Archive for ‘Veganism’

June 29, 2011

Me You and the World

Get Out There!

The coolest things that have come my way as a result of my effort to swim are the changes that I see in some of my current relationships as well as the gift of some new relationships. Putting myself “out there” has fostered a real sense of community in me. I have talked to absolute strangers who have seen my picture on the CBC website and are excited for me and just want to show their support.

I have now had two interviews with Hallie Cotnam and she is not just a great broadcaster and journalist but a really cool person that I have met and feel like I have a connection with. Spending time discussing my story, both the challenges and rewards, makes me feel a bit more understood, a lot more heard, and certainly more connected to the community at large.

Getting emails, blog comments, voice messages, text messages, status update feedback and messages of support and encouragement from across the nation has further connected me to the world around me in a way that is indescribable.  There is a level of honestly and sincerity present that is not typical with people I find. I have opened up, and put information about me out there that I had previously kept mostly to myself; the result is that many people have related to that, and to what I am going through. With the exception of a few jokesters out there, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

I have noticed that some of my most important relationships have shifted slightly as well. This experience has opened up lines of dialogue with friends and family that haven’t been open in a while due to my depression. Let me be clear, these are lines that I myself closed off, in many ways out of necessity, but slowly I can see them opening nonetheless.

The most important relationship I have, the one with my twelve year old daughter, is perhaps the one that I am most excited about. On the surface there haven’t been a lot of differences, but there is a level of confidence and pride on my part that has been eluding me as of late. I am proud of what I am doing. I feel like I am a good example to her in all of this. I am hopeful that she sees that she can ask for help when she needs it too. One journalist I was recently speaking with used the expression “grabbing the bull by the horns” to describe my effort to put my health first. As a proud vegan, I would never grab a bull that didn’t grab me first, but I get her point!  This is something else that I hope my daughter can glean from this situation.

As is the case with the physical changes I have witnessed, it is a miracle to me to be able to observe the depth of change that has taken place in such a short period of time. Tomorrow I will look at some of the more subtle changes that are taking place in my life, those in the area of my mental health. Until then, I will just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

PS. Today was a significant milestone in my swimming. I swam for a total of 60 minutes!  This is a good 12 minutes longer than any other time I have swam but it is also important because it is the goal I set for myself when I first got into the water, and the amount of time I will settle at moving forward. This week I have let go of counting laps, and will just focus on the 60 minutes. Moving forward, my goal will be to maximize the number of laps I can do in an hour, pushing myself to better my lap time gradually. Wish me luck!

Peace,

Leslie

June 17, 2011

Commingled Quinoa Concoction

Splendid Superfood Soup

There is a 50/50 chance when I mention the superfood Quinoa that I get a kind of blank stare but this didn’t stop me from throwing together another MEkitchen favourite for Puree Fantasia. I call it the Commingled Quinoa Concoction, call is quinoa soup if you like! It’s yum, very filling, and very healthy. We’re talking over 13 grams of protein and 6 grams of fibre per serving. This is a great main dish soup, that should be served warm with a nice crusty roll or a piece of ancient whole grain bread. For Puree Fantasia, it was of course, pureed but it doesn’t have to be.  The 4th entry in the 5 part series is sure to delight.

 

If you want to print it off, click on the MEkitchen tab and bring up the printable format.

 

Peace

Leslie

June 16, 2011

MEkitchen Molten Muschetta

You Say Bruschetta I Say…

Its day 3 of the MEkitchen Puree Fantasia series and today’s is a personal favourite,  Bruschetta Soup or as I like to call it MEkitchen Molten Muschetta. Another super simple recipe that is very versatile. It’s delicious as an appetizer or a main course, serves well cool or warm, and can be pureed or left as is.  A great make ahead and freeze item, but when something is so easy, there is really no need. Whip up a batch the day before your next dinner party or BBQ and your will have a winner with all.

As is the case with all MEfurbish recipes you can go over to the MEkitchen tab and find all recipes available in a printable format.

Peace,

Leslie

June 15, 2011

MEkitchen Green Salad Smash

Slurp Your Greens

Day 2 of the Puree Fantasia recipe series and today we will do our salad course. This recipe is amazing simple and surprisingly delicious. Its great for using up leftover greens, and a fun way to get more greens into your child’s diet as well. As is the case with most soups, it is tastier on the second day once the flavours have had a chance to mingle. Make it a day ahead and your laughing ! I like to garnish it with a drizzle of vegan sour cream, I have found none better than the one here.

