Canada’s Best Kept Secret: Pelee Island

As part of my Point Pelee road trip this summer, we visited Pelee Island for a day trip. We stayed in Leamington, a town nearby and the “Tomato Capital of Canada”, for a few nights. For us, Leamington was the gateway into Point Pelee National Park and Pelee Island. Both places were the highlights of our road trip and from Leamington, it took about twenty minutes by car to get to the park or ferry dock.

Since we wanted to spend as much time as we could on Pelee Island, we arrived about one hour early to buy the 10am ferry ride, the first ride of the day at Kingsville Ferry Dock. Passengers are only allowed to buy one way ticket to and from the island. We liked the flexibility of this ticketing system. The cost of a one way ticket is $7.50. The duration of the ferry ride to Pelee Island is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Peleeferry

Passengers can take their own bikes and cars over to the island. Cars need to be registered and paid a fee ahead of time, in order to ensure a spot on the ferry, especially during the busy season of summer. Information can be found here: https://www.ontarioferries.com/en/home/

Once we arrived at the island, we immediately walked over to Comfortech, the only bicycle rental store on the island. Comfortech is about a few minutes walk from the ferry dock. We rented our bikes all day for $25.

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After studying the map of the island, we decided to bike around the whole island via the Waterfront Trail at our own pace since we had until 7pm to return our bikes. The bike route was approximately 30.3 km and the map estimated that it would take us anywhere between 2.5-4 hours to complete it, not including time spent at each point of interest.

The weather on that day was warm, sunny and breezy: perfect for biking all day!

We saw many gorgeous sights along the way…

We made a lunch stop at a popular bakery  and deli with the best vegetarian breakfast croissants and fresh baked goods on the island…

We stopped once in a while to park our bikes to explore trails…

And sometimes we took a break on beaches…

Our last stop was at Pelee Island Winery, where we did wine tasting and bought some wines that were only produced on the island and not sold at LCBO…

We found one day on Pelee Island too short of a time. Next time, we would like to stay overnight or a few days at one of the cozy inns so we can explore the island at our leisure.

If you enjoy a slow pace of life, and being surrounded by the beauty of nature and friendly locals, then Pelee Island may be your kind of paradise. All in all, Pelee Island is definitely Canada’s best kept secret!

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Ottawa: The Tea Party Cafe

Last Tuesday I was in Ottawa, our nation’s capital, to continue my own celebration of our country’s 150th birthday. I was on the hunt for a cool cafe with character because for me, a visit in a city is not complete without exploring at least one cafe or tea shop! Luckily for me, my cousin Flo, a local of Ottawa, knew just the place to take me!

Located on a quiet street inside the historical ByWard Market, The Tea Party Cafe is a cute cafe with two floors, and its own private patio, perfect for tea sipping and chatting with friends under the sunshine.

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It has a charming yet funky vibe, with Alice in Wonderland drawings all over the walls.

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We arrived around noon, and it was still calm. There were a few people outside in the patio, and only one table was occupied inside.

For vegetarians and vegans, the lunch menu was a delight. There were a variety of healthy options to choose from. I selected Daal Curry with basmati rice while Flo chose Thai Tofu Curry with basmati rice. We decided on the large size ($8.50) for our vegan dishes as opposed to small ($5.50), and were not disappointed with the generous portion size and price. Both dishes were extremely fresh and delicious!

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After our lunch, we ordered the “Cream Tea” for dessert, which included a pot of tea and their famous scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam. The Tea Party Cafe has over 50 types of tea to choose from including a series called “Alice in Wonderland”, which goes nicely with the theme of this cafe. The fun part of selecting our own tea was we could walk up to the tea shelves and open up any jar of tea to smell it, before deciding which one we wanted!

I opted for Japanese Kyoto Cherry Rose while Flo opted for Jasmine with Flowers. Both teas had strong flavours associated with their flowers. We enjoyed the taste of both!

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We got very lucky that we were served scones fresh out of the oven, since they ran out of all ingredients after the Canada Day long weekend, and made a stop that morning to buy the ingredients for the scones. With a dollop of clotted cream and a spread of strawberry jam over the scone, the scone simply melted into our mouths. As claimed by the cafe, they are definitely the best in the city!

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At the end of our meals, we came to the conclusion that The Tea Party Cafe is a nice cozy peaceful place to hang out with your friends, over yummy food, desserts and teas!

