Thursday, November 19, 2009

Love List #2

I'll admit I was surprised that more of you didn't respond last week about this new feature on the blog (I guess because I'm so excited by it), but maybe it'll take a while to catch on?

The Birth House: I had to read this novel earlier this semester (well, I requested it from a list of four midwifery-related books), and I really enjoyed it. Author Ami McKay very skillfully transported me into another time and place (rural Nova Scotia, beginning in 1917), and I so enjoyed being there that I want to go back and read it again soon. I love thoughtful and compassionate female main characters who are completely competent at standing on their own two feet, as is Dora Rare. The book, to me, was slightly reminiscent of Ann-Marie MacDonald's Fall On Your Knees, though not so long and painfully heartbreaking.

Charter for Compassion: You know when you discover examples of people doing good things and it makes you think the world is a good place to be after all? Yeah, I love that feeling too.

Childbirth Education Doll: I've been going and looking at this on Etsy all week. I love it. I waaaaaannt it. My mum thinks the doll has too much pubic hair (and told me so over lunch the other day, which was a bit much, even for me), but I disagree. Don't tell me just to buy the pattern because for one, I already have my hands full knitting a placenta for my Birth and Its Meanings class, and more importantly, I don't crochet.

Gilmore Girls: I know I am not the only one who finds this show cozy and comforting. Sure some of the banter annoys me, and I now that I've watched them all a few times, I'm happy to fast forward through scenes with the more annoying characters like Michael or Kirk or Great-Grandmother Lorelai, but when I need an escape, this show calls to me, especially in the fall.

Jerusalem Artichokes (aka Sunchokes): I made the oven fries from page 195 of Get It Ripe the other day and was reminded of the pure vegetable bliss of this root. After 40 minutes in the toaster oven they got all roasty and even caramelized enough that they were a bit sticky in my teeth. Yum!

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sweet and simple

Sure, it's November and time to start bundling up, but raw foods are a beneficial part of our whole-food diets throughout the year! Our bodies always appreciate all those good enzymes raw foods give us, and if there are raw foods treats around, we might be less likely to gorge on glutinous and sugary baked treats that give our digestive systems more grief.

Let's welcome Anne-Kristin to our pack of Tuesday Reviewers. (If you haven't taken a peek at her blog yet, you should. It's great!)
And by the way, we do sure appreciate your comments on Tuesday Reviews. It helps let us know that it's indeed something you want to read.

The Book: Ani’s Raw Food Desserts by Ani Phyo (DaCapo Press, 2009)
Review by A-K Thordin

Overall feeling: Ani Phyo has made a name for herself both in and out of the raw food world by offering simple, uncomplicated recipes that often require little more than a knife or food processor. Being a fan of her first book, Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen, I was excited to see her approach translated to my own personal raw food weakness: dessert! Her latest book is a slim, portable volume that nevertheless holds 85 recipes for “Easy, Delectable Sweets and Treats” as well as tips on green living, health and beauty. With everything from raw takes on traditional favorites like Tiramisu to more “adventurous” fare like the Hemp Goji Acai Bowl, almost entirely without the need for a dehydrator or high-speed blender, this is the busy or new-to-raw person’s raw dessert book. Included in the introductory sections are ingredient descriptions and benefits, and a basic kitchen equipment overview with recommendations. There are lots of photographs (and for those of you who have her first book, they’re almost entirely of ingredients or dishes rather than the author) in an easy-to-read, though rather feminine, design approach. Divided into categories like frozen treats, cakes, chocolate, crisps, puddings, cookies, sauces, and wine/champagne desserts, you’re sure to find a lot of tempting choices in this book.

Best bits: Like the cover promises, the recipes are simple and easy to make; some taking little more than a few minutes. Each recipe has icons under the title which refer to the equipment required or recommended for particular recipes, so you don’t have to read through the whole recipe in order to find out if you can make it in your own kitchen. The book does a great job of making readers feel good about the food we’re about to indulge in by discussing nutrients, minerals, and other benefits in the ingredients, most of them with an enticing introduction on the yummy factor as well. And while most of the recipes do require little more than a knife and/or food processor, there are still a few recipes that make use of dehydrators or high-speed blenders for those who have them. The recipes are flexible and can be tweaked easily to suit personal tastes as you work, an added bonus of their simplicity being that you can usually know almost immediately what the final product will taste like before you start shaping cookies or plating a carob avocado pudding. Some of my personal favorites include the Peach and Pistachio Cobbler, Carob Walnut Cookies, Breakfast Toast (turned into raw PB & J - photo above), and Lemon Fig Cookies, though I’m also excited to try the Raspberry Ganache Fudge Cake, Pineapple Icebox Dessert, and the Mayan Crunch Truffle Balls.

