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Prevent the winter blahs with raw foods

by Kait Fowlie

A raw diet can have transformation effects: weight loss, heightened senses, change in appetite, and glowing skin and hair, to name a few. While all this sounds desirable enough, raw food can be off putting. Many people assume its preparation is time consuming, complicated, and expensive. But even if you’re a grab-an-apple as you gracefully run out the door kind of snacker, you can still reap the benefits of many enzyme packed, cancer fighting foods. All you need is a passion for health and some ingenuity.

As a first-time raw food participant, I was skeptical. I have two jobs to focus on, a budget to stay on track with, and a social life I’d like to maintain. In other words, I can’t spend hours in my tiny kitchen concocting raw creations. Thus, I was happy to discover that embarking on a raw food cleanse would not compromise my schedule, my kitchen, or my wallet.

After a bit of research and a few trips to some different health food stores, I learned that eating raw is one of the easiest ways to improve your health. Toronto has options aplenty. Our growing selection of city-made brands make raw snacking easy, delicious, and affordable. There are also numerous helpful resources for the bolder raw enthusiast who wants to try their hand at making their own raw goods. This is a task that varies in degrees of difficulty. Whipping up a fruit smoothie or salad, for example, doesn’t require advanced tools or a great deal of skill.

For this reason, I spend the first few days of my raw cleanse whipping up some dark leafy bowls with soaked nuts, legumes and unrefined oils. I supplement this with some snacks made by the pros (granola bars, crackers, and dips) from my neighbourhood health food store. Rich and sweet, each bite of these grab-and-go treats packs a flavour punch owing to a dried fruit and nut content.

After only three days of eating raw, I feel lighter, somehow brighter, and quicker on my feet.  Here’s why: raw food contains live enzymes which literally makes it digests itself inside the stomach, giving the body an extra opportunity to work on other processes like repairing cells, absorbing nutrients, and cleansing toxins. All of this is adds up to an immune system of steel.  In general, the less often your digestive tract has to slug through heavily processed foods and the more energy it gets to devote to immune building processes, the better.

Kudos to any daring soul willing to tackle a total raw cleanse, because by day five, my desire for anything with a doughy texture starts to outweigh my newfound physical appreciation. There are some pretty convincing bread substitutes as well as creamy, cashew based dips, but the texture of a baked good is tricky to replicate. I last a week of raw and pat myself on the back.

I really notice a difference in the way I feel when I start eating processed foods again – headachy and sluggish. Every small bite has an effect on the body’s pH level. Consuming raw food helps keep that pH level on the alkaline side of things, (as opposed to acidic, which is found in processed and fatty foods). These levels have an enormous impact on our health, ranging from the way our bodies feel when we wake up in the morning to our ability to fight off disease in the long term. All science aside, through the act of preparing food every day and being sure that my body is the only system processing it definitely made my week a little more mindful. To me, that deeper connection is the best part of eating raw.

Book review: Where Chefs Eat

4/5 stars

Where Chefs Eat: A Guide To Chefs’ Favorite Restaurants is the ultimate foodie reference guidebook and is perfect for traveling. It is an easy read and very organized. You can read the book front to back or search a specific city. I prefer front to back since I discovered Morton’s The Steakhouse listed under Shanghai, but if you can’t travel, you can always find it in Toronto and use the recommendation.

The chefs are introduced with a brief biography and you are told the meaning of specific categories. For example, they define the budget for you. The chefs are well-known and established. They include Marcus Samuelsson, Daniel Boulud, Hugh Acheson, and many more. The book itself is divided by continent and a map is provided for each section. Every restaurant says who recommended it and they specify the area in the city for ease. In addition, they always provide the website and a reservation e-mail if it is needed. Each page contains a quote from the chef and mouth-watering food descriptions. The restaurants are not all well known and allow readers to discover hidden gems in their own city or abroad. Where Chefs Eat also comes with a yellow bookmark, which is a nice addition.

Although I was very impressed with this book, I wish that every restaurant had quotes from the chef and a brief description of the atmosphere, dishes and chefs. I feel that more detail would have improved the book.

Where Chefs Eat also has an iPhone and iPad app that was released in May. If you prefer to have your smartphone while traveling rather than carrying a book, this is a very practical idea. This is one of the few books that has an app.

