Thursday, July 21, 2011

Coping with Stress (or not) & Banana Island

Dear Stress-coping Mechanisms,

Where have you been over the past year or so? I miss spending time with you. We used to get along so well, people always used to comment how good we were together. I think we both had to contribute a lot to each other. Please come back. I miss you. Love,


I've returned to being the "once a week" blogger and I'm not super pleased with that. However, I've also started to seriously somewhat start freaking out about my PhD comprehensive exams that are now both happening in less than a month. My day has pretty much been looking like the following:

-wake up
-enforced time to actually do non-brain things (like read blogs, or play mindless Nintendo DS games...)
-sleep (usually not enough)
-start over

Also, because I'm psychotic and strangely operate better under stress (or used to anyway), I've also taken up a part-time job over the weekend over the past month and was previously TA-ing an early summer course. I figured it would actually force me to be more productive during the week. Heh... I suppose I should have expected my summer to go this way.

The other place I've been over the last little while? Banana Island! No, unfortunately not this kind:
This kind:

My transition to LFRV/HCRV/811 has been pretty smooth sailing so far. It's been about a month that I've been 100% on most days and 90-95% on the less good days. I argue that it may be one of the few things keeping me sane and stable recently (minus the crazy levels of emotional detox that I'll get into in a minute). You have no idea how excited I was the day we brought home my very first 40lb. case of organic fair-trade bananas.

Over the past few days, a couple peeps (including myself) over at 30BananasaDay decided to go on a 10 day trip to Banana Island... actually we went to Two Fruit Island. In LFRV parlance, that pretty much means that for you only eat bananas + another fruit and leafy greens for 10 days. It's easier on the digestive system, it's fun, it's easy, and frankly, it's too hot to think of eating anything else. My other fruit of choice has either been oranges (usually about 6) and watermelon (anywhere from a big 1/4 to 1/2), either one always as my breakfast. Lunch and dinner have generally consisted in epic sized banana smoothies (I'm currently totaling anywhere between 14-20 bananas a day, though some would argue that that's not even enough) often mixed with about 1/2 a head of romaine of lots of spinach. It's been faaaaantastic.

Emotionally, on Day 4-6, I kind of went through a random emotional roller coaster of either wanting to punch everyone in their face or bawl my eyes out. I haven't had this extremity of random emotion since my Bikram emotional releases a couple years back (long story short, I would find myself either overwhelmed with sadness and old emotion, and would want to sob through the entire minute class, or be so elated by the present and other good memories that I would smile til my cheeks hurt or laugh hysterically)... sheesh.

I've been able to maintain my workouts and I do have high levels of energy all day... I'm definitely sticking with LFRV for the long haul. Having said that though, I'm also really excited that this island trip ends tomorrow because I'm really looking forward to just being able to eat other fruit. The awesome thing? I've had ZERO cravings (except for other fruit). Andrew also gets a total bonus because he gets to eat all the yummy vegan food I bring back from work, that I know would otherwise disappear on my way home. I've also taken all my vegan/raw baking & treat-making needs out on Andrew... he hasn't been complaining, yet.

Other than that, it has just taught me a lot. It's helped me dispel so many myths about how much or how little we should actually eat to feel energetic, fit, and maintain our weight. It's helping me understand when and what I actually want and don't want to eat. And while so many people would argue that "this is so restrictive," it's actually been one of the most freeing things I've done in a while!

I'll leave it on that positive note for now. Hopefully, I'll make more time to share more more frequently AND actually have recipes for you that go beyond: Take bananas, stick in blender, blend. Tomorrow's friday!!!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Smooth(ie) Summer

Not only I am excited to guest blog for Laury's Thirsty Thursdays today, I also have an additional recipe to share. When I was looking for ideas of what kind of recipe to send to her, I started off by trying to answer the following:

"When summer comes around, I know it's time for ______." The two first answers I came up with were "watermelon" and "berries"... Sheesh, you know you're a foodie when your first two answers are edible. Because I had frozen blueberries in the freezer, I decided to run with that, and used a variation of one of my usuals that looked something like this:

Summer Blues
2 bananas
1/2 C blueberries
2-3 ice cubes
1/3 teaspoon cardamon powder
dash of cloves

Blend away!

Just as I was about to send it off, I decided to check out what kind of drink Laury had posted about last week (you think I might have checked that first). To my dismay, I found a berry smoothie that started with "2 bananas, and mixed berries"... Hmm, no way I'm sending her a repeat. So because this smoothie was flowery and smooth, I decided to go for tangy and exotic as its counterpart. As you'll see on her post, I settled for this:

Summer Sun
1 C pineapple
1/2 C mango
1/2 banana
3-4 ice cubes

Blend away to reach an exotic destination!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Rawsome beet burgers

I have to be a little narcissistic here and say that every once in a while I bust out culinary brilliance. Today was one such day. There need to be no words, only the yumminess that is this raw sunflower beet burger. I attribute a lot of the taste of this burger to the freshly cut herbs of our back patio (on that note, the Garden page has been updated for May-June). It might sound uninteresting if you just scan the recipe, but the result is delicious:

Sunflower Beet Burger
Yields: makes about 4 bun sized patties

1/2 C sunflower seeds
2 tablespoon of flax
2 tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped
2 sprigs of fresh thyme (about 2'' sprigs)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary (about 2'')
1 stick of celery
1/2 C carrots, chopped
1 medium beet, chopped
1 teaspoon of mustard
1/2 teaspoon of umeboshi paste (this is key!)
1/4 C tomato, chopped
salt to taste
pepper to taste

1. Blend everything in your Vitamix or food processor until the mix reaches burger-patty worthy texture and consistency.
2. With your hands, shape into a burger, place on a teflex sheet and plop into your dehydrator at 110 for about 5-8 hours.
3. Mid-way through the process, you can flip them if you think about it.
4. Serve with a salad, in a bun with the usual burger fixings, or just eat straight out of the dehydrator!

And yes, I've totally photo recycled... I didn't think to take a picture of the ones I beautifully served today (bad food blogger, I know) because it was eaten before photographed in time!

Other exciting news?

Eeeeeeeee!!! I'm so absurdly excited about this!

Hope your week has had a great start!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Garden 2011

After Yuletide and the turn of the new calendar year, one of my goals for 2011 was for us to grow a more amazing and bountiful garden than we have ever had before. In all fairness, that's not a very lofty goal considering that we've never actually had a garden ourselves... We would either make our weekly pilgrimage to the veggie garden we help set up at my parents' place or we would grow little things in containers indoors or off of our fire escape fancy balcony. This year, living in our first house, the space we have up front is about 190 square feet and our back plot is a mere 45 (and that doesn't even count back porch space), so we're not letting that stop us! We're going big or going home. Sure we don't have that much space, but we're going to make the most of it!

This page is going to be a log of everything we're doing when it comes to planning for and growing our garden. It'll be our trials and tribulations, our successes and our angry rantings about squirrels trying to get at our produce (crossing my fingers that this won't be a big issue!). This'll be down in the dirt Organic Gardening the City 101. Enjoy (and feel free to contribute with expertise or comments)!

February: Time for Planning

Especially in Canada, sure, it might seem a little early to be thinking about gardening. There's still feet of snow on the ground, and we can't really tell where our garden even ends and where the pavement begins... that's no reason to stop us though! With the frost date in our area pinned down to about May 6th, February is actually the perfect time to take out a sketch pad and start brainstorming. What's our garden going to look like? What are we going to plant? Where are we going to plant it?

While both of us have been pretty savvy gardeners in the past, in never hurts to get a refresher, especially if you're working in a new space. To help me get my bearings, I checked out Janette Haase's From Seed to Table, a wonderful straightforward resource for anyone looking to start their own no nonsense veggie garden (and sure, I'm also biased because I both interviewed her for a radio show I ran back in Kingston and she's from our area). But what better way to get excited about gardening than to make an event out of it, everything from the planning stages to your first harvest? So with pens, paper, gardening books, and plans in hand, we headed to our favourite place for vegan eats in Ottawa, the Green Door, for a brainstorming session.

