Chitika

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Raw vegan avocado lemon pie.

Stay with me on this one.  I know what you might be thinking ("Gross!"), but if you like avocados and lemon, then this just may be the pie for you.

But first, I need to provide you with a bit of a backstory, because there is quite the backstory that goes along with this pie.  On Thursday night I went to Gorilla Food, a raw vegan restaurant located in Downtown Vancouver.  I've never eaten there before, but I love raw food, so when my friend Keith and I were trying to come up with a place to eat, I suggested it.  I ordered my dinner, then, when I was waiting for Keith to finish ordering, I saw a beautiful piece of pie in the display case and saw that it was labeled "Avocado Lemon Pie".

Now I love avocado, I love lemon, I love pie and I love raw foods, so this was my kind of dessert.  I asked the lady behind the counter if she would put the pie aside for me (there was only one piece left), and she said she would. Dinner was terrific, but I had my heart set on that pie.

I went up to buy my pie and quickly dove in.  Something was not right almost immediately.  Although the texture was divine (sort of like a mousse cake), the taste was all off.  I ate a few bites but couldn't taste it properly.  Then my mouth started to tingle and I was getting thirsty and just started feeling... off. Halfway through I told my friend Keith to eat the rest of the pie and I got up to get some more water. I asked the lady behind the counter whether there were brazil nuts in the pie.  She said that there were.  I have anaphylactic reactions to none other than brazil nuts.  I had asked about brazil nuts in my dinner, but had forgotten to ask about the pie.  Maybe deep down I knew that there were death nuts in it and if I knew I would never get to try it.  In any event, an Epipen and a trip to the emergency room later, I'm still alive, and still thinking about that damn pie that got away!

So today I made my own version (without brazil nuts, of course).  Here are the ingredients I used:

Crust:

  • 10 dates
  • 2 cups cashews
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup raw honey (I know, honey isn't considered vegan, but I eat honey.  I'm sure you could easily and tastily substitute maple syrup)
Filling:
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds (I would pre-grind the chia seeds next time)
Blend the ingredients for the crust in a food processor until crumbly, then transfer into a pie dish or springform pan and press into shape. Then put it in the fridge while you put the filling ingredients through the food processor as well.  

Poor the filling into the crust then allow to set for two or more hours.  I also made a couple of small bite-sized pies to bring in to work to share with a couple of co-workers that enjoy raw food.
My husband and I just had our first pieces, and I have to say, I'm impressed.  Not only does it not taste weird because I'm not allergic to it, but the texture is heavenly and it's so healthy!  My husband is less of a fan of the avocado and even he liked it, particularly the crust.  I don't find that it tastes like avocado very much at all, but he assures me that it does!
In any event, I'm glad that I decided to make it after the near-death experience a few days ago!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Vegan pumpkin pancakes

I don't know exactly what possessed me, but around Thanksgiving, I thought I should make something incorporating pumpkin because I wasn't going to be able to partake in the pumpkin pie this year.  I don't even really mind, because I've never been a huge fan of pumpkin pie, but I know pumpkin is really good for me, so I thought it might be fun to try a couple of recipes incorporating it.

Enter the vegan pumpkin pancakes!  We have now started having these pancakes every Sunday, they're so good!  Here are the ingredients that I use:

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cup coconut beverage (any type of milk or milk substitute would be fine) - plus extra (or you could use a bit of water instead, that's what I do), if the mixture isn't appropriately runny
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup, plus extra for serving with pancakes
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, canned
Mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl, then the wet ingredients (including the pumpkin), in a separate bowl.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until incorporated.  I use a whisk and get it pretty smooth.  Make sure that the batter is runny enough that it will work well for the pancakes!

This recipe makes five large pancakes (I can only eat two, so they're pretty big and oddly filling).  I 
suggest using maple syrup on them, if at all possible.  Enjoy! 

(I'll add a picture next time I make them!)

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Car-free month (or two).

The time has come to say goodbye to my car.  Well, not completely.  But kind of.  I still own my car, but have taken the plate off and switched the insurance over to storage insurance only.  No more driving, at least not with that car, until December.

Before I handed in my plates an hour ago, I did lots of driving, unfortunately.  I had lots of errands to run that would be very hard to do on foot or using public transit.  So I took a few hours today and stopped by my friend Leyna's place to pick up some suits, stop by no less than three different grocery stores (Whole Foods, Superstore and Save On Foods), along with London Drugs and the farmer's market at Lonsdale Quay (today is the last market until next spring, so I thought it would be good to stop by).

I spent most of the time driving in silence, and, of course, I was alone. I took the time to reflect on the nature of driving and what it means to our society and to me personally.  I didn't even have a car until I was 25, and used public transit until then as I was always living in a large city, so the public transit system was more than adequate to get me around.  This was true in Winnipeg, Ottawa and Vancouver.  Then, when I was working in Kamloops, I biked to work for the first few months that I worked there.  Then... I got my car.

After using public transit for my entire adult life to that point, my car represented freedom.  I no longer had to plan out my every movement, because I had a car.  All that mattered was that I had the money to fill it up with gas, as the car came with an excellent warranty.  Oh, and I had to make car payments and pay for insurance, which I still do, to this day.  My car will finally be paid off next August and I am hoping to never make a car payment again after that.  Rest assured, I will never buy another new car.

So, if getting a car means freedom to me, then making it so that I cannot drive my car has definitely resulted in a feeling of being trapped.  Or it was.  What is so funny about our society today is that we feel like we only have one choice.  I felt like when I had a car.  If I was going to go anywhere, I would obviously have to drive.  No distance was too long or too short.  I always had to think of where I would park.  When I still used to drink, I would have to plan around that as well.

But now, I have so many more options.  I could walk (short distances), jog, run, rollerblade (remember rollerblading?), bike, use public transit, carpool, use a Zip Car, or take a taxi.  Although some of the options involve a car, now that I don't have my own car, taking a cab once in a while hardly compares to the daily driving I've been doing for six years.

In the past month since one of the partners at my firm loaned me a bike lock, I've been biking to work as much as possible and not driving on weekends (except today).  I've managed to only use one tank of gas this month, which is about half as much as I normally use.  I'm looking forward to a month of saving money by not driving!

I am also looking forward to a month of living consciously.  Have you ever noticed that when you drive, you don't pay attention to much other than driving?  Which I'm quite sure is the point, but it's not a particularly pleasurable or engaging experience.  Tim always makes fun of me because I spend a lot of time when I'm driving making up back stories for other drivers.  I have been listening to podcasts a lot, which is stimulating, and I get to learn while I'm driving, but generally, city driving is a stressful waste of time for me.

Now compare that to biking to work.  When I bike to work I get exercise first thing in the morning and at the end of the work day.  I am actively thinking the entire time, because I am very careful when I'm driving.  I get to look around, appreciate (or mentally curse!) the weather.  I notice stores that I drive by every day but never really look at.  I love biking.  Every time I bike to work is such a pleasant experience.

However, I live in North Vancouver, which means that some days are not going to be good for biking.  It rains here, particularly over the winter.  And as much as I like biking, I don't like biking when it's pouring.  So I plan to bike on sunny days and cloudy days, but not when it's raining hard in the mornings.  On those days, I'm going to take public transit.

I've already been using public transit when I have to go downtown after work for classes, so I've had some experience with it.  I love public transit because you can read or listen to music or podcasts.  Or you can just stare out the window and get lost in your thoughts.

So, I'm going to try to bike to work as much as possible for the month of November and possibly December, and when I can't bike, I'm going to use public transit.  Also, October 31-November 4 is Vancouver Area Cycling Association's Bike to Work Week, so it's great that it coincided with my first week of being car-free!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Focaccia bread.

I have, once again, outdone myself.  In our harvest box this week we had three sprigs of rosemary.  I was thinking that we might make rosemary potatoes, but then we ended up making a soup that used up our potatoes, so it was back to the drawing board.  I decided to try my hand at making focaccia bread.

Here are the ingredients that I used:

  • three four inch sprigs of organic rosemary (about 1 tbsp)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 a package active dry yeast (I was making a half batch because we couldn't eat a full batch by ourselves)
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh Italian seasoning
  • 1 tbsp olive oil from my jar of sundried tomatoes
I dissolved the sugar in the warm water, then poured it into a large bowl and added the yeast.  Once the yeast was frothing, I stirred in the olive oil, salt, 1/2 a tbsp of the rosemary and the Italian seasoning.  I mixed in one cup of flour, then added flour from the remaining 1/2 cup until the dough held together.  Then I turned it out onto the counter and kneaded the dough, adding flour until it reached the appropriate consistency and tackiness.

I washed out the bowl then sprayed the inside of the bowl with olive oil and put the dough in, spraying the top with oil again and covered it with a towel. When I am allowing my dough to rise, I usually put it in the oven after I've turned on the oven for a minute (and turned it off, of course) to warm it up just a little.  I also leave the light on in the oven.  I let the dough ball rise for an hour, until it had doubled, then took it out to punch it down.

I shaped the dough into a round loaf and placed it on parchment paper that had been sprayed with olive oil on a baking sheet.  I sprinkled the remaining 1/2 tbsp of rosemary over the top of the dough.  I covered the dough with a towel then again put it in the warm-ish oven with the light on for another hour, at which point it had again doubled in size.  After the hour was up, put it in the oven at 375 degrees fahrenheit for 15 minutes.  Here's what it looked like going in:
When the bread came out it was nice and golden brown:
This bread was so light and fluffy and flavourful!  I ate mine with vinegar and some more of the olive oil from my jar of sundried tomatoes, while Tim opted for the balsamic vinegar with plain olive oil, and later used two pieces to make a steak sandwich!

Going car-free for month of November.

I mentioned this in my last post, but didn't realize that I haven't actually put this up on my blog yet: I am going car-free for the month of November!  In my Introduction to Sustainability course, we are required to do a Personal Social Responsibility Plan.  Something that became abundantly obvious to me in completing this assignment is that I drive too much.  Although I drive a lot less now that I have in previous years (for a couple years Tim and I were living in different cities, so there was a lot of driving between where I lived and where he lived, then, when we moved to the Lower Mainland, I first was working in Downtown Vancouver and later in Pitt Meadows, both of which are a bit of a drive from where we live in North Vancouver), it is still too much.

I also notice that for all of my eco-sensitivity, I just take driving for granted.  I jump in my car and drive to wherever I need to be and let it be someone else's problem.  Well, now it's my problem.  I'm going to get used to biking wherever I can, and using public transit as well.  For the rest of this month I'm just going to dabble in both, but next month, it's really on!

So my first order of business was obtaining a lock for my bike.  I've been looking for a lock on Craigslist for a month or so, but have so far been unable to find one that doesn't require me driving a long distance to pick it up.  I guess now I could bike to pick it up and make an adventure out of it!  So I sent out an email at my office and asked if anyone had an extra lock, and immediately three or four people offered to check and see if they had one at home, and one of the partners brought one in after lunch that same day! As I already had my trusty repurposed seatbelt courier bag, I didn't have to worry about that either, although I am thinking after this weekend that I might need paniers.  I am either going to get some second hand or get them from U.S.E.D., the same company I got my courier bag from.  I probably won't absolutely need to get paniers, though, because I'm going to try to plan out the food and clothing that I need to bring to work so that they will already be there for the days that I bike in - I'll just bring them the day before.

So the real question that must be asked is whether all of this effort is "worth it" in the economical sense.  Biking is great exercise and both biking and using public transit are a better choice than driving for the environment, but is it cheaper and if so, does the inconvenience outweigh any savings?

First of all, I will have to buy a bus pass for the month of November.  Since I have to go downtown frequently for school in November (but only about three times per week during peak hours), it makes sense to buy a one zone pass, which costs about $81, but then purchase an Add Fare ($1.25 each time) when necessary, which should be about 12 times during November.  So using public transit will cost me about $96 for the month.  I will also have to purchase parking insurance for my car, which I have not priced yet, but I will assume it will be $20.  I will come back and correct this post if it is wildly more expensive.

However, the insurance for my car costs about $170/month.  I also end up buying two tanks of premium gasoline, which costs about $70/tank, so another $140.  I can't accurately factor in or account for the maintenance costs of my car for the month, but generally during the year I pay about $800 for maintenance, oil changes, etc., plus the extended warranty, which ended up costing about $1,000 per year for the three and a half years that it covered my car.  When you think about it, cars are just unreasonably expensive.  For the purposes of calculating the savings that will accrue from not driving for the month, I'm only going to use the absolute bottom line costs of insurance and gas.

So to use public transit for the month of November, I will end up paying a total of $116.  This would have been even less if I had just sold my car, but I'm not ready for that yet.  The costs I would have paid to operate my car for the month of November, assuming no mechanical or maintenance work was required, would have been $310.  So by using public transit for a month, I will end up saving $196.  Money well saved!

Bicycling.

Given that I've committed to going car-free for the month of November, I thought I should start biking more, so that I'm ready to go once November rolls around.  This has been particularly wonderful because the weather has been really nice for the last few days.  I told myself that this weekend I wouldn't drive anywhere, and so instead I biked.  This was no small feat, as the majority of my weekends are generally comprised of shopping for groceries and baking.  I did all of the grocery shopping this weekend either on foot or on my bike.  While it was challenging - particularly due to the fact that I haven't been biking much recently - it was so much fun!

Yesterday morning I got up and ate some breakfast, then got ready to go to Save On Foods on Brooksbank in North Vancouver.  This store is about ten minutes by car from my home and I tend to go there occasionally because they have an awesome bulk foods section (a great selection of organic bulk foods), and this weekend I was in particular need of bulk foods because I had planned to do some baking.

The weather was fantastic for biking, not so cold your ears get frostbite and your eyes are tearing the entire time, but not warm enough that you get super sweaty.  The ride to Save On Foods was mostly downhill.  It took about twenty minutes, I would say.  I enjoyed looking around, and appreciating the weather. We are lucky in the Lower Mainland because there are lots of bike lanes so that we don't have to contend with vehicles.  I am surprisingly comfortable biking, even when there is quite a bit of traffic.

The way home is mostly uphill, along with a really steep part at Riverside on Mount Seymour Parkway. I made it up without stopping, which was all the more impressive given I had a heavy courier-type bag (my seatbelt bad that I've mentioned before) that I was carrying.

Today I had meant to get up early and go do the Grouse Grind, which Tim and I have been doing on the weekends again after my hiatus of a few weeks.  I didn't get up early enough and knew I had to go and do some grocery shopping at the local Safeway, so I walked over there instead.  This was to pick up the fruits and vegetables that we plan to use during the week.  Then I got changed into bicycling gear and biked from Parkgate in North Vancouver to Commercial Drive in East Vancouver - about 11 km each way!  I know this is less impressive for people that bike often, but it was a genuine workout for me, particularly given the fact that I had also gone biking the day before.  I met up with my friend Leyna, then went and did the rest of the grocery shopping that we needed at Drive Organics and Sweet Cherubim, which are right near where Leyna lives. The bike ride home was quite a bit of uphill and was also quite long, but I managed.  Here is a picture from the middle of the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge:

Something that I must say for biking is that it turns mundane chores and tasks into adventures.  I love it.  I'm just a little disappointed that I didn't start biking earlier in the season.  I've resolved to bike as much as I can from now on, whenever the weather is nice enough for it.  Since the weather is going to be nice for the next couple days, I'm going to give my legs a break tomorrow and bike to and from work on Tuesday!

