Monday, September 27, 2010

Massages aren't just for people...

... they're for veggies too! You may or may not have come across references to massaged kale, but there is a totally legitimate reason to do so! I know a lot of people are often put off by the idea of eating raw kale, and I'm not super into using it in green smoothies, but massaging it gives it the yummiest texture ever. In fact, I could probably eat massaged kale every day it's that good. My preferences aside, the whole point of massaging your kale is that because it's a tougher cruciferous green, it's more difficult to digest than something like lettuce so working salt, an acid (like lemon or ACV), and a little healthy oil into it can help prematurely break it down, making its nutritional benefits more absorbable by your body.

There are tons of reasons to eat kale. It's high in beta carotene (more so than carrots!), vitamin K, C, and A, lutein, and is pretty high in calcium, manganese, iron, fiber, a bunch of B vitamins, and vitamin E. Also if you care, it's low in calories.

So how do you massage kale anyway? Gotta say, I've always been amused by the concept. Massaging kale always reminded me of kobe beef, you know the kind that's made from cows that apparently get massaged during their life so their meat gets a better texture... but all you have to do is:

1. Stem the kale leaves into a big mixing bowl (I usually just go with one head of kale or two, it'll diminish in size by a lot)
2. Rip them into edible pieces and sprinkle about a teaspoon of sea salt. 
3. Massaged the kale like you would a person... or like you would knead bread. After a couple minutes, it'll break down and get darker, starting to look "cooked" and perhaps leak water (depending on how much salt you are using). 
4. Once that's happened, add the juice of half a lemon (or the whole thing) and keep massaging. They leaves will be shiny and will taste "softer" if that makes any sense. 
5. Top it with whatever veggies you like, or make it deliciously creamy by mashing in some avocado, nutritional yeast, and onion powder. Sesame seeds work great too.

Finally, Jessica is having a CSN giveaway that ends tomorrow so join while you can!

With that, massage away!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Lady Lowdown

Is it super appropriate that it's the Chinese Moon Festival and I'm talking about Moon Cycles? So first off, happy Zhong Qiu Jie to any or all who are celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival!

Anyhoo, I have a plan: thirty-some years from now I plan on bragging just as much about how easy going through menopause is, as I am bragging right now about how I breeze my way through my monthly cycle. While you may so not want to be hearing about this, I feel that I do have bragging rights. Like the people with the amazing before and after weight loss photos, I'd like to have pictures of how I used to feel around this time of the month. The before picture would be me all but dying on a couch, and the after shots would be me breezing through a Power Yoga class (which I did), or riding a horse (which I have in the past), or climbing Mount Everest (which I plan on doing)...

Needless to say, I feel great! Like I've mentioned before, a number of factors have contributed to my female health but I cannot stress enough how eating fresh whole foods (preferably raw) have had the biggest impact. Why is that? Probably because all the nutrients a girl particularly needs during this time are more bioavailable in raw whole foods than anywhere else. Plus, I've cut out all the crap that would lead to some serious PMSing or menstrual cramping (like refined sugar, refined grains, chocolate, fried foods, caffeine, and more).

But what in particular does a girl need when Mother Nature (or Aunt Flo as I am told) comes a'callin'?

Iron: Mainly due to blood loss, a deficiency can lead to dizziness and fatigue, and can be expressed by cold hands and feet.

Magnesium: Also at a low at this time, a magnesium deficiency can lead to irratability (PMS anyone?), fatigue, depression, and water retention.

Vitamins B6 & B12: These are particularly necessary because their synthesis releases dopamine and serotonin that help prevent depression and balance our hormones. B6 deficiency is expressed by muscle weakness, irritability, insomnia, nervousness, or dry hair and skin. A B12 deficiency is made known by a loss of appetite, fatigue or numbness, and mental confusion.

Calcium: Everybody needs more calcium, and you're not going to find it in dairy, but you can find it in leafy greens, soybeans, and nuts. If you're not getting enough, odds are you are the type who gets wicked PMS, mood swings, irritability, pain, cramps, and all!

