Summer Raw Cleanse and BodyRock

Hello! I’m back after quite a hiatus. In fairness, it was a hiatus that involved a new job, moving across the country and a vacation with the fam. So here I am in sunny Montreal, surrounded by beautiful, tiny, young French girls and I’m feeling the residual effects of Edmonton in my bones. I always become a hermit for the harsh winter, but living where we were, in a basement in suburban Edmonton… I barely left the house if I could avoid it. It was depressing.

I’ve been in Montreal for just over a month now, and if a day goes by without a walk down these old crooked streets I feel like I’m wasting my life away and turn to drink. Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But if you knew how good it feels to just exist in this tiny corner of Canada, you’d hate to be trapped indoors by yourself too.

The other great thing about this place is the ample supply of delicious fresh produce everywhere, for totally reasonable prices. The bio (organic) market a block away from my apartment sells produce for better prices than the non-bio produce at the regular grocery store. That, plus the heat and humidity that feel so foreign to my body, are motivating me to eat light. You don’t need to cook tomatoes to death when they taste so good, and the fresh, tender kale is perfect just massaged with a bit of lemon and salt. So, I’m thinking it’s time for a bit of a summer cleanse.

How it works: One week, 80% raw, 95% whole foods, 100% ¬†plant-based diet. 80% raw, because that’s a really reasonable balance of raw to cooked foods to maintain in the summer when produce is abundant, cheap, and tasty. 95% whole foods, cause I’ll use coconut milk occasionally, and oil and salt very moderately- you need fat to absorb nutrients from plants anyway and I don’t have fancy non-stick cookware for my cooked foods. Plus, salt makes food delicious. Also, I’ll throw in a glass of wine or two for good measure. 100% plant-based, because I only eat plants anyways, there’s simply no need to eat anything else! Feel free to join me or try out some of the recipes, and leave a comment if you do- it would be great to hear! I’ll post what I’ve been eating, maybe it will give you some ideas.

In addition I will be doing BodyRock exercises daily. BodyRock offers a free, high intensity, short, daily video workout that’s different from day to day, and can be done in your home with whatever you have on hand. I won’t be doing them in the order they are released, I’ll pick and choose from past workouts, and I will be supplementing them with my usual 20 mins of cardio, stretching and belly dance isolation drills. If you are getting bored with your exercise routine, want a challenge or even if you don’t work out at all and you want to start, try it out! Just do what you can, don’t worry about not being able to make it more than halfway through a set, or doing only half the cardio time. You need to start somewhere, so just listen to your body and work within your limits.

Day 1

Workout- 12 mins BodyRock, 20 mins cardio, 10 mins stretching, 15 flights of stairs, 30 mins drills (do the cardio right after the BodyRock. Trust me, it’s a good idea ;))

Breakfast smoothie with a small banana, frozen blueberries, ground hemp seeds and soy milk.
Post-workout hemp protein shake and some fresh berries.
Mexican salad with romaine, black beans, red peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, lemon juice, cumin and hot sauce.
Raw kale salad with sauteed criminis, tomatoes, red onion
Raw veggies with salsa
Half an orange

Yum yum ūüôā

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Black Bean, Collard Green and Sweet Potato Stew

This recipe has so much healthy packed in each bite it would take waaay too long to go in to all the details. However, aside from the ridiculously good-for-you-ness of it all, it’s also DELICIOUS. This is a soup you can seriously over eat on. Especially if you enjoy it with the Cornbread Biscuits from Vegan Brunch like I did. I subbed half the flour with whole wheat, worked perfectly. This makes a nice big pot, perfect for a week with snow storms and -30 degree weather and things like that that make trips to the grocery store unreasonable.

Black Bean, Collard Green and Sweet Potato Stew

2 yellow onions, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb orange-fleshed  sweet potato, chopped into bite-sized cubes
1 bunch collard greens, tough stems removed, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 cup corn kernels
2 cans black beans
1 can salt-free tomato puree or pieces
2 tsp minced chipotles in adoboe (more or less, depending on how hot you want it- mine were very hot, so start with less if you’re sensitive)
2 tsp roasted, crushed cumin (see note*)
1 tsp crushed fennel seeds
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp Mexican oregano, or regular, if you can’t find it
1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 vegan chicken bullion cube
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
To garnish, if you’re feeling fancy: cilantro, chopped avocado, a squeeze of lime, tortilla strips

Caramelize¬†the onions slowly in the oil until golden brown, sweet, and fragrant. Add the sweet potatoes, cumin, and fennel, sautee for 5 more minutes until starting to brown. Add water to cover the vegetables, return to high heat and bring to a boil. Add all remaining ingredients except the collards. Reduce to a low simmer for at least 30 minutes. When all the flavours are deep and mellow and melded perfectly, add your collards and cook 10 more minutes, of until collards are wilted. Enjoy with cornbread biscuits, fancy toppings, or as is. It’s really delicious either way.

Vegan Chocolate Candy Cane Ice Cream (a recipe in progress)

Here’s the scoop. I don’t really like sugar. Sweet things don’t do it for me- I’d take kale chips over fudge any day. However, I do have a thing for chocolate. Exquisitely dark, complicated chocolate, not too sweet, just plain, bitter chocolate. Sometimes I like it with some heat from cayenne, ginger or cinnamon, maybe some peppermint, alcohol and chocolate go swimmingly, of course some nuts stirred in will be fine, and I do have a fondness for tart raspberries with chocolate. But too much sugar, cheap fat or poor flavour really ruin it for me. I like my chocolate like I like my coffee, dark and bitter, maybe with some more chocolate stirred in.
So. That said. Ice cream tends to dilute chocolate just a bit too much for my taste. I know, it’s called “ice cream” not “iced chocolate”- but really, I want iced chocolate… with a creamy texture. How to make this? Coconut milk is a good start, the fats melt seamlessly with dark chocolate without changing its melting point. I want real chocolate, but also some good dark cocoa stirred in to help counter all that coconut milk. A bit of vanilla. And additional dark chocolate shavings stirred in at the last minute. Yes, that will do.
I tried my hand at making chocolate ice cream for the first time tonight, this time with candy canes and peppermint oil stirred in (’tis the season- I used this recipe as a starting point). I tried using chia seeds and a bit of starch to make it a bit thicker. I couldn’t get the chia seeds fine enough in my grinder, though I think they have potential. Instead of starch, I will use custard powder next time. And 3/4c sugar is too much for 3c coconut milk and 1 1/2 c dark chocolate. I only added 1 1/2 T cocoa powder and 1 1/2 c chocolate, and it’s not chocolatey enough. So. More cocoa, I think, and perhaps some chocolate extract. And maybe some shaved chocolate throughout. It will likely take several more tries til I make a recipe worthy of sharing, but rest assured, dear reader, I will produce one! Hopefully I won’t have to eat too many not-quite-right batches of ice cream in the mean time….

Smooth and Bright Chickpea Soup

I make¬†hummus¬†all the time, but I never really thought of making pureed chickpeas into a soup until I saw this recipe. What a great idea! However, being vegan, I can’t really puree chickpeas in stock and call it a meal… I mean 90% of the time hummus is the only thing I can eat at a non-veg restaurant, so I pack back a lot of lightly seasoned chickpeas. I need a little bit of oomph behind them to make them work preparing at home. So, this is my take on a creamy chickpea soup. The inclusion of fresh vegetables slowly cooked in olive oil goes a long way to making this dish truly satisfying.

Smooth and Bright Chickpea Soup
Makes 2 servings

1 500 mL can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 red onion, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1 small carrot, minced
1 head garlic, minced
black pepper, to taste
2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 vegetarian chicken-style bouillon cube (for 2 cups of water)
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, minced
red chili flakes, to garnish

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low until uniformly soft, fragrant, and beginning to brown. Add garlic, pepper, and rosemary, cooking quickly for 1 minute. Add chickpeas, then fill the chickpea can with cold water and add to the pot as well. Bring to a boil, add the bouillon cube, stir and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, then allow to cool slightly. Add the soup to your blender of food processor and pulse until just smooth- not the consistency of baby food, you should still be able to see some flecks of carrot, but it should coat the back of a spoon smoothly and not seem too fibrous. Return the pureed soup to the pot with the lemon and parsley, warm over medium heat until good and hot. Enjoy with some red chili flakes sprinkled over, some good crusty bread and a glass of Cabernet. Or water. Whatever floats your boat. 

