Monthly Archives: January 2012

yep, I am now that chick

Standard

5 packs of socks

It’s true. I am now that stranger in the check out line that ruins your day. You are not going to believe this and for why? I was at the grocery store and had all the time in the world, well, at least until my kids get out of school. I shop at Superstore once a week and every so often I look through the boys clothing section to see if there’s anything worth while, lately I find that the Joe line has gone up in price but the quality is still lacking so I usually pass. However my kids need new socks and yesterday I found the mother load of discounted socks. I found 5 packs of socks, score! Four of the packs were 50% off and the last pack was also 50% off but marked incorrectly so they should be 75% off. (This is what caused the hold up at the check out.) When I picked up the socks at the beginning of my journey I thought to myself, I’ll buy these IF I get them for 75% off. So I loaded up my cart with all the things on the list and got in line. When it was my turn I handed the socks to the cashier and explained my discovery. She put them through and the socks rang in at 50% off. I again explained the incorrectly labeled discount. She called 2 separate people and 2 different managers had to physically come to her check out line to approve the pricing, 1 to approve it and the other to override the register. The poor cashier had to explain the situation e-v-e-r-y single time. It took about 15 extra minutes, the young Mom behind me and I joked about how many customers had come and gone while I did this, she was super nice about it, too. Usually I (and I assume you too) give in or give up by paying the higher price or just not taking the item altogether. How much did I save?  -$1.50!!

Score!

The socks were originally $6 discounted 50%. On the top of the discount tag it reads: Discount off last price 50%. On this particle package of socks some employee put another price tag on that read: was: $6/now: $3. So put it all together the socks should be $1.50, score! Technically I suppose I saved $4.50 as the socks were originally $6.

I apologize to all those customers that I ruined their day and gave them fuel for their fire to be so angry and bitter at strangers at the grocery store. This is the first time I have ever done something like this, as I said previously, I usually pass when it becomes too much work or I’m burdening too many people in line behind me. Their unknown needs are usually more important then mine. I have to say it was worth it, it was worth the $1.50 savings to be selfish and monopolized my cashier, it was a positive experience. I was positive and friendly to the cashier and she wanted me to get the discount, she could clearly see that I was right and when all was said and done she said she would’ve done the same thing as a customer. And my kid got 3 extra pairs of thick, warm, fun, new socks with the sticky circles on the bottom that he loves so much. It’s the little things, folks.

The $1.50 socks

5 simple tips for new vegans

Standard

5 Helpful and simple tips to make transitioning to veganism easier and to hopefully stick with your new lifestyle.

photo by Bryn

I have been vegan since September 2010 but it wasn’t an overnight decision. I never said “ok, now, I’m going to be vegan!” For me, it was a process and it was years in the making. I tried vegetarianism for a few years in the mid 90’s, I was in my early 20’s and I didn’t take anything too seriously then. For a brief 3 months I tried veganism and failed, I remember it being really hard and vegan cheese being really awful!! Then one day I realized that I had somehow let meat back into my diet, I was in denial for a while then it didn’t take long for the anger phase then finally acceptance. Later my focus became about whole foods which included meat. About 6 years ago I had stopped buying beef then a few years later stopped buying pork. Then I stopped using so much cow’s milk, switching to soy and almond. I still ate cheese, eggs, chicken/turkey and fish and on occasion bacon, after all the classic BLT is my favourite sammy. It wasn’t until the summer of 2010 that I started to notice I wasn’t feeling all that great, I wasn’t feeling unwell or bad just not great, I thought I could do better. So as you can see it was over a long period of time for these changes to happen and in September when I made the big change, it was also gradual. I started with the master cleanse and felt great! I felt changed and didn’t want to go back to my old lifestyle but wasn’t sure what my future lifestyle looked like. I had no desire to eat meat or milk, so I started with a yeast-free vegetarian diet and continued with eggs and cheese but no cow’s milk and added more beans and tofu and lots of fresh veggies. Then after a few weeks of transitioning to a vegetarian lifestyle there was one day I noticed I hadn’t had any dairy products, cheese or eggs for a week or so. It was completely unconscious so once I was aware of it, I decided to roll with it and that was how I became vegan.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, it was still a lot of work and I had to relearn how to cook (sort of). Also I have 2 kids to take into consideration and feed, my husband is still an omnivore so the kids by default are flexitarian.  The most challenging period of transitioning was about 4 months into being vegan. At first it was easy, I had a passion for it, I was excited to try new recipes, new food and create delicious new meals, I felt inspired! But, after a while it all got a little exhausting and overwhelming, I’ll admit. Once I hit that 4 month mark I had to strategize what I was going to do because at this point I still had no desire to ingest animal products. I didn’t miss any of it, at all! Not even cheese. Not even bacon. Here is a list of tips and tricks I came up with that in hindsight helped me through this rough patch and continue on the vegan path.

1) Be Prepared
-have vegan snacks on hand
-fruit, veggies, hummus, granola, cereal, crackers, kale chips, tofu jerky

Quick and easy snacks are great to have on hand for emergencies, it just may stop you from caving into a craving or that buck-a-slice across the street. I always keep snack items stocked in the cupboard and fridge, as well as, in my purse, just in case.

2) Cook in Batches
-make double batches
-soup, pasta sauce, chili, rice, squash, beans, vegan bean burgers, etc…

When I have time to cook a big meal, I make sure that I make extra and freeze the leftovers. I like to freeze soup and chili in individual containers for a quick lunch or dinner later in the week. I also do large batches of rice and dried beans just for leftovers. One of my favourite leftovers is keeping roasted kabocha squash in the fridge! Yum.

3) Vegan Convenience Foods
-packaged, prepared vegan food
-premarinated tempeh or tofu
-yves or gardein products
-vegan burgers, sausages

Honestly, I’m not a big fan of convenience foods but when you’re transitioning into veganism they can be very handy. I cook a lot but I don’t always have time to cook everything from scratch nor do I always have the energy. During these times I don’t mind using vegan burgers, gardein products, tofurky sausages and bacon tempeh. When added with some leftover rice and steamed greens, you’ve got yourself a delicious meal. And the best part, my kids don’t even know they’re eating vegan.

4) 5 Simple Favourite Recipes
-find 5 easy recipes that you love
and rotate them into your repertoire.

This one is self explanatory, get yourself a vegan cookbook or look on the internet for recipes that interest you, give them a try and once you find a few (or more) that you like, make a note of them and use them often, while continuing to try new ones. This way you won’t be so overwhelmed with all these new changes and you just might find your vegan comfort food. How do you think homemade mac & cheese became one of our favourites in #5 😉

5) Veganize Your Family’s Faves
Some of our favourites are:
-BTLT sandwich (bacon tempeh, lettuce, tomato)
-Homemade mac & cheese
-Vegan Baked Beans
Tofu Cacciatore
-Baba’s Spinach Peeta (pictured at the top)
-Baba’s Coffee Cake

These are just some examples of the family dishes that I have successfully veganized once I got into the swing of cooking vegan.

Try not to get discouraged, even if you slip up, doesn’t mean you fail, you still have a lifetime of meals ahead of you. The definitions have stayed the same but I believe the rules of vegetarianism & veganism have changed, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing anymore so decide what works best for you and your family; maybe you want to try something more gradual like what I did or maybe you’re more interested in becoming flexitarian and eating more vegan meals but not cutting animal products out entirely. Whether you choose baby steps or to go all in, now is the perfect time to try veganism with more accessibility then ever, options for all tastes and new products available on the market there is something for everyone. It has never been more doable then it is now. There are plenty of vegan pages on facebook that can be a source of information and support so be sure to “like” them, starting with mine BC yogafrog, The Vegan Project, Sarah Kramer Fan Page (Sarah also has a vegan app), Karmavore. Just to list a few.

dinner is served

Standard

"I don't like vegan food"

Last night during dinner Kaden confessed that for as long as I’ve been vegan, everyday he’s secretly wished that I’d change back. He doesn’t like vegan food! There, it’s all out on the table now, a big sigh of relief waves over him. I got the sense it was difficult for him to finally admit this to me, he’s sensitive and he seemed prepared for some kind of backlash, after all, it’s been brewing in him for over a year. There was no backlash. I just gave him an understanding smile as he held up his bowl asking for his third helping of the vegan Tofu Cacciatore with Brown Rice Spaghetti we were eating for dinner.

 

 

 

Dude, don’t let your head get in the way of your stomach.

I have to admit the cacciatore turned out pretty good, our pickiest eater and smallest had 2 helpings so that’s all the confirmation I need. I adapted my version from 2 recipes and with the ingredients I had on hand. I’m more of an improvisational cook and look for recipes that suit the ingredients I have rather than make a grocery list according to recipes. Pasta is always a quick and easy meal. Here are the 2 recipes I used as reference Giada’s Chicken Cacciatore from the food network and from Robin Robertson’s Pappardelle Cacciatore from her cookbook Vegan Planet. I’ve made Giada’s recipe a few times before I went vegan so I knew it was a great recipe.

Mama’s Cacciatore

1 pkg (175 g) super firm tofu or 1/2 pkg of ex firm tofu, drained and pressed, cut into cubes
2 tbsp seasoned flour or sub flour with salt & pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 zucchini, chopped
6 cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp fresh gr black pepper
1/2 cup white wine (or sub red)
1 jar of strained tomatoes (or sub can diced tomatoes)
1 cup of broth
pasta of your choice

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan to med-high, I use a cast iron enamel pot. Put the seasoned flour into a bowl and toss with the tofu cubes to coat. Once the pan is hot add the tofu and lightly brown on all sides. Remove the tofu and set aside. Turn down the heat to med, add a little more oil if needed and add the veggies. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt. Saute the veggies until tender and most of the moisture is cooked out of them. Add rest of seasonings and cook 1 min. longer. Add white wine, simmer and reduce to 1/2. Add tomatoes and broth, bring to a boil and turn heat to low. Add tofu and let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, get your salted pasta water boiling and cook your pasta according to the package directions.

And dinner is served.

Chef Tips:
-With recipes like this I like to prepare all my vegetables first. I chop them to the same size and put them all into a med sized mixing bowl. That way they are ready to go into the pot when needed.
-Draining and pressing tofu can be done earlier in the day so it’s ready to go when you need it, if you have foresight. Otherwise, drain it and slice the tofu block in 1/2 lengthwise so you have 2 thin blocks then wrap it in a towel and press it.

individual immunity, I’m safe.

Standard

with individual immunity, you are safe from elimination

Everyone and their G-ma seems to have a method or cure-all for the common cold. I certainly have my favourites. I have a background in western herbal medicine so that’s my go to for natural remedies. I also believe that you need to have a healthy foundation for your immune system to be able to kick into action when needed, we are not immune from getting sick but with the proper maintenance and support your immune system can work like a well oiled machine.

 

 

 

 

Foundations (preventative medicine)
Wash your hands, often
Wipe surfaces in high traffic areas
Health-full diet
Proper sleep
Vitamins
-Vit D
-Vit C

Treatment (once you’re sick)
Herbal teas
-dried herbs or tea blends
Capsules
-Astragalus
Vitamins & Minerals
-Vit D
-Vit C
-Zinc
Rest/Sleep
-Lots of it!

I’m going to try to follow the KISS method here: keep it simple, stupid. I’m not going to talk about your blood blood cells or T cells, lymph nodes, lymphatic drainage or any other biological functions of your immune system or supporting system. That’s for biology class. What I am going to do is give you simple steps you can take in order to boost your immune system to help prevent getting sick, as well as, things you can do once you are sick. (Insert disclaimer here -I am not a doctor, nor am I a licensed practitioner so please follow this as a guideline and use your best judgment and what works best for your body at any given time. Also this information doesn’t replace the advice of a qualified practitioner). I have been following a vegan diet since Sept 2010, have never had a flu shot and don’t have any underlying health issues or diseases.

