Tag Archives: diet

One-bowl blueberry flax pancakes (sugar-free)

Sometimes when I read food blogs, I feel like they were written by people who wouldn’t know a nine-to-five work schedule if it ran them over with a car. Now, don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I don’t think running a successful blog is a full-time job (see: my last post whining about how I just don’t have the time to put the effort in to make my blog amazing like some of the greats out there), but let’s face it: when you make your own hours and can work in your pyjamas, your breakfast recipes can get a little… time-consuming.

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“Label-free?” No thank you!

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Just as quickly as “vegan” and “gluten-free” became co-opted and made meteoric rises to become the latest trend diet, the “label-free” movement rose even more aggressively to the top.

In the past six months or so I’ve noticed a large number of food bloggers who go on the record as being “label-free” and going to great lengths to explain why they have no “label” to their diet. They eat a LOT of vegan food or a LOT of gluten-free food, but they don’t want to label themselves as anything.

The main reason is because labels cause people to feel pressure to never make a mistake.

I, on the other hand, fully embrace the label that is “vegan,” and I’d like to explain a few reasons why — and why you shouldn’t be afraid of the “v” word.

Veganism is not a diet

Perhaps the most frequent reasoning I see applied to the “label-free” diet philosophy is so they don’t feel pressure or guilt when they have a day when they eat something outside of that dietary label — like a piece of cheese or some fish. I (and most other vegans) have never seen veganism as a diet; it is a lifestyle that requires full commitment. It’s not like you’re on a “low carb” diet and one day have some bread and the only person feeling the consequences is you — veganism affects other living things!

It’s still okay to make mistakes!

It’s a common misconception that making a mistake and eating something you shouldn’t will get you kicked out of the “vegan club.” Remember in Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World? The vegan police? There are some people who feel that there’s too much pressure to not make mistakes, so they’re afraid of fully going vegan. But here’s the thing: mistakes happen all the time! Just the other day I bit into a sandwich that I asked for with no cheese and it had a sprinkling of shredded cheese! I returned the sandwich, but I didn’t hate myself for having a couple mouthfuls of cheese (my digestive system, however). Of course, there’s also a huge difference between “I accidentally bought this mascara that’s made with animal ingredients because I read the label incorrectly” and “I now this has milk in it, but I don’t care because it looks delicious.”

Most people will respect your convictions

Some of my friends have been a bit obnoxious about my veganism, but most of my friends are obnoxious anyway (I’m just ribbin’ guys, I love ya). The thing is, I’d say 90% of people I know well enough to actually converse about food with are incredibly supportive of my veganism, even if they aren’t vegan themselves. I’ve always been able to have very open conversations about my own politics, and at the end of the day, my loved ones respect that I have made this choice and have this conviction. It’s hard to have a conviction when you don’t even want to actually say the word.

So how do you, my loyal readers, feel about dietary labels? Do you think the “vegan” label is too divisive, or are you willing to stand by the label proudly? How have your friends treated you for going vegan?


Five things you should know about detoxing and cleansing

Green Smothies

Being part of the vegan community is difficult because it often brings me face-to-face with people whose values don’t line up with my own — beyond the whole “don’t kill or use animals for personal gain” thing. The most common thing I encounter is people who actually push a culture of classism, health-shaming and diet culture that I absolutely can’t get behind.

I’d be a fool and a liar if I didn’t say that I generally consider my diet to be pretty healthy. I don’t think, however, that it was any less healthy before I went vegan (I was never big on cheese, only ate fast food in moderation [which I still do because Taco Bell and Chipotle are things that exist], ate a diet that had a good balance of fats, proteins and carbohydrates). Of course, I still eat a lot of things that cause some people to clutch their pears. I eat a ton of fruit (when I can, as my fructose malabsorbtion makes it very hard to eat about half of the fruits in that food family), I eat corn (the horror!) and other grains, and yes, a least once a day I consume the horror known as gluten. The reason I consider my diet healthy is because I have learned through experience and through my doctors over the years how to accommodate for my body’s needs, and I feel great!

