunch. Warm on crackers and then just scooping it into our mouths like infants. Trust me on this. There is life after animal based cheese…

If interested .. go to http://www.choosingveg.com/11-vegan-sheeses-recipes-that-will-change for recipe(s)

BTW- the photo is of my cheese

IMG_0920Tossing the “do I or don’t I” get a flu vaccine question around in my head each year is crazy making. It doesn’t seem to matter how much or how little I educate myself the outcome is the same.

This is an emotional topic. Both sides equally passionate. I am writing this post to try to untangle the knots in my own head and come to terms with my decision to once again this year, not get the flu shot for myself or my kids.

For those of you that have already been vaccinated, or for those on the fence, this post is in no way meant to be inflammatory or self righteous. Any dialogue/response this stirs up is welcomed. I am searching for clarity in very muddy waters.

Of late, I have been back and forth on this topic with a trusted friend Glen, a Homeopath (and awesome teacher with the TDSB) and have to share the beginning of his first note to me when I asked him if he and his family got a flu shot this year…. “With flu vaccines, let me first start by saying that I’m not against vaccination; I’m against side effects and poor evidence”. Perfectly put and a great place to start.

In order to put a needle in my arm and the arms of my children I need to trust. I need to trust in the entire process. In the case of the flu vaccine there are simply too many red flags. Everywhere I turn in my decision making process I hit something hard.

Truth be told, I think I am more afraid of the vaccine than I am of the flu…..

In order for me to trust in this vaccine I would need to trust the pharmaceutical company that produced it, which I don’t.

I would need to trust the government agencies that supposedly inspected the plants in which it was manufactured and then approved it, which I don’t.

I would obviously need to trust it isn’t contaminated and that all the strange and suspect ingredients are in fact safe, which I don’t.

It’s hard to forget about the Thimerosol (ethyl mercury used as a preservative) and the formaldehyde and the aluminum which make up part of the vaccine. Even though all these additives are purposeful and apparently safe, again I simply don’t trust this to be true.

I don’t even believe that if I got a flu shot that I wouldn’t still get the flu.

When I canvas my friends and family about how they go about making their decisions around the “do we or don’t we” most say that how sick they got days after receiving the vaccine in the past has made them very skeptical and wary of the sense it makes. Or worse, that the years they got vaccinated were the years the flu hit them or a family member the hardest.

They say there are two weeks between getting the flu shot and it starting to work. I believe this time period is when a lot of people actually get sick. Not necessarily from the shot as lots of us think, but rather as a result of nuking your immune system at the beginning of cold and flu season when boosting it to bionic strength is the smartest path. Creating a vulnerable environment in which flu can take you down is so counter intuitive. Following are a few ways (there are many more…) to naturally build your immunity this winter….

  1. Drink your lemons. Lemon is the ideal food for restoring balance. Drinking freshly squeezed lemon juice in water helps maintain the body’s internal “climate” at a pH which supports healthy bacteria instead of the viruses and harmful bacteria which thrive in more acidic environments.
  2. Get a full night’s sleep. Everybody’s different: your body may need anywhere from 6 to 10 hours of sleep each night. Whatever your personal sleep requirement is, get it!
  3. Drink plenty of water. Headaches and thirst are both signs of dehydration. You should be drinking, in daily ounces, half your body weight in pounds. (i.e. Body weight in pounds, divided by 2 = number of ounces of water per day.)
  4. Stop drinking coffee (or limit!?). Drinking coffee is one of the worst things you can do for your immune system. Caffeine robs your body of minerals and vitamins, and it dehydrates you. If you drink coffee, make sure you add an additional two glasses to your water intake per cup of coffee. I am not even mentioning pop here because I like to pretend we live in a world where it doesn’t exist.
  5. Worse yet is the impact of refined white sugar. If you do only one thing to boost your immune system, eliminating sugar will do the trick. You will see noticeable results in your energy levels, weight distribution, immunity and your ability to think clearly when you break the cravings and stop eating refined sugar.
  6. Stock up on raw fruits and vegetables for their antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber and enzymes. The nutritional content that you receive from raw fruits and veggies is unparalleled. Many vitamins, including C, are antioxidants and will protect cells – including those of your immune system – from damage by toxins in the environment. Dark-coloured produce (berries, kale, broccoli) tends to be higher in flavonoids, polyphenols and other antioxidants.
  7. Spend some time out in the cold. Snowball fight, anyone? Exercise can make a noticeable difference to your health and happiness by releasing endorphins. Most of us spend 90% of our lives indoors, inhaling dubiously filtered air and other people’s germs. Get outside…it’s fun.
  8. Nurture yourself. Make sure you take time to yourself, spend some time with friends, and indulge yourself with a massage, a hot bath, or just curl up with a book once in a while. Our bodies respond to our emotions- if you’re feeling harassed and anxious, it can manifest in a sore throat or a cold. Take a mental health day!
  9. Note how you feel about your food choices each day. If something doesn’t bring you pleasure check it and change it. You won’t believe the results in both your mind and body.
  10. One last one that seems obvious but I am really focussed on this year…wash your pillow cases, towels, hand towels and scarves more often than usual. Especially your kids…I see so much suspect nose wiping. It can’t hurt.

A scary fact for the vulnerable (arguably all of us) that surfaced last week is that the predominate strain of flu this year is a particularly nasty one, H3N2, and while it is in the vaccine, this strain has “drifted” or mutated, as these wily bugs do. So from what I understand in a lot of cases, this strain will not be recognized by our immune systems, and as such we could not mount an attack against it anyway, even if we were vaccinated.

I could share the multitude of articles and reports I have been pouring through but I think we all do our own soul searching. Or do we? Maybe it is more black and white than I think. Maybe more of us trust the system than I think. I have talked to only a handfull of people who chose to vaccinate this year though and most are hard pressed to say why….just a feeling they had. Others who did say if it wan’t so convenient to do so they likely wouldn’t have.

“Flu season’s barely starting, but most cases are being caused by a strain called H3N2 this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a health warning issued to doctors Wednesday night.

 The flu vaccine protects against three or four strains of flu — there’s always a mix of flu viruses going around — and H3N2 is one of them. But the strain of H3N2 infecting most people has mutated and only about half of cases match the vaccine, CDC said.”
NBC News

When I asked my friend Glen about the flu shot he volunteered a homeopathic flu remedy that he and his family use preventatively. I am going to try this with my family as well. For more information get in touch with Glen at http://www.downtownhomeopathy.com.

In closing I need to get out there that I have never been one to say things out loud that are better left in my head, and if I do I usually respectfully whisper them. Saying things like “I never get sick” or “the baby is finally asleep, let’s have dinner” or “as if it will rain” all seem like invitations to this big eared universe to show me who is boss. Writing here about the flu feels super dodgy. Hopefully I’ve been diplomatic enough to be spared an ass kicking.

What now? From here I will forge through this flu season the way I always do and try to stop second guessing myself. I will feed myself and the ones I love healthy whole foods packed with immune boosting nutrients, encourage sleep, hydration and give lots of snuggles.

I will put my trust in my own instincts and hope for the best.

I seriously urge you to watch this youtube video for a great giggle on a serious topic…..





I have recently gone back to soaking and cooking dried beans. They are inexpensive, easy to prepare and much yummier than their canned counterparts (not to mention our recycling bin is considerably lighter each week, as are my grocery bags…)

I love beans. I can’t think of any bean that I don’t love or at least like. A few weeks ago, streaking through Whole Foods  doing my as tiny as I can keep it “I can’t find it anywhere else” shop, I skidded to a halt in front of the dried beans looking for one of our favourite varieties, the fava. Not to be found, my eyes landed on a sweet, medium sized white bean going by the name Lupini…the description read something like “the finest bean around…highest protein content of any food ever…eating them is akin to an out of body experience…”. Naturally I filled a bag and looked forward to trying them.

Not thinking that this bean had any dark secrets I went about preparing them as I would any other. Soaked for around 8 hours in cold water and then cooked for approximately two (every bean is different- just how different I was about to discover).

What happened next is hard to describe. Wanting to test for doneness I scooped one out of the pot and passed it between my hands to cool it off a bit. Popped it into my mouth and chewed once…nothing to note except it was not cooked yet. On my second chew a strange taste began to surface and the hair on my arms stood up. On the third and fourth my fight or flight response kicked in and I was forced to projectile spit said bean into the sink, scraping the remaining bits off my tongue as though they were stinging bees. I can honestly say that in my entire life I have NEVER tasted anything so completely disgusting. I hazard to say that no human could make themselves swallow this poisonous little nugget of repulsion.

That said, of course I had to try it on another person to be sure. Along comes my husband. “Here try this” I said with the straightest face possible. In it went…out it came like lightening. Only his description was far better than mine. “It tastes like a gallbladder”. A gallbladder…..a gallbladder? He was dismayed I would use him in such a way and not nearly as amused as I was…but he was just as intrigued.

Determined to figure out what we were dealing with here, I hit the internet. Turns out Lupini beans are pretty much poisonous if not prepared properly- alkaloid poisoning? So I set out to make them edible. I found so many ways to do this on line I decided to wing it a bit. They were already soaked and boiled so I put them in a large pot, filled it with clean water, added several tablespoons of salt and refrigerated. I did this step every day for 14 days.

I found the following on Wikipedia worth sharing….read carefully and imagine doing this. Step three is particularly astonishing.

Safe preparation

Safe preparation involves the following steps:

  1. Soaking the bean overnight in four parts water to one part beans.
  2. Draining, boiling in the same ratio of water to beans with salt for two hours.
  3. Draining the beans and putting them in a bucket in an unused shower or laundry sink under a quickly running cold tap for seven to fourteen days until the bitter taste is gone from the beans and they are enjoyable to eat. WHAT?
  4. Boiling the beans with salt for two hours until the bean is no longer crunchy.
  5. Pickling the beans in salt and vinegar and water brine, and keeping them refrigerated if proper canning hygiene is not followed.

The Italian and Portuguese tradition is to soak the beans for a week or two in a pillowcase or fabric bag in a stream. Again WHAT?

The happy news is that it worked, and while Lupini beans are most certainly not the choice for the time challenged or less stubborn of us they are so delicious they are all I can think about right now. In fact as I type I have a mason jar full of them that I marinated beside me, and I can’t stop eating them.

The one lingering and curious thought I have, getting back to the glowing description of Lupini beans on the bin at Whole Foods, is that nowhere on that small card did it say that I would need to devote more time and attention to these beans than I would my children for the next two weeks or…that they could possibly kill me. Just sayin’…..

marinated lupiniMarinade

Place all ingredients (and beans) in a mason jar- fill with water and refrigerate (not sure how long it will keep but they won’t last long anyway they are so good- at least a few weeks)

pinch or two of Himalayan salt

splash of tamari

clove of garlic

one of my last hot peppers from the garden

some peppercorns

dash of apple cider vinegar



cool_peace_sign_card-r0816231e95604f1f931c4de32a3bba72_xvuat_8byvr_512Dear Jennifer,

I can’t tell you how excited I was last night to finally steal a few minutes to read the Vanity Fair cover story about you.

Ever since your wipeout at the Oscars and your incredibly humorous reaction to it I have been an admiring fan.

On a darker note, the recent invasion of your privacy left me cold and feeling very sad for you. Your brave and thoughtful response to this crime has been inspirational.

I haven’t even mentioned yet that I love your movies. You are an amazing actor.

I thought, until last night, that you couldn’t possibly disappoint me.

As a huge Woody Harrelson fan (his book Go Further sits on my bedside table), I was thoroughly enjoying reading, in the Vanity Fair article, about how much he loves and respects you, when—BAM—the fact that you are the “anti-vegan,” “anti gluten-free” consumer hit me like a Mac Truck. It goes on to say that Woody is the only vegan to whom you’ll “give a pass.” Give a pass? What does that even mean? I am vegan and it is exactly this kind of comment that makes my head explode. Not eating animals is a choice. Eating animals is too. What is the difference?

I have to state at this point that I am not actually writing this letter to you. I am writing it to everyone everywhere who says things like that relating to personal choice. Of course, I obviously hope that you will read it. Because you’ll probably get it. You might say sorry, and in doing so give others pause. You might actually say, “hell, that was a really thoughtless thing to say”—hopefully realizing that there are likely lots of vegans that you have offended, plenty of other vegans in your life that you might also want to “give a pass to,” or better yet, that maybe you should retire that line all together.

Perhaps you might give your head a shake while you do this, and have the foresight to recognize that one day you too might choose a plant-based diet, for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that it a compassionate and incredibly healthy way to live.

Choosing not to eat animals is really, really okay. For me it’s better than okay—it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. For people like your friend Woody, it’s a crusade. He uses his celebrity to educate. The more of us vegans the better; we might just help save the planet.

For fun, I am going to assume that somehow this note does get to you. And if it does, I hope we can still be friends, because I really do like you. The way someone like me likes a celebrity. We get a feeling about the person, we read the odd thing and watch all their work. We get imprinted, the same way we do with tangible real-life friendships.

All of that said, I should stress that I recognize I have had the luxury of getting to my 43rd year without the world’s scrutiny. I sympathize with your lack of anonymity very much and I honestly don’t make a habit of pointing out others’ mistakes. I guess being in the spotlight is a sort of trade off for doing what you love to do. Still, it must be incredibly hard. I have said a ton of shit in my life that I wish I could take back. Lucky for me I have a very small audience.

You have experienced what I can only imagine has been a life altering intrusion into your personal life. For that I know we are all truly sorry. I always look for the silver lining in situations, and here there are two. First, perhaps you (and a gazillion others) will stop separating people into categories and seeing one way (or your way) as better than the other. Second, I think the grace you have shown through your recent ordeal has likely helped countless others stand up and speak their truth about how it feels to be a victim. My kids are too young to understand fully what happened to you but I can tell you, you have great influence over your young fans.

If you ever find yourself in Toronto and craving a vegan meal, please look me up. And bring Woody!


Margie Cook




transport truckCrawling along the 401 at rush hour with my three nine-year-olds, I found myself beside a transport truck full of cows heading to slaughter. While my twins have become used to seeing these trucks on the road, my stepdaughter was in shock. “What is it?” she shouted, sensing unease in the car. My daughter answered for me. “It’s a truck full of cows going to be killed,” she said.

The stream of questions that followed went like this: “Where are they going?” “Are they with their moms?” “Who kills them?” “Are they scared?”

The hardest question for me to answer was, “Are they scared?” When it landed we were virtually at a dead stop, all of us noticing at the same time a big brown eye staring out through a slat in the side of the truck. Of course they’re scared. They’re terrified. They’re hungry and confused. I swallowed those words and said only, “I hope not.”

Here’s an email excerpt from an animal rights organization called Mercy for Animals, regarding Canada’s transport industry:

“Canada’s outdated livestock transport regulations are downright disgraceful. We lag behind the rest of the Western world and allow farmed animals to be trucked thousands of kilometres for up to 52 hours without any food, water, or rest. As a result, millions of animals suffer agonizing deaths from dehydration, starvation, suffocation, and severe injuries due to overcrowding.”

I don’t know anyone who isn’t rattled when face to face with one of those trucks, whether meat eater, vegetarian or vegan. We are all disturbed. Children are horrified.

My twins are nine and my step kids are nine and eleven. I find myself on a very slippery slope with them these days. They see how Jay and I eat and they ask questions. Difficult questions. Why are we not eating the same food as them?

I stopped eating meat in my early twenties. It was my choice and my parents were very supportive. I’ve always thought I could dodge this uncomfortable but inevitable discussion until my kids were old enough to understand my motivations, develop their own ideas and then make their own choices. It now seems this may not be possible.

I’m worried that by not answering some of their questions and keeping my own beliefs behind a curtain, I am being dishonest with them. I’m worried that once they educate themselves the way I have, there is a very good possibility they will be angry with me. The one thing I have zero tolerance for in our house is dishonesty. Why was I cooking my children hamburgers and eggs and sending yogurt in their school lunches when I myself was eating healthy plant-based alternatives and living very happily.

This is very complicated for me.

It’s only a matter of time before we’re going to have to face the reality that the way we treat the animals we consume is inhumane and unsustainable.

I think the workers employed by slaughterhouses and the CAFO’s (confined animal feeding operations or “factory farms”) should be of equal or arguably greater concern. I try to imagine the affect on the human psyche of these relentless jobs of killing, or overseeing the animals until they go to slaughter and am almost unable to process how difficult it must be, day in and day out. This is a big conversation and one I am only just beginning to try to understand. Sir Paul McCartney has said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.” This runs through my head a lot.

I believe our children are going to be at the forefront of change that might just save our planet. But when should that change begin? And where?

If anyone out there has had a similar experience with their children or is grappling with the similar questions, I would love to hear from you.