Thursday, December 23, 2010

Under Construction

Please bear with me as I mess around with my blog over the break to try to make it new and snazzier looking! Check out lots of new tabs and such in the New Year!

Monday, December 13, 2010

These seeds are awesome, savvy?

Sometimes you eat a new superfood because you think it has some property that will make you healthier, sometimes you eat a new superfood because it's the latest fad and you want to keep up with the times, but sometimes you just want eat a new superfood because it's so damn yummy! This was my experience with a random bag of Savi Seed Sacha Inchi seeds that Andrew brought home a couple nights ago.

Two words for you: NEW ADDICTION.

I think I could seriously sit down to a bin of these and spend the rest of my life quite content. Now, I don't usually get non-raw food cravings that seriously, but I don't know what it is in the air but I've been craving childhood comfort foods so bad recently (that being real Chinese food, not the fake take-out crap) or more generally, anything that people around here would call "ethnic" food (Indian or Middle Eastern food have been the two things constantly on my mind recently). On the Chinese food note though, I've always had a penchant for these:

I can't even begin to describe why these are awesome. They have the crunchy exterior of M&Ms but without the chocolate coating. They're salty, sweet and spicy all at the same time, and definitely baked. They're definitely all about the multi-layered crunch factor though, and the minute I tasted the Sacha Inchi seeds, that textural amazingness all came back to me, and they so deeply satisfied my childhood/ethnic food cravings the raw way!

So here is my shameless plug for Sacha Inchi:

Despite tasting and looking just like nuts (and specifically a peanut), they aren't! Also known as Inca Peanuts, they're native to the Amazon rainforest and have also been cultivated for centuries in Peru. They are extracted from the star-shaped pods of a vine plant, which a picked, dried, and pressed.

The claim is that they have more Omega-3, 6, and 9s then both vegan and non-vegan sources (whether salmon, flaxseeds, or hemp), so lowers your "bad" cholesterol (HDL) and keeps your blood healthy by reducing your triglycerides and regulating blood sugar levels. Because of the healthy fats, they also regulate nerve transmission and communication, reducing the risk of depression, and arthritis by reducing inflammation. Through their high anti-oxidant properties, they also regulated eye pressure (so no glaucoma), proper kidney function (so no ulcers), blood transmission to tissue (so no skin conditions). They're also about 25-30% digestible protein!

The Savi Seed Sachia Inchi come in three flavours: Natural, Chocolate, and Caramalized. I've tasted the first two and can say that I far prefer them au naturel. They're taste reminds me so much of those Chinese peanut snacks that I wouldn't want to cover it up with anything! However, being Canadian, Andrew obviously prefers them chocolate covered... He seems to claim that Canadians like to chocolate cover everything.

Anyway, I know some people say that superfoods are a luxury, that they can tend to be pretty pricey for the size of the bag you're getting, but people also tend to forget that you only need a couple of these a day to reap the benefits. Also, if these babies will keep you healthy, what's the cost of that compare to popping pills? And in this case, honestly, there is no cost to taste. They're that good. Try 'em out, if only for the novelty of saying you've had a new food!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Anger Management Tip #1: Bake

When I was in high school, if I ever asked a friend if I could come over to their place for an impromptu baking session, their first question would always be "What's wrong? Are you okay?" When I shared a place with housemates and they came home to the wonderful aroma of carrot cake or banana bread, someone would always asked "Okay, who pissed off Chantal?" In both those instances, 95% of the time they were right... I confess, I'm an emotional baker.

I know I'm not the only person to think this, but baking has always been my primary method of coping with anger, sadness, frustration, stress, or some combination of those four emotions. I don't know when that habit started... it was probably when my babysitter Evelyn taught me to bake banana bread from scratch for the first time when I was about 13. Ever since that day, whenever I was pissed, whenever I'd gone through some tragic teenage heartbreak, or when I'd just had a bad day, I would turn to my favourite yellow mixing bowl and the white spatula that predated my birth for some kitchen relief.

Baking was and still is a primary form of stress relief to me. Some believe it's because it's aromatherapeutic, the smell of baked goods filling your space with scents of better, more carefree times. Others might simply see it as keeping your mind busy, away from the thoughts that are actually out there to bother you. But above all, there is something about going through the rhythms of baking, the familiar motions of feeling those three overripe bananas sink into a mattress of melted butter and sifted flour that just make the world make sense for 5 minutes. During those moments, I feel like I have control over something, anything. In those brief instances I can forget reality and focus on a science that goes so far beyond me and my problems.

I've never really needed "comfort foods" when I was upset, but I guess my emotions are still inextricably laced to the culinary world. While some people vent out their emotions by either eating too much or too little, I just bake. I've never been a girl who needed chocolate when I PMS, or tubs of ice cream when I'm depressed. While some choose to internalize their emotions by ingesting food, I've always externalized them by creating it instead. Of course all my friends or housemates would always be pretty psyched when I was pissed, because it always meant there would be tons of homemade yummies around for them to eat... And while many people say that you can taste the emotional state of food, I must have been doing something right because I've done some of my best baking when upset. Though I may have put some serious amounts of vitriol or tears in my cupcakes, I think their success was more about the deliberate and almost obsessive care I would put in making them to simply avoid thinking about anything else.

I'm grateful that I have such a simple way of dealing with my emotions during my alone time. It's much better than doing something damaging or unhealthy. Now that I've gone raw vegan, the satisfaction is not the quite the same, but it definitely still helps. Instead of baking, I've turned to similar processes, as long as I'm keeping busy in the kitchen, it helps. This might explain the raw banana pie in the fridge, the four extra pie shells for later use, and why I can smell the cinnamon from the triple batch of raw granola currently in the dehydrator... but at least everything feels somewhat brighter now.

So rather than wanting to slam a door, hit the send button on that text message you know you shouldn't have written, or make that sob-stricken phone call, just put that apron on, and bake. With that, I give you the recipe that started it all (I've had it for so long that I don't even know if this is the original or some amended version of mine, knowing me, it's probably the latter):

Evelyn's Anger Management Banana Bread
1 3/4 C flour
1/2 C sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 C of butter or Earth Balance margarine, melted
2 eggs (or egg replacers)
3 bananas, ripe (or overripe)
1. Preheat the oven at 350.
2. Mix in the butter/margarine, bananas, vanilla, eggs/egg replacer, sugar, and salt.
3. Stir everything until smooth. (I've always used an electric blender)

4. Slowly fold in the flour.

5. Pour into oiled bread pan, and cooked for about 40-45 minutes or until you can poke it with a knife and it comes out clean.
6. Realize that everything feels so much better!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cranberry Recipe Shoutout

When pumpkin-picking has passed, when the leaves have turned their vibrant colours and fallen to the ground, and as snow starts to blanket my city for three long months of bitter cold, what food better describes the passage from fall to winter up here in the great North than the cranberry? There's something about cranberries that just remind me of the passage from fall to winter. I don't know if it's just because American Thanksgiving seems to fall during that transition period, or if it's just something about the berry's vibrant red hue, which is both such a Yuletide colour and reminiscent of those bright red berry bushes you sometimes see when you're trekking or cross-country skiing through abandoned trails. Either way, they make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. As cranberry season comes to end, I'm assuming harvesters have long past flooded the last of their bogs before water turns to ice so I want to eat all the fresh cranberries I can get.

Cranberries are amazing for you, especially for us female types (check out an earlier post of mine extolling the awesomeness of cranberries). And aside from the benefits I already cited there, I also found out that cranberries are wonderful for the blood, and also act as a digestive aid for removing fat from the body! Yay, cranberries!

The first I wanted to do when I would pick some up next is try out a recipe I saw on Green Lemonade (an awesome blog on maintaining a healthy lifestyle regardless of your dietary choices) called the Holiday Cranberry Smoothie.

While the original recipe probably had a smoother texture by adding in cashews and sweetener and what not, I've been shying away from "less raw" foods like cashews and sweeteners. Instead, I decided to give the concept a go by making my own "not for the faint of heart version." I understand that cranberries are super tart, but I'm not that willing to douse them in sugar to make them more palatable. I love them just the way they are!

My version of the cranberry smoothie essentially only blending the 1 C of fresh cranberries and 1 1/2 C of almond milk. Earlier, I made my almond milk from 1/4 C soaked raw almonds + 1 date + 1 stick of vanilla and water, blended in the Vitamix and then strained through a nutmilk bag (p.s. the nut pulp makes a great textural addition to raw cookies).

The finished product was pretty sour, but the almond milk gave it a wonderful smoothness. If I were to suggest this to you (unless your a huge unadulterated fresh cranberry fan like me), I'd suggest adding in an extra date or two, or maybe a teaspoon of your favourite liquid sweetener or something to the finish product. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed my version. Something about it just made me want to bundle up for the winter and hibernate. Hope the rest of you aren't as cold as I am! Happy wintering!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Just... Want... Kitchen... Time...

So, if you want to know what has happened to me since those days of yore of daily blogging, I think this explains it quite well:
I call it... the PhD

This means I've been really antsy because that means more time
vegetating studiously writing in front of the computer and less time being creative in the kitchen. On the upside, another hoop jam (as in a hooping party not, a fruit preserve) saved my life this evening. Seriously, best thing ever, try it! Getting into my dance trance while still being focused enough to spin a hoop is the most wonderful feeling. It's so curative, especially because I've been in such a dance rut recently...

Anyway, my kitchen time has been pretty productive. I've made a beautiful love child between Meredith's and my "grawnola" recipes, which has just about spawned the best thing ever:
You know I don't take measurements, but the general idea was replacing Meredith's use of raw pepitas and sunflower seeds with sprouted buckwheat + pepitas. I kept everything else pretty much equal, except I used less raisins and added in some fresh cranberries and spirulina. I did use raw honey instead of maple syrup.

I also attempted a new spinach, tomato, and sundried-tomaro raw bread. I used triticale that we bought from our local organic grain farmer, and while it turned out really pretty, I'm not a huge fan of triticale. Andrew kind of bought it for the novelty, and while he's a fan of rye breads, I find them a little too sour tasting (triticale is a cross between wheat and rye):
Another novelty was my own take on raw calzones. I used Alissa Cohen's crust recipe, but then made a "everything but the kitchen sink" attempt at a filling: marinated veggies and mushroom, tomato sauce, and spinach-basil sauce. They were really good, but I might go easier on the sodium next time (and maybe actually record what I did...)
Ooo, and the amazing Christmas goodies all over Angela's blog made me want to make her Overnight Oats again, so I made a super pumpkin version one morning:
I'm sure I've done plenty of original stuff this week, but it's off to bed... Just one more week and this is all done! Highlight of my life though??? I'm going to see Nutcracker Ballet tomorrow! It's by far my favourite thing about the Christmas season, and also, I kind of bawl every time I hear the final Pas de Deux. Seriously one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've ever heard, and I get to feed my little dreams of wanting to be a ballerina... Goodnight!

(P.S. For all of you who I have yet to email because of comments and messages and such, I promise I'll get back to you by the end of next week! I've received what you've sent me, I've just been swamped with final papers and such! Thanks for understanding!)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

♪ I'll make you banana pancakes...♪

... Pretend like it's the weekend now. And we could pretend it all the time...
But who says we have to pretend? It IS the weekend AND we get banana pancakes. What's better than that? Well, actually they were raw banana crepes, but that's even better! It's all the yumminess and nutrients and none of the sugar/carb-induced post-eating coma.

The recipe? 3 large ripe bananas + 2 tbsp of ground flax + the juice of one lemon, mixed and spread over dehydrator sheets and left to dehydrate overnight. They made for a glorious weekend breakfast. Of course, what's a crepe without the toppings? They included peanut butter, cacao nibs, fig jam, chia seed, berries, melted dark chocolate, and a chestnut spread.

Breakfast of weekend champions for sure!

And as if you're weekend couldn't get any better, please check out Ayla's awesome CSN giveaway! She's celebrating the 100th post of her blog, High on Healthy.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Birthday, Raw Style!

Yay, finally a food post! Strangely, it had been a while. This one is definitely for a worthy cause though since it is in celebration of Andrew's birthday! However, instead of publicly blowing birthday kisses or posting embarrassing/cute birthday pictures over the internet, I'll cut straight to the chase and get to the food.

Birthday dinner was an impromptu spinach-hemp-basil zucchini rolls over a sundried tomato marinara. In short, I've been seeing lots of zucchini cannelloni recipes all over the raw food blog world for long enough that I really wanted to simulate my own nut-free version. While the insides had nothing to do with cannelloni, I still thought they looked awfully pretty:
Those were followed by the pièce de résistance, a pomegranate and chocolate-frosted vanilla cheesecake! The crust was meant to be ginger snap-ish, the cheesecake was based off of Miss Meredith's awesome fermented nut cheese recipe and some added personal creativity (read, I have cuisine ADD and hate following recipes), and the chocolate frosting was also an amended version of Meredith's Chocolate Buttercream recipe (found in her awesome e-book). The result was fantastic, in fact, more of that cake is gone than perhaps should be!
Happy Birthday, Amour!
May your grace the Earth another year with my world's favourite fuzzy tummy.

