Upon arriving at the Dufferin Grove farmers market, we’re immediately zened out with the peaceful bohemian vibes, sunlit tents adorned with organic produce and a busy yet chilled out crowd picking out artisanal and local treats. From afar we spot Amanda, and in her neon shades, pastel locks and cute overalls, she was a shining example of market style. It wasn’t too much longer that her hombre and partner in vegan crime, Aneta, joined us also in the most perfect ensemble, and we knew this was one interview we were going to be stoked to write!
Amanda and Aneta are the duo behind Juniperwood Kitchen, a blog dedicated to vegan recipes that are also totally Instagram worthy. Their creativity, dedication to local fare and love of bright colours fuse together to create delicious vegan meals that are not only healthy but beautiful, proving that vegans can have just as much fun in the kitchen. We love the ethos behind their website and after spending an afternoon snapping photos and enjoying some of their creations on their rooftop terrace, it was certain we definitely wanted in on their squad.
Get to know these pastel babes and add to your summertime cook-offs in this week’s Girl Crush!
What was the inspiration behind the creation of Juniperwood Kitchen?
Aneta: One summer night we sat at my table with a pen and paper and starting asking ourselves what things, words, other restaurants we loved. My place is full of (too many) knick knacks and we just sort of looked around for inspiration. I have a natural wild-harvested room spray that has juniper in it, that word ‘Juniper’ really struck a chord with us. Juniperwood was the initial name but we decided to tack on Kitchen because our dream is to open a space to share our creations and lifestyle with other people.
Amanda: Aneta and I met 2 years ago through our now mutual friend Lauren who contacted us both through Instagram to meet up for a vegan picnic in the park. We quickly discovered we shared many of the same interests, lifestyle choices and that we are both Libra's. Since that day we have pretty much not stopped talking about food and health related topics. Continuously sharing our passion of food and vegan living we decided what better way to share our love of colourful food creations then to blog about it!
And how did you two become besties?
Aneta: One day I was looking on the explore tab and came across Amanda’s instagram page. I saw that she was also vegan, lived in Toronto and totally seemed like a rad girl. She added me back and we liked each other’s photos all the time then one day we finally decided to meet up in person at Trinity Bellwoods (along with another good vegan friend of ours Lauren) the three of us had an awesome little vegan picnic. Later on we were asked to join a Nike women’s run club, both being pretty new to running we bonded even more through the training and running a 15K together!
We love the bright and colourful aesthetic behind your recipes and photos. Does that play into your creations?
Aneta: Whenever we sit down to brainstorm on the next recipe one of the most important factors is colour. Food is boring when its just brown. It’s proven that the more aesthetic our food is, the more exciting and delicious the food will taste. We are creatures of beauty, we seek beauty in everyday life whether we realize it or not. Food should always be beautiful
Amanda: Absolutely! We like to try and make our food look bright and beautiful because it gets you excited to not only eat but to create. I typically shop for ingredients by colour.
You say “plant food is your passion.” Where did that passion come from? What does plant inspired cooking mean to you?
Aneta: For me, eating plant based all started with the interest of my personal health and the environment. Those were my two first major driving factors to a plant based diet. When you learn more and more about veganism you realize that there are endless factors that lead to veganism whether it be the environment, animal cruelty, spirituality & mindfulness, politics, personal health, etc. To me, there is nothing on this planet that has such a great impact on so many topics than eating plant-based. I can go on and on about it if we had more time haha. I really love when people are genuinely curious to learn more and be open about this lifestyle. To perfectly end this question I should say that a plant-based lifestyle is not a belief, it is 100% fact.
Amanda: e're both extremely passionate about our love for animals and the environment. Cooking solely with plants is making a very small impact, but an impact none the less at decreasing our carbon foot print. With cows being the leading cause of greenhouse gases, it feels good to know we're not contributing to that pollution.
For those who may want to adopt the vegan lifestyle, or even just start by incorporating it in small ways, what are some tips for making the transition?
Aneta: The single best thing you can do for yourself is to be educated about it. The best way is to figure out what angle drives you to want to be vegan in the first place; is it for the animals? Personal health? The environment? Politics? Once you have that nailed down you can find a documentary that explores that topic.
- Cowspiracy is an amazing environmental and political documentary.
- Food Matters and Forks Over Knives are both excellent health documentaries (the ones that made me become vegan!)
