New vision: simple vegetarian living • spiritual practice

Introducing a new type of shared living that started  here May 1, 2012.  Update Jan 31, 2013: Third floor west-facing room available Feb 1st ($450 + $230 housefund). Or $190 per week. A housemate of ours took a last minute trip to South America. Another housemate is going on vacation. Her room is available until March 26 or so.

There are five aspects to the new vision:

1. Learn and experience a healthy vegetarian lifestyle. 

We want to support those who want to try a vegetarian/vegan diet and can benefit from living with other new and seasoned veggies. Up to three bedrooms will be for shorter term (up to one year) new vegetarians, and the rest will be for experienced vegetarians who are open to helping the new people. There will be documentary nights and shared cooking of dinners where you are encouraged to help out and learn. There may be cooking classes or just learning through osmosis.

2. Inviting spiritual practice. 

This will be up to everyone living here to co-create: but we are aiming to have a weekly sharing event that includes meditation, devotional chanting, movement, etc. There will also be time to resolve any interpersonal tensions that come up. We also anticipate having some yoga, dance, and music jams happening in the house – both spontaneous and planned.

3. Home cooked meals will be included!

Every week there are 2 or 3 dinners (feasts) and several smaller meal preparations. Those who cook receive some money back from the house fund. Even at times when there is no meal, there are often leftovers or it can be a chance to cook on your own or go out for dinner. We have a house fund that will pay for purchases from farmers’ markets, Karma Food coop, an organic delivery service, ONFC buying club for bulk grains, etc.

4. Environmental focus. 

We are looking for people who care about the environment and are willing to avoid plastic packaging and products, open to fixing things instead of buying new, and not wearing/using chemically scented perfumes, cologne, soap/shampoo, etc unless very natural.

5. Simple all-inclusive price. 

Depending on size and room features, rents will range from $355 to $470 and will include all utilities, high speed cable internet and house phone for outgoing calls. In addition there will be a monthly house fund fee of $230 that will cover groceries, house purchases (kitchen equipment, garden plants, etc) and will pay residents who want to cook and clean. The total cost will be around $650 but less for those who actively participate.

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Sunday community dinners

Frequently on Sundays in 2009, one person cooked a big vegetarian feast and we invited people to come over for a community dinner. Usually guests were asked to bring something to contribute to the meal. The person responsible for cooking received $25 from our house fund. It can be a good chance to try out new vegan recipes.

In December 2008, Colleen and Du Fei generously provided an enormous Chinese-style feast with dozens of dishes. These two lived at the house for only two weeks but we became good friends with them. They have since returned to China.

Creativity in the kitchen

de-basil-cracker-dish.jpgRecently, Basil created this unique dish consisting of a layer of rice and lentils on top of a large Swedish cracker. It is topped with slightly burnt fried onions and nuts. Basil got distracted half way through cooking by seeing (and trying to catch with a bucket) a mouse, hence the burnt food. But it was very delicious anyway.

We believe in being as humane as possible when dealing with our mouse residents. Veg.ca has a good article called Dealing with mice and rats: A humane approach to pest control. I will post more about mice later.

A whole lot of pumpkin

How to turn a large pumpkin, into bountiful amounts of delicious food.

f-pumpkin-dishes.jpg

Natalie, who lives at the house, was given two pumpkins back in October – the kind that typically get used for Halloween then thrown in the garbage or composted. No one got around to carving them, so they sat on our front porch for a long time. The larger one was eventually conquered by squirrels. They slowly gnawed away at the thick skin until they had made a large enough hole to get inside and gather all the seeds. The other one was more or less spared. We brought it inside and put it in a cold room where it sat until a few days ago. I figured it was time to try to cook something out of it. I hate to see food go to waste.

It was a fair bit of work to chop it up, and separate out the seeds. I found a great recipe for roasting pumpkin seeds at recipezaar.com (an excellent site for peer rated recipes) that involved soaking the seeds in salted water, then roasting them. They turned out delicious!

Next, I used the seed soaking water as a soup base. I made a large soup with some of the cooked pumpkin pieces, greens, ginger, spices, fresh dried hot pepper (from our neighbour’s garden), lentils, and a few things that needed to be used up in the fridge. The soup is not shown in the picture above – it was eaten too quickly.

I still had a lot of pumpkin pieces, so I decided to have a go at making pumpkin pie filling to eat as a pudding. I found a promising recipe at recipezaar and tried it out. It tasted too bland so I doubled the spice. I also added some roasted chestnuts that we had on hand. I only used a third as much sweetener – maple syrup. Turned out great.

Braun MR 430 HC MultiQuick 1 Speed Handheld BlenderTip: Typically these kind of recipes call for a food processor or blender. I don’t like using such devices as they are a lot of work to clean out. Instead I used a handheld blender (see photo), a very convenient tool for mixing stuff right in a pot or bowl. I also used it to turn the soup from chunky to smooth, right in the pot.