Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Simple Steps for Spring

Even as a health practitioner I get can get overwhelmed at times – not always feel certain just where I should focus my efforts in moving towards greater health and wellbeing. I often let the principles of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which highlight various elements in particular seasons, be my guide. According to TCM, spring is the season to care for your liver, eat sour foods, and address your anger.

Your liver, humbly situated under your rib cage on the right side, does an impressive 400-plus things for you each day, including the filtration of toxins (like alcohol, drugs, and germs). There’s lots you can do to show it some love and help it to function effectively.

I love that fresh produce gets growing come spring and we can start to enjoy local asparagus, baby greens, dandelion greens, radishes and spinach to get some important minerals and fibre into our bods. Steam or grill the asparagus, put the dandelion greens in a salad or through your juicer, dip radishes is your favourite hummus, and pour hot soup over organic baby spinach or blend it up in a berry smoothie. Just be sure that at least half your plate is covered in vegetables at every meal! While not necessarily in season, the liver is especially fond of the phytonutrients of veg in the Brassica family, like bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards and kale.

The mention of sour brings citrus to mind of course, so start spiking your water with fresh lemon juice. This is especially beneficial and refreshing to do first thing in the morning (I’m talking pre-coffee, if that’s part of your established wake-up routine). Limes are just fine too.

If you’re often feeling angry, now may be the time to take a look at it. Five minutes of conscious breathing – first thing in the morning, last thing at night, or whenever you need it – makes a real difference when you make it a daily habit. If something really gets on your nerves, instead of delving into those pissy feelings, make a deliberate effort to come back to the nicest feeling you have access to. It could be something or someone in your life you feel good about, or simply the smell of spring in the air.

Further reading:
Staying Healthy with the Seasons by Elson Haas, MD
Food and Healing by Annemarie Colbin

(This article appears as the cover story in the Toronto Vegetarian Association's newsletter, Lifelines, but I thought you might like to read it, too.)

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Winter's last gasp

We may be having warmer moments, and sunshinyier moments, but there's not much to eat growing out of the ground yet. It's a good time to use up the last of the storage crop of cabbages and potatoes.

Polish Neighbourhood Soup

I live in the west end of Toronto, just off a street with many Polish storefronts - bakeries, delis, restaurants, and even a Polish video store and a religious store displaying Catholic paraphernalia in Polish in the window. Pierogies and sausages abound, but not for me. Ryan, who has frequented nearby restaurants for soup in the past, gave me a bit of guidance on this one. It's simple and satisfying.
And yes, I do avoid "faux" products most of the time (because of their soy, wheat, oil and sodium content), but there are moments when I just don't feel like resisting a Tofurkey Beer Brat. It's good to be "good" most of the time, but I`m not going to loose sleep over 2 of these a month. They're tasty (in a completely-unhealthy-but-at-least-cruelty-free way).

2 medium-large onions, chopped
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
1 kg. potatoes (I like Yukon Gold), peeled, rinsed, and chopped
about 6 cups chopped green cabbage
4 cups (or more) vegetable stock or filtered water
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
2 tsp. caraway seeds
2 tsp. sea salt
1-2 pkgs. Tofurkey Beer Brats (half to one per person/serving)

Saute the onions in the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they become soft (about 8-10 minutes). Add the potatoes, cabbage, and stock (or water), turn up the heat to high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer, add the vinegar, caraway and salt, stir, cover, and cook until the potatoes are soft. (If you're going to enjoy some 'brats', now would be the time to heat 'em up in a skillet, no oil required, just a splash of water to avoid sticking, until they're browned on a few sides.) Now bust out your handblender, or potato masher, and break things up a bit. It' nice to keep the soup chunky, but not too chunky (find the balance that you like).
Chop those 'brats' up into bite-sized pieces and distribute evenly in the soup bowls. Ladle the soup into the bowl and enjoy hot, with a nice fresh salad or some steamed broccoli.

Makes about 8 servings.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions

I love hearing from people. You know how much I love getting blog comments (not that I'm a big responder, but I appreciate reading them all the same). I also love when people drop me a line by e-mail (that's to say they've been reading or cooking with the book and what their experience has been. I have been finding though that many people have the same questions, and along with feeling like a broken record, I'm not to jazzed about all the typing. So in comes an FAQ post to the rescue!

This book is really just for vegans (and omnivores won’t like it), right?
Actually, I wrote this book for everyone. While converting people to veganism just isn’t my thing (I think we should all get informed and make the decisions we feel are best for us), I do believe as a nutritionist that we all need more creative ways to be eating and enjoying vegetables. A whole foods plant-based diet is cleaner-burning in our systems and eliminates many of the most common food allergens (like dairy). And I’m not the only one suggesting that everyone eat vegan meals more often, it’s a popular idea these days (just read Food Matters by Mark Bittman or the UN document Livestock’s Long Shadow) for slimming down, addressing other health issues, and for the health of the planet.
Recipes that tend to impress the pants off meat-eaters the most include The Good Shepherd’s Pie, Coconut Cauliflower Chana, Sesame Kale Soba, Millet-Stuffed Bell Peppers, many of the soups and salads, and pretty much any of the muffins (Banana Chocolate Chip), cookies (Double Trouble Chocolate or Date Coconut) and desserts (the Chai Cake)!

Where can I get your book?
As a former employee of an indie bookstore, I do encourage you to spend your dollars at their establishments. (Did you know that a greater percentage of the book price goes to the author if you get it at a smaller place instead of one of the corporate chains?) I understand that the pull of the discounts and the sometimes free delivery from big name online sellers can be quite enticing. When it comes down to it, if you can get your hands on the book in one way or another, I’m happy!

Where can I get your book in Montreal?
I get asked this particular question often enough that it’s worth answering here. Co-op La Maison Verte in NDG sells my book, and I love them so much that I hope you go and support them! It can also be found at Bon Appetite in Westmount and any Chapters or Indigo store location.

Do all vegans avoid wheat?
Of course not, silly! Veganism is simply defined as the elimination of all animal products (like meat, dairy, eggs) from one’s diet (and often from one’s lifestyle too). Get It Ripe excludes wheat because it’s a grain that many people have developed an intolerance or allergy to, including me. (And what would be the fun in creating recipes I couldn’t enjoy myself?) For many people, spelt, while it’s an ancient grain that’s related to wheat (and still contains gluten), is easier to tolerate, and it can replace wheat with a relative amount of ease in most recipes.

I can’t eat gluten. Will Get It Ripe have recipes I can enjoy?
Almost 75 percent of the recipes in the book are or can be gluten-free, including a few sweet treats. And rest assured, I’m working on more gluten-free baked goods for the next book!

I can’t eat sugar. Does that mean all the sweet recipes and baked goods are off limits to me?
Most of the recipes in the book are free of granulated sugar, and when it is called for it’s organic and fairly traded sugar, which contains more minerals and gives the growers and producers a fairer wage. All the muffins and most of the other recipes in Get It Ripe are sweetened with fruit, maple syrup, agave nectar, stevia and/or molasses.

Why so much maple syrup? (And what if I can’t afford it?)
Maple syrup is a staple in my kitchen because it tastes delicious, is vegan (unlike honey), is produced locally (one of the many perks of being Canadian!), and contains more minerals (such as manganese and zinc) than refined sugar, making it less of a hit on our blood sugar levels and a more health-supporting sweetener.
If you feel that you can’t afford maple syrup... well, I have a few thoughts. I don’t think that it takes a million dollars to eat well, but I would ask you to look at where the money you have is going in your life. We as North Americans tend to spend a significantly smaller percentage of our income on food, as compared to folks in Europe. Are you “not affording” wholesome foods, but going out and buying $7-12 drinks at the bar, or $200+ shoes/jeans when the mood strikes you? Obviously, I’m very food oriented, but I have to ask “Don’t you deserve high quality (fresh, clean/organic, whole) foods to nourish your body?” and “Don’t the people producing this good food deserve to make a living wage?” Often times maple syrup can be replaced with agave nectar (but be sure it’s organic agave nectar, as I’ve been hearing that some agave “syrup” is being cut with corn syrup... ugh!), though I’m not sure that’s any cheaper. There was a time in university where I’d pour water over a packed cup of brown sugar to substitute for maple syrup, but that was before I had the nutritional understanding I have now, and saw that while you may save money with lower quality sweeteners now, you’ll spend way more on probiotic supplements to heal your digestive tract from sugar damage later on.

