Sunday, 31 August 2014

GOOD MORNING, GREEN JUICE


Today's post is a delicious, easy recipe for green juice because I think many of us could use a bit more dark leafy greens in our diet. Obviously a lot of the people reading this (hey there, sexy) are already very interested and in control of their health. But at the same time, I know many of you are just starting out on a new journey to well-being, or maybe you're like me and have just been plain forgetting to eat/drink your greens lately. I used to LIVE for my green smoothies but lately I've been fruiting it up hard core, and have incidentally left the kale and spinach crying at the sidelines, asking "WHY DOESN'T SHE LOVE US ANYMORE!?" Don't fret, my dear leaves! I still care for you and your chlorophyl deeply. But I got kinda carried away with my fruit smoothies and high carb dinners of rice and sweet potatoes. I hadn't eaten a salad in months, and would only occasionally throw a handful of greens into my blender or stir-frys. Well, things are back on track now. I am again head over heels with salad, and I love the taste and colour of spinach in my smoothies. 

Dark leafy greens are SO important for long term health. You don't need huge amounts but a few cups everyday is going to make such a difference in all aspects of how you feel and how your system runs. Green leaves in your diet are basically amazing for every cell in your entire body (that's TRILLIONS of little hard-working universes). Honestly, I could write several books on the benefits of eating greens, but we have this handy thing called the world wide web, so I suggest you simply Google "benefits of dark leafy greens"! There are definitely whole books that have already been written on the subject, as well as countless articles. Besides, that little splash of green is an excellent garnish on any dish! Eat the rainbow! Let's get green and groovy. 

GLORIOUS GREEN JUICE

5 cups spinach
2 cups cilantro
1 green bell pepper
2 green apples
2 oranges
1 lemon
1-2 tablespoons ginger
1-2 garlic cloves
1 cucumber (optional) 

Wash, peel and chop the produce as needed. Put through your juicer, strain if desired, then sip up the splendidness (shh it's a word okay). Note: if you do not have a juicer, simply blend all the ingredients together, then strain through a sieve, cheese cloth or nut milk bag. Use the leftover pulp for crackers, breads, and more!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

OAT & CASHEW THUMBPRINT COOKIES with BERRY CHIA JAM


Note: I am honoured to say this recipe was featured in Vegetarian Times!

These are almost dangerously tasty. You've got a heavenly cookie base mainly made up of cashews and oats, creating a nest for fresher-than-fresh berry jam with chia seeds. That's it. Simple, right? Definitely. But simple doesn't mean boring. This recipe will blow your mind and your mouth will cry for more. I just gobbled up two and almost didn't stop to breathe. Fortunately, the planet is awesome and allows these cookies to be super healthy, raw and vegan without compromising on flavour or sexy looks.

Yeah, I just called these cookies sexy.


Okay I just drank a giant green smoothie and NEED TO PEE. Be right back.

Thoughts while in the bathroom: my world is way too trippy lately but at least I have people who care what I have to say. Speaking of what I have to say... the following is a bit of a ramble through my mind and what's been going on in there lately. Let's jump in.

I'm in the middle of this weird identity "crisis". As my blog and myself become more and more popular, and I'm working on promoting my cookbooks (you can find them here and here); I'm beginning to realize my life is rapidly changing and I am at the start of a new phase IN my life. I'm going to increasingly be in the public eye as a symbol of veganism and health and I will largely be defined by my diet and how I present myself through my blog and book(s). I've been in radio and TV interviews and meeting with local businesses, and in those situations my appearance really matters. On a personal scale, this means I need to start dressing a bit more professional and taking care with my appearance. This is slightly uncomfortable because for the past two-ish years, I've basically become a radical feminist only shopping at thrift stores, buying over-sized men's clothing, not shaving [anything], boycotting make-up and shampoo, etc. Well the fact of the matter is I have to put that phase behind me and look forward to actually LOOKING like the 'business woman' I have, in a sense, made myself into. I got rid of all my old clothes and am now slowly rebuilding my wardrobe with good quality, NEW clothes that actually fit my figure. I was showing my parents a dress after I bought it a few months ago and my dad proclaimed, "You look like a girl, again! When did that happen!?"

Until the past year and more specifically the last eight months, the reality that I have created my own business, have a blog that is popular enough to (mostly) live off of and am a published best-selling author all before the age of 21 hadn't hit me fully. I started this blog about four years ago as a hobby and mostly at the suggestion of family and friends. Sure, I daydreamed that maybe it'd get a few readers; and when I walked by the vegan section in bookstores it was fun to pretend my name was on one of the book spines... but now these dreams have literally become true and I am FINALLY letting that settle in. Like I said, this is the beginning of a new phase in my life... one that I think will be mainly defined by fame and fortune professionalism and the message of veganism. I am genuinely excited for the future and also the fact that I have no idea what it holds. What am I going to do next? I feel like things are just going to keep improving because I actively put positive energy into my environment and my work... and clearly that has been paying off!? At the same time, I need to stay realistic and not get ahead of myself. A great mantra is: expect the worst and hope for the best. I do that every day; I'd say I'm an optimistic realist. Another one I need to remember is: BE HERE NOW! I have tattooed on my wrist but too often I forgot to take a breath and appreciate the moment at hand for what it is, for all it is!

But it's also not like I'm just sitting here and just desperately hoping all this good fortune lands in my lap. I was talking to a friend the other day and she was asking how you get to where I am (I think the term she used was "vegan famous") and she answered her own question by saying it must just be good karma. I'm not saying that I haven't been extremely fortunate and blessed on my journey thus far, because I have greatly. But it was a little offensive to hear that because I don't think many of my friends are really aware of how much time, thought and effort I put into this blog. Yes, I LOVE my "work". It feels wrong calling it work because it's my passion! But no, that doesn't mean it's effortless. I am dedicated to you and making the world a better place through wholesome eating and living, and that dedication is official now. There ain't no goin' back! I am only going to work harder to inspire as many people as I can.

Right now though, I'm gonna go eat another cookie.


OAT & CASHEW THUMBPRINT COOKIES with BERRY CHIA JAM 

Cookies:
2/3 cup cashews
3/4 cup oats (I used plain rolled oats, you can find raw oats if you like) 
2 tablespoons coconut oil
Pinch Himalayan salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Jam:
1/2 cup berries (fresh or frozen)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
3 dates, cut into small pieces
Water, as needed (I used about 3 tablespoons) 

To make the cookies: process all the ingredients but the oats together in a food processor until they form a thick, chunky kind of cashew butter. Add the oats and pulse until it all starts sticking together. Form into thumbprint cookies and put in the fridge for a few hours so they can set. 

To make the jam: put all the ingredients except the chia seeds in a food processor and process until it's as smooth as desired. Mix in the chia seeds with a spoon, then fill each thumbprint cookie with the jam. Yussss. 


Tuesday, 26 August 2014

INTELLIBED: PRETTY MUCH THE BEST MATTRESS EVER (IT'S NON-TOXIC TOO)


Heyo, here comes Emily with another post about an amazing company and their amazing product! Although my blog is regularly focused on food, it is more broadly focused on helping people achieve a healthy, happy life and long term wellness (through food)! Equally important to eating whole foods, is exercising regularly, getting enough sunshine, laughter, relaxation, water and SLEEP! All these factors help you find that wonderful place called well-being. In this post I will be sharing my experience with my new mattress, how it has affected me, and how beneficial it could be for you. If you have back problems, neck problems, sore muscles when you wake up, trouble with tossing and turning all night or waking up still feeling tired, then this mattress is your saviour. If you are concerned with toxins in your mattress, just wanna sleep better or are looking for a new bed, this will also be very relevant read.

Note: if you click on any of the "IntelliBED" or IntelliGEL" links in this post, it will take you to the IntelliBED website where you can check out their mattresses and if you want to buy one, you get a discount because you came through my blog!

PART I: THE AMAZING NON-TOXIC INTELLIBED

Meet the best mattress ever. It's called an IntelliBED and I love mine dearly. A handful of months ago, I was learning on the internet about toxic products most of us unknowingly have in our homes that we use everyday and that are no good for the planet or possibly our health. That was when I discovered most conventional mattresses from big brands are made with potentially harmful ingredients that can leak out... into our skin and homes. Yikes! In the US, it is legally required of mattress companies to include fire retardants in their beds. Great, right? Nope, not the way it's being done. The fire retardants many companies use can contain asbestos, formaldehyde, and other cancer-casing materials. Naturally this freaked me right out and I decided I should start looking into non-toxic mattresses that won't pollute my body or air while I sleep.

That's when the magic happened.

I had been checking out non-toxic mattress company websites and comparing prices, but it seemed like I was gonna have to pay $5,000 for a decent queen size mattress. Then I got an email from a guy named Justin who started telling me about the mattress company he works for: IntelliBED. He informed me that their non-toxic mattresses are designed based on scientific studies and medical research focusing on back health, made mostly of organic cotton and food grade mineral oil, and that they wanted me to try one out for myself. It's times like this that make me believe in something like karma. Justin used to have serious back problems and couldn't sleep at night until he discovered IntelliBED, and then everything changed. He loved the mattress so much that he started working for the company himself. After several phone calls and emails, they eventually had their queen size mattress delivered to my house, and now my parents are very jealous. I have never slept better in my life. I would like to point out that I had always taken a long time to fall asleep, even after becoming vegan. It could take me anywhere from 1-3 hours every night, lying awake, staring at the ceiling. When I became vegan my sleep definitely improved, but I'd still wake up with soreness and be tossing and turning much of the night. Relatively speaking I slept well, but not great. Now I do not need as much sleep as I did before, and I have no soreness when I wake up in the morning. I can comfortably lie on my side without messing up my shoulders, or I can lie on my back all night without feeling the need to move.

This mattress really is like no other, because it is made with IntelliGEL, the main ingredient of which is, like I said, food grade mineral oil. This company designs their products based on scientific research and studies. Their main mission is to precipitate proper posture while you sleep. When they first told me this it was like an "Ah-ha!" moment; I'd never thought about my posture while I slept even though I make sure I always pay attention to it while I am awake. When you think about it, it's because of poor posture in our beds that we can wind up with soreness upon waking, or that we toss and turn during the night. When you have a hard mattress, it forces your hips to be pushed up; messing up your posture and misaligning your body. If your mattress is soft, it lets your hips sink in and ultimately causes the same problem. With other mattresses the design and shape of the bed gradually wear down and after 5-7 years, and you're left with a less than suitable place to sleep because your body has completely changed the shape of the bed. IntelliGEL is special: it's gel! It allows your body to have good posture while you sleep because it takes pressure off those normally pressure-heavy points (shoulders, hips, etc.) It becomes soft - but not too soft - with pressure, pushes up the natural curve of your back, and doesn't mould or contour with your body too much. These beds have been proven in various studies to cure pressure sores in hospitals, due to the fact that they let your blood flow throughout your body while you sleep, instead of limiting blood flow like many beds can do. Although the mattresses also include foam and fire blockers, these materials are certified to be non-toxic.

With IntelliBED, their trademarked main ingredient - IntelliGEL - doesn't break down. You will see about a 5% softening within the first little while of sleeping on it but after that it won't wear down any further. The bed comes with a 30 year warranty, meaning I will be 50 years old (!!!) when my warranty expires. When 700 medical professionals recommend IntelliBED, it's hard to ignore. Finally, I learned - or relearned, since I vaguely recall this from psychology class - that during stage 3 and 4 of sleep (also called REM) is when your body releases hormones to heal, rebuild and recover. Unfortunately, if you're tossing and turning because you can't get comfortable in bed it disrupts this stage of sleep and your body does not have sufficient time or effectiveness in doing those repairs. Uh-oh. This really caught my attention because I personally would often be tossing and turning all night. When I started sleeping on my new mattress, this changed. I hardly move a muscle all night now.

PART II: BUYING THE AMAZING NON-TOXIC INTELLIBED

You're probably thinking, "Well it's easy for you to recommend this bed - you didn't have to pay for it!" But honestly, even if I had to pay for this bed, I would. It's worth it. You have to ask yourself how much healthy, deep sleep means to you. This bed will last a lifetime, and it will probably provide you with countless hours of more life, because you will not need as much sleep! But anyways - down to the nitty gritty. How much does it actually cost? They sent me one of their most expensive beds and it is in $3,000 or $4,000 range. After having done my own research, this is an amazingly fair price because you won't find a better mattress on the market, and most mattresses actually cost more than these. But even if $3,000 or $4,000 isn't in your budget you can find more affordable ones in their product line. And if it's not the right time for you to buy a new bed, you can consider getting their pillows. They sent me a pillow as well - made with IntelliGEL just like the mattress - and I like to bring it everywhere I sleep now because otherwise I get a sore neck with normal pillows! Finally, you get 60 days to try the bed and if you aren't impressed (doubtful) you can return it with no charges.

*FIND YOUR NEW MATTRESS HERE*
(with a discount code from me!)

Jack and I both sleep so much deeper at my place that when we sleep at his - and he just got a new mattress, by the way - I've noticed we both need more sleep, and we both wake up groggier. I can't wait to move in with him so we can jump into MY bed every night! Cheers to deep sleep and uninterrupted dreams!

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Monday, 25 August 2014

RAW VEGAN CHOCOLATE CAKE


This is it. A simple, quick, and easy recipe for the best raw vegan chocolate cake. I whipped this up for my lover's birthday celebration / family dinner and his whole clan loved it! I wasn't planning on posting it but I figured I may as well. I mean: chocolate. cake. Need I say more? I wanna give you guys every opportunity to create healthy and delicious desserts and meals whenever possible.

If you are new to the whole 'raw vegan dessert' thing, then this cake recipe is perfect for you. This is almost as basic as you can get. Although you can add anything else you want to this dark brown creamy bad boy (ex: ginger, cinnamon, berries), I am keepin' it real and leaving ingredients at a minimum so no one gets confused or overwhelmed. Sure, this recipe could be lower fat and blah blah blah, but my mentality when I create food for non-veg folks (Jack's family) is to wow them with flavour and texture, thus I add a little more coconut oil and maple syrup than I normally would. My palate is very different from someone who doesn't usually eat many plants - let alone whole foods - so I wanna give them something even THEIR taste buds will appreciate! That means making this cake a bit richer than if I were making it for just myself. What is healthy is relative. A pure raw foodist would feel sick if they suddenly ate cooked food; I feel weird when I eat too MUCH cooked food or fat-dense food (nuts, etc.) in a day; my mom feels weird if she eats too much meat. Does that mean that cooked food or nuts are unhealthy? No! It just means that my body has acclimatized to a mostly low-fat raw foods diet with a cooked dinner so if I suddenly eat cooked food all day it's gonna be like "WTF!?" (Where's the fruit!?) If you drank nothing but water for 7 days, then gorged on fruit, you'd feel ill. Does that mean FRUIT is unhealthy? No! It's like the healthiest thing... ever. All it implies is that your body has become sensitive to something because of the diet it has grown accustomed to. So to round this back to my first point: I made this recipe a bit more decadent than usual because of the audience it would be catered to. Nuff said (I think?)

Note: if the ingredients look kinda pricey to you, don't worry! You can use oats instead of walnuts, cocoa powder instead of cacao powder, and almonds instead of cashews. Using almonds instead of cashews will make it a bit less creamy, but still delicious.

RAW VEGAN CHOCOLATE CAKE

Crust: 
1 cup walnuts 
1 1/2 cups dates

Cake:
2 cups cashews
2 tablespoons cacao powder
1 cup water
Juice from 1 lemon
1 cup dates
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

To make the crust: pulse oats or walnuts into powder in a food processor, then add the dates and keep processing until it all starts to stick together. Press into the bottom of a springform cake pan, or adjustable pan (I used an adjustable pan set to about 7 inches). Put in fridge. 

To make the cake: blend everything until smooth, thick and creamy! It should be the consistency of yogurt, kinda. If it's watery; add more dates, coconut oil or nuts. If it's too thick; add more water or maple syrup. Pour onto your crust and let it set overnight or for at least 12 hours (this lets it set and develop flavour). Slice and enjoy! I decorated mine with hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds. 

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Friday, 22 August 2014

HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON A VEGAN DIET

Hey, guys. Today I am sharing a post featuring the video I made yesterday, all about how you can save money whole eating a wholesome vegan diet! Watch the video, and read my main tips below!


- Base your diet/meals around potatoes, rice, beans and bananas. These foods are normally very inexpensive and easy to find. A main component of my dinners is always potatoes, rice and/or beans. Then I round out the meal with other veggies and greens. The main component of my smoothies is always bananas, and I top them off with other ingredients like frozen fruit, mango, berries, super food powders, etc.

- Grow your own food, if it's possible. My family has a big backyard and garden so we are able to grow a lot of what we eat. It is super cheap, not a huge amount of work (depending on what plants you choose to grow), and ends up feeding you the highest quality food around all season long. When I move out in the next few months, I plan on at least growing my own herbs and tomatoes. If you have no space to grow food, find a community garden in your area and sign up to help out and reap the bounty!

- Forage. It's fun, it's easy, it's educational, it saves a ton of cash! Berries are super expensive here right now and yet they are growing all around us, just begging to be picked and eaten for free. Pick all the edible plants you can find (but make sure to do your research so you don't poison yourself), then freeze what you don't eat right away. Add to smoothies and anything else all year long!

- Buy in bulk; buy discounted produce. I eat a huge amount of fruit, especially bananas. So I buy boxes of them at 10% off. I also buy mangoes in bulk and save a few dollars that way. You can also get discounted prices on overly ripe fruits and veggies. Simply freeze that produce and add to smoothies, soups and stir-frys later on! If these options don't seem available at your regular grocery stores, just ask the employees about buying bulk and buying overly ripe produce.

- Shop around; compare prices in stores and between stores. Sometimes different places have different prices, and sometimes there is a huge difference between organic and non-organic (often organic is double the price here, so I have to decide what is most important to get organic, and what I will compromise on). Check out this list to see what is best bought organic.

- Keep updated with your local grocery stores on sales, customer appreciation days, and discounts. I get email flyers that let me know when my fave food stores are having sales, and what specific produce is on sale every month.

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Thursday, 21 August 2014

ARUGULA BASIL SALAD with SWEET CORN, RED BEANS, LEMON + SPICES


Hey, baby. How you been? I've been makin' salad.

I was in the garden with my mom today a few weeks ago and we were looking at all the edibles we have growing. She noticed the arugula should be picked so my fate was sealed: lunch was to be arugula salad. I also picked some basil, cilantro, and cherry tomatoes. I cannot really take much credit for all this wonderful food we have blooming in our yard - momma Nancy does it all, and I reap the bounty. Hehe. The night before, I was making my dinner which was a bowl of red beans and sweet corn, when my partner and I decided we were gonna go OUT for dinner (at this cool veg place called Tera V Burger). So I threw my food in the fridge - figuratively - and headed off. Thus the following day I had that to add to my greens and tomatoes! It was perfect. I sprinkled on some lemon juice, antioxidant omega oil blend, agave syrup, salt, cumin, coriander, sunflower seeds, and love. The result was pure deliciousness. I wish I had made more but I was going for vegan tacos with my friends later that night so we could all laugh hysterically together and slap each other before I went away for 3 weeks.

Note: I do not eat out every night, but it's summer and hey - I'm a wild child (sarcasm). Usually I prefer to be a frugal ferret and only go out once a month or so. Save money yay! I will have to be even more of a thrifty homo sapien once I move in with Jack since Vancouver is LITERALLY the most expensive city in the world to live in. Great.

Back to the recipe! Honestly, this salad is so simple and so tasty. It made me remember why I love salad so much. It makes you feel nourished and connected to the earth, especially when you pick most of it from your own backyard. I haven't been eating enough greens lately and this was the yummiest wake up call I could have received. Eat your greens! Eat this salad!


ARUGULA BASIL SALAD with SWEET CORN, RED BEANS, LEMON + SPICES

Salad:
2 cups arugula
1/2 cup basil 
1/2 cup cilantro
2 tablespoon sunflower seeds
1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes 
1 cup red beans
1 cup sweet corn 

Dressing:
1 teaspoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon antioxidant omega oil blend
Pinch of Himalayan salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander 

Throw it all together, let it sit for a few minutes so the flavours develop and the leaves soften, then chomp! Note: you can really use whatever you have lying around to make the dressing (and salad too, for that matter). All you need is a sweet component, a creamy component, and a tangy component. 

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Sunday, 17 August 2014

NUEZ FRESH NUT MILKS + A BLUEBERRY SMOOTHIE RECIPE


I was really excited last week when my mom returned from the farmers market and proceeded to tell me about a new vendor who was selling freshly made nut milks with simple ingredients just like we make them at home; raw, organic, fair-trade ingredients like nuts, cacao, and filtered water. I visited the farmers market yesterday to buy some heirloom tomatoes and apples and then saw the stand for the milk people! After walking over we - Jack and I - met a lovely young woman who seemed just as enthusiastic about milking nuts as I am (thank goodness there's more than one of us). We sampled a plain almond milk and it honestly tasted exactly like what my mom and I whip up in the kitchen. She kindly gave me a couple bottles to try - date almond and cacao hazelnut - and we enjoyed them on their own as well as in a smoothie (recipe below). It's great to see a company doing this right now because as the market demand for dairy-free milks is rising steadily, the brands you find in the grocery aisles often have ingredients I don't particularly want to consume even if they are vegan; added sugar, stabilizers, "natural flavours"... although they probably aren't harmful, they certainly aren't healthful! And if they don't need to be in there then I'd prefer they weren't. At the same time, making your own nut milk is becoming a fun trend in itself. Whether this is because other people aren't stoked about the extra ingredients in mainstream grocery store non-dairy milks, or they just want to try out what homemade nut milk tastes like, I think it's awesome. 

I also think that is where Nuez nut milks come in. Their mission is to "create the best tasting, purest, raw, organic and fair trade nut milk". Their recipes are just what you make in your own house, so I think they are an excellent choice if you want to try out this kind of whole food, non-dairy milk instead of the conventional brands. If it's in your budget, go ahead and add these to your grocery list every week! If you'd prefer to eventually get into the habit of making your own, I still think this is a great place to start. 

They make their nut milks in Delta, BC and sell them in Vancouver area farmers markets. They sell 1 litre jars of nut milk for around $8.00. You can find them on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and their beautiful main website. If you're not in Vancouver - and I know most of you aren't - try researching and exploring your own area for farmers markets and vendors that sell freshly made, organic nut milks with whole food ingredients. You might be surprised at what you find. Often I receive emails from people asking how to become or stay vegan in their small town, and wondering how and where they should eat out. I always type in the name of their region to Happy Cow and usually find there is at least one vegan or vegetarian restaurant there! At sometimes an organic grocery store or market as well. 


BLUEBERRY SMOOTHIE

1/2 cup frozen blueberries
3 bananas
2 cups Nuez date almond milk

Blend. Mmm. Serves one. 

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Saturday, 16 August 2014

OVERCOMING DISORDERED EATING + STAYING VEGAN ON YOUR PERIOD

Every. Freaking. Month. