Monthly Archives: April 2015

Matcha mango green smoothie

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I got some good news in my life recently which I can’t believe I haven’t totally blabbed about on this blog yet: I got a new job. Starting Monday, I will officially be a business reporter for Stream Magazine, with a focus on mergers, acquisitions and other business dealings in the ever-changing world of original online video content. I’m really excited to be writing something that I know will have a large slew of dedicated readers, and to be working downtown is so thrilling to me!

I think I’d rather go into more detail later in a near-future post about what my career has been like and what motivated me to change jobs, but it’s a long (seriously!) story that requires a lot of background and context, I think. So instead I’ll focus on this green smoothie I created in my kitchen the other night. Classic green smoothies — usually spinach, milk, banana and protein — are my go-to smoothies, but the one thing about them is that they tend to taste very mild. Which is great, I like a good mild taste, but sometimes, especially now that it’s actually light when I leave the house at 5:55 a.m., you want something that tastes, well, uplifting.

This smoothie is it, man. It’s mellow but not forgettable, and just filling enough so that you don’t feel like you’re going to hurl in the middle of hot yoga (not that I’ve ever done that. This is supposed to be a food blog, right?). Plus, it’s got just a small pinch of matcha in it, which surprisingly compliments the mangoes very well. Perhaps I’ll have to make some sort of mango-flavoured green tea drink in the future.

Matcha mango green smoothie, makes one

Ingredients

  • 1 cup spinach or kale
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen mango (or mix mango and pineapple)
  • 1/2 a banana (or a full one for a more filling smoothie
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • 1/2 cup coconut water
  • 1/4 cup packed cilantro or parsley
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp matcha powder
  • 1 scoop protein powder (optional)

Instructions

  1. First, in a jar or sealed container, combine the matcha, milk and coconut water, shaking to combine. Matcha likes to clump, and it’ll be way easier to avoid that here if you distribute it evenly throughout the liquid first.
  2. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a high speed blender and add the milk-matcha mixture. Blend on high until a nice, thick, green consistency forms.

Enjoy your nifty green tea smoothie. I’ll be posting some link love tomorrow before starting my long weekend. I’ll be back next week with even more recipes!


8 things vegan bloggers won’t tell you

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1. We don’t always eat very healthily (or creatively).

Have you ever looked at a vegan blog and thought about the author, “Man, dinner at their house must be the best. I’d love to live with them.” But here’s the thing: even fashion designers wear sweatpants around the house sometimes. If I’m cooking up something new for the blog, hell yeah, I’ll put in a lot of effort. But a lot of other times, I’m living off of leftovers, food that’s rapidly approaching its expiry date and even sometimes pre-prepared food (I know, right? How dare I eat frozen ficken?!). Sometimes we don’t even have the energy to (queue sad violin music) julienne our carrots! The reason you only see my more healthy or inspired things on my site is because, well, everyone already knows how to make a peanut butter and banana sandwich (I hope). I’m going to showcase original recipes, but the fact is, that’s not all I (or other food bloggers) eat.

2. We fail (a lot).

You’re probably not going to see a post anytime soon about my failed, totally-winging-it attempt at flax milk (I figured you would just soak and blend the seeds not unlike almonds. How was I to know it would turn into a giant blender full of milk gel?) anytime soon. Nor are you going to see all the tears I’ve shed and food I’ve wasted and times I’ve sobbed to myself, “Why am I even doing this?”

And for those of us who don’t make food blogging our full-time job (I don’t), sometimes that burnt recipe, that total travesty of a failure, or perhaps the worst of all, a recipe that tastes great but looks like crap, we’re put into “Holy crap, what can I do for today’s post?!” mode. I think it is important, however, to talk about our failures whenever possible. Because people look up to us (maybe I’m flattering myself). They need to know that things aren’t perfect in our kitchens, and that it doesn’t make anyone a failure.

3. All of us struggle with the actual writing aspect of it.

Maybe I’m making a big assumption here, but here’s the thing: I’m a professional writer. I have sat down and let my fingers let loose and suddenly I’ve written a few thousand words and I’m hella hungry too. But when it comes to food blogging, let’s face it — we feel a pressure to engage readers by bookending our recipes with cutesy little stories. It’s funny, because as a reader I’ve always had this sense of impatience like, “JUST GET TO THE RECIPE, I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR WEEKEND OR YOUR DIGESTIVE ISSUES!” But as a blogger, I’ve come to understand that a little bit of a personality is necessary, and that writing blurbs before and after can indeed prompt engagement with your readers.