Vegan chocolate chip cookies.

I am going to admit something to you here that you won't often hear me complain about: I am not the biggest fan in the world of commercially available vegan baked goods.  I'm not going to name any names, but I have had some since I turned vegan and although it certainly is a great answer to a sweet craving, it's just not as satisfying as I wish it was.  And really, I should know better.  I felt the same way about baked goods when I was a vegetarian, so I don't know why I would think it would be better just because now the baked goods I buy are vegan.  Maybe it is because I think that since the stores are so specialized at that point, they must have perfected their recipes.  This is illogical and incorrect.  If you make anything in massive quantities, I am starting to realize it will just never taste as good as the homemade version.

Well, this weekend I decided that I was going to experiment with vegan cookies.  Specifically chocolate chip cookies.  Here were the ingredients I used:

  • 2 and 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup margarine (softened) - I use Earth Balance soy free
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (actually, it was about 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup demerrara sugar because I didn't have enough dark brown sugar, but 3/4 cup brown sugar would have worked)
  • 3/4 cup cane sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp ground chia seeds with 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 tbsp vegan milk (I used coconut milk)
  • 12 ounces (1 and 1/2 cups) dark chocolate chips (vegan) - I used the miniature ones
I combined the flour, salt and baking soda.  I was supposed to sift them together, but I never do this, I put them in a bowl and then I stir them together.  I've never had a problem with using this technique.

In a separate bowl, I blended the the softened margarine, both sugars, vanilla and chia seeds and water together until well combined (about two minutes).  Then I poured the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients and beat them until combined.  The batter was still a bit dry, so I added a bit of extra coconut milk, which made it perfect.  Then I stirred in the chocolate chips.  I placed heaping tablespoonfuls on the cookie sheets and baked at 350 degrees fahrenheit for ten minutes.

This recipe made two full cookie sheets of cookies - plus enough for me to eat a sizeable amount of it raw, which you can do with vegan cookie batter without worrying about the raw eggs!  One piece of advice that I can give is to actually press these cookies together.  The first sheet I put in the oven I didn't do this with and they fell apart a little bit.  The second sheet of cookies I actually formed each cookie by pressing them by hand so that they would hold together and they turned out perfect.  Here is a picture:
Perfect vegan chocolate chip cookies!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Thanksgiving for vegans.

My Thanksgiving plans fell through, so I found out about a week ago that I was going to have to pretty much spend Thanksgiving on my own.  While at first I was sad, I thought maybe I should take the weekend to have some "me time", get caught up on homework, and watch a few environmental and/or vegan movies.  I'm not going to detail my entire weekend in this post, because I did so much, but I will give you an idea of what a "Vegan Thanksgiving" may look like.

First of all, turkey or no turkey, family or no family, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for both the bounty that nature has provided us, as well as for everything we have.  I kept these two concepts in mind throughout the day (and the weekend).

I started the day off with a trip to Whole Foods to get the ingredients that I needed to bake two dishes that I am going to need for a vegan potluck I am going to on Monday night. I also visited the deli department and chose five of the most delicious looking items. Then, I took a somewhat long drive out to Broadway and Yew in Vancouver to get some vegan goodies from Edible Flours, a natural vegan bakery!  I am sort of embarrassed to admit that I got a truffle, a chai chocolate, a chocolate cupcake, a vanilla gluten-free cupcake with chocolate chip cookie crumble, a maple-glazed doughnut, a chocolate cookie and a lemon cookie.  I really wanted to try everything in the store, but I "limited" myself to just those!

Once I got home, I worked on some homework for one of my sustainability courses.  We have to prepare a personal social responsibility plan and submit it in a couple weeks.  It really made me take a long hard look at what I am currently doing and how I can improve (in respect to the environment!).  I realized that the major are that I am not pulling my weight in is with respect of transportation.  So what I'm going to do is de-insure my car for the month of November.  I'll do a post about that later!

After I finished my personal social responsibility plan, I watched a movie about Monsanto and genetic modification.  Then I heated up the foods that needed heating, and it was time to eat!  Here's what my dinner looked like:
Something I'll say for vegan food: It's colourful!  And everything was so darn good!  The only thing that could make it better was something inspiring to watch.  And so guess what I watched?  An Inconvenient Truth.  I've never seen it before, and it was about time.  It was inspiring (a bit of the old rah-rah Al Gore stuff, but I'm able to see past that).  It is, of course, a bit outdated at this point, but the message remains just as pertinent.  If you haven't seen it, you can watch it here for free.

So that was my big vegan Thanksgiving.  I'm pretty sure I did more than just what I wrote in this post, but not much.  It was a pretty good day, but lonely.  To all of you celebrating Thanksgiving with your families, enjoy!  And to all of you, regardless of who you're celebrating with, happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Hearts on Noses mini pig sanctuary.

I was extremely fortunate today.  I went to visit Hearts on Noses mini pig sanctuary in Mission, British Columbia.  I had a wonderful time.  Although I don't think I can encapsulate the entire trip eloquently in words, I took lots of pictures, so hopefully they will give you an idea.  I highly suggest that you contact Janice Gillett, the owner of the sanctuary, and go visit if you are interested.

Hearts on Noses is a sanctuary specifically for pigs that were formerly pets.  There are a few larger pigs (commonly referred to as "hogs", although they are just large pigs, the word "hog" is really a bit negative as Janice explained to me today, which I do agree with), but overall, they are mostly potbellied pigs that were bought as pets.  The sanctuary is located on 2.5 acres, with large pens for the pigs to run around in, and depending on the pigs and their dispositions, sometimes multiple pigs will be living in a pen together.  One pen had an entire family of about eight, but only because they got along well together.  These are hugs pens, so don't worry, the family of eight did not seem cramped in at all - although I'm sure they would rather be running around!
When we arrived, we walked up the driveway and were greeted by the "house pig" of Janice's.  All of the pigs are amazingly warm, affectionate and friendly.  The pig that greeted us (unfortunately I can't remember his name!), came right up to us and let us pet him.  Janice was very welcoming as well.  She clearly has a love for these animals that I would defy any animal lover to match.  It was easy to see why she loved them so much.
Every day Janice lets a group of the pigs have the run of the property.  Today was the day for the big pigs.  Janice let Rose and Comet out of their pens and gave them some food.  Rose is a big lady, and she daintily munched on her breakfast, then, just as she finished, remembered that there might be some food at the rear of the property and RAN there as fast as she could, which was surprisingly fast!  I had a good laugh at that.  I don't think I've ever seen a pig run, and certainly not that quickly (and gracefully).  It was a sight to behold.  Rose also has one very bad hip, which has caused her leg to atrophy, so it was even more impressive that she could move so swiftly having only three fully functioning limbs to run on!
Comet was similarly charming. He has the most endearing habit of throwing himself down on his side whenever you pet him - because he wants you to rub his tummy!  It's amazing that an animal of this size would be so playful and sweet.  I told Janice that I was going to have to point out that he wasn't dead when I took the pictures, because it's just such a strange sight to see a big pig like this lying down in this way!
We also got to see some younger potbellied pigs.  There were two named Olive and Truffles that live together in the same pen.  They move even faster than the larger pigs, and their tails wag just like a dogs, wagging constantly.  I sat next to Olive while she was eating and her mouth made the sweetest little noise when she chewed, "Smack, smack, smack."  I immediately wanted to take her home, which is exactly what the owners of all or most of the pigs at the sanctuary were probably thinking, before the pigs got too big for them to take care of.
The sadder side of the sanctuary is seeing the pigs that have either been abused or neglected.  Although they are all happy, loved and well-socialized at the sanctuary, and have their every need met, it is sad to think that this was not always the case. The pig in the following picture was missing a tusk and an ear.  If I remember correctly, the owners of the pig (prior to being brought to the sanctuary), let their dog rip the ear off.  I can't remember what happened to his tusk but I can imagine.
When I was watching Rose, one of the big pigs, as she was eating, I was reminded of the pigs ears (see this link for just a few reasons why they should not be eaten by dogs, quite aside from the reasons relating to killing animals) that are sold at pet stores.  I mentioned this to either Janice or her sister, who was also at the sanctuary this morning, and she told me that she had seen a package of pigs' snouts (don't click on that link if you aren't prepared to see what they look like - some people are more sensitive than others, think twice before you click) at the pet store.  I had never seen a pig's snout in action before this morning, but you would be amazed at how much they can move around, how sensitive and fantastic they are.

