Sunday, 10 February 2013

30 days of Meditation

One of my other new year's resolutions was to start meditating daily.  For some reason, I never got around to this one.  Well, I figure better late than never.

Starting tonight, I'm going to meditate for at least five minutes every day for at least 30 days.  I'm very curious if I see a change in my stress levels and clarity because of this.

I really believe we need to treat our health as a whole, part of it through diet, the other through exercise, and lastly our mental state of mind.  I've read a lot of articles lately on the benefits of meditation.  I think it's time to stop talking about it and just do it.

I'm not sure really why I keep putting it off.  I mean, who doesn't have five minutes to spare?  I've tried setting my alarm clock a few minutes earlier, but first thing in the morning I a just too tired.  At bed time I just want to go to bed.  But really, these are just excuses.  Like anything else in life that takes effort, like exercise, it is about developing a habit.  That is why I am committing to this for 30 days.  After that, I'm hoping that I will have developed a habit.

Friday, 8 February 2013

The Big C

This morning I found out via Facebook that one of our acquaintances has just been diagnosed with breast cancer.  In the six years that my husband and I have been together, this is now the 5th person that we have personally known to be diagnosed with breast cancer specifically.  One of those woman was a wife and mother to two young boys and is no longer with us anymore. 

Cancer is becoming such an epidemic in North America.  You ask anyone and they personally know at least one person who has battled with some form of cancer. The rates of cancer in North America are so much higher than the rest of the world.  North American diet and lifestyle have to be the link. 

I'm not saying that if you eat a plant based diet that you are guaranteed not to ever get sick.  But the odds are so much better!

I'm also so very frustrated at just not knowing what is in our food.  Packaged food is deceivingly labelled to the point that nobody knows what they are eating.  When did we give up the right to know what we were putting into our bodies and our childrens' bodies?  We blindly assume that if it is sitting on the shelf then it must be safe to consume. 

Everyone is looking for a cure for cancer and raising funds for research for better treatments.  What about prevention?  People accept the fact the smoking causes lung cancer.  Nobody in their right mind would dispute that.  People need to be educated about the food they put into their bodies.  Read food labels.  If you can't understand an ingredient, don't eat it. 

Even better yet, consume foods as close to their natural state as possible.  Eat fresh fruits and vegetables that grow in the ground. 

I really hope that our friend wins her battle with cancer.  More than that, I hope North America wakes up to the epidemic all around them and sees that the prevention is not as mysterious or difficult as they might think.  The research is done.  Read "The China Study" or watch "Forks Over Knives" and make the decision for yourself. 

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Love of Quinoa

O.K. for a few years now I kept hearing about this food called quinoa.  I was curious about it, but didn't bother to try it until a few months ago.  I instantly fell in love.  The first time I made it, I used it instead of rice for a stir fry.  It was easy enough to cook (similar cooking method to rice) and the texture was amazing.  Each little kernel kind of popped in my mouth as I chewed, and I loved it!  Another good thing about quinao is the versatility of it.  It can be used in so many ways, as a warm breakfast, in salads and even in baking!  Of course, let's not forget that it is high in protein and is gluten free. 

I was very excited when I recently heard on the radio that quinoa was named food of the year by the United Nations.  The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has officially declared that the year 2013 be recognized as "The International Year of the Quinoa." Proposed by the government of Bolivia and receiving strong support from many Central and South American countries, quinoa has now been singled out by the FAO as a food with "high nutritive value," impressive biodiversity, and an important role to play in the achievement of food security worldwide. We realize that quinoa remains unfamiliar to many people, especially in the practical sense of cooking and recipes. But we hope that situation will change, given the remarkable nature of this easily-prepared, nutrient-rich food. (quoted from here:

My most recent experiment with quinoa was a recipe for Quinoa Potato Cakes (Quinoa Aloo Tikkis).  I didn't take a picture of my finished project, but here is a picture from Soni's Food Blog just to show how good they look:

I love Indian inspired food and these were so yummy and crispy and full of yummy goodness.  The best thing is they were so easy to make!
I also love making quinoa salads.  I start with cooked, cooled quinoa and basically add anything I want.  Last night I made a salad with quinoa, beets, zucchini, carrots, avocado, ginger and balsamic dressing.  The beets turned everything pink, but it tasted delicious!
The next thing that I really want to try is this recipe for quinoa chocolate cake.  I will definitely post some pictures and let you all know how it turns out once I have time to try it. 
My husband absolutely refuses to try my "hippie" quinoa, and usually refers to it as alien brains.  I wonder if he would try it in a chocolate cake?

