Tag Archives: cookbooks

Some Shopping Zen

I discovered today that shopping can actually be a Zen experience.

I know. It surprised me too.

Dylan had a Nutcracker rehearsal at the Four Seasons, which is close to the Eaton Centre, the big mall in downtown Toronto. So I decided I’d go there after dropping him off. My daughter’s birthday is coming up and I had a good idea what I wanted to get her.

But first, I was starving. So I took myself to Santouka Ramen and had a lovely bowl of shoyu ramen. Usually there’s a line-up but (1) it was the first real snowy day of the year and (2) since I was by myself I just took one of the stools at the bar in front of the kitchen.

Photo 2014-12-11, 1 08 54 PMYummy Shoyu Ramen

Other than time spent working in front of a computer, I don’t actually get a lot of time to myself. And one of my favourite things to do when I do have a bit of time to myself is to dine out solo. It’s not that I’m fervently anti-social, it’s just that sometimes, it’s nice to sit down and have dinner with just yourself.

So I had a marvellous time, and, feeling properly nourished, I was ready to attack tackle the crowds at the mall. You’d think it being the middle of a weekday, there wouldn’t be any crowds, but the place was pretty full (I’d hate to see what it must be like on the weekends) – but not so packed that it made you feel like you wouldn’t get anything accomplished.

I went straight to the store where I wanted to get Hayley’s present. Well, not quite “straight to”, as I had to look it up first and then find my way there. But it was nice getting there. There were big wire reindeers wrapped in white lights and a generally happy kind of vibe in the air. People were smiling, probably glad to be inside getting some shopping done rather than outside in the wet snow.

It took me a while to decide on just the right birthday gift, but when I was done, I realized I still had two hours before I had to go pick up Dylan.

Two Whole Hours.

To Myself.


And this is where the Zen kicked in. I kind of got lost in the zone after that. I wandered around looking at things, not feeling any need to buy and being really comfortable with Just Browsing. And then I passed the big Chapters book store. With a Starbucks inside.


I spent most of my time at Chapters in the cookbook section, because reading cookbooks is something I love to do, and for some reason, reading cookbooks usually falls to the very bottom of my priority list. I found some interesting titles, which I jotted down in the Drafts app on my iPhone (which oh so conveniently appends whatever I write onto a list titled “Books” that’s stored in my Dropbox).

We have, more or less, placed a moratorium on buying more cookbooks until we weed through the ones we have, as our apartment is too small for us to squeeze any more shelves in and cookbooks by their nature tend to be much bigger than novels. But! There’s always the library, right?

Cookbooks That Caught My EyeCookbooks that caught my eye

I wandered happily upstairs to where the Starbucks was, but the line-up was long, so I wandered back downstairs, and took this picture for my Christmas wish list, which I then texted to Ward (technology makes things like letting people know what you want for Christmas SO easy).

Photo 2014-12-11, 2 56 02 PM

(Can you tell, my mind’s been on food all day?)

And after all of this lovely shoppingness, I still had time. The luxury of it! After close to two months of constant, consistent deadlines – which kind of worked like this: deadline, deadline, overlapping deadlines, deadline, overlapping deadlines, deadlines – it was so amazing to have all this time to myself.

It didn’t take me long to decide my next move. I headed over to the Timothy’s World Coffee at Atrium on the Bay, ordered an iced decaf Americano (because I was so hot after spending all that time wandering the shops while in my winter coat) and spent the rest of the time leisurely reading and commenting on blogs, adding to my TBR list and writing the beginning of this blog post.

So I spent the day shopping and I felt so present the entire time. I tell you, this was a first for me. And it was really, really lovely.

And hopefully I can get this magical shopping vibe going every time I go shopping from now on.

Weekend Cooking: Vegan Planet, by Robin Robertson

Vegan PlanetLast month my daughter Hayley announced she’d like to give a vegan diet a try.

So, the next time Ward and I found ourselves in a bookstore, we decided to buy a copy of Vegan Planet, by Robin Robertson. Well, okay, it was more like Ward browsed around for a vegan cookbook and found Vegan Planet; I was too busy looking at all the fiction (you know how it goes …).

Ward’s always been fascinated by the vegetarian lifestyle. Back before our youngest, Dylan, was born, he actually went vegetarian for a year. The only problem was, at the time he wasn’t into cooking the way he is now, and the only vegetable he liked was broccoli. So a “vegetarian” diet for him back then translated into cheese and more cheese! Not exactly the healthiest option.

But now that he’s into cooking, he’s really conquered a lot of his old food dislikes (yes, he has eaten anchovies … and capers!); with Hayley opting to be vegan for a while, he decided to join a 21 days of vegan challenge that a vegetarian friend of his told him about.

So that left me as the sole omnivore in the household, my oldest having just moved onto campus and my youngest being primarily what we call a “pastararian”, as in he eats pasta and cheese and pasta with sauce with no “stuff” on it and not much else.

But I have been very, very surprised by my new (mostly) vegan diet (“mostly” because Ward very thoughtfully will make a meat dish every now and then just for me – he’s been very faithful about sticking to his own 21 day challenge though, going so far as to start using soy milk in his coffee).

Ward has cooked up about fifteen different recipes from Vegan Planet so far, and they have all been absolutely stunning in terms of taste. He even made a chocolate cake that was utterly delicious!

I was actually thinking that maybe all vegan cooking is like this – highly flavorful and very filling – but Ward’s vegetarian friend has been cooking some of the recipes you get emailed to you when you sign up for this 21 days of vegan challenge, and she says most of them haven’t been very good at all.

So I’m guessing that Vegan Planet is just an excellent cookbook. There is an Asian stir-fry recipe that is better than anything I’ve had while dining out (the links to recipes in this post are to Ward’s Sensei Cooks blog, by the way); it’s also quick and easy and Ward says he’s quite happy to whip it up for me anytime (in fact, that’s what we’re having tonight, since he’s away for most of the day at a Jodo training session up at Guelph.)

It used to be my favorite, but now it’s a toss-up, because Ward made some really delicious Korean-style scallion pancakes the other night that I find myself yearning for at all times of the day.

Hayley’s favorites are a white bean cassoulet, which Ward has made twice now, as well as this vegan version of Pad Thai (which is also on my favorites list).

Ward’s not sure whether he’ll stick with a totally vegan diet after the 21 days of the challenge are up; we both know, though, that the Vegan Planet has changed our perspective on vegan food (which I used to think must be bland and not very tasty).

I am pretty sure that the majority of our meals in the future will be vegan. Sure, it’s very healthy, but even better, the dishes are so tasty and as a bonus, the house smells wonderful when Ward’s cooking!

I’m participating in Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads with this post; for more delicious cooking-related posts from book lovers, head on over to the latest Weekend Cooking post and check out all the other links!