Thursday, November 17, 2011


Serves 4

1/2 cup coconut oil
2 tsp cumin seed
1 green chile pepper, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp ground turmeric
1 lbs chopped fresh spinach
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp ancient grain mustard

In a large skillet, melt coconut oil over medium-high heat, and cook and stir cumin seed, chile pepper, garlic, and turmeric until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Stir in the chopped spinach a little at a time, adding the tougher parts first (the stems and thicker leaves). Continue to add greens, and cook and stir until all greens have been added and all are thoroughly wilted. Stir in the cumin, coriander, and salt.

A little at a time, ladle the wilted spinach into a blender, and blitz until there are no large pieces are left.

Add a generous tablespoon of mustard and blend to combine.

Cover until ready to serve.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper Sauvignon Tofu

Serves 4

750 g firm tofu or large Portobello mushroom caps
5 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp chili flakes
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup of red wine (Suggested: Cabernet Sauvignon)
¼ cup vegetable oil

Cut tofu (or Portobello caps) into cubes.

Place tofu in a sealable plastic bag and stand upright. (Stand it in a bowl, to keep it from flopping over.) Add garlic, chili flakes, thyme, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Pour in wine and oil. Seal the bag. Carefully shake the bag to distribute the seasoning and marinade.

Refrigerate overnight, turning at least once.

When ready to cook, preheat a pan, on stovetop, to medium heat. Simmer, in marinade, as you prefer your tofu, or if you are using Portobello mushrooms, simmer until mushroom cubes have a spongy texture.

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

4 red bell peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp smoked paprika
¼ cup vegetable broth

Set oven to broil and spread red peppers, whole, on a baking sheet. When oven is ready, set under broiler. Broil until the pepper skin begins to blister and turn black. Turn the pepper often, to achieve this all over. Remove from oven and place in an air-tight container. Let the peppers rest for 10 to 15 minutes, to build up the steam necessary to loosen the skins.

Skin and seed red peppers. Place peppers into a food processor or blender with garlic, smoked paprika and vegetable broth. Blend until smooth and salt to taste.

Refrigerate if making ahead.

Plate up tofu, with a spoonful of marinade, and drizzle with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Serve with gently steamed asparagus and wild rice.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Lip Service.

Winter is coming, and for a lot of people, that means chapped lips. Uncomfortable lips. But they don’t have to be. We’ve all purchased tubes and containers of lip chap and chap stick, but very few of us can ever manage to keep it until the end of the container.
I dare you to track them down. I can almost guarantee that you don’t have two of the same, unless you purchase them in bulk.

The truth is they’re what many of us consider a frivolity. Something we don’t put a lot of thought into until our lips are burning. For nine months a year, they never cross our mind, so we actually don’t make note of the ones we like and the ones we don’t.

Some are too oily.

Some aren’t moisturizing enough.

And we typically don’t remember until we stumble across the ones we don’t like all over again.

The solution is simple! Make your own. Preservative free and sweet smelling. A single batch will probably last you all winter, and they make great care package gifts.

First, a tip: before you moisturize, you should always exfoliate. It cuts down on the amount of moisturizer you need to use, as you’re not wasting efforts to revitalize dead skin cells. Lips are no different!

Easy Lip Exfoliant

• ¾ tsp sugar
• ½ tsp olive oil

Mix the two together until you get a granular paste. Moisten your lips with a damp washcloth. Apply the sugar paste directly to your lips and massage gently in a circular motion. Rinse off.

Try to exfoliate your lips once a week to limit the build-up of dead skin cells. The skin of your lips is especially delicate, exfoliating often will keep you from having to be unnecessarily rough with them.

Basic Lip Balm

• 5 drops colour base (recipe follows)
• 1 tbsp rosehip seed oil (alternatively, use apricot kernel oil)
• 1 tbsp calendula oil
• 5 tbsp sweet almond oil
• 1 drop liquid honey
• 1 tbsp beeswax pellets
• 2 vitamin E capsules
• 5 drops essential oil

Note: For a completely vegan recipe, substitute soy wax flakes, in the place of beeswax, and agave syrup in the place of honey. Your lip balm will take a little longer to set.
Step 1 Prepare the double boiler (one saucepan that fits inside another) by filling the bottom half with hot water and heating to a gentle simmer.