For those of you that live in the Lower Mainland, here is my Eco-nomical Living tip for the day: go and check out Hearts on Noses and other farm and animal sanctuaries in the area.  It is free to go and have a tour, it is heartwarming, and it is time very well spent.  Hearts on Noses, because it doesn't have any dogs and cats, has a harder time than many sanctuaries in raising the funds it requires to continue operating.  People look at dogs as pets and pigs as food.  Janice does not preach or even mention anything about the eating of animals, there are no questions asked about your preferences in this regard.  It is just a great place to visit, and a worthwhile organization to support, if you are so inclined.  No matter what is on your plate, no animals deserve to be abused and neglected because someone bought them as a pet and later decided they didn't care enough to take proper care of them.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Harvest box.

If you enjoy cooking your own food I would heartily recommend doing a Google search for "community supported agriculture" and "[your city]".  I had never heard of this before, but what community supported agriculture is, is the cheapest and most likely the easiest, way to guarantee that you are going to receive local organic food regularly.  I can't guarantee that you are going to receive only the vegetables that you already use and love (as a matter of fact, I can foresee that you probably won't!), but I don't look at that as much of a problem.  I'll explain.

First of all, as you may remember, I am a vegan.  This means I should at least attempt to make friends with most vegetables.  I do love vegetables, but I admit, I tend to stick to the same handful of vegetables every week (lettuce, bell peppers, cucumber, kale, onion, shallot, green onion, broccoli).  There are also a number of fruits that we buy regularly (and beans and legumes, so don't worry, we're eating enough!), but still, I think that we could be eating significantly more vegetables than we have been.

Also, when I go to the grocery store, I'm not as conscious as I should be about buying local.  Particularly when I go somewhere like Whole Foods, that always has a mind-blowing array of different veggies, I tend to go a little crazy!  So it is nice to have someone else do the thinking for me.  It's great to support local farmers.  CSA provides farmers with a regular and predictable source of income.

So today, for $20, we got a box with the following:

  • large golden beet (and tops)
  • red beet (and tops)
  • two yellow onions
  • three pattypan squash
  • seven carrots, with tops
  • bunch of black kale
and:
Rapini!

So my plan tomorrow night is to make some sauteed beet tops with onion and garlic and a shredded beet and carrot salad.  Stand by for recipes and pictures tomorrow night!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Lower Mainland Green Team.

Following close on the heels of my post about Meetup.com, I wanted to make sure to give some more information for one of the groups that I joined as a result of checking out the site.  The group that I joined that I've actually attended meetups for is The Lower Mainland Green Team.  Joining and participating in their activities is free (or at least the meetups that I've seen recently on their page). This past weekend, Tim and I went to an Ivy Pull at Capilano River Park.  Here are the pictures from this weekend.

Next weekend I'm going with my friend (due to my status as a football widow, my husband cannot commit to activities on Sunday!) to do riparian restoration at Guichon Creek in Burnaby.  This time we are not only pulling ivy, but we also get to plant some native plants!

The following weekend, Tim and I are going to go to Delta (again with The Lower Mainland Green Team) to help the Earthwise Society harvest their organic produce.  The Earthwise Society's goal is to increase awareness about the value of local food production.  They also donate harvest boxes to local families that are in need, so they are a good organization for us to support.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Meetup.com

Geez, I just recently realized just how much is going on these days that I should be blogging about.  I'm trying to keep up, but it is definitely hard!  Before I forget, I wanted to make sure to mention meetup.com, which is something that I recently discovered that I believe every "eco-nomical" person, whatever their other interests, should at least check out.

Meetup.com is an online resource for people to find other people with similar interests.  You can search in your area for people with interests in anything under the sun.  For instance, I did a search for my postal code in North Vancouver and "sustainability" and came across The Lower Mainland Green Team.  It bills itself as follows:
We’re a group of people from all over the Lower Mainland who get together once a month (often more) to help an environmental group, non-profit organization, charity or city tackle an environmental issue that needs co-operation and teamwork to get done
I also became a member of Vancouver Meatless Meetup, Veg Meetup Vancouver and Organic Vegan Living. You have no obligation when you join a group to participate in any of the activities of the group (although why would you join a group if you don't want to participate in its meetups?), and depending on the group, them may meet once in a blue moon or even weekly.  Some activities are completely free, where you are essentially volunteering your time or just meeting with others with similar interests, some things are just fun things to do that don't cost much (going to see movies, dinners, etc.), and some groups bring in presenters and essentially host seminars that can be fairly pricey.  Depending on where you are there may be few or many groups.  I highly recommend checking it out and seeking out people that have similar interests to you.  Social isolation in modern society, besides being the name of a book, is a reality of this day and age.  Get out there and meet people!

Sage lentil soup.

This morning I woke up early because I shamed myself by falling asleep at 8:30 because I was so tired from the ivy pull at Capilano River Park earlier in the day.  I think this was really my first experience with the pulling of any invasive plants, and it was both fun and exhausting!  Tim came with me, so it also doubled as "bonding time" of sorts.

So this morning I woke up bright and early and knew that at some point during the day I would need to make some sage lentil soup, so I thought I would get up and get to it.  I love cooking early in the morning and getting it out of the way!

Here were the ingredients that I used (adapted from this recipe):

  • 4 field tomatoes (you can use any large tomatoes or a combination of other tomatoes)
  • 1 cup of organic tomato sauce
  • equivalent of 2 bouillon cubes
  • 1 litre of water, plus whatever is necessary to bring the soup to the consistency you would like
  • 2 cups of dried yellow lentils (any type would be great!)
  • 2 tbsp oil from my jar of sun dried tomatoes (normal olive oil would be fine as well)
  • 1 shallot
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic
  • 30 medium sage leaves, chopped finely
  • 3 tbsp fresh italian seasoning
I first submerged the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute to loosen their skins, then removed them from the water and rinsed them under cold running water to cool them.  If you use fresh tomatoes instead of canned (there are good reasons not to use canned tomatoes or anything from cans that are lined with BPA), just make sure not to touch the tomatoes before you've cooled them sufficiently, otherwise you're going to burn your hands!