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The Downsides to Plant Based

Due to the fact that I made my transition to a plant based diet so quickly and extremely (I was did not eliminate foods slowly or even make the switch from vegetarian to a vegan diet.  I literally went from omnivore to vegan overnight) I have been able to see the changes my diet has caused rather quickly as well.

I noticed that my asthma was gone and I had more energy than I had ever known.  This I noticed almost immediately.  I started this journey on January 1st, and on January 2nd I was back to work after Christmas holidays.  Everyone in the office was saying how how it was to come back after the time off and they were all so sleepy.  I was energised and raring to go. 

I did notice that my skin was not looking so great, which surprised me since all I had heard was how a person who adopts a whole foods plant based diet will have glowing skin.  I also noticed that I was moody and emotional.  Of course, I had just made a major change in my diet and I had read that there could be a detox period. 

This past week I have developed a bad eczema break out on my face (I really hate having red bumps all over my face).  At first I thought it was acne, but then recognised that it was actually eczema, as I had had it before.  Again, I was surprised at this.  Other times when I had an eczema outbreak I figured it was the foundation makeup I was using and just stopped using my make up for a week or so and used lots of moisturisers and it cleared up.  This time, I had not been using make up for a few weeks. 

I started googling causes of eczema.  Apparently one of the most common causes is wheat intolerance.  Hmmmmm, can you guess what I have been eating a lot more of since I stopped eating meat and dairy?  Can you guess what was totally easy to grab for a snack when I didn't feel like more fruit or vegetables?  You guessed it ... bagels, english muffins, toast.  I was eating a lot more wheat than I usually did. 

So, it seems I may have to restrict my diet further to test this theory and see if my eczema clears up.  I'm trying to see the positive in this.  Instead of looking at it as one more thing that I can't eat, this is going to be what forces me to eat more fruits and veggies and less of the bread, which isn't that great anyway. 

It's also an opportunity to experiment and explore further into alternative grains such as quinoa and coconut flour. 

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Vegan 'Goat Cheese'

There are two things that I really miss so far in eating a plant based diet, bacon and goat cheese.  Bacon reminds me of my dad, of Sunday morning brunches when I was a kid and scallops wrapped in bacon on New Year's Eve.  You ask any of my co-workers and they would say that I was obsessed with bacon.  I always said that bacon made everything better, and I even had this picture on my screen saver on my work computer:

I haven't experimented with any bacon substitutes yet because well, I know it just won't be the same.  I also think I need to give it some time and just break the obsession.

My love of goat cheese started when we went on a family vacation to Salt Spring Island.  I had never tried goat cheese before our trip, and my grandparents told me to definitely try it there because they have so many sheep and goat farms and make it locally.  I fell it love instantly.  We found some that had been infused with basil and garlic and it was the perfect thing on crackers or in a salad. 

A couple of weeks ago I was making a salad to bring to our friends' for dinner.  I wanted a salad with a lot of stuff in it.  I started with greens, then added sliced up apple, carrots, tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sliced almonds and dried cranberries.  The dressing was made with apple cider vinegar, olive oil, minced garlic and basil.  As I was preparing the salad a thought popped into my head that goat cheese would be the perfect finishing touch for the salad.  I then got very sad as I realised that I would not eat goat cheese again. 

Well, last night I tried a recipe for vegan 'goat cheese' that may have saved me from vegan mourning.  I found a fantastic recipe on Spabettie's blog.  It is a nut based cheese and very easy to make.  You soak the nuts for a couple of hours and then blend the nuts in the food processor with apple cider vinegar, water and lemon juice. Then, you let the 'cheese' culture in a sealed container in a dark warm cupboard overnight. 

I tried my goat cheese on an english muffin this morning and it was really good!  The texture consistency was spot on.  Next time, I've going to add some roasted garlic and fresh basil to the mix before set it aside to culture. 

