Fresh Take

The last day of November… what do you mean?

This month has seriously flown by ~ I’m starting to feel a little behind as the holidays approach and my work schedule gets busier.  Given time constraints, today’s post will be a brief look into my new favourite restaurant here in Toronto – one that all of you should try when given the chance!

This past week I had the pleasure of entertaining my good friend Tessah who was visiting from Victoria.  Our time was filled with great conversations, walks around the city, and MANY delicious meals.  Everyday we found some reason to celebrate.  The trouble with travelling (or in this case touring around) is that you end up dining out wayy to often.  Big portions and greasy food don’t provide the right nutrients to adequately experience the city ~ so naturally we were searching for something more.  Luckily for me Tessah is also vegetarian so she was very down to try out veggie-friendly hot spots. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh is a local Toronto restaurant and juice bar that attracts patrons from all over the city.  The atmosphere is buzzing, the food is unreal and the price point is affordable ($10-15 per entree).  Their menu is jam packed with whole ingredients that make up salads, veggie burgers, tempeh BLT’s, vegan burritos, noodle bowls and more (take a look at the full menu).  I guarantee anyone skeptic of vegetarian or vegan food will have a change of heart after trying this.  We were both so happy eating that we really couldn’t talk about much else.  It was so nice to have an entire menu catered to our healthy habits. Yum yum yum!

My salad show in the left pic below was a mix of steamed kale, sproutes, nuts quinoa, goji berries, cilantro, carrots and tofu all dressed in a delicious ginger dressing.  The small yam discs were also a nice warm addition to the meal.  Tessah enjoyed a Thai dish with soba noodles, zucchini, tomatoes, tofu and a yummy sauce – which I also had the pleasure of tasting.  Needless to say by the end of the night we were looking forward to returning another another time to try something else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As it turns out one of the locations is just two blocks up from my work.  This is good and bad given that I am trying to pack lunches.  But the other day during my 12 hour shift I walked up to grab a green juice detoxifier (shown right) – and it definitely gave me the energy fix to survive a very long day.

So I can’t afford to dine here everyday, but the good news is they have a few cookbooks! These gems have now made their way to my Christmas wishlist ~ as I am desperate to learn how to recreate such amazing meals.  The three books are Fresh: New Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes, Fresh at home and reFresh: Contemporary Vegan Recipes.  I have browsed the pages and the recipes look very accessible.

Now that my guest has departed I am taking a week to cleanse my consumption.  Only packed lunches and herbal teas until the next guest arrives and I have another excuse to visit Fresh. Already can’t wait.  If you’re ever in Toronto there are locations at Bloor St West, Spadina and on Crawford near Queen St West ~ details here.

Leave comments with amazing restaurant locations in other cities! I would love for all of us to have healthy options when visiting new places.

Have a great week!

~B

Healthy GPA

Its November and my mind is building to-do lists while my body is feeling angst~ it’s as if I’m still in the midst of attending university.  Whatever this physiological response it reminded me of times when good nutrition, sleep and exercise not only saved my butt but also improved my GPA.  With that notion, I will take this week to share some tips with you.  Ironically I have just arrived home from 9 hours work and a hot yoga class – now at 10pm I’ll be up a little later to compile Wednesday’s blog post (reminiscent of late library nights & last minute assignments).  Student or not more holistic living will make it WAY easier to tackle all those obligations and priorities, while still leaving you enough energy to do what you love.


End of semester mayhem means less sleep, more stress and the big possibility of getting sick.  Illness durin- the time of midterms or finals results in serious writers block and endless hours of catch up sleep.  As students we fail to properly prepare ourselves for the stresses of University~ the good majority turn to unhealthy foods, excess caffeine and all-nighters in a quest to complete it all.  The quality of our work becomes worse and worse as we exhaust every ounce of energy – later confused as to our exhaustion, break downs or failing grades.

My first tip is to be conscious. Pay attention to your diet, sleep patterns, energy levels, exercise habits and thoughts.  For the first two years I paid so much attention to lectures and assignments that I had completed neglected to note my physiological self.  Regardless of late night study sessions, perfect attendance and weeks in the library my grades remained mediocre.  The transition to a new dietary lifestyle forced me to be increasingly aware of what I was consuming, when I was hungry and how I was feeling overall.  Suddenly this consciousness allowed me to notice different tools at my disposal that would make me a better student ~it all clicked.

food & drink.  Highly processed foods wreak havoc on your digestive system – quickly depleting the small amounts of energy you have stored in order to break down the foods you’re consuming.  This doesn’t sound like nutrition? instead malnutrition.