Once I had cooled the tomatoes, I cut them in half, removed the area where the stem was, and pulled off the skins.  I squeezed out the goo (although you probably don't need to), and cut them up as small as possible.

In the meantime, I heated the oil on medium high heat, then sauteed the shallot for a couple minutes.  I added the garlic and sage and sauteed everything for another couple minutes.  Then I added the rest of the ingredients and brought them to a boil.  Once the soup came to a boil, I reduced the heat and simmered the soup for 50 minutes.  I added boiling water a couple of times because I think I had my heat on too high and I lost a lot of water (or the lentils absorbed it all).  Without adding any water, the soup would have had the consistency of a very thick daal.  I probably added about another litre, maybe a bit less.

Once I had removed the soup from the heat, I let it cool for about 30 minutes and then put it all through the blender to give it a more "cream of lentil" consistency.  I hadn't chopped up the tomatoes small enough, so I still had pretty big chunks at the end of my journey, so I figured this was a great way to solve that problem!  We both had a nice bowl of soup for dinner (me as my entire dinner, Tim as his appetizer), and I must say, it was delicious, hearty and a really nice change from the typical lentil soup.  The sage adds a lovely sweet note that is subtle and tasty!

Creamy avocado pasta sauce.

I love being a vegan!  I love it so much because there is one important aspect of veganism that is particularly appealing to me: you have to be willing to try things out of the ordinary.  As some doors close, other, more wonderful doors, open.

One such closed door was Alfredo sauce.  I was never the hugest fan of Alfredo to start with, but sometimes at restaurants I would find myself with few other appealing options, so I would indulge. When I was in university I used to eat a lot of Alfredo with pasta, so I think I was burnt out on it.  And its artery-clogging-ness.

So yesterday when I was searching for Angela Liddon's blog to grab her Weekend Glow Kale Salad recipe that I was making with dinner last night, in the Google search bar, I noticed that Angela had posted this recipe for 15 Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta.  I had a half of an avocado left over from making the Kale Salad, so I thought I would go for it.  I'm going to do the Grouse Grind later today, so I thought it would be a great idea to have some whole wheat pasta for lunch.

As always, I altered the recipe somewhat.  Here's what I used:

  • 2 tbsp minced garlic from container, plus 1 tbsp of the oil the garlic was in
  • 1.5 tbps lemon juice
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 6 pitted kalamata olives
  • large pinch salt
I put the ingredients in my food processor and processed until fairly smooth.  I cooked the pasta in accordance with the directions on the package.  Once the pasta was cooked and strained, I just poured/scooped the sauce onto the pasta. It was delicious.  Absolutely fantastic.  I love garlic, olives and avocados.  The sauce is so creamy!  It is just so good! I really recommend trying this recipe, either with or without olives.  If I could do it again, I would perhaps not use any salt (the original recipe uses basil, but I used olives, so I think they added a lot of salt, making the salt in the recipe superfluous), and I might use this recipe to make two servings instead of the whole recipe to make only one serving of pasta.  Either way, it was absolutely one of the tastiest pasta sauces I've ever had, so I can foresee me experimenting a lot with this one!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Kale salad.

My lovely husband, Tim, bought me not one, but two, edible kale plants this week, and we went back to the gardening store and bought two more.  I decided that today I was going to make us one heck of a nice kale salad.  I decided to make the Weekend Glow Kale Salad recipe that Angela Liddon has on her blog Oh She Glows.

The salad comprised of:

  • 7-8 kale leaves
  • 1/2 sweet onion
  • 8 heirloom tomatoes (small kind)
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1/3 english cucumber
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tbsp black sesames
Although this doesn't exactly match Angela's recipe, it's pretty close, so I'm totally giving her the credit she deserves, particularly because I also made the tahini-lemon dressing she provides the recipe for on her blog.  In the end the salad, accompanied by some sage roasted sweet potatoes and eggplant and broccoli rogan josh, came together to make one of the best dinners I've ever made at home!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Veganism.

I am thinking that this topic is going to generate a few posts, as it is very much at the forefront of my thinking recently.  As I mentioned in previous posts, I was working on becoming a weekday vegan a while ago, as I read a lot about the environmental impacts of the dairy and egg industries and generally thought that if I could further reduce the animal products I consumed (even if I wasn't planning on becoming a vegan), then this would be an admirable goal.

Part of what I do whenever I make a lifestyle change is I learn as much as I can about the topic, and so I started learning everything I could about the dairy and egg industry, as well as regulations surrounding the organic dairy industry, etc.  And what I learned did not make me happy.  I thought that by eating and drinking organic dairy products and buying free range and organic eggs that I was doing everything I could. Unfortunately, the more I learned, the more I came face to face with my own excuses and justifications for my continued support of the meat industry - surprising but true. I will not cover this topic in this post, but even for a long-term vegetarian, it is humbling to learn how wrong about these things I have been.

The amount of dairy in my diet has been fairly negligible for the past couple months, so I thought that perhaps I was mentally ready to cut the last few things out of my diet.  This weekend at the Living Naturally Fair we tested Daiya Vegan Cheese and I loved it, so that eliminated one of my concerns.  I also bought my first carton of Ryza, which is a fortified beverage made from whole grain brown rice.  I had about half a litre of skim milk left in the fridge, and decided that I was ready.  So I've now finished my skim milk, as of this morning, and had my proverbial "last supper" (whole wheat pasta with browned butter and sage and some asiago cheese on top), and I think I'm ready to fully embrace veganism, for the second time in my life.

In other vegan news, I tried tempeh for the second time in my life this weekend and it was really good.  I forgot to note the brand, but I will definitely be mentioning it again.  The guilt of knowing everything I know about animal cruelty, the environmental impact of the dairy industry, and the health benefits of a vegan diet have all contributed to my decision to become a vegan now.  I am truly looking forward to it!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Public transit.

Today was the first day of my program in Sustainability Management offered through UBC's faculty of Continuing Studies.  I am not sure if I have mentioned this before, but I generally do not take public transit, although I would love to start.  As I live on the North Shore and my program takes place at UBC's Robson Square Campus, I thought that this would be a wonderful opportunity to start using public transit.  And it doesn't hurt that getting from Lonsdale Quay to Downtown Vancouver is probably one of the most scenic trips you can take in the Lower Mainland, as you must take the Seabus.

The Seabus is a relatively small commuter ferry departing from Lonsdale Quay and arriving at Waterfront Station.  The trip takes 12 minutes and requires a two zone fare ($3.75 absent other fare saving discounts).  During the day the Seabus leaves every 15 minutes and in the evenings it leaves every half hour.  The trip is worth making even if you don't have something to cross the Burrard Inlet for, but if you do, it is a thousand times better (and quicker - well, maybe not a thousand) than driving across either of the bridges that are available.

Once I arrive at Waterfront Station in Vancouver, I can then walk to UBC Robson Square, which is about a seven block walk.  With my trusty seatbelt back in tow and the sun shining, it was a great walk today.  I don't know how much I'm going to enjoy the walk when it's raining out (or at night), but so far I'm definitely enjoying using public transit and the old standby - my feet!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

16th Annual Living Naturally Fair.

I love the summer.  It is a magical time of year, and not just because I live in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, which means the rest of the year we endure an inordinate amount of rain.  I do love the sunshine, but I also love the addition of farmer's markets to our normal grocery shopping options.  I've been attending the weekly farmer's market in North Vancouver at Lonsdale Quay, but then discovered that there is a weekly farmer's market within walking distance of my home, in Parkgate Plaza.  Doh!