Next time I’m back in Ottawa, I would love to try their afternoon tea menu. The best part is that they also offer a vegan version of the afternoon tea! For a vegan afternoon tea, they only need two orders and 48 hours notice.

If you’re ever visiting Ottawa, check out The Tea Party Cafe!

Website: http://www.theteapartycafe.com/ottawacafes/

Best Vegan Restaurants in Taipei

Another reason I loved living in Taipei is its diverse and endless options for vegans. From cheap local vegetarian/vegan buffet eateries to expensive westernized Vegan restaurants, the vegan’s eating choices are limitless.

I’ve recently had a request from a reader who will be travelling to Taipei next month for a list of vegetarian and/or vegan restaurants. Her request motivated me to write a blog post on my top 5 favourite vegan restaurants in Taipei, which I’m excited to share with you!!

Whether you live in Taipei, or plan to visit it someday, I hope you find this information useful. 🙂

 

1. 全國健康素食餐飲連鎖

This is my favourite local vegetarian/vegan eatery. When I was studying Mandarin at NTU (National Taiwan University), it was always my go-to lunch place. On my way to school, I would quickly go in and select the many types of vegetarian or vegan dishes and put them into a takeout box, and I usually pair that with a bowl of purple rice or vegan sushi. I love all the dishes here because they are super healthy, fresh and delicious. Unlike other local buffet eateries, I find this place uses the least amount of oil in their cooking. The cost of one meal is determined by weight. The staff will put the selected food on a scale and tell the customer how much it costs. Depending on how much food I put into my takeout box, my meals are usually between $100 NTD ($4 CAD) to $150 ($6 CAD). You just pay $10 NTD (42 cents CAD) for a bowl of rice.

When one is not rushed for time, one can also sit in and enjoy the meal, and the self-serve free soups of the day. There is always one salty soup and one sweet soup, which is considered a dessert. After finishing the meal, one takes its plate and tray with the cutlery outside to clean; there are clear sections for recycle, compost and garbage.

全國健康素食餐飲連鎖 is a vegetarian buffet chain and it’s all across Taipei. My favourite location is at No. 314, Section 2, Fuxing S Rd, Da’an District. The closest MRT station to this location is Technology Building Station (Line 1, Brown colour).

For more info: https://www.facebook.com/chv1996.com.tw/

 

2.Ooh Cha Cha (自然食)

This is a cute little plant-based whole-foods café with a few tables where you can come to get your “North American” vegan fix. It’s very popular so it’s often crowded. I highly recommend the green smoothies and the bowls. My favourite bowl is the gluten-free “Friendly Macro(biotic) Bowl” which has pesticide-free brown rice, organic quinoa and local baby greens served with all the goodies for the guts: sesame tempeh, wakame, ginger kimchi, alfalfa sprouts, purple cabbage with cashew cream.

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During the winter season, they also make a vegan version of red beans and rice (quinoa is used instead) which is simply flavourful and hearty. Almost every time I finished my yoga class, I would go directly to Ooh Cha Cha just to eat this for lunch, along with a green smoothie as part of a combo deal.

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If you have a sweet tooth like me, their raw cakes are to die for!

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For location, hours and more info: http://www.oohchacha.com

 

3.Mianto (米愛多)

This is a cool and modern restaurant tucked away in a residential area near Da’an Park. It specializes in international vegan cuisine. Everything ordered here is delightful and all homemade! I especially enjoy the curries and desserts here.

For location, hours and more info:  http://www.mianto.tw

 

4.Vege Creek (蔬河)

For a quick, affordable and healthy vegan meal, I highly recommend this place. I think it’s a very fun place to eat because you get to choose the ingredients to put into your bowl of noodles. You can also choose the type of noodles from ramen to thin noodles. Once all the ingredients have been selected and paid for, the chef cooks them and will call you when your bowl of noodles are ready, and you can eat it at the communal dining table.

I usually go to the original store which is near Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. It is always busy in the evenings as it is a small space. From experience, most diners don’t linger after a meal. They come solely for the purpose of eating, and then they leave, so the waiting time is decent.

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For location, hours and more info: https://www.facebook.com/VEGECREEK/

 

5.The Green Room

I have never tasted such delicious Thai food in my life (and I’ve been to Thailand!) and the best part is that all the food is vegan! This restaurant is a must try culinary experience if you’re in Taipei! The Green Room uses local products for its food, so I love how it supports local farmers and being environmentally friendly. The atmosphere is very warm and inviting.