But it’s hard, okay? It’s hard because we’re also thinking, “We just want to get to the recipe!” When we’ve just spent (however long we did) in a very technical, recipe-centred mindset, putting your brain into creative writing mode is difficult.

4. We feel the sting of competition.

To quote Tobias Fünke, there are literally dozens of us. DOZENS! But seriously, there are a lot of vegan food bloggers out there, more and more every day, each with their own unique brand. Lots of us, especially those of us who don’t blog as a full-time job, get this feeling of dismay every now and then that no one will ever notice us for whatever reason.

Sometimes it causes bitterness (if you recall my post last week about shallowness in the online vegan community). Sometimes it causes us to feel irrational (imagine my surprise when OSG posted a green tea smoothie recipe immediately after I did — never did it occur to me that such a huge, busy blogger and writer would probably NEVER read my blog). What’s worst to me, though, is the feel that if I don’t keep up my twice-a-week recipe posting (and once a week personal posting) everyone is going to start suddenly ignoring me in favour of a glowier girl with a flatter stomach (remember the bitterness thing)?

5. We’re consciously portraying an image (and we’re always thinking about branding).

This is a big one. Anyone who blogs about anything — photography, social justice, politics — with the intention of developing a following has to be conscious of the image that they put out. While I always tried to approach blogging (even on this blog) as being “true to myself,” I realized that there was myself, as in, Bree who takes off her pants the second she walks in the door and makes terrible jokes about pirates and starts crying in her kitchen because she screwed up the flax milk thing. Then there’s being “myself,” Bree who’s a little more composed, a little less rambling, a little more proud of herself, a little more articulate. And then you have to make sure you’re conveying an image that works with the online readership, with “your” target audience. Oh, and you have to stand out. Phew. (*gently wipes sweat away from forehead*)

Personally, I’ve always found most vegan blogging language a little too airy-fairy, but then again I don’t want to go around acting like Thug Kitchen. I try to be articulate and actually express an opinion on things, but that’s another thing we all have to watch out for — we can’t piss off the wrong people! Oy, it’s stressful, ya know.

6. It’s hard to do well if it’s just a side gig.

Working full-time, as well as teaching dance some nights, blogging really started as just a hobby. But that’s the thing. Unless you’re prepared to devote 40 hours a week (and a lot of money, not to mention the lost income from the job you no longer have!) it’ll probably remain just a hobby. If you’re like me and you try really hard to keep up a particular recipe schedule, that means actually devoting time to the blog, not just when you feel like it — which lots of people struggle with. It’s basically like, you can either be chill about it (and thus stress free) or you can get the hits, get the ad revenue, get the following. It’s really, REALLY hard to do both. I’m a person who tries to keep it chill, and I can safely say that riding that balance is difficult. Business, food trends and social media move fast, so if you’re not on top of your blog, you can get lost in the shuffle. Especially if you don’t come with a pre-established following. It requires commitment, ad some people just aren’t able to do that.

7. We’re constantly struggling to stay original.

Okay but seriously, how many damn variations on a green smoothie can you make? At what point do people even need a recipe for your “bowls?” (“Um, I don’t know, put some grains down, and then some veggies maybe.”) This kind of goes with number one — constantly staying creative is hard, especially when you’re not a trained chef (most of us aren’t). Not having formal food education is hard enough, but then combine that with one small factor: we’re hungry, we just want to eat. Sometimes a veggie burger doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be a veggie burger. Sometimes you spend so much time reading other food blogs  to get ideas that you find yourself actually just making variations off of their recipes (and then maybe that paranoid feeling from #4 creeps in for someone else, amirite ladies)?

8. We are sometimes (or often) faking enthusiasm.

… amirite, ladies?