Yesterday when I went to go and do the grocery shopping at Whole Foods at Park Royal in West Vancouver, I saw an advertisement for the 16th Annual Living Naturally Fair at the Whole Foods on Robson St. This Fair is put on by the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation, which is right up my alley. Tim and I had to go downtown to have Loki groomed, so we decided to go and check out the fair while we were waiting.

The Fair was terrific!  There were lots of local farms and food producers there with stands, such as OriginO Organic Farms (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers), Organic Lives (raw vegan restaurant), Anita Organics (grains), Daiya (the best vegan cheese on the market), Vij's (excellent Indian fusion restaurant in Vancouver), along with non-local companies such as Greens Plus and Clif.  All of the participants offered samples, and I was so glad that we went.  We were only there for a half hour, but we left full of good food and with lots of great ideas for things to cook up at home!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Kale chips.

One of the true joys of raw food, not that I am a raw foodist, but I do truly enjoy eating raw foods whenever possible, is kale chips.  I suppose there are many different flavours you can make, but my favourite uses nutritional yeast.

To make kale chips you can either bake them in the oven or use a dehydrator.  I have made them before in my oven, but because it doesn't have a low enough setting (the lower temperature, the better), I decided to ask for a food dehydrator as a Christmas present last year. I have gotten a lot of use out of it, making not only kale chips, but also fruit roll-ups, various other types of chips and dehydrated tomatoes and apricots.  I'm always looking for ways to use my dehydrator because I find it has such a nice effect on the taste of many foods.

After you have cleaned and torn up a bunch of kale into bite sized pieces, you get as much of the water off of the kale as possible then make the sauce that you will use to flavour the kale.  I use about a 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast, 3 tbsp of light soy sauce, 3 tbsp of apple cider vinegar, 1 tbsp of pureed garlic and 2 tbsp of tahini.  I love the tahini in the kale chips, it really makes them feel more substantial than they are (once the kale finishes dehydrating, it will be papery thin).  You will notice that I don't use any oil, but that is a matter of preference more than anything else, I don't find it adds anything, so I don't bother.
You then add the washed kale and massage the kale with the sauce until it is as evenly coated as possible.  You will find that despite your best efforts, there will be some pieces with more sauce than others.
You then spread the kale out (I do it piece by piece) evenly on whatever surface you intend to use to bake the kale on, be it a baking pan (if you are making the kale chips in the oven) or on the dehydrator trays.  If you are going to use a dehydrator, it will take about 3-4 hours to dehydrate the kale at 105 degrees fahrenheit, and you will have to switch the direction the trays are facing half way through because they most likely will dehydrate more quickly in the back of the dehydrator.  If you are using an oven, I can't remember what the timing is like, but it will be much faster and I advise that you spray some cooking spray on the baking sheet so the kale won't stick.  When I made my chips in the oven, I baked on 200 degrees fahrenheit (the lowest temperature on our stove) and after about fifteen minutes started taking the chips out of the oven every ten minutes to check on them.  The kale chips are done when they are dry and crispy.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Spinach goma ae.

Mmmmm. Spinach goma ae.

I often remark that my food cravings, of which I have been known to have many, must be indicative of some sort of a deficiency.  If it's not kale chips, or fresh figs, or pomegranates, it's always going to be something.  Sometimes it's not the healthy foods that I crave, but luckily I have been craving good-for-me foods recently. Today (and this past week), I have been craving spinach goma ae, a popular blanched spinach dish served in sushi restaurants.

To make the spinach goma ae, I purchased a large container of organic spinach from the grocery store.  I brought a pot of water to a boil then put half of the container in the boiling water for 30 seconds then poured it into a strainer, rinsed it in cold water, then placed it back in the pot and filled the pot with cold water to let it sit while I made the sauce.
For the sauce, I mixed 1 tbsp of sugar, 1 tbsp of miso paste, 1 tbsp of tahini, 1 tbsp of rice wine vinegar (weird, I know, but I didn't have any mirin or cooking sake, so it was the best I could do), and 1 tbsp of soy.  I whisked this together and it made about twice as much as I needed.

To put it all together, I strained the cold water off of the spinach, then grabbed the spinach by handfuls and pressed the water out.  I put them in a bowl, poured the dressing on, and enjoyed!  Best part: it completely satisfied my craving for spinach, AND it only took ten minutes to make!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Nutrition.

I occasionally discuss topics involving nutrition with people (actually, I discuss nutrition fairly often - it's a passion of mine), and I thought that I might summarize my approach to nutrition, for those that are interested.  I will most likely have to come back to this post a few times and add things.  Nutrition is such a complex topic, which I have been studying (not in university, but by reading books, searching the internet, experimenting with my diet and through discussions with others) for at least ten years.  I have been through many phases (but not diets - if I need to lose weight, I just eat less, but I try not to ever diet), and have definitely come to a place where I feel very healthy.  I may not be the thinnest I've ever been, but I feel great and I think that is a better measure of how well I am doing.

Here is a brief sketch of my "nutrition plan", such as it is:

  1. I am a vegetarian.  I do not eat meat, poultry or fish.  Since I turned vegetarian fourteen years ago, I've been vegan (for a year), and I've eaten fish (for about five years), but right now I'm what is known as a lacto-ovo vegetarian, which means I eat eggs and dairy, but otherwise a predominantly plant-based diet.
  2. I drink mostly water.  I drink one large cup of tea every morning, but otherwise I rarely, if ever, drink anything other than water.  I drink no pop, coffee, fruit juice or alcohol.  Every day I try to drink at least two litres of pure water, maybe more if I go for a workout.
  3. I avoid overly-processed substances.  This includes artificial sweeteners and protein powder (for some reason, those are the two that people ask me about the most), and any food that contains them.  I even avoid things like stevia, which, although derived from a natural substance, is too processed for my liking.  If stevia is "natural", then so is cocaine.
  4. I avoid preservatives.  Any food that requires preservatives probably contains very few nutrients by the time you eat it.  Usually they also contain lots of things you wouldn't want to ingest, such as trans fats, artificial coloring or flavourings, etc.
  5. I eat tonnes of vegetables and fruits.  The whole "Five a Day" slogan is so funny to me because I eat five fruits and vegetables just in my lunch every day.  I have really pushed myself to embrace as many fruits and vegetables as possible, and I'm happy that I am now at the point that I crave some of them (eggplant, for example).
  6. I avoid vitamins or supplements. I try to get what I need from what I eat and to therefore eat as few "empty calories" as possible. Actually, I have a teaspoon of "Super Greens" mix in my smoothie every day (it has wheatgrass powder, barley powder, spirulina, blue-green algae and clorella).  This may be considered by some to be a supplement, and I do, indeed, eat it due to the nutrients it contains, but since it is incorporated into something that I am eating, I do not think of it in the same way.  Also, since there is no other way to eat many of the ingredients (namely the last three), it makes sense to have it in this form.  But I do not take a multivitamin, iron (commonly taken by vegetarians) or any other nutrients in pill form.
  7. I rarely eat foods that aren't cooked from scratch.  This ensures that nothing that I would not want to eat makes its way into my food.  I make our muffins, cupcakes, cookies, breads, ice cream and other goodies myself (and I do not shrink away from such foods - if they are made out of wholesome ingredients).  People ask how I have time, but really, when it is a part of your life, it doesn't seem to take up much time at all.  I also try, whenever possible and practical, to make our meals myself or with Tim's help.  We rarely eat out or order in.  
  8. I eat organic whenever possible.  Organic foods are better for the environment for so many reasons, but generally are also better for our bodies - or, at the very least, are not detrimental for us.  There are times when organic foods are just not practical to purchase in Canada (i.e. the winter), but even then, if you are willing to try new recipes, there are options available.
I think that pretty much summarizes it.  There are, of course, times where I eat things that do not comply with the foregoing, but this is definitely the general trend.  And I must say, I feel much more healthy and vital as a result! 

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Fig and blue cheese risotto.

I'm back!  I was off work for a couple of weeks and spend lots of time working out and investigating the cause of the migraines I've been afflicted with since I was a child.  Although I'm not much closer to finding any sort of definitive answer on that front, I think the best solution to most of the things that ail us is to get regular exercise, adequate sleep, eat nourishing food and address any causes of stress in our lives.  I think I'm doing pretty well on all fronts, and have noticed fewer migraines in the past month (on average) than I was having since January.

Today when I went out to do the grocery shopping for the week, I was at the market and came across some fresh figs, which I have been on the lookout for since about April.  I'm not actually sure why, I've just been thinking that I would love to try cooking with some, but I hadn't planned anything out in particular.  I bought three ripe figs and went home to find a recipe to use them in!

The recipe that I decided to use was for fig risotto, which you can find here.  I, of course, tweaked it a bit!  The ingredients I used were:
  • 3 ripe figs
  • 2 tbsp butter (divided)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup rose wine
  • 1.25 L vegetable stock
  • approximately 2 tbsp blue cheese (the stinkier the better, I used a Stilton)
  • 1/4 cup grated Asiago
First I cut the stems off of the figs, diced them, and sauteed them for about a minute and a half to two minutes in one tablespoon of butter.  Once liquid started to come out of the figs, I took them off of the heat and set them aside in a bowl.  

Next, I minced the shallot and garlic, and sauteed them in the same skillet until the shallot was clear in the remaining butter and the olive oil.  I them added the rice, and stirred it around until the rice were covered in the oil, which turns the rice clear.

Once the rice went clear, I added the wine and a ladle of the vegetable stock.  I have a really great technique for making risotto which allows it to cook faster than risotto normally cooks.  What I do is: every time I add any liquid to the rice, I give it a stir and then I cover it until the liquid is absorbed.  It usually takes about twenty minutes.

So I added one two two ladles of stock to the rice every three to four minutes.  Once the rice was appropriately cooked, I added the figs.  The figs had some liquid from the cooking, so I allowed that to cook off, then added the blue cheese.  Finally, I added the Asiago, and my masterpiece was complete!  It was delicious and different.  The figs and the blue cheese perfectly complemented each other.  

I will be trying more fig recipes in the near future, as it is fig season right now, so they are readily available!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Grouse Mountain annual pass.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, lately I've been doing the Grouse Grind fairly frequently.  I'm not going to tell you that I've been getting that much faster (after an initial huge improvement on my time, I've been averaging about 1 hour 15 minutes), but I am still really enjoying it, so I decided to buy an annual pass, so that I don't have to pay for the Skyride down each time, which is rather steep at $10.

The pass comes with a number of great additional benefits.  The pass is valid for 365 days from the date of purchase, so it doesn't matter when you buy it.  You get a free snowshoe and skate rental, 20% off at the stores, and discounts on a number of other things.  All this for $99!  Although my main focus right now is on doing the Grind because it is just such a good workout, in the winter, I can take my snowshoes and go up the Skyride, and there are some great snowshoe trails.  Also, if I'm ever tired during the summer of doing the Grind, I can take the Skyride up and do those same trails.  I can bring along friends as well, the annual pass gives up to four of your friends discounts on Skyrides.

The final bonus: I got one for Tim as well and we only had to pay $179 for our "Couple Pass".  So we can get into better shape together!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Sustainability management program.

It is official: I have been accepted into UBC's Award of Achievement program in Sustainability Management! Sustainability management is a hugely important area that is fast-growing and the way of the future, and it is certainly consistent with my own interests.  As a lawyer, I'm not exactly sure how I will be able to use the program in my own career, but I can't imagine that I would not be able to find some way to do so.  At the very least I will be able to make some contacts in the area of sustainability, and then I'll go from there.  I would definitely prefer to stay at my current job and use the credentials (such as they are) that way, rather than transitioning out of law and into another field.

The program can take up to two years to complete, and starts in September.  There are four mandatory 15-hour courses to complete, and you must complete another 40 hours of coursework via nine to 35 credit hour courses.  I've already chosen the ones I wish to take, now all I have to do is wait for the course schedule to come out on July 27.  I'm also planning on taking a course that will qualify me to volunteer at our local hospice, which will also start in September, and hopefully the dates won't conflict.

New job.

As part of my commitment to the environment, as well as to my mental health and my family (being Tim and Loki), I have obtained a job that is closer to home.  I had been working in Pitt Meadows at a law firm with colleagues that I truly enjoyed, which is more than many people can say about their jobs, but the forty minute commute in the morning and the hour long commute after work were taking their toll on me.

My new job is in downtown North Vancouver, which is the city I live in.  I love North Vancouver and have no interest in moving anytime soon.  The people of North Vancouver seem to be quite similar, overall, to myself and Tim, and there are all the activities right in our backyard that we could ever want: biking, hiking, winter sports, as well as dog parks and other recreational activities.  It is a terrific place to live.

So my new job is in downtown core, on Esplanade, and we live out near Deep Cove.  For those of you that know the area, it's still not a short distance between my home and my work, so most days I will have to drive, but one of the biggest benefits about my new job is that I'm going to be able to bike to work a couple days per week!  I already bought the bag I'm going to bring with me on my bike, which is made from recycled seat belts. It is being shipped now and even comes with a detachable strap that I can use to secure the bag to my hips.  The company is coming out with some paniers sometime in the future, and I will most likely get them eventually, but for now, the bag I got should be just fine!

I am really looking forward to starting my new job!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Shampoo - Wedding Edition.

I imagine any of you that have been following this blog to any degree may be interested to find out what happened with my hair at my wedding.  As you may remember, I haven't used shampoo on my hair in a while.  Sixty-six days today, to be exact. Well, you will be happy to hear that I did not shampoo my hair for the wedding!  I stuck to my guns and did a baking soda rinse followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse the day before the wedding, and that's it.  The day of the wedding, I washed it a couple hours before the ceremony then blowed it dry, followed by hot rollers.  I used the fabulous Dr. Hauschka make-up that I purchased for the wedding.  It went great! And luckily the wedding was outside and it was windy, so even if I had gotten my hair done professionally, it most likely would have ended up looking like this:


This past weekend was the first weekend that we were back following the wedding and honeymoon, and after we did the Grouse Grind we stopped by Pure Magnolia and I donated the dress.  I enjoy the thought of someone else getting to enjoy all or part of my dress, depending on what they do with it.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Grouse Grind.

We are officially back from our wedding and honeymoon!  We returned on Monday (a few days ago), and have been recovering/catching up since then.  Since today was the first weekend day since we returned, I wanted to follow through on a goal I had since I turned 31.  I made a list of 31 things that I want to do this year, and high on the list was the Grouse Grind.

For those of you that are blissfully unaware of what the Grouse Grind is, it is a hiking trail in North Vancouver that ascends from the base of Grouse Mountain to the summit.  It is known as "Mother Nature's Stairmaster", and is a great favourite with locals and tourists alike, although Tim and I cannot figure out why a tourist would want to do something like that on their vacation.  Anyhow, I mentioned to Tim that I wanted to do the Grouse Grind to redeem myself following a terrible showing the only other time I ever tried it, way back in 2003.  I didn't finish.  Not only did I not finish, but I don't think I even made it to the 1/4 way mark.  I could be wrong about not making it to the 1/4, but I am sure that I didn't make it halfway.