If you’re talking about “ripe” does that mean the book’s recipes are all raw?
Nope, the recipes aren’t all raw – about 23 of them are. You’ll get to enjoy many of the drinks and salads in the book, some sauces and a few desserts.
Get It Ripe is a spin on “get it right” – encouraging you to take nutritionally-beneficial steps that help you move towards greater health and happiness. “Ripe” brings to mind (at least to my mind) fresh, juicy, seasonal produce, which is hopefully the focus of any meal.

I leant my copy of Get It Ripe to a friend – can you send me the recipe for _____?
I am so wrapped up in writing my next book that I really can’t take the time to send individual recipes out over e-mail. Check Domestic Affair to see if the recipe is here somewhere. If not, I’m sure you’ll find something just as great in the blog recipe archives.

Here is a list of my personal health problems and/or concerns and questions about certain foods. Can you tell me what I should do?
How to best support our health can be a mystery to many of us, especially with all the conflicting information on teevee, in magazines, on the web, and from our health practitioners, family and friends. I understand that questions come up (heck, they do for me, too!). I love sharing information, and consulting with people about their health and nutritional concerns, but I can’t spend hours each week responding to individual questions, nor can I give you answers about what you “should” do when I don’t have adequate information about you, your family history, your lifestyle, etc.
If you are interested in nutritional consultation with me (you don’t have to live near me!), which includes a thorough assessment to help me offer suggestions that’ll suit you best, go here (best viewed through Firefox, or e-mail me for an updated PDF pamphlet).

Are you going to write a book on vegan or vegetarian pregnancy, or a whole foods nutrition/cookbook for kids?
All these topics are of interest to me, but I prefer writing about what I know firsthand, so until I’ve had a wee one (or two) of my own, I’m going to hold off on writing books on those topics. In the mean time, I recommend The Natural Pregnancy Book by midwife and herbalist Aviva Romm and the books what Should I Feed My Baby? by Suzannah Olivier and Raising Vegetarian Children by Joanne Stepaniak and Vesanto Melina for pediatric nutrition. (If they’re not veg-focused, they at least have a good holistic/whole foods bent.) Vegetarian cookbooks for kids that I like include Honest Pretzels and Salad People by Mollie Katzen and Better than Peanut Butter & Jelly by Marty Mattare and Wendy Muldawer.

I’m thinking of going to school for nutrition. Can you tell me about your school, and if you think I should go?
I attended Canadian School of Natural Nutrition here in Toronto to become a registered holistic nutritionist. They have sites across Canada (and by distance ed), just check their website. The course topics include Anatomy and Physiology, Cellular Biology, Biochemistry, Preventative Nutrition, the Body-Mind-Spirit connection, Pediatric Nutrition, Sports Nutrition, Allergies, and Alternative Diets. I had a few wonderful teachers who I still keep in touch with today. For many students it is a catalyst for further study (some people go on to naturopathy or homeopathy) or something they want to add to an already existing career (like personal training, massage therapy, culinary arts, or work with children or the elderly).
One of the big challenges for the right now is waiting out the learning curve while people begin to understand the value of preventative self-care and more holistic (body-mind-spirit connecting) healing practices. I do believe that everyone should see a holistic practitioner (naturopathic doctor, holistic nutritionist and/or doctor of traditional Chinese medicine) at least once or twice a year, just as you’d see your family doctor, but until that becomes generally accepted practice, I joke that holistic health practitioners are like the new “starving artists” (and we don’t even have access to things like artists’ grants!).

Are you still selling your cookzines?
For years I loved producing zines, but it’s not a big focus of mine anymore – I’m trying to focus on books!
Sometimes I’ll bring any stock I still have (like Ripe #4, Sprouts and Roots) to an event, but it’s unlikely that I’ll be making more copies of the old cookzines (Vegan Freegan, Ripe #s 1-3, Root, Cookie Zine...).

When’s your next book coming out?
My second book, Ripe from Around Here, is expected to be released by Arsenal Pulp Press in March 2010. As the title suggests, it has a local foods theme, but will be set up in a similar way to Get It Ripe: resource chapters (helping you to understand where various foods are coming from and how to reduce your carbon footprint and build healthy communities) followed by recipes.
Friday, March 13, 2009

A different way to start your day

Goodness, this is the third time this week I've meant to get a blog post out, and I'm sure glad it's finally happened. What with workshops and lectures, seeing clients, figuring things out with real estate agents, enjoying a Dragon Bowl dinner in the dark while watching Doubt at the local revue cinema with one of my favourite people, and editing a colleague's cookbook... I've been busier than I've been in a while. Still, that doesn't mean I'm resorting to take-out or power bars....

Chia Seed Porridge

I've heard this kind of concoction called pudding before, but in my mind pudding is smooth, and this isn't (though the texture is fun). Chia seeds are an impressive source of omega-3 (couldn't we all use a little less inflammation in our lives? Let's hear it for those essential fats!) and while I held off on trying chia seeds for a while as they are exponentially more expensive than flaxseeds, their price is going down (and I'm coming around – it's all about variety in the kitchen!).
Now chocolate... excuse me, cacao for breakfast? you may be wondering. Well, why not?, I say. Those chocolate cravings can kick in early in the day for some of us, and this stuff is not only a good source of anti-oxidants, but it's not all looped up in immune-compromising sugar, like other chocolate products.
This recipe, as long as you use homemade raw almond milk, is of course considered a living food (yaaaaay, enzymes!).

6 tbsp whole chia seeds
1 1/2 c unsweetened almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
9 pitted dates, soaked in 3 tbsp warm water for 5-10 minutes
3 tbsp. raw cacao nibs, ground (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup fresh berries, to top (optional - as you can see from the pic above, all I had on hand were frozen berries)

Distribute the chia seeds evenly in 3 (250mL) custard cups or put them in a medium bowl.
Place the dates and soaking water, milk, cacao nibs and/or cinnamon, vanilla and salt in a blender or food processor (I used my easy-peasy handblender). Pour this mixture over the chia seeds and stir well, breaking up any possible chia seed clusters.
Allow it to soak for at least 10-15 minutes until thickened, or cover and let it do its thing in the fridge overnight.
Stir again before serving, and top with berries if desired.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Some perspective, and a good laugh

Have you seen this? I'm not entirely sure who this guy is, but I absolutely love it!:

I watched this with my mum the other night and she was loosing it, meaning I hadn't seen her laugh that hard in forever. The phone bit was especially funny because my childhood (her current) phone number has three zeros in it, we were the last people we knew to get an answering machine in the 90s, and she still has a cream-coloured rotary phone in the basement!

And as I begin this week with the goal that I will reduce my time on facebook by at least 50% (meaning I'm only going to check it once or twice a day. Those of you not on the fbook train are like "Geez, this lady's hooked!"), it's good for me to remember that there was a time before all this technology we rely so heavily on, and that we had fun at that time too!

I also want to offer you at this time the HUGEST thank you for your recent comments that were so generous and really heart-warming, if I can use that term (does "heart-warming" just sound like the way you'd describe a documentary about someone who against all odds managed something magical?). I said "Please massage my bruised ego a bit" and you said "No problem!", and I couldn't be more thrilled.

"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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