Okay, but if there’s one thing I want to get across, it’s that blogging is like your kid. Or (since I guess as a woman with no children I can’t really speculate on that front) it’s like your cat (don’t have a cat? Then we’re probably not a good match). You will always love it, no matter what. But sometimes? It annoys you. It’s an obligation. Now, I hope this doesn’t sound like me suddenly getting all negative on blogging — au contraire. I’ve never felt more committed or excited about blogging! But just remember, every single hobby we have gets tiring once in awhile. Sometimes I walk into the studio on Tuesdays thinking, “Ugh, why do I keep teaching dance? It’s so tiring!” Then I walk out and think, “Oh, that’s why… because it makes me feel amazing and I love the kids!” Blogging is no different. When I receive a message from someone saying that my blog has helped them discover new foods, make peace with an eating disorder or not be afraid to try something new in the kitchen, I know I’m doing the right thing. But sometimes (as should be evident by the fact that it took me so long to write this post) the enthusiasm takes a little longer than usual to muster.

If you want to start a food-focused blog, or any blog, just remember that nothing is easy 100% of the time — even walking can sometimes trip you up (literally! Amirite… eh) even if you’ve been doing that for a few good decades. No matter how small you want to make it, it could end up awakening sides of you that are easily stressed out or just plain ugly. But here’s the good part: it’ll also awaken parts of you that are so powerful, so positive and meaningful, and you’ll be able to tap into those during the hardest of times.

I wouldn’t trade it for anything.


Fresh pineapple salsa (or guacamole!)

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If there’s one reason I wish summer would last just a little bit longer, it’s that summer is officially guacamole season. Okay, you can get guacamole any time of the year on a store (or make it yourself), but can you really honestly tell me that guacamole is best enjoyed indoors in a dimly-lit living room as you watch snow fall against a pitch-black, 6 p.m. sky?

Nah, it’s not for me.

I started making my own pico the summer I lived with my cousin, Ryan. I’d just turned 20, and was working for the federal government. By far my favourite part of living with him for the summer was his big, bright kitchen with light that shone through from the front to the back of the house. He let me have free reign over the kitchen, and so I was able to let this growing bug of creativity inside me grow. My first few attempts at salsa and guacamole were laughable (I didn’t even know what cilantro was, nor did I know how ripe an avocado was supposed to be, so I literally grated a rock-hard avocado with a cheese grater) but nevertheless, I had a great canvas to work with.

Last weekend on Instagram I posted a picture of guacamole with strawberries in it, which got a few people intrigued. I will admit, mixing fruit into guacamole was something I wasn’t sure of at first, until I put some strawberries and avocado on my toast one morning. Damn, son.

Then enter Whole Foods. Whole Foods, the giant monolith where so much of my paycheque goes every week. Damn you, Whole Foods. Damn you. I don’t actually buy that much food from Whole Foods, it’s just their lunches. Wow. The stir fries! I can say the one thing I’m not excited about re: starting my new job is leaving behind Whole Foods lunches. Actually, that’ll probably motivate me to make more lunches.

But anyway, I was at Whole Foods and I encountered a great little pineapple salsa on display for samples. I gladly helped myself (free ANYTHING?! HELLO!) and was hooked. Even though it had my much-loathed, longtime enemy: red bell peppers.

So this is my second attempt in a few weeks to make something containing red peppers that I’m totally stoked about eating. I’m happy to say that it worked! Turns out, surrounding something you dislike with something you do like is a good philosophy — in food, and in life. Heyooo!

The salsa is great on its own, but you can mix it into a guacamole with two ripe avocados if you want to take your leftovers in a different direction.

Fresh pineapple salsa (makes one large, shareable bowl)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh pineapple, chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup red onions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh packed cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 jalapeno, chipped and seeds removed (optional)
  • Juice from 1/2 lime
  • A small pinch of sea salt

Instructions

  1. Chop all of the ingredients and mix thoroughly before squirting on the lime juice. Store covered in a fridge for up to four days.
  2. If you’re looking for something different, mix this in with 2-3 large ripe avocados for an interesting twist on guac!

“The Pink Ranger” grapefruit and cucumber juice

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I’ve never been into the whole juicing thing. I’m still not into the whole juicing thing. Give me a fridge full of veggies and, honestly, I’d rather just eat the veggies! I get more fibre that way. Most “sweet” green juices are made with apples, pears or other things I can’t eat anyway. I’m also not a fan of the idea of juice cleanses (the community at my yoga studio did a juice cleanse last week and by day five they were all so groggy and miserable. Who wants that?). That said, I think making juice at home is a great way to use up your veggies you’re worried you’re not going to get the most out of. It’s also a better option than buying sugary, store-bought juices. And it gives you so many options to customize!