It really didn't take much. The biggest things we did before sitting down to plan was measuring out our garden to see what kind of space we were actually looking at, and take inventory of our equipment and all the seeds we've had saved for this special occasion. With that, we mapped out where we wanted to plant things based on esthetic, what kind of sunlight these plants mind need, and what kind of space they require. Because we're also going to have to chew up most of our lawn to set in gardening space, we took the time to plan out exactly how we're going to want the garden to look. Right now, I think we're set on making three tiers, with flowers on the bottom tier (closest to the street, fumes, and potential dog pee), a big salad extravaganza in the main middle plot (greens, tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, radishes, carrots, and beets), and TBD veggies on the top row near our lilac bush (we're thinking climbing beans?). The back is going to be some amazing rows of sunflowers and potentially corn, while the porch is going to be all herbs and ornamentals. I'm psyched!

March: Time for Seeding

 So I'm probably updating way too late, but the next step in any gardening process is to start planting your seedlings indoors. Some plants can and should be started directly outdoors, but some both take more time and need more TLC. These indoor babies include tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. Peppers need to be started 10 weeks before the average last spring frost, and tomatoes need to be started at T-8 weeks (cucumbers are at 4 weeks before last frost). For us, that meant starting the peppers in early March, and the tomatoes earlier last week (oops). If you don't know when the average last frost date is in your area, you can find tons of calendars by doing a quick Google search.

It's quite simple to start plants from seed (and much more rewarding!). Either get a seeding tray or just get some small pots, make a small indent with your thumb (seeds don't need to be planted very deep, usually at about 1/4'' to 1/8'' deep), stick the seed in, wish it well, and cover it up. I used a spray bottle to water them after I'd planted them so as not to drown them out. We also have to make sure we keep them in full sun and their dirt moist.

So that's where we are now. We used a mix of organic potting soil and some leftover soil and compost from last year's herb garden. Once these babies start to be peek their little heads out of the ground, we'll know that we're in good shape!

April: The Dirty Work

I love playing in dirt. It's actually something I wish I would have taken advantage of more as a kid. I realize now that while I'd be psyched if a stranger asked me to help them garden any day, I used to be quite the complainer when it came to helping my dad out in the yard during all those lazy teen years. This month has been all about playing in the dirt. It started off with doing a spring dance once all the snow had actually melted, raking up all the dead leaves and stuff from the plots we already have, jumping for joy when we saw little green buds starting to come out under all that mess, and the biggest job of all: killing grass.

I hate lawns. They're absolutely pointless. Every time I go by houses with large expanses of lawn, I think "why the **** aren't they using that space to grow something instead?" You could plant trees, food, flowers, anything! You know who invented lawns? Royalty, because they wanted to show off how large and sweeping their properties were, and/or how wealthy they were by not having to grow anything on it, aka. lawns are stupid... but back to the point, we have to get rid of all the grass in our "front yard" (it's small and sad, but we plan to make it beautiful and abundant). It's a b****.

We ended up covering the whole thing with all the humus from our front and back plots (that being leaves, dead grass, dirt, etc.) and covering it with cardboard. Soon enough, the grass will die with no light and all of that junk packed on top of it, and we'll be able to turn it over into two or three lovely raised beds. 

As you can probably see from the picture, we're also going to have to replace the wood that's kind of falling apart around the garden space (as well as make those raised beds and levels). How? I'm officially a dumpster diver. They're building a condo building down the block (boo) and every day the construction guys pile tons of totally re-usable wood planks into these giant dumpsters on the side of the street. Remember the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. Well, don't mind if I do! So we took a couple trips into that big dumpster bin and probably have enough wood to go around our plot. Sure it's a little bit of extra work: we Andrew has to take out all the bent rusty nails, and we'll have to sand and varnish all those planks, but 1) the wood is free; 2) we're saving it from being thrown away for no legitimate reason; 3) by varnishing it ourselves, we can choose how to finish the wood rather than buy pre-treated wood which is usually dipped in formaldehyde (hello, crap going into your soil), and opt for a more eco-friendly option instead.

Oh, and on a final note:

We have life!!!

May-June 2011: Waiting... and waiting

Hardening the seedlings outside
You all probably know by now that I'm a DC girl born and raised (well, suburbs, but whatever). In this context, that means that I'm definitely not used to this whole long winter, no spring nonsense. I went back to the nation's capital (the other nation that is, not Canada) to visit my family in May, and their farmers' markets were bustling with produce and life already. Here, we were just getting the end lots of what was saved up for the winter so tubers, meat, and some sprouts... I was majorly jealous.

With global warming, I think we're all become even less accustomed to the massive amounts of rainy days we had in April and May. While all the seeds I started indoors were doing beautifully (except my peppers, I have no idea what happened to all but one), they were were itching to go outside by the end of May, but it kept raining and raining and it was still cold enough that we kept them inside, waiting for our lawn to die so we could turn it over and make magic happen. I think they all did get to go outside by about mid-May for hardening, at which point I know they should have gone into the ground. However, life was busy and they had to wait in their pots, which they had grossly outgrown by the time they went into the soil a few weeks later.

Cover your compost with tarp to keep
the light out to kill any unwanted grass!
Because we went from a random-compost-covered lawn to a big-blue-tarp-and-reclaimed-wood covered law, we also started to get a lot of sidelong glances from our neighbours because our lawn was covered in tarp for probably far too long, and they were starting to ask questions (at least we got to meet our neighbours this way!). 

By very early June, we also realized that we wanted to go in a different direction than the whole fancy raised bed thing and let things run a wild a little more. While it was kind of a bummer because we had gotten all the wood, environmentally-friendly wood stainraised bed stakes, and Andrew had even spent quite some time cutting and sanding everything, we knew that we had procrastinated a little too long to put all that together... That and we honestly like the less manicured look.

At that point, the tomatoes had to get in the ground and I was waging a war with the squirrels who kept eating my seedlings and who turned over one too many of my pots. So off went the tarp and with an edger, our garden-glove-covered little hands, and a lot of enthusiasm we turned everything over and planted two rows of tomatoes, and a third row of peppers (I ended up buying a couple heirloom varieties) and my one surviving cucumber. In between the tomato plants on the first row, I planted greens which I have never actually grown from seed before:

Lesson #1: Don't pour out the whole bag of seeds into the ground just because the seeds are small and don't look like much. Too many of them will grow and crowd each other out and won't have room to grow.

Lesson #2: When that happens, thin them out quickly. They won't have their feelings hurt if you choose to pull out about 70% of them so the 30% can grow into big beautiful greens for you...
The Creepers

I did not do either of these things, and consequently, we have no greens. I have learned a lesson for next year though: I will probably buy my greens as seedlings next year to avoid all the emotional trauma.

In between the tomatoes on the second row, I planted radishes and carrots. The radishes were successful on the sunnier side of the lawn, but the tomato plants grow so fast and so fierce that they completely covered the radishes from getting any real sun so they couldn't really grow. My carrots also seem to be kind of just sitting there. 

Finally, we covered the bottom half of our garden with ground cover and creeping plants that will avoid soil erosion onto the street. I believe we planted creeping thyme (which flowers beautifully in June) and some other creeper (hehe), as well as a whole bunch of silver and english lavender plants to line the street.

July 2011: Watch 'em Grow!

Tomato craziness
We've only just gotten into July but our tomatoes have grown at an exponential rate over the past couple weeks. They're all flowering, and even the cherry tomatoes have started to grow actual fruit. Our pepper plants seem to be healthy and well, also flowering, but no little peppers in sight yet. Mr. Cucumber seems to be mellowing out and taking his time, producing lots of leaves, but little else for now. 

And as of July 8th, we've officially harvested! I've just pulled out my radishes, which I'm quite please with:

Cherry Tomatoes! 
Purple Bean Plant
So far so good!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summer Coolers

Mid-week rant #1: To all those who post twitter feeds, facebook updates, etc. blaming/complaining to Mother Nature for the "weird weather" we've been getting over the past couple seasons, please stop. It's not her fault that we are thinning out the ozone, polluting, and causing her to go through an early menopause. Let's start taking a little bit of grown-up personal responsibility, 'mkay?

Actually, that's my only rant, but it's certainly been building up for some time... Like I mentioned last time, the weather hasn't been getting any cooler in these parts and my LFRV-ism (now called HCRV, for High Carb Raw Vegan, because apparently the movement is trying to reclaim the bad rep given to the "carb") has certainly been helping. Here are a few breakfast ideas when the weather gets hot and you just need to cool down that internal body temp. I promise it'll work really fast! (Cow cup is not required, but a definite bonus.)

Creamy Orange Juice
3-4 oranges, peeled
2-3 ice cubes
1/4-2/3 C cold water

This makes a super creamy smoothie/juice, especially the less water you use.
I think I've had this every morning for a couple weeks now and I love it.
It's super refreshing, and I seem to be going through an orange-flavoured thing right now.

Blended Melon
2 C melon
juice of 1/4 lemon
2-3 ice cubes
1/4-1/2 C water

Same deal: Blend! The less water, the more creamy.

Hmm, those pictures were strangely identical even though I took them on different days, and they aren't even the same thing... Oh well. Other than that, I'm sure my old Watermelon Sensation juice would also do the trick, though I've just been eating about 1/4 of watermelon for breakfeast instead... that or the orange juice, mmmm. Off to study! Enjoy the sun, even if it's just during your lunch break. Get in that Vitamin D while you can!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Canada Day Recap

First off, thanks so much to Lisa and Nicole for awarding first place to my chocolate orange creamsicle cookie in their Raw Ice Cream Sandwich Challenge! All the entries looked so yummy, I was particularly impressed with the piggie sammie, and thought it would take the prize for sure! This being my first entry in a food-related contest ever, I'd say I'm pretty pleased :) It was lots of fun to come up with a summer treat that would please any palate!

Secondly, this is going to be a picture heavy post! Canada Day weekend was a blast. Seriously, it's quickly becoming my favourite holiday ever. Here's a quick photo recap:

I started off by making Andrew a raw strawberry banana soft serve for the road.

Apparently, everyone in town was excited to see the royals, even the bakers.

We were impressed by the amount of local, organic food options in the park.
Especially because they seem to be doing better than
the pre-packaged crap stands next to them.
We found one of Stone Soup's trucks in the park and some B.Good cookies,
so Andrew opted for:

An organic bean & veggie soft taco
with a really delicious chilled strawberry watermelon soup.
I was classy and ate my giant banana green smoothie from a mason jar.

Probably one of the coolest parts of our day
was running into this guy in the park.
He was playing an instrument called a Halo, based off of the original Swiss Hang. It's one of the world's newest musical instruments! I've never actually listened to (and later got to play) an instrument that was as deeply meditative to me. I feel like it realigned my chakras or something... it was really, really moving, in a way this video's sound totally can't capture.

After meandering through all the stands, markets, etc.
We decided to listen to the concerts and chill with the Royals on the Hill...
and ya, there were another 300,00 people that got in the way of our "us" time.

As always, the fireworks were epic and gorgeous...
All in all, an awesome day!

Have to say, the one downside is that everything about Canada Day has become really privatized... so it wasn't just the Canada Day fireworks, but "Corporation A presents the Canada Day Fireworks" or the "Corporation B's Canada Day Music Festival"... Kinda found that a little cheapening, don't sell yourself out Canada!

With summer officially a go now that all of North America has celebrated their respective indenpendences, I'll be back in the morning with some fantastic cooling summer recipes! In the meantime, have a good week!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Canada Day & Giveaway Winner!

Happy Canada Day!
Here goes...
and the winner is...
Congrats Amanda!

If this is the Amanda I think it is, I guess the kitten knew it was your birthday :) Haha, and if it's one of the world's many other Amandas please send me an email at with your contact info so I can deliver the goods! Either way, get in touch! And thanks to everyone who entered!

Since the royals are in town, we should probably be punctual in heading out for the day's festivities. In the meantime, here are some awesome Canada Day recipes to consider, whether you'll be celebrating too or you just want some yummy patriotic looking food!

or her Strawberry Cheescake Bites (this girl is patriotic to boot!)

Vegan Yum Yum's Strawberry Waffles

and no Canada Day would be complete without this classic...

Sarah Kramer's Vegan Nanaimo Bars

Have a great weekend!