See, and there I've gone being publicly embarrassing... hehe.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Ask me about my Hooping Bruises"

For all of you who actually got that joke, hah, sorry...

So I have a new addiction: Hooping. By that I'm referring to the cooler version of hula hooping. It's not the kind you used to do as a little kid, but the awesome adult version, using bigger and heavier hoops. I totally recommend this to everyone! Why am I picking up this random hobby though?

1) As an avid summer festival go-er, I love to acquire as many miscellaneous talents as I possibly can. My long-term romance with tribal fusion aside, I've attempted poi (a skill I have left up to Andrew, seeing as how most people argue it was started as a flexibility exercise for male Maori warriors), have some pretty mad skills with the chinese yo-yo, tried Acro Yoga quite a few times, love love love our Om Gym, and more. Now I'm seeing hooping as part of my array of renaissance woman talents. Once my skill increases, I'm seeing LED hoops, fire hoops, and so much more...

2) As an avid dancer, hooping is a great new outlet! As far as I've looked, there is a pretty non-existent tribal and/or ATS dance scene in Ottawa and I'm craving physical artistic time. Until this Fall, I've been used to spending every weekend dancing at the Maryland Renaissance Faire, so the absence of those 4-8 hours of pure dance bliss I used to get every week in autumn is killing me. Conveniently, hooping is something that seems to mesh really well with the tribal fusion dance form so I thought I would also be able to mix and match a lot of my skills between the two. Here's a really miscellaneous example of how cool it looks, courtesy of YouTube:

3) I've actually had a mental block against hula hooping when I was little. While my sister and I loved ballet, traditional chinese dancing, and while I thought I was quite the ballerina dancing fairy princess, I actually had some kind of mentally deficiency in the hooping department. Whenever I would try to do it, the hoop would just fall to the ground and I'd get so frustrated I'd just give up after a couple tries. Maybe it was a coordination thing, I don't know, but the two or three times I actually ever did try it, I wanted to burst into tears... Maybe doing this is also helping me get rid of some long-term childhood baggage or something...

Anyway, I went out to Hoop Jam last night in Dovercourt, run in part by Brigitte Ethier of Siren Hoops. Brigitte was super friendly when I expressed interested in hooping to her over an email. She immediately gave me an in on all the coolest places to hoop in Ottawa. Classes aside (which I'll be taking up regularly in January), the night was amazing. It was pretty much a bring or borrow a hoop or poi or whatever, turn down the lights, turn up the music, and have the time of your life kind of evening. I was blissed out. In about 2.5 hours, I picked up a lot. I even managed to trick a few people into thinking I had done this before. I was psyched! For someone who likes to fidget, I can totally see hooping becoming the next big thing in my life. In fact, I intend on doing most of my doctoral readings while hooping. What a better way to work your hand-eye coordination, no? No only that, but it's a great workout, I feel like my organs are getting this amazing internal massage, it's meditative, and it makes me happy! What more do you need?

But why the title? Ah, because I've had my first rite of passage as a hooper: serious bruising. I felt that I was getting a little hip-sensitive by the end of the evening but I woke up this morning with a pretty icky bruise on my left hip (just the one, strangely enough). Over a dozen hooper forums online had confirmed to me that this is totally normal, so I'm not worrying. The solution? A couple days off, arnica gel, and Vitamin C, I hear. And besides, the better I get, the less this will happen! Instead of being annoyed by it though, I'm quite proud. I feel like I'm part of a new subculture, and I have the markings to prove it:

For awesome hooping resources in Ottawa check out: (the international hooping community's site)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Where have all the mangos gone?

So I'm assuming that organic mango season is over in countries that Canada trades with, because mangos have virtually disappeared from natural food store shelves. While I'm sure I could find regular pesticide mangos in some regular food store if I really wanted to, that's just not the way I roll... So I'll wait til they're organically available again. And hey, the world probably doesn't need my extra mango food miles anyway.

In the meantime, I've had to forgo one of my favourite summer breakfasts: the infamous mango-cilantro-lime smoothie. With the weather getting colder, my body is conveniently not really into having those kinds of flavours anymore anyway, but I still absolutely loved the sweet and cilantro combination and was dying to get it any way I could. The solution? The banana-cilantro-spinach smoothie. Who would have thunk? Now I get that yummy taste AND extra greens.

The recipe? 1 or 2 frozen naners, that iron-licious handful of cilantro, a few leaves of spinach and/or kale, and a splash of water. The result? One happy green monster :)

Because cravings do tend to reflect the seasons, my best apple find of the month has been local organic russet apples. I've been having one every day this week and they're to die for. They're the perfect fall apple. They have that ideal sweet to tart ratio, and satisfyingly grainy skin.

It's strange but true to say that some raw foods taste warmer and some foods taste colder than others. This is why we are naturally drawn to water-dense fruit in the summer (watermelons, strawberries, peaches) while we are more attracted to denser fruits and veggies in the winter (apples, pears, kale). Our bodies work in mysterious ways if you let them. They know what's good for them depending on the season and even the month if you just listen.

Speaking of season, the world is also forcing me to get into a Christmas-y mood. That's exactly why I had the sudden urge to make an old favourite this week: Heather's Christmas Fruitcake, which I made over the winter months last year.

I'm also making an early resolution to hop back onto the regularly-posting blogger train. I've kind of fallen off the wagon while trying to get used to Doctoral life, but I think that for my sanity and for my love of food and health, I should get back into the swing of things!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Most Accurate Self-Confidence Test: Baking

Does anyone else feel like like they've really put themselves on the line when you do something as simple as bake a batch of brownies for your friends? I don't know if it's just me, but I put a frighteningly large amount of emotions into my food prep. It's like the most OCD perfectionist hiding inside me comes out and I have to make sure that what I'm making is perfect. I know it's because I'm of the strong belief that the food you make is a representation of yourself, and that I guess I hold the same standard for the food I give to the way I live my life, but whatever I'm making, whether living or cooked, it has to have the perfect taste, texture, smell, and visual appeal.

Some people say that this feeling comes from the idea that sharing food you've made to others is one of the best ways for someone to know you in a deeper way than simply through what they can superficially see. The way you cook cannot tell lies. Through the way you present and prepare your food, people can tell whether you're artistic, creative, if you pay attention to detail, if you're sloppy, if you tend rush things, if you prefer image over substance, or even substance over presentation. Giving homemade food to others is such an iconic way to show people how you feel about them, and ultimately show others how you identify as a person. Is that an excessive claim? Maybe, but I stand by it.

My real reason for this post is that I think that above all things, preparing food, especially baking, is the ultimate test of self-confidence. Baking is a chemistry. One of the draws of preparing raw/living foods is that it's really hard to mess up. Sure you might just make things taste bland or like a brick, but you can always amend it. There is no failing. You can't burn or overcook raw foods, and if you oversalt it or make it too spicy, just add more ingredients to compensate and you're fine! However, going back to baking, you have to put in just the right amount of baking soda for the ideal amount of fluff, just the right ratio of fat to sweetener to create the perfect texture, set just the right timing to have the perfect end result. Just two minutes too long and your cake has gone from moist to dry and pasty, your cookies have gone from ooey gooey to teeth breaking, it's way more of a science than meets the eye!

Obviously, to achieve all the perfect dish, the perfect baked good, you have to trust yourself. You have to trust that you've prepared food a thousand times, trust that you know just how much sugar to add and just how much flour to sift if the batch isn't quite right. You have to trust that when you wrote down "12 minutes" in your recipe book that it's not a minute more or less. If you start second-guessing your talent, if you start thinking that someone else might know better, if you start thinking that maybe you didn't do it 100% right the last time and maybe if you just tweaked this a little... it never ends! And you'll never be satisfied with your result.

All this to say that I decided to bake vegan chocolate chip cookies last night to bring to one of my classes today. The process completely unleashed my inner self-doubter. I was following a recipe I'd tried once before and that I knew was perfect. After following it to a tee (which you may already know I never do) I set them in the oven (being raw, this is the second time I've used the oven in our new place in 6 months) and set out to wait exactly 11 minutes for perfection to ensue. When the timer dinged I took a look. They looked like gorgeous, fluffly, gooey perfection. Done right? Of course not. My first thought? Just take them out and set them to cool. My second thought? Maybe they're undercooked, maybe people prefer crunchy cookies, maybe I should ask Andrew for a second opinion, maybe people will get indigestion if I feed them uncooked cookie dough, maybe I should have made oatmeal raisin, maybe they'll just taste terrible and people will hate me. Maybe maybe maybe... I should just put them back in the oven. And for some inexplicable reason, I did... and kind of forgot about them. 5 minutes went by, and I knew I'd wrecked my whole plan. By the time the cookies cooled they were on the-way-too-crunchy side of crunchy, and I was so bummed out. The perfect impression I wanted to give was ruined. For all I thought at the time, I'd get flat out kicked out of my PhD program for being a bad baker. And did it ever bother me! I think I whined about it for hours until I was dragged to bed.