“Clean eating” is a concept that sometimes gets away from us; the fundamental problem with “clean eating” is it relies on media trends and celebrity culture (rather than science culture) to tell us what the latest “dirty” food we’re supposed to condemn is.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of that culture is the idea of “cleansing” and “detoxing.” These concepts have been refuted dozens of times, yet they are still embraced as a mainstream, healthy thing.

There are entire blogs and cookbooks centered around “detoxing.” My old yoga community did a group juice cleanse several months ago. The restaurant I buy my work lunch at sells one-to-five-day juice cleanses.

Many online creators are getting wise to the widespread criticism of detoxing, but still brand themselves as experts in detox and simply church up their language a little bit.

Even blogs I used to admire for supposed body positivity and healthy approaches to eating have tried to capitalize on humans seeking an answer to the Big Question. No, not “Why are we here?” Not “What is the meaning of life?” The Big Question appears to be: “How can I magically shrink my gut because I ate too much last week?” They’re pushing meal plans to help you “hit the re-set button.” They’re trying to convince you a certain group of foods can “re-set” your gut (spoiler alert: not really possible). I even see people happily endorsing programs like “Whole 30,” an insanely restrictive diet plan meant to last 30 days, but apparently because it uses the word “whole” it comes off as earthy and cool and not the total crash diet it is.

It’s not just that I disagree with the concept and am therefore throwing an indignant hissyfit: I’m saying they’re dangerous.

If we start to think of detoxing and cleansing as a crash diet, or at the concept of “flushing toxins” from our body the same way we look at purging and compulsive exercises, well, I think a lot of people would be out of money.

Here are some things I’ve picked up over the years that I really feel motivated to share with people.

  1. The idea of “cleansing” preys on our want to be skinny. We can say it’s about feeling a certain way or embracing new habits, but when the diet industry in the U.S. is worth billions (hell, the gluten-free food industry alone is worth six billion), you don’t think people are trying to cash in on your desire to be svelte and sexy? “Let’s be honest,” author Timothy Caulfield writes in Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash, “the primary reason that people cleanse is not for the benefit of some de-stressing, spiritual, soul-centering purification process. It is for the purpose of weight loss. The main motivation for many of the things we do related to our health, especially dieting, has to do with how we look. And when cleanses are discussed in the popular press, particularly when a celebrity name is invoked, weight loss is almost always the focus. Shape.com, for example, tells us Salma Hayek ‘credits her slim and sexy shape to the juice cleanses’ and that ‘Beyoncé turned to the Master Cleanse Diet to help her drop a reported 20 pounds in less than two weeks.'” One of the easiest ways for a company to make money in this day and age is to make you feel like you’re not skinny enough. If you’re insecure enough with your own appearance and don’t necessarily have a PhD in biochemistry, you’d probably be willing to take that jump too.
  2. Unless the blogger you’re following is a doctor, they probably don’t have much authority to tell you how to cleanse your body. Peter Ayton, professor of psychology at City University London, explained in an interview with The Guardian that we PhD-less humans are likely to defer to someone who seems like they have all the information because it comforts us. “To understand even shampoo you need to have a PhD in biochemistry,” said Ayton. “But a lot of people don’t have that. If it seems reasonable and plausible and invokes a familiar concept, like detoxing, then we’re happy to go with it.” At the same time, many popular bloggers in the food blogosphere tout credentials such as “health coach” and “nutritionist” certifications. It may be confusing to some people, because they’re unaware of how these compare to dieticians. For clarification, dieticians are a registered and regulated profession which require at least a Bachelor’s of Science degree followed by supervised, specialized training. Nutritionists, on the other hand, are largely trained at private, for-profit colleges which don’t have the same educational background requirements for students or teachers (I’d like to state right now that in general I am not an education snob, I believe that community college educations are just as valid as those from universities, but when it comes to professions that affect others lives and healths, I believe accreditation should be scrutinized). What a nutritionist says comes from a very different place than what a dietician or doctor says.
  3. Unless you have pre-existing health problems or have battled drug and/or alcohol abuse, your body is detoxing itself just fine. This goes hand-in-hand with the fact that “toxins” are largely undefined and ambiguous. Basically, a toxin is something that damages your body and it does not want in there. Ever wonder why you pee so much when you’re drunk? It’s because alcohol is bad for you and your body knows it, and it wants it out. Congratulations, your body works. It’s also working when it sweats and farts (here that? Fart away)! “Respected” “journalists” (read: people who have fitness books to sell) will tell you that no matter what, your body can’t get all toxins out on its own. And that is, to an extent, true. But not only is that fact no cause for panic or concern, but most researchers have yet to find anything that will relieve you from toxins. Harriet Ball, biologist: “Last year we investigated scientific claims that are plastered on everything from sandwiches to devices that supposedly protect you from radiation. Our new investigation into detox products has convinced us that there is little or no proof that these products work, except to part people from their cash and downplay all the amazing ways in which our bodies can look after themselves!”
  4. It’s not just that it’s not good for you — it can be bad for you. One of the most popular forms of cleanses is a juice cleanse, which I witnessed secondhand when my yoga community partook in it. The group ate limited solids (one salad per day) and then relied on expensive juices for the rest of the seven days. By the end of it, I couldn’t help but think that they seemed downright deranged — and I wasn’t far off. Many people when juicing report a feeling of “alertness” or mental “lightness.” That feeling? It’s actually your body thinking it’s dying. Most juice cleanses are very calorie-restrictive — even with a salad, most mainly-juice diets clock in at fewer than 1,000 calories per day, less than two thirds what even very thin fully-grown women require to function normally (and combine that with hot yoga every single day, you’re running a week-long calorie deficit). When your body gets fewer calories than it’s supposed to, it goes into what is commonly known as “fight or flight” mode because, well, it thinks (knows!) you’re in a dire situation. Your body is not functioning the way it normally should, and after you’re finished your “cleanse” and feel totally ragged? You’re actually highly likely to gain back any weight you’ve lost.
  5. Bloggers make money. Cookbook writers make money. Everyone makes money. Any blogger who has put more than a few hours into WordPress knows how to look up which search terms are most popular. So maybe some bloggers don’t outright believe in 800-calorie-per-day juice crash diets, but they all know that if you’re a human who’s ever been self-conscious about the dreaded roll of fat over your jeans, you’re likely to search “detox” or “detox-friendly recipes” at least once. If someone wanted to just post healthy, light recipes, they could probably get a lot more people to pay attention to them if they started using labels like “cleansing” and “detox” and “purify.” Do not be fooled. Blogging is a business food is a business, and business relies on making people think they need your product. It’s far easier to capitalize on an experience people already have (body insecurity) than to create a new experience.

This is why I do not advocate for detoxing. This is why I will not even advocate for you to make “simple changes” to your everyday routine if the interest is to “promote GI health and re-start your system.” I am not qualified to make that call. I have a BA in English and Cultural Studies. I don’t want my readers to feel like they are inadequate because they ate too much the day or week before, and I certainly don’t want to be part of the machine that makes them think they have to potentially hurt themselves to feel beautiful.


Five easy, healthy post-workout snacks

I’m not going to lie, when my partner and I were looking for a new place, although I didn’t admit it to him, when I looked through listings of apartment buildings, I gave total preference to buildings with gyms/fitness rooms.

I’m happy to report that we did indeed find a place that has a small gym featuring cardio equipment, free weights and a few machines. It’s not much, but it’s enough for me. I normally run and bike all over Toronto, but I also like to be able to lift a little bit or get down on mats for some thorough pilates work. Working out at home is really difficult for me because I get too distracted and I feel too crowded and afraid to really go all-out, but working out close to home is always great.

We still climb, right now working back up to climbing about three times per week. Dance is also still a part of my life (teaching once a week and taking a class whenever I can) and, of course, I’m on my bike (and running!) constantly. But I like to keep my workouts varied.

The best part about my workout regime is that literally everything is close to home. My dance studio is right around the corner, our climbing gym is now a five-minute drive, the gym is in the building next door, and, well, you always end up back home when you run or bike (if you don’t, consider a GPS, a compass or simply never leaving your home).

You know why getting home quickly is a priority? Because I LOVE TO EAT. Have I ever mentioned that? Working out always makes me super-hungry for something high-protein, easy to eat and, preferably, not too warm. I was recently introduced to the team at Nuts.com, who are all about healthy snacks. They gave me the idea to write a post about my favourite healthy post-workout snacks, which quite frankly I’m surprised I haven’t written about before.

These aren’t overly complex snacks, and are extremely easy to make yourself, so give them each a whirl and find something you like!

Soaked almonds and blueberries

Everyone knows by now that soaking almonds makes them a way more easy-to-eat and luxurious snack than crunchy almonds (not that there’s anything wrong with crunchy almonds)! But what I really love is pairing them with a sweet companion — blueberries! Blueberry and almonds have always gone together (see: a long history of cold cereals). This is a great snack for after climbing when I’m feeling snacky and over-stimulated — I need something that I can keep dipping my hand into the bowl for, but isn’t full of excess salt and grease. I simply soak 1/3 cup of almonds and 1/4 cup of blueberries in water before I leave for climbing. When I come home about 2-3 hours later, I drain and rinse my bowl, and voilà (you could sprinkle on some cinnamon if you like too, but they’re still good on their own)!

Make-ahead chocolate protein smoothie

A photo posted by Bree Rody-Mantha (@breeganism) on

(Cereal optional) After a jazz or contemporary dance class, when I’ve been moving and jumping around for 90 minutes, I get really hungry, but don’t actually feel like eating. Smoothies always win for me. Now, some of my smoothies can be a little over-complicated, which is why I recently released a listing of 10 smoothies with four ingredients or less. This smoothie does not contain four ingredients or less, but it’s still an easy-to-make smoothie with ingredients you can find at any local grocery store. The key is freezing the banana and zucchini beforehand, as well as pre-soaking the oats in the milk, so you can blend easily into a super-smooth, so-good-you’d-swear-it’s-a-Wendy’s-Frosty smoothie. Ingredients:

        • One medium banana, peeled, chopped and frozen

 

 

      • 1/2 medium zucchini, peeled, chopped and frozen

 

 

      • 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk

 

 

      • 1/4 cup rolled oats

 

 

      • 1 tbsp nut or seed butter

 

 

      • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder of choice (I use Manitoba Harvest’s hemp-based protein)

 

 

      • 1 tsp cocoa powder

 

 

      • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

 

 

      • Pinch of cinnamon

 

 

      • Pinch of sea salt

 

      Before you go out for your workout, peel, chop and freeze your banana and zucchini, and sit your oats in the milk, cover and refrigerate. Run the oats/milk through the blender once before adding everything else and then wiz it away!  

Savoury crackers and hummus (with carrots!)

Crackers were my weakness as a child. My favourite were Crispers (which apparently are supposed to be a chip/cracker hybrid), followed by Bacon Dipper (surprisingly, those are vegan, so I’m looking to see if I can create a slightly less oily version for Urban Garlic in the near future). Now I tend to prefer crackers with a bit more texture, like Mary’s Crackers. My flax and buckwheat crackers are a fairly good dupe for those, and a few large wedges of seedy crackers with some home-made or store-bought hummus can be just the right amount of carb and protein to calm you down after a good workout (my favourite hummus of all-time is still the “pizza hummus” my boyfriend and I created together when we first started dating). It’s also good to get some veggies in. My favourite vegetables to have with hummus are baby carrots and broccoli.

Crackers or pita chips with nut cheese and blueberry jam

A simple rice cracker or a wedge of pita (you don’t even have to toast it) is just begging to have an interesting combination of flavours applied to it, so I look at simply applying one topping to a cracker as a total waste. My favourite nut cheese is Tres Nuts, which is sold at various Toronto natural food stores including Raise the Root and The Big Carrot, and I love spreading some blueberry jam (my jam of choice is Crofter’s) on top. Super-duper fancy!

Homemade energy bars

 

A photo posted by Bree Rody-Mantha (@breeganism) on

Okay, this one is a bit more complex, but I never miss out on a chance to promote my homemade Clif Bar recipe. Why? Well, because for how easy these babies are to make, there’s a huge amount of payoff. What are the advantages? Well, you can customize it as much as you want (need to make it nut-free? Fructose-friendly? Want to add chocolate? Berries? DO WHAT YOU WANT). You can cut them into the sizes you want. You can bring a whole tray to share with your friends, or be a jerk/awesome and keep it all to yourself.


10 ways to not be a douche about eating healthy

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I’m an ethical vegan — I’ve been pretty clear about that. I’m also a fairly healthy eater, too. I like my green smoothies, my grain and veggie bowls, my homemade raw snacks. Sometimes I also love me some fresh cucumber juice.

I’ve never been overly concerned with being known as a “healthy eater,” mainly because I find there’s something a little obnoxious about people who wear their diets on their sleeves. Now, I’m all for preaching veganism, but I tend to use discretion because I’m not often mentally prepared for a big debate.

But even though I don’t believe that eating animals is a “personal choice,” I’m often shocked at the number of people who freak out over things that ARE personal choices — like eating bread, or cooking your vegetables.

Do you feel yourself losing friends? Is the only thing you have to comfort you in your life a bowl of lightly-spiced grains accompanied by a colourful array of vegetables?

Well, I’ve developed a handy-dandy guide on how to not be such a douchebag about your healthy choices.

  1. Tone down the hyperbole. We get it. You feel great. I have no doubt that you feel great. The thing is, when you start to say things like “I can literally feel the toxins leaving my body!” you sound more like a used car salesman than a person who is comfortable with the choice they’ve made.
  2. Every time you say the word “toxin” or “toxic,” pinch yourself. “Toxin” is such a generic term that can easily scare someone without actually offering any information. When you use it, you sound like you don’t actually know what you’re taking about.
  3. Use discretion before talking about your bowel movements with others. I mean… c’mon.
  4. Recognize that there is no universal definition of “healthy.” So if you’re trying to convince your friend that raw desserts are the way to go and they’re telling you they can’t eat dates, or trying to convince someone that juicing will be extra healthy for them and they’re insisting that they need more fibre in their diet, remember that no two bodies are the same and require the same things — which is why we all go poop on different schedules (note to self: see #3).
  5. “Would you like to try some?” is very different from “You HAVE to try it.” Always offer. Offering is polite! But you’re a grown-up (probably) and thus should have a vague idea of when someone clearly doesn’t want to try your savoury carrot paleo cookie held together by flax gel and the tears of your caveman ancestors. Stop making people feel like they’re missing out because they’d rather have a Freezie.
  6. Get a sense of whether or not someone cares to engage. Similar to #5, you should try to develop a sense of awareness for whether or not someone actually even cares. If someone is asking you questions, answer them. If someone decides to insult or challenge your choices in a totally unfounded way, defend yourself and take ’em to school. But when “what kind of sandwich is that?” turns into a long rant about the poisons our government is putting into wheat and the effects it has on your brain, maybe take a quick glance over at them to see if their eyes are glazing over. Go one. Try it.
  7. Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to. “Why wouldn’t someone want to ever go raw?” “Why, what are you allergic to?” “Can you REALLY not afford that?” You’re gonna get answers. Be prepared.
  8. If you make big, grandiose statements, be prepared to be debated. If you’re going to say “Orange carrots are full of empty calories and sugar,” if you’re going to say “There is literally no reason for anyone to ever consume soy,” if you’re going to say “Green tea prevents cancer,” well, you’d be surprised how educated some people can be on the subjects. All it takes is one really big and probably not-that-well-researched statement to bring out That One Guy Who Treats Random Wikipedia Articles Like His Full-Time Job. So be prepared.
  9. Think of your food regime like a list of medications. Vital? Yes. Are there situations in which people need to know about it? Absolutely. But just as you wouldn’t bore people with the details of your prescriptions, your doses and the rules of your medication, people don’t need to know every detail of your food regime. It’s personal, and honest to God I can’t emphasize how little anyone else cares.
  10. Listen to people. When someone says “I can’t afford that,” they’re probably not lying (yeah, they might be ill-informed, but they also know their own situation better than you do). When someone says “I don’t like that,” it’s not your duty to make them like something. Basically, you weren’t sent down from some higher place to spread the Word of Your Fat Diet.

“Schrute Farms” strawberry smoothie

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Just take a minute to check out the pink of that smoothie. I’d even call it fuchsia. I never imagined that something so bright and vibrant could come out of my dingy Scarborough kitchen, but here we are.

You might say this smoothie is un… beetable.

Now excuse me while I dodge your hard-picked fruits and vegetables to get off the stage. I’m sorry.

I should actually inform you as a sort of impartiality disclaimer that I normally am not a fan of beets. Sure, I’ll eat them if they’re served to me (if it’s not an animal product, I’ll eat anything that’s been served to me), but I’m never like,  “Oh joy, beets!” And when I’ve been given fruit/veg juices that have a beet in it, I can always taste the beet hardcore. And no, I’m still not like, “Oh joy, beets!”

But this? This had me going, “Oh joy, beets!” Even as I was wiping the uber-pink stains from my hands.

Beets, of course, always make me think of Dwight Schrute, particularly the quote from Jim about Andy and Angela’s children: “He’ll figure it out. When their babies have giant heads and beet-stained teeth.”

This smoothie will NOT stain your teeth, but it will give you a mix of fruits and vegetables that does not taste like vegetables (I mean, veggies are awesome, but they’re better when they taste like candy). Especially when you don’t need to do it with the help of added sweeteners, amirite ladies?

(I promised I’d stop saying that so much, but promises of such a silly variety are made to be broken).

So here’s the Schrute Farms Strawberry Smoothie!

Schrute Farms Strawberry Smoothie, serves one

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries, hulled
  • 1 medium ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup beets*, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 cup almond or other non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 cup pink guava juice
  • 1 tbsp flax meal, chia seeds or hemp seeds
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Peel and cube your beets. *You may have to steam your beets if you don’t have an uber-powerful blender. I steamed mine for about five minutes or until a fork could easily pierce them.
  2. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend on high until pureed.
  3. Garnish with a strawberry if you please, because you’ve earned that.
  4. Get married standing in your own graves, as is tradition in the Schrute family.

That’s it for today’s recipe. Be on the lookout for two great things this week: One is a collection of tips I learned from my vegan transition on how to safely, responsibly and successfully transition to veganism. The other is one of the best savoury recipes my partner and I have concocted together yet — so you really will not want to miss it.

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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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Chocolate berry super shake

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First of all, a quick but important announcement: as of this weekend, you can officially find me and all my content at urban-garlic.com. I will be setting up my domain on Friday or Saturday, so when the time comes, keep me in your feed at my new home!

Smoothies, amirite? Like, do I want a green smoothie, a veggie smoothie, a fruity smoothie, or a chocolate smoothie?

I’m sorry, but that is the most first-world hipster problem I’ve ever encountered.

Nevertheless, I’m a total brat and I face this “dilemma” every day that I make myself a smoothie. But I’m an adventurous girl. So I have no fear in mixing things up. Fruits and veggies! Fruits and greens! Fruits and chocolate! … veggies and chocolate?

Well, maybe one day. But in the meantime, here’s a fruity chocolate creation. This is my first time using Macca powder, which I’ll admit can be a bit pricey. My recommendation for anyone who wants to try Macca is to buy it at a bulk store. Don’t bother with health food stores where so-called superfoods are super-friggin’-expensive and It’s great for giving a smoothie a great smooth, chocolatey taste (and bonus, you can cut down on cocoa powder).

This smoothie tasted like dessert, but because I put fruit in it I fooled myself into thinking I was eating something fresh and fruity. Hah!

Chocolate berry super-shake, serves one

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond (or other non-dairy) milk
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1-2 tbsp ripe avocado
  • 1 tbsp hemp hearts
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 tsp macca root powder
  • 1/2 tbsp cacao powder
  • Dash of ground cinnamon
  • Dash of fine-grain sea salt
  • 1 tbsp nut butter (optional — for protein/brotein!)

Instructions

  1. Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth.
  2. High-five yourself for drinking your fruits and your chocolate all at once.

I’ve been on a real sweets kick lately. Just wait until you see what I post later this week. Let’s just say, much like this shake, you’ll technically be getting your fruits in, but it’s still basically candy.


Festive burrito lunch wrap with raw zesty taco “meat”

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Guys, all my wistful blogging was right! Spring is finally here! Well, technically it won’t be here until Saturday. But as I walked through Toronto in just my sweater and a military jacket yesterday, I really felt it. “It.” Spring! There was sunshine beating down on my face through the window of La Hacienda on Queen (near Bathurst) and dogs walking out without booties on. I mean, that’s the true sign of spring, isn’t it?

Okay, so, two major developments in my life to share. One — I finally own a DSLR camera. Thanks to my amazing friend Lance, I am the new proud owner of a Cannon Rebel XSi. I’m still experimenting with it and will likely take a long time to figure out all my settings, not to mention how to compose photographs so elegantly like all my favourite food bloggers. But learning is a process and I’m a proud lifelong learner, so there you have it.

Second, and one I’ve been bursting at the seams to share, in five days time I will be reunited with my darling cat, Benny!

For those who don’t know me personally, Benny was my cat last year. He is a five-year-old black and white Norwegian forest cat with large paws, a love for brushings and a dislike for being told what to do. Benny came into my life in an amazing way. My roommate last year got him from the Toronto Humane Society rather impulsively. She had never owned a cat before, so I was worried about how she’d handle him. Now, without getting too into the drama that was my old roommate and I, I can safely say that her ownership of Benny didn’t work out very well. After she lost her fascination with him, she basically stopped taking care of him, which included emptying his litter, brushing him and even feeding him. Benny is very affectionate and he quickly became “my” cat, which I didn’t mind at all. Then in March my roommate took a two month trip to Europe and did not pay her rent, nor did she tell our landlord she was leaving the country. I was pretty eager to get out, so I took the eviction notice as a sign. However, I couldn’t leave poor Benny alone, so he came along with me to my parents’ place.

Months later when the time came to move out again, Benny had become well-acquainted with a) my Mom, b) her cat and dog, Maggie and Tessie and c) the back yard. My Mom thought it would be cruel of me to take that all away from him, so I moved back to Toronto without him. I have Lucy (Chris’s cat), but I miss Benny every day.

Well, now that my Mom is selling her house, she’s eager to get Mister Fluffy Pants out of her hair (more specifically, to get his hair out of her hair). It’s time to transition Benny back to living with me… and living with Lucy. How will this go? Only time can tell!

Spring is all about rebirth, that first breath of a renewed life and energy. And that’s what Benny will be bringing to our home.

In the meantime, I’ve been switching up my eats lately. Not so warm and hearty — more cool and light. I’ve been looking at recipes for a raw zucchini lasagna lately, and in general look forward to having to use my oven less as the months warm up (especially because our place isn’t air-conditioned, and our windows get the direct sunset light).

This raw taco “meat” that I made for my burrito is a nice change from just beans in my burrito (although as you can see, there’s beans as well — I tossed on some of my festive fresh bean salad). There’s a crunch and crumble, but the vegan mayo also adds a creamy texture that goes against type.

Raw zesty taco “meat,” makes three servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw unsalted walnut halves/pieces
  • 2 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil (about 5-6 tomatoes), finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp vegan mayonnaise (I used Wildwood Aioli for a garlic zing, but if you want a soy-free variety, Earth Island makes soy-free Veganaise)
  • 2 green onions, copped
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, finely copped (use less or none if using aioli)
  • 1/2-1 jalapeno, finely chopped (seeds removed if that’s not your thing)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, pulse the walnuts until they are crumbly without being dusty (like regular ground taco meat) and set in a medium-sized bowl
  2. Once your tomatoes, green onions, garlic and jalapeno are chopped, add to the bowl
  3. Add the mayo and the spices and mix thoroughly until everything is coated and even.

In case you’re wondering what I had on my burrito, it wasn’t a 100% raw or GF wrap — but you could totally go that route if you’re trying to be conscious of both (or if you’re just looking for a good cooking challenge). Maybe try a lettuce wrap (way more fun and tasty than a gluten-free wrap).

My wrap consisted of:

  • A whole wheat burrito wrap
  • Roasted garlic hummus
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Roma tomatoes
  • My bean salad (yum!)
  • Raw taco “meat”
  • Avocado!

Even though today is dreary and cloudy, I’m still just really feeling this spring weather. However, now that I’m no longer wearing tall boots all day, this was a terrible way to realize that ALL MY PANTS ARE TOO SHORT. I love skinny jeans, but I’m a long-legged lady, and this simply will not do. Time for shorts/skirts weather to come back into style. QUICK.


