On the weekend I attended the 29th Annual Vegetarian Food Festival in Toronto, organized by the Toronto Vegetarian Association. (see: http://festival.veg.ca) This festival is a 3 day event, and according to the booklet given to all visitors, this festival “is the largest event of its kind in the world, attracting 40, 000 visitors over three days. It was located at my favourite place in the heart of the city: the beautiful Harbourfront (part of Toronto’s waterfront). I went with my dear friend Marla, who is on her own journey into becoming vegetarian/vegan after watching a documentary on the horrendous truth about how farm animals are treated. Both of us found out about this festival when we went to this fabulous Farmers’ Market in town (which I will blog about later) a few weeks ago.
Both of us had no idea what to expect from this festival since it was our first time. Well, let me tell you, when we arrived, we were very impressed! It was indeed LARGE. It was held inside buildings and in outdoor tents as well. There were presentations, workshops (yoga, belly dancing etc.), chef demos AND 140 exhibits, showcasing a variety of healthy and green products, where you can shop to your vegetarian or vegan’s heart content!!
For beginners into the plant-based diet, this is like an educational paradise for both of us. We got free food, freebies, and learned so much from experts!
Here are some of the highlights from our visit that I would like to share with you:
Even though it was a rainy morning, nothing deterred us from exploring and walking in the rain from place to place at the festival. We were lucky to drop by a Chef Demo, featuring 1 of the 8 amazing chefs at the festival this year. We saw Jenné Claiborne, a personal chef and health coach, as she demonstrated how easy it is to whip up a fast healthy vegan meal and dessert using only 5 ingredients in her “Five Ingredient Cooking” demo. She told us that the best kitchen equipment and cooking investment for anyone is the food processor. Then she showed us how effortless it was to create 2 things in minutes using the food processor: the Chickpea Avocado Parsley Tartine and the Chocolate Date Bar. I swear, for a novice cook like me, her approach in making delicious and healthy vegan dishes is appealing and practical, so I will definitely try making more of them whenever I have time. Also, we found out that she created “The 21-Day Vegan Blueprint Program”; it’s ideal for people who are considering in becoming vegan. 🙂
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the knowledgeable and enthusiastic Laurie Sadowski as she walked as step by step in her workshop “Gluten-Free Baking”. I learned a lot about gluten-free baking and different gluten-free flours, egg and diary replacers. After listening to her, I now understand why sometimes my gluten-free baking experiments in the kitchen don’t turn out well. One key thing I learned that needs to be in gluten-free baking is xanthum gum, which binds the ingredients very well, and the baked goods will not be all crumbly. Another secret to successful gluten-free baking is knowing how to use combinations of gluten-free flours for certain baked good recipes and individual nutritional needs. I’m super excited to read and try her recipes from the 2 books I bought!! I’m especially looking forward to her “Bakes Bread” book as I can now explore and make my own fresh gluten-free bread to eat! 🙂
To get to know Laurie and her books more, please visit her website at: http://www.lauriesadowski.com
At this evening Chef Demo, I learned how to make 2 delicious autumn classic treats a la gluten-free and vegan: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins and Apple Pie. These treats were demonstrated by Ashley Wittig, co-owner of Toronto’s only 100% vegan and gluten-free bakeshop, Bunner’s. After tasting the delicious muffin, I’m excited for Thanksgiving and will try to make at least one of these goodies, and will definitely visit Bunner’s sometime soon! 🙂
To find out more about Bunner’s, see http://www.bunners.ca/shop
We ended the night at the festival on a sweet note with these cupcakes by Sweets From The Earth. Sweets From The Earth is a company, with 2 facilities, making baked goods that are all natural, vegan, peanut and nut free, and gluten-free. The Cookies ‘n” Cream cupcake and Lavender cupcake were definitely “sinfully delicious” as they claim. 🙂
See http://www.sweetsfromtheearth.com for more information on its many sweet and yummy products.
Aside from these highlights, my favourite part was being able to browse through the exhibits and to be able to sample its products, and the most fun was of course SHOPPING there!! I’m a shopaholic at heart, and some of my friends often joke that I can be in the middle of nowhere, and I can still manage to buy something that pleases me. Believe me, it has happened before when I was in Africa and Asia, and my friends were astounded I found something when they thought there was nothing to buy at all. Ah, the joy of shopping! So it is no surprise that I bought quite a few awesome items. 😉 Marla claims that I bought the entire Vegetarian Festival, which is of course an exaggeration! I simply couldn’t pass up on some very good deals and to be fair, I tried samples of these products before buying them. I like them because they are healthy, organic, vegan, gluten-free and green products!! Plus, I learned about new healthy food choices I can include into my balanced diet such as hemp seeds and rice milk. 🙂
Below you will see some favourite products I bought and samples I got from the festival. I’m looking forward to reading Healthy Eating For Life: To Prevent and Treat Cancer and trying some cultural recipes from Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats from Around the World.
One lesson I learned from my first time at this festival is that I definitely need to bring several reusable bags to carry all the purchases and samples for next year. I have a feeling it’s gonna be super special since they are celebrating its’ 30th anniversary! I can’t wait for next year’s festival and will be fully prepared! 😉
*Here are some more fantastic places to check out for (these are all Canadian companies)…
-Raw, Organic and Gluten-Free Snacks: http://www.nudfud.com/index.php
– Organic, Fair trade, Non-GMO (genetically modified organism) and Raw Products: http://www.giddyyoyo.com/ (I buy my raw cacao nibs here, and love the taste of them!)
-Hemp Seeds: http://www.manitobaharvest.com/
-Non-Dairy Milk: http://www.nutrisoya.com/index.php