A plant-based grocery guide for Karma Co-op Food Store

While we carry animal products, Karma Co-op has lots of options if you’re a Toronto-based vegan, vegetarian or someone looking to reduce meat and dairy in favour of a more plant-based diet.

Want to know what it’s like to shop vegan at Karma? We’ve put together the below grocery guide.

Essentials for a vegan or plant-based grocery list

Karma carries all the basics for a plant-based and vegan shopping list:

  • Seasonal, fresh fruits and vegetables with an emphasis on local producers and organic options
  • Many whole grains, beans, nuts and nut butters
  • Plant-based proteins like tofu and tempeh
  • Plant-based milks
  • Flavourful vegan ingredients like nutritional yeast and miso paste
  • Clearly labelled plant-based or vegan versions of common grocery store products like hot sauce, ketchup, cookies, dips and ice cream
  • Not just food – Karma carries vegan options for personal cosmetics and toiletries

Vegan and plant-based bulk grocery shopping

Bulk buying can make vegan shopping affordable and budget-friendly. Karma carries hundreds of bulk products and many are vegan/plant-based.

Shoppers are welcome to bring their own containers for all of our bulk items!

In the dry goods section you’ll find:

  • Vegan baking ingredients such as grains, flours/flour alternatives, rice, beans, dairy-free chocolate, sugars/sugar alternatives, dozens of whole and ground spices, and nutritional yeast
  • Nuts, nut butters, lentils, dried fruits, trail mix, granola, coffee beans, teas, dried fruits and vegan potato chips
  • Bulk cooking oils

Karma also carries refrigerated and frozen bulk goods:

  • Bulk maple syrup
  • Organic miso paste in bulk
  • Bulk tofu
  • Frozen fruit in bulk

Prepared and packaged meat-free and dairy-free foods

You can find plant-based and vegan-friendly products that are clearly labelled on Karma’s shelves, including:

  • Vegan marshmallows, cookies, crackers, chocolate bars, sauces and other packaged goods
  • Frozen prepared food, meals and dairy-free ice cream
  • Ready-to-eat prepared plant-based food from local producers – from samosas to sandwich wraps
  • Vegan vitamins and supplements

Vegan meat and dairy alternatives

Besides carrying tofu in bulk, Karma also carries a variety of organic, flavoured, and alternatives to soy-based tofu, as well as:

  • Tempeh, sandwich “meat”, and veggie burger/patties/sausages
  • Non-dairy cheese, yogurt, sour cream and ice cream
  • Oat, almond, soy, and cashew milks

Fall squash and how to squish it

At harvest time, the season of Thanksgiving and Halloween, one of the mainstays in our kitchen is squash, of which the popular pumpkin is just one variety. Native to North America, pumpkin and many other varieties of squash were introduced to European settlers by the aboriginal peoples of the Americas. “If it were not for pumpkins, we’d be undone soon,” said an early North American colonist in his 1693 diary, highlighting the importance of these native squash to early settlers. Catherine Parr Traill also describes planting squash near her homestead, close to what is now Lakefield, Ontario, in the mid-1800s.

The numerous varieties of squash can be divided into two main categories: summer squash, which has a soft skin and includes zucchini and crookneck, patty pan, and yellow squash; and winter squash, which has a harder rind and includes acorn, buttercup, butternut, hubbard, pumpkin, sweet dumpling, and spaghetti squash.

Both types of squash have a high nutritional value, providing us with carotenoids (an antioxidant) and vitamin C, as well as potassium, niacin, calcium, iron, and fibre. Winter squash and other deep orange vegetables are especially high in beta-carotene, the source of vitamin A.

Cooking with Squash

Squash and pumpkin are among my favourite vegetables to cook with. Beyond all their nutritional goodness, they seem to contain the golden warmth of the sun in their beautiful green and autumnal orange shades, and all the sweetness of the earth in their bountiful pulp. They are a flavour sensation no matter how simply or extravagantly one prepares them, and their versatility is a bonus.

Many of the winter squashes can be used interchangeably, although each has its own particular strengths. Squash is a tasty addition to a stir-fry, soup, stew, or as a side dish baked or sautéed in a little butter or olive oil, its sweetness offsetting some of the other autumn vegetables. Because of this sweetness, squash can be used in both savoury and dessert dishes such as the classic pumpkin pie. Other desserts include butternut pie, zucchini bread, and pumpkin loaf.

I recommend using organic squash in your recipes. Squash can be stored in a cool, dry place such as a garage or porch for up to six months. Ideal temperature is 5 to 10 Celsius.

Baked squash

Cut squash in half, and scoop out seeds and stringy bits. Brush the surface of the flesh with melted butter or olive oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange cut side down in a baking dish and add water to a depth of about a quarter inch. Bake in a preheated oven at 375*F for 30 to 60 minutes depending on the size of the squash.

Variation: after 20 to 30 minutes, stand the squash upright and brush with more melted butter or olive oil, salt, and pepper. Brush with maple syrup and nutmeg and continue cooking.

Baked spaghetti squash

Bake squash as described above. When cooked (make sure it is tender and soft), scoop the flesh out of the skin and mix it together with a little extra butter, freshly grated cheese (parmesan, swiss, or cheddar), minced parsley, basil, coriander, or dill for garnish, and salt and pepper to taste. For those who do not eat cheese, it is just as tasty without it.

Stuffed squash

Bake squash as described above. Scoop the flesh out and saute it in a bit of butter and add diced vegetables such as onion, carrots, beans, peas, or broccoli. You can also add cubed apples or raisings, breadcrumbs, or grated cheese or quark if you like. Then fill the skin with the prepared squash mixture.

Variation: pre-cook a grain such as rice, quinoa, or couscous, and when the vegetables are cooked, add the grain to the veggie mixture in a little butter (which adds a nice flavour to the grain). Fill the squash. You can also bake it again to brown the top.

Squash and carrot soup

1 large onion
3­–5 medium to large carrots
1 medium-sized squash
2–3 cups water or soup stock
thyme, basil, marjoram, salt and pepper to taste
garlic (optional)
apple (optional)

Sauté onion in butter or olive oil. Peel and chop squash into large cubes. Cut carrots into large pieces and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes. Add enough water or stock to just barely cover the vegetables (don’t put in too much liquid or the soup will be runny instead of thick). Add peeled and cored apple or peeled and mashed garlic if using. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Serve with a garnish of fresh herbs.

Submitted by Karen Fliess

First published in The Chronicle (Fall 2003)