Category Archives: Health

sleeplessness

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What do you do when you hear your neighbor’s tv/radio go on at 2:50 am? The last time I looked at the clock it was 2:22 am, not sure if I was awake or drifting off when the tv went on? I’m awake now. I seem to be sleeping less and less lately.

I’m tired and I try to do things to retrain myself to sleep but it doesn’t seem to help.

At the end of the day I’m tired, exhausted, even. I usually have no trouble falling asleep, it’s staying asleep that is the problem. I usually wake up between 3-4:30 am and rarely fall back to sleep. Tonight I woke up about 2 am. I hope I get some more sleep before 7 am.

Tomorrow I will make a post on some of the things I’ve tried. What are things you’ve tried and hopefully worked for insomnia?

Zzzzzzzzz

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the understated tahini: part 1

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A few days ago I stated on facebook that I could see a lot of tahini in my future. And, it’s surely becoming true.

 

From Wikipedia:
-Tahini is a paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds used in North African, Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine.
Nutritional Information:
-Tahini is an excellent source of copper, maganese and the amino acid methionine.Tahini is a source of the healthy fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6.
-Tahini made from raw sesame seeds is lower in fat than tahini made from roasted seeds.
-Tahini’s relatively high levels of calcium and protein make it a useful addition to vegetarian and vegan diets, as well as to raw food diets when eaten in its unroasted form. Compared to peanut butter, tahini has higher levels of fiber and calcium and lower levels of sugar and saturated fats.

 

Tahini is commonly known as one of the ingredients in hummus. I like to keep a large jar of tahini on hand for the odd occasion I make hummus. I prefer homemade humus over store bought, it tastes so much nicer and you can season and flavour it to your own preferences. However, this post is not about hummus, it is about tahini. If you, like me, have a jar of tahini in your cupboard that you would like to make good use of with other deliciousness, then read on.

1) I replaced the olive oil for tahini in my salad dressing. Super yum! By using the seed butter instead of oil, the healthy fats in it helps your body absorb the micronutrients in the vegetables 10x more then eating them separately! Talk about an easy and delicious nutrient booster!

Tahini Dressing

2 tbsp tahini

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (or any vinegar of your choice)

1 tsp grainy mustard or dijon

1/2 tsp agave or honey (or to taste)

1 clove garlic, grated or finely minced (optional)

1 tsp fresh ginger, grated or finely minced (optional)

1-3 tbsp water, to thin as needed

Place all ingredients, except only 1-2 tbsp water, in a small mason jar or container with tight fitting lid and shake until it’s all mixed. Add more water for desired thickness. Makes 1-2 servings or approx. 4-6 cups salad fixings. Pour dressing on salad fixings, toss until combined and enjoy.

Salad fixings:

4 cups baby spinach

2-4 thinly sliced cremini mushrooms

1 peeled, grated or thinly sliced carrot

1 sliced celery rib

1/4 sliced cucumber

1 sliced green onion

Additional salad add-ins: 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds, 1/2 tomato, chopped or grape tomatoes, sliced pears or apples, sprouts, grated beets, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chopped almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, switch the spinach for arugula or mixed baby greens or a combo of all and any of the above.

2) Last night when I got home from teaching 2 yoga classes shortly after 9pm, I was hungry! Not the kind of hunger where your famished but just enough that I needed something in my stomach so I could fall asleep. And for some strange reason I had a craving for molasses (??), seriously, who craves molasses? I didn’t feel like eating anything, as well, I’ve been trying to cut back on my sugar snacking so that ruled out ginger cookies. I decided on warm milk with (you guessed it) tahini and molasses. It worked perfectly, it satiated my hunger and as common treatment as a relaxant before bed it helped me doze off and provided my body with important nutrients as a vegan, like iron in the molasses.

Hot Tahini Milk

1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or non-dairy milk of your choice)

2tsp-1tbsp tahini*

2tsp-1tbsp molasses*

1-2 tsp agave or honey, optional**

Mix all ingredients in small saucepan and heat over medium heat until hot and everything dissolves in the milk.

*both tahini and molasses have a strong taste, start with the lesser amounts and work your way up to 1tbsp. Also you can adjust the amounts according to your personal preference.

**if you use sweetened milk, you might need additional sweetener. Taste test before adding.

3) My final input for today’s tahini post is in the form of a smoothie. I love a delicious smoothie, a meal you can drink. I love my food and I love cooking so I’d never give them up but the ease of throwing food in a blender and drinking your meal can’t be beat. Also, my father is a restaurateur and growing up in a restaurant I had my fair share of milkshakes! With a smoothie like this it makes me feel like an indulgent kid again! And I was still craving molasses.

Tahini Smoothie

1 frozen banana, in chunks

2 tbsp ground oatmeal

1 tbsp tahini

1 tbsp molasses

1 tsp agave or honey

1/2-3/4cup unsweetened almond milk

1/2 tsp cinnamon, optional

Add all ingredients to the blender and mix at highest power until smooth. Pour into glass and enjoy!

*You can sub peanut butter for the tahini for a sweeter smoothie.

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my favorite adventurers

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Today was a beautiful day in Vancouver, a rarity this time of year. You have to take advantage of it while it’s here so I talked my kids into going for a hike with me and I promised to take them to the park on the way home. Deal.

Just starting out, they brought their own walking sticks.

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At the top of the look out.

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“What’s up, Duck?” -Kaden, age 9

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Must stop at every marsh.

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A view of the lake.

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Brody found some lichens.

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Then we found some cool ice crystals.

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We also saw that someone had decorated this bench for the holidays. It warmed my heart.

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One last view of the lake…

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It was a day well spent in the beautiful sunshine. Quality time with my little adventurers is never wasted time.

Peace and love.

no-tuna melt

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I know, I know…2 food posts in a row. I mentioned all the different things I made on Sunday in my post yesterday and I thought this was another great recipe to share. You can make it ahead of time and it helps make the busy weekdays seem a little less stressful. Enjoy this egg-free, dairy-free and fish-free recipe.

No-Tuna Melt with pickle and Roasted Kabocha Squash

I’ve never been a big fan of tuna, even when I ate animal products. I hate the smell of tuna filling the kitchen when the can is opened, you know what I’m talking about. I didn’t give much thought to trying a no-tuna salad sandwich, I wasn’t missing it so why would I seek out the recipe. One day, since going vegan, I had a craving for a tuna melt! I have no idea why, luckily I don’t miss animal products, not even cheese. So needless to say it was very strange that I had a craving for something I didn’t even like. Regardless, I searched online for a recipe to squelch my craving. I was amazed. I couldn’t believe how much I could like a tunaless tuna sandwich, it was perfect without all the gross tuna smell and taste. As well as being ocean-wise. I eventually tweaked the recipe I found to my liking and every so often I’ll make a batch of no-tuna salad and keep the leftovers in the fridge for a quick and filling lunch. I usually roll it up in a wrap with some veggies and greens but today I had another craving for a tuna melt. My no-tuna melt hit the spot.

No-Tuna Salad

1 can of organic chickpeas (or 1.5 cups cooked)
1/2 cup raw organic cashews (or almonds)
juice of half lemon
1 tsp kelp powder
1 celery rib, minced
1/4 onion, minced
1/4 veganaise (or brand of your choice)
1.5 tsp dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste

In a food processor, pulse until chickpeas and cashews are coarsely chopped. Add lemon juice and kelp powder, mix well. Transfer to a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. Add more veganaise if needed.

To transform into No-Tuna Melt you’ll need:

2 slices of bread
1 tbsp veganaise
1/2 cup No-Tuna Salad
1/4 cup zucchini, spiralized (or grated)
1/4 cup carrot, spiralized (or grated)
whole spinach leaves
daiya grated cheese, I mixed cheddar and mozzarella (or use any cheese of your preference)

Assembly:

Preheat the oven’s broiler on high (if you have the option). Toast the bread in the toaster. Spread 1/2 tbsp of veganaise on each piece of toast. Spread 1/4 cup of No-Tuna Salad on each piece of toast, then split the zucchini and carrot between both pieces of toast. Place a few pieces of spinach on each one then lastly top with the grated daiya. Carefully place each piece under the broiler, keep your eye on them! Leave the door open slightly to ensure they don’t burn. It doesn’t take long. Remove when cheese is melted to your liking. Enjoy.

Peace and love.

5 simple tips for new vegans

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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

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"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.