Veganism

Local vegan pastries

I’m very glad to have found a local bakery that makes two vegan tarts: Cherry and coconut lemon. Dinah’s Sourdough is a bakery located in the north end of the city. I’ve not been there in person yet, but I’m very happy to see that the bakery has been offering online shopping and delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am looking forward to my first order of both tarts today. They are destined for the freezer, as I like to discipline my consumption of baked goods; these will be Saturday afternoon treats with espresso or herbal tea.

Recipes, Veganism

Creamy chocolate custard

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups soy milk
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Combine the cornstarch and water to form a paste.
  2. Mix together the cocoa powder and sugar.
  3. Pour the soy milk into a pan over medium heat. Although you can use other plant-based milks, soy milk works best for custards, as it thickens well (almond milk for example, does not), and does not impart a strong flavour (unlike oat milk or cashew milk, for example).
  4. Stir the cocoa powder and sugar gradually into the soy milk. I find a balloon whisk works well for this.
  5. Add the vanilla extract, to taste. I like to use a full teaspoon.
  6. Add the cornstarch paste.
  7. Whisk the milk until boiling point. It’s important that you stir constantly, as you don’t want any lumps to form.
  8. When the milk boils, remove from heat.
  9. Pour into individual containers of your choosing. The custard will continue to thicken.

My preference is to eat the custard when it’s still warm and a crust has formed, but it’s equally good cold. It will be thicker when cold.

zero waste

Tru Earth Laundry Strips

I have had my eye on the Canadian Tru Earth Laundry Strips for a while. Each strip contains concentrated and hypoallergenic detergent that works in all types of washing machines, and in all water temperatures. The strips are vegan. A package of 32 strips comes in a small paper container, which is about the size of a large envelope. The product is made in BC. I’ve been waiting to see whether any local stores would carry it, as I don’t like the thought of having the strips shipped from BC. To my delight, the Luminate Wellness Centre in Bedford starting carrying the strips today.

I just did a load of laundry with one strip. I placed the strip in the soap dispenser of my HE front-loading machine, as the company suggests. I use only cold water for all my laundry. The clothes came out clean and, I noticed, softer than usual, so I wonder if the strips have a softening agent. The clothes are drying on the indoor clothes rack, and so far, I’m very pleased with the results. I used the unscented strips and the clothes have no scent whatsoever.

The strips are more expensive than other eco-friendly laundry detergents. The package of 32 strips cost $13.99, so you if factor sales tax (15% HST), the cost per load is 44 cents pre- tax and 50 cents with tax. There’s no question that the liquid laundry soap I buy from the refill centre is cheaper per load. The environmental cost of the liquid soap, however, is higher, as you have to factor in all the water that is used to manufacture the soap, plus the much higher cost of packing the soap and transporting it. The strip packets are very lightweight and thin, so the shipping costs alone must be much lower. This is a trade-off I’m willing to make, especially since I don’t spend any money on all-purpose cleaners ( I simply grate the soap slivers from my bar soap and dissolve them in hot water). I will still need to have liquid detergent on hand to hand wash certain items such as my dresses, but this means that a small bottle will last me a very long time.

Veganism

Health benefits of tofu

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I’m a huge fan of tofu and eat it almost daily. When I was first introduced to tofu many years ago, it was the silken kind, which I hated. I convinced myself that I didn’t like tofu until I came across the firm and extra firm versions; it was love at first bite. This article discusses some of the primary health benefits of tofu. The article discusses as well some of the potential concerns about food processing, although it provides no citations to support these statements, which I take with a pinch of salt. I think there is a lot of misinformation about GMOs in general, based often on scare tactics and an assumption because something isn’t “natural” it must automatically be bad for you. Many GMO foods are perfectly harmless and also nutritious; their sale is regulated in Canada. This same fear is often extended to all processed foods, even though they are not necessarily harmful. Ultimately, it all comes down to balance. This article provides the nutritional breakdown of 100g of tofu and its role in helping to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol. This article discusses the potential impact of tofu on Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.

Tofu is an important source of protein and calcium for me, and adds substance to green salads, rice dishes, and so forth. My favourite way to eat tofu is to marinate it in a simple sauce, usually teriyaki, and then to saute it. I also like to grill it with barbecue sauce. This site has some suggested vegan tofu recipes.

Minimalism

Minimal skin care

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In my efforts to pare down my possessions, I’ve been looking to keep my skin care products to the bare essentials and, if possible, to use multipurpose products. I’ve honed in on a routine that meets these criteria and, most importantly, works for my skin. I have fair, sensitive, and dry skin that is very easily irritated, especially by fragrances, exfoliating products, retinols, glycolic acid, sunscreens, and so forth. I’ve tried many expensive creams and serums over the years, most of which have been too irritating, and which resulted in burning, stinging, eczema, or contact dermatitis. I’ve learned that I need to keep my skin care as simple as possible to avoid irritation. I’ve pared my skin care routine to four products.

In the morning, I rinse my face with warm water and pat dry with a small microfibre towel. I find most cotton towels to be too rough on my skin. This microfibre towel dries very quickly and is ideal for travelling, as well. I use my all-purpose cream (discussed later) around my eyes. I learned a very long time ago that specialized eye creams are a complete waste of money and that many can do more harm than good, especially if they tighten the skin. During scarf season, I will use my all-purpose cream on my neck; in other seasons, when my neck is exposed, I wear my sunscreen.

Sunscreen is absolutely non-negotiable. I avoid sun exposure like the plague and have done so since I was in my teens. I wear an SPF 60 on my face every day, regardless of the weather or the season. The product that works best for me is La Roche-Posay Anthelios Fluid Lotion SPF 60. This lotion is very light on the skin, is fragrance-free, non irritating, and moisturizing.



In the evening, I cleanse my face with sweet almond oil, which I buy in bulk from a local store. I’ve tried many gentle cleansers over the years, but they always made my face feel very dry afterwards. I massage a few pumps of the oil on my dry face, then wipe clean with a wet Erase Your Face cleansing cloth. I use this cloth to remove my eye makeup as well (no cleanser is needed). I rinse my face with warm water then dry with my microfibre towel.

The final step is to apply my all-purpose cream, which is highly recommended by many dermatologists. I’ve been using this product for the past two weeks and love the results: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream. I had been using a much more expensive product for the past few years, but I was going through it like water. Further, I wanted a product that I could use on both my face and my body, as it’s one less thing to buy. The product works better than the expensive cream. What’s even better is that I use the Shopper’s Drug Mart dupe for CeraVe: The ingredient list is identical, but I get a 453g tub for under $20.

This cream has no fragrance or irritating ingredients. It’s rich and moisturizing, but absorbs quickly and is non-greasy. I use this cream on my face and neck, and around my eyes. It doubles as my body cream as well and, even more importantly, as my hand cream. I’ve always needed to by separate hand creams, as body creams have never been moisturizing enough, but this one product does the trick.

I use bar soap exclusively to cleanse my hands and body. The richest soap I’ve found is L’Occitane’s Shea Butter Soap. I use a dry body brush to exfoliate my body. I avoid exfoliating my face as much as possible, as I find it too irritating. I occasionally use a paste made by wetting some kaolin powder, but I do this only every two weeks or so.

zero waste

Rethinking my dish washing routine – again

I’ve been reconsidering my dish washing routine. Although I have a dishwasher, I use it only about once every two weeks, as I prefer to wash dishes by hand. I know that some argue that dishwashers use less water, but this does not apply to the way I hand wash dishes.

Rather than fill my kitchen sink with water, I use a dish washing tub. This method isn’t very common in Canada, but I grew up using one. A tub is designed to be the size of a dinner plate, so you use a lot less water. I also never use running water to wish dishes, as this wastes a lot of water. I use the tub featured below:

I’ve decided to go back to using a bar of soap to wash dishes with, as I have done in the past. I recently switched to liquid dish soap, as I found two stores in town where I could buy this soap in bulk, using my own container. Although liquid dish soap is certainly more convenient, I did find that I was going through it more quickly than was the case with bar soap. I’m concerned as well that liquid soap requires more water to produce, and is still transported in plastic containers.

So, I’m back to using bar soap. My preferred soap is a 1 kg bar of Savon de Marseille, which I buy from a company in Quebec. This bar lasts a very long time, is much more economical than liquid dish soap, and does not require plastic or as much water. Using bar soap for dishes has recently become more popular mostly, I think, because of the Vegan Dish Washing Block produced by No Tox Life, which is making the rounds in many zero waste communities and shops.

The Dish Washing Block works well, although I find my Savon de Marseille to be more budget friendly, as you get a larger bar of soap for about the same price, and does not leave the same soap residue as the Block. Another household bar soap that I’ve used is made by the Montreal company Faveur.

As you can see from the image on the top of the page, I use a wooden brush that I wet, then swipe along the surface of the soap. It’s then a simple matter of using the brush to clean the dishes. Bar soap can be used as well to clean counters; you simply pass a wet cloth across the soap and wipe the counters. This can leave some soap residue, which is why I prefer to grate a little of the soap and mix it with hot water in a spray bottle. I use this solution to clean all surfaces, including the toilet. For floors, I use a combination of household-cleaning strength vinegar (which I buy in bulk in my own container) combined with water. I sometimes suffer from the magpie effect when new products become available, but I usually find that the old methods often worked better.

zero waste

New zero-waste options in Bedford

I visited the newly-opened Luminate Wellness Market in the Larry Uteck section of Bedford a few days after it opened. The store contains a large selection of natural products, as well as some unpackaged organic fruits and vegetables, as well as refrigerated natural foods, such as vegan cheese. The store has a bulk area where you can take your own containers and refill them. What I particularly like about this section is that you tare your own containers. I wish that more stores did this, as having to go to customer service to have them tare your containers makes for a longer shopping experience, as this means you may need to stand in line twice. The store owner told me “we trust our customers.”

The Refillery contains liquid shampoo, conditioner, hand and dish soap, as well as an all-purpose cleanser. You can purchase empty glass bottles, as can be seen in the image above. This section also contains a section of locally-made cloth bags, wipes, and reusable kitchen towels. All the refillable products are Canadian.

The store has a large selection of shampoo bars and sold conditioners, as well as cosmetics from Canadian company Pure Anada, which is what I use. The second half of the store contains shelves of packaged natural goods, as well as the fruits and vegetables.

The store has an in-house Naturopathic Doctor, a certified Nutritionist, as well as an acupuncturist and massage therapist. I was attracted most by the refill station, of course. The selection is smaller than The Tare Shop, but it’s a good alternative for those who don’t want to go downtown. I can get to both stores via public transit, so I’ll do my best to support both.

It’s very gratifying to see more zero-waste options in the city, and hope that more budget-friendly options will become available, as most of the goods in these stores can be quite pricey.

Sustainability

The carbon footprint of online shopping

Five paper shopping bags and a shopping cart on a laptop keyboar

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I have been shopping online for several years. Online shopping suits my introverted nature, as it removes the need to talk to salespeople in stores. Online shopping also provides me with access to items I cannot find easily in local stores, particularly since sustainable and vegan products are sometimes more specialized and harder to obtain.

I have been increasingly concerned with the carbon footprint of online shopping. I was surprised to learn that online shopping can be less carbon intensive than shopping in a bricks and mortar store; the key is the type of shipping option. A graduate student at MIT conducted an environmental analysis of US online shopping and found that the carbon footprint of purchasing an item in a store is higher than buying the same thing online with regular shipping.

Customer transportation is the highest carbon footprint for in-store shopping, while packaging and delivery are higher factors for online shopping with regular delivery. In my case, since I use only public transportation, my in-store shopping carbon footprint would be smaller.

The key factor is the type of shipping involved. As people increasingly expect express delivery, especially if they have an Amazon Prime membership, as I do, the carbon footprint of online shopping increases noticeably and exceeds that of in-store shopping. A UPS study of Canadian online shopping behaviour found that 63% of shoppers expect orders placed before noon to be delivered that same day, while 61% of shoppers expect orders placed before 5:00 pm to be delivered the next day. Express shipping reduces a lot of the economies of scale of regular shipping, such as filling trucks to ensure maximum efficiencies, as is shown in the video below.

I am making a concerted effort to avoid online shopping whenever possible and to support local businesses. When online shopping is the only option, I choose regular delivery, usually by Canada Post, which is the most carbon friendly option. I also make a point of asking companies to avoid plastic in their packaging; most are happy to comply.

Minimalism

Simplified makeup

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Makeup is one of life’s luxuries that I have always enjoyed. I never feel fully groomed unless I have some makeup on. Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of money on makeup products that I didn’t use very often, if at all. I’ve simplified my makeup routine and products to what I now consider to be the bare essentials; as a result, I like and use everything I own.

Most of my cosmetics come from two Canadian companies: Cosmic Tree Essentials, located in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and Pure Anada, located in Morden, Manitoba. Both companies make vegan mineral makeup and are committed to reducing their product packaging. I can buy a selection of their products from local stores in Halifax.

For the face, I use an undereye concealer from Pure Anada.

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I use a liquid foundation from Cosmic Tree Essentials. I used to wear loose mineral powder, but I find the liquid version works better for my dry skin.  I sometimes skip the foundation, as my skin tone is generally even, as put on a light dusting of arrowroot powder instead. This foundation comes in a reusable silicone food-grade container.

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I have only two eyeshadows now; gone are the days of having those multi-shade pallets. I use one shade of blush. Both the blush and the eyeshadows come in metal containers that fit into a reusable magnetic compact.

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I use a pencil eyeliner sparingly, as well as mascara, both from Pure Anada.

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I am down to two lip colours: “walnut” from Gabriel Cosmetics, and a tinted lip balm from Tin Feather, which comes in an aluminium container. If I don’t want any lip colour, I use pure shea butter as my lip balm, which I buy in bulk from The Tare Shop.

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Everything now fits into a small makeup bag, which makes me very happy, and nothing is wasted.

Recipes, Veganism

Cauliflower bake

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The main ingredient in this dish is cauliflower. I added two other vegetables to the dish for extra texture and flavour, but this isn’t necessary.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole cauliflower, cut into florets.
  • Broccoli florets
  • Fresh (or frozen) peas

Cheeze Sauce

  • 1 peeled and diced potato
  • 1 peeled and diced carrot
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups plant milk (soy milk works best)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tbsp miso
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

Preparation

  • Boil or steam the cauliflower and broccoli until tender. Set aside.
  • Boil the potato and carrot until tender.
  • Placed the cooked potato and carrot in a blender and add the remaining ingredients for the cheeze sauce. Blend until smooth.
  • Place the cauliflower, broccoli, and peas in an ovenproof dish and cover with the sauce, making sure to cover the vegetables completely.
  • Back at 350F (177C) for 20 minutes.