It's also been proven that women should focus on lower glycemic foods during their menses, which means eating anything from cooked whole grains and tubers (quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes) to my favoured options like any raw veggie and many fruits like apples, citrus fruits, melons, etc. As much as most women are tempted to power eat the exact opposite of what they need during this time of their cycle, try to stay away from high sugar and caffeine foods like ice cream (the dairy doesn't help), cookies, sweet commercial chocolate, and the like.

On the non-dietary side, you can also greatly alleviate your PMS symptoms by maintaining a healthy spine (I suggest chiropractic or yoga), exercising, having strong abs, and staying hydrated!

So, after all that, what are my three period superfoods when the time comes up?

Bananas: High in magnesium, B6, and potassium (which also helps with water retention/bloating). Because of their fiber amongst their other virtues, bananas help deal with menstrual cramps. Also being a low glycemic fruit, it's great for this time. And hey, if you ever needed an excuse to power eat banana whips, this is it!

Spirulina (and other seaweeds to a lesser extent): I think I've extolled the virtues of spirulina enough at this point. Needless to say, it's the ultimate superfood, containing every nutrient I mentioned above and beyond, while also being high in protein! In your desserts, in your chocolate, in your main course, in your soups... is there a wrong way to eat this stuff???

Spinach: This is nothing new, spinach has it all and is more affordable and readily available than spirulina if that's ever an issue. Spinach can be eaten raw, lightly steamed, or blended along with your favourite fruit as a green smoothie. So packed with iron, you'll be undefeatable!

So what are my three favourite things to have nowadays? Banana-spirulina whips, miso-spirulina soup, and green smoothies (with spinach!). It really helps that these are three of my favourite foods! It's like I can even start to look forward to this! Now, every day can be like Christmas! But wait, on a raw diet, it already is!

On that note, I'm off to fulfill my monthly girly time by watching my favourite love sob story, Cold Mountain, I'm sure doing that helps too somewhere!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Everything but the Kitchen Sink Cookies

Ah, what to do when you get a baking itch after the stores are closed and your cupboards are devoid of your usual raw dessert ingredients? Why, use the "Everything but the Kitchen Sink" method of course! All you've got to do is find as much of the usual ingredients as you need for a recipe, and then, well, wing it! Use up leftovers, use up what's going to go bad in your fridge, the possibilities are endless!

I wanted to make some high-raw cookies for my dessert monkey/soulmate, so I started by grinding raw oat groats, threw in a dash of coconut butter, vanilla powder, salt, the last of our maple syrup supply, the ends of our brazil nuts, and a little water. Before I mixed though, I had to add toppings so I started with the last of a bag of raw pecan (chopped) and chocolate chips, and while that tasted good, it was nothing special. I wanted crunch, so I threw in bits from the latest version of my grawnola recipe, and that made it perfect! I dehydrated those bad boys for about 4 hours at 105, and by the time they came out, most of them disappeared pretty fast...

So, bonus of the kitchen sink method?
1) I get to "bake"
2) I get to use up leftovers
3) I get to experiment with textures and tastes that I might not necessarily have tried had I just followed the same old recipe!
4) My dessert monkey is happy

For other WTF kitchen sink recipes, here are some other bloggers' options
(both raw and/or cooked vegetarian):

From Angela at Oh She Glows:
(apparently she's a fan!)

From Ashley at (never)homemaker:

From Gone Raw:

So whenever you think you're lacking in ingredients, just make something up! What's the worse that can happen? Cookies!!!

Monday, September 13, 2010

The 5 Best Workouts of my Life

On January 1st of 2011, I'll be celebrating my third year as a full-fledged dedicated gym-goer. While I had always been active growing up, it was never something I really put any thought into nor did on a regular basis. Like most girls, I adopted more of a gym "lifestyle" in my first year of my undergrad, which usually consisted in some form of cardio when I wasn't screaming at my friends to "lemmesleep lemmesleep lemmesleep" when they came pounding on my door for gym time at 7am on weekdays... we were crazy yes. Still, while it was fun and kept me in shape (sorta), it wasn't anything regular.