Why did this happen at all? Why didn't I just leave them after 11 minutes and call it done? Because I doubted myself. I doubted my ability as the damn good vegan baker I know I am. Ah, to doubt. It never leads anywhere good. I may have mentioned this before, but my former employer and friend, Carey Hayes, sous-chef to her extraordinary son, Chef Luke, of Luke's Gastronomy in Kingston, gave me one of the greatest pieces of advice of all time: "Never excuse yourself for the food you've made." And it's true. While I still do it all the time, I know in my heart of hearts that she is right. After all, I've made something. This is my work, my hobby, my art. I should proud of it in the same way that I take such joy in it. This is an expression of me and I should be have nothing to forgive about any aspect of what I have to offer. Rather than "don't cry over spilt milk," seriously, I shouldn't have cried over a batch of slightly overbaked cookies.

All in all, always serve what you've made with your head held high. If it's really that much of a wreck, just tuck it away somewhere in your pantry or fridge, deal with it later, and make another batch. In the time, as Andrew said, "You've made people a batch of cookies. I really don't think they'll complain!" Happy (un)cooking!

Monday, November 1, 2010

A New Month Means: Time to Clean up my Act!

Though this is coming slightly belated: Happy Halloween/Day of the Dead/ Samhain to all! Hope you all had an amazing weekend, I certainly did!

It's funny how during certain times of the year, we are compelled to make changes in our lives. For some it's at the turn of the calendar year, on their birthday, or before bikini season starts, I have always tended to want to make resolutions in the Fall, and that time has come yet again.

I don't know if it's because I've now been a perennial student for the past 20 years (holy crap! I just realized that when I wrote it... scary...) or just because I love Fall, but there's something about the leaves turning and the way the air smells that strikes me as a call to action. More than that, it's the time when I've made resolutions that I've actually stuck to more than during any other time of the year.

So for the Celtic New Year, as market stalls are closing down for the winter here in Ottawa, and as I can feel the temptations of warmth and density slowly creeping back into my food choices (seriously though, it snowed last night!), I'm noticing that my less-than-optimal (but incredibly yummy) dietary choices have also increased my need for sleep, lethargy, skin blemishes, and have diminished my mental clarity and general well-being.

What to do? I've decided to give myself 4 weeks to get my act back together. My latest game plan? Natasha Kyssa's Simply Raw 4 week Detox. As a bonus, supporting Natasha is a great way for me to support local businesses. Now only is she one of our neighborhood raw food coaches, she happens to live right on my street! What I love about her plan is that it's super simple and very straight forward. It gives you a lot of leeway while giving you everything you need to make the right choices. Whether you're a beginner or long-time vegan raw foodist, you can use it to help you achieve that health you always wanted (or want to get back).

As part of the "easing in" process, Week 1 is more of a pre-cleanse than a hardcore detox. It suggests you go 100% vegan, 80+% raw. For me that's no problem, so I'm going to try to push that 80% as much as possible. However, the first week does ask that you eliminate certain things from your diet entirely. While most of them aren't even part of my world anymore (dairy, meat, processed or refined foods), others are slightly more difficult for me to give up. And those culprit are: cacao/chocolate and grains (unless in the form of steamed quinoa, millet, or amaranth).

Of course, I'm finding that the more one can't have something, the more one wants it. The one thought on my mind today:

By dinner, I was craving the density of grains like nothing else. Little Stream Bakery's organic quinoa bread was calling my name from the pantry, my packages of Lydia's Granola was whispering sweet nothings to me from inside the cupboard... So I opted for the 20% steamed veggie option and had half a gorgeous steamed romanesco, and a little millet (which I never knew tasted so much like grits). It was marvelous. Oh, that and I made Andrew some grawnola which I had to taste before dehydrating of course...

However, the rest of the day went super. There's still nothing quite like starting your day with a green smoothie (1/2 pear, kale, and cilantro) and having an awesome lunch of lettuce, avocado, sauerkraut and tomatoes (that may sound gross, but the combination is amazing).

So all in all, a good start. Here's to 27 more days leading me back to... well, me!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'll have The Works, please

Yes, I am a vegan. Yes, I am a raw foodist. Yes, I am a lover of optimal health. But I am also a lover of food. And as I implied in my last post, I am also someone who supports "omnivores who make good choices," in other words, those who may still have a desire (for whatever reason) to eat meat, but do so in an ethical, conscious, and informed manner. (Obviously, I support them even more if they keep their meat eating to a minimum, for obvious environmental and health reasons!) To all you conscious omnivores, I say kudos to you. I'd much rather have you eat a diet of organic free-range bison and whole fruits, veggies, and grains, than being a vegan who eats processed squeaky meat and sugar-coma inducing cupcakes.

Once again, my sister was up for a visit this week and I took it as an opportunity to go to a place I would have never stepped into were it not for an Ottawa foodie adventure with a meat eater. We went to The Works. In short, the Works is a local burger chain that has what seems to be five thousand burger options. From very gourmet toppings, like brie and pear, to the truly weird, like Kraft Dinner and peanut butter (not together, thankfully). The reason I was up for going there was because not only did I hear they made a great sustainable meat burger (organic beef or local elk), I also heard they had vegan options in the form of both a veggie burger or a portobello mushroom cap.

The result? I'm in love. First off, I adored the decor in this place, it was all pipes, and knobs, and dials, yellow light bulbs, and wood meets metal... a steampunk's wet dream really. On top of that, they served water in pyrex measuring cups which I thought was just about the coolest thing ever (that and the light bulb salt & pepper shakers):

Secondly, please consider that I have not eaten what would be seen as such a "cooked" meal in probably about a year or so. Also consider that I had absolutely NO regrets doing this, and that this is in no way some kind of indication that I've turned back to "the dark side". I've come to realize that 90% of how you react to food is not what it actually is but how you feel about it. If you think "wow, this is SO fattening," odds are you'll gain weight from it, but if you were to think "what a beautiful, lovingly made meal," odds are you'll be filled with happy rather than a food baby in your stomach. So enjoying something with your sister or a friend or whoever, every once in a while, is just a choice you make, not some kind of end of the world scenario.

My sister tried the local elk, caramelized onion, brie, and pear combo I mentioned earlier and said it was delish. I forwent the "veggie burger" (which the waitress very kindly showed me the ingredients to, and as glad as I am that it's there for some people, man, was it filled with "stuff," again proof that vegans can eat a lot of processed crap too) and instead choose the portobello burger on whole wheat. I topped it with their "Avril's Avocado Avalanche" option and a side salad with no dressing. It was amazing: on top of my bello, they added fresh avocado, grilled eggplant, salsa, and I asked to hold the cheese and add red pepper. It was melty goodness in my mouth:

In fact, it was so good that I had to come home and recreate a raw version. As always, gotta say, it was just as fantastic as the real deal! I made Alissa Cohen's burger buns, marinated my bellos in my usual marinated (EVOO, apple cider vinegar, Bragg's, and raw honey), and topped off that beauty with lettuce, avocado, and tomato slices. This was my version, served with a lovely mixed green and edible flowers side salad: Yum yum yum...

That's another reason why I love going into the non-raw food world every once in a while... you come back with all sorts of amazing, convertible ideas!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The best Pumpkin Sauce EVER

Ah yes, that time of the year has come anew. It's one of my favourite times of the year! It's neither Christmas, nor the first day you can go for a really good warm summer tan... it's pumpkin season!!! Because we're already a few weeks into the pumpkin harvest, the blog world has exploded with pumpkin recipes for all meals and all dietary choices. While I've immensely enjoyed eyeing everyone's recipes, this one particularly caught my eye: it's Ashley at (never home)maker's tri-coloured pasta with a pumpkin sauce of awesomeness. Spiralized veggies? Pumpkin? Broccoli? Maple Syrup? What more could I want in one dish?

Despite it obvious appeal, I kept holding off making this recipe because it called for coconut milk and pumpkin puree, neither of which I really use on my high-raw journey. While I know that you can puree raw squash, I'm of the belief that that the squash family is best digested when it has been steamed or cooked to some degree. I find its starches and fibers much more easily digestible for you that way.

Luckily, my sister was over for a visit this weekend. Last night, in her honor (and because she is awesomely open-minded omnivore foodie) I made her a quinoa-tomatillo stew slow cooked in its very own pumpkin. That dish was in itself super yummy, but because it was only the two of us and one big Cucurbita, I was left with a lot of cooked pumpkin leftovers. Yay for me! It became the perfect opportunity to try my hand at the Pumpkin Sauce.

Trying to keep this recipe as raw as possible was pretty easy given its ingredients... I think it turned out to be the most amazing pumpkin pasta I've ever had. Again, this recipe is mostly courtesy of (never home)maker, but with an Eat Dance Live twist!

For the pasta:
1 carrot, spiralized or julienned
1 zucchini, spiralized or julienned
1 parsnip, spiralized or julienned
1/2 C broccoli, chopped

For the sauce:
1/2 C your favourite pumpkin, cooked & pureed
1/2 C hot water
1 tsp of raw coconut butter
1 tsp maple syrup
1-2 tsp of Bragg's
1/2 tsp cloves
1 small clove of garlic

1. Blend all the ingredients for the sauce in a high-speed blender or a Vitamix.
2. Pour as much as you like over spiralized veggies and broccoli
3. Have a pumpkin-gasm!

Happy Pumpkin Season!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Confessions of a Health & Food Blogger

For all those of you who spend a lot of time reading food blogs (read: me), you may or may not have been made aware of a recent Marie Claire article that's been creating quite the controversy amongst healthy food bloggers worldwide. While I encourage you to read the actual article rather just basing your opinion on what I have to say about it, in short, it talks about the fact that many female health food bloggers are now using their blogs as an outlet for unhealthy, often disordered behavior regarding both diet and exercise. These patterns of behavior and the "health tips" they share are then adopted by a whole slew of avid readers who then themselves fall into unhealthy attitudes towards themselves, their bodies, and their health.

In many ways, I agree with this. There are plenty of blogs out there that are overly obsessed with monitoring their food intake, the amount of time they spend on a cardio machine, or that are fanatical about labels (whether it's fat-free, high-protein, and yes, even, raw or vegan). That is not to say though, that many people haven't come to the health food blogging world with a desire to share their positive experiences about the changes they are making to stay happy and healthy. Many health bloggers are true environmentalists, choosing to support small-scale organic agriculture over health fad foods. Many health bloggers are truly passionate animal-activists, learning to create healthy vegan options in a world increasingly being taken over by processed faux-meat dishes. Many health bloggers are honestly seeking to stay fit, creating amazing and balanced workout routines focused around staying energized rather than only looking at how many calories they've burned or the time they've spent exercising...

This is why I've increasingly been careful to screen the blogs I read. I recently went through a "blog purge" where I stopped following a number of people whose blogs I actively found emotionally unhealthy. Also when I look to follow someone's dietary or exercise patterns, even just a little bit, I always check out who they are, what their health philosophy is, and if they seem to have a generally positive and happy outlook on life rather than allow destructive or negative behavior. As Laury mentioned on her blog, based on a comment I made about the article on facebook, you need to be both a conscious blogger and a conscious blog reader.

In all honesty, this is why I have been posting less frequently. I've just been finding so much misinformation recently about diet & lifestyle choices, that I'm taking a step back and recalibrating what I'm trying to express through my blog rather than just barrel forward with my opinions and choices. I recognize that every word I publish is not just a reflection of me, but may affect someone else's choices beyond my control.

I'm the first person who will support having role models, and I'll also be the first to admit that I love reading the incredibly creative recipes other people come up with, I love to look at the pictures of food people take to inspire my own culinary treats, and I love to see how it is that people are working out so I can modify my own routines to keep things interesting. I like to think I do this to in a positive way rather than because of some lack of satisfaction with myself. I did notice at one point that I was starting to slip into that kind of behavior, and I honestly had to just take a step back from blog world, and realize that maybe I was taking in too much negativity that was in turn, affecting my own behavior.

So in short, I encourage you to do the same thing. If you are a blog reader, be conscious of what you take in. Surround yourself with positivity. If you are a blogger, realize that a lot of people are reading what you write and taking your word that you know what you are talking about. Radiate health and happiness and that's what you'll spread!

And to end on food, another reason I appreciate focusing on a high raw diet, is that this can be my breakfast whenever I feel like it. Yes that IS a healthy apple pie radiating with health and no added sweeteners. Aaah, the food to fuel the mind of a young doctoral student (P.S. I have the intention of being the world's first PhD student that is NOT hooked on caffeine):