Thoughts on happiness + peanut butter breakfast quinoa parfait

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I have a fairly small but noteworthy collection of regular readers. And I think it doesn’t take a detective or even someone who knows me very well to tell that I was having a rough Christmas. It’s funny (but not ha-ha funny). I used to think that depression for me was seasonal — and that I’d actually be at my worst in the summers, because when weather is too warm I become lethargic and unmotivated. I’m realizing now that it’s just the ways my brain decides to work some days.

Of course, circumstances weren’t great around the holidays. I was bummed from receiving some pretty harsh criticism right before I left to go to my parents’, then my time there turned into a bit of a rough go as well. I spent the rest of the break trying to recover, while being bogged down with period cramps. It was rough, I tell you.

I’ve been on a bit of a role lately, despite being sick.

What I’ve learned is that I need to strike a balance between two unreasonable ends:

  • I need to stop thinking that there’s a magical successful trick to just becoming happy and staying happy
  • But I can’t let the fact that there is no “trick” stop me from making the most of my happy days, celebrating my good moods and taking it all in.

I think the Internet is obsessed with happy women, especially once you step down the vegan/fitness/healthy living rabbit hole. Everyone is all smiles and natural light and exclamation points and long paragraph captions about gratitude, “Namaste! :)”

I’m not saying I don’t buy it. But I am saying that it creates a lot of unreasonable pressure to live up to, and I don’t want to ever have to feel like I can’t express my blahs.

Quick story time: last week I got rejected for a job I really wanted. It was a news editor job for a marketing magazine. They didn’t hire anyone, because none of the candidates were qualified enough. Tears started rolling down my face and I couldn’t stop. The first thing I did was text my partner. I’m used to, in the past, having someone who would tell me, “Don’t be upset” or “It’s okay.” Instead he told me, “I can understand why you’re so upset. It meant a lot to you.” We talked a bit about why I was so upset, but soon I was focusing on the positive — what I was rejected for (lack of senior editorial experience) was nothing I could have changed! I did everything I could, and I came up a little short. I made a great connection with the EIC and publisher, and even followed up with them and confirmed that they really, really liked me. It’s been almost two weeks since the rejection and you know what? I feel great. I’ve been on a turnaround. I’m sure this won’t last forever, but I learned one thing from this:

Pushing down your sad feelings when you feel upset just puts it off. Letting them come to the surface and working through them will help you move on from them in a healthy way.

So, speaking of healthy, because I’ve been on this upward spiral, I’ve been more passionate than ever about taking care of myself. I’ve been trying to have more solid breakfasts lately (I average about three liquid breakfasts and four solid breakfasts a week now).

I’ve been a little curious about breakfast quinoa. I’m still not great at cooking quinoa, and it always turns out sticky, but this calls for slightly sticky quinoa. I also was very late to jump on the quinoa train (I found it tasted very harsh) and felt apprehensive about buying quinoa knowing that the harvesting practices are quite exploitative.

The quinoa I used was harvested in Canada, which feels a lot better.

This breakfast is sweet, sticky, fun and keeps you feeling fed. What more could you want?

Peanut butter breakfast quinoa parfait, makes 2 large parfaits

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp PB2*
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup granola
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup goji berries
  • 4 tbsp coconut spread
  • Coconut shavings, unsweetened
  • Coconut nectar or other liquid sweetener

* — PB2 is powdered peanut butter that I often use for baking. It can be really difficult to find, so you can use regular peanut butter, but melt it so that it is fine and liquidy and mixes into the quinoa well.

Instructions

  1. Cook the quinoa. Bring 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover for 15 minutes.
  2. Fluff the quinoa and add the vanilla extract, cinnamon and PB2. If it’s too dry to incorporate everything smoothly, add a bit of water.
  3. Let the quinoa cool slightly in a bowl so it’s warm, not hot.
  4. Warm the coconut spread so you can pour it easily.
  5. Layer the quinoa, granola, blueberries, goji berries (I soaked them first) and coconut spread to your liking. Drizzle with coconut nectar and coconut shavings.

Thanks for listening to my ramblings, followers! I hope everyone has a great day and keeps up the smiling when they can – but don’t be afraid to be sad. It’s good for you.