Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gluten Free Vegan Pizza

An issue I hear a lot from people who are interested in vegetarian and vegan food, is that they don't know what to make. They think it's time consuming, involves complicated ingredients, or is just plain difficult. While some of it can be, a large majority of it is simple, and can be even easier to make with a few ready to use products. While processed food is generally something I avoid, by reading labels you can figure out which products are similar to something you might make at home. I usually try to avoid additives, preservatives, food dyes and colourings, and artificial sweeteners. Whole Foods or Natural Health stores can make it easier to find these products, and they're becoming more readily available in conventional food stores as well.

This pizza only cost me about $13 to make, and it makes 2 12in pizzas! You don't need to use gluten free dough, and ready to use pizza dough is available in most grocery stores. Using a pita also works if you want to make individual pizzas. My oven is currently broken, so I made this in a toaster oven which worked surprisingly well! I topped it with mushrooms and broccoli, as well as Pepperjack Daiya cheese(my favorite vegan cheese), and some dried basil.

Vegan Gluten Free Pizza

Bob's Red Mill Pizza Dough Mix
Canned Organic Tomato Sauce
Daiya Cheese
Chopped veggies

Prepare pizza dough according to directions on bag.

Roll into 2 rounds, and sprinkle each with 1/4 cup cheese. Cover with tomato sauce, then add veggies on top. Sprinkle on more cheese, and bake at 450 for 20-25 minutes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rest Days

When working out I find taking rest days the hardest. My body will say it wants it, but my head still says that I need to work out, I'll somehow gain 10 lbs if I don't work out for a day, or all my hard work will disappear overnight. It's a way of thinking that's been ingrained in my head for ages(strange how some behaviours stick with you). Rationally, logically, I know this isn't possible. I know you need rest days. Overworking your muscles can destroy them just as well as sitting around doing nothing.

Brenden Brazier is an amazing vegan Ironman Athlete, and also the founder of Vega(an amazing line of vegan protein powders and supplements). He mentioned at one point in his career, when he was training 35-40 hours a week,  that he started gaining fat. Not muscle, fat. Weird, yes? He discovered it was because his adrenal glands were burnt out(as much as working out is good for you, it's also a stress on the body). Your body needs adequate nutrition and time to recover and rebuild itself. Deplete it too much and it starts to turn on itself.

I've been working out pretty hard for the past couple months, and while I was noticing strength gains for a bit, I wasn't really noticing change in body fat composition and it was frustrating. I evaluated my diet, and I know I'm not really overeating(about 1400-1800 cals daily). I work out in the morning and sometimes at night as well, if I feel like it. Frustrated with my lack of progress, I decided to take a break. Not a day or two, but a full on week. I felt like I needed it to hopefully allow my body to recover. I walked around lots, but for the most part left the gym and running alone.

Since I'm back in Vancouver for a couple weeks I decided to leave the heavy lifting alone for a bit, and just focus on cardio. I've been doing mainly HIIT exercises, and a random Aquafit class with my mom :) It felt great to give my body a break. I was sore pretty much all the time the last little while, which I liked, but it was starting to get exhausting. I feel like it's good to give your body a break now and then, you're not a robot. The workouts I'm doing now, I feel like I'm able to do them better, since I have the strength and I'm not just wobbling around with sore legs and arms from my last workouts!

Anyone have any similar experiences?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

First Day of School!

Yesterday was my first day of school at IIN, and it still feels a bit surreal. If you had told me a year ago that I'd be going back to school, I probably would have laughed at you. Yet here I am, and so far so good. There was a couple videos to watch on my iPad, and we were told to set our intentions for the year. We were also give an assignment to write down what we saw as our goals for the next year, 2 years, 5 years, etc. I usually think about goals in my head, but this is the first time I've really put them down on paper. Just last year I made a huge life change(quitting my job to pursue photography and moving to Toronto), and here I am again leaping headfirst into something unknown. It kind of feels like it clicks though, one of those 'aha!' moments where you realize what you're supposed to be doing and it feels incredibly right.

Ever since my friend Steph brought me to a screening of Food Inc of June 2008, my life changed. Sitting in that chair in the theater, I learned things I had never known, never even considered. Even at the times I knew it was a life changing moment. I could never go back to just eating the way I did before, it became such a shift in consciousness. I became a vegan August of that year, and I never thought it would lead me down the path it has!

Yet again, I have no clue how the future is going to pan out. It kind of feels like last year all over again! Just diving headfirst into something I love, it's a feeling I don't think I'll ever get tired of. I'm excited to be able to help make a difference in peoples lives, and in the world in general.  It's a time when the world needs it. So many people are needlessly sick and tired, and the government is utterly useless at providing the proper information that gives facts, not some weird ambiguous nod at the truth while it's funded by the very industries that hurt us the most.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Mango Sangria

Summer always makes me want sangria. There's not really a lot better than sitting somewhere hot with a nice glass of wine and other goodies. Typically sangria's made with pop and other things that'd I'd rather not drink, so I changed the recipe a bit and came up with this. It's also usually made with red or rosé, but I decided to try white. Sangria's also best when left to chill in the fridge a bit, and bonus points if you have the forethought to think to freeze juice into ice cubes so it doesn't get watered down. I used strawberries and mangos in mine, but any kind of berry or fruit would be good, really.

Orange juice is typically what you would use, but I decided to blend mango with some water and use that instead.

Mango Sangria

1 bottle white wine
1 mango
1 packet stevia
1/2 cup water
2 cups sparkling water
1 lemon, sliced
2 cups strawberries

Blend the mango and stevia with water until smooth. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a pitcher and let chill in the fridge.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mango Coconut Bites

I can't stop with coconut lately. Or granola bars for that matter. These were intended to be granola bars, but I figured I should give them a break and made these into smaller bite sized treats. Then dipped them in chocolate, because that was the obvious choice!

Dipping them in chocolate proved a bit difficult since I don't have any toothpicks, and so I tried using a fork but kept dropping them into the chocolate and not being able to retrieve them. I ended up just drizzling the rest of them with chocolate and sprinkling some more coconut on top!

These are best when stored in the freezer, it gives them a nice chewy texture which slows you down so you enjoy them a little longer. That works in theory, but I'm pretty sure I was swallowing them whole. You could make them into bars as well if you'd rather go that route.

Mango Coconut Bites

1/4 cup almonds
1/2 cup puffed quinoa
1/4 cup buckwheat groats
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1 cup dates
1/4 cup fresh mango
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Grind the almonds to a powder in blender, then mix with puffed quinoa, buckwheat, oats, and coconut in a bowl. In the blender blend the dates, mango, coconut oil, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Mix into dry mixture in bowl, then roll spoonfuls into balls. Place in freezer to set and store.

If dipping in chocolate let set in freezer for about an hour, then melt some chocolate in a bowl and dip bites in to cover. Or drizzle on top and top with coconut!

The dates are sometimes easier to blend if you soak them in water for 10 minutes before.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What to Eat as a Vegan

I hear a lot of people saying they want to go veg, but they don't know what to eat or how to plan their meals. Or what to use as a go to meal when they're short on time. The obvious answer would be a lot of vegetables, but here are a bit more specifics. This is how I generally eat on most days, everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another. I would describe my diet as being a high raw vegan diet, but I'm not married to the idea that a certain percentage of my diet needs to be raw. I try to incorporate at least one raw component at every meal, but it varies. I also avoid gluten(it makes me feel tired), and try to steer clear of processed foods. I like taking raw food principles of food prep, and then sometimes cooking a few of those ingredients. I love the way raw food makes you exclude refined sugar, wheat products, and additional ingredients which aren't really beneficial to your health.

Curried Tofu Bowl

For every meal I try to incorporate either fruits or veggies, a protein source, and a source of carbs. I also try to keep conscious of my intake of healthy fats. For breakfast this looks like Chocolate Protein Oats(protein+carbs), and a serving of fruit. For a snack I'll have fruit and a handful of nuts, or a protein bar. Lunch is usually tofu/beans as a source of protein, a cup and a half of veggies either roasted or stir fried, and 2 cups of greens, half a sweet potato(carbs) or quinoa(carbs+protein), topped with lemon juice and hummus. Sometimes I'll add hemp seeds and nutritional yeast, which also add protein and fiber. Dinner is usually fairly similar, but I'll use different veggies, and different seasonings. I like to eat 5 times a day, but some people prefer 3. There's no right or wrong!