Less-wonderful bits: One thing you will notice right from the start, if you have a copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, is that both books have the same size and page design layout, right down to color and arch of the recipe titles, and differ primarily by the background patterns and cover design. The photographs, while useful, are overall rather mediocre considering the author’s stature and the extreme potential for drool-factor with these recipes – most of them end up a bit flat, with less-than-ideal lighting, and even messy displays of the food. As with many raw food books, nuts and superfoods or exotic ingredients like goji berries or yacon syrup may be cost-prohibitive or difficult to find locally for many, although Ani suggests using dehydrated vegetable pulp in place of nuts for those with nut allergies (and perhaps those with less-full wallets). The emphasis on anti-aging/anti-wrinkles may not be useful for many readers, and occasionally succumbs to the often-seen raw food preoccupation with youth, and beauty. Lastly, although simplicity is usually a great selling point, a few of the recipes are so simple that they almost don’t qualify as recipes: the Fleur de Sel Kissed Watermelon, for example, is simply watermelon with sea salt. Still, these kinds of recipes may be nice inspiration for times when you’re out of other ingredients or short on cash.

Whole foods focus?: Definitely.
Vegan-friendly?: Absolutely!
Eco-conscious?: Yep!
Web presence?: Indeed.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Warming up to better digestion

When I first started talking to people about their nutritional health, I was amazed at how many people had digestive issues: bloating, gas, cramps, constipation (going less that once a day)....
It became less and less of a surprise to me as I started to make the links: we get very little, if any, digestive health education (things like "Don't talk with your mouth full" and "Don't shovel in your food" are taught under the guise of good table manners). Most of us eat far too much sugar (which encourages the "bad" bacteria in our guts to reign, killing off the "good guys", read, probiotics). And many of us have addictive relationships with food, associating it with comfort, and trying to nourish our emotional and/or spiritual selves more often than our physical parts.

The problem is, the more we tax our digestive systems:
* the harder it is to absorb the beneficial nutrients from the food we eat.
* the harder it is to balance our weight.
* the more compromised our immune systems become. (They say that 70% of your immune system is in your gut.)
* the worse we smell (bad breath, strong body odour, stinkier farts)
* the worse we feel.

Today, I just have 3 simple tips to get you going on the path to improved digestion. They're especially pertinent now that we're in the colder part of the year.

1. Resist eating anything that's cold. This applies to iced drinks, ice creem, yogurt, cold milk on cold cereal, and cold leftovers straight from the fridge.
Cold things cool down your digestive system, forcing your body to warm them up before they can be broken down, which means that undigested food sits heavily in your digestive tract longer than it ought to.

2. Enjoy "digestive spices" such as turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, ginger, cloves, liquorice and black pepper. Make teas (like Turmeric Ginger Tea on page 111 of Get It Ripe, Easy Tea on page 110, or either of the Rooibos Chais on page 244). If you are going to eat something cold (yogurt, cereal with milk, ice creem), certainly sprinkle on one or more of these spices to help balance things out. When heating up oil for any dish (soups, stews, stir-fries, etc), add a pinch of turmeric (sure everything will look a little yellower, but the taste will be pretty negligible).

3. Relax with a hot water bottle on your abdomen after meals or whenever you feel gassy and crampy. What a cheap and easy way to improve your health! (I've knit the "cozy" pictured here at least 3 times now.) If post-meal discomfort is chronic for you, prepare the hot water bottle before meals, and enjoy it afterward, hanging out on the couch (best if you sit upright, or in a semi-reclined position to allow gravity to help out too), breathing deeply, manifesting self-loving thoughts (am I getting a little too "Dr. Feel Good" for you here? Just wait for what I'm about to say!).

The better you feel physically, the more positively you'll feel emotionally. The more positively you'll feel emotionally, the lighter you'll feel spiritually - it's such a super cycle, isn't it?

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Dense and delicious

Sweet Potato Date Muffins

When you plan to make a muffin your meal, these are the ones for you. They are dense and delicious, and might just become one of your favourite muffins - ever. You might be looking at the ratio of dry to wet ingredients, or the temperature setting for the oven and think “This can’t work!”, but you’ll just have to trust me – it does! Pile the thick batter high in those muffin cups and you'll get crunchy tops and moist interiors - yum!

300g sweet potato, peeled and cubed (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 cups whole spelt flour
1 cup oatbran
1 cup rolled oats
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup chopped pitted dates
1 cup applesauce (homemade or unsweetened store-bought)
¾ cup maple syrup
2/3 cup sunflower oil or softened non-hydrogenated coconut oil

Preheat oven to 410oF. Prepare 12 muffin cups with liners or a light coating of oil and set aside.
Put 1 inch of water in the bottom of a saucepan fitted with a steamer basket. Place over high heat, cover, and once the water comes to a boil add the cubed sweet potato, and steam until tender but not mushy, about 6-8 minutes.
Whisk together the flour, bran, oats, baking powder and soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Add the dates and stir to coat in the flour. Pour in the applesauce, maple syrup and oil. Mix together just until all the flour has been absorbed. Gently fold in the sweet potatoes. Portion evenly into the prepared muffin cups (yes, just 12). Slide them into the oven and bake for 28 minutes, until the tops are browned and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Stores in an airtight container for 3 days, or in the fridge for up to a week.

Makes 12 large muffins.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thursday Love List

You know I like to have themes going for blog posts, don't you?
Foodie Fridays, The Tuesday Review... and for a while this year I chronicled my Farmers' Market Finds on Mondays. Now I'm thinking I'll add the Thursday Love List into the mix.

Not Far From the Tree: Last Thursday evening, Lisa and I met up at Wychwood Barns for the End-of Season celebration (at which a copy of Get It Ripe was given away as one of the many super door prizes) for this Toronto based fruit-picking organization started by Laura Reinsborough (who I first met years ago through my ex-girlfriend when they were both at school in Sackville NB). This season (their second full year in action), Laura, her small handful of employees and hundreds of volunteer gleaners (Lisa included, with "supreme gleaner" status) harvested 8135 pounds of sweet cherries, sour cherries, serviceberries, mulberries, apricots, plums, crabapples, pears, sumac, elderberries, apples, black walnuts, and ginkgo nuts from private residential trees. All this local goodness gets distributed between the tree owners, the volunteers, and people in need who access services (like food banks) in 3 wards across the city. Win-win-WIN! Don't you wish you were involved in such a super organization? I sure do!

Generous pregnant women in Toronto who have met with me over past few months prenatally, allowed be to attend their births, and met postnatally too, sharing their very intimate experiences of pregnancy. Some of these women tell me they do it because it's a way to give back to the profession of midwifery, that they've so appreciated. It sure is helping me learn, and helps me get through the drier parts of the program with greater enthusiasm.

The Good Wife: As a dedicated student, I've tried to minimize presence of teevee in my life this semester (and it's not that challenging when 30 Rock doesn't seem as hilarious this season, and that new show Glee doesn't grab me at all), but I'll admit I'm hooked on this one. Maybe it's Julianna Margulies who I always knew was awesome (even though I never got into ER), or the fact that I haven't seen Josh Charles (of Dead Poets Society and Threesome fame) in years. Have you seen it?

Twitter Lists: I ignored them at first, and creating them for everyone I follow was a ridiculous time-suck for me last weekend, but I'm sure glad I did it because it's a super way to keep on top of tweets that interest me.

1 Minute Chocolate Sauce One part fair-trade cocoa powder (sifted) + one part agave nectar, mix until smooth = YUM! (Add a splash of liquid coconut oil if you desire.) Drizzle over whatever pleases you, like (coconut milk-based) Mint Ice Creem. So simple.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Compassion Without Compromise

There's a backlog of books here at my house waiting for the attention of a review. I'm pleased every time one goes up, and I can shift the book from my mental "review" list to a less-attention-needing place on my overstuffed cookbook shelf.
I suppose it's a little unusual that I, a vegan cookbook author, give space to other vegan cookbook authors on my blog, but I'm fully aware that one or two cookbooks is not enough variety for most people, and it's neat (...yup, I just said "neat") to examine what else is out there. In my culinary life, different cookbooks are go-tos at different moments, and I expect it's the same for you all.
By the way, let's all welcome Ms. Mapcap Cupcake herself, Marika Collins, as a first-time Tuesday reviewer!

The Book: The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks' Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (Fair Winds Press, 2007)

Review by Marika Collins

Preamble/Overall Feeling: The Joy of Vegan Baking is brought to us by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, the thoughtful and sensitive founder of the Compassionate Cooks website. This expansive baking tome is written in a positive, enthusiastic and nurturing tone. An excellent resource for anyone who loves to bake whether vegan or not, it's approachability makes it particularly great for new vegans. Visually, the book is quite pleasant with nice glossy pages, a well-organized, sensible format, easy to read type and appetizing colour photos.

Best Bits: Colleen's friendly narrative makes the book very approachable and enjoyable to read. She makes no assumptions about the baker's level of knowledge or experience, and the recipes are well thought out and easy to follow. The book opens with conscientious and poignant essays on why the author chose to become vegan and why veganism is an important, powerful and positive choice. The book is filled with useful educational information, such as how to effectively replace eggs and dairy – advice that you can take outside the book to veganize other recipes. There are numerous informative appendices on how to read recipes and measure ingredients, a glossary of baking terms, lists of recommended kitchen tools and equipment, resources for sourcing ingredients and suggested reading. The book is also peppered with useful trouble-shooting guides and tip sheets, plus a useful chart of baking pan equivalents.
The expansive table of contents make this an all-inclusive dessert book with many traditional favourites represented. Everything from cookies and cakes to puddings and pies is on offer - as well as candy, frostings, toppings, syrups and spreads. Make a selection of these indulgent, sweet treats for your non-vegan friends and family and I challenge them to note the difference. I've sampled several recipes with excellent results, including the Hearty Spiced Cocoa Muffins, Pumpkin Bread, Baked Pumpkin Pudding, Apple Pie and Pastry Cream. All turned out beautifully and as expected.

Less-Wonderful Bits: The all-purpose flour and white sugar might give those with a more nutritional or whole-foods approach pause. Ener-G Egg Replacer also makes a frequent appearance throughout the book, which may cause a problem for those who either don't like the product or don't have access to it. I would encourage health-conscious bakers to experiment with alternative flours and sweeteners. I would have no fear subbing spelt flour and Sucanat in place of all-purpose flour and white sugar in these recipes – I tried it with the Hearty Spiced Cocoa Muffins with delicious results.

Whole foods focus?: Only somewhat (but that's not what the book's about).
Vegan-friendly?: 100%.
Eco-conscious?: Yes – the book promotes veganism and encourages buying fair-trade and organic ingredients.
Web presence?: Yes.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Slow cooking

This is a great cool-weather recipe, when it's nice to have the oven going for a good portion of the day. The recipe testers for Ripe from Around Here just loved it.

Grandmother Palmer’s Baked Beans

Mother to two of the most fantastic kids I’ve ever cared for, Alisa Palmer put me in touch with her dad, Marven, who was willing to share this recipe of his mother’s with me. (He’d made it once when visiting, and years later I still remembered the heavenly smell as the beans cooked for hours.) Of course I had to find a replacement for the pork they use, but otherwise it’s pretty true to the original.
This is slow food, New Brunswick (turned vegan whole-foods) style. Serve with whole grain toast and a fresh salad.

1 lb (2 1/3 cups) navy beans (or yellow-eye or soldier beans), soaked in plenty of cold water overnight (for 6-10 hours)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
½ cup or 1 small can tomato paste (optional)
¼ cup unsulphured blackstrap molasses
¼ cup pumpkin seed butter
2 tbsp. organic brown sugar or maple syrup
1 ½ - 2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp freshly grated ginger root or ½ tsp ginger powder
1 whole chipotle pepper (or ½ tsp powder) (optional, but highly recommended)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350oF.
Drain the soaking water off the beans and rinse. Put them in a 5-quart pot over medium heat, add 6 cups fresh water. Bring to a boil, skim off as much of the foam as you can, then simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until the beans begin to plump up (lose their wrinkled look). Add the onion, tomato paste, molasses, pumpkin seed butter, sweeteners, salt, mustard, ginger, chipotle and black peppers. Stir, then pour in an additional 1 ½ cups filtered water. Cover and slide in the oven to bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300oF, and bake for about 4 hours longer (the original recipe says to be sure to check them “mid-afternoon” – it’s likely that Grandmother Palmer always served dinner, at 6pm), until the beans are soft and there’s just the right amount of sauce (which is, of course, up to you, but know that you can add water ½ cup at a time, as needed).

Serve warm.

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

That Sunday Feeling

With the clocks changing today, I'm pretty sure my body thinks it's close to midnight. I'm torn between getting to bed at a decent hour, and putting a bit of time into writing.

I have an exam tomorrow afternoon. I have always had a lot of difficulty writing exams, and as it's been a few year since I was last in school (and closer to 5 1/2 since I was last in university) I am sorely out of practice. I also think I am too old to pull an all-nighter (in fact I think I was always to old for that).

Did you ever have that Sunday Feeling when you were a kid? It rolls around to those last few hours of the weekend and you know you haven't your homework for the following day and your not sure what to do - stay up late and get it done? Get up early on Monday morning? (yeah, right, like that's gonna happen!), or pretend to ignore the whole thing and watch Brothers and Sisters, or whatever happens to be on Sunday night teevee?

I am feeling a little like that right now. The guilt of not-enough-studying seems crazy though because I recall working as hard as I could without going around the bend this weekend. I skipped out on any sort of Halloween celebration (which was especially weird-feeling in my neighbourhood considering it has the most kids per capita in all of Toronto - if sounded like a parade going by our living room window for a good while). I missed tabling at Canzine for the first time in about a decade. I had to pass on an invitation to a family dinner out at a restaurant tonight. The funny thing is, I took some anatomy quizzes online today and didn't exactly fly through them, which confirms my suspicion that my brain has developed a Teflon coating.

And after all this whining it's become clear.
Here's what I like: hands-on learning and opportunity for practice. Here's what I don't like: textbooks and exams. Yes, those are my educational wishes, for me, and "different" learners everywhere.

Here's what else I'd like: for you to tell me what fun things you did for Halloween so I can do some momentary vicarious living.

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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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