Foundations

Let’s start with foundations, they are the steps you take before you get sick. The preventative measures that help to keep you and your immune system strong and healthy and better prepared for an acute illness like the common cold and flu.

Wash Your Hands!!
Wash them often and use SOAP!! Use any soap you want to use, I, personally, don’t care if it’s organic, anti-bacterial, scented with essential oils, homemade, liquid or bar form, whatever is right or wrong with soap, all I care is that you use it!

Wipe Surfaces
Another helpful tool, about 2 years ago my husband got into the habit of wiping down all surfaces in high traffic areas in our home, every day! He wipes all the door knobs on the main floor, including the front door, the stair banister, the remote controls, the key boards for computers, counters, etc, etc. I am so grateful he does this because I know it makes a difference and doing after your family is sick is too late…but should still be done, gross.

Health-Full Diet

1) Eat Your Fruits & Veggies!!
I will make more detailed posts on this in the future but in light of following the KISS format, I’m going to keep it simple, stupid. The easiest and best way for your body to get the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that it needs to stay healthy is to eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies, they should make up the largest food group of your overall diet. During the fall and winter the best fruits and veggies that are going to help boost your immune system are: apples, oranges, berries, dark leafy greens ie) kale, swiss chard, spinach, broccoli, carrots, beets, garlic and ginger. These are just to list a few and if you’re having trouble finding fresh fruits and veggies then the next best thing is frozen, try to avoid canned fruit and veggies as much as possible. As I said with the soap I don’t care if they’re organic or local or whatever is right or wrong with buying produce these days, as long as you buy them and eat it! They are better eaten then not bought because they’re not perfect.

2) Eliminating or Limiting Dairy Products.
Dairy products are mucus forming and when you get sick this problem is compounded by your dairy intake. By reducing your intake of dairy products while you are sick, on a regular basis or eliminating them altogether you’ll notice that the severity of nasal/mucus symptoms are greatly reduced. This was the first thing I noticed when I finally stopped eating cheese!

3) Water!! H2O
There is nothing that replaces water. As soon as you add something to water it is NO LONGER WATER! End of! Those crystal light packets marketed for you to add to your water bottle and help you drink more water, don’t help you in the long run, they make you sicker and it’s a waste of money. They are chemicals that are toxic to your over all health. Just drink water. Nothing helps the body cleanse and flush out unwanted toxins naturally, then water. If you’re one of those peeps that NEED some flavour then add some lemon or lime and get over it already.

Regular Exercise

There are many benefits to partaking in regular exercise but did you know that strengthening your immune system was one of them? Well it does. Regular moderate and consistent exercise helps to reduce stress and strengthen the immune system. I have been doing yoga for over a decade and overall the practice helps to strengthen the immune system, as well, there are certain asanas (poses) that help support the immune system and lymphatic drainage. Walking and swimming are also fantastic low impact activities that can be done at little to no cost to help with your overall fitness.

Sleep/Rest

Consistant sleep patterns are a big part of being healthy. So much is happening within our bodies while we are sleeping. Our body has the capability to heal itself but in order to do that we need to let it and one of those ways is through proper and consistant sleep routines. The average healthy adult needs anywhere between 7.5 – 9 hours of sleep per night. When was the last time you slept 9 hours? I aim for about 8 hours. There is no replacement for a proper good night sleep but ways to help support your immune system when you’re feeling sleep deprived is by resting throughout the day with a nap or taking a moment to practice some yoga with an extended savasana. A 5-20 minute savasana (relaxation pose practiced at the end of the yoga class) can have the same effect on the mind and body as a nap.

Treatment
Now you’re sick. What to do?

Herbs
My first plan of attack when I start to feel a cold coming on is herbal medicine.

Tea
There’s nothing better than a nice hot cup of tea. Usually herbal, sometimes it’s just hot water with honey and lemon but very rarely will I use caffeinated teas. The tea I use depends on the symptoms I have and what tea blends/dried herbs* I have on hand. I like to stock up with *licorice tea blends for sore throats and chest colds. As well, rosehips and hibiscus for vitamin supplement and something with *echinacea and *elderberries immune support. Also adding fresh chopped garlic and ginger to herbal tea or sencha green tea can be very beneficial.

Capsules
If you’re not a tea person, not to worry. There are capsules! One thing you should know is that herbal remedies do not stifle the symptoms so you might still feel crappy until they start to take effect and the length of time is greatly effected by your overall health, remember the symptoms you are experiencing is your body’s way of fighting the infection. The one herb that I always have on hand in capsule form is Astragalus. It supports and strengthens the immune system. Astragalus has low risk of side effects and no known interactions with medications*. You can use astragalus as a preventative to  boost your immune system or at the onset of symptoms. For an immune boost take 2 capsules before you’re about to head to a germ filled situation like an airport, school, hospital…you get the idea. Then take 2 more before you go to bed and maybe the next morning, if needed. At the first sign of symptoms with a cold, take 2 capsules 2-3 times a day.

Vitamins & Minerals
There are a few key vitamins and minerals that I have found to be beneficial to me in strengthening my immune system. During the fall and winter we take vitamin D, I can’t believe the difference it makes in fighting the many little sniffles that tend to plague us while school is in session. Another favourite is vitamin C. We take both Vitamin C & D daily to boost immunity and during a cold I up the dose of Vitamin C. I also give my kids a multi every day, just in case.

Zinc is worth mentioning, too. Sometimes I use it only during a cold. Make sure you read the label and don’t over do it as elevated levels of zinc over an extended period can harm your immune system instead of helping it.

Rest, Rest & more Rest
Did I happen to mention rest? And lots of it!! It is very important to slow down when you are sick. I know it’s not always possible to take a day off or re-schedule your day so you can get the proper rest you need to help your immune system and body do what it needs to do but try to cut back on some things and take a day off if you can. When you are sick it’s your body’s way saying that it’s time for a break. When you’re sick is NOT the time to get a workout in or start trying to get exercise into your routine, you’re not doing yourself any favors and NOBODY wants to be around you or catch your cold. And no, yoga is NOT good for you while you’re SICK, stay home.

Ok, so I’m not sure this has all fallen into the KISS category but I did my best. There is a lot of information to go over and in the spirit of trying to keep it simple I may have left out info so please ask questions and do your own research. Certain herbs or vitamins that work for me may not work for you, there are many other choices out there. I try not to use any over the counter cold remedies like Nyquil or tylenol cold because it doesn’t work for me, I mean, they work but I would rather take things that are going to support my own body systems like nutrition and holistic medicine, rather then something that is loaded with chemicals and does more harm then good. Another benefit over the long term of using natural remedies and practicing a healthy lifestyle not only do you not get sick as often but when you do get sick, the symptoms are not as severe. That is the power of a healthy immune system.

All of the information stated above is based on my personal opinion and experience, these are the lifestyle choices, herbs, vitamins and minerals that have worked best for me and my family. By following these guidelines myself, I have greatly reduced not only how often I get sick but also the severity of the cold, which always surprises me because I’ll get hit with a cold and I seem really sick, I’m talking with a fever & aches, runny nose, maybe sore throat and after a couple cups of tea, some astragalus and rest, the next morning I feel great! We all have our tricks and methods that work for us but I hope by compiling mine together it’s clear that not one magic pill does the trick but a formula for healthy living that makes the rough patches easier. I hope you have found the information useful and can apply some or all of it into your life. As I stated above I am not a doctor, nor am I a licensed practitioner so please follow this as a guideline and use your best judgment and what works best for your body at any given time. Also this information doesn’t replace the advice of a qualified practitioner.  *Always check with your doc if you are taking meds and are planning on trying any new herbal or natural supplements, even herbal teas as there may be contraindications with the type of medications you are currently taking.

Peace and love