This glass of juice has a little bit of zing and bite from a grapefruit and some ginger, but is balanced out by mellow cucumber and strawberry. I’m not a big fan of grapefruit, but this combo was great even for me! So even if you see “grapefruit” and think, “Oh, no thank you, not for me,” I say, be brave.

“The Pink Ranger” cucumber and grapefruit juice, makes one 500 ml glass

Ingredients

  • One red grapefruit, peeled and separated into smaller sections
  • One kiwi, peeled
  • One cup of strawberries, hulled
  • One English cucumber, peeled and ends removed
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger

Instructions (blender method)

  1. Chop your English cucumber into about four pieces and add it and the pieces of grapefruit into the blender, then squeeze in the lemon juice. Blend on high until a slushy puree forms. This liquid base will help everything blend a lot easier.
  2. Add in the kiwi, strawberries and ginger along with 1/2 a cup of water and blend until smoothie-like.
  3. Empty the contents of the blender into a fine mesh sieve placed over a large bowl. Let sit for a few seconds to let the natural juice drip out, then start to gently stir the liquid in the sieve with a spoon, or shake the sieve back and forth.
  4. Once the level goes down enough, take the spoon and press it down on the liquid in the sieve. When you feel like you’ve drained everything enough, toss or reserve the pulp for whatever use you would like (I like to toss in a spoonfull of pulp back into my juice. I’m a pulp girl).
  5. Transfer your juice into a jar or covered pitcher. Refrigerate for no more than two days.

“More people would like my site if I were pretty.” Is the vegan blogosphere shallow?

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I’m not going to pretend that I woke up one day and all my mental health issues were behind me. While I’m nowhere near the crumbling mess I was in late high school and up until about my last year of university, I still have days when I feel like I myself am an incomplete person — like I’m a piece of IKEA furniture that wasn’t put together properly, and anyone who looks at it for more than a few seconds can see it. The longer the day goes on, the worse it gets, and suddenly I’ve listed off 100 things I hate about myself.

I was having one of those days a few weeks ago. It started out rough with a yoga class I barely got through (suddenly I was thinking, “I’m out of shape,” despite working out every single day) then continued on to a frustrating afternoon at work (which lead me to think, “I hate my job! Everyone at work hates me!”) while having to sift through 70 some comments on my blog per hour, which were all spam (leading me to tears because I was worried that no one was reading this new web site I had worked so hard on, and having me literally yelling, “I’ve failed before I’ve even started!” in my car while my partner listened patiently).

And there’s one thing I found myself spilling out, something that I’ve avoided saying when I’m in a good mood, but despite the hysteria surrounding my comment, I feel like I had a bit of a point.

“More people would like my site if I were a pretty girl.”

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’ve never considered myself a pretty girl. Now, it’s weird, because I know I have some nice features. I’ve got bright blue-ish-green-ish eyes and good teeth (thanks, braces!) and a long neck. But, and a lot of this comes from living with social anxiety for a very long time, I’ve always found that it doesn’t quite jive when I look in the mirror. There’s something about the way everything fits together that has never made me feel totally comfortable in my own skin. Anyway, a few years ago I started to become more accepting of this — not of the way my face or body looked, but of how I felt about them. That I would never consider myself a “pretty girl,” so I might as well have some fun. Wear those weird clothes I’ve always wanted to wear, shave my head, get a bunch of nifty tattoos and piercings. You know, experiment!

That’s always made me feel better, the idea that if I can’t think of myself as pretty, I can at least think of myself as interesting.

But then, long after I initially went vegan (I was undeniably a “quiet vegan” for awhile and brought my camera phone nowhere near a piece of food) I started to notice something. Even though vegans came in all shapes and sizes and colours and lifestyles, the most visible vegans were, well, there’s no other way to say this: they’re all pretty women. Some are even what I’d call hot women.

And the blogs that seem to gain the most traction? They’re all run by those beautiful, ethereal, waif-like women whom I spent hours of my adolescence misty-eyed in front of my bathroom mirror because I didn’t or couldn’t look like them.

There’s this belief promoted by non-ethical “vegans” that switching to a diet of nothing but kale, avocado, lemongrass and royal gala apples will give your skin a dewy sheen and your hair will never split at the ends and you will never get a breakout, your love handles will firm up and you’ll become some sort of glowing goddess who expels only love (and, I’m guessing, nice-smelling plant-based farts).

I’ve been a vegan for a long damn time and I can tell you that that’s just not true. My eyes are getting heavy at the same rate as everyone else’s. My freckles and pinkish glow to my cheeks? Sorry to break it to you, but those were still there when I was eating filet mignon (chalk my colouring up to my Irish-Canadian heritage). I once had a store clerk at LUSH tell me (after I said I was a vegan) that she could tell I was a vegan because the whites of my eyes were so bright. I laughed and said thanks, because I’m not a jerk, but what I really wanted to say was that the week before when I was in there and sporting a nice big batch of menstrual breakouts on my chin, she said (in that kind, LUSH employee way) that my skin needed some major repair work. Oh, and she also said I seemed like a Sagittarius. Whatever that means.

The fact is, I’ve been practically bathing in green smoothies, cauliflower and mushrooms for years and I still don’t feel like a pretty girl.

I alternate between being bothered and not-so-bothered by it. My anger has never been with the pretty girls running vegan blogs more successful than mine. My anger has been mostly at myself. When I finally do relax I see that it’s the world that’s shallow, that is choosing to opt for content based on the appearance of the blogger — hence why so many people fall for the likes of Food Babe despite her logic-defying fear mongering (yes, I went there).

And, of course, while most of this anger stems from things that haven’t actually happened to me, receiving a rather nasty message in which I was called “ugly,” “jealous” and “needing a bone to chew on” because I had the guts to criticize the plant-based blog Oh She Glows a few weeks ago was the catalyst I needed to stop holding back. Trust me, I’ve been thinking these things for awhile.

It’s important to support vegan bloggers of all shapes, sizes and colours. Poor vegans, fat vegans, vegans of colour, vegans with bad cameras, vegans with terrible lighting, vegans who are, well, never going to be elevated as the poster child of the movement because they don’t fit in with Western beauty standards.


Loaded breakfast burrito with tempeh

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I am probably the last vegan in the world to come around to tempeh. I have always been a huge tofu fan and have never really seen much of a need for tempeh, I guess. Couple that in with a few bad experiences with poorly-prepared tempeh, not to mention the hard-to-take smell when you pull it out of the package (hey, does anyone actually enjoy the smell of something that’s been fermented?) and I’d all but sworn off tempeh.

Then, like pretty much any food, all I had to do was taste it prepared the right way, and I was hooked. My partner and I travelled to Hamilton for lunch a few weekends ago and were recommended a little place called Democracy*. And I had just a bite (I’d have had more if it didn’t have apples on it) of my partner’s tempeh, apple, maple and Daiya sandwich and suddenly all I could think about for days was tempeh. It was sliced so thin and done up so crispy and savoury in a way that completely complimented the sandwich.

Mmmm.

So lately, I’ve been thinking about ways to incorporate tempeh into my life. And actually, in a weird way, it’s quite the phenomenal feeling. I was worried a few weeks ago that I’d “run out” of ideas to keep up with my current posting schedule. All it takes is one little moment of inspiration and suddenly you’re full of new ideas. So I say, bring it on, life. I’ve got recipes galore.

I love a good breakfast burrito. And this is one that switched it up from the usual. Because, you know, tempeh! Of course, you don’t have to eat it for breakfast. Remember how Andy Dwyer said “Anything is a toy if you play with it?” Anything is breakfast if it’s your first meal of the day.

This burrito is also a big step for me because it’s the first time I’ve ever voluntarily made and eaten red peppers. Okay, there weren’t a lot in there,  but it was still a major step for me. My least favourite vegetable is slowly growing on me.

Loaded breakfast burrito with tempeh, makes three burritos

Ingredients

  • Half of a package of tempeh
  • One medium Yukon gold potato
  • One large tomato, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 – 1/3 of a red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/3 cup chopped red or white onion
  • 1/4 cup fresh packed cilantro
  • A handfull of kale or spinach leaves
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground chipotle pepper or cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp dried parsley flakes
  • 1/4 tsp dried cilantro
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • Three large tortilla wraps, use gluten-free if necessary
  • For garnish: salsa, avocado, Herbamare or anything else you may enjoy

Instructions

  1. In a medium to large-sized pot, bring some water to a boil and boil your potato for about 20 minutes
  2. While that’s goin’ on, crumble your tempeh (just use hands, but wash them, because who knows where they’ve been?!) into a bowl. Add your paprika, chipotle, cumin, parsley, cilantro, red pepper flakes, sea salt, black pepper, and shake around.
  3. In a medium skillet, heat some canola oil over medium-high heat. Add your garlic, tomato, bell pepper and onions. Sautee until the pepper softens and the onions become clear (about 5-10 minutes)
  4. Remove the potato from the boiling water and, wearing a glove (preferably silicone), dice it into small chunks. Add to the skillet, along with the fresh cilantro.
  5. Keep everything moving until you feel the potatoes start to become tender. When you can almost mash them with your flipper, add in the tempeh and the kale/spinach, squeeze in your lemon juice for some nice steam/aroma, reduce heat to medium low, and cover for about 5-10 minutes (until the leaves start to wilt).
  6. Prep your burritos with whatever you like. Personally, I find the meaty texture of tempeh contrasts well with ripe avocado, and some salsa to add a nice kick.

Enjoy your new favourite breakfast!


Citrus zinger popsicles

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Last night, work ended, but I lingered around and chilled out with some of the guys for about twenty minutes. Then I drove home in snot-sticky traffic, had to stop at the grocery store on the way home, and finally got home at almost eight o’clock.

Amazing fact: it was still sunny. Sunny enough to enjoy a few moments chatting with Chris, watching the sun set through our gorgeous, West-facing window. Oh, and if you can’t tell, Lucy was there too.

(Side-note: I really want to get a small grill for our balcony and start cooking my meals outside as much as I can.)

One funny thing about me: though I generally enjoy warm weather more (you don’t grow up in Kapuskasing without looking forward to a tiny crack of sunshine every year, even if it does mean black flies that will eat your tiny body alive), my body takes a long time to adjust to heat. I can never quite find my perfect temperature (I’m tempted to cut armpit holes in ALL of my clothes) and, most horribly, warm weather can upset my stomach a little bit. I’m very prone to heat stroke and heat exhaustion, even when well hydrated. I’ve had that problem since I was in about middle school, and it’s never quite gotten better. What’s worst is going to eat something to calm your stomach and it’s already a-rumblin’ — you don’t want to eat anything more. That’s why in the past few years I’ve started taking it pretty seriously. Here’s what I do:

  1. Never go outside on an empty stomach. Well, never do ANYTHING on an empty stomach. But especially this. Food calms your stomach more than it upsets it.
  2. Always have water with me.
  3. Load up on vitamins!
  4. If possible, have something with ginger.

Thus, the creation of these popsicles came about. Now, if you’re not a fan of ginger, you can always dial it back a bit. If you like a LOT of kick, you can add an extra sprinkling of cayenne pepper. It’s all adjustable so you can pick the balance between sweet/refreshing and zesty/kick.

One thing I can say for sure: I really hope Popsicle Pete doesn’t come after me. Apparently “popsicle” is a proper name, but not unlike Kleenex, we kind of use it to generally mean “frozen ice pop.” But, well, I’m not going to call this amazing recipe “Citrus zinger frozen ice pops,” because I’m not your grandfather. Hey, if your grandfather wandered into a giant freezer, he’d be your frozen ice Pops! Hah hah hah!

Okay, maybe I could just stick to writing recipes.

Citrus zinger popsicles, makes six

Ingredients

  • 2 large navel oranges (seedless)
  • 1 cup ginger beer (ginger ale if you want a milder taste)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup or other liquid sweetener
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1/2 tsp orange extract (optional, will definitely give a more strong “orange” flavour)
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional, only if you REALLY want this to have a zing)

Instructions

  1. Peel your oranges and separate into smaller sections. Blend in a medium-sized blender cup along with the ginger until they are pureed. Keep the pulp in!!
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the ginger beer, orange-ginger puree, sweetener, sweetener, orange extract and cayenne.
  3. Divide into a popsicle mold (my six-popsicle model was perfect!)
  4. Set in the freezer for 4-6 hours.

As you can see, these were so bright and tempting even Lucy was losing it (okay, she was actually just yawning, but still, she was quite enthralled with the popsicle).

Come at me, Popsicle Pete.


Orthorexia segment on “The Current” is now online!

For additional information on the topic I covered yesterday on my blog.

Give it a listen!


Orthorexia nervosa: the dirty side of eating “clean”

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Many of you know that I’m a little religious in my love for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (no shit — I even had their logo tattooed on me)!

One of my favourite shows is The Current. Normally I only listen to the first segment, because work starts at nine o’clock. But this morning, the preview for the third segment caused me to feel overwhelmed with emotion. I just had to listen.

Host Anna Maria Tremonti (a personal hero of mine) interviewed two registered dieticians, Casey Berglund and Mélanie Olivier, who regularly work with people suffering from what they’ve deemed orthorexia nervosa.

I’ve spoken in the past about my own issues with what a counsellor in university described as ED-NOS, and some difficult-to-classify obsessions with my body. I’m fortunate enough to be in a state of recovery where I no longer weigh myself (like, other than doctor’s appointments), count calories or think that losing weight will solve other issues in my life. I recognize (most of the time) that I am a skinny, athletic woman who should not be losing weight, and needs to eat to feel powerful.

But at the same time, there are many people, even those who are recovering from other classified eating disorders, who could be suffering from orthorexia nervosa.

Orthorexia is not officially in the Dictionary of Science and Medicine. However, the National Eating Disorders Association describes it as an unhealthy obsession and rigorous commitment to healthy eating. This might include ritualistic restriction of a particular food group, food preparation methods and the feeling of “fear” of a particular element of food.

Ever since my big, self-righteous blog post re: Angela Liddon’s “no longer labelling my diet” fiasco, I’ve felt a renewed sense of responsibility to separate myself from “fitspo” vegans, from those who view veganism as a means of achieving a tiny waist, dewy skin, bright eyes and healthy hair. At the same time, I have friends who are currently doing the paleo thing, going fully raw vegan or “#rawtil4” or simply obsessed with “clean eating.” Shockingly, I’ve seen it a lot in the post-recovery ED community, and those engaging in these ritualistic views about food seem to be convinced that they’re healthy.

I’d never heard the term “orthorexia” before, but in the mere hour since I’ve learned about it, I am now suddenly hyper-aware of how much of a problem it is — how much it is affecting so many people around me.

The thing is, one of the reasons people aren’t as quick to label behaviours like juice cleanses or “all-or-nothing” approaches to food groups as unhealthy is because so many claim there’s no emphasis on being thin. In fact, as Berglund noted in her interview, she sees many young men with what they’ve deemed “bigorexia,” an obsession with gaining muscle mass (I see this behaviour increasingly in girls, as well).

“Orthorexia is giving a lot of science to the food – it’s not an apple, it’s nutrients. I think we’ve gone a bit too far. Yes, nutrition is a new science, but it’s also an experience, and food is an experience.” — Melanie Olivier

One place I’ve always found myself at odds with in terms of veganism is on Instagram. I thought I was bad for overt use of hashtags (hey, I want to get people to my blog). I see some littered with those little checker signs including “#rawtil4,” “#vegantil6,” “#motivation,” “#weightloss” “#eatrealfood,” “#fullyraw,” “#nocheatdays” that, quite frankly, scare me.

I’ve said it so clearly before that my commitment to animal welfare and my commitment to healthy eating are two very separate issues. But what also needs to be addressed is that if you are committing to healthy eating by breeding a fear of a particular kind of food, this can lead to damaging behaviour.

Unless you have a medical restriction preventing you from safely consuming something — like soy, gluten, fructose, nightshade vegetables, etc. — then to cut it out completely will only see you lose out on food itself, the experience of food, and possibly your mental health.

There’s increasingly key evidence that consumption of these foods — sometimes moderate — is harmless if you don’t already have an allergy or intolerance.

And you know what? I never thought I’d have to say this, but eating something from a box or can or even the frozen food aisle once in a blue moon won’t kill you, either.

There’s an obsession with “real” and “clean” food among dieters these days that is meant to feel empowering, but can border on obsessive so easily, so sneakily. When you get to the point where you are afraid to eat a sweet potato, that you won’t touch any kind of grain, that you’re obsessed with creating a rainbow on your plate because colourful food is more healthy, that you believe all 41 calories in an orange carrot are “empty” calories because purple carrots have a few more nutrients, then yes, it is time to seek help.

