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!

Friday, 24 June 2011

Weekday veganism.

On the recent retreat I went on, the food provided to the guests was vegetarian/vegan, gluten-free, and without refined sugars.  I felt great while I was on the retreat and have definitely tried to incorporate some of what I learned while there into my day-to-day life. Having developed such a strong rapport and understanding of the foods I eat lately, I was reading about becoming a weekday vegetarian (I am already a vegetarian), and thought I would hijack the concept and instead become a "weekday vegan"- a.k.a. a "wegan".  I have many issues - health-related, environmental, and moral - with eating dairy and eggs, but I also love dairy and eggs so much that the weekday vegan diet is as good a compromise as I can draw.

I was a vegan for almost exactly a year when I was in university.  It was horrible.  All I thought about was food.  "What am I going to eat next?  What is in this?  Can I eat it?  I wish I could eat ___________."  By the time I broke my vegan "fast", I had so much repressed desire for eggs and dairy that I think I may have gone over the top!  And stayed there!  I now eat quite a bit of dairy, and usually ingest a fair amount of eggs in my baking and even sometimes in a frittata or other egg dish.

Despite my love of dairy, I have my questions about eating the milk of another species.  And then there are issues with pus in milk.  I have a feeling that I will never stop eating (or drinking) either of them again, but my concerns are sufficient to make me think that I don't need to eat or drink them as consistently as I have been.

As for the environmental concerns, just because we don't eat the animals doesn't mean that they don't produce waste, require feeding to sustain, and produce more greenhouse gases than transportation.  Really, for the environmentally conscious, it is a important to consider cutting down on the animal products we consume.

My first week of being a weekday vegan is now coming to a close (it's Friday night, so Saturday and Sunday I will be able to eat dairy and eggs).  I really enjoyed it.  I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that for a celebratory dinner that we are going to tomorrow that I got to choose the venue of, I chose Organic Lives, a raw, organic, vegan restaurant in Vancouver.  I am also considering starting to make my own almond milk so that I can use that in place of the skim milk I normally drink so much of, which is by far the largest source of dairy in my diet.  Again, I have no intention whatsoever of stopping eating cheese and milk permanently, I just want to eat less of both.  I must admit, I feel really terrific, so I would chalk my first week of being a weekday vegan a complete success!

Thursday, 16 June 2011


It has been such a long time since I've written a post!  Things are getting pretty busy with the upcoming wedding and most of what I have been doing in my free time has been baking, so I haven't had much to post about.  I'm still doing all the same things that I was doing before, but unfortunately I can't write too many posts about how fun it is to make butter.  Or can I...?  It would get old very fast!  Anyhow, I thought it would be nice to give an omnibus update about some of the blog posts that I've done and how things are developing. 
  1. Composting: our composter is on our patio and I must admit, it leaks "compost tea".  It also smells a bit sometimes (that's when we have to add more "brown" to the mixture), and has started to attract small bugs.  Tim says they're mosquitoes, but I think they're mostly just fruit flies.  I don't go out onto the patio that much, so it really doesn't bother me at all, even when I do go out to throw compost into the composter, I couldn't care less.  The compost tea leaking on the balcony is a little annoying, but there are very few ways to avoid that.  The actual compost itself is developing nicely, according to Tim.  I tend not to spend much time messing around with it or looking at it.  I'm sure we won't be able to make use of any of it this season, but that's okay, we just wanted to avoid throwing our food waste in the garbage, so it is definitely helping with that.
  2. No 'poo:  I am still not using shampoo and it has now been forty days.  It has been about thirty-five days since I have used anything other than water.  I'm thinking that this weekend I might use some baking soda and see what happens, as I have been experimenting with my hair and trying to figure out what I will do for the wedding and my hair is no longer holding any sort of style.  I would like to curl it because that's how Tim likes it, so maybe stripping out just a bit of the natural oils might help.
  3. Soapstone cookware: We are LOVING the soapstone cookware.  It really does not allow foods to stick to it, it's very easy to clean (we have to clean it by hand, it can't go in the dishwasher), it has worked well for all foods we've made in the past week (homemade pizza, frittata, Indian food, sauteing veggies, etc.).  I carmelized some onions one day on one of the pans which has resulted in some discolouration, but every time we use that pan, it fades a little more.  We've used them in the oven, from the range then straight into the oven, and in the fridge, and they've been great in all situations.
  4. Patio garden: Our little patio garden is going well!  From the seedlings that we started with, we ended up losing most of our lettuce, so it was a good thing that I got the salad pot from Superstore afterwards.  Some of our herbs from last year are coming back (most notably our sage), which was a welcome surprise.  Our shallot are growing nicely, as are the bok choy.  I think we've lots some of the eggplant, tomato plants, and pepper plants, but we really were only hoping for one of each of those, so hopefully they'll work out. I bought a strawberry plant and Tim is getting ready to transplant it into a bigger pot.  We harvested the lettuce in the salad pot about three weeks ago and it is just about ready for another harvest!
  5. Baking: I am still baking up a storm.  I've been making my own paneer and butter regularly, as well as granola, tomato sauce, ice cream and lemonade.  There are also lots of baked goods that I make (cookies, egg tarts, muffins, cupcakes, custards, etc.).  Recently, I've decided to start making a whole grain kernel salad every week for Tim and I to eat, so we've been experimenting with that.  We've made quinoa, barley and spelt salads so far. Also, we've decided to start making a healthy soup every week, mostly so that I can bring it to eat for lunch at work.  I made a delicious vegetarian chili lemon soy broth with tofu, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, orange peppers, cilantro and other goodies in it. This weekend I'm going to make a barley vegetable soup.
So that is a bit of an update.  We are really focusing on trying to eliminate plastics and chemicals as much as possible from our home and our lives and it is going well!  My goal is just to live more simply and sustainably and I must say, I love it!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Soapstone cookware.

