Local Ingredients For You and the Planet

In honour of Earth Day I have been thinking of different ways to bring green consciousness into daily habits. Recycle, compost, travel mugs, water bottle, and so on – but what about food consumption?

Brendan Brazier wrote a book called Whole Foods To Thrive: Nutrient-Dense, Plant-Based Recipes for Peak Health which looks not only at nutrition but also the environmental impact of our daily dietary choices. Before reading this book I really had little perception of the environmental damage caused by our food systems. Many of his statistics had me gasping. Between processes of production, transportation and merchandising we see unbelievably high volumes of water and fuel used – not to mention emissions given off by related industrial processes. Brazier argues that production of plants and grains is far more sustainable than our current systems for producing meat and dairy. ~Emphasizing plant-based diets as a choice for your health and your planet.

With meat, dairy and processed food already aside – I decided to look closer at the travel history of my veggies and fruit. Of course avocados (a daily indulgence) are grown in warmer climates and have to make a lengthy journey to arrive at my plate. Same story with those delicious autalfo mangoes and organic bananas. At first I considered cutting back on these, but after some thought it made more sense to shift my focus to finding more local produce to compliment consumption of imports. Plus the more local products we buy, the higher the demand and eventually the lower the price… right? (Econ was never my strong subject).

It is funny how something becomes extremely obvious once you make a mental note of it. Marketing and merchandising for local produce has been catching my eye all over town these last few weeks. With the change in season Victoria is seeing plenty of local greens including kale, sprouts and arugula. Maybe I am dreaming but I swear they taste better. In most cases locally grown foods are more organic and therefore nutrient-dense, because harsh chemicals are not needed to preserve the produce on its journey to your plate. Plus when you buy local you have the opportunity to visit the farm for yourself to see what’s up!

The other bonus to supporting local produce is that you inadvertently end up supporting the local businesses and farmers who are providing such food. Where you choose to spend your money can then really impact your local economy and therefore your community. With that I am happy to splurge a little bit more for local, because the ripple effect will bring more benefits in the long run.

Here are a few links to some recently discovered favourite shopping spots of mine. If you are outside of Victoria ask your local grocer, search online for local food blogs and take a look at sites such as www.localharvest.org. Your local food options will of course be very specific to the geographic region in which you are located… I’m a little jealous of anyone in California.

In Victoria:

Ingredients Health Food & Apple Cafe ~ Located at Store St. and Discovery. This store has all of your specialty health foods, local produce AND a huge section of bulk goods (spices, grains, soaps & tea). I met with a friend for treats from the cafe, which has plenty of whole ingredient options – most gluten-free and/or vegan. Shopping here becomes a unique experience. Hours are Mon-Sat 9:30 to 6:30 and Sunday 10 to 5.

Aubergine Specialty Foods ~ Located on Gladstone Ave in Fernwood. This small specialty shop brings in available local produce several times per week. It is easy to connect with the owner and ask questions about when the produce arrived and which farms he is buying from. You will find plenty of local greens from the Saanich Peninsula including kale. They are open Mon-Sat 9:30 to 7 and Sunday 10 to 6.

With summer around the corner I am especially excited to start making use of weekend farmers markets. The large market environment has to be one of the things I miss most about Montreal and Toronto.

The next sustainable step would be to grow the food, but I’ll save that one for a future post.

Live with intention to buy green and support your community,

Until next week,

~B

Raw Brownies ~ and Labelling Your Ingredients

Happy Wednesday. I hope you are settled into yet another week.

I have a really delicious dessert recipe to share with you. This one comes from My New Roots, a favourite recipe blog of mine. We modified the formula a bit by adding some coconut and changing the shape of the brownies. It was a messy ‘baking’ session – but the taste was worth a little extra tidy up time.

Follow this link for full details on The Raw Brownie by My New Roots.

List of ingredients:

2 cups whole walnuts
2 ½ cups Medjool dates, pitted
1 cup raw cacao
1 cup raw unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
¼ tsp. sea salt

 

 

Simple right?? Plus coconut if you wish. Annnnnd Sarah (My New Roots) suggests splurging a bit on quality organic ingredients – because the simplicity of this recipe makes taste very important. She is right ~ especially when it comes to finding great Medjool dates.

Without the luxury of a food processor we used a magic bullet to start, followed by a hand blender – and the two processes combined allowed us to puree the dates (while contributing to the mess). We also used a touch of almond milk to add some moisture to the mix.

Being that our treats were for a pot luck we rolled the brownies into smaller portions and sprinkled them with coconut. This way the rich cocoa taste didn’t overwhelm the taste tester – and those who loved chocolate could just take two. This treat was fun to make – and left plenty of room for creativity. A little espresso or rum in there might be the perfect way to serve raw brownies over a holiday season.

If you make them early just place them in the fridge before serving. *Remember if you are watching your blood sugar levels these are high on the glycemic index so just be conscious.

I had some great foodie conversations this week — as always. This time over beers (cleansing… water for me). A few coworkers and I were discussing recipes in anticipation of this pot luck. From there we got to talking about the importance of ingredients involved in each dish. For me ingredient consciousness is a choice to deal with stomach sensitivities, but for those with allergies the details of such ingredients are more crucial. For example many conventional products used in a recipe may contain soy, nuts, wheat and so on — and usually these ingredients are hidden under complicated terms. When listing ingredients is it enough to write chocolate chips – when the formula for making that product contains a whole host of other ingredients??

Well after chatting back and forth we came to realize why it is to be aware of what is used in store bought products. Another helpful thing we did for this pot luck was label the ingredients of each dish, much like you would find on the back of packaging. That way there was no mix up in what might or might not be in the food. I think this is not always necessary depending on who is eating – but nonetheless a very courteous thing to do when serving large groups. For me spotting ingredients that my body disagrees with will help me avoid a stomach ache, and for many others avoid an awful allergic reaction.  All the more reason to keep it simple and opt for whole foods where possible.

I feel like I had a lot more to share this week – but have run out of time and have to get to work. Lots of material for next post!

Oh and here is an article I read yesterday by the New York Times, The Challenge of Going Vegan. I am not a huge fan of using the term vegan, but the article is more about going plant-based and the comments below are interesting. We know something is trendy when the NYT writes about it :) This article states that over 7 million Americans are following a vegetarian diet and numbers are growing exponentially each year. There are some helpful tips and good discussions. Worth a quick read.

Writing to you is a highlight in my week. Thanks for reading.

~B

Balancing that pH with a Spring Cleanse

Oh the sunshine feels sooooo nice on my shoulders! A welcome change after weeks of rain.

I spent some time this afternoon sitting outside the local coffee shop pondering my healthy and not so healthy choices these last seven days.  Ultimately coming to the conclusion that it is time for a Spring cleanse. Sticking with whole foods has become second nature – but after weeks of casual drinks and the odd hangover its time to reign in my alkalinity. Out with the alcohol and chocolate indulgences – and in with the greens (more and more greens).  In the past I have stuck with Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy 21-Day Cleanse- but I am without a juicer at the moment, and I lent that book to a friend. Instead I’ll take this opportunity to explore other options.

Cleansing is a controversial topic that deserves attention. Like anything else it can be done well – or not so well. There are several ways to approach the process, and just as many theories around its benefits. If we look to religious and cultural rituals in our ancestry we can see that cleansing has been an important part of annual dietary patterns – periods of feasting, fasting and cleansing; in accordance with seasons or holidays. The modern diet looks much different as we have access to all sorts of foods all year round.

Culturally, we have suppressed theories of cleansing because they are associated with starvation and absence. However, our excessive consumption and entitlements to food have given us new problems… chronic disease, processed meals and a malnourished overweight population. In the future, I imagine we will witness more balance between food consumption and cleansing as more of us understand the stress our bodies are under with the standard American diet (SAD).

Just over two years ago I decided to research cleansing a bit more before embarking on a 3 day juice feast (as suggested by those living an alkaline diet). It wasn’t easy – but it helped me find both the mental and physical clarity necessary to ease into the plant-based lifestyle. Looking back that was a turning point to better things, and I would recommend cleansing to anyone looking for tools to transition. Of course everyone is at different stages of their health journey – and should therefore do research before picking what is right for them.

Now that my understandings of food and health have shifted, I am more aware of what to look for in a cleanse. Several friends have just completed the Wild Rose Herbal D-Tox, which is based in minimizing acidic foods and focusing on alkalinity with the help of herbal supplements. Their testimonies are a reminder of how amazing I feel after a juice cleanse~ Lean body, clear skin and mental clarity – refreshing. Now seems like the right time to give this method a shot.

The video below explain this cleanse – how it relates to alkaline/acid forming foods, as well as clearing out the liver and lymphatic systems.

 

Before my cleanse begins I wanted to indulge in a healthy sweet. A friend of mine read about this snack in Women’s Health and then suggested I try it. While very high in natural sugars, and therefore not so alkaline – it is still much healthier than cadbury eggs! This snack will be especially useful after a long workout, when your body benefits from glucose during recovery. Or for young kids looking to make some fun but healthy sweets!

Ingredients

  • Banana
  • Almond Butter
  • Organic Dark Chocolate Chips

Method

  1. slice the bananas in half (long ways)
  2. spread almond butter
  3. add chocolate (shaved coconut and almonds would also be yummy)
  4. freeze overnight
  5. cut into bit size pieces and share

The temperature of this treat reminds me of ice cream – something I miss. Definitely worth a try. And of course be creative – maybe you prefer peanut butter, or coconut, or almonds. Just stick to whole ingredients and in you are in for a healthy treat.

This past week I have found myself very engaged in dietary discussions – as I am always intrigued by opinions on food. Though sometimes difficult, I also recognize that mine is just one perspective of many. I hope that those of you who choose to read also feel comfortable challenging my proposals. For me a great deal of happiness and love is associated with learning more about nutritious food ~ and my objective here is to encourage more chit chat on the topic.

On that note, I am very excited to see how this cleanse works out. Looking forward to sharing the good, the bad and the unexpected with you.

wishing you another week of health and happiness,

~B

Accessing Good Health

 

I had intended to post by Wednesday, but then realized I had not left myself enough free time… in case any of you were waiting on the edge of your seats – my apologies.

This week I struggled to keep up with yoga, running and homemade meals. A good reminder of how inaccessible such a lifestyle can be when life gets in the way. My original plan for this blog post was to make a homemade granola bar recipe, but instead I ended up doing laundry, cleaning and catching up on sleep! Today I will share some resources I have found useful as of late, and then save the baking for Easter weekend.

Kathy Freston has a new book: The Lean: A Revolutionary (and Simple!) 30-Day Plan for Healthy, Lasting Weight Loss – which I intend to spend time reading over the holiday weekend. I really agree with her approach, because she encourages people to make gradual lifestyle/dietary changes day by day that together create a more healthy individual. In this program she suggests a 30 day transition, building on each day with a new focus. For example, Day 1: Wade into Water, Day 6: Swap out Dairy, Day 12: Ease into Exercise, Day 14: Select Superfoods, Day 25: Enjoy Juice – Day 30: Progress not Perfection. The last one makes total sense. It becomes much easier to maintain a health conscious lifestyle if you are willing to admit to moments of imperfection, while also recognizing how far you have come. Kathy’s model would be useful for anyone who is looking to become more aware of their health, but is intimidated by drastic dietary change.

I came across the video below while looking for new juicing recipes. There is always more to learn about the logistics of juicing well. It involves the right machine, nutrient-rich ingredients and tricks to make it palatable. Concentrating your juice with green vegetables is the key to long lasting energy. Many fruits carry high levels of natural sugars, which can be useful in the short term but drag you down by afternoon. High-glycemic fruits also spike insulin levels and can be more difficult for your body to process. It is essential to choose quality ingredients for achieving both good nutrition and great taste. For taste, Kris suggests using pears – but I would also recommend ginger and carrots.

 

I am reading the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, as part of a book club with friends. Currently three quarters the way through and very much enjoying each page. I seem to have a thing for tangible non-fiction where theories can be applied directly life. The author encourages you to look at your life as it is right now and decide to make small changes that improve your daily happiness.  The change can be as simple as deciding to recognize the things that make you happy versus the things that do not – and from there thinking about either accepting them or making them different. My resolution is to do dishes before bed – so they don’t bother me in the morning (simple but truly affects my mood). Healthy food has been a huge part of achieving, maintaining and recognizing my happiness. This book has reminded me of that, and opened my eyes to other things that bring me joy right now. It is a good read for anyone striving to a future of happiness – as she encourages you to wake up, take action and live in the present.

 

 

In the spirit of Easter here is a recipe for sweets – Apricot & Grapefruit Toffee by Green Kitchen Stories. Very few ingredients and simple to make. I have made similar ones in the past using dates and chocolate, like the Alkaline Sisters’ Raw Chocolate Holiday Fudge – Both are worth a try.

 

I hope these resources give you something to think about over the holiday weekend. Wishing all of you a very restful time away from work. Remember to enjoy plenty of vegetables!! And if the weather is nice take some time to get outside!

Happy Easter!

~B