- Hungry for Change – is another great health-based, educational documentary
- Earthlings – this one can turn anyone vegan in one sitting! Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you!
- Best Speech You Will Ever Hear by Gary Yourofsky on Youtube – he really breaks it all down from animals, to health to environment. He is very passionate and inspiring.
And then the easy part: changing your food:
This is a super easy, free 21-day vegan kickstart program that offers meal plans, grocery lists and support. I had a few people recently start this program.
You should know that it only takes 21-days to break bad habits or addictions (dairy is the most addictive of all as it has casomorphines in it – like opioids, yikes! So it’s good to be aware that there are real withdrawls from dairy).
If anyone has questions please feel free to reach out, as you can see I love talking about this topic!
Amanda: I actually went vegan by default. So my personal transition felt fairly easy because it was mandatory for my body. I had been vegetarian for 9 years and tried a vegan diet once for a few months and failed. I was super uneducated and wasn't eating the right things that my body needed. I felt super low energy and lethargic everyday and couldn't deal with it so I switched back to veg. The following year after I was having major issues with my stomach, it was constantly in pain and so bloated like I had a pregnant belly and I was still always feeling exhausted and sluggish. It was terrible! I discovered through food allergy testing that I was super sensitive to everything I had been eating so much of as a vegetarian. So from that point on I cut out every single thing that was not serving my body. I feel like finding out this info made the transition a lot easier for me because its what I needed to do for myself to start feeling good again.
My advice to others is start educating yourself on the meat and dairy industry through research and documentaries. Its truly incredible how much information is available now for us just waiting to be absorbed. It can be overwhelming and frustrating at times if you're a person who is used to grabbing ham and cheese croissant to go or a burger on your lunch break to try something plant based. Most people think they need to be eating all this meat to get enough protein in a day but there are so many plant based foods out there that provide enough protein and other nutrients for your body. And to think that every time you grab a plant based meal you're making a small impact on our environment should be more then enough drive to keep it up. Try and keep an open mind and remind yourself as often as you can about the negative effects the meat and dairy industry have on our planet as well as on your body.
We’re of the belief that food is medicine and connects us to nature. Explain your “cosmic” connection and being Libra babes.
Aneta: Well, shortly after we met in person Amanda and I realized that we were both born in October, 6 days apart (with a couple years between us) so we are both libras and have a lot of characteristics in common. Libras best partners are other Libras. We always have our heads in the clouds, dreaming about what we can create together and always talking about our future café. We are both creatively strong and work well together. The only thing about us airy Libras is that we need to be constantly grounded by reality haha, we are still trying to find our balance with that one!
Keeping in mind seasonal ingredients, can you share your favourite summer recipe?
Amanda: I love grabbing whatever is new and available at the market weekly and making rice bowls. I'll lightly steam whatever veg I pick up and I usually fry up some chickpeas in a little bit of coconut oil, tamari and indian spices to add in for protein! I would have to say whenever bok choy is available that's typically my fav go to veggie. And sprouts! I'll always add fresh sprouts to whatever I'm eating. I actually don't enjoy cooking for one so I try and keep my meals simple most of the time.
Sunflower Seed and Chickpea Paté in Collard Green Wraps:
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
¼ cup fresh lemon juice, or pickle jar water works too!
1 garlic clove
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 cup chickpeas
Tamari (or sea salt) and pepper to taste
Sage, chives, thyme, basil, etc.
Candy cane beets, thinly sliced
1 // Blend all of the ingredients from sunflower seeds to salt in a food processor until smooth.
2 // In a separate bowl roughly mash 1 cup of chickpeas, then fold in the sunflower cream. Add tamari (or sea salt), pepper and herbs to taste. We used fresh basil and sage.
3 // Scoop filling onto a collard green leaf and top with fresh sprouts, edible flowers, shredded carrot, thinly sliced beet, avocado and sauerkraut.
What is your:
Guilty pleasure food? Potato chips
Can’t-live-without-it summer fashion staple? Swimsuit(s)!
Wanderlust travel spot? Bali
Favourite brunch spot in the city? Kupfert and Kim
Favourite farmers market find? Sea Asparagus
It can be tough to avoid grabbing food on-the-go when you lead a busy lifestyle. What keeps you motivated and what are your tricks to preparing your own food?
Aneta: Nature’s fast food is fruit! Think bananas, apples, oranges. They’re ‘pre packaged’ and you can easily throw them in a bag and go. Plus, they’re so cheap!
The best thing you can do to start the week is to cook a big pot of rice or quinoa and make a big jar of your fave dressing. It makes the base of any salad bowl! Then during the week, in the morning you can easily throw your grain in a container, top it with salad greens, beans, chopped veggies like broccoli, cucumber, peppers, avocado, etc, and some seeds like pumpkin or sunflower. Then pack your dressing in a small container and you’re good to go!
There are so many more vegan options available nowadays when it comes to eating out. What are your go-to restaurants and cafes in Toronto?
Aneta: Well, there are the go-to spots like Fresh, Kupfert and Kim, The Goods, Doomies, etc. This past spring I discovered that
We recently watched the food documentary “Just Eat It”. What are your thoughts on food waste, sustainability and conscious eating?
Aneta: I haven’t seen that documentary yet but will definitely add it to my list! I will say that your personal food choice is your real vote. It’s more powerful and more important than voting for government. Where our money goes is what we feed power to. The most sustainable thing you can do in your entire life is to stop consuming animal products. Cattle crops in JUST North America contribute to more Co2 emissions than ALL of transportation in the entire world. Does that not blow your mind?! Not only that, the land required to raise livestock is unfathomably larger than land needed to crop plants. We are growing plants, to then feed to cattle, to then eat the cattle. This does not make sense. Africa was exporting grain to other parts of the world to feed other peoples cattle, while their own people are starving to death. If that is not disturbing then I don’t know what is. Food is VERY political. Related to that is our health. The billion dollar health industry is driven by preventative diseases that are caused by poor food choices. But don’t get me started on that, haha!
How does your vegan lifestyle affect other areas of your life, such as beauty and fashion, and do you have any favourite products or shops you could share with us?
Aneta: Before I became vegan five years ago I was fixated on the environment (I’ve always been deeply interested in wildlife and nature). I couldn’t bear the thought of washing toxins down a drain that would lead to polluting the water. It all had a snowball effect on me. Veganism came very easily to me because I already cared about things related to veganism. Every single one of my skin care and make up products is natural, I buy most of my make up from Detox Market. I make my own home cleaning products using Dr.Bronners soap along with natural essential oils and I refuse to bring any chemicals into my home. I love shopping in Kensington Market at health food stores like Essence of Life, Tutti Frutti and 4 Life Naturals.
As far as fashion goes, this one is a deep dark hole that I could ramble on about, haha. Ethical and environmental clothing is extremely hard to come by. I’m trained and work in the fashion industry and I know all the nitty gritty business of fashion production and waste (it is extremely alarming). One of my goals in the future is to bring a real, sustainable brand to the world… told you Libras are constantly dreaming haha. I recently bought a Mat and Nat purse, all vegan and they recycle plastic bottles to produce their bags.
There are a few other brands doing some cool things out there.
- Reformation - women’s wear brand that uses dead stock fabrics to make new styles.
- Girlfriend Collective - I just ordered a pair of their yoga pants that are made from recycled plastic bottles, amazing!
- And another brand (my favourite even though it is menswear) is called Outerknown - created by famous surfer Kelly Slater partnered with John Moore, amazing menswear designer. They are making garments from recycled fishing nets, the brand is 100% vegan, and recently John Moore posted about the importance of hemp as a fiber (it is one of the most sustainable plants that we can grow with sooo many uses!) I can’t wait to see what he comes up with in the near future. Mark my words, there is going to be a huge environmental shift in fashion in the next decade and I am very excited about it!
Food is magic and can bring so much magic to a dinner party, gathering, wedding etc. What does magic mean to you?
Aneta: Food for us humans means bringing people together, whether it’s as small as your dinner with your partner or a feast with an entire family. Feeding someone is nurturing someone. There is something so rewarding about making someone a beautiful, organic, clean meal that you know is making their body happy on a cellular level. Food is medicine, when I feed someone real food, I am healing them too, that’s the real magic! Magic also means energy. When you eat something and it goes into your body you are consuming its energy. I refuse to eat the energy of a sentient being that was scared, tortured and suffered, I don’t want that sad, negative energy in me. Eating plant foods, especially living food (raw) gives people energy for that exact reason. Raw plant-based food is clean, bright and living. That’s why it feels like it gives you life, not a food coma!