On January 1, 2007, I committed to delve in Andrew's hardcore gym world by getting really psyched up to give the Body for Life 12 week program a shot with him. While he'd done it before, I decided I wanted to take my health in my own hands, and doing it with a partner was probably the best way to go at it. Three years later, and with fitness highs and lows along the way, my fitness has become something I take both absolute pride and joy in. And however I may feel about it on a day to day basis, these three years paired with vegetarianism, then veganism, and now raw food, have been the first of the healthiest years of my life to come.

While I should probably save this post til January 1 I got really excited about my workout today and decided I wanted to share 5 of my all time favourite workouts with you. At this point in my workout life, I've got to say I've tried a lot to see what works best: strength training, cardio training, endurance, HIIT, mixed days, split days, P90X, Body for Life, bootcamp-style workouts, dance yoga, the list goes on. So I know what works (or I think I do). So without further ado:

1) Best Ab Workout ever: Stability Ball Routine from Muscle & Fitness Mag There are millions of great ab workouts out there, but this one has given me the best results by far. I can't repost it here because someone obviously still owns the rights, but it's the advanced ab cycle of Muscle & Fitness Magazine, May 2003. It consists of a cycle of four ab exercises done four times followed by a finishing set. It requires a stability ball, a couple weights, and your motivation, but you will see results by doing this one three times a week before your cardio. Yes, before. I've done abs on cardio days, weight days, solo, before cardio, after cardio, you name it, and I've goten the best results hands down from doing abs before a good sweaty cardio workout.

The great thing is, paired with the right exercise, you don't have to end up with a crazy man 6 pack if that's not what you are going for (though men will get a super 6 pack using it if they wish). With the cardio and weights I did, it toned in a feminine way, not in a crazy steroid way.

2) Best Cardio Workout: HIIT I could have sworn I wrote a post on HIIT already considering how often I do it. HIIT, which stands for High-intensity interval training (or interval training) is the best way to do your cardio ever. Not only does it enable you to build crazy endurance, it's also the best cardio exercise to make you release unwanted fat, build muscle, and not waste your whole day a the gym. You don't have to be one of those people doing useless 1 hour moderate workouts on the elliptical anymore. An HIIT session will give you everything you need in just 20-30 minutes. Plus, HIIT works on any cardio machine you like (or you can adapt it to the great outdoors).

What's the deal? There are two main ways I like to do HIIT: the "traditional" way and the Body for Life way. The traditional way usually consists in 3-5 minutes of warmup, followed by 6 to 10 cycles of 1 minute of high/maximum intensity exercise and 1 minute of light/moderate exercise. So if you're on a treadmill, you're pretty much sprinting for 1 minute and then walking/jogging for 1 minute. All of that is followed by another 3-5 minutes of cooldown. The Body for Life can be found here, and pretty much just consists of cycles than increase in intensity over 4 minutes rather than 2, so you're more steadily increasing your crazy rather than all at once. The upside of both these methods? They leave you feeling energized and awesome, and besides, anyone can do anything for 1 minute. Try it!

3) Best Complete Workout Plan: the Fitnessista's 12 Week Summer Shape Up Plan 2009: I don't know if it was going raw for the first time, Gina's workout plan, or both, but I have a total crush on this 12 week workout routine because while I was doing it (or something right), I got in the best shape of my then life. It combines a mix of cardio, strength training, core and balance strengthening, and whatever else you want to throw in there (like the aforementioned ab routine I can't get over). I started this workout in September of my final year of grad school, juggling classes, an internship, and a life, but managed to stick with it. I got to a goal weight I thought was just a fantasy, felt amazing beyond the imaginable, ran that 10k, and generally was at my happiest ever. Enough said, no?

4) Best Yoga Type: Bikram You can read about my experiences with Bikram here and here, but when I was a weekly Bikram regular, I had some of the more intense physical and emotional detox of my life. Because I had probably already done a lot of physical healing on a raw diet 6 months prior to the start of my Bikram practice, the effects it had on me were mostly mental. It gave me an incredible humility and clarity of self, while physically, it did amazing things for my balance, breathing, core strength, and flexibility. I used to be someone who hated heat, but there is something about the sticky sweatiness of Hot Yoga that makes you come out of that class feeling like a new person (it also helped that I did through all the winter months rather than in the summer). They were often the most enlightening 90 minutes of my week. Now I just need the motivation to get back into it again...

5) Best New Attempted Craze: Zumba I have to admit, I used to be one of those gym people who scoffed at Zumba, denigrating it for being the latest "silly woman's fitness trend" that probably doesn't work. Of course because I was so judgmental, I decided I had to try it. While I've only started doing it last week and can't really speak to the legitimacy of using this as a "workout," it sure is a hell of a lot of fun. Combining latin dance, elements of belly dance, Bhangra, and hiphop, your traditional 80s cardio class type stuff, and core and strengthening moves, Zumba is a 1 hour dance fitness program of serious entertainment.
Now, if you're a hardcore gym person who thinks you are too good for Zumba, I hope you can take my approach to it, ie. take it with a grain of salt. I'm not going into this expecting life changing results, nor am I thinking it's a lot of crap, I'm doing it once a week because it keeps me moving for an hour, it's really fun, and you should change up your workout every once in a while. Yes, some of the moves have you shaking your money maker a la Outkast's "polaroid picture". Yes, others have you pulling what can only be described as some form of MC Hammer. But that's the point to me. When you go into a Zumba class, you can let go of everything and reclaim your inner tutu-wearing five-year-old ballerina princess fairy for one hour every day or week. What's a workout if it isn't fun, right?

Well, hope that inspired you to get out there and move in some way! Remember, while I love food, that's only 50%, the other half is in how you chose to be active!

Workout of the Day
Stability Ball Ab Cycle (now you know which one!)
20 minutes of HIIT on treadmill + 5 minute cooldown
10 minute stretch

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Introducing Raw Foods to Non-Raw Folk

One thing a lot of people tend to totally overlook is the fact that your taste buds really change with your diet. If you are used to eating processed foods with MSG in them, even if only on a semi-regular basis, odds are you need (and prefer) foods that are super salty, super sweet, or really super anything. Because your taste buds have kind of gone into overkill mode, you need to compensate by upping the intensity of the flavour in most of your foods. Your brain and taste buds have become used to a certain artificial chemical load in your food, designed to trick your tongue to think that what you are eating is tasty. I think that goes a long way to explain why most people think meals made with simple whole foods (even more so when raw) are bland, because to most people, they probably don't taste like much.

I've noticed that the more raw I become, the less I need to reach for the salt, the sweetener, the spices, the Bragg's, or whatever product I used to need to get that extra flavour boost. A few of the raw dishes I tried when I first went raw didn't really taste like much to me, but now that my palate has recovered from months of eating sodium-packed veggie meats and the like, I have adopted an absolute preference for the pure and simple. On top of that, many of those once bland raw recipes taste great to me now! I can get my satisfying dose of sugar from a mango or ripe pineapple, and even the acidity of an apple can become overpowering if I'm not in the mood. Using the tiniest bit of oil makes my skin feel greasy, while a lot of salt supplements are just too much for me now.

Having said that, when one is trying to introduce people on a SAD diet to raw food, I think it's important to calibrate their current tastes to your raw food dishes (within reason obviously). In other words, if they are used to eating processed foods, trying to convert them over to a raw diet by feeding them wheatgrass and sprouts on their first try is unfortunately probably not the best way to come at it. They'll just get turned off by your choices, and probably think they taste pretty funky too. That's why I really mulled over what I was going to bring to a family dinner tonight, knowing that half of my crowd was not exactly on par with the taste levels I have grown to love.

I promised earlier this week that I'd bring a salad and a veggie dish to dinner tonight, so not wanting to go too far out of the standard person's diet box, I opted for the simple and the tasty. I chose a peach, mixed green, heirloom tomato, and raw pecan salad, and my new and improved raw marinated shish kabobs, whose recipe I'm still keeping a secret.

The salad was a definite. Everyone whether raw or not can appreciate a good salad, and the fruit and mix green option is almost always a winner. I picked the shish kabobs because they are purely veggie and mushroom based, and I wanted to avoid the whole nuts/sweetener/super salt-type dishes that I'm trying to move away from. I want to show that fruits and veggies are delicious in their own right, and that they should be the poster children of the raw food lifestyle rather than super complex and high-fat gourmet dishes. Having sad that, I also opted for the skewers because they are marinated and dehydrated, creating a wonderfully sweet, salty, and tangy flavour that will remind your audience more of tasty grilled veggies than a boring bunch of raw veggies that only "healthy people" eat. They had texture and incredible flavour, and at the end of the day you can say "see how good these are? don't they taste grilled? but they're raw!" Considering that everybody finished what was on their plates, I think it was a success!

So when trying to figure out what type of main dishes to serve to your non-raw family, stick with simpler things that you know can be an easy success. Also, know your audience. If your audience are healthy organic whole food omnivores, maybe you can go out on a limb and try something funkier. If they are more of the SAD category, you may have to coax them with something fancier like raw cheesecake or a raw pizza, just so they know it's not all kale and bananas. I'm tempted to say that you can initially stick with raw foods that trick their brains into thinking they have been "cooked" in some way, but only until they see that raw foods can be just as satisfying but way more healthy then whatever they are choosing to eat.

If the goal is health, don't let your ego take over your food, if you think a tiny bit more sweetener might make those SAD eaters come around, just add it. If you think a hint of non-raw spices might make your raw dish more interesting, sprinkle it in and I'll guarantee you'll survive. What's an extra dash of sea salt, a spoonful more of agave then you're usually comfortable with if you know it can convince others to change their lives? However people choose to get turned on to raw foods, help them make that realization by knowing their current taste preferences. Odds are those tastes will change anyway once they've decided to go down the road to optimal health!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Food Addictions

One of the first people I ever heard talk about his experience with the raw food diet was a guy named Nature Love on a We Like it Raw podcast about a year ago. When asked about his diet, he said he mainly (and almost exclusively) ate cruciferous greens and only certain fruit types. He explained that he chose those foods not out of restriction, but because over time he had come to notice that his body didn't optimally digest most other foods at all. He noticed through small cues, whether a minor skin reaction to citrus, or faint digestive problems due to raw brassicas. At the time, being only a couple weeks into my raw journey, I couldn't help but find that he seemed to be an extremely picky eater. Look who's talking now...

A year later, I find myself totally getting where he was coming from. Though I'm nowhere near that exclusive in my food choices, I know better now then to be too quick to judge. What most people don't realize is that the longer you are on a raw food diet, the better you can discern the tiniest shifts in you body's optimal condition. I'm talking shifts I would never have been able to notice before, whether minor bloating from eating cauliflower, to a funny feeling in my mouth when I use nutritional yeast. But food reactions aside, I've also been able to tell the very important differences between foods I want for health reasons and food I have to have for purely emotional/physiological/chemical reasons. I've come to know the difference between wanting a food for health, and wanting a food out of addiction.

Now most people will scoff at the idea of food addictions, especially if you are a healthy looking person. But how many people guiltily admit to needing their morning coffee to function properly, or to having to have their bag of super salty chips to relax when they get home from work? I've learned that these aren't guilty pleasures so much as they are chemically-produced addictions to certain foods because of the very things contained in those foods themselves. It's like food Darwinism: only those foods that are able to create an addiction within us, get to survive.

Having started a more hardcore approach to 80/10/10 I've reflected on the three food types I've come to realize can easily be mistaken for a guilty pleasure, while they may actually be something more:

1) Salt: This has by far been the hardest condiment to let go of, though I actually managed to go without it today. I'm kind of a salt junkie. Salt tastes good on everything, it even brings out the flavor of sweet desserts! Regardless of the fact that I may be using fancy sea salt or himalayan crystals, at the end of the day, they're all salt and they create that dependency within me. For example, I had a salad for dinner tonight sans vinaigrette, and while I've had plenty of dressing-less salads before, just the knowledge that I had stopped myself from putting salt in my dinner gave me this incredible need to have it. While I made up for it by pureeing a mango to make a kind of dressing, it wasn't salt. For me, forgoing salt is kind of like going through withdrawal. I really had to mentally push myself not to run to the pantry and sprinkle it all over my food today. But don't we need sodium, Some of you may ask? Yes, but we can get a sufficient amount through plenty of veggies, most notoriously through celery. Sea veggies can work as well. As of right now, I'm going to see if I can end my dependency on salt... we'll see.

2) Chocolate/Cacao: I've never been a chocolate person. When I was little, I'd opt for a fruit tart or the vanilla ice cream over chocolate any day. The only chocolate I really did eat was when my dad would bring back dark chocolate from his trips to Europe or when we went over there to see family in the summer and I could get my hands on 85%+ chocolate. Yep, I was a kid who jones-ed for the super dark stuff... Some time in college, I realized that I could dark chocolate around here too, and that opened these terrible cacao floodgates. The yumminess of raw chocolate didn't help either. Increasingly over the past few years, I've often found myself wandering into the kitchen, going through the pantry, just looking to eat anything with chocolate. If there isn't any, anything with cacao will do. People say it's the caffeine that triggers such a strong response for cacao, and not being a coffee drinker, I guess I wouldn't know what a caffeine addiction feels like. Apparently though, I created one in myself. It actually took me the better part of last month to get over this one, though I believe I have. Luckily a trip to the seemingly chocolate-free country of Greece inadvertently cured me since I was busy eating other things. So I'm better now, though while I don't feel this absolutely drive to find some form of cacao, I can't guarantee you I'll forgo it forever.

3) Sugars and Sweeteners: We've all probably experienced at least one sugar rush to know that sugar is a powerful thing. To me, the raw diet sugar culprits are dried fruit, maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, and anything else that will pass for a healthy alternative to what most people consider to be sugar. They are all concentrated amounts of the stuff, and while they are obviously much healthier than table sugar because of their minerals and enzymes (or in the case of agave nectar, because of a low glycemic index), sugar is like salt and cacao in that the more you use it, the more you need it. I've gone through high sugar periods during which every recipe would taste better with just a dab of sweetener, and while it might have been true taste-wise, optimal dental health would seem to disagree with the rest.

Once again, in moderation, I'm sure all these foods can be great. The same goes for cooked foods, dehydrated foods, and nuts. However, I prefer to go cold turkey when I make food choices, so that's why I've chosen to eliminate these altogether for the next little while. My health will thank me I'm sure. It's no crime to be addicted to a certain food because of the chemical dependency they have created in our bodies... just realize your need for a food for what it's actually is. It's okay. So if you're shy, I'll be the first to raise my hand and say that I too have fallen prey to these addictions at one time or another, but I'm quickly on the mend.

Workout of the Day:
Stability ball ab routine
20 minutes of HIIT on treadmill + 5 minute cooldown
10 minutes of stretching

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday Yummies

On most sunday mornings, you can find me in the kitchen stockpiling some of the more complicated raw household goodies I make for the weeks ahead. Funny thing is, I find that as I increasingly adopt a LFRV lifestyle, the less pleasure I take in making and eating these higher-sugar higher-fat gourmet foods. Andrew's not complaining though, that just means 99% of the fancy raw stuff I now make just goes into his belly :) Despite my feelings though, today was no different on the food front. This morning, I was inspired by Meredith and Felicity to try my hand at vegan cheesecake. I kind of followed the general idea of their recipes, but made the proportions of ingredients my own.

I started with Meredith's recipe for fermented nut cheese (the priobiotic-based kind), then added about 1 tsp of coconut butter, some raw honey, salt, irish moss, and lots of lemon. The crust was a recent hemp-spelt cookie disaster that I didn't have the heart to throw away, but that I think I managed to get away with repurposing quite nicely. The berry swirl was just mushed raspberries, and the whole thing was topped with more raspberries and cacao nibs. I gotta say, it was better than the real thing! (Though that's admittedly not hard for me to say since I was never big on cheesecake...)

Since I had some extra soaked cashews, I also made a few batches of chocolate ice cream for Andrew aka. my raw ice cream monster. And finally made him what I hope to be at least one month's worth of raw buckwheat granola.

And since it's sunday, here is also a pic of a yummy PB and nana sandwich I made recently:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Living with a Foodie

It has now gone far past the point of confession: everyone knows I am a foodie. But more often than not, I wonder what it must be like to live with someone like me, in other words, what it must be like to live with a foodie.

I'm currently in the middle of reading "The Gastronomy of Marriage" by Michelle Maisto and it's a really great read. And yes, I am reading another foodie book, but I have good reason to do so! You see, when you're tired of bothering your friends, your roommates, your spouse, your family, and sometimes even the guy selling apples at his market stand with talk of food, you can simply pick up a foodie book, curl up on the couch, and feel like you aren't that crazy, that someone out there in the world relates to you. (This is also why I like to wind down at night by reading other people's food blogs). It's a kind of strange foodie escapism.

I can related to Michelle Maisto in so many ways, especially with her increased obsession with food the more she formed a live-in relationship with her then fiancee. Like the author and her partner, the longer Andrew and I lived together, the more I seemed to find myself waking up to thoughts like "What do we have? What can I make?", a thought I didn't have quite as often when I was single, when I only felt I had myself to take of, or when there was no one else to impress or show my love for through food. Again, it's a huge pleasure I now take in fulfilling, but our similar progression into marital foodie madness was funny to see.

Just as often, I so related to her descriptions of nudging her partner in bed, while he's trying to go to sleep, just to ask him if he thinks, say, beets would have the right flavor to be paired with apples and balsamic vinegar. Soooo been there.

On a similar note, I remember once telling my cousin that sometimes I get so excited by the prospect of having a yummy energizing breakfast (which is usually no more than some form of smoothie) that it actually keeps me up for a little while at night. I'll never forget the somewhat bemused look on her face when I confessed that to her.

One passage of this book in particular made me smile, because once again, I could so relate. In the middle of the street, in the middle the day, the author remembers that she really wants try to make a stew that she saw in a magazine months ago. To make sure it can happen, she emails her fiancee and asks him to pick up a few ingredients on his way home from work. Agreeing, his response is:

"You're going to think about this all day now aren't you," he emails back. Which is true, though I don't exactly know why.

Does it ever get tedious to live with someone like that, like me? Do you get sick of hearing about perfect food combinations, about striving for an ideal new texture, or about the latest food trend in food blogs and magazines? I hope not... In any case, to all partners and family members of foodies, thank you for putting up with us, though I think we make up for it in yummy dishes. Also, thank you foodie world, for making me feel a little less alone...

Now onto the food! Like all foodies know, not every meal can be a success (something we unfortunately have to learn the hard way). Part of tonight's dinner was just meh. I made I am Grateful's I am Magical Marinated Mushrooms, and they were very... mushroomy, and unfortunately, little else. I even topped them with figs to try and compensate. We only had a couple, and now I've taken them back into the kitchen to become a lovely marinade. They were pretty though:

Also up on the menu was something to curb one of today's cravings... raw sushi! Our kitty was very interested in the seaweed, so they disappeared pretty quickly :) Okay, with or without my hungry kitty, I'm kind of a sushi vacuum...

Have a great weekend!

Workout of the Day
Another fantastic ab sesh courtesy of Laury
20 minutes HIIT on the stairclimber + 2 minute cooldown
5 minutes of stretching

Thursday, September 2, 2010

An Ode to Yin

In our fast-paced society, we're always on the go whether physically or emotionally. It doesn't help when you are the kind of person that always needs to be active and doing (and when you have the kind of mind that is always thinking and analyzing and bouncing up and down). When you hear that your friend is opening up a yin yoga practice, that sounds great but the style itself is not necessarily something that you deem to "for you." That's exactly why I decided to go cheer on the awesome Devin Johnstone on tonight by attending his opening session.

Yin yoga is named as such because it follows the Taoist concept of yin. If you had to compare it to another yoga style, it's of a similar (but slower) pace than hatha yoga. It often holds poses for five minutes or longer. It is a perfect complement to more yang style activities (like ashtanga or power yoga, or like the cardio sessions I usually do). It targets connective tissue, ligaments, and wants you to just be. It is a more passive form of yoga that is meant to teach to let go, to appreciate, to take in what the Universe and your body has to offer you in the present moment. It seeks to teach you not to push harder, but to just be. While I can be very introspective, brain-teasingly slow yoga styles usually set off the alarms of the ADD monkey that lives in my head, so I was a little apprehensive of a slow-paced 1.5 hour yoga session.

However, once the tabla started playing and once Devin started doing his thing, yin yoga fit me like a glove. After just the first pose, I could actually feel my spine grow longer, vertebrae by vertebrae, like those documentaries when you watch a seed grow in sped-up motion, yeah, that's what my back was doing. My mind never went into fugue state once. It never sought to start planning my day tomorrow. It never tried to push the moves we were doing to the eXXXtreme. With the right music, energy, lighting, space, and words, Devin created the perfect environment to learn to come to peace with ones body and let it be. I was surprised to find that my brain monkey behaved so well. As it quietly sat in the back corner of my mind, I was able to find total peace and relaxation.

Some of the poses challenged me for sure. Despite years of dance and narcissism-inducing levels of flexibility, I have the world's tightest female piriformii (weirdest pluralization ever). Asking me to do five minutes of pigeon asana or a frog asana is akin to asking me to take my own eyes out with a spoon. Okay, maybe it's not that bad, but it is fairly painful, but in the state I was in, I was able to just relax and tell myself to do it. That hour and a half was easily one of the best stretches of my life. So thanks Devin. Yin yoga is now something I definitely know I will turn to again.

Workout of the Day
Learning to be with 1.5 hours of Yin Yoga

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Keep it Simple!

The title of my post seems appropriate given that I started my day with a 3 pear smoothie (aka. blend three pears in a Vitamix), and had a peach and an apricot for lunch, but dinner was really were my mind was at when I came up with the title.

Ever since I started making raw pasta, I've always felt the need to come up with some tremendous sauce to have with it, whether it's refining my raw marinara, making a new form of raw pesto, or flirting with the idea of raw alfredo. However it goes, I always look for something thick, saucy, and satisfying. However, I realized today that back in my cooked pasta days (and there were many of those), my go-to recipe was usually just pasta, olive oil, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. If I wanted to make it fancy I would add balsamic vinegar, and my favourite toppings were some form of flash fried veggie-mix and/or smoke salmon. So all in all, nothing fancy per se.

So today, I figured why go all fancy? Let's try the ol' olive oil, and S&P and see how it goes with raw pasta. Long story short: it was fantastic. I spiralized a summer squash, diced some parsley, cucumber, red pepper, black olive, and fresh sundried tomatoes (sounds like an oxymoron, but they are so wonderfully sweet when "fresh"), and added about 1 teaspoon of olive oil, some herbs, and salt and pepper. It was refreshing and perfect.

To go alongside the pasta, we also feasted on a salad made of romaine, heirloom tomatoes, and carrots. The dishes were laid out on our pretty new French table cloth, and we feasted on our back patio amidst our herbs. Take joy in the little things in life I tell you! If you don't, who else will see them?

Workout of the Day
30 minutes of moderate interval cardio on treadmill + 3 minute cooldown
Ab routine as prescribed to me by the awesome Laury
5 minute stretch
I luuuuurrrved my workout today