Saturday, September 10, 2011

Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival 2011 - The Events

On Friday, my friend Sarah and I attended the 27th Annual Vegetarian Food Festival at the Harbour Front in Toronto!  I have always had my eye on this event as it is one of the largest (if not *the* largest) vegetarian food fair in North America!  In past years, the odds always seemed stacked against me as something would always come up that prevented me from attending.  Finally, I was able to go, even if it was just for one evening of the three-day-long festival!

I'd like to split this into two separate blog posts for you - today, I'll cover the actual events and demonstrations that I attended, and tomorrow, I'll let you know all about the amazing food I was able to taste and buy!

I have to say that it totally still amazes me that I can actually visit some places and eat whatever I want.  That might sound really strange to the average person.  Growing up as a vegetarian, I've always been used to searching through a menu at a restaurant for the one or two vegetarian offerings they may have had, or scanning through ingredient lists to make sure there were no hidden animal products inside.  I've always had to do this so it is second nature to me.  To actually go to an entirely vegan restaurant, or attend an event where absolutely everything is vegetarian makes me so happy!  I can just walk around and sample any of the tasty treats that I want!

Back to the events.  Sarah and I attended two events on Friday, including a cooking demonstration by Jae Steele (Toronto-based holistic nutritionist) and a talk on vegan blogging with Terry Hope Romero (author of Viva Vegan, Veganomicon, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, etc.).

Jae Steele did a cooking demonstration on how to make Coconut Chocolate Bean Fudge that is both vegan and low in sugar.  This doesn't mean that it is tasteless! We all got to try a piece of the fudge after the cooking demo was over and it tasted chocolatey and sweet, but not overly sugary! Here is the recipe - I hope that Jae doesn't mind that I'm posting it here on the blog, as the recipe was handed out to everyone who attended.

Coconut Chocolate Bean Fudge

2 cups (or one 16oz can) cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup fair-trade cocoa powder
1/4 cup carob powder
1/3 cup melted non-hydrogenated coconut oil
2 tbsp agave nectar (or maple syrup)
1/2 tsp stevia powder (or more liquid sweetener)
1/2 tsp sea salt
optional: 1/3 cup shredded coconut

Give all ingredients but the coconut a whirl together in a food processor for about 1 minute until very smooth.  Add the shredded coconut, and pulse a few times to get it evenly dispersed.  Scrape out into a baking pan (9" x 9") and smooth out the top as best you can.  Allow to sit in the fridge for 2 hours before slicing into squares.  Makes at least 16 pieces.  Stores refrigerated for up to a week.

Jae's presentation was entertaining because was very energetic and had a great sense of humour.  She answered all of our questions about the ingredients themselves, preparing the dish, or anything else about veganism in general.  She also talked about some great restaurants in Toronto that I can't wait to try out for myself.  I really enjoyed attending this demonstration!

Afterwards, we went into the larger theatre where vegan chef (& blogger!) extraordinaire Terry Hope Romero gave a seminar about vegan blogging!  Of course, being the author of a vegan blog, I was incredibly interested in this talk.  Also, I own several of Terry's cookbooks and read her websites, so I was really excited to see her in person!  She made the presentation informative and fun, with plenty of slides filled with important blogging tid-bits, balanced with nerdy monster motifs and adorable kitties.  It was great to hear some valuable tips from a seasoned blogging veteran, and some of her points really made me think about my own future blogging plans and ideas.

I really wish that I could attend all three days of the food festival!  Terry Hope Romero is doing two cooking demos over the weekend that I am dying to see.  There are speakers throughout the weekend including nutritionists, registered dieticians, vegan chefs, authors, animal advocates, and more.  I really wish I didn't have to work on Saturday and Sunday, or else I would be at the harbour front all weekend long!  Head on over to the Toronto Vegetarian Association website to get a full listing of events for the weekend.

Even if you aren't vegan or vegetarian, please check out the Vegetarian Food Festival if you are in Toronto this weekend.  You will be able to taste some super yummy food, catch a guest speaker or two (or more!), see live food demonstrations, and pick up some informative reading materials.  Even if you're just a little veg-curious, see what all the fuss is about - this is the perfect opportunity to learn all about the wonderful world of cruelty-free living!

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