Tuesday, October 28, 2008

You don't have to be a Libra to appreciate balance

... Though I am, and I do.

The Book: The Modern Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amrita Sondhi (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2006)

Overall feeling: We are seeing a trend right now in ancient healing practices that had fallen out of common use (or were completely unknown to many westerners) getting uncovered and recognized for the profound powers they have. I love that.
Like many of my favourite cookbooks, this is not just a recipe book, but also a resource. I'm not going to launch into an explanation on the main principles of this 5000-year old approach to well-being, except to say that it features three "doshas", labels based on various aspects of your constitution, and Sondhi gives a decent amount of information on each to help the reader understand and make health-supporting choices. That being said, you don't have to get into Ayurvedic medicine to enjoy this book. You can use it in two ways: 1) Just dive into any of the 200 recipes that appeal to you and enjoy them for what they are OR 2) give yourself 30-45 minutes or so to read the front of the book and identify what recipes will be most supportive for you. (I'm rooting for you to go with option 2, but you do what you want.)
At first glance, this book is friendly and inviting - both artistically and as you begin to read the text.

Best bits: I have loved quizzes ever since my first issue of YM, and so excitedly flipping to the Dosha Questionnaire was one of the first things I did when I got a hold of the book (turns out I'm Vata, with Pitta being my secondary dosha, for what it's worth to you). Most of the recipes would be easy for any vegetarian or omnivore to slide into their diet. From my initial flip through the book I could see that the recipes were wholesome and flavourful... we can all use more of that, can't we? There are many dishes that I'm excited to try, but I most love the sound of The Cold Feet Cure, an almond milk-based drink including pistachios, cardamom, and rose water, to help soothe a "bride and groom's pre-wedding jitters!" I plan to try it out despite my lack of nuptial plans for the near future.

Less-wonderful bits: There are no food photos, for those of you who get excited about that kind of thing, and the more I think about it, the more I wish there were as I often find it a good point of inspiration. You're going to need to make special shopping trips if you don't already have black chickpeas, gram flour, tur dal, gur and hing (I'm not even sure yet what those last two are) in your pantry. And if you're vegan, you'll need to be comfortable with making substitutions (coconut oil to replace ghee; coconut, almond or rice milk to replace milk or cream) - though the substituted ingredient may have a different effect on your dosha, so if you're committed to that you'll need to do extra research.

Whole foods focus?: Yes!
Vegan-friendly?: Somewhat.
Eco-conscious?: Sure!
Web presence?: Sorta.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Gee, thanks!

As this is Thanksgiving weekend (here in Canada), I thought I'd explore the holiday from two different angles:

First: this holiday is supposed to be about thanks - you know, being grateful for what you have; and also about giving - being generous with what you have. Manifesting an "attitude of gratitude" is a fantastic skill as it encourages positivity, and one that I certainly put some deliberate time towards fostering in my mind on a daily basis.
Here, I'll take a stab at it now - the first 5 things that come to mind that I feel so blessed to have in my life:
1. You, my readers, who take interest in what I have to say, and comment after my posts so I know I'm not talking to myself out here in internet land.
2. The lovely guy sleeping in the next room who cleans up my kitchen messes, and not only doesn't think I'm nuts for enjoying "green drinks" and "fibre drinks", but joins me in drinking them!
3. My mum, who is always ready to help with anything I need, including looking up poems in the children's books in her basement (see below).
4. My (step-)aunt, who hosts us for Thanksgiving dinner every year (and who also did many of the illustrations in Get It Ripe), as well as the rest of my family and friends who'll be around the table tonight.
5. The beautiful autumn we've been having.
6. Central heating, which is included in our rent (Thanks landlords!).
7. The makers of The Tudors, which I am so enjoying watching these days, and the kind folks who put it up online for me to download.
8. My comfy new star-print flannel pj pants that I'm wearing as I sit and write this Sunday morning post. (Okay, that's eight things, but if the gratitude is flowing, why stop it?)

It would be neat to take some time today or tomorrow, either on your own or with your fam and friends as you prepare your Thanksgiving feast, to consider all the people who had a hand in making your Thanksgiving dinner happen. There're the obvious folks: the people you're "breaking bread" with, the farmer's who grew your food, the people who prepared the food, the person who wrote the recipes you're using (ha ha) ... but when you really think about it, there's the person who invented ovens, and the manufacturer of your oven, the one who invented the phone, and the folks at the phone company who allowed you to make your plans, the people who invented the form of transportation you used to get to the dinner, and either the transit employees or the bike or car manufacturers that actually made your vehicle....
My point being, there's so much to be grateful for! (And, maybe in the Comments you'd like to tell us what it is you're feeling grateful for today.)

With this feeling in mind, let's talk about grace. As our society has become less religious, many of us have lost out on this beautiful tradition of taking a moment at the beginning of a meal to feel thankful for it (I will note that if God isn't your thing, you can just leave him/her out of it). This time has the added benefit of slowing us down, which allows our bodies to get ready for digestion. Here's a simple, non-denominational 'grace' from a children's book of poems, Father Fox's Pennyrhymes by Clyde Watson, that I've had since I was a kid.
Let the fall leaves fall
And the cold snow snow
And the rain rain rain 'til April.
Our coats are warm
and the pantry's full
and there's cake upon the table.

Now for the second part of Thanksgiving, the celebrating with food part:
As far as food goes, I can make a number of recommendations as long as you've got a copy of Get It Ripe on hand, and preferably some locally-grown produce. Try any or all of these:
* A soup is always a great starter: Apple Carrot Soup with Coriander (p. 165), Beautiful Borscht (p. 166), Broccoli Creem Soup (p. 167), Creemy Corn Soup (p. 170), or Portobello Soup (p. 176)
* Roasted squash as per directions on page 90 or Maple Roasted Roots (p. 185)
* Millet-Stuffed Bell Peppers (p. 196) with Cashew (p. 159) or Miso Gravy (p. 160)
* If you didn't want plain roasted squash, the Butternut Risotto (p. 181) might make a delicious entree instead
* Roasted Fennel makes a delicious side
* You might make some Buttahmilk Biscuits (p. 132) with a tablespoon of dried herbs thrown in, or Molasses Cornbread (p. 134) or Almost Focaccia Bread (p. 136)
* And of course you'll need a Pumpkin Pie (p. 218) - the coconut milk in this one makes it sooo decadent. If you're not so jazzed about making a pie crust, just oil up some oven-proof custard dishes and/or a loaf pan (my mum and I take this lazy way all the time - though don't get me wrong, my mum does actually make some of the best pie crusts I've ever had!). You might pour the remaining coconut milk from the can (perhaps with a drop of maple syrup) over the pie, or make the raw Cashew Creem (p. 219) which is very "more-ish".
* Another dessert option is to go against convention and make the Apple Crumble (p. 220) - it's a winner for sure!

Ryan and I have spent all weekend on a liquid fast (which is why I was somewhat pained and salivating writing the second half of this post) and will be having our first solids since Thursday this evening at my family's Thanksgiving. That means we'll be filling up on roasted squash, fennel (sans the white wine) and Brussels sprouts, maybe with some mushroom gravy, and some raw date-almond bars for dessert. Here's to a Thanksgiving where we don't feel impossibly stuffed by the end of the night!

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A modern farm cookbook

The Book: ExtraVeganZa: Original Recipes from Phoenix Organic Farm by Laura Matthias (New Society Publishers, 2006)

Overall feeling: I heard of this book through some vegan internet forum, and when I finally got a hold of it was surprised, given how close the food ethic in this book lines up with mine, that I'd not come across it before. Laura runs an organic farm in BC where she hosts WWOOFers and enjoys cooking vegan food. I have lived on a few organic farms in BC where I was a WWOOFer and enjoyed cooking vegan food! Laura clearly uses her garden as her inspiration, which as a grrrl in a Toronto apartment with no outdoor space to call her own I gotta say I envy!
Best bits: The cover of ExtraVeganZa is warm and inviting. Laura's book is filled with delicious-sounding recipes - I almost went through a whole pad of mini Post-Its marking the ones I want to try. My friend Dominika and I made the Mint Pea Lime soup, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Ryan made the Artichoke Dip, and while I don't believe all that olive oil was needed (and should have been heated for a whole hour, as it stopped having that clean olive oil taste), it was pretty tasty (and goodness, I was hoping it would be with $8 worth of organic artichoke hearts in it!).
Other recipes on my to-try list include: Strawberry Jalapeno Dressing, Pumpkin Seed Yam Pate, Nutty Crackers, Almond Stuffed Mushroom Caps, Spicy Peanut Lime Cilantro Soup, Ginger Oyster Mushroom Soup, Ginger Anise Peach Muffins, Spelt Cinnamon Buns, Coffee Cheesecake, Leah's Blueberry Lavender Tarts, any of the pie crusts, Almond Apricot Rice Flour Cookies, Cardamom Mochi Fruit Crumble.
Less-wonderful bits: I was especially surprised, given Laura's science background (my thinking being that scientist have to be very specific), at the vagueness in some of her recipes. In Almond Rice Balls, for example, the first ingredient called for is "4 cups brown rice, cooked" which means that one would take 4 cups of dry rice, and cook it. And that, from what I know about cooking grains, would give you about 10 cups of cooked rice. The ingredients that follow are in qualities small enough that I wondered if she actually meant "4 cups cooked rice". In the Artichoke Heart Dip, "1 garlic bulb, peeled" was needed, but Ryan was unsure when preparing it just what size of bulb/how many cloves were needed and if they should be chopped before being put in the saucepan with the other ingredients. The method for the soup I made simply directed me to "saute the onion and garlic in the oil on medium heat. Stir in the peas, spinach and salt, and continue stirring for another minute." From my soup-making experience I decided to allow the onions and garlic to cook for 7 minutes or so before tossing in the other ingredients, though the recipe made it sound like one should immediately follow the other.
It could be that Laura meant exactly what she said in all these cases, and I certainly don't want to put you off the book by pointing this out, I was just hoping, as a literal recipe reader, for more clarity to be sure.
Whole foods focus?: Yes!
Vegan-friendly?: 100 percent!
Eco-conscious?: Sure!
Web presence?: Yup.

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"Domestic affair... do you think it's a funny title?" I asked a friend.
"Funny ha-ha?" she responded, "well, no not really."
"But 'domestic affair', it's like what's going on in the nation, but it's also me, being drawn to all these domestic tasks - knitting, cooking, caring for small children..." I tried to explain.
"I like that it has the word affair in it," she concluded.

jae's first book!

Get It Ripe cover Have you seen my award-winning whole foods cookbook Get It Ripe: a fresh take on vegan living (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2008)? Keep your eyes peeled for it!
To join the Facebook group for the book, go here.


about the blog:

about the cookbooks:

While I love hearing from you, and read each and every one of your e-mails, please understand that I just cannot respond to all of them due to the rate at which they're coming in these days!

If you have a question, I might have already answered it here.

in the press

live in person!

come see me:
* Vida Vegan Con in Portland, OR, August 26-28, 2011.

...but better yet, check the calendar for details!



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