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My absolute favourites are the Thai Crispy Spring Rolls, all the different types of curries served with Turmeric Thai Rice and Ginger Soy Tea.

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For location, hours and more info: http://thegreenroomtaipei.com

A Quick & Healthy Chinese Recipe: Vegetarian Fried Rice

One of my favourite easy home-cooked meal is finding whatever is in the fridge and putting them together in less than 30 minutes. It definitely comes in handy when one is starving! I know I can always count on my vegetables and my go-to main staple, leftover brown rice, to make a yummy bowl of fried rice for dinner.

I am by no means a superb cook (as I’ve mentioned many times already; I’m more of a baker!) but this bowl of fried rice is quite satisfying, if I say so myself. 😉

In honour of Lunar New Year a.k.a Chinese New Year in my world, I am excited to share this simple and quick vegetarian fried rice recipe, à la Violet style, with you. The beauty of this recipe is that any rice and veggies will work!

I hope you will add this recipe as your go to when you need to make a quick and healthy meal within 30 minutes! 🙂

Happy cooking!

XO, Violet

Fried Rice

 

Serves: 2

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

 

Ingredients:

Oil (I like to use grapeseed or avocado oil) for stir-frying

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 inch ginger, finely chopped

1 cup leftover cold cooked rice

½ pound of broccoli , chopped stalks and florets

1 tomato, chopped

1-2 tablespoons light soy sauce

Toppings: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, nuts (almonds/walnuts) and/or raisins

 

Instructions:

1. Heat a wok or frying pan and add 1 tablespoon of oil or less (according to your preference) over medium-high heat and when the oil heats up, add in the egg. Cook and stir until the egg is lightly scrambled, not too dry. Remove egg from wok/pan and place in a separate plate/bowl for now.

2. If needed, add a little bit more oil into the wok/pan and add the garlic and ginger; briefly stirfry until they just show signs of changing colour or until fragrant.

3. Add the rice and stirfry it for a few minutes, using chopsticks or a wooden spoon, to break it apart.

4. When the rice is heated through, add the broccoli and tomato, and cook, until the broccoli is crisp-tender.

5. Stir in the soy sauce as desired and add the scrambled egg back into the wok/pan. Mix thoroughly and quickly.

6. Serve hot in a bowl, and sprinkle with your choice of toppings.

 

Special Note:

-If you want to add other ingredients, or serve more people, simply double or triple the recipe.

Quick, Easy & Healthy Vegan Recipe: Avocado Pesto-Inspired Pasta

Last week, when I returned from St. Lucia late, tired and starving, I quickly looked at what was available in my kitchen so I could make a quick and simple meal. What resulted was a quite filling meal that was made in about 20 minutes. It is inspired by the following recipes:

http://loveandlentils.com/2014/03/24/walnut-hemp-seed-pesto-pasta-with-fresh-tomatoes-olives/

http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/pesto_pasta_with_spinach_and_avocado/

http://againstallgrain.com/2013/04/05/dairy-free-pesto-sauce/

Due to lack of certain ingredients, such as basil which really gives pesto its flavour, I modified between these 3 recipes and made my own yummy and healthy vegan version.

 

Avocado Pasta

Serves: 1 or 2

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 10 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1 cup fusilli or penne pasta (I used gluten-free fusilli)

1 tablespoon organic almonds

1 tablespoon organic pumpkin seeds

1 tablespoon organic sunflower seeds

1 garlic clove

1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 avocado, peeled and chopped

ground black pepper

 

Instructions:

1. Boil pasta as indicated by package instructions. Remove from heat, drain and pour pasta back into the pot, and set it aside.

2. Blend almond, seeds, garlic, rosemary leaves, lemon juice, sea salt and olive oil in a food processor/blender until smooth.

3. Put sauce into the pot of pasta over low heat and quickly combine pasta and sauce together until warm.

4. Put pasta onto a plate.  Add avocado on top and sprinkle some black pepper to taste.

5. Mix avocado and ground pepper with pasta; to be eaten warm or at room temperature. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Special Notes:

-I found one plate of this pasta very filling due to the avocado, so my suggestion is to take half of the portion and pair it with a mixed greens salad tossed in a few drops of raw apple cider vinegar and olive oil. That way, you can share the other portion with someone else, or you have extras for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner!

Travels, Healthy Foods & Tomatoes

One of the many reasons I love travelling is that I get to meet and learn from people from all walks of life! The world is so big and beautiful with so many different kinds of people living in it. 🙂

During my stay in South Korea this summer, I had the fortune to stay with my dear friend Lucy and her wonderful family after my teaching assignment ended. I was excited to experience the Korean family lifestyle!

I discovered that Lucy’s family usually eats a very big breakfast to start the day which includes all sorts of vegetables and fruits, from fermented vegetables to fresh vegetables and fruits, and a combination of hot and cold dishes. They do not eat meat for breakfast. From my previous readings when I was exploring the possibility of becoming vegetarian or vegan (I’m still on the journey), I already know that consuming too much animal protein creates toxins and acidity in the body and eventually ages the skin and body (The Beauty Detox Foods by Kimberly Snyder, page 14). Furthermore, animal protein is the most complex of all foods, and it takes almost twice as long as other foods to pass through the digestive system, which allows a greater chance of toxins to be created. Eating whole, unrefined plant foods with some fermented foods (has probiotics and enzymes that are good for healthy digestion and elimination) and complex carbohydrates is a much better choice in improving overall health and energy. Therefore, I loved the healthy vegetarian concept behind these big delicious breakfasts!

A healthy filling vegetarian Korean breakfast that includes salad, pumpkin porridge, cold Korean Soybean Noodle Soup (Kong Gooksu), rice,  kimchi, fermented eggplants, pickled green plum, garlic and grapes.

A typical healthy filling vegetarian Korean breakfast from my friend’s family that includes salad, pumpkin porridge (hobak jook), cold Korean soybean noodle soup (kong gooksu), rice, kimchi, fermented eggplants, pickled green plums, fermented garlic and grapes.

One morning I was introduced to this healthy, hearty delicious soup cooked by Lucy’s dad, Mr. P. Mr. P is an active, happy, health conscious and nature-loving gentleman who frequently hikes up on the highest mountain near his home. He loves cooking and eating this soup for breakfast. It just requires two ingredients: tomatoes and olive oil. Mr. P told me that both tomatoes and olive oil are very healthy and when combined, they are very good for the body because they lower risks of many diseases and cancers. I would never have thought of having soup for breakfast, but the inner healthy foodie in me was eager to give it a try. We also sprinkled some pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds into the soup. The minute I tasted it, I was sold on having soup for breakfast and gained a new appreciation for tomatoes! I asked Mr. P immediately for the recipe and he simply told me to put these two ingredients into a pot and then you have a meal.

I cooked the Tomato Olive Oil Soup successfully this morning and I can’t wait to share with you this simple recipe made literally in under 15 minutes! I think Mr. P would be so proud of me!!

I hope you give this soup recipe a try and let me know what you think! 🙂

Happy Cooking!!

XO,

Violet

Tomato Soup_Korea

 

Serves: 1 person

Preparation Time: 2 minutes

Cooking Time: 10 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1 washed and chopped tomato

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil,

Toppings: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds/hemp hearts, raisins

Optional toppings: any type of nuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds

 

Instructions:

1. Put one tablespoon of olive oil into pot on medium heat.

2. Place chopped tomatoes into pot to be cooked with olive oil.

2. Mash and stir tomatoes for a bit. Leave some tomatoes in partly whole form.

3. Allow soup to simmer a few minutes.

4. Once the soup boils, pour it into a serving bowl and add one tablespoon of olive oil.

5. Sprinkle a handful of your favourite toppings and mix everything. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Special Notes:

Tomatoes- has carotenoid lycopene, an antioxidant that gives them their red colour and may be useful in decreasing the risk of some cancers and heart disease; cooking tomatoes increases the lycopene content

Olive Oil- rich in monounsaturated fats which is important for optimal health; it can help with healthier blood cholesterol level and control blood glucose levels, improve insulin sensitivity and a fatty liver and lower the amount of fat around the abdomen; good quality extra virgin olive oil has a high smoke point of around 210 degrees so it can be used for stir-fries, roasting foods in oven and pan-frying

*Information for both ingredients are taken from Superfoods by The Australian Women’s Weekly, pages 103 and 112

http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/australian-womens-weekly-weekly/aww-superfoods-9781742454733.aspx

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Largest Vegetarian Food Festival in North America!!

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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:

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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. 🙂

Check her out at: http://www.thenourishingvegan.com and http://www.sweetpotatosoul.com

 

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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

 

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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

 

VEG_cupcakes

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.

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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