Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Eat: Post-Yoga Smoothie

How many times have I gone on and on about my on-and-off again relationship with yoga? From an ode to discovering the beauty of a Yin practice, to endless praises for the benefits of a daily 20 minute yoga practice, to my 3 month love affair with Bikram, I always wanted to commit... and finally, I've made the leap! I can now say that yoga and I have been in a steady relationship for about two and a half months. I don't know what came over me when we got back from our trip to France in mid-June, but I got home and knew it was time to nurture that relationship again. As usual, the first month or so was super emotionally taxing, releasing (or starting to release) all sorts of bizarre hang ups. Now, as much as yoga is always about clearing the mind, I know it's become more about the physical practice as well, learning to push and test my limits just that much more, and grow physically as well as mentally.
So far, I've been doing a minimum of two and a half hours of hot yoga classes a week at Rama Lotus and it has brought me such mental peace. Even if it might just be for those three hours and even when they aren't always perfect, I cherish that time for my mind to truly attempt to be blank and free. 

Physically though, it's hot yoga, so you sweat buckets, like buckets of buckets. And I love it. I embrace it. Dare I say, I even crave it now. However, that does mean that once that practice is done, restocking on lost electrolytes is a definite priority. So if you're regularly doing hot yoga or any other super sweaty activity (no judgements on what that might be!), here's a pretty delicious smoothie I came up with that you can blend to make sure you refuel on all the necessaries:
Post-Sweaty Workout Creamsicle Smoothie
2 frozen bananas, chopped
1 orange, peeled
2 big handfuls of spinach
1/2 C coconut water

Blend in your favourite high speed blender!
(Feel free to add a dash of almond extract, 
orange zest, or a nice vegan protein powder)

(and yes, your bananas should be as ripe as on the photo before you eat them!)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Live: A Weekend in Food

I celebrated two stages of matrimonial bliss this weekend, all of them involving mountains of happiness and buckets of tears. Needless, to say it was an emotionally packed weekend, but I'll share its joys with you in the way I know best... through food.

The first tearjerker was the beautiful wedding of two very dear friends. They both just  looked so beautiful and so happy. If I haven't cried already at some point during the day, all you have to do is push the "first-time-the-couple-hears-the-terms-husband-and-wife" button that just really gets me going. Call me old fashion but there's something so beautifully transitional (and traditional) about that moment that's just... timeless.

But back to the food. The reception was a pot luck, and given that the bride has been a vegetarian/raw foodist/vegan, it was right up my alley. Everything I made was of course 100% organic, 100% vegan, and 100% made with love. For a main dish, I went for something that would feed the masses:

Wild Rice Stuffed Squash
w/ Candied Pecans and Cranberries

Ingredients: Squash the length of my torso
Filling: Wild Rice, red onion, olive oil, sea salt, raw candied pecans, cranberries
juice of 2 oranges, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, black pepper, maple syrup

For dessert, I opted for something a little more fancy. I thought my dessert would be perfect for the bride, who always reminds me of all things delicate, airy and sunshine-y. (Okay, I know that last one isn't really a word.) So I made a:

High Raw Vegan Blueberry Lavender Cheesecake

Crust Ingredients: coconut flour and dates
Filling: cashews, homemade coconut cream, maple syrup, 
sea salt, lemon, blueberries, vanilla powder, lavender

The second event was time for another potential stage of womanhood, the baby shower of another lovely friend of mine. There's something about getting a bunch of women in one room to support a common friend through a new stage in her life that makes it impossible not to get emotional. Because I had spend two days in the kitchen already, I went for the easy, baby-shower pleasing option:

 Mini Organic Vegan Cupcakes from Thimblecakes
(photo courtesy of here)

Gotta say, Thimblecakes turned me into a cupcake person. Actually, I should rephrase that as Thimblecakes turned me into a cupcake-from-Thimblecakes person. Big difference. I love that bakery, it's organic, they can do gluten-free cupcakes, they don't use artificial colouring, and they make a mean vegan coconut-based ice cream! Of course, they were a sure hit, though I did manage to snag one in each flavour throughout the day without making it too obvious... hehe.

Hope your weekends were as food-gasmic! Have a great week.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Eat: Sinful September Treat: Vegan "Rice Crispy" Squares

Luckily, I never really had time since I went vegan to become a "junk food vegan" before choosing to go mostly raw. However, that didn't stop me from eating my share of junk food in my pre-vegan years. Thus, like most children, I remember the very specials days when we got to make Rice Crispy Squares with my babysitter. Though the occasions were rare since we didn't eat that kind of stuff too often, it was always wonderful. The smell of melting butter, the joy of making a gooey sticky mess when I added the marshmallows in and then tried to stir in the Rice Crispies, flattening the whole thing out with the white spatula I still have in our kitchen today... pure high fructose corn syrup deliciousness.

Fast-forward about fifteen years: Here I am in the natural foods store before my dance class in front of the discount shelf. And there, shining brightly in the centre of the display is Suzanne's Ricemellow Creme, a fancy vegan and gluten-free name for Marshmallow Fluff. At this point, my personal angel and devil figureheads appear on each of my shoulders, and have a conversation that goes something like this:
Angel: ... Um, you were only here to pick up bananas and a sandwich for Andrew. How is it you always end up buying more stuff?
Devil: But, come ooooon, VEGAN marshmallow fluff? You love rice crispy squares! Remember how much fun they were to make? You even saw some in the display case at the Umi Cafe just last Friday. Remember how disappointed you were to find out they weren't made vegan that day! This is destiny!
Angel: Hey, remember that this is your last month to get crazy fit before your birthday! You have 26 days left! I believe in you, you don't need this.
Devil: But you dooooo need this... Your readers need it! Do it for the blog! You haven't posted recipes in ages, and people respond well to recipes like this! Rice... crispy... squares...

(Chantal starts texting Andrew to talk her out of temptation.)

Angel: You know you'll just regret this!
(Chantal agrees and starts to walk away.)

Devil: Hey, wait, look at the label! It says it's GMO-free, and gluten-free, and artificial flavour an colouring free, and vegan, and has no refined sugars, and only has four ingredients, and fat-free, and cholesterol, free! It's practically just spun brown rice syrup! It's even a small, organically-minded company supported by the Women's Business Enterprise, you're a woman! Support your rights, and your beliefs!
Angel: Hmm... well that does sound pretty good, and you do support companies that clearly label their products and support your food ethics!

(Chantal nods approvingly, and adding up all the very legitimate reasons this is a good idea. She then runs into a a fellow foodie friend down the aisle, who just happened to make a referential joke about marshmallow fluff they heard in a movie yesterday. This is the final sign that destiny is one her side, the fluff must be purchased!)

Without further ado, I give you the world's easiest recipe for:

Easiest Vegan, Gluten-Free* Rice Crispy Squares

Yield: 10 squares
Prep time: No time at all!

2.5-3 Cups of Brown Rice Crispies (Erewhon's are best!)
1 C of Suzanne's Ricemellow Creme
1 tsp of flax meal
dash of salt

1. Mix in a big bowl while remembering your wonderful childhood.

*and non-GMO, not artificial, not evil, full of sunshine and rainbows...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Live: Oh where, oh where has my soap box gone...

Okay, Stanford. *rolls up sleeves* I wasn't even suppose to post today, but I couldn't wait til tomorrow to say I have three letters for you: W.T.F.

So, there's been some buzz in the blog/"news"/facebook world about Stanford's latest study nutritionally comparing organic and conventional produce. To give you a really quick summary on what the deal is, the big claim is that:

“The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods 
are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods.” 

Based on that sentence, newspapers have found a new way to restate that we are wasting our precious dollars "buying in" to some organic fantasy. Well, this girl doesn't think it's a fantasy if you don't mind, and here's why:

(Note: Though these thoughts are my own, I've also done some background research. A lot of these points are motivated by the more scientifically legit opinion of Charles Benbrook.)

1. For starters, another major claim that the Stanford study makes is that “consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-­resistant bacteria.” Okay. Does anyone want to increase their exposure to pesticides/chemicals/and antibiotic-resistant bacteria? I sure don't. I prefer my food un-seasoned with toxins, thanks. Doesn't it also concern people that you legally have to put up signs like this in conventional agricultural fields:

So we can't touch it, but we'll eat it...

2. The main idea behind the organic food movement was that organic food is better for the environment. Obviously, healthy environment = healthy us. If the air is fresher to breathe, if the water is better to drink, if the soil is richer to grow food in (because  of less pesticide/insecticide run-off, etc.), we're probably going to be healthier as a planet and thus as a species from the get go. Organic food impacts human health in so many ways beyond "eating more nutrients." (like all these reasons)

3. The people monitored by the Stanford study didn't eat organic food long enough to legitimately be able to test for a difference. However, "the one exception in the literature—studies spanning the duration of a woman’s pregnancy and the first few years of a child’s life—provide encouraging evidence that organic food can reduce the odds of some adverse health impacts, including birth defects, neuro-­behavioral and learning problems, autism, and eczema." (Benbrook) Reading more carefully into it, you'll actually find lots of examples of kids growing up on organic diets who didn't suffer from some of the things we now see as "normal" problems in most kids. (allergies, etc.) 

4. What do they call "significant" anyway? The Stanford study claimed there wasn't a "meaningful" or "significant" difference between organic and conventional but what does that mean? Other "non-biased" studies have proven that when comparing organic and conventional fruits, milk, carrots, grains, and several other raw foods, organic farming leads to increases of 10% to 30% in the levels of several nutrients, but not all. Vitamin C, antioxidants, and phenolic acids tend to be higher in organic food about 60% to 80% of the time. (check out this study if you need the proof!) 

5. To all the media out there using this study as an excuse to a) justify your continuous purchasing of foods that generally harm the environment, or b) that you want to rant (yet again) about how "expensive" organic produce is (I started debunking that myth through some work for the OCA a few years back),  you would have found some other excuse to poopoo organic food anyway.

(Update: For another great article, check out this response in Mother Jones.)

End of rant. To lighten up the mood, here's a more visual, less angry, explanation: