Friday, August 31, 2012

Almond Cashew Butter

While nut butters are super easy to purchase from the store, I'm continuing on my journey of trying to make store bought things at home. Nut butter is remarkably easy to make, and tastes awesome, without having to worry about any weird preservatives or the high amounts of sugar most conventional nut butters seem to mix in. I love almond anything, and cashews always add such a pleasant creaminess to any recipe. So I decided to mix them together. All of this has nothing to do with the fact that I just got a food processor and am using it for everything under the sun.

Adding a little bit of oil can help get things going faster, as it can be a bit of a process for the nuts to break down and start releasing their oils. A little salt also helps perk up the taste. You could try adding some maple powder in for maple almond butter, or if you're feeling fancy some cocoa powder. If you wanted to you could throw some chopped nuts in at the end to make it chunky.

Almond Cashew Butter

1 cup unsalted almonds(I used raw but roasted would work too)
1 cup unsalted cashews
pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Place the nuts in a food processor and blend until it becomes almost smooth, add in oil and keep blending until you reach the consistency you like!


Lately I've been thinking a lot about people changing. For the most part I used to think that people don't change at all. They can't or they're stuck with set personality traits and they have to work within those paramaters. But lately I've been thinking that's not true. Humans are incredibly changeable, the catalyst is that they have to want to change, either out of necessity or realizing that past patterns don't dictate who you are forever.

Someone recently mentioned to me that they weren't a 'sports person'. Neither am I, in most senses of it. I can't catch or throw a ball properly to save my life. Back when I was younger I couldn't even run around a small field(less than 1/2 a mile), without stopping multiple times and feeling like I was going to die. I could have accepted that I wasn't a 'sporty person', and just left it at that. But I kept going with it, and figured out what things I like. And now I love working out, and do it most days and don't feel complete without it. People are inherently changeable, you just have to be willing to make that change.

Or being a vegetarian, for example. Most vegans and vegetarians will tell you that at one point, they were in the camp of saying they 'could never give up meat'. Many do though, and thrive and continue happily with a plant based diet. Did it happen overnight? No, not for most people. Habits can be deeply engrained, but with dedication and time you can create big changes. The journey of a 100 miles starts with a single step, and all that. It's true. You can't just look at the place you want to be and hope you'll make it in one jump. It's baby steps. One at a time, and sometimes you fall down. But if you just keep getting up and keep going, you'll find you're there eventually.

It's a lot easier writing it than doing it, I find I'm definitely an impatient person on the journey, and I want to speed things up usually. I find I can be an all or nothing person frequently, I want exactly what I want when I want it and am usually willing to take big risks to get it. There's pros and cons to this though, and more and more I'm trying to teach myself to enjoy the journey. Years speed by faster and faster, so learning to live in the moment and appreciate each and every one is becoming more and more essential. It's such a gratifying feeling being in a moment and knowing that you're just savouring every second of it!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Vegan Mac and Cheese

Back in the day KD was my favorite thing. I'd come home from school, whip up a box in the microwave and then pretty much eat the whole thing in a sitting. I've got so many childhood memories centered around KD, eating it at a friend's birthday for the first time. At a friend's for breakfast after a sleepover. At a cracked and weathered picnic table at a cottage on Saltspring Island. I love how so many memories can be tied to a food, or a smell or a song.

After going vegan I pretty much stopped eating it(obviously), and from before I had all these weird food hangups about pasta and not eating it. Gradually over the past little while I have been trying to revisit 'fear' foods. Things that I crossed off my mental checklist of things I could never consume, cause one glance would make me fat. It's amazing how some mental patterns can become so ingrained into your brain. Trying these foods now is interesting. Some of them I eat them and realize I don't really care for them, it's just more of that 'you can't have it so you want it' thing.

While I'm still steering clear of wheat pasta, quinoa pasta is totally a go. My stomach seems to figure it's fall now and is looking for all kinds of hearty, comforting, tasty foods. Yesterday I got it into my head that I wanted to attempt some vegan mac and cheese.

I also tried a new health food store yesterday. The Big Carrot, on the Danforth, a neighbourhood I don't visit too much since it's out of the way. Visiting new health food stores is a favorite hobby of mine however, so I went to check it out. I love how big it is, and it has an adjoining juice bar and wholisitc wellness shop beside it. It's got a large beauty section, bakery, bulk section, a vegetarian cafe, and carries most of the usual suspects of products on the shelves. It's priced fairly well, a bit cheaper than Whole Foods(my measuring stick for all health food stores!). It's still not as affordable as Herbs and Nutrition though, which is quickly becoming my favorite place I've ever been. I visited the Juice store after and got a huge wheatgrass/beet/carrot mix which was delicious.

Something I hear a lot is that health food stores can be intimidating. And I guess they can, but I generally tackle it like I would any other store. I walk all the way around it and down all the aisles, just to see what they have. Then I usually make another round and pick up the things I'm looking for. Produce and other perishables, like milk, tofu, meat etc. are always around the outside. The inside shelves are sundries and whatever else doesn't go bad quickly. And I totally know that healthy food can be expensive. I'm not going to deny it, but shopping around a lot helps. Seeing all your options and knowing where you can get products for their best value makes it much more affordable. If a certain store carries something you use lots of for cheap, stock up on it! Freeze it, if possible. Healthy eating is an investment on your health, and if you don't invest in it now you'll most likely be paying for it later!

I'd seen a couple recipes for vegan cheese sauce incorporating sweet potato, so I decided to give this a shot. That paired with lots of Nooch and cashew milk it turned out super tasty! You could use whatever non-dairy milk you like, I just love the creamy flavor cashew gives.

Vegan Mac and Cheese

Cheese Sauce:
1 Sweet Potato
1/2 cup cashew pieces
1 cup water
7 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon Earth Balance, melted
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/8 tsp curry powder
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp mustard
pinch of cayenne(optional)
salt and pepper to taste

8 oz Macaroni shells

1. Cook Macaroni shells according to package.

2. Preheat oven to 350. Prick sweet potato all over with a fork, then wrap in tin foil and bake for 35-40 minutes(until soft).

3. In a blender, blend water and cashews together til smooth.

4. Add in nutritional yeast, garlic, apple cider vinegar, Earth Balance, curry powder, parsley, mustard, and cayenne. Blend until smooth.

5. Scoop sweet potato out of skin, measure 2 cups and add to blender. Blend until smooth.

6. Mix into pasta, serve!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Banana Soft Serve

This week is flying by, I can't believe it's Thursday already. This morning I woke up planning on maybe making today a rest day, but I was feeling zesty and wanted to go lift some weights, so off to the gym I went! It was empty today, which is my favorite way for it to be. I did some strength moves in short bursts of 20-30 seconds, with 15 second breaks which was great for getting my heart rate up. I feel like I noticeably lost strength when I stopped lifting heavier while I was in Vancouver, so I've been easing back into it slowly.

While I was in Vancouver I was experimenting with adding more healthy fat into my diet, and somehow from that I lost weight. Or toned up a bit more, or a bit of both. I've been using photos to measure progress because they don't seem to bother me the same way knowing numbers does. Even though it's been a year since I started making a conscious effort to feed my body what it needs, and not restrict it still seems like it's slowly stabilizing itself still. I only started getting regular periods in January, and I guess things are still working themselves out.

Lately I've been trying adding more carbs into my diet in the forms of whole grains mostly. It's kind of making my energy levels go off the walls! In my head for some reason I still think I should stay away from carbs, even though I know your body needs them. Still learning to let go of weird food hangups I guess.

I've done miraculously well with cutting down my sugar intake the past couple days. I've been eating less fruit than previously, and more lower sugar fruits. One thing I noticed was even though I've been eating lower sugar fruits, after I eat them I crave more for no particular reason, even if I'm full. It's interesting to see how foods can affect you when you start paying more attention to them.

I had my 5th Health History session today, and I finally feel like I'm getting the hang of it. It was so much easier to talk and connect, and get meaningful answers. I enjoy so much about learning about other people's diets and journeys'. I never get tired of talking about food.

Banana soft serve is so ridiculously easy, and not even really a recipe. It's one that's been floating around the internet for awhile. I made some the other day because I was excited to try my new food processor, and it photographed well, so here it is:

Banana Soft Serve

Take 2 bananas, chop into pieces, then freeze til hard. Process in a food processor until soft. It will sounds like the food processor is about to die initially, but it will be okay!

For a bit firmer texture freeze it for about half an hour before serving, or use as is for a more soft serve consistency.

You can add 1/2 cup frozen other fruit as well, like strawberries, blueberries, mango, etc. Chocolate chips are a good mix in as well.

I topped mine with this recipe!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Vegan Minestrone

Although it's summer out and Toronto is a balmy 25 most days, I was craving soup the other day. Minestrone in particular, so I set out to make some. Maybe I was just missing the cosiness of being home in Vancouver, or maybe some devious thing inside me is getting excited for fall and sweaters and boots. Either way, the soup pot was the only pot I hadn't yet used from a new set I purchased recently, so it was time to break it in.

Making soup for one person is difficult. With inspiration from a few other recipes, I sort of cobbled this variation together, but I think I have enough to last me until next year. I've been mixing the leftovers into stir fry's for a sort of weird pasta sauce/stew hybrid. It sounds a bit bizarre, but if there's anything being a vegan has taught me is to be open to strange combinations. If most of the ingredients sound like they taste good on their own, they usually taste good together. Usually.

In IIN they've been discussing the principles of macrobiotics, which is more a way of life than an exact diet. It involves the quest of always searching for balance, in your life and in your diet. If you are feeling more on one side of the scale, you can try to bring yourself back by eating things more on the other spectrum. I've been feeling a bit out of sorts at the moment regarding the future, and since soup is such a grounding, comforting food, and it helps bring you back.

You could replace the quinoa with another pasta, if you like, but I like the thickness and extra protein quinoa provides.


1 sweet onion, diced
4 cloves garlic
1 can of diced tomatoes, blended(14 oz)
1 carrot, diced
1 zucchini, diced
6 cups vegetable stock(low sodium preferred)
1 small tin of tomato paste
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup dry quinoa
2 cups packed shredded kale
dried basil, parsley, and a bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
juice of half a lemon

Cook quinoa in 1 1/3 cups water with a lid on the pot. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. Don't peek! Fluff with a fork after.

To a large stock pot add the onion, garlic, and oil, and cook til soft(about 10 mins).

Add in the tomatoes, stir and simmer for 4-5 minutes.

Add carrot, zucchini, chickpeas, and stock and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in tomato paste.

Turn off heat, add quinoa, herbs, s&p, lemon juice, and kale.

This soup tastes better after it's had a couple hours to let the flavours meld, and thickens up a bit!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Chlorophyll and Fruit

While I was in Vancouver I saw a massage therapist who commented on my skin, which lately has been prone to break outs. It's something that's been kind of frustrating to me, as of late. Ever since gradually moving away from a pretty close to all raw diet, my skin has been breaking out fairly consistently. When I ate mostly raw it was flawless, and I didn't change my skin routine really otherwise. I eat a really clean diet and try to avoid refined sugars as much as possible, so I've been sort of confused as to what I could do different.

Anyways, so the therapist told me that my acid/alkaline balance may be off due to eating a large amount of fruit. While fruit is good for you, it also contains a lot of sugar, albeit the natural kind. Even so, sugar is sugar and your body recognizes it as such. She recommended I try eating more greens, and try taking chlorophyll to help alkalinize my body. So yesterday I picked up a bottle, and I'm going to give it a go. The eating more greens shouldn't be the hard part, but cutting down on fruit intake(just for a bit, to see if it makes a difference), is  going to be hell, to put it mildly. I love fruit. A lot.

Coincidentally, I was listening to a lecture by Robert Young, on the PH Miracle Diet. He recommends eating a diet with little to no sugars, natural or otherwise, and lots of blended and juiced greens, in a mostly raw form. His studies have shown that the less sugars you consume, and the more greens you do lead to healthier blood which is the most important organ in your body. While I totally agree everyone should make an effort to consume more greens, and everyone could do with less sugar, at a glance it seems a little to restrictive to me. Based upon personal experience I know that any diet that is massively restrictive or makes me feel like I'm throwing my health away by eating things that are not prescribed don't work for my peace of mind. My body might run better than it ever has, but if I feel like I'm depriving myself I won't be able to keep it up.

I'm going to try eliminating all refined/processed sugar from my diet(sometimes it sneaks in in the form of chocolate), and reduce my fruit intake to lower sugar fruits, and less of them. The chlorophyll is actually pretty tasty, you mix a tablespoon into water and just drink it. Mine is flavoured with mint, and it makes your water a fascinating emerald colour. I love experimenting with my diet to see what results come from it, so it'll be interesting to see how this affects me.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Blueberry Peach Parfaits

Summer is my favorite season for eating. All the fruit, berries, and vegetables in the stores looks luscious and vibrant, and all my favorite fruits are in season. I find that the simplest ways to enjoy them are sometimes the best, as they taste so great they don't really need much done to them. I picked up some peaches recently, and we had a fridge overflowing in blueberries, so I decided to throw them together, make some extra blueberry sauce for topping, and make some parfaits.

I've tried some brands of soy yogurt previously, but wasn't all to impressed with the flavours. When some genius (Amande, which is French for almond by the way), started making almond milk into yogurt. Probiotics and almond milk, what's not to like?! I tried vanilla, and it tasted great to me. The texture is remarkably similar to dairy yogurt, and it has a similar sweet tanginess.

Whilst in Whole Foods I was overwhelmed with the choices of dairy free whipped cream toppings, so I decided to purchase them all so I could determine which one I liked best, and then share that knowledge with you. In the past faux whipped cream has been very hit or miss(more misses than hits, really). While it's not too difficult to make your own using agar, I missed the joy of squeezing whipped cream out of a can into pretty shapes. Presentation is everything, my friends. And while yes I could just get my own piping tubes, I'm not really that motivated in that direction.

Soyatoo makes both a soy whipped topping and a rice milk one, which both contain about 16 calories per tablespoon. They don't have any strange ingredients on the label, which is a plus in my books(I'm looking at you Cool Whip)! The soy one tasted a little strange on it's own, but when mixed with other ingredients, it passed muster. It was a bit harder to get out of the can, and was a bit more solid than most whipping creams, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. There was a bit of a weird sweetness to it though. I'd eat it again however!

The rice milk one was definitely my favorite in terms of taste and resembling real whipped cream texture. It came out of the can a little easier, and didn't have the weird sweet flavor to it. I've still yet to try the nut milk whipped cream, which comes in a carton and you have to whip it yourself. I'll report back on that one soon!

Blueberry Peach Parfaits

Blueberry Sauce(recipe to follow)
1/2 cup blueberries
1 peach, chopped finely
1/4 cup puffed quinoa
1/2 cup dairy free yogurt
Vegan whipped cream to top

Layer some blueberries in a glass, cover with a layer of yogurt, puffed quinoa, and peaches. Repeat in both glasses til all ingredients are used up, then top with blueberry sauce, more quinoa puffs and whipped cream.

If you can't find puffed quinoa substitute granola or buckwheat.

Blueberry Sauce

2 cups blueberries
2-3 packets stevia
juice and zest from half a lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
dash of cinnamon

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Turn down to medium low and let simmer until reduced into a thick sauce.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Grouse Grind

One of the things I miss most and love most about Vancouver is the mountains. They've been a big part of my life from the moment when I was 4 and pointed over at Grouse and declared it 'my' mountain since the snow on it looked like a K to me. Then there was a large portion of my life where I ate/slept/dreamed snowboarding and went 4 days a week for most of a season. When I was in Grade 8 they made us hike the Grouse Grind(a 2.9km hike straight up the mountain), it took me 2 hours and I felt as if I were about to die. To put that in perspective the fastest time recorded is 25 minutes. Most people seem to average a bit over an hour, according to my eavesdropping when I was at the top.

View from the parking lot.

Since then, I've planned to redo it, and today was finally the day. Tia and I got up and headed there for 10, and I managed to make it up with no stopping in 55 minutes. While it wasn't a walk in the park it wasn't too bad, I think right now I'm probably in the best physical shape I've ever been in. All those HIIT workouts and weightlifting are paying off in full! It's so satisfying to beat yourself, and to see how far you've come. While I was hiking it I tried to not focus on how much farther I had to go, or how much was behind me, but just to focus on one step at a time. Which I think is a great way to live your life as well. There's no point in worrying about the past, or stressing the future or how much farther you have to go on your journey. Enjoy the process, and know that if you keep going you will eventually reach the top!

The beginning of the trail.

Tired hikers at the top.

The feeling when I got to the top made me feel like I was high. Major endorphin rush, which lasted for hours afterwards! I was a bit worried about my knees since they've been giving me trouble when I run lately, but they felt great. I've never experienced a workout high as awesome as the one day, ever. I kind of felt like I could conquer the world(running up a mountain gives you that feeling, I guess). Definitely a success! I'm planning to do the Chief in Squamish next, to try to fit in as much mountain time as I can while I'm here, and I can't wait.

Tia and I after the hike!

I'm also going to try to give Stand Up Paddleboarding a try! I love trying new ways of working out, and it's nice to switch it up once in awhile. I'm lucky that I have friends who are willing to try all sorts of activities with me, workout buddies are the best. I'm normally more of a solo exerciser(no distractions!), but feeling like you've accomplished something with someone else is fun too. Do you prefer working out with a friend or alone?

The view going back down, Vancouver is too beautiful sometimes.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Nuba and Kits Beach

Yesterday I did my second Health History for school, which is basically a practice session where you have the client fill out a form about their health history, and you get to know them through reading through it. I love learning about other people and what they eat, so it's been fun trying them out. I was a bit nervous at first(meeting people over skype for the first time is a bit strange!), but I'm slowly getting the hang of it I think.

After spending most of yesterday inside working on some retouching and skypeing, I decided I needed to head outdoors to make the most of the beautiful weather! I've been reading Steve Jobs' bio(he's such an intriguing man). He was definitely eccentric and could be hard to work with, but he had no shame about it and was a complete visionary. I love a quote from him, referring to when someone asked him if he did market research when he was making the Mac, and he said: 'Did Alexander Graham Bell do market research when he invented the telephone?'. He knew how to make what people needed even before they needed it. So inspiring! So I took that to Kits Beach and soaked up some sun and sea. I really miss living by the ocean, the lake in Toronto is great but there's just something about being surrounded by mountains and trees here, and the air is so much cleaner.

Afterwards I had a dinner date with Alex and Michelle, and I suggested Nuba since they have a ton of variety for vegans and omnis alike. It's a really cute Lebanese chain of restaurants in Vancouver, and this was the first time I'd been there for dinner. Their lunch menu has some really awesome pita wraps, so I was excited to see what the dinner menu was like. I ordered the Vegan Meswhi(they mark all their vegan dishes, so it made life a lot easier!), which was veggie shishkabobs coating in Za'atar seasoning piled on top of hummus and tabbouleh. It didn't disappoint!! The free pita bread that came with it wasn't bad either. Their hummus is some of the best I've had, creamy and tangy with just the right consistency.  I think I prefer the lunch menu though, as it's a bit more affordable!

I really love when a restaurant makes it easy for vegans and omni's to enjoy a meal together without either one compromising or going hungry. I love trying to veg restaurants(obviously), but it can be a bit awkward feeling like I'm coercing my dining partners into something they don't really eat. While I think omni's could definitely be a bit more open to trying new dining experiences, sometimes you just want to keep it simple! Nuba does a perfect job of straddling the divide between these two, in an extremely delicious way, and I love them for it.

Here's their website if you want to take a It's a definite must try if you're ever in Vancouver!

Dining out seems to always serve as a reminder of how far I've come in recovery, since most of my life whenever I ate out I would stick to salads with nothing on them. I still adore salads, and I still like getting dressing on the side because I like to control the amount that goes on, but now it's in terms of taste preference, rather than fear that a little olive oil will make me a blimp. It's much more relaxing now, and since I rarely eat out I don't mind indulging a little when I do. It's more of a treat, and it's all part of trying to learn balance in eating which I've never seemed to possess. Guilty thoughts occasionally creep in, but I've gotten much better at controlling them, and not letting them get the best of me. Same with the exercise balance, if I don't feel like working out everyday, I let myself rest. When my muscles are sore, I let them have a break. It's so much more relaxing than feeling like I need to punish my body everyday, and always feel guilty about it.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Kale Salad

A few days ago my friend Dina and I were hanging out at her place, and the power happened to go out. So for dinner we made a kale salad, and to be honest I had forgotten how such simple ingredients can have such great results. Kale, cucumbers, tomatos, and onions, when tossed together with olive oil and Apple Cider vinegar lead to amazing results! Kale can be one of those vegetables that doesn't look the most enticing to eat raw, but massaging it in dressing for a couple minutes helps break it down so it's a bit easier to chew.

Kale's absolutely one of my favorite vegetables. It's a nutritional superstar, unusually high in fiber, and the bulk helps fill you up for few calories. It's a fantastic source of beta-carotene, has loads of antioxidants, and can help battle cancer and heart disease. It's also a great vegan source of absorbable calcium, and contains vitamin C, folic acid, B6, manganese, and potassium.

This recipe is super flexible and you can add whatever veggies you have or want. Lemon or lime juice is a good sub for the vinegar if you prefer, and you can try playing around with different types of oils for a different taste(Macadamia nut oil and lime juice is one of my favorite combinations).

Kale Salad

2 cups (packed) kale, chopped into smaller pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tsp steak seasoning
pepper to taste


Put the kale into a large bowl, then drizzle in olive oil, ACV, salt and pepper. Massage for about 5 minutes(or until kale wilts).

Toss with tomatoes, cucumber, and any additional veggies you like!