Sunday, 14 August 2011


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!