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):