Overall, I thought that this was a great book. At 643 pages, it is massive and features varied cuisine that is sure to fulfill any taste bud or craving while traveling. Instead of relying on internet reviews, the chefs have authority in the industry and recommend restaurants for any budget. They even include restaurants that the chefs wish they’d opened. This is the perfect travel companion for summer.

Avocados: the super fruit

Last week I was lucky enough to be asked to try some recipes with Mexican avocadoes. I love avocadoes. I probably eat at least two avocados a day, maybe more. But if you had asked me 20 years ago if I liked avocados I would have said, “I have never tasted one.”

Yes, I am one of those who ate meat and potatoes and a little seasonal fruit most days. Foods like cilantro, avocados, arugula, and anything else that was green, except frozen peas, were probably not high on my list, nor was it served at our supper table.

Then my life became all about food allergies and what the heck was there left to eat. Avocados were on the ‘Can Eat’ list. So I tried one and, well, I loved them. They are so smooth and creamy and I can’t imagine how I had lived without them.

I first tried avocados in a local vegetarian restaurant where they had made them into an avocado and onion salad with lemon juice, uembushi vinegar, olive oil and salt. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Since that day I have never looked back and every time I go grocery shopping, which is fairly often, I pick up at least six avocados.

My significant other was like me, and when we met a few years ago I tried to get him to eat avocados. He would always say “I don’t really care for them”, and I would say,” have you ever tried them?”

Now he eats more avocados than I do. His favourite way to eat them is sliced on toast or with a chicken sandwich. He also loves them with his eggs on the weekend, or on homemade flax crackers.

My girlfriend always carries an avocado in her purse when she goes out for dinner, just in case there is nothing on the menu that she can eat. She will ask the waitress to bring her some olive oil and lemon and voila she has a healthy snack.

I put sliced avocado into all my salads. Whether it is a green lettuce salad, a cabbage salad or kale salad, avocado always makes it taste so much better.

Avocados are full of healthy fats and help keep the body alkaline, which helps us to keep disease away. Avocados contain nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, folate, and more potassium than a banana. Avocados can help lower cholesterol, so why not pick up a few avocados at your local supermarket.

It is best to buy avocados that are green and firm. You know they are ready to eat when the skin changes from green to almost black and is slightly soft to the touch.

What about avocados for dessert?

Last night I decided to make an avocado pudding.

 

2 avocados
1 banana
5 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup coconut milk

 

Mix all ingredients in a food processor until smooth and enjoy.

I found this a little sweet, but my husband loves sweet things (guess that is why he loves me). If I were making this just for me, I would put in less sweetener, but I have to say the fresh maple syrup that we just picked up at the sugar bush last month makes this a delicious and healthy avocado-banana pudding.

 

Want to try more of Shirley’s recipes? Enter our contest to win her cookbook, Finally…Food I Can Eat.

RECIPE: Herb roasted chicken breast

Roasting the turkey at 325 degrees and allowing it to rest for fifteen minutes ensures that it will be very moist.

Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 whole bone-in turkey breast (6½  to 7 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the turkey breast on a rack in a roasting pan, skin side up.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, mustard, rosemary, sage, thyme, salt, and pepper. Rub the mixture evenly all over the skin of the turkey breast. (You can also loosen the skin and smear half of the paste underneath, directly on the meat.) Pour the wine into the bottom of the roasting pan.

Roast the turkey for 1½  to 1 ¾ hours, until the skin is golden brown and an instant-read meatthermometer registers 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest and meatiest area of the breast. Check the breast after an hour or so; if the skin is overbrowning, cover it loosely with aluminum foil.

When the turkey is done, remove from the oven, cover the pan with aluminum foil, and allow the turkey to rest atroom temperature for 15 minutes. Slice and serve warm with the pan juices.

 

 

Excerpted from Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That? by Ina Garten. Excerpted by permission of Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved.

Win inner peace

This is your chance to win a spot in the very exclusive fall Shanti Yoga retreat organized by Cruda Cafe. On October 18-20, expert yoga guide Paula Marin will guide you through a weekend of yoga and meditation designed to bring you inner peace while executive chef Claudia Gaviria cooks you meals that will convert you to the raw food diet. Only eight spots are available for the whole retreat, so don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to win one. Enter today!

Contest Rules & Regulations:
Contestants must reside in Canada (excluding Quebec) to be eligible to win
Contestants must be 18 or older
Contestants are eligible to enter 1x daily (further entries will not be counted)
Contest closes on Wednesday, October 16th, at 12 p.m.

This contest is now closed. Thanks for entering!

RECIPE: Banana bread sandwich

Susan Russom is the author of The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches

A toasty sweet treat!

Two hunks of fresh or toasty grilled banana bread can be sandwiched with sweet ingredients, such as ice cream, grilled bananas, or peanut butter and jelly. Banana bread is a quick bread—a sweet, cakey type made with baking soda instead of yeast—that contains mashed ripe bananas. It is typically flavored with vanilla extract, cinnamon, and chopped nuts. Making banana bread from scratch is easy, but for a truly low-maintenance brunch, a store-bought loaf is your best bet. Thanks to well-known chefs such as Paula Deen, this old-fashioned favorite has been getting a lot of attention as the foundation of a delicious dessert sandwich.

  • Vanilla Spice Cream Cheese
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon pure maple extract
  • 1 loaf banana bread, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 ripe bananas, sliced on the diagonal

1. In a bowl with a mixer, combine cream cheese and cinnamon. Slowly add vanilla, maple syrup, and maple extract, beating until smooth and fluffy. 2. Butter both sides of banana bread slices. Place on a hot griddle and toast 2 minutes per side; set aside. In the same griddle, melt butter, add banana slices, and cook 1 minute per side, or until golden. Sandwich cream cheese mixture and grilled bananas and serve warm.

Makes 4 to 6

Go Bananas!

  • Banana Bread Tea Sandwiches: Cut sandwiches into finger-length pieces.
  • Banana Bread PB&Js: Use banana bread instead of white bread.
  • Banana Bread Elvis: Smother sliced bananas and bacon with peanut butter on grilled banana bread.
  • Banana Bread Ice Cream Sandwiches: Place a scoop or two of ice cream between two slices of grilled banana bread.

 

Excerpted from The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches by Susan Russo Copyright © 2011 by Susan Russo. Excerpted by permission of Quirk Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

 

Honour your hunger

I hate being hungry. I think most people do. It’s a feeling that’s hard to ignore. Sometimes when I’m really, really hungry, I get angry too. (Ever heard of “hangry”?) I try to remember to pack a baggie of almonds everywhere I go so as not to cause bodily harm to others.

Anyone who’s ever been on a diet or tried to lose weight has come up against hunger. Hunger is something you might think you have to control or trick. You can try to control it by eating proper proportions of macronutrients (protein and fat will make you feel full) and by eating at regular intervals. You can try to trick it by drinking a glass of water or distracting yourself by doing chores. Do these strategies work? Maybe for a while. But it’s not easy to fight hunger day in and day out. Perhaps it’s time to step back and take a look at our relationship with hunger.

Firstly, what is hunger? It’s your body telling you something: to eat more. Is that necessarily bad? I can think of two reasons why it would do that. The more obvious one is that you haven’t eaten enough calories to meet its needs. Your body doesn’t like it when you severely under-eat, especially when the demands put on it are high. You’ve probably heard of “starvation mode.” Chronic under-eating will cause your body to lower its metabolic rate in order to hang on to the limited calories you’re putting into it. Hunger is a helpful signal that you’d better eat soon or starvation mode will kick in. It’s okay to skip a meal every now and again but relentless caloric restriction will most definitely do damage to your metabolism, damage that your body might not ever be able to repair.

The less obvious reason why hunger nags at you is that your body is looking for something that’s missing. The issue is not that you’re not getting enough calories; it’s that you’re not getting enough essential vitamins and minerals. (This often happens when people fall into “food ruts” and eat the same foods over and over again. Spinach salad with chicken breast, anyone? Eating a wide array of foods and managing stress are ways of making sure your body has adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals.

Think of it this way: a hungry body is a seeking body. Perhaps we should listen to our bodies’ signals instead of ignoring them. We often treat our bodies like they’re stupid. But they’re always acting in our best interest to help us and doing the best with what we put into them. True hunger is not something to be pushed aside; it’s something we should honour.

 

 

Book review: The Happy Baker

4.6/5 stars

My first impression of The Happy Baker: A Dater’s Guide to Emotional Baking was that it was a very approachable book for a non-baker. Erin Bolger begins with a memorable disclaimer quote that states, “If any of my recipes are low-fat I’m sorry, it was unintentional.”

She has cute names for her baking recipes and beautiful photographs. Some recipe names include ‘Who Needs a Man on Valentine’s Day Biscotti’ and ‘You Can Kiss My Triple Decker Carrot Cake Goodbye’. The names certainly aren’t boring. Erin has separated her book into four distinct chapters. Throughout The Happy Baker, she has chick lit stories followed by a recipe that relates to the story. There are illustrations of her and her past dates or boyfriends relating to the story. The stories cover speed dating, breakups over text or e-mail, the first kiss, and many more. Erin’s personality shines through.

In order to fairly evaluate The Happy Baker, I had to get into the kitchen and bake. Her recipes are easy and most of the ingredients are found in your home (you may have to buy one or two ingredients). I decided to make ‘Erin’s Go-To Cookie’, ‘Goodbye Men, Hello Dolly Squares’ and ‘My Eggs Are Not Getting Any Younger Crème Brûlée’. Each of the recipes that I made provided me with a large quantity so the time and the effort are well worth it.

The crème brûlée was rich and creamy. The cookies and dolly squares were buttery and greasy, but delicious. They were so popular that when I opened the covered plate laying on the counter, they were all gone. I ended up eating some of the cookies and dolly squares from the freezer and they were just as good cold. Don’t hesitate to put some of Erin’s recipes in the freezer, you may be in for a pleasant surprise.

I found that the recipes were simple, easy, decadent and, of course, delicious. The Happy Baker is killer comfort food. Erin was honest and upfront when she said these recipes were unhealthy. As a non-baker myself, I was able to bake recipes that I probably wouldn’t have ever made.

This is not your average cookbook since it is filled with unique stories and recipes. She has even provided a few non-bake recipes.

If you’re ever in Bayfield, Ontario be sure to check out Erin’s new business, The Pink Flamingo Bakery and Boutique.

Win a McSorley’s night out

McSorley’s is offering one reader the chance to win the perfect Fathers’ Day prize: A set of his & hers McSorley’s T-shirts and gift certificates for beer and food for two.  Think of the fantastic bonding night this prize will let you have. Enter today for your chance to win.

Contest Rules & Regulations:
Contestants must reside in Canada (excluding Quebec) to be eligible to win
Contestants must be 18 or older
Contestants are eligible to enter 1x daily (further entries will not be counted)
Contest closes on Thursday, June 13th, at 3 p.m.

CONTEST CLOSED

Spring detox day 8-10

I found the last three days to be the hardest of the detox since the food was limited. There were some restaurant quality dishes including the red lentil coconut curry, lentil chickpea sunshine salad, chocolate avocado pudding, and the poppy seed dressing, which was the star of the kale salad with grapes, avocados and almonds. I found these recipes to be the most flavourful. I will start incorporating my own fruit smoothies into my daily breakfast routine.

On May 20th, I had tomato soup for brunch and red lentil coconut curry for dinner. Throughout the day, I had almond milk and coconut milk. I’ll admit that the holiday was hard since I was out of routine and I did give in to three tiny pieces of california roll sushi with soy sauce. Although I did cheat a bit, I didn’t feel too bad since I feel as though I was slowly easing back into my regular diet. It was more of a slow transition.

May 21st was my ninth day on the detox. I decided to make my own cherry and unsweetened cocoa powder smoothie for breakfast and I had the red lentil coconut curry for lunch. For dinner, I had lentil chickpea sunshine salad. During the day, I had rice milk and coconut milk. Prior to class, my friend offered me skittles and I had two since I couldn’t resist. This is much less than I normally would have eaten.

On the last day of the detox, May 22nd, I had tomato soup for brunch and curried quinoa with raisins for dinner. My dessert after dinner was chocolate avocado pudding. Throughout the day, I had coconut milk and almond milk. There was the last teleseminar where the nutritionist talked about “what’s next” and how to keep your eating habits serving you for the long term. I made my own peach smoothie for tomorrow morning.
As I end the detox, I need to start incorporating all of the foods have been eliminated back into my diet. I certainly won’t have a huge cheesy pizza and chocolate cake, but I want to gradually go back to my regular, healthy diet. I will continue using my favorite recipes from the detox and it was great with the abundance of vegetables in every meal. Thanks for joining me through my BarreNourish 10-Day Detox series.