So without further ado, here is the recipe for the MEkitchen Green Salad Smash.

For a printable format of this recipe, please check out the MEkitchen tab.

Peace,

Leslie

June 14, 2011

Belgian Flag Hummus

Hummus Triple Play

So as I shared in my Puree Fantasia post, I recently enjoyed an entire meal of pureed food with friends. Today, I will share with you the first recipe from that meal called Belgian Flag Hummus. The is a really simple recipe, actually three recipes, that present really well together. You will end up making three creamy MEkitchen versions of hummus, a black bean hummus, a roasted red pepper hummus, and an anything but standard chickpea hummus. They are all delicious in their own right, but amazing served together. For easily printable versions of these recipes please go to the MEkitchen tab or click on the recipe image. Lets get started with my friends personal favourite MEkitchen Roasted Red Pepper Hummus.




June 13, 2011

Puree Fantasia

Damn You Universe!

There’s a pretty good chance that you are reading this post solely because you saw the headline and want to know what the heck puree fantasia is. Just because I am a pain in the butt I am going to make you wait for a bit on that one and spend some time  on some of the details leading up to the main event.

A dear friend of mine was recently in a pretty serious bicycle accident and lost some of her teeth in the process. EEEEEK! I know, your nose just involuntarily scrunched up and you are a little queasy.  Imagine her! In a recent Facebook post I vented that I have a bone to pick with the universe. This is just the latest in a long line of BS that my friend and her husband have had to go through. It’s starting to piss me off! Let me take this opportunity to wish her a speedy recovery.

Here’s To Us

This past weekend we had planned to get together with another couple to enjoy a delicious vegan meal, have a few drinks and celebrate our friendship. The accident and her health brought into question whether or not we would be able to get together at all, with her own care being priority number one. If it was going to happen though we would need to think about what menu would work with her newly re-inserted teeth and doctor’s orders to stay away from solid foods.

The group of us all quickly bough-in to the idea that we would never sit around a table eating a meal that she could not partake in, so it would be puréed food for everyone! In a conversation with my friend I was letting her know that if she could make it, we still wanted to go ahead and celebrate and that the menu would be a “puree fantasia.” The word fantasia just popped into my head that moment so I said it, feeling silly, but the name stuck all weekend. I was pleased to see today when I looked up the definition that it actually rings true! According to dictionary.com fantasia is defined as the following:

fan·ta·sia [fan-tey-zhuh, -zhee-uh, fan-tuh-zee-uh]

noun

  1. music
    1. composition in fanciful or irregular form or style.
    2. potpourri of well-known airs arranged with interludes and florid embellishments.
  2. fantasy
  3. something considered to be unreal, weird, exotic, or grotesque.

Mushy Goodness

That actually works! The menu was a composition of fanciful and irregular form. It was a potpourri of well-known items with interludes and florid embellishments. It was most certainly weird, unreal and possibly grotesque should the wrong person stumble into the room.  In reality, there was no better description for the 5 course meal I planned out. In the end it was very well received and by all accounts quite tasty for all involved.  The evening’s menu was as follows:

  1. Belgian Flag Hummus
  2. Green Salad Smash
  3. MEkitchen Molten Muschetta
  4. Commingled Quinoa  Concoction
  5. Pulverized Pumpkin Pudding

Starting tomorrow, for the next five days I will share the recipes above prepared with love in the MEkitchen. Each of them is vegan but liked by all. Not in the mood for pureed food? No worries. All of these recipes can be made without the final step of blending, though I would not recommend it for the hummus or the pudding. Come back tomorrow for recipe number one, then prepare, share, enjoy and let me know what you think!

Peace,

Leslie

April 26, 2011

Right Back At It

Four Day Week!

It was a busy Easter weekend, and while it was great, and it was nice to spend some extra time with family and friends, I am glad that it’s over. In my journey of MEfurbishment, one of the most important things I have going for me are my routines. Much has been said and written about the routines of children over the years. I have come to believe that routines are equally important to adults too but certainly they are to me.

My level of awareness, regarding what contributes to stress and what alleviates it in me, has grown considerably over the past year. While I absolutely love holidays and special events, they also add more stress in my life because of their impact on my routines. Routine becomes a stress reducer in many ways because of its familiarity but also because it ensures that I am getting what I need to be happy and healthy. As long as my routine is set up with my MEbucket’s in mind, there is a dramatically positive impact on my happiness and well-being.

Our routines ensure that we have a balance of all of the buckets that we want to work on in our lives. Changes to these routines can sometimes swing a pendulum too far in the direction of one particular area. For example, I can very easily put all of my focus on family and friends and take time away from things like health, finances and creative endeavours. Coming out of a holiday weekend I can often feel like I have spent too much money and really need time to myself. In recent months I am also discovering that when I don’t prioritize my creative endeavours I really notice a difference in my energy and contentedness.

Going into this long weekend, I took a look at each of my buckets and decided how I would ensure I maintained the balance that I need in my life. Let’s have a look at how I did:

Health

Going into Easter weekend I wanted to focus on two major things to ensure that I was prioritizing my health bucket.  I wanted to make certain that I kept up my meditation practice during the weekend. This is something that I can easily let slip on a long weekend and I really notice the difference in my level of grounded-ness when I meditate. The other key ingredient was healthful food choices. I managed to make both of these happen despite a visit from the Easter Bunny.

Finances

My tendency is to spend too much money at holiday times and I wanted to make sure this was not the case this Easter. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s not the holiday event itself where I regret my spending but in the other things I write off in holiday weekend cash dumps. Going out for meals, additional un-needed shopping sprees, and a desire to fill up my long weekend with additional events like, movies, concerts, museums and the like are all things that have derailed me in the past. This Easter weekend I was able to keep my spending in check which is a great feeling coming into the start of the week.

Creativity

Normally the first thing to go during a busy holiday weekend, creativity was something that I was really focused on making sure it still had its place. A couple of things helped me out in that area. I wanted to make a new and exciting Vegan Easter feast, this being my first Vegan Easter. Cooking is always a creative experience for me because I rarely use a recipe as it is written. I will often use a recipe as a base and experiment with it until it is perfect for the MEkitchen.  I ended up with a delicious Carrot Coconut Bisque and a hearty Mushroom Quinoa Loaf. Next was time spent writing and taking pictures of my gastronomic fun to share on MEfurbish. The photography aspect of the recipe posts really got my creative juices flowing. I have missed photography and while I would not call the quick point and shoot stuff I did this weekend very creative, it really got me thinking about what I could do with recipes and photography in the future. I am really looking forward to working on this more in the months ahead.

Environment

There were a few ways that I made the environment a focus this weekend. With all its busyness it would have been easy to just pick up something like Tofurky instead of spending the time preparing my own meal, especially with the fact that I am the only vegan in my home. Taking the time to pick up bulk, and mostly local ingredients, saved on packaging and travel and making a large batch of food will save on energy costs in the upcoming few weeks as I enjoy leftovers. Another way in which I expanded on the environment bucket was to attend a local EcoExpo here in my home town of Ottawa. Any time I can educate myself and make new contacts I am making progress here.

Community

Community is something that was fostered by the EcoExpo I was at as well. The ‘Green”  community as well the Vegan community both had a presence at the Expo and networking with these individuals and gaining awareness about the industry as a whole is helpful.  I also made a decision to attend a function of another community organization I belong too instead of one of the family events that I have taken part in every year since my childhood. The event I let go of  does not feed me in the same way as the function I chose. It was a hard decision to make, but one that I am glad I made in the end for my own peace of mind.

Fun

This was an easy one for me to work on. Spending time with family and friends, buying treats and gifts for my daughter, cooking, listening to tons of music, and spending lots of time writing are all things that I find fun. I was able to easily work these and more into the four days of the weekend.

Relationships

Like fun, relationships are easy one for me to focus on within a holiday weekend. Spending time with family and friends works on these relationships by default. In looking for opportunities to take special action in working on key relationships I made a concerted effort to spend time with some of them that have taken a back seat lately. One area that may seem trivial but that was important to me was taking the time to send a few emails that I haven’t made the time to do recently. Out of all of the steps I took this weekend, this simple one, may have had the greatest impact on my mood, and serenity. Clearly, it was something that was taking up too much space in my head.

Even with all the work on keeping things balanced, things just seem to go smoother when the day to day routines kick back in. Spontaneity and routine used to seem like polar opposites to me, but what I have found is that my routines allow me to be spontaneous without feeling like I am taking away from something else. This is a big shift and an enjoyable one.

