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!)