The Soap Dispensary on Main Street

November 30, 2011 § 3 Comments

The Soap Dispensary on Main Street is one of  Vancouver’s newest eco-friendly stores. The owner Linh moved here from Victoria and found that there was nowhere to refill her cleaning supplies and saw the plastic in her recycling box grow. Motivated by reducing her plastic footprint, Linh opened the Soap Dispensary on Main Street.

The Soap Dispensary carries a wide range of refillable household cleaners, detergents and body care products, including dishwasher powder by Live For Tomorrow that is sold in glass refillable bottles. Live for Tomorrow is a vegan friendly Canadian company and the products are made right here in metro Vancouver.

The Soap Dispensary carries fairly priced cleaning supplies that are well made and chosen to stand the test of time. The prices range anywhere between $6-$20. The metal dust pan costs $10 and the chinese scissors are $6.


These all natural bath bombs shaped like tiny bunt cakes and chocolates, make the perfect stocking stuffer.

The Soap Dispensary believes in reusing before recycling and is hosting an upcoming workshop on how to turn your leftover citrus peels into a fragrant box. The workshop will be held on Wednesday Dec 7 at 6:30pm at the Main Street store. Other workshops scheduled are a chocolate making workshop for kids and a separate one for adults, both on Dec 10.  The children’s workshop is at 10:30 am and for $20, kids learn to make rice crispy clusters, almond bark and rocky road with samples and recipes to take home. The adult class is at 6:30pm and is slightly more sophisticated. For $28 you can learn to make truffles, Cointreau balls, salt and pepper chocolates for wine and burn almond clusters.

The Soap Dispensary is located on 3623 Main Street in Vancouver and is open from 10 am – 6 pm daily and closed on Tuesdays.
To contact the Soap Dispensary call 604.568.3141 or email

Allison’s Pizza Dough

November 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Every weekend my daughter goes to her best friend’s house for pizza and movie night. Last weekend she came back from her friend’s house and said that Allison, the mom, is making amazing pizza dough and that people are asking to buy it. Before I had kids I made pizza dough quite frequently and came up with very creative recipes including a whole wheat dough with flax seeds and fresh herbs. After having kids I trimmed my baking and started to buy organic pizza dough from a natural foods store. I called Allison and she was more than happy to share her recipe with me.

To Allison, pizza and movie night is a family bonding ritual and a way to punctuate the week. Allison’s learnt how to make pizza dough from Luigi, an Italian brother-in-law. One of Allison’s favorite places to eat pizza is at Terroni’s in Toronto.

Cooking time 1 hour
Makes one medium-sized medium crust pizza
Or one large thin crust pizza
Bake pizza at 450 F

1 cup (250 ml) warm water 100 degrees F
1 tsp (5 ml) sugar
2 1/4 tsp (12 ml) yeast
1/8 tsp (1 ml) sea salt
2 cups (500 ml) + 1/8 cup (30 ml) all-purpose unbleached

3/4 cup (185 ml) pasta sauce
1 1/2 tsp (7 ml) black sesame seeds
3 cups (750 ml) organic spinach
1/2 cup (125 ml) cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup (125 ml) pitted mixed olives
1/4 (65 ml) goat’s cheese (optional)
1/4 cup (65 ml) thinly sliced red onions

1. Rinse a large mixing bowl with warm water to heat the bowl.

2. Add the warm water, sugar, and yeast to the bowl. Without disturbing the yeast gently guide all yeast granules into the water and stir ever so lightly to ensure that the yeast is submerged. Let the yeast stand for about 10 minutes or until the mixture foams.

3. Add the flour to the mixing bowl. If using a standing mixer, lock the mixer head and mix on low until the mixture is solid and comes clean from the sides and forms a ball. If the mixture is wet add some flour and if to dry add a bit of water. If hand mixing, mix the flour with a spoon and transfer to a work surface and continue kneading by hand. Transfer back into the bowl.

4. Add 1/8 cup of flour to the bowl and coat the outside of the dough and bowl. The raising process draws out moisture from the dough and the flour prevents the dough from sticking to the bowl.

5. Cover the top of the bowl with a tea towel to prevent the top of the dough from drying. Take the bowl and place in the oven on the lowest heat setting for the raising process. If the oven is too hot, you can keep the door open. Another option is to place the bowl near a heat source such as a heat vent, being careful not to cook the dough. The dough is ready when it doubles in size about half an hour.

6. Flour your work surface and place the dough in the middle. Work the dough with your hands and flatten out to the desired thickness. Flip the dough with the back of your hands and not your fingers to prevent making holes especially when making a thin crust.

7. Grease your pizza pan with 1 tsp of olive oil or lightly flour to prevent the pizza from sticking to the pan.

8. Fold your dough in half and transfer to the pizza pan.

9. Fold the edges of the crust in and pinch. If you like you can stuff the crust with cheese.

10. Pour the pasta sauce on to the middle of the dough. Start in the middle and use a spoon and spread the sauce in a circular motion working from the inside out. Drizzle the crust with olive oil and press with black sesame seeds.

11. Layer the pizza with the toppings in this order. Spinach, cherry tomatoes, olives, goat’s cheese, and sliced red onions.

12. Place your pizza in the middle rack of the oven until the crust is cooked about 10 minutes, this makes a crispy crust. Transfer the pizza to the top rack and cook until the toppings are cooked 3-5 minutes.

13. Set the oven on broil and cook for a couple of minutes to brown the cheese and toppings. Turn off before the spinach wilts.

Rainbow Carrot Raita

November 22, 2011 § 3 Comments

The Indians know a thing or two when it comes to making condiments. Some of their condiments like raita are fat free and accent dishes unlike North American condiments that mask the flavor of food. Don’t get me wrong, this is not to say that I do not like a slab of vegan mayo on my sandwich or ketchup with my fries. I just wish that there were more healthy options out there.

Raita compliments many curries, especially masala based ones. Raita can be used to cool down spicy curries and tastes great on potatoes or by itself with some naan.


1 1/2 cups (375 ml) plain yogurt
1/2 cup (125 ml) grated carrots
1/2 tsp (3 ml) salt
1/2 tsp (3 ml) ground cumin


1. Grate the carrots.

2.  Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and enjoy.

Cauliflower and Masala Chickpea Curry

November 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

Cauliflower is my daughter’s favorite vegetable and according to her, I never make it enough. When cooked, cauliflower is like a sponge and absorbs the flavour of any spice that you cook it with. Be careful not to over cook the cauliflower as it will lose its shape, turn into mush and not hold any flavor. You can serve this dish with an Indian flat bread and is nicely complimented with raita. Roll the leftovers in a wrap and have it for lunch the next day.

Cooking time 30 minutes
Serves 4

1 tbsp (15 ml) + 1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
2 cloves
5 cardamom pods
pinch of fenugreek
1/2 tsp (2 ml) black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp (2 ml) cumin seeds
1 tbsp (15 ml) minced ginger
1 tbsp (15 ml) crushed garlic
1/4 cup (65 ml) diced onion
4 cups (1 L) cauliflower florets
425 grams (15 oz) chickpeas
1 tsp (5 ml) masala
1/2 tsp (2 ml) turmeric
2/3 tsp (4 ml) salt
cilantro (optional)

1.  Heat a medium-sized saucepan on medium heat. When it’s hot, add 1 tbsp of olive oil, cloves, cardamom and fenugreek. Cook for 30 seconds and add the cumin and black mustard seeds.

2. When the seeds pop add the garlic and ginger and saute for about 30 seconds.

3. Add the onions and saute until golden about 1 minute.

4. Add the cauliflower and stir occasionally. Cook until it starts to soften but still holds it shape, about 8-10 mins. If the cauliflower is getting dry, you can add a tbsp of olive oil.

5. Add the chickpeas and cook until the cauliflower is soft and the chickpeas are slight firm, 5-8 minutes.

6. Add the turmeric, masala and salt and cook for another minute and turn off the heat.

7. Garnish with fresh cilantro (optional).

Poutine A Sloppy Canadian Favorite

November 19, 2011 § 1 Comment

When I was eighteen years old, I took my first trip without my family and boarded a plane to Montreal to visit friends. In Montreal I was of legal drinking age at the age of eighteen. Late at night after a night on the town dancing, my friends took me to a chip wagon that stood at the edge of a parking lot. That is where I tried poutine for the first time. The salty and gooey cheese strings nestled among crisp french fries and drowning in gravy was delicious. Fries with gravy was a weakness of mine and a childhood favorite that I often ordered when my family went shopping at the mall and stopped at the Bay restaurant for refueling. The Quebecois took fries and gravy to another level, they added cheese.

The quality of the cheese curds is what makes a good poutine. The long stringy and squeaky cheese is my favorite. Cheese curds are hard to find in grocery stores and if you do, they are usually sold frozen as the shelf life is only two weeks. I buy my cheese curds from the Little Qualicum Cheeseworks at the Vancouver Winter Farmer’s Market at Nat Bailey Stadium.Their long, stringy and squeaky curds are made fresh on Thursdays and sold on Saturdays. A bag of curds costs $7 and makes about 4 servings.

This weekend, on Saturday November 19, 2011, is hosting Festival de la Poutine de Vancouver (The Vancouver Poutine Festival) at the Helenic Community Center at 4500 Arbutus Street, Vancouver. The festival starts in the day with a guided Poutine crawl that leads you through some of the best poutine that downtown Vancouver has to offer. The festival continues in the evening at the Helenic Community Centre with a poutine contest where 12 chefs compete at inventing palate tantalizing poutine. Guest judges include food critics, restauranters and poutine experts. Samples from the competition will be availabe for tasting as well as all you can eat poutine. The sold out event costs $20 per person.

Festival de la Poutine de Vancouver photo

Poutine Recipe

When I make poutine I use frozen fries and vegetarian brown gravy from a package. The heat from the fries and gravy is what melts the cheese so the timing of when you add the ingredients together is important. Be sure that the gravy is hot when the fries are ready to come out of the oven. If the fries or gravy are cold, the cheese will not melt or become stringy.

french fries
veggie brown gravy
cheese curds

1. Layer french fries in a bowl.
2. Sprinkle with cheese curds
3. Smother with gravy

Veggie Beef Chili With Kale and Corn

November 18, 2011 § 2 Comments

I make chili at least once a month, even in the summer. I find chili a hearty and healthy meal that fills me up and satisfies my taste buds. I make a big pot and eat it over a few days. I make enough to have leftovers that I can freeze into single sized portions that I can easily grab for a quick and healthy meal. Sometimes I pour chili onto hot fries and sprinkle grated mozzarella to make chili cheese fries. Other times I eat chili as a snack with rosemary crackers or as a full meal on a bed of quinoa.

Cooking time 35 minutes
Serves 4

1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
1/2 tsp (2 ml) cumin
1 tbsp (15 ml) crushed garlic
1/4 cup (65 ml) diced onions
1/2 cup (125 ml) chopped kale, stalks removed
1/2 cup (125 ml) organic corn
340 grams veggie beef
425 grams (15 oz) kidney beans
425 grams (15 oz) can of diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp (2 ml)salt
1/2 tsp (2 ml) paprika
chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

1. Heat a large stock pot on medium heat and add the olive oil.
2. When the oil is hot add the cumin. When the cumin pops, add the garlic and saute until golden about 30 seconds.
3. Add the onions and saute until golden.
4. Add the kale and saute until wilted. Then add the corn and stir.
5. Cook the corn until it softens and add the veggie beef, cook for about one minute.
6. Add the tomatoes and kidney beans to the mixture and turn up the heat and bring to a boil.
7. When the chili boils, reduce the heat to medium and cook until the tomatoes are cooked and the ingredients incorporate about 7-10 minutes.
8. Add the salt and paprika and turn off the heat. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Occupy Stir Fry

November 15, 2011 § 5 Comments

At one in the afternoon, my phone wrang and it was a friend inviting me to join her in visiting the Occupy Vancouver kitchen. She was heading downtown to make a food donation and thought that I would be interested in  meeting some of the people who work in the kitchen. I had not yet visited Tent City and decided to join her and see it for myself.