Peace,

Leslie

April 25, 2011

Mushroom Quinoa Loaf

Vegan Easter Main Course

The main course of this year’s Vegan Easter was a Mushroom Quinoa Loaf with gravy that turned out great.  As was the case with the Carrot and Coconut Bisque that I made for the appetizer, I had a couple of inspirations for this recipe. Last week a wonderful friend made a delicious Quinoa loaf with onion chutney and it was just absolutely delicious. I decided to do some exploring online and found that Joel at vegangoodeats.com had posted a recipe for another take on Quinoa loaf. I used this recipe as a base, my friend’s recipe as inspiration, and a little MEfurbish modification to make it my own. Please try this, it is very easy to prepare. There are some great tips for cooking quinoa on vegangoodeats.com as well if you are not familiar with this very versatile superfood.  I also made Joel’s mouth-watering super healthy Cashew Mushroom Gravy to serve with the loaf. Coupled with fresh veggies and roasted potatoes, this made a fantastic Vegan Easter meal. I will make it again, long before next Easter!

Have a look at some photos of the preparation in action!

Enjoy!

Leslie

April 24, 2011

Carrot and Coconut Bisque

Vegan Easter Feast

In preparation for my first Vegan Easter I spent some time today preparing for the festivities tomorrow. As a Vegan living in a house full of omnivores it’s great when I can prepare food that the whole gang will eat. My family has been great at making a few simple changes to allow me to partake in much of the fare. Using Earth Balance and egg-replacer and almond milk are a few of the simple tweaks that family members have done to help out with the Easter dinner menu.  I offered to make a delicious Carrot and Coconut Bisque for an appetizer that I know everyone will love. The recipe I have posted here was inspired by a recipe I found on vegangoodeats.com one of the many awesome Vegan food sites out there. I really loved his idea of using baby carrots for two reasons. First, they are already peeled and small enough not to have to chop. Second you buy them by weight so it’s really easy to buy the right amount! I changed it up a bit for my own tastes, and the recipe you see below is my updated version.

Carrot and Coconut Bisque Recipe

Ingredients:

3 pounds baby carrots

1 ½ large onions chopped

4 garlic cloves minced

½ teaspoon of fresh ginger minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon of white pepper [I]

4 cups (1 quart) low sodium vegetable broth

1 14oz can coconut milk

Juice of 2 blood oranges [II]

2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup

1 bunch of chives or green onions (optional)

Method: (see photos below)

  1. Heat oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook for approximately 10 minutes until golden and caramelized.
  2. Add the carrots and cook until slightly brown, then add in the garlic and ginger. Cook for about 2-3 more minutes stirring frequently.
  3. Add the curry, cumin, salt, pepper and cinnamon, stir.
  4. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, covered for 20 minutes or until carrots pierce easily with a fork.
  5. Add coconut milk, blood orange juice and maple syrup and stir to combine. Let cool slightly and use an immersion blender to puree or transfer to a standing blender in small batches to blend. [IV]
  6. Sprinkle with chives or green onions before serving.
  7. This recipe is best done a day ahead of time for full flavour effect, and what could be better than checking one thing off the to do list before the big day!

Notes:

I.  Black pepper is fine as well, it will just be visible in the brightly coloured bisque

II.  Blood oranges are perfect because of their intense flavour and color, if they are not available, you can use any type of orange.

III.  A few ingredients are not show in the photos as I was tweaked as I went along. The written recipe should be followed vs. the photos.

IV.  Never fill a blender to top with hot liquid and blend, the steam can cause explosions.


  • Ingredients all ready to go!

  • Olive oil in the pan is ready to go when a few sprinkles of water from your fingers sizzle and pop.

  • Onions caramelized and ready for next step.

  • Add carrots and cook until they start to lightly brown

  • Add broth, boil and simmer, covered.

  • Just after coconut milk, orange juice and maple syrup are added.

  • All blended up!

  • The Final Product.

Enjoy!

Leslie

April 21, 2011

What The Bleep Am I Eating? Part II

Natural vs. Synthetic

In What The Bleep Am I Eating? Part 1 I shared my surprise at the list of ingredients that are found in a box of Kellogg’s All-Bran. Not knowing what some of these ingredients even are, and where others are typically sourced I decided to do some research in order to make an informed decision about what I am eating.

A few things are worth noting before we delve into the ingredients themselves.

