Speed Vegan and Getting Faster

August 14th, 2010 · Lisa · book review, Review · Comments

Summer always seems to hurry past. I try to stretch out the sunshine by sauntering around my city and exploring the festivals, concerts and events that it has to offer. Toronto comes alive when patio season starts. Tourists are taking picture in my front yard (okay it is also the CN Tower’s front yard), City Chasers are running around in red shirts and I’m holding onto every last, humid soaked second. Please summer, stay awhile.

With so much to enjoy outside, I feel less tempted to spend hours preparing complex meals in my kitchen (especially with the heat we’ve enjoyed this year). I’m not one for “fast food” but simple meals that can be made in mere moments are certainly central to my productivity. Alan Roettinger’s Speed Vegan hit the shelves a few months ago and hasn’t really received the hoop-la it deserves. Alan presented at Vegetarian Summerfest this year. I wasn’t able to attend his demo but jae raved about Alan’s food philosophy and his recipes. When I returned from Johnstown I took sometime to play with the creations in the salad chapter of Speed Vegan. I enjoyed:

Napa Slaw
Beet and Celery Root Salad
Greta’s Cannellini Salad with Mint
Fennel Slaw
In the Summer I like salads to dominate my meals. It just makes sense to celebrate the local bounty while it is available. The window is fairly small here. But don’t let my focus on this small part of Alan’s book fool you into thinking that it is all he has to offer. What impressed me the most about his book was that he really plays with flavours in a way that is often reserved for the pages of those complex restaurant tomes with ingredient list that extend for pages and pages. Despite the focus on short preparation times the recipes are not limited in flavour or creativity. Alan’s 28 years spent impressing the palates of VIPs has taught him a lot about what satisfies our hunger for flavour and for nourishment. When the cooler weather arrives I plan to delve further into the meals Alan has created.

The recipes in Speed Vegan are definitely fast and provide fabulously rich, vibrant flavours but sometimes, this vegan finds herself far from home and in desperate need of sustenance. I’m very lucky that Toronto’s restaurant scene continues to boast more and more veg-friendly eateries. A recent addition is Cruda Cafe. It is located in the lower level of the St Lawrence Market (South Building), a historic landmark in the city. Although the space is limited, Claudia and her crew create magic with raw, vegan ingredients. Last weekend I was wandering the market with my friend Nicole and we picked up a beautiful Market Salad. This combination of fresh figs, sprouts, greens, goji berries and edible flowers was incredible. The richness of the avocado made it a very filling meal.

On the rare occasion when I find myself at work without a packed lunch (like when one of my pregnant friends cancels our date due to humidity!) there is a lovely little salad place where you can create your own four topping combo for just $4.99. I picked beets, broccoli, avocado and asparagus on top of spinach and mesclun greens with a drizzle of lemon vinaigrette. For a plan-B meal, this was an A+.

On the topic of speed, I’m currently training for the Toronto Scotiabank half-marathon on September 26th as a part of the Toronto Vegetarian Team (if you feel like sponsoring us click here). To help with my motivation I decided to set a time goal for the first time. I’ve been increasing my speed interval training and trying to push the intensity in more of my weekly work-outs. With the heat and humidity in Toronto this has proven to be a difficult task. But I soldier on in the hopes that when things cool-off in September I will have increased my strength and endurance to zoom through the 21.1 km.

I’ve done a few races now and always feel a huge amount of gratitude for the volunteers who make those events not only possible but a wonderful experience. When I heard that there was a triathlon happening on Toronto Island this weekend I decided to volunteer, to give-back to a community that has supported me and to learn a little more about multi-sport competition. Today was there were 400 completing the try a tri and tomorrow we expect 600 to participate in the sprint distance.

The race took place on Toronto Island so I set my alarm for 4:30 am and spent twenty minutes making my way to the Ferry dock to meet my ride. You meet some interesting characters in the pre-dawn hours in this metropolis.

After helping to unload the trailer, I handed out t-shirts for a few hours. Everyone seemed pretty excited to participate in their first triathlon. There were some obvious nerves but generally the athletes just wanted to get into the water.

Tomorrow I will be body-marking for the sprint.

I took a quick look at the transition area to see how all the different athletes set up their spots.

Once the first waves were in the lake I ran over to the water station so I could hand out drinks along the run coarse. I loved this position most of all. I was able to cheer everyone on and encourage those who needed a smile and a few inspiring words. I even got to run a short distance with an amazing first-time triathlete who was competing alongside her daughter. That made my day.

Once the last competitor had completed the route I headed back over to help dole out the post-race nourishment. We cut-up lots of fruit and there were salads and bagels (for the non-vegans). Funny aside, I actual saw one of my vegan friends in the race. It was great to see that he was competing in a shirt that proudly displayed his “plant-powered” status.

I waited along with all the athletes, their friends and family to board a ferry back to the main-land. It took about an hour before I final managed to get a spot. Once the ship left the dock I felt really happy. It is always nice to get a new perspective on your home (and your life).

After a little lunch and quick visit with my brother (who is in town for the weekend), I went to the gym and did a mini-triathlon of my own. I jumped on the spin bike for 30 mins, then on to the treadmill for 30 mins (negative splits from 8:20/km to 8:00/km) and then into the pool for 30 mins. I thought I would be tired but it turned out to be one of my best workouts of the week.
Now after a wonderful dinner with Dan I’m getting to set that alarm clock for 4:30 again…I think this night will speed-by.
Sweet dreams.


  1. Posted August 15, 2010 at 6:06 am

    You are a great volunteer! I'm sure all the athletes really appreciated your efforts.

    I'll be cheering for you in Toronto! My husband is running the marathon in hopes of qualifying for Boston.

  2. Posted August 15, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Thanks Tracy,
    I had a great time. At the sprint today it was fantastic to see so many excited athletes.

    I'm thrilled that you'll be in town for the Scotiabank race. I will keep my fingers crossed that your husband gets his BQ!

    If you're not too rushed it would be great to meet up.

  3. Posted August 15, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Great book review! I'm going to have to look for that book.

    It sounds like you're having a great weekend so far! I think I'm going to create a homemade "Most giving volunteer I've ever met" certificate for you, because you truly are.

    Good luck with the Scotiabank race!

  4. Posted August 15, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Thanks for posting that review of speed vegan! I have a question. I love Robin Robertson's Quick fix Vegetarian, so I don't mean this as a critique, but I notice a lot of her recipes in that book are only "quick" because she'll call for canned beans or the use a pre-made sauce, for example.

    Is Speed Vegan the same in that way, or does it provide recipes that are quick and speedy even without the addition of processed or pre-made items?

  5. Posted August 15, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Thanks Nicole for your kindness and words of support!

    Barbee, I just flipped through the book again and Alan does call for canned beans but you can easily cook them from dry if you don't mind taking the time. Other than that he focuses more on simple, whole food ingredients so you won't see a lot of premade sauces or additions. Although, he does use a number condiments – like thai curry, siracha and hoison that some people typically have in their pantries and some do not.

  6. Posted August 25, 2010 at 6:21 am

    Lisa, it would be great to meet you too! I'll let my husband choose the pre-race vegan meal, but it would be great to find you after your race.

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