I'm so excited about this.  That's one of the things about this new path.  Everything is like a new adventure.  I get so excited when I am grocery shopping and I find something new that is plant based and I am trying all these new recipes and cooking more than ever before. 

While I may mourn the loss of foods from the past, with all their sentiment and emotional attachments, I would never in a million years have been trying and experiencing all these new things if I hadn't given up those foods. 

Friday, 1 February 2013

Kicking the Sugar Habit

I used to be a girl who was very good at dieting.  I was even better at gaining it all back.  I can't count how many times I've lost and gain the same 30 pounds.  When I was dieting, I was very good and keeping a food log and making sure I stayed in my calorie count for the day.  To me, a calorie was a calorie whether it came from lettuce or a chocolate bar.  I used to love things like instant flavoured oatmeal (with lots of sugar).  I then switched to buying plain instant oatmeal, but I still had to use a no calorie sweetener (which most of the ones out there are so bad for you for so many reasons). 

I have stopped being a slave to counting calories.  Instead, I have focused on putting whole, nutritious, nutrient dense food into my body until I am full.  I have also tried to kick the sugar habit. 

Some people have said that sugar is as addicting as cocaine.  I would believe this to be true.  Sugar is hidden in so many packaged and processed foods to make you eat more and buy more.  There is sugar hidden in practically everything if you take the time to look.  I decided that I was going to try and avoid all sugar where possible. 

For my instant oatmeal, I couldn't go sugar free instantly.  I started buying the flavoured oatmeal that had 50% of the sugar.  Then I started getting plain oatmeal and adding a little honey and cinnamon.

This morning I was out of ingredients to make my usual green smoothie for breakfast, so I decided to stop at Starbucks on the way to work.  I wasn't sure if they would have anything I could have for breakfast, but I was pleasantly surprised to find they had steel cut oatmeal with different options for toppings including maple brown sugar and a mixture of nuts and seeds.  Along with my large soy latte (my new favorite treat), I ordered the oatmeal without the sugar, just the nuts and seeds.  A little sprinkle of cinnamon and it was really good!

As I was eating the oatmeal I realized something ... I was eating oatmeal with absolutely no sugar, and I liked how it tasted!  I didn't think that was something that would ever be possible!

I had officially kicked the sugar addiction.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Avacado Love

One of the benefits of starting this journey into plant based eating is discovering all these new and delicious foods that you never would have eaten before.  At the beginning it was like, "Hmmmmm, what can I eat?"  Now it feels like there is so much!

I have completely fallen in love with avacados.  Prior to eating plant based, the only way I ate avacado was in a California Roll when we ate sushi.  Now I eat avacados all the time.  Avacados are high in fat, but it is good fat and there is no cholesteral because it is not animal fat.  I love using avacodo as a spread instead of mayonaise.  I know there is a product on the market called Veganaise, but I've tried to avoid that as it feels just as processed and unhealthy to me.  Avacado is nature's perfect mayo, all ready to go, just slice and spread. 

Of course, let's not forget guacamole!  You can dip anything in there from veggies, baked pita chips to taco chips. 

This morning we all went to Tim Hortons to grab some coffee and breakfast before work/school.  On the way, my husband asked me if there is even anything I can eat at Tim Hortons, and admitted that he was still very confused as to what I can and cannot eat.  I said that I would get a bagel.  I remembered to pack an avacado that was the perfect ripeness and needed to be used today or it would go bad.  Of course, in the old days I would have gotten a bacon bagel belt (bacon, egg, cheese, lettuce, tomato) on a cheddar cheese bagel. 

So we place our order, and my husband gave me a strange look when I ordered my coffee black and my bagel whole, untoasted.  "Oh right creamcheese is dairy," my husband mumbled to himself as if just realizing it for the first time. 

I am lucky enough to have a kitchen in my office that is equipped with a toaster.  As I was toasting my bagel, I got my coconut milk from the fridge and added it to my black coffee.  I then sliced open my avacado and spread it on my mulitgrain bagel.

It was the best breakfast ever.  The avacado was creamy and it was nice and filling.  This is a breakfast I would never have discovered if I wasn't looking for an alternative to cream cheese.