Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Recipe Post: Broccoli Chedd'r Mini-Quiches + A Place for Pleasure Foods

Some days you wake up bursting with ideas, and you just have to see them through, or you feel like you'll actually burst. Today was one of those days.

I've always loved the combination of broccoli and cheddar cheese; something I've frankly missed since going vegan. I've been happy to see an influx of vegan-friendly plant-based cheezes arriving on the market. While they may not all have the most nourishing profile of ingredients, there is something to be said for nourishing nostalgia.

I read an interesting post on the Coach Calorie blog yesterday about how those who wish to lose weight (or get healthy, or any number of health goals) first eliminate their favourite foods, as though deprivation and misery are the keys to success.

And I will echo the point: They're not.

Satiety and satisfaction, though very similar, are not necessarily one and the same. Satiety is a response in the body that tells you it has achieved physical fullness and nutrient balance. It is meant to keep us from eating in excess and signalling that our body has what it needs for now. Making sure a meal is macronutrient-balanced is a great way to achieve satiety.

Satisfaction, however, runs on a deeper level. A meal can be perfectly macronutrient-balanced, but if it tastes bland, has an unpleasant mouthfeel, or is otherwise awful to consume, it's not going to be satisfying on an emotional level. Food should taste good and be enjoyable to eat, if not all the time, then at least the majority of the time. This is also obviously not to say we should eat cake for breakfast, a bag of chips for snack, pizza for lunch, *a healthy dandelion salad for dinner*, and then ice cream for dessert.

We should endeavour to learn how to cook food with spices, not be afraid of healthy amounts of fat, add a dash of sea salt here and there. And of course, we should not feel like we need to put a moratorium on all of our favourite foods. Being adventurous in the kitchen and trying alternative ingredients to replicate your favourite flavours can be healthful in its own way; not just physically, but in appealing to your inner child, your hidden chocoholic, your secret cheese junkie.

So circling back to vegan cheezes. I woke up this morning wanting to do *something* with chickpea flour, *something* with broccoli and cheez. LIGHTBULB MOMENT! and I whipped up these Broccoli Chedd'r Mini-Quiches. I'll be honest, it was about an hour of deciding what to put in the bowl - would this really taste good? should I add more of this? what will this do to the colour? - and wondering, once it was in the oven, whether it would turn out at all the way I wanted it to.

But that was also part of the fun. Learning to cook and drawing on that experience; plus feeling adventurous and drawing on foods-loved-past; leads to a fascinating alchemy of nourishment for health and nostalgia.

Plus, the results are in: Tasty, nutritious... and not only satiates my body, but satisfies my secret cheese junkie. (Full disclosure: I ate three once I got them out of the oven.)

Savoury Vegan Broccoli Chedd’r Mini-Quiches
A vegan, gluten-free twist on a classic flavour combination. Chickpea flour, or besan, is a versatile, high-protein, gluten-free flour that is well worth making a pantry staple. Its cooked texture and flavour lends itself perfectly to replacing eggs for making scrambles, omelettes, and of course, quiches. Nutritional yeast (“nooch”) adds a cheesy flavour while also providing an additional protein and B-vitamin boost. These broccoli chedd’r mini-quiches are beautiful for a brunch, or as a quick grab-and-go breakfast. Serve au naturel or with a favourite sauce, such as vegan hollandaise, sour cream, or for a spicy kick, hot sauce or sriracha. Makes 12 mini-quiches.

1 cup frozen organic broccoli florets
Coconut oil for the muffin pan OR paper cupcake liners
1½ cups chickpea/garbanzo bean flour (besan)
1 tsp. GF baking powder
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast (increase to 3 Tbsp. + more for sprinkling if not using vegan chedd’r)
¼ tsp. organic ground turmeric
¼ to ½ tsp. sea salt (you may wish to use a little more if not using vegan chedd’r)
¼ tsp. organic chili powder
Pinch each fresh ground black pepper and red chili flakes
Optional: pinch black salt, to taste
1¾ cup unsweetened hemp or almond milk OR water
 cup vegan chedd’r shreds, such as Daiya or Earth Island, plus more for sprinkling, optional (or use more nooch as indicated above)
Preheat oven to 375˚F. Grease or line your muffin tin.
In a pot with a steamer basket, steam the broccoli until just cooked (it should be bright green). Transfer broccoli to a strainer and run cool water over it to stop cooking. Allow to drain off as much moisture as possible. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, add all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, nooch, and spices). Whisk to mix.
Add the hemp milk or water and whisk to mix.
Add the  cup chedd’r, if using. Gently fold into batter.
Start spooning the batter into the muffin tin, about half-filling each compartment. You should still have some batter left after. Distribute the broccoli into the compartments. Spoon the remaining batter evenly over the broccoli. Sprinkle extra chedd’r or nooch on top of each mini-quiche.
Place the muffin tin in the oven and bake about 18-20 minutes, until just firm. A toothpick inserted in the middle a quiche should come out clean.
Allow to cool slightly before removing mini-quiches from the tin. You may need to use a butter-knife to lift the edges away from the sides neatly if not using liners. Transfer to a plate and serve. Alternatively place the mini-quiches on a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before storing them in containers or sandwich bags for grab-and-go breakfasts or snacks.
This recipe also appears on SaraGalipeau.ca in Recipe of the Month Archive, April 2016. Get the pdf here.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Fresh Motivation: The Sequel

Chillin' after yoga in the park.
About a month ago I wrote about summer bringing about fresh motivation. Sadly, motivation ebbs and flows along a spectrum, rushing and receding from day to day. One aspect I've continually struggled with is following through with my plans to work out. I've gone through a lot of pre-workout energizer (though not entirely wasted - some of that energy was put to good use on my workdays, and aided some epic brainstorming sessions).

Just last night I stumbled upon an article posted on the Mercola site. The thing that's been missing of late, that I used to be able to do quite well, is that ability to just get up and go (outside, to the gym, to my mat in the basement, whatever) without thinking about it.

So I've issued a Challenge. For the month of August, I challenge YOU (and myself, of course) to fit in one workout a day. This can be anything that gets you moving and your heart rate up. This can be a workout DVD in your living room. This can be taking the stairs to your office or apartment instead of the elevator. This can be taking your dog or cat or pig for a walk in new terrain. This can be cleaning out your basement for a garage sale. This can be dancing like a maniac to your favourite song when no one's watching.

It doesn't have to be complicated or overly strenuous. The point is to make physical activity a natural part of your healthy day, like drinking water and eating your vegetables. Log your efforts over the course of the month and see that it's not that hard after all.

I'll be putting my daily workouts, no matter how big or small, on Twitter. Today being day 1, I've already tweeted my first workout. Get over there and follow along!

What will you do today?

Monday, 29 June 2015

Summer is a Season of Fresh Motivation! Plus: Green Smoothie Challenge Prize Info...

Apple Basil Lime Margarita
If you're like me, maybe you find that your creative energy reaches its highest highs when the days are long, bright, and sunny.  And as such, you might find that when the days are short, dark, and cold, your inspiration and sticktoitiveness runs dry.  Maybe it's all that natural vitamin D, that potent pre-hormone mood-boosting not-really-a-vitamin powerhouse that's formed in our skin under the right kind of sunlight.  I love that stuff.

Back to summer.

I've had a swell of the aforementioned creative energy of late (thus ending the months-long silence on this blog) and while the focus is still a work in progress (my inner ADHD-kid is practically screaming "can we play outside today?!" and I've literally lost my train of thought several times just writing this sentence), those times I've been focused have been used to spark new ideas, put a new spin on some old ones, and importantly, hone in on what I really want to do and who I really want to help.

Changes to what I call my mission statement will be rolling out on my website and socials as I get the wording down in the next weeks.  I will say that I've spent a lot of time thinking about what gets me going the most when I'm talking to clients and customers, what kinds of things I've had experience with personally, and what areas are fascinating to me, that I'm most interested in when it comes to learning more.  These include but are in no way limited to plant-based nutritional support for fitness and athletics, cognitive function, and reproductive and sexual health.  It may not seem like there's much interrelation between these subjects, broad topics of study that they are, but having experience with all of these, and from what I've learned and observed, everything the body does and is capable of doing is connected to everything else.  Again, fascinating.

Blushing Pear Hydrator
Similarly, I've always been committed to making my workshops, recipes, e-books, and online challenges vegan- and allergy-friendly.  I chose the banner Love Plants for Life to reflect my love of plant-based food, and the belief that sourcing the majority of one's diet from these foods, whether you're vegan, vegetarian, omni, flexi, Paleo, or what-have-you, promotes lifelong vibrant health.  Plant foods are a common denominator in any healthful whole-foods diet - so why not learn to Love Plants for Life?  (See what I did there?  Heh.)

In my ongoing quest for knowledge, I'm taking steps to learn more about healthy food preparation as it relates to plant-based foods, with the aim to expand my current skills and apply them in my practice.  I've always had a knack for cooking without a recipe (thanks, Dad), and use that to create the recipes I post online, jot down for clients' menus, and demonstrate in my workshops; now I want to see what I can do with further instruction, to take my Love Plants for Life offerings in new directions.

And speaking of Love Plants for Life, my 10-day Green Smoothie Challenge is back with new recipes for 2015, and a new prize package: a Smoothie Sampler Kit, filled up with a pile of my favourite vegan- and allergy-friendly smoothie ingredients (approximate prize value $60)!  I've really enjoyed putting together the recipes for this Challenge.  It's free, and you get a new summery smoothie recipe daily from July 7-16 just for signing up!  Registration closes and shopping lists get sent out July 3, so if you want to get in on the new recipes and the prize draw, get to it!  Group start July 7.  Prize draw July 20.  Register here: http://saragalipeau.ca/news.html

Prize Pack with all the stuff! (Updated July 14)
Notice: Prize draw eligibility open to registered Challengers only - must sign up via the link above.  The email address you provide will only be used to send you LPFL 10-day Green Smoothie Challenge emails, including notice of prize draw winner.  Registration automatically enters the subscriber in the prize draw.  Further opportunities for extra entries include sharing Challenge posts on Facebook or Twitter (up to 3 extra entries) and posting smoothie photos in the private Facebook group or on Twitter @SaraGalipeauRHN and/or with the hashtag #LPFLsmoothies (up to 5 extra entries).

Now... let's play outside!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Personal Post: On Making Peace with Imperfection

So here I am, back again, after a season-long technological hiatus.  These past 14 months have been a rollercoaster, reaching the apex just over 2 months ago, and now finally leveling out to near-normalcy again.

As a nutritionist I'm trained to piece together the symptomatology, the clues presented in my clients' cases, and chart the best course for them to take on their path to taking back control of their own health.  So it was frustrating when, in summer 2013, I had no idea what was happening to me.

I found myself suddenly faced with month-long periods.  I would bleed for a month; strangely, not enough to warrant the use of much more than 2 or 3 pantyliners per day most of the time, so for that at least I was thankful; but unfortunately, still with cramping bad enough that I resorted to ibuprofen more often than not.  The bleeding would then stop for a month (though on a couple of occasions, there were only 2 weeks' interim), and resume again for another month in the same way.

With this level of discomfort, I was miserable.  I began comfort eating whatever I was craving, telling myself I deserved it with the day I was having.  I had stopped going to the gym by November, consequently started gaining weight, pulled away from intimacy with my husband, and quite honestly, I believe I was depressed, amplified too by a couple of family tragedies in the last quarter of 2013.  I also felt ashamed that I, a person who should be exemplary in health and vitality, was sick and sinking into bad habits.

I finally had an appointment in December with my GP, who ordered blood work and an ultrasound.  My iron stores, not surprisingly, were low, so I took her advice and started an iron supplement.  The ultrasound revealed a "complex mass" of some kind on my right ovary, and by February a follow-up ultrasound confirmed that it might be a dermoid cyst, approximately 54mm in length.  I would be referred to a reproductive surgeon for a cystectomy.

One of many juices I made. Booster
Juice-inspired "Ginger Hammer":
2 large carrots, 2 navel oranges,
1 tart apple, and 1/2" piece
fresh ginger.
From what I knew, dermoids are something that can exist symptom-free in the body for one's whole life, and do not respond well to alternative therapies.  Again, that notion of the exemplary nutritionist reared in my mind.  I did what I could with what I knew while I waited for my referral; more to make myself feel like I was still in control, that I could still help myself.  I bought a juicer and started making fresh green juices most mornings; in addition to iron, I also took DIM supplements to help my liver process excess hormones, B complex for stress and metabolism, and curcumin to reduce inflammation; and as my cycles started to normalize again, gradually started a gentle workout routine again.

Over the course of the 4 months I waited to get into the OR, I made my peace with not having perfect control of the inner workings of my body.  That said, the stress of waiting still took its toll, and I continued to comfort-eat, more so in the weeks leading up to the operation.

Stress-eating aside, I felt I was finally on the upswing when it came time for my surgery in mid-July.  Knowing that possible risks of letting it alone could include torsion and atrophy of the ovary, and a resulting reduction or loss of fertility, I let go of being in control of the process, and made my peace that having the surgery was in my best interests right now.  
A few words about the surgery day itself: Having never been put under anaesthesia before, I was extremely anxious, and it was the scariest day I can remember - especially the last 20 minutes prior to entering the OR: waiting on the gurney, being told to get off the gurney and walk into the OR and lie down on the operating table under my own power (when all I wanted to do was turn and run), having electrodes placed on my skin and an IV hooked into my hand.  And after all that, I don't even remember the moment I closed my eyes; just waking up sometime afterward, and fading in and out of sleep for several hours afterward.

The recovery period was where I felt I could take control of my health again.  The relief of having this "mass" removed from my body was palpable.  The stress of waiting, waiting, waiting - lifted.  I would learn happily that the surgeon was able to remove the whole cyst and keep my ovary intact; and later on that biopsy revealed no malignancy.  I chose nutrient-dense soft foods for the first few days after the surgery: organic applesauce, smooth blended soups, homemade protein smoothies.  Once I was in the clear to do so, I resumed my regular supplements and added a few especially healing products to the lineup (a protein powder rich in l-glutamine, an amino acid important for tissue repair; a post-workout recovery shake loaded with anti-inflammatory ingredients; greens powder and omega-3; and a nourishing topical skin oil for the scars, to name a few).  

I gradually reintroduced myself to exercise, first with a light yoga DVD in the comfort of my basement a couple of times a week, and then returning to beach volleyball with my friends.  (The most uncomfortable part of this was not the incisions themselves, but the spray-on suture covering them.  As it eroded, it would irritate the surrounding skin, making it unpleasant to twist or bend too far.)  I also took the time off to step back from some of my obligations as a business owner and let myself readjust to my situation.

I still have a ways to go before I can say I'm back to where I was before it all happened.  I still have some extra weight to shift, some bad habits to break (comfort-eating admittedly top of the list), and motivation issues to overcome.  

I ran my first LPFL Green Smoothie Challenge
during my pre-op "waiting period".
The Challenge is back again for October!
To look at the positive, I'm getting back into a regular workout routine, my cycles are normalizing again, I'm reestablishing closeness with my husband, and rediscovering my interest in all things nutrition, which includes doing product research, running workshops, and bringing my Love Plants for Life offerings back in force for the fall and winter.  

It's my hope that sharing my experience, knowing that I'm not perfect and striving for a return to health myself, will inspire you to join me on the way.

Let's do this!

The information in this article reflects my personal experience and approach to my own health, and is not meant to replace the advice of your health care practitioner.  Talk to your doctor, naturopath, or registered nutritionist about your health status prior to adding any supplements to your routine to determine what's right for you.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month - Protect Yourself!

There are many things to celebrate in the month of May - Cinco de Mayo, the Tulip Festival and Mothers' Day, farmers' markets are opening up for the season, and Victoria Day, the first long weekend kicking off summer.  May is also abundant with awareness days and weeks, and May itself marks Mental Health Awareness, Asthma & Allergies Awareness, and - the subject of this post, one that really hits home for me - Skin Cancer Awareness Month.

Just over two years ago, in early March 2012, my fair-skinned, strawberry-blond, copiously befreckled husband stepped out of the shower, and as he was dressing, I noticed a particularly dark spot on his left shin - something I could not recall having seen there before.  I had just completed an advanced pathology course, and knowing how to spot potentially cancerous moles was one of the subjects covered in the lectures.  Kevin's freckles are generally small and a light reddish-brown colour, even the larger mole- or birthmark-like spots, and this one was dark and shiny, with an irregular pinkish border on one side.  I urged him to have it checked out by our GP, who removed it for biopsy.
Kevin's suspicious mole, March 3 2012,
later confirmed stage 0 melanoma.
Note the colour and irregular border.
This mole was approximately 0.5cm in diameter.

He got the call at work, and called me afterward to share.  Sure enough, the results had came back, in a bad news/good news kind of way.  The bad news: it was melanoma.  The good news: it was only stage 0 - we had caught it just in time.  I still can't quite describe the mixture of emotions running through me at that moment - fear and panic ("I was right to be concerned!"), relief and gratitude ("We caught it early, thanks to that course!"), and juuust a touch of hysteria ("I need to take care of you!  What happens now?  Let's go load up on vitamin D, sunscreen, and new hats, right now!").  Not surprisingly, he took the rest of the day off, not for himself, but for me.

Though they were sure they got it all when they did the biopsy, the area around the cancerous mole would be removed as a precaution in August: 1cm deep and 1" around, and a skin graft from a spot a few inches away applied to the excised area.  The excised tissue was tested and he was pronounced cancer-free, but he must go for full-body dermatological check-ups every 6 months until the 5-year mark.  Edit: he recently had one of these check-ups, and since he's been clear for nearly 2 years, he now only needs to go annually.

January 2013 (5 months post-op) -
Kevin now has 2 sizable scars on his left shin,
where the melanoma was excised (bottom)
and where the skin graft was taken (top).
In the time between and following Kevin's diagnosis and surgery, this story prompted many friends and family members to become more vigilant and check their own skin for irregular spots.  Now I'm sharing it with you, and I hope you'll take these steps to protect yourself and someone you love:

Know the signs and check yourself.  If you have any freckles or moles, do a monthly "spot check".  Be aware of the ABCDE visual signs of skin cancers.  Look in the mirror in good light - use a handheld mirror where necessary.  Get a friend or loved one to look at spots on your back or other hard-to-see places.  Take good-quality pictures of new or possibly unusual spots, preferably with a ruler or small object for measurement references to compare with next month's pictures of the same spots.  Be consistent - use the same camera and lighting sources.

Load up on vitamin D.  First, get your blood levels checked.  Ask your GP to add vitamin D to your blood work.  Unfortunately, this is not covered by OHIP (unless you meet certain criteria) and may cost around $50.
Why is vitamin D important?  Recent and growing research is showing that vitamin D helps modulate the immune system, an important factor in preventing and managing cancer cell growth.  Additionally, vitamin D is synthesized in the skin with sun exposure, and may provide some protection from the harmful rays of the sun.
Around 15 minutes per day of unprotected sun exposure in the summer can be enough to boost levels adequately, if not for the full year, then at least for the season.  However, as Canadians, we have less sun exposure in general, and are thus more susceptible to vitamin D deficiency, not just in the winter, but year-round (and especially with this winter having lasted so long, I suspect many people may be more deficient than usual).  For this reason, it is imperative to have your blood levels tested in the late winter-early spring when levels are naturally lowest, and supplement accordingly year-round.
In terms of supplementation, the RDI for vitamin D is 1000IU for adults and 400IU for children per day - if no deficiency currently exists.  Those who are deficient (showing <30ng/ml or <75nmol/L) need more than this to bring levels back to optimum (40-60ng/ml or 100-150nmol/L).  As an example, my first vitamin D blood test showed a very surprisingly low 25nmol/L, and I took between 2000-4000IU of lanolin-sourced emulsified vitamin D3 per day for over a year (with the higher amount in the winter and on very cloudy days), until my next annual physical, where my blood test showed 126nmol/L.  I recommend at least 2000IU per day for adults on a regular basis, and more for those who are immune-compromised (e.g. autoimmune, inflammatory conditions, digestive disorders, etc) or suffer from seasonal affective disorder.

Protect your skin.  "Slip on a shirt, slap on a hat, slop on some sunscreen."  I grew up with this mantra for sun protection, and it still holds true.  Cover up wherever possible.  After you've gotten some unprotected sun exposure for vitamin D synthesis, apply sunscreen.  Look for natural brands with an SPF of at least 30 at your local health food store, eco shop, or larger supermarkets, or try finding one online or through independent cosmetics retailers.  If there is a "tester" tube available, try it first to be sure you like the feel of it on your skin, as some may be thick and greasy, which could clog pores and exacerbate breakouts; and/or leave a white residue on skin and clothing.  I like Aubrey Organics, Nature's Gate, and Arbonne Baby Care sunscreens.  The protection factor (SPF) weakens over time, so it's best to replace your sunscreen annually.
Avoid tanning, including tanning beds.  Over time this damages your skin, leading to premature aging, and increases your risk for skin cancers.  People with fair complexions, many freckles or moles, blue eyes, and blonde or red hair (such as Kevin) are at higher risk.
Remember too that your skin absorbs about 60% of whatever you put on your skin into your bloodstream within just minutes after application!  Avoid products containing known carcinogens, such as parabens and phthalates.
Sunburns (even just one bad one) also increase the risk of skin cancers.  While after-burn care may not reduce your risk, it's still worth doing to get relief.  Try fresh aloe vera gel or chilled chamomile tea on your skin, or a natural after-sun or calendula cream to cool the burn.  Coconut oil is also soothing.  Up your intake of antioxidant vitamins A, C, E, and minerals zinc and selenium, all of which are crucial to good skin health.  Orange, yellow, and red fruits and vegetables, as well as cruciferous vegetables and dark leafy greens, are great sources of vitamin A and C.  Nuts and seeds, particularly Brazil nuts, macadamias, pecans, and almonds are abundant with vitamin E, zinc, and selenium.  These nutrients are also available together in supplement formulas (look for "ACESZ" or similar).

So enjoy the sunny days of summer - and keep your skin safe.

How do you care for your skin in summer?

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Earth Month in Closing - My Favourite Everyday Green Practices and Products

Earth Month may be drawing to a close, but environmentally sound practices should be taken to heart year-round!

Go organic.  As a nutritionist, this is my number one initiative to improve not just my clients' and my own health, but the health of the world at large.  Yes, buying everything organic gets expensive.  Learning to shop around for sales and deals, taking advantage of in-store "points" systems, and maximizing one's use of online coupons and offers, as well as knowing which vegetables and fruits are "safer" than others to buy conventional using the EWG's Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists, are all very helpful practices to make going organic easier on your wallet.
Farmers' market season is also fast approaching, and clean local picked-this-morning produce can often be found at better-than-supermarket prices.  Ask questions, shop around - and see if you can haggle a little!
And of course, try to grow your own!  If space is a concern, consider creative solutions such as aero- or hydroponic setups and "living wall" gardening.  I've seen this, this, and this popping up on Facebook recently.
 Or go small and try sprouting some organic seeds in your kitchen, either by Googling around for instructions or picking up a sprouting kit with complete instructions and materials.

AquaFarm photo from eartheasy.com - little fishy friend,
plus homegrown veggies!  Sounds good to me.
Eat less animal produce.  It's well-known that it takes a lot of resources to produce a pound of meat or cheese than it does a pound of grain or vegetable.  The UN also urges a global reduction in animal foods consumption to help reduce the strain on resources such as fresh water and viable soil that would be used for irrigation and monoculture, respectively, of crops destined to feed livestock.  Reducing the amount of animal-based foods you eat in a day or a week has benefits for your health and helps contribute to the reduction of demand for these products, especially those coming from unsustainable factory farms.  Start small.  Consider instituting a Meatless Monday meal plan once a week.  If you are not ready or don't want to go completely meat-free, choosing more ethically-sourced, organic certified animal foods is a step in the right direction.  Again, farmers' markets can be good places to find quality local animal produce, and again, ask questions about the products you're interested in to make an informed choice.