What so many suffering need to see is that we empower ourselves by admitting that there are some things we can’t control. And even if we can control food, sometimes we need to let go of that control a little.

It’s not going to kill us. Obsession is.


Savoury spaghetti squash stir-fry with king oyster medallions

 

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Holy crap, guys, it’s spring.

Like, it’s really spring. No more deception, no more triple layering, no more toques (unless they happen to be really cute).

But most importantly? I can pack in a huge, eventful day and then get home and it’s still light enough to bask in the sunlight.

Yesterday, we visited an old friend in Burlington, then went to Hamilton for lunch (big vegan recommendation: Democracy Café!), took a short walk throughout the downtown, headed home, stopped in Oakville for some organic groceries, went home, read on the balcony and then made this wonderful dinner. I was even done dessert before the sun started going down.

How. Cool. Is that?

Now, time for a confession. I consider myself a pretty smart girl, but when I first heard of spaghetti squash I pulled a bit of a Jessica Simpson. “But, is it spaghetti or is it a squash?”

Oh, Bree.

Anyway, I’ve come a long way since then. Not only do I LOVE spaghetti squash, but I don’t think it’s just limited to being used for Italian dishes. This dish is great if you’re missing seafood (or, at least, I assume. I have a seafood allergy) because the king oyster mushrooms have a nice, tender texture similar to scallops (at least, according to my partner). The recipe uses sauteed veggies that almost make a nice thick gravy, and when you combine that with the king oyster sauce, you’re just swimming in a world of tangy flavour.

That said, this is a fairly high-maintenance because you’ve got a lot of things going on at once. You’ve got your spaghetti squash, your pan of veggies and your king oysters. I managed because I had my partner in the kitchen with me. Cooking with someone is always so much more fun!

Savoury spaghetti squash stir-fry with king oyster medallions, serves 3

Ingredients:

  • One spaghetti squash
  • Four medium-large king oyster mushrooms
  • Three cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Two medium tomatoes, sliced into eight wedges each
  • 1/2 cup white or yellow onions, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh packed cilantro, loosely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh packed basil leaves, loosely chopped
  • 2/3 cup chickpeas
  • One batch mushroom marinade:
    • 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
    • 1 tbsp low-sodium tamari (use gluten-free if needed)
    • 1 tbsp vegan worcester sauce (Wizard Brand is my brand of choice, and they make a gluten-free version)
    • 1 tbsp rice vinegar or white vinegar
    • 1 tbsp sesame or canola oil
    • A loose dash of Sriracha
    • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Mix the ingredients for the mushroom marinade.
  3. Remove the caps from the King Oysters and slice into four medallions each.
  4. Using a fork, poke a few holes in the medallions and let soak in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 40 minutes to one hour.
  5. Now, cook your spaghetti squash. Carefully spice the squash in half, scoop out the guts and rub a small amount of oil on the inside, with some light sale and pepper. Placed on a lined baking tray with the insides facing down for 40 minutes or until the squash is fork-tender.
  6. When you have about five minutes left on the squash, start cooking your other veggies. Head a small amount of oil in a large, deep pan or wok over medium and add your garlic, onions and tomatoes.
  7. In a separate pan, toss in your king oyster medallions and heat over medium heat. Divide the sauce in two and add half to the pan with the king oysters. Cover and let simmer. The mix should almost become like a reduction, so it will thicken and make the medallions feel almost caramelized.
  8. Now, back to your veggies! Sautee the veggies until the onions become clear and the tomatoes soften. Add your mustard and cumin and mix.
  9. After another five minutes, add the herbs. Mix, mix mix!
  10. Add the rest of the king oyster marinade to the tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes. As this is happening, remove the squash from heat and (while wearing gloves, ’cause this shit is hot!) shred the insides into a bowl so you have fine noodles.
  11. Toss the noodles so they clump as little as possible, then add to the large pan, along with the chickpeas (I assume you’ve drained the can, right?!). Toss around until everything is incorporated.
  12. You’re done! Dish out a nice mix to yourself and top with 4-5 king oyster medallions. I garnished with chopped green onions and shelled sunflower seeds (peanuts would be nice too)!

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