So this morning we got up early, at about 8:00 (although I had been up since 5:00 because I was so excited!), and arrived at the entrance to the Grind at 9:00.  There was a race going on in the area, so it was very busy, although the race did not take place on the Grouse Grind.  The Grind was already very busy.  If you've ever been hiking anywhere in the Lower Mainland, it is far busier than anywhere else I've ever been.  That being said, it is not unmanageable, or at least it wasn't at 9:00 a.m.  I've heard it gets even busier as the day goes on.

The weather in North Vancouver was mild, but far cooler on the trail due to the tree cover.  It was perfect for hiking, because the Grind really starts out hard and keeps on going.  The first quarter is less steep than the rest, so a lot of newbies tend to take it too fast and are then exhausted for the rest of the hike, and we were no exceptions.  The trail is marked by quarters based both on distance and elevation.  I was having a pretty hard time with my breathing, and Tim was having a hard time with his leg muscles, so we took frequent breaks, because the very last thing that you want to do is to have to turn around with sore burning legs and walk down.
I knew that a relatively fit person can usually finish in an hour and a half, so I didn't really know how long it would take us to finish.  In the end, we finished in 1:47, which I was very happy with, considering it was both of our first times.  We're planning on going back next weekend, and hopefully eating first (we did it this time on an empty tank).  Since neither of us have been working out at all for months, I think that we will probably improve our times dramatically the next time we go.  
At the end of the Grind, you come to a clearing at the top of the mountain, and it's all over.  There is a gondola that you can take down, and it is such a beautiful ride!  

The hike overall is far harder than any hike I've done in a long time, the steepness is challenging and all the people passing you by (assuming you're not one of the people that can run up it!) are ever so slightly demoralizing to some.  To me, it is really encouraging, because you see all sorts of people of all ages, fitness levels and experience with the Grind, and some people really surprise you.  I can't wait to go back! 

After we came home, I rehydrated and took a couple Motrin Migraine Relief capsules, because I got a bit of a headache due to the dehydration.  I ate a banana immediately after we finished, then a bowl of Kashi with berries when we got home, and a big bowl of soup about an hour later.  My legs feel really good, tired, but good, and I generally feel lazy.  Today is a perfect day to just relax and recover from all that hard work!  

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Almond milk.

So I made some almond milk for the first time today.  This past week that I have been a weekday vegan was terrific, but I really miss my black tea with honey and some sort of milk or other fluid that passes for milk. I don't want to drink anything that comes in a tetrapak due to the difficulties with recycling them, which mostly eliminates commercially available milk replacement products, so I thought that I would try making my own almond milk.

I bought some raw natural almonds in bulk yesterday morning from Drive Organics, which is where I pretty much buy all of my bulk foods.  I put one and a half cups of almonds in my Cuisinart with enough water for them to soak.  I was planning to later process them in the Cuisinart, but that didn't work out.

You have to let the almonds soak for eight to twelve hours, then drain off the water.  Add four cups of water and blend them until the liquid looks like milk with almond skins in it.  Then, strain it through a few layers of cheesecloth and capture the liquid.  It looks exactly like milk!  You can add sweetener and flavourings to taste, but I left mine plain. I haven't tried it yet, but I will certainly keep you posted.

As for what is left over of the actual almonds, there is a considerable amount of pulp or meal or whatever  you would call it left over after blending.  I pressed as much of the fluids out as possible, then spread it out on my fruit leather sheets in my food dehydrator and I'm going to use it to make granola with instead of using chopped nuts.  As the solid matter that is leftover is very nutritious, it is a great way to add some nutrients to your food, instead of just throwing it away.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Organic Lives.

Organic Lives is the name of a restaurant in Vancouver that we went to tonight.  I wanted to celebrate getting my new job, so at first I chose Annapurna, a vegetarian Indian restaurant.  Then, when it turned out that the restaurant was closed, I did a search of vegan restaurants in Vancouver and came across this one. I thoroughly scoped out their website, liked their style, and decided that was where we would go.  We go out to eat so rarely that we always want to make sure it counts!  I'm not a raw foodist by any stretch of the imagination, but I do really like raw foods if only for the interesting flavour and texture combinations that the more creative raw food restaurants and manufacturers manage to produce.  So we checked it out.


We had a reservation and actually got really dressed up because it was a celebration, so why not?  Plus, we're getting married in less than a week and this is probably one of our last chances to go out as boyfriend and girlfriend.  Needless to say, we were quite overdressed, by that was fine.  The staff were all really friendly and knowledgeable, and the owner was there, and came by to speak with us.  It turns out that the restaurant is opening up a second location in conjunction with a yoga and meditation studio that is being opened in downtown Vancouver by Deepak Chopra, of all people.  The owner, Preet, also knows John Robbins, the author of Diet for a New America, the book that kept me vegetarian all these years.

The food is vegan, organic and raw.  You are probably wondering what the food was like.  Well, first of all, it was very good.  I've had lots of raw foods, but I have to admit, this was probably the best I've ever had.  There was a fair bit of variety, and lots of great flavour (and texture) combinations.  Tim had the Mexi Spirals and loved them, despite being a meat eating non-raw foodist.  He was actually a bit skeptical about the place before we went, but didn't tell me because he didn't want to spoil my special treat.  We originally planned to share all of the things that we ordered, but because the Mexi Spirals contained Brazil nuts, which I have a severe allergy to, we had to revise our plan.  We did share the tapas platter, which had a nice variety of the restaurant's most popular inventions.  I ended up having the pizza for my main course.  It was delicious, but nothing like a pizza, of course.  To be honest, I don't eat raw food so that I can pretend I'm eating "normal" food.  It's like eating Indian food, but hoping that it will taste like Thai food.  I enjoy it for what it is, and the best part is how creative it always ends up being.
"Pizza" and "Caesar Salad"

For dessert we had something called "The Ridiculous".  It is essentially a chocolate ganache torte.  It was absolutely brilliant! The restaurant makes its own chocolate, so it was top quality.  I left full, better educated about raw food and nutrition, and happy to have eaten somewhere that honestly cares about more than its bottom line.

All in all, if you are open-minded and curious about raw food, I would highly recommend visiting this restaurant.  On top of everything else, they sell lots of raw foods in bulk that are difficult to find elsewhere.  We left with a jar full of the owners special super greens mix that is loaded with terrific health benefits.  Tim and I are going to start incorporating it into our smoothies every morning.  We can't wait!

Coconut curry carrot soup.

I may have outdone myself.  Every week I make a soup and take some to work every day.  Last week I made a vegetable barley soup that was alright, but not the best soup I've ever made.  The week prior I made a Thai soup with a chili lemon soy base that was to die for.  That recipe is something that I concocted myself many years ago and enjoy every time I make it.  This week I made the soup that is the subject of this post.  The best part: it is probably the most simple soup I've ever made!

Here are the ingredients:
  • 1 shallot (you can use any type of onion)
  • 3 large carrots (I didn't peel mine)
  • 1 3/4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 14 oz can of coconut milk
I chopped the vegetables very small and put them and the rest of the ingredients in a medium sized pot on high heat until the stock came to a boil.  


I then reduced the heat to a simmer for 25 minutes.  At the end I put everything in a blender and blended until smooth.  Then I poured the mixture back into the pot and added the can of coconut milk.  All done!
A very tasty, creamy soup that requires much less work than it seems like it would.  I think I'm going to keep this one on the menu for when I have guests over!