  • If you need to stick with coffee try to keep the number of cups to a minimum.  Then eliminate any soft drinks (pop, vitamin water, juice) as they are all full of sugars that will cause a spike in blood sugar followed by the deadly crash.  Of course herbal teas are your best bet and you can pack them from home to save some $$.  Whatever beverage you choose be sure to also hydrate with water ALL DAY LONG.
  • It really helps to incorporate one salad into your day – or a vegetarian wrap filled with simple ingredients.  Be cautious of store bought salad dressings as many are packed with processed ingredients.  Greens are essential for preparing your body to absorb the nutrients from other foods.  If you have access to green juices or smoothies they will boost your energy levels and ability to focus.
  • Snack, frequently.  Nothing is worse than peeling yourself away from the laptop only to realize that you have gone eight hours without any food or drink.  At that point you opt to find the biggest meal possible, which is immediately followed by a food coma.  Returning to the library after something like that is near impossible.  For those days when you start at 8am and stay till midnight – be sure to eat frequently, walk around and hydrate hydrate hydrate.
  • Be a smart consumer.  As a student I was never good at packing lunches.  Luckily Universities have come a long way in providing at least some vendors with healthy choices ~ I suggest getting to know your options on campus so that you can make wise dietary decisions.  You may have to wander across campus to get food, which becomes the perfect excuse to take a break and get some fresh air.  Sometimes healthier options are more expensive – but its worth the few extra dollars when you start to excel at your original investment.

Use apps like Urban Spoon to find great health food restaurants – Like my veggie burger treat above found at Kale Eatery… Yum yum yum!

exercise.  As a third and fourth year student there is no such thing as ‘free time’ but I started to learn that it is important to account for some ‘me time’.  This took the form of either going to work or working out.  The way I see it if I’m at a job or out for a run I’m not technically procrastinating but rather fulfilling other obligations, therefore relieving any guilt that may be associated with not reading.  Regular breaks for exercise or social interaction are going to give you more resources and capabilities for dealing with the difficult tasks at hand.  We can only handle so much library time before the silence makes us crazy.  A little meditation could also go a very long way by silencing any of those stressful thoughts!

sleep.  Without it productivity is pathetic.  No amount of coffee will make up for the fact that you only managed 3 hrs of rest last night.  I’ll admit to experiencing a few sleepless nights – but those did not contribute to my best work.  I was most capable when I managed at least 7 hrs sleep – because it prepared me both physically and mentally for the work ahead.  Any prof will tell you… ‘get adequate rest if you expect to do well on this exam’.

Becoming aware of the above variables made me more selective, organized and energized as a student.  With the pressures of third and fourth year I felt adequately prepared to excel on my assignments and in classes.  Taking notice of how I felt really made it easier to take care of myself and in turn gave me the confidence, energy and resources necessary to lift that GPA.

Here are some yummy recipes I came across this week courtesy of three fav food blogs: Moroccan Vegetable Tangine, Poppy-Seed Crusted Butternut Squash with Kale and Pomegranates, & Raw Cranberry Pie – In Mason Jar! ~ check them out.

A big part of me can’t wait to get back to the books.  I hope all of you take good care of yourselves as the pressure mounts.  Send me your feedback on any of these tips ~ would love to know how they are working for you.  To health and happiness amongst the stacks, on the third floor and especially outside that library.

~B



Vacation Recovery

Morning fellow foodies!

Back in the big city after a short visit West~ it was a week full of celebrations and catch up conversations.  The trip was fantastic, but if I could complain about anything it would be the lack of sleep, irregular eating patterns, alcohol consumption and jet lag that have me in a serious state of post vacation recovery.  Waking up overtired and under motivated = problematic.  Today’s post is about keeping a healthy lifestyle in check and moving forward in the most inconvenient of times.

Before embarking on that topic I want to share this vegan contribution to my parents anniversary party.  I was a bit of a stress case because we had so much food on the go, but my Auntie Julie of the Alkaline Sisters saved the day by preparing this salad and the tomato basil dressing you see next to it.  She has serious talent when it comes to improvising with ingredients available ~ using a blender to mix tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil ~ YUM.  I think everyone liked it because the bowl was empty by the time I got around to grabbing a serving for myself.  Here’s a link to more of Julie’s dressings.  Good dressings are essential for creating delicious salads that even the biggest skeptics will enjoy.


My relationship with fall is love hate. Love the rusty leaves, cooler weather and cozy accessories (particularly scarves)… however my dislikes revolve around shorter days, darker mornings and a never ending appetite.  With grey skies and fewer hours of sunlight I find it especially difficult to keep up with exercise, spending most free time eating and lounging. Can you relate? 

At work today we discussed goal setting~ it reminded me of former gymnastics days when my goals involved splits between chairs and catching a difficult toss.  Lately I’ve been spending too much time micromanaging my daily life and neglected to accurately record the big things worth striving for.  Yes it sounds cheesy, but writing down what we are trying to achieve will significantly increase the possibility of it happening ~ believe it or not there was a point in time when I could do splits between chairs…

So I recorded health, career and personal goals to strive for over the coming years including finding full-time employment and returning to school for holistic nutrition. I will also have to keep up on a daily basis in order to achieve the optimum health that will get me there.  To keep in check I recorded the following things to focus on over the next six weeks in hopes of making them permanent habits. Instead of ‘planning’ to do these each day I am committing to them as part of the goal process and my healthy lifestyle:

  • run or yoga for at least 45-60 minutes each day
  • meditate for a full 10 minutes each day
  • pack homemade lunches
  • opt for herbal tea over soy lattes
  • keep up with balanced plant-based meals and snacks

These are priorities I’ve let slide here and there.  Hopefully it doesn’t snow soon cause I hate the treadmill.  I encourage you to make similar lists, then figure out what changes are necessary to achieve your goals.  For example if you’re thinking of trying a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle you could commit to meatless Mondays ~ just one day a week where you consciously avoid consuming meat.  Maybe try making meals with 60% plant based ingredients, or detox over the next few weekends.  Little changes will lead to bigger results.

Here’s a video that relates:

This week I shared some of my vulnerabilities as a reminder that this journey has moments when circumstances make it really hard to maintain a holistic lifestyle.  I am happy to publish these goals so you can help keep me in check.  Hope you’re inspired to take a moment and write down what you’re striving for~ then recruit friends to help with the accountability part.

to health and happiness,

~B

Zucchini Spagetti

November 9th, 2011. The day I officially graduate from University – wheeeew!  More importantly the week I get to spend at home after 7 months exploring new cities.  So today I am visiting friends, having tea, walking the stage and enjoying a celebratory dinner on the town.

Working every day leading up to the trip it’s been a busy week, but I managed to make a few good meals and tips to share with you.  Showcased to the right are my new hydration related purchases.  This thermos tumbler and small nalgene bottle are fricken awesome.  Why you ask?

  • both are small enough to discretely fit in my purse (who wants to be seen carrying around reusable containers)
  • less impact on the environment (eliminating need for travel cups & plastic bottles)
  • tumblr has loose leaf tea sift (perfect for a little silk road tea on the go)
  • tumblr keeps tea hot for hours (4 or more)
  • bottle holds 16oz of water
  • both for under $25

No more excuses for being dehydrated or hurting the environment. I have been carrying around coffee mugs and water bottles through four years of university and only now found ones that I can consider perfect. You can find both at MEC.

With water covered lets move on to food.  I discovered a fabulous blog this week full of so many goodies and health tips.  Here’s a link to the Healthful Pursuit recipe archives ~ they all look delicious!  Check out this vegan taco salad ~ nom nom nom.

Photo Healthful Pursuit – bookmark worthy blog!

After browsing my favourite foodie sites I became inspired to try zucchini pasta… actually its zucchini in the shape of pasta.  I made sauce with a just a few simple ingredients and it turned out pretty good.

Here’s the recipe:

Yield 2

  • 2 medium sized zucchini
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 6 organic brown mushrooms
  • fresh or dried basil
  • sea salt and pepper

So for this one you need a spiral slicer as seen below ~ useful for turning any veggies or fruit into noodle like substances (also comes with blades for slicing apples). Check out this youtube vid to see how it works.

Method

  • turn the zucchini into noodles using spiral slicer
  • blend tomatoes using hand blender or food processor
  • heat the tomatoes, mushrooms and herbs on low heat
  • mix it all together to create ‘spaghetti’

This recipe would also be good with vegan ground beef or meat balls.  I love experimenting with zucchini noodles because there’s so much room for creativity.  I am far from being a culinary expert,  but this time I was very happy with the result. If you are looking for another variation my friend over at the Alkaline Sisters has a delicious recipe for zucchini pesto pasta featured in the image below. Yum, yum, yum! Great options as a pasta alternative for anyone going gluten-free or avoiding carbohydrates.

Well I know this looks a little crazy, but I hope the recipe inspires you to try something different.

On Friday my siblings and I are throwing our parents their 25th Anniversary party.  Looking forward to seeing everyone and catching up ~ Still researching some suitable vegan treat recipes so that I can enjoy the appies and dinner along with everyone else.  I’ll be sure to include my findings in next weeks post.

I urge you to comment or email with any feedback you have, so far your support for this blog has been overwhelming.

Have a wonderful remembrance day holiday!

Thanks for reading,

~B

Fast Food, Slow Recovery

Home to my cozy apartment after Halloween evening with the little cousins. Pumpkins, decorating, costumes and trick or treating = fun.  Hope all of you enjoyed some jack o’lantern festivities over the weekend.

Today I thought I would tackle the controversial topic of fast food after realizing/admitting to myself that I used to consume way too much of the stuff~ on a regular basis.

This got me thinking about how each of us looks at food in different and similar ways.  Do we eat to resolve that hungry feeling? to satisfy cravings? to fulfill a habit? to be social? for comfort? or to gain energy?  Considering these questions, its clear that all of them play a role in our dietary decision making~  However, the process of choosing foods has become so routine that we’ve lost our capacity to think critically.

Before transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle I looked at food as a filler, not something capable of boosting my energy or clearing my head.  The notion of ‘food as medicine’ was completely foreign.  Over the last year I’ve learned that our understandings of food are heavily based in cultural practices… and in North America we have perpetuated the practice of fast food.  Canadians turn to McDonalds, Tim Hortons and Subway several times a week to satisfy hunger or cravings ~ but do we really know anything about the ingredients involved in making these meals? and what these foods are giving us? (because it’s not energy).

Above: Hearty sandwich made with simple ingredients (squirelly bread, avocado, red pepper, cucumber, tomato and spinach)~

Let me be clear that I’m here to share not judge. We’ve all had to reach for fast food given money and time constraints and other circumstances involved with our fast paced lifestyles.  I can remember McChicken meals were one of my favourite things about having a car at 16.  I truthfully had no idea what ingredients I was consuming (nor did I care).

My mom sent the picture (right) of me in grade eleven (all 110lbs) sipping on a coke, captioned “what’s that you’re holding?”.  I responded by saying- there’s the former me, the human hot dog.. a very skinny mish mash of unhealthy snacks.  On the outside I looked like the picture of health, but was really suffering from lactose intolerance, stomach pains and frequent fainting.  To use an analogy, it’s the same with our fast food – Sure it looks like a burger, wrap, dressed salad or soup but on the inside it’s a combination of processed ingredients with high fructose corn syrup (sugar) at the top of the list.   Sugar doesn’t belong in bread, meat or cheese…

If we look at it like at it mathematically fast foods packed with man made ingredients are moving us further and further from a place of health because they are pulling energy from our systems as we try to digest (-).  Whereas healthy whole foods are giving us easy digestion and the capacity to absorb nutrients and therefore energy (+++).  So in the long term fast foods become a very big problem that our bodies aren’t capable of dealing with, but whole foods give our bodies the tools to fight illness.  The good news is we have the power to avoid the minuses and turn our health around.

B’s tips to avoid the fast food fix and end those drive thru visits:

  • plan ahead by packing snacks (keep water and healthy snacks with you always)
  • map out grocery stores (fresh fruit/veg/sushi/wraps/salad)
  • look for whole ingredients (if you don’t have the list don’t eat it)
  • choose water over pop (the least you can do is hydrate yourself with H2O)
  • forgive yourself (phase out the fast food dependency bit by bit and one day the cravings will be gone)

Its refreshing to know that we are on the brink of a shift in awareness and fast food companies will have to change operations towards meeting a new demand.  I want to be a part of breaking down the vicious cycle of unhealthy foods and unhealthy bodies.  This week I urge you to regain that consciousness by thinking a little more when it comes to what’s in your food.

In closing I wanted to share a new discovery this week: Going Vegan with Ellen, Ellen Degeneres’ site with so many tips for transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle.  New goal: ~ blog my way to the resources section? #bigdreams. One of the sites linked is Healthy Bitch Daily.  Worth checking out- I love the humor especially in the section “What the hell do I buy?”.  Take some time to browse the new site, what’s not to love about Ellen right?

Wishing you a great week filled with health and happiness,

~B