Monday, 30 November 2009

Voting Now Open

In honour of my super exciting announcement last week, I've decided to launch my first web poll. Here's the question du jour:

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Please place your vote in the box on the right.

Bonus Homework Assignment: What barriers are keeping you from realizing this dream, and how can you tear them down?

Happy Travellin'

UPDATE: Poll is now closed.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Super Exciting Announcement ...


After over seven years of practising (& loving) yoga, I've decided to take the plunge and become a certified yoga teacher (CYT). There are lots of yoga teacher training programs right here in Canada, but when I decide to go for something, I go BIG. Plus I love to travel and I've never been to India before.

In early January I'll be flying to south India to live and study in an ashram for over 1 month. My daily schedule will consists of:

5:20 AM - Wake up
6:00 AM - Satsang (meditation, chanting or lecture)
8:00 AM - Asana
10:00 AM - Brunch
11:00 AM - Karma yoga (selfless service)
12:00 PM - Bhagavad Gita lecture or chanting class
2:00 PM - Main lecture
4: 00 PM - Asana, pranayama class
6: 00 PM - Dinner
8:00 PM - Satsang
10:00 PM - Bedtime

Definitely a lot different from my life now, but I'm super excited and looking forward to my trip. All the food served in the ashram is vegetarian, although not necessarily vegan (some food may contain cheese and the tea is usually served with milk). I'll have to take a break from my beloved green smoothies, but as any traveler knows, you have to be flexible.

There is internet access, but I doubt I'll have time to blog about my experiences. So that means I'll be taking a mini break from the blog-o-sphere as well. I think it will be a nice change to disconnect from my computer for a while and plug in more spiritually.

Do I sound like a yogi yet? :)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

DIY # 7: Bath & Body Products

Over the years I've cut back on the number of lotions and potions that I buy commercially. The unpronounceable ingredients and questionable preservatives irritate my skin, my planet and my wallet! While I still buy products like shampoo and conditioners at my health food store, other things like moisturizers, body sprays, bath salts and exfoliators are quick, easy and inexpensive to make myself - so I do. Here are some of my own personal recipes:

Bath Salts

So simple and easy you'll wonder why you ever went to Lush (which uses the dreaded SLS by the way). Combine 1 cup of Epsom salts with 4-5 drops of pure essential oil. Mix well. You can add dried rose petals or lavender flowers if you have some. Add a few tablespoons of these salts to your next relaxing bath.

Moisturizing Winter Face Mask
The next time you're cutting into an avocado, don't throw out the peel, use it as a moisturizer instead. After scooping out the avocado, turn the peel inside out and rub the inside of the peel on your face and neck. Leave it on for 5 minutes and then rinse with warm water. You should feel the results immediately. This is great for those loooong Canadian winters.

Anti-Bacterial Moisturizing Face Mask

Did you know that honey is naturally anti-bacterial? That's why this face mask is especially good if you have acne. It's also incredibly moisturizing too. Honey isn't vegan, so use your own discretion on this one. I buy raw honey from a local biodynamic farm, which for me is a better choice than buying a chemical laden lotion probably made in China. For this mask, simply spread the honey on your face and neck and leave it on for 10-20 minutes. Rinse off with warm water. You feel noticeably softer skin immediately.

Dry Lip Scrub
Here's another one especially good for those living in cold climates. When your lips are dry and chapped mix a pinch of sea salt with a bit of olive oil. I mix them in the palm of my hand, but you can use a bowl. You only need a tiny bit. Spread the mixture on your lips and rub them together gently. The salt will help remove the dry flakes and the olive oil moisturizes and soothes your chapped lips. Rinse with warm water.

Vegan Lip Balm

Many commerically available "all natural" lip products contain beeswax. If you'd like to avoid this, use organic coconut oil instead. Coconut oil (sometimes referred to as coconut butter as it's solid) glides on smooth just like store bought lip balm. The oily nature helps to moisturize your lips and if you're into raw food, you probably have some in your cupboard anyway. You can even scoop a bit out and put it in an oil lip balm jar to keep in your purse or at the office. Careful in the summer though. This stuff will liquefy in the summer heat, so you probably don't want to carry it in your purse.

Wound Cleaner

As a kid my parents used Ozinal on us when we got minor cuts, but have you ever read the ingredients in that thing? A few years ago I saw Dr. Oz on Oprah recommending salt water. So I gave it a try and it really works. Simply mix warm water with a pinch of sea salt (don't make it over salty or it will sting). Apply to wound and let dry. Cover wound with a band-aid and re-apply as needed.

Other beautifying products/techniques that I use:

Monday, 23 November 2009

Organic Tip # 5: Shady Coffee Farms Are A Good Thing

Recently I have been seeing more and more coffees labelled as organic, fair trade and shade grown. Most people understand the first two of these three distinct (although often interconnected) processes, but what exactly is shade grown coffee?

When coffee was first introduced to the West, it was not grown in an open field as most crops are, but grown in the shade provided by a diverse species of native shade trees. These trees protect the coffee plants growing beneath them from rain and sun, help maintain soil quality, reduce the need for weeding, and aid in pest control by fostering or attracting predators such as songbirds. This was how coffee was grown for more than 200 years. In fact original coffee plants were quite intolerant of the sun and direct sunlight would burn the leaves.

Unfortunately as is the case with virtually all crops, farmers looked for ways to increase the coffee plant's yields and make harvesting the beans easier, quicker and more cost effective. About 30 years ago sun resistant coffee plants were developed. Of course these sun grown plants required more chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides than their shade grown counterparts. Not to mention all the birds and small animals that lost their homes to make way for a monoculture coffee farm.

Shady coffee farms (and I mean that in a good way) provide habitat for a great number of migratory and resident birds, reptiles, friendly insects, butterflies, bats, plants and other organisms. Focusing solely on birds, shade coffee fields shelter up to two-thirds of the bird species found in natural pristine forests in the same geographic areas. In contrast, sun coffee fields shelter less than one-tenth of bird species. Among transformed land, shade-grown coffee is most likely the crop that supports the highest diversity of migratory birds, native flora and fauna (source: Perfecto et. al. 1996, Greenberg et. al. 1997).

Not all organic coffee is shade grown, and just because it's shade grown doesn't mean its organic. However shade grown coffee uses far less chemicals than sun grown coffee, so be sure to read your labels people.

And now the obvious question ... where can I get it?

Fair trade organic coffee is everywhere now. Add shade grown to the mix and it's a little harder, but definitely not impossible. Here's a few to get you started:

Bridgehead - An Ottawa based company that offers a line of organic, fair trade & shade grown coffee and tea. Available to order online.

Pura Vida Coffee - Online shop offering organic, fair trade shade grown coffee.

Starbucks - offers an organic shade grown medium roast from Mexico. I'm glad to see shade grown going mainstream.

You can also ask your local coffee hang-out if they serve shade grown coffee. If not, ask them to start!

Friday, 20 November 2009

5 Links, Articles & Videos From 'Round the Web

  1. I have a secret to confess ... I've never opened a young Thai coconut. I'm afraid of accidentally chopping off my hand! But this video, which shows an experienced raw chef opening one, and then a newbie trying it herself, helps to calm my fears. I love how excited she is when she actually opens the coconut. Very inspiring.

  2. A Salad in Motion Remains in Motion by Natalia Rose via Crazy Sexy Life. This wonderfully written article details the importance of eating raw living foods, how it helps kick start our digestive system, and why some raw newbies mistakenly believe the excess gas and bloating they may feel in the beginning is a sign that raw food doesn't agree with them. This is one of my favs from this site.

  3. Greenpeace's Phenomenal site to learn about greenwashing (which is when a company uses buzz words and fancy ad campaigns to look like they're offering an environmentally friendly product, when in fact they are not). You can also comment on and upload your own greenwashing product finds.

  4. Bad, Bad Baby Carrots by Girlie Girl Army. I've been hearing a lot of conflicting evidence about whether baby carrots are rinsed with chlorine or not. This article offers a few other reasons to avoid those little orange sticks (with some humorous antidotes along the way). It also makes me wonder if pre-package lettuce is treated with chlorine as well. Either way, I'm steering clear of all pre-packaged veggies.

  5. Pimp My Swine Flu Mask photo gallery. I generally don't like the use of the word pimp because it's misogynistic. But I do like creative non vaccine preventions of the flu. Plus this is totally hilarious!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Vegetables Are All Your Body Needs

... well you probably need some nuts and sea veggies in there too, but isn't this ad from the International Vegetarian Union awesome? I wish I had a poster sized version.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Meatless Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday & FOREVER

Okay, I'm not making fun of the Meatless Monday campaign, because I think it has introduced a lot of people to vegetarianism that otherwise wouldn't have tried it. But why stop at just Monday? You know it's always meatless on this blog ;)

I've still been drinking my green smoothies every morning - and LOVING it! I had some leftover cranberries from my raw vegan cranberry sauce, so I've been adding it to my morning greeny goodness (sorry no picture).

  • 2 large handfuls swiss chard (or any other green)
  • 1 banana
  • 2 handfuls of cranberries
  • 1 cup of coconut water (or water)

Raw Chocolate Cashew Stuffed Dates

This quick and easy dessert will change the meaning of "once you pop, you can't stop". Combine 1 tablespoon of Artisana raw organic cashew butter (or other nut butter of course) with 1 teaspoon of cacao powder (I pretty much just winged it, so the measurements aren't exact). Then slice a few dates half way through and remove the seed. Holding the date length-wise, pinch it gently to allow the date to open up and create a cavity. Fill the cavity with the chocolate cashew mixture.

Don't try to take a bite out of these tiny treasures, just pop the whole thing in your mouth and enjoy.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger, Basil & Coconut (recipe from ascent magazine)
  • 1 large butternut squash, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2-3 inch piece ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch dried red chili flakes
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 5-6 leaves fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 cup coconut milk

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Brush the cut sides with olive oil and place them cut-side down on an oiled baking sheet. Bake until soft, approximately 40 minutes.

Scoop the squash from the skins once cool enough to handle. Heat the remaining olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the diced onion and ginger and stir while cooking until they are soft, about 8 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon and chili flakes, and cook for another 2 minutes, continuing to stir.

Add the squash, along with the vegetable stock or water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook for 10–15 minutes. Add the lime juice, herbs and coconut milk. Ladle into bowls and garnish with extra coconut milk, more herbs, or anything else that inspires you.

Averie's Breakfast Cookie - Chocolate Version (recipe from Love Veggies and Yoga blog)

  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 1/3 cup dry oats
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 packet chocolate brown rice protein powder (or your fav)
  • few swirls of agave or honey

Combine everything in a bowl with a cover and refrigerate overnight. The next morning uncover your "cookie" and devour.

I don't usually do the protein powder thang, but when I received a free sample of this chocolate brown rice vegan protein powder, I decided to try out Averie's recipe. Reading her daily posts have become part of my morning routine, so I saw it as fitting to make a breakfast recipe from her blog.

Raw Chana Masala (recipe from Raw Gastronomy)

  • 1 cup sprouted chickpeas (about 1/2 cup dried chickpeas)
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (cold-pressed)
  • 1/4 red onion
  • 1 fresh tomato, diced
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • sea salt and pepper, to taste

Soak raw chickpeas overnight (use lots of water). Sprout the chickpeas for a few days until tiny tails start to appear. See my previous post on making your own sprouts. If you sprout chickpeas too long, the beans will get too bitter. These beans were sprouted a little too long - 3 days. I'll probably only sprout them for a day and a half next time I make this recipe.

Combine all the other ingredients in the food processor until well combined. Mix the sauce with the chickpeas sprouts. Garnish with fresh basil if desired.

Rawdorable Chocolate N'ice Cream (recipe from Rawdorable blog)

  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 1 teaspoon cacao powder
  • pinch of sea salt
  • drizzle of olive oil (cold-pressed)

I've wanted to try this unusual recipe for awhile. Since the winter weather is unusually delayed this year, I figured this might be my last chance for raw ice "cream" for awhile (it's too cold for me to eat when it starts getting colder). Today was an unseasonably warm 13 degrees. In mid-November - it's crazy.

Combine the first two ingredients in a food processor until it resembles ice cream. Scoop into a chilled bowl and top with a sprinkle of sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil.

I know, I know it seems weird. But it's actually quite good ... well if you enjoy olive oil that is ;)

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Yoga Asana of the Month (November)

It's a brand new month and a brand new yoga pose to help you strengthen your body and stay healthy. The weather is starting to cool off, so why not step up your practice with a more vigorous posture that makes you break a sweat? This month's asana is dolphin pose, named for the bobbing motion in the posture that mimics dolphins as they swim, poking their noses in and out of the water. If you can't initially do the bobbing motion, don't worry. After a few weeks of practicing your body will get stronger. Do as many reps as you can comfortably, then rest in child's pose for several breaths.

Note: The above video is provided by YouTube. I have no control over the ads within this video. I am not affiliated with these advertisers, and do not endorse their products.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Green Smoothies, Raw Recipes & The World's Best Brussel Sprouts

I recently read some of The Boutenkos' books, and since then have been chuggin' lots of GREEN smoothies. Personally I find the 7+ ingredient smoothie recipes out there to be way to labour intensive and time consuming. You can easily get the same amount of healthy, nutritious, chlorophyll rich and alkaline greeny goodness from a few simple ingredients. Just remember to mix it up a little (don't eat the same greens everyday). And if the thought of a green smoothie turns your stomach, just try one - you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Raw Vegan Green Smoothie:
  • 2 handfuls of greens
  • 1 cup of filtered water
  • 1 handful of fresh or frozen fruit
Simple, eh? Throw it all in a blender and mix until smooth and creamy. Here are some of the greens I like to use:
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Parsley
  • Bok Choy
  • Arugula (rocket)
  • Dandelion greens
  • Romaine lettuce
There's rumours that eating raw green smoothies regularly can reverse grey hair (which have been popping up on my head since I was 16), so I'll report back in a few months and let you know if that's true.
Here's what else I've been chowing on:

Raw To-Go Lunch

This quick and easy lunch is 1 carrot, 1 parsnip and 1/2 cucumber cut with my julienne peeler. The dressing is a splash of cold-pressed sesame oil, Bragg's and sea salt. I washed it all down with a tetra pack of O.N.E. coconut water (yum!)

Raw Cinny Cereal

I've blogged about this raw cereal before, but this one is made with banana cinnamon "milk" instead of a nut based one. Simply toss a banana, some water and a dash of ground cinnamon in the blender. The cereal is a cut up LARAbar, fresh strawberries and pumpkin seeds.

4 Ingredients Raw Chocolate Candies

I was soooOooo excited when I found this recipe for raw candies on Raw Goddess Heathy's blog. I had seen Ani Phyo (and others) making raw candies using raw cacao butter. I've never seen raw cacao sold anywhere near here, and to my dismay there don't ship Ani's raw chocolate making kits to Canada. But this recipe doesn't require cacao butter at all!
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, gently melted in a double boiler
  • 1/2 cup cacao powder
  • 2-4 tablespoons agave (or maple syrup)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (alcohol-free of course)
Using a double boiler, gently heat the coconut oil until melted. Add in the rest of the ingredients and whisk until combined. Transfer the mixture into a measuring cup with a spout. Pour the liquid into candy moulds (or alternatively you can also dip fruit into the chocolate). Put in the fridge for 4-5 hours or until firm. The candies will pop right out of the moulds and into your mouth!

OPTIONAL ADD-INS: raw nuts, dried fruits or other alcohol-free extracts (mint might be nice).

Lastly, I recently tried a non-raw recipe by Jennifer McCann that was unbelievable! I just had to share. Jennifer is the author of Vegan Lunch Box and Vegan Lunch Box Around the World. I used a fresh branch of brussels sprouts that I picked up at my local farmer's market (see photo below). The freshness of the sprouts definitely takes this dish from great to "world's best".

The World's Best Brussels
  • 1 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts, cleaned, trimmed
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • ¾ cup vegetable stock or water
  • 2 TB brown sugar
  • 2 TB apple cider vinegar
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat the oil in a sauté pan or well-seasoned cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the Brussels sprouts and sprinkle with salt. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the sprouts are turning golden, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add ½ cup of the stock or water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered with a lid left slightly ajar, until the Brussels sprouts are almost completely tender and the stock or water has been cooked away, about 10 minutes.

Remove the lid and add the last ¼ cup of stock or water, the sugar, and the apple cider vinegar. Cook at a lively simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to a syrup, about 5 minutes. Taste for salt and season with pepper. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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