Snacks are super important for me, I find my body does best with lighter meals and frequent snacking as opposed to 3 huge meals. Snacks include veggies and hummus, fruit, nuts, protein bars, smoothies, and juices(fresh). I love mixing a bunch of berries and banana in a bowl and topping it with almond milk, cinnamon, and goji berries.

Wraps, salads, sandwiches, soups, stews, stir fries, burgers, and pizza are all things that are easy to veganize, it just requires a little creativity on your part. There are an endless array of veggies to try, and the more you can try the better. Same with fruit!

A list of some veggie proteins to try:
beans(chickpeas, edamame, black beans, navy beans, white beans, etc.)
soy products(tofu, tempeh, seitan)
quinoa(contains all the amino acids!)
spirulina(in smoothies or juice)

Not to mention that most veggies contain protein in some form. Usually more than meat, when measured calorie to calorie! Protein isn't the magical be all end all, and the North American population generally over consumes it. Too much protein can, in fact be bad for you. But this is the question I find I am asked most, so don't let anyone tell you vegetarians aren't consuming enough protein. Protein is great, it grows you muscles and keeps you full. But it isn't the golden unicorn that a lot of people seem to make it out to be.

Carbs are what your body runs off of as fuel(fat as well, but your body uses carbs as your primary source). Fruits, whole grains, and starchy vegetables are all good sources of carbs. They fall into 2 categories, simple and complex. Simple carbs are found in fruit and are a great source of fuel because your body can access them easily to use for energy. Complex carbs are found more in starchy vegetables, and grains. Stick with unrefined grains when possible, since refining removes vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fiber helps fill you up and keep you full, so you are less likely to overeat.

Healthy fats are also an important component of your diet. Fats help keep you full, and fill you up. The type of fat you intake is important though, and bad fats can increase your cholestrol. Good fats protect your heart, and support your overall health. Omega 3's are essential to physical and emotional health. Saturated and Trans fats should be avoided like the plague(although some saturated fats aren't bad, such as the ones found in coconut oil). Good fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, are found in nuts, avocados, olives, seeds, soymilk, tofu, and an array of natural oils.

Hopefully this helps give you a basis, let me know if you have any questions!

Curried Tofu Bowl
This is a favorite of mine at the moment, and really easy to make. It takes about 30 minutes top, and can be easily adapted to feed several people, or just one!

Sweet Potato Fries
Chop up 1/2 sweet potato into thin strips(the thinner they are the faster they'll cook), and spread flat on a baking sheet. Heat your oven to 450, and bake for 15 minutes or until they look crispy on edges.

Curried Tofu:
1/3 block firm tofu
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tsp coconut oil
1/2 tbspn soy sauce
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup chickpeas

1 cup chopped kale

Heat coconut oil in pan, add onions, tofu, chickpeas, soy sauce, curry powder, pepper and garlic powder. Stir fry until the onions are soft. Add kale and place a lid over, cook until kale turns bright green and soft.

Top 2 cups of greens with curried tofu and sweet potatoes. Dollop some hummus on top and the juice from half a lemon. I like Nutritional Yeast on it as well, and hot sauce!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tropical Superfood Bars

A huge part of being successful in keeping healthy eating habits, or being a vegan is being prepared. I bring snacks everywhere, and energy/protein bars are super handy and easy to carry. A lot of bars available though are packed with not so healthy for you ingredients, and are more like glorified candy bars. In general you want to steer clear of bars with ingredients that you aren't aware what they are, isolate powders, artificial sweeteners, or anything you can't pronounce. I look for ones that are within the 200-300 calorie range, with a decent protein/fiber content(5g and over usually for protein), and not too much sugar. A few favorites are Larabars, Macrobars, and the occasional Clif Bar or Luna Bar, although they're a little more processed than I generally like.

Bars are incredibly easy to make, and much more cost effective! I like to wrap them individually and store them in the freezer so they stay fresh and are ready to grab on the go. These ones come together in minutes, and are slightly tropical flavoured. There's no baking involved, you simply mix them and pop the tray in the freezer.

While superfood is a broad, unregulated term, and I don't really think that stuffing your face with superfoods will cure all what ails you, any foods that pack an extra nutritional punch are a plus! The goji berries in here are high in antioxidants, protein and iron. Puffed quinoa adds some complete protein and fiber, buckwheat is packed with magnesium and trytophan. Oats help reduce cholestrol, and digest slowly to prevent spikes in blood sugar. Coconut oil is a healthy fat and a great source of energy. So overall, they're pretty amazing for you!

Tropical Superfood Bars

1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup puffed quinoa(available in the cereal section of most health food stores)
1/4 cup buckwheat groats
1/4 cup almond flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbspns coconut oil
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/2 mashed banana
pinch of salt
1/4 cup dried pineapple chunks
1/4 cup goji berries
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Mix oats, quinoa, buckwheat, pineapple, goji berries, coconut, chocolate chips, and almond flour in a bowl. Mix coconut oil, vanilla, agave, and banana in a seperate bowl. Mix wet with dry ingredients, and press into a 9x9 pan firmly(line the pan with tin foil for ease in removal). Let set in freezer, then cut into bars.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


I think hummus is a food group for vegans. For this one it is at least! I put it on everything, and I love the way it lends itself to multiple flavours! It's also a great way to sneak in some beans if you didn't love them right away(like me). Chickpeas have quite a neutral flavour in comparison to most beans(you can even use them as a base for brownies!!). Canned is easy, but purchasing them in bulk and cooking them yourself is super simple and cost conservation! Plus you don't have to worry about any pesky BPA being in your can lining.

Hummus is ridiculously easy to make, and the only thing really limiting you with it is your imagination. You can even swap chickpeas for edamame, mash in steamed sweet potato, or mix in different types of beans or avocado for creaminess. The basic recipe consists of chickpeas, tahini(sesame seed butter), garlic, lemon, salt, and olive oil. I like it with lots of garlic and rosemary, or super spicy! It's great for dipping, topping salads in place of dressing, or in wraps.

Rosemary Garlic Hummus

2 cups cooked chickpeas
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon olive oil
juice from 1 lemon
1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tsp garlic powder(fresh is good too)
salt to taste
1/4 cup water(or more, depending on desired consistency)

Place everything in a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. It thickens up when placed in the fridge, so you may find you need to add more water the next day. It also tastes better after a couple hours when the flavours have had a chance to mix.

Other add in's that could taste good:
Hot Sauce
Caramalized Onions
Roasted Garlic
Curry Powder
Sweet Potato
Chopped Herbs

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Chocolate Banana Protein Pancakes

Toronto is a sweltering 43 today! The only places I want to go are wear swimwear is acceptable attire, or something frozen and delicious is promised at the end. I can't complain too much though I suppose, it's better than all the rain and Junevember that the Wet Coast is having.

This morning I decided to go all out and make pancakes. Chocolate Banana Protein Pancakes, to be precise. Protein pancakes are a tricky thing as a vegan it seems, they're not fond of sticking together. I think I've somewhat mastered the secret now though, and these were amazing with a little maple syrup and a lot of blueberries!

Building muscle as a vegan is always a topic of interest to me, and building muscle on a plant based diet definitely has it's advantages. After a weight training session, muscles are broken down, which causes them to become inflamed. With whey based proteins, this will exacerbate inflammation. This causes gains in size, but also decreases functionality of the muscle. Which is a problem if you're trying to lift heavier to get stronger. More time will also be required between training sessions. Since frequency and intensity are pillars of gaining muscle, inflammation can inhibit progress.

In replacement of acid forming foods post workout, plant based foods can help keep inflammation at a minimum. Hemp, Soy, Rice and Pea Proteins are all good sources, and plants can help provide the vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids(EFA's), enzymes, and antioxidants required. Post workout meals/smoothies that deliver these in addition to protein yield greater results.

While a plant based diet won't make you a better athlete, it will allow you to train harder, for longer, which WILL make you a better athlete. After a workout your body needs high quality protein to help it rebuild the tissues, and these pancakes can be a great way to deliver that!

I've tried a couple vegan proteins, and here's a couple of my favorites:

Vega Performance Protein

Sunwarrior Protein Powder

Perfect Fit Protein

Vega is my all time favorite, high raw, organic, and made by a fellow Vancouverite! Chocolate is my favorite, I haven't tried any other flavours since I'm too enamoured with it. With 26g protein and 120 calories a scoop, and no added sugars, it fits my nutritional profile as well. It also has BCCA's and L-Glutamine in it which helps with muscle recovery and repair.

Sunwarrior is an all raw brown rice protein powder, and is sweetened with stevia. In one serving it has 80 calories and 16 grams of protein. It tastes great, but can be a bit on the pricier side. It comes in a large bag though, which should last awhile!

Perfect Fit is an amazing tasting vanilla flavoured brown rice protein. Made by the Tone It Up girls, it's raw, organic, and comes in handy 'to-go' packets for travelling ease. It also dissolves in water quite well, so it's easy to just toss into a water bottle. It has almost a caramelly flavour to me. With 70 calories and 15grams of protein per packet, it's great for drinking alone or using in recipes!

Chocolate Banana Protein Pancakes

1 scoop chocolate protein powder
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
2 tablespoons psyllium husk
1 mashed banana
1 cup almond milk
packet of stevia
pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Let sit for 15 minutes, mixture will thicken up. In a non-stick pan on medium/low heat, dollop a large spoonful of batter, spread out to form a circle. Allow to cook til it looks like the top is darker/cooked, carefully flip over and allow to cook for a few more minutes. The pancakes will be delicate, but will firm up upon cooling. Serve with fruit and maple syrup!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Health Coaches vs. Nutritionists

Something I've been curious about lately is the exact differences, and scopes of practice between a health coach and a nutritionist. The two, while in similar fields are kind of like apples and oranges. One is not necessarily better than the other, they are simply different. IIN was kind enough to provide a chart in their materials, so I'll give you a brief overview:

A health coach tackles issues such as headaches, chronic fatigue, and people in general who overall don't have major diseases, but would like to improve their health. It's generally restricted to adults, and you don't prescribe medication, or tell clients to stop taking medication. Overall you recommend simple, less drastic approaches to drugs, diet, and exercise. It focusses on relationships, hobbies and careers, and how these are affecting your health.

A nutritionist helps you examine your eating habits and helps you chose a healthier lifestyle, can diagnose certain diseases related to nutrition, can discuss preventative nutrition, food/nutrition science, and can use nutrient manipulation to enhance response to diseases. Nutritionists work in settings such nursing homes, schools, hospitals, spas, and restaurants.

Making this realization for me means I think IIN is the beginning of this journey. A strong desire and goal of mine is to be able to work with eating disorder patients in some way, and be able to use my experience to help others. Learning proper nutrition for myself through a vegan, whole foods diet was a key in my recovery, and I think learning the same principles could help others. I'd like to be able to help people see that drugs are not the only answer to wellness, a vegan/vegetarian diet can be a key to health as well. I'd like to have the knowledge and experience to teach people this, and in a holistic manner. I love IIN's way of incorporating treating a patient as a whole, looking at their entire life to see what else could be affecting them in addition to what they're eating. Too often I think people are treated by only looking at their symptoms, and not as a human being!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

How To: Make Nut Milks

Almond milk is one of the first raw things I tried making. It can be as simple as dumping a tablespoon of almond butter in the blender with water, or you can go the whole route of soaking your nuts, then blending and straining the mixture. I don't mind either way, leaving it unstrained gives it a little more texture and fiber. My favorite is a blend of cashews and almonds, cashews for their creaminess and texture, and almonds for their flavour. Almonds are a little easier to blend after soaking, but cashews can go straight in. Soaking is beneficial for removing enzyme inhibitors on nuts which aids in digestion, and removes phytic acid which can inhibit mineral absorption. Sometimes I soak my nuts, sometimes I don't. It's not the end of the world if you don't have the time! If you don't own an high speed blender you'll get better results if you soak them however.

Yeah you can buy almond milk from the store, but things that sit on shelves for long periods of time give me the heebie jeebies sometimes. Making it is super quick, and it'll last in your fridge for about 3 days fresh.

You can make nut milk from pretty much any combination of nuts you like, some of my favorites are cashew, brazil nut, and macadamia nut. The proportions are the same, and you can experiment with adding more or less water for thicker milk if preferred.

Cashew Almond Milk
Raw, vegan, gluten free, soy free

1/4 cup cashews
1/4 cup almonds
1 1/2 cups water

Blend until smooth. A Vitamix is best for the best texture. 
Optional: Strain through cheesecloth into a container for a smoother milk
If desired you can add some stevia, vanilla extract, or cocoa powder for a different flavor.