  •  When a vitamin or mineral is added as an ingredient it can be added in its natural form or created synthetically. Just determining that the ingredient is vitamin or mineral does not mean it is “natural” or “healthy”. It is not a requirement in Canada or the US to label the source or call out genetic modifications.
  • Being a Vegan, I will call attention to the fact that labels do not show if a source ingredient is vegan or not, we vegans have to do some digging to determine that fact.
  • As a general rule, it is accepted (by everyone except large corporations and their proponents) that the less processing that takes place on foods the better.
  • When vitamins and minerals are added to products, it is often because these nutritional components were removed during processing.

The Low Down

MALT FLAVORING

I was surprised to find in my research that “Malt Flavouring” is often a form of hidden MSG used in consumer foods. It is called a flavour “enhancer” but many of the articles I read on its creation and use referred also to its addictive behaviours, a variety of health concerns, and the ability to make lesser quality food taste “better.”  If you would like to read more about the research I did, you can read here, here, and here.  In the end I have decided that I would be on the lookout for malt flavouring ion products and choose not to partake in eating them as much as possible.

CALCIUM PHOSPHATE, and CALCIUM CARBONATE

These minerals are used as additives in many foods. I spent a fair amount of time researching both of these types of Calcium and was unable to determine any real concerns with either. I was also pleased to see that both are vegan.  You can see some additional information about their uses and sources at The Vegetarian Resource Group here.

ASCORBATE AND ASCORBIC ACID

This is Vitamin C and as is the case with any of the vitamin and mineral ingredients are of no concern and are in fact helpful to the body. One point that has become clear to me through some of this research is that there is no way to know with certainty that they are not sourced from genetically modified plants is to buy organic. For example if I was to purchase Natures Path Organic Smart Bran, I would know that the source ingredients were also organic unless otherwise labeled on the box.

REDUCED IRON

The term “reduced” is not in reference to the amount of iron in the product but the process by which the iron was refined. As with the other mineral and vitamin ingredients, other considerations would be if the product is organic how much processing or refining takes place. For example, a cereal that has four whole grains and a resulting percentage of iron is quite different than a product where the grain is processed, manipulated, removed of nutrients and supplementary synthetic vitamins and minerals are added. In my world, the simpler, the more whole, and the less processed the ingredients are the better.

NIACINAMIDE

This is another name for Niacin which is a type of Vitamin B. In looking for natural sources of Niacin I can look to legumes and whole grains. Because only the “Bran” of the wheat is used in All-Bran it is higher in fibre but not whole grain and therefore processed.

PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE

Another synthetic B vitamin like Niacin. In this case, I could look to whole grain rice as a natural source, as well as the brain itself.

RIBOFLAVIN

For the purposes of food production this B vitamin is sourced from fungus and/or bacteria. A more palatable alternative would be leafy green vegetables.

FOLIC ACID

Folic Acid comes in both vegan and non-vegan forms typically in food production. I have heard through the Vegan Grapevine that the only way to know for sure if a producer uses a vegan (synthetic or fungal) source is to contact the company directly. Thankfully, others have gone before me and the accidentally vegan website by PETA has already established that All-Bran is in fact Vegan. They have done the legwork for me on this one.  Looking for a natural source? Look to mushrooms and green leafy veggies to get your fill.

THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE

Similar to others we have discussed above, this is a synthetic B Vitamin that occurs naturally in whole grains legumes, nuts, fruits, and vegetables

VITAMIN A PALMITATE

One of several names for Vitamin A, this can be both vegan and non-vegan in processed foods, in this case being vegan. It can be found in its natural form in milk, eggs, some fish oil but for vegans, “many orange and yellow vegetables contain a substance which is transformed in the body into the vitamin” as per The Vegetarian Resource Group.

VITAMIN B12

Occurs naturally only in Animal Foods, but in this case is created synthetically.

VITAMIN D

This can be vegan or non but is often sourced from animal products for food production, it can also be created through fungus or synthetically.

So What Do I Do Now?

So what does this all tell us? Well I think it each of us something different as well all have different priorities and values. For me personally, it is clear to me that I would prefer other products to this one even though it is Vegan. I try to avoid making absolute statements, this just sets me up to fail later and creates an unhealthy feeling of restriction, so I am instead making a decision to avoid this product moving forward, where possible. If circumstances arise that make choosing All-Bran the best choice for me in that given moment, I am going to allow for that possibility. I think this is a balanced and grayer step in my health MEbucket.

Peace,

Leslie