The adjacent street of the Vancouver Art Gallery was lined with media and film crews waiting for action and interviewing people walking by. We walked through a path of blue coloured tents to the west side of the Vancouver Art Gallery where the Occupy kitchen tent stands.

In the kitchen we were warmly greeted by Mya who was busy prepping a cashew cream and tofu dish for dinner. Mya is a mental health worker who works in the downtown eastside and is also an active animal rights advocate.  She tells us that the Occupy Kitchen is totally vegan and operates on the principles of Food Not Bombs.

The Food Not Bombs movement serves free vegan and vegetarian food in 60 countries around the world. Food Not Bombs acquires food from distributer’s and grocery stores that can not be sold and would normally end up in landfills. Food Not Bombs redirects that food and turns it into healthy vegan and vegetarian meals and serves it to anyone who is hungry. 

Some of the food in the Occupy kitchen is donated by individuals from the community who support the Occupy message. According to Mya, many people have come to share their stories and show their support by making food donations. Outside the Occupy tent  stands a Kitchen Wish List board with requests of food and kitchen items.  

The occupy kitchen serves 2,000 meals a day to occupiers, the homeless and people who visit Occupy and end up staying for a meal. Among them is the business community who have gotten drift of the good food and stop by on their lunch breaks. The Occupiers rave about the food and many say that it’s the best food they’ve eaten in their lives.

The most interesting statistic that I learnt while writing this story, is that the average North American wastes 240 lbs of food per year at the consumer level. That is 20 lbs per month per person and for a household of three like mine, that amounts to a shocking 60 lbs per month. Before visiting Tent City I was indifferent about the Occupy movement. After speaking with Mya who shed some light on the hunger issues in the world, I now understand the Occupier’s motivations.  At the very least I will be more conscious of my food waste and free up some of the resources in the world.

A quick way to cook up miss matched veggies that are on their last legs, is in a stir fry. The foundation of my stir fry is onions, garlic, ginger, Bragg liquid soy seasoning, sesame oil and chili sauce. You can add any left over veggies and experiment with unassuming ingredients. I once went to a friend’s house whose roommate offered me a stir fry which had lettuce and veggie hot dogs in it which actually tasted pretty good.

Cooking time 25 minutes
Serves 2


1 tbsp (15 ml) + 1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
1 tbsp (15 ml) minced ginger
2 tbsp (30 ml) crushed garlic
1/2 cup (125 ml) sliced red onion
1 cup (250 ml) broccoli florets
1 cup (250 ml) cauliflower florets
1 cup (250 ml) sliced carrots
1 cup (250 ml) bok choy
1 red pepper sliced into 1/2 inch strips
1/4 tsp (1 ml) salt
1 tbsp (15 ml) Bragg liquid soy seasoning
1 tbsp (15 ml) sesame oil
chilli sauce (optional)

1. Prep the vegetables and place in a colander. When rinsing the veggies, leave behind extra water which when cooked will steam the veggies. Transfer the veggies into a medium-sized mixing bowl and set aside.

2. Mince the garlic, ginger and slice the red onions and set aside.

3. Heat a large saucepan on medium heat and add 1 tbsp on olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and ginger and saute until light golden, about 30 seconds. Add the sliced red onions saute for another minute or until the onions start to slightly golden.

4. Add the veggies into the saucepan and cook uncovered. If the veggies start to dry up before they are ready, you can add 1 tbsp of olive oil. If that is not enough moisture, you can add a few tablespoons of boiling water as well. Add the water to the bottom of the pot so that the water turns into steam. This will keep the vegetables crunchy.

5. The veggies are ready when the vegetables begin to soften but are still crunchy. This takes anywhere from 7-10 minutes depending on the size of your veggies. A minute before the veggies are ready, add the salt, Bragg liquid soy seasoning and sesame oil, chilli sauce and stir. Serve with rice, quinoa or noodles.

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