This is definitely an un-economical blog post, only made possible because we did not have to purchase the subject-matter ourselves.  For many years, possibly since the invention of Teflon, I have been exposing myself to those chemicals.  Now that I think of it, I could have used normal cookware this whole time and just used butter.  That would have been smart.  Instead, I've been using non-stick cookware this entire time and exposing myself to many potential health concerns.  Well, not anymore!

At the Sustainable Living Expo, Tim and I had the good fortune of stopping by a booth and speaking with a lovely lady named Constanza.  She sells Rosetta Stone cookware, which is traditional cookware from Brazil, made sustainably from soapstone and copper.  It retains heat remarkably well, is non-stick once cured, and even good for grilling!

We're in the process of curing the cookware right now as I am typing this.  It is certainly more of a process than the usual "take out of box and put on stove" that you would get from a normal Teflon pan. It is absolutely worth the effort!

When it arrives, it looks like this:

First, we washed all of the pots and pans just with water, and allowed them to dry.  We then oiled the entire pot (we used olive oil), then put them in the oven at 200 degrees for twenty minutes.
We then repeat this process one more time and allow the cookware to cool.  Then, we bring water to a boil in them.  Once this is complete, we wash them with gentle, environmentally friendly soap (it actually says that in the paperwork that comes with them!), put a little oil on the inside, and they are ready to go for the rest of their lives!
Such beautiful cookware!  A big thank you to Tim's parents!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

New (to us) bicycle.

The Green Zebra book strikes again!  When we went to Epic! Sustainable Living Expo (I swear, that's what it is called) last month, we spent about $10 on a book of coupons that was essentially like the Entertainment book that has all the coupons in it, but these ones are all coupons with an environmental bent.  Also, the coupons are also offered for the Green Zebra through an awesome application that is available on iPhone, Android and Blackberry called Clip Mobile.  So we've been doing pretty well with using the coupons whenever we go out somewhere or when we need to get anything (we also have an Entertainment book, and I really recommend buying both Entertainment and Green Zebra, because for what you pay - $20 is the usual price for each of them, I believe - it's quite a deal).  I particularly have managed to use up lots of Marketplace IGA coupons for $5 off whenever I go there for our weekly groceries, so we've saved way more than the cost of the book.

Tim recently has expressed some interest in getting a bike and starting to get outside to exercise more.  I already have a bike, but he didn't, and that was really the type of exercise he was most interested in, and of course I am excited to have something like that which we could do together, and with the dog, now that he has recovered from his hip replacement surgery.  So I came across a coupon in the Green Zebra book for 15% off at Ride on Again, a bike store in Vancouver, on any second-hand bike.  We drove down there yesterday, coupon in hand, and picked out a bike!  We immediately went home and got my bike and took the dogs, and the bikes, to the dog park we normally go to.  The "park" is more of a long trail by a river, and it is always full of dogs, most of whom are well behaved.

We didn't want to buy a brand new bike, due to waste/landfill concerns, and also, I think it is really important to support businesses that provide these sorts of options to consumers.  And, it's even better when you can have a coupon that pretty much eliminates the tax!  The great thing is, more and more businesses have started providing these options!

Friday, 3 June 2011

Shampoo - Day 27.

Well, I can imagine that many of you are starting to think that my hair must be really gross by now.  I guess that would depend on how well you know me, because I think those of you that know me know that I probably wouldn't do this if my hair looked gross.  For those of you that don't know me, I imagine that you think that I'm one of those "dirty hippies" that don't wash their hair and smell a little "off".  I am not saying that in a negative way about anyone, that just seems to be the thinking of some people when it comes to people that don't use shampoo.  Well, I'm happy to say that as far as I can tell, my hair smells fine.  And yes, I still have Tim smell it to make sure everything is okay.  I don't like to take chances!  Maybe in another month I'll stop asking him to do that...

My hair is great and I'm just using water every day.  It has been three weeks today since the last time I used baking soda.  I don't use any apple cider vinegar rinses, corn starch, or anything else, for that matter.  I just wash it in hot water, massaging my scalp, then at the end of the shower, blast it with pretty cold water.  I blow it dry most days, but I always did that.  It feels soft, it has more body, and it looks really healthy.  Sometimes I sort of wish I could use some gel or hairspray, but since I can't, I just deal with it.  When I curl it using hot rollers it usually has lots of body and looks great at first, but then the curls settle into softer waves by the end of the day.  Those are the days I wish I could use gel, because I figure it may extend the awesome part at the beginning where my curls are tight and bouncy.

I'm getting married at the end of the month and I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to style my hair, because I would like it to at least look like I thought I was getting married that day and actually put some effort into my hair.  I contacted a couple places near where our wedding is going to be, and it just didn't seem worth it to pay all that extra money for them to do my hair.  They were surprisingly un-surprised when I told them I don't use shampoo, conditioner, gel or hairspray, and it seemed like that was a lot more normal where they are (around Sechelt, British Columbia).  There's very little chance I can achieve anything approximating full "wedding hair" without gel or hairspray, and that kind of hairdo is really a bit much for our wedding.  I think I might just straighten it with a round brush and hope for the best.  We'll see.  I may have to make a game day decision...