Gnocchi with Criminis and Spinach in Brown Butter

Gnocchi is one of my favorite comfort foods. Soft pillows of potato dough take perfectly to light treatment- just a bit of Earth Balance and garlic, a splash of wine, maybe some fresh herbs. They also go well with tender vegetables like spinach,¬†asparagus, fresh peas, and scallions. As a result, I usually associate gnocchi with spring. However, a dose of earthy mushrooms and brown butter will go a long way to making a spring dish seem more winter-appropriate. This is super easy to make, taking approximately 25 minutes altogether, and can easily be adjusted to suit the group you’re serving. In my case, I was cooking just for myself, but made enough for two meals.

Gnocchi with Criminis and Spinach in Brown Butter
Serves 2, or one very hungry person

1/2 package gnocchi
2 tbsp Earth Balance
1 generous handful criminis, sliced
1 shallot, sliced
2 generous handfuls baby spinach leaves
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp thyme
A grind of pepper and a sprinkle of fleur de sel, or whatever your favorite salt is
1/4 lemon, and/or a splash of dry white wine

Put on a pot of water to boil for the gnocchi. Meanwhile, melt the ¬†Earth Balance in a large pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and criminis. Stir occasionally, until the vegetables and Earth Balance are browning lightly. Add the gnocchi to the water once it is boiling, and be prepared to drain it as soon as the gnocchi float to the top. ¬†As soon as the Earth Balance is a warm, golden colour and the vegetables are looking toasty, add the remaining ingredients. Drain all but 2 tbsp of cooking water from the gnocchi once it is cooked, and toss them along with the reserved water into the pan with the vegetables. Toss a few times and cook for about 2 minutes, coating the gnocchi in the sauce. Serve with a kitten, and maybe a glass of wine…

Nippy Vegan Mac and Cheese Casserole

I love Daiya, I really do, but I also love good nippy flavours, and Daiya is a mellow, versatile cheese. Thankfully, because of it’s versatility, it’s easy to modify your Daiya recipes to be more or less nippy, depending on your preferences. In this case, the nip comes from miso, tahini, nutritional yeast, good dijon, and good dark tamari. It sounds like a lot, but this pulls together in about 20 mins, minus the baking time. You can, of course, enjoy it without the final baking step. I like it both ways.

Nippy Vegan Mac and Cheese Casserole
Serves 4 as a main course (please eat it with a salad… or something green :P)

2 cups macaroni or small pasta of your choice
1 package of Daiya Cheddar
2 cups finely chopped broccoli florets
3 tbsp Earth Balance
9 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 1/2 cups unsweetened soy milk
1 tsp Spike seasoning
2 tbsp cashew cream or butter
2 tbsp light miso paste
2 tbsp really good quality white wine dijon
2 tsp tahini
2 tsp good quality dark tamari
a grind or two of pepper

Topping:

2 cups bread cubes
1/3 cup Daiya cheddar
spray oil
paprika
Spike seasoning

Put your pasta water on to boil, and pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, melt Earth Balance over medium heat. Stir in nutritional yeast to form a thick paste. Slowly add two cups of the soy milk, mixing it well into the nutritional yeast/Earth Balance paste. Allow the mixture to come to a boil and immediately turn down the heat to low. Now, add the Daiya to the sauce slowly, stirring as you go. By now the water should be boiling, so add the pasta and give it a stir. Meanwhile, combine all the remaining ingredients, including the remaining 1/2 cup of soy milk, but not including the broccoli, in your mini blender, or whatever you use for blending things in your house. Blend until smooth, and add it to the cheese sauce, mixing well. Check for seasoning and add more of things as you see fit. Remember, all the flavours will dilute a bit when combined with the pasta, so they should be extra flavourful now. When your pasta is almost but not quite done, add the broccoli florets to the pasta water. Let it come back to a boil, then drain extremely well- let it hang out in the colander for a while and give it a few good tosses. Put the pasta and broccoli back in the dry pot, and pour cheese sauce over. Use your¬†discretion¬†here, I prefer really saucy mac and cheese, but you might not. Prep a baking pan by spraying it well with oil. Pour pasta and sauce mixture in the pan, up to the brim. Top with bread cubes, give them a quick spray of oil, sprinkle Daiya, paprika, and a bit of Spike seasoning over top, and bake for about 20-30 minutes. If you don’t already, you may want to line the bottom of your stove with tinfoil, since this may bubble over.

Easy Spaghetti Alfredo with Spinach and Chick’n Scallopini

I spent the day trying not to be too sick, trying to write my thesis, trying not to get too distracted, trying not to tear the boy to pieces in the middle of it all. There was a lot of trying. It was a trying day. Trying days call for one of two things: take-out, or pasta. In this case, it was pasta, due to the fact that I couldn’t bring Wok Box home on the bus in -17 degree weather without it freezing (not that the bus came, mind you- after standing outside in that nonsense for 30 minutes I split a cab with the other bus stop attendees.)

Rummaging through the fridge I found and almost wilted box of baby spinach that the boy abandoned (I eat the boxes of arugula, he’s in charge of the spinach) and so figured I’d do something with olive oil, spinach, garlic, spaghetti. But then, right next to the bag of leek tops waiting to become broth, I found about a third of a tub of Herbs and Chives Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese. I had heard of recipes for Alfredo sauce that use cream cheese before- more stable than regular Alfredo, cream cheese bases are often used in food service to reduce the risk of separating at uneven temperatures or over long wait times. I figured, how hard could it be? As it turns out, it’s ridiculously easy. Hardly even a recipe. Exactly what I needed after a day like today.

Since I refuse to have just pasta for dinner, I served it up with some frozen green and yellow beans, and made up my usual Chick’n Scallopini recipe. It’s quick, super easy, and delicious. The boy doesn’t like it, I should mention, but he dislikes most chicken-style seitan, so that’s no surprise.

Easy Spaghetti Alfredo with Spinach and Chick’n Scallopini
Makes 2 servings for people who live in sub-zero climates, probably 4 elsewhere

For the pasta:

4 servings of spaghetti, or pasta of your choice
1/3 tub Herbs and Chives Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups baby spinach, packed
1 teaspoon Spike, or salt alternative

Make pasta. When cooked but still firm, drain all but about 1/2 cup of cooking water. Put in back on the stove over medium-low heat, make a well in the center and add garlic, cook for about 2 minutes. Put the cream cheese in over the top of the pasta teaspoon by teaspoon. Stir it all in until the water, garlic and cream cheese are blended. Add a bit more water at this time if it’s getting too dry, then add the spinach over top, and put on a lid. In about 1 minute the spinach should be starting to wilt, stir the Spike and the spinach into the pasta. Serve soon. If it gets stogy, add more water and reheat.

For the Scallopini:

1 package Gardein Chick’n Scallopini, or 4 chicken-style seitan pieces
flour for dredging
olive oil for pan-frying
1 teaspoon of Spike seasoning or salt alternative
2 teaspoon tamari
2 tbsp water
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 2-inch sprig of thyme, or about 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp vegan butter
juice from 1/2 a lemon
freshly ground pepper

Pre-heat a skillet on medium-high heat with a thin layer of oil. Dredge frozen chick’n pieces through flour, and place in hot skillet. Give the pan a shake, wait a minute, then flip. It should be browning. Sprinkle Spike over, and turn once or twice more to get a bit of golden brown around the edges and crispiness all over. Remove the scallopini, reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the garlic, thyme, tamari, and water, cooking two minutes, stirring up all the brown pits from the bottom of the pan. Bit-by-bit, stir the vegan butter into the sauce. Finish with the lemon and pepper, to taste. Feel free to add a bit more water if it needs to loosen up. Return scallopini to pan and quickly coat with sauce, serve over pasta with a side of steamed freezer veg… or¬†something¬†better, if you have it.