Green your routine.  Take a look at your stash of toiletries and beauty products.  Try looking for green alternatives for your shampoo, soap, makeup, toothpaste, etc.  Green products are often biodegradable, not tested on animals and/or made with only vegan-friendly ingredients, can be free of harmful chemicals such as phthalates and parabens, and may also come in recycled/recyclable/compostable packaging.  I love Green Beaver deodorant and toothpaste, and locally-produced Purple Urchin bath products.  Live Clean has an extensive line of vegan-friendly shampoos, styling products, baby care products, body washes, etc., and can easily be found in a lot of grocery and drugstores, as well as health food and eco-shops.  If you feel adventurous, why not try making your own beauty products, such as deodorant, face masks, body scrubs, etc.?  Pinterest can be a great resource for finding DIY toiletry recipes.

Green your kitchen.  What you cook your food with, what you serve it with, how you store the leftovers, how you dispose of food waste, what you use to clean the counters and dishes... there's a lot you can do just in your kitchen.
For cooking, consider using ceramic-coated pans instead of Teflon if you want non-stick.  Teflon coatings quickly erode at high heat, releasing harmful PFCs into the air - and may make you and especially your pets sick!  Stainless steel and cast iron pans are also good options.
Try switching out plastic cooking spoons, spatulas, and even cutting boards and travel cutlery for some made with recycled or sustainable materials like bamboo or hemp.
Trade plastic containers, cellophane wrap, and one-use baggies for stainless steel, Pyrex, or silicone to take in your lunch bag.  Reusable snack bags are available in many sizes and styles for trail mix to veggies to sandwiches.  Silicone bowl covers replace plastic wrap, and are usually designed to create a vacuum seal.  I especially like reusing the jars that my nut butters, sauces, and salsas are sold in.  I keep a variety of different sizes, from small jam and spice jars to large mason-style soup jars, and I use them to store anything from homemade soups and sauces and partial contents of cans of beans, to salad-in-a-jar and fresh juice, to single servings of vinegar and olive oil dressing and protein powder for my post-workout shake.
If you cook with oil, switch out vegetable oil, which is typically made from soybean, canola, and/or cottonseed oils, as well as corn oil.  These are some of the most genetically-modified crops in the world, and are sprayed with increasing quantities of ecosystem-ravaging pesticides that many, if not most, of these crops have been engineered to tolerate.  Palm oil may be another ingredient in vegetable oils, but is available on its own.  It's also questionable due to some manufacturers' harvesting practices, resulting in deforestation and the loss of animal habitats, notably orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra.  Some companies insist that they follow sustainable harvesting practices to produce their red palm oil, but it may still be better to choose something else in order to reduce overall demand for this product.  Bonus: The Orangutan Project page linked above also gives a list of words to watch for on ingredients lists in your food, toiletries, and cleaning products to help you better avoid palm oil.
NatureMill kitchen/outdoor
composter photo from naturemill.net - cool
contraption makes my wishlist!
I recently saw a cool contraption at my local all-things-eco-store for converting your kitchen waste into compost at a much faster rate than just putting it out in a bin outside to decompose.  You add your compostables as you produce them, turn it on, and within a couple of weeks you have a couple of gallons of fresh compost to use in your garden.  This could be a great solution for urban gardeners who have little space and/or are concerned about maintaining a compost heap in their backyard, but don't want to toss all their scraps in the city's green bins or the trash.  It's definitely made my wishlist!

There are just so many ways to reduce our footprint on the planet beyond what we eat and how we care for ourselves.  Remember to be mindful year-round!  What are some of your practices?

Monday, 10 March 2014

New to Juicing - What To Do With All This Pulp? A Recipe is Born!

It's no secret that I love kitchen gadgets.  From my multi-temperature kettle and my combination coffee-espresso maker, to my milk frother, to my citrus reamer and my apple corer.

Fresh resolve (let's say due to the onset of sunnier days and the promise of warmer temperatures) inspired me to take the plunge and add a masticating juicer to my lineup.

I've been a fan of Booster Juice's Ginger Hammer for some time - I especially love it during cold season - and it was naturally the first juice I attempted to make with my new contraption.  I was pleased with the result, and the potency of the juice's flavour (especially that of the ginger - wow!).

My version:

Organic Ginger Power Juice
- 1" piece peeled organic ginger root
- 2 to 3 medium-large organic carrots
- 1 organic granny smith apple

This is the basic recipe.  Since my first go at it I've added to it with whatever I had on hand: a handful of fresh organic wheatgrass here, a third of an organic cucumber there, maybe a rib or two of organic celery.  It makes about a cup of juice - just the right amount for my needs as a juicing noob.

Now, I knew going in that I would be left with a lot of vegetable fibre.  I also knew from reading various posts on various health-oriented blogs and Facebook groups that one can use the fibre to augment soups, sauces, and smoothies.  I added about half of my first "batch" of pulp to a green smoothie that same morning.  Note that if you do add the pulp to a smoothie, you'll more than likely have to add extra liquid.  That stuff is absorbent.  Let's just say that first smoothie was quite thick, filling, and honestly, kind of hard to get down.  Live and learn.

I'd also read that the pulp can be used in baking.  I knew I wanted to attempt baking with my homemade "Ginger Hammer" pulp, so though I made different juices, I mostly saved the pulp from the aforementioned cocktail until I either found or came up with a recipe.  I had collected about 4 juices' worth of pulp, and was starting to worry it would all go bad before I got to bake with it.

I did a little searching online and in my cookbooks, but didn't really find anything I wanted to make, or could make with what I currently had on-hand.

So I adapted another recipe of mine, and hoped for the best.

The original recipe is one that my mother gave to me - a simple oatmeal muffin recipe that came from a school home-ec cookbook, circa her high school years.  Being vegan, I've since adapted that recipe to suit, and from there it morphed into my Banana Chai Chocolate Chip Muffins.

I wanted hearty, filling muffins that would do for a quick breakfast or snack.  Since the banana chocolate chip version uses 2 bananas and ½ cup chocolate chips, I decided to try replacing one of those bananas with  cup pulp, and the chocolate chips with sunflower and pumpkin seeds.  Then I hoped for the best...

...And was pleased with the result!

So here's the recipe.  If you don't have a juicer, but want to try these muffins, check out some alternative suggestions for juice pulp at the end of the recipe.

Carrot Seed Ginger Power Muffins
These muffins are loaded with fibre and healthy fats, great to start your morning on the right foot.
-          1 cup organic whole spelt flour
-          ¾ cup organic oats
-          ½ cup organic coconut sugar
-          3 tsp. (1 Tbsp.) baking powder
-          1½ tsp. (½ Tbsp.) baking soda
-          ½ tsp. organic cinnamon
-          ¼ tsp. organic ground ginger
-          ½ tsp. sea salt
-          ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
-          ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
-          1 banana
-          cup Ginger Power juicer pulp*
-          ¼ cup organic coconut oil
-          1 cup unsweetened almond milk

Preheat oven to 400ᵒF.
In a medium-large mixing bowl, stir together flour, oats, sugar, baking powder & soda, spices, and salt until well-combined, then add in seeds and stir until just mixed.
In a smaller mixing bowl, mash the banana.  Fold in the juicer pulp.  Add in the coconut oil (it’s okay if it’s still solid) and mash with banana and pulp.  Pour in the milk and stir well.
Pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir until well-combined.
Using an ice cream scoop, fill the cups of a regular muffin tray about full.  Tip: Silicone or paper muffin cups can be used in the tray for easy cleanup.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Let cool about 10-15 minutes before removing from tray.  Makes 1 dozen muffins.

*Make enough juice to yield approx. cup pulp.  This juice recipe usually makes a little more than that. 
If you do not have a juicer, try this instead:
½ cup finely grated carrots
½ cup unsweetened apple sauce (use instead of banana), OR 1 small diced apple, mixed in after combining wet and dry ingredients
½ tsp. organic ground ginger (instead of ¼ tsp.)