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!