Step 2 Measure out the base oils, one by one, and pour them into the top half of the boiler.

Step 3 Add the honey, beeswax pellets, and colour base. Stir gently to mix the ingredients.

Step 4 As the beeswax is melting, prick open the vitamin E capsules and squeeze the contents into the oils.

Step 5 Once the beeswax has fully melted, remove from heat. Drop in the essential oil and stir to mix it in thoroughly.

Pour into small glass jars or ceramic pots, and let cool for half an hour, or until set. You will have enough for 5 small, ½ ounce jars. Do not store all in one jar. Lip balm will keep better in small jars.
The lip balm in ready to use.

I like to use old, cleaned out and sterilized, metal slider tins that I get my green tea mints in, to store my lip balm. They work perfectly, cut down on my personal waste, and definitely have a certain charm to them.

Some lip balm suggestions:

• Red colour base and rose essential oil, for ‘Honey and Rose Lip Balm’
• Yellow colour base and 2 drops aniseed, 3 drops lemon essential oil, for ‘Aniseed and Lemon Lip Balm’ (be sure to use the alternative apricot kernel oil)
• Omit the colour base and use 3 drops vanilla extract, 1 drop chamomile essential oil, 1 drop rose essential oil, for ‘Vanilla Dream Lip Balm’
• Omit the colour base and use lavender essential oil, for ‘Lavender Lips Lip Balm’

As always, once you feel comfortable with the method, feel free to experiment and create your own flavours!

To make your colour base:

Colour Ingredient
Yellow Turmeric
Orange Equal parts Turmeric and Paprika
Red/Mauve Alkanet Root
Pink Rosehip Granules
Purple Equal parts Alkanet Root and Blue Chamomile
Blue Blue Chamomile
Green Equal parts Blue Chamomile and Turmeric
Brown Cinnamon
Peach Paprika

To create your colour base, add one teaspoon of the desired ground ingredient to one tablespoon of sunflower oil in a small cup. Heat over boiling water, or in a microwave, until it bubbles. Remove from heat and pour into a dropper bottle. Your colour base is now ready to use.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Miss Freeze.

Freezers are a huge suck of energy, but whether we like it or not: it’s a staple appliance in every home, and they're here to stay. Most people use them for meat, and at-home fast food. Vegetarians and vegans, alike, tend to use them to store chopped and flash frozen fruit as an arsenal for smoothies. I know I do.

But have you ever considered using them for fast food too?

I’m not talking about Michelina’s frozen stir fry.

Life is a little hectic, and sometimes it can be a little difficult to stick to a healthy vegetarian/vegan diet when you’re rushing around in the morning, to get to your 9 to 5 job.

As Dolly would say: what a way to make a living.

Especially with the coming winter, none of us really want to get up early enough to make those raw meals we so love, and once the snow hits the ground, and the produce at the store is less than marvellous, things can seem so much more daunting than we’re used to.
Remember the first raw food bento box of the spring? Remember how excited you were for lunch time? Winter doesn’t have to be an endless array of questionable canned soups. And it doesn’t have to be a repeat of what you had last night.

So here’s my suggestion: retire your bento box for the season, and make up with it in the spring.

Crack out your old plastic containers, make friends with them again, and clear your Sundays! It’s time to make large batches of your favourites! Ideally, you can have several individual portions of several different meals.

I have, within my possession, 49 plastic containers. Which is, realistically, more than anyone should have; but there are three people to my household, on three different working schedules, so meals rotate fast. I typically make rice and a combination of two things. I use a lot of spinach, because I find cooked spinach tends to freeze well. I split everything between 7 containers. That’s a choice of 7 different frozen vegan meals every day—and it makes my cold winter mornings a lot easier, because I am many things, but a morning person is not one of them.

The first couple weeks, you may find a little crazy, as you may need to make a meal Saturday and Sunday, or perhaps even two a day, until you have enough to rotate through, but in the long run, you'll marvel at how much less work it is.
At the end of the week, you'll have five or so clean containers again, and it's time to make a new meal! Ideally one you don't have yet.

Most, if not all, workplaces have microwaves, and your frozen meal can be ready in 4 minutes, at power 5, which is what most frozen meals require anyways. And while it may be true that frozen food contains less nutrients, at least you can enjoy a more nutritional alternative! No preservatives. Lots of taste. Exactly what you want, and in making large batches, you spend less than five dollars a meal!

With a little thought and planning, you can have quick, vegan, gourmet meals every day, all winter—without breaking the bank!

And who doesn’t want that?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lavender Blackcurrant Teacakes

Makes 12 standard cupcakes

1 ½ cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup non-dairy milk
½ cup canola (or vegetable) oil
2 teaspoons food grade lavender
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
¼ cup black currants

Preheat oven to 350 °.

Using a coffee bean grinder, or spice grinder, grind 2 teaspoons of lavender flowers. (Food grade lavender can be purchased at natural food stores. Often, it will be sold loose as tea lavender.)

In a bowl, sift or whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and lavender grinds. In a separate bowl, mix the non-dairy milk, oil and vinegar.

Combine wet and dry mixtures and whisk until thoroughly mixed. Distribute batter into lined cupcake baking pan and bake for 15-20 minutes.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Get the Digits.

My most ungreen habit has got to be my nails. Like most things in my life, they've seen a lot of flip-flop on the matter.
Some days they're clean, some days they're coloured.
And although these days you can get some pretty green polishes for your nose, your toes, and everything in between, the fact remains that there's no real way to colour them, even semi-permanently.

If you're a little like me, the most important part--coloured or non--is a clean, well manicured hand. So, today's post is dediated to your digits.

Clean, well manicured hands visually start at the cuticle, but the fact of the matter is it starts long before you ever see them. About 6 months before, and it's all in what you eat.

Like all things, there are things to avoid and things to indulge in. Let's start with the things to avoid, because you'll find them to be recurring.

• smoking
• excess sugar
• excess caffeine
• saturated and hydrogenated fats
• processed foods
• never abuse your nails by using them in the place of tools such as screw drivers
• never tear or shew your nails
• never rip your cuticles

• eat good omega-3 fats (oily fish, walnuts, flaxseed)
• get enough protein (peas, beans, lentils)
• get lots of dark leafy greens (kelp, kale, nori, spinach, wakame)
• snack on seeds (linseed, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame)
• load up on whole grains (brown rice, oats)
• drink lots of still pure water

Your skin, your nails, your hair... essentially, they're all made up of the exact same thing, which makes the above list a good list to follow for everyday. But sometimes eveyday needs a boost. I like to make something over and above the standard about once a week.

A smoothie to indulge in:
• 1 cup milk
• 1/2 cup cottage cheese
• 1 cup ice cubes
• 1 teaspoon flaxseed oil
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 tablespoon liquid calcuim

The calcium and protein available in this smoothie do wonders to strengthen dry, brittle nails, as they are key components in their growth and production.

Chemical solvents in conventional nail polish can, ove time, weaken nails and make them brittle.
The 3 big ingredients in question are: toluene, formaldehyde, di-n-butyl phthalate.

Toluene is a neurotoxin and can potentially cause things like tiredness, confusion, weakness, drunken-type actions, memory loss, nausea, loss of appetite, hearing and colour vision--yet it's used to make up 50% of a nail polish.

Formaldehyde is a repratory irritant and has caused cancer in animal studies. It is considered a likely human carcinogen.

Di-n-butyl phthalate accumulates in fat cells and has been linked to reduced sperm count in men, menstrual disorders in women, as well as miscarriages and premature births. (Another huge offender of this ingredient is hair spray.)

Some lacquers free of the BIG 3:

Priti Organic Spa

Spa Ritual

So, you've done your healthy eating to keep your duds looking daper, you've decided to colour or not to colour, now it's time to get down to the nitty gritty of the greenest manicure you can give yourself.

First, you must soak your nails to soften the cuticle. Gently massage the nail bed with olive oil and very gently push back the cuticle with an orange wood stick. Use a clean cloth or a cuticle brush to rub away the excess cuticle skin--never cut your cuticles, this can leave open wounds and leave you suseptible to infection.
Next, shape your nail. Always make the row equal to the shortest nail. Shaping nails slightly square will help them stand up to the daily wear and tear that they are subjected to.
Don't forget to give your hands a bit of a massage to get the blood flowing. Circulation is important for nail health.

Simple solutions:

Keep cuticles from drying out by using moisturizer every time you wash your hands.

Don't use nail polish remover more than once a week, it's far too harsh and drying.

Always wear cotton-lined rubber gloves when handling household cleaners, they can be a powerful irritant.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Laundry Service.

I read, on another blog, recently about the hidden toxicities of fabric softener. I came away feeling a little proud of myself, because I don’t use fabric softeners, but it didn’t take me long to think of the following:

If this is okay to put into fabric softeners, and sell to the public, what’s okay to put in fabric detergent?

So I looked at the back of the bottle—no ingredient list. I checked the company websites—no ingredient list.
Perhaps I’m distrusting, but typically, when people hide things from me, I figure it’s because me knowing is not in their best interest.

I spent the day on-line. Sadly, I found a whole lot of nothing, and wikipedia turned out to be the most generally informative.

According to wikipedia, all laundry detergents are made up of three main components: builders, bleaches, and enzymes.

Builders are basically water softeners. They make up close to 50% of any powder, and their main purpose is to combat calcium in the water.

Bleach, well, we all know what bleach is.

Enzymes occur naturally in the body. For example: protease is a broad category that encompasses five types of proteases that are essential to the every-day functioning of your body. Protease is added to your detergents to break down protein based stains—as is the job of most enzymes that have been artificially added into a circumstance they don’t naturally occur in.

Now days, most detergents promise whiter whites. This is achieved with something called optical brighteners. Optical brighteners are dyes that collect, and re-emit ultraviolet light in the “blue” region of the light spectrum. Because dried body oils often look “yellow” on your clothing, adding blue balances it out for your optical nerves, leaving you with the sensation of a cleaner object, because blue-white appears purer than yellow-white, to humans.

Other ingredients include perfumes, and we’ve already discussed the dangers of natural perfumes.

Now… perfumes, alone, creep me out. The reasoning is quite simple: if it all rinses away, how is it supposed to leave that smell?

The truth is: if it all rinsed away, it wouldn’t.

Now that we’ve determined, with a little common sense, that these chemicals don’t completely rinse away, let me scare you some more… you wash your clothes in this. You wash your sheets in this. You wash your towels in this. You literally never go more than five minutes without the residues of these chemicals on your skin!

Are you scared yet?

Consider the following: if someone tells you they have a rash or they’re itchy or uncomfortable, everyone always thinks to ask if they’ve recently changed their laundry soap—so, essentially, we all know it. We think about it first when something’s wrong with our skin--our largest organ.

What can you do to combat the bioaccumulation of these chemicals and excess enzymes? Hopefully, by now, you’ve had time to try out the organic soap recipe I gave you, because we’re going to use a bar today. Unfortunately, going green will mean that some stains will just be more stubborn, but the average adult doesn’t accumulate a whole lot of stains to begin with (at least we should hope not).

Simple Laundry Soap

• 2 gallons Water (hot)
• 1 bar of Basic Vegetable Soap (grated)
• 2 cups Baking soda

Step 1 Melt grated soap in a saucepan with enough hot water to cover. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring frequently until soap is melted.

Step 2 In a large pail, pour 2 gallons hot water. Add melted soap, stir well.

Step 3 Then add the baking soda, stir well again.

Use 1/2 cup per full load, 1 cup per very soiled load.

Optional: Since we’ve determined that no detergent will ever completely rinse out, you can add between 10 to 15 drops of essential oil (per 2 gallons) to your homemade laundry detergent if you really desire a fresh scent. Add once the soap has cooled to room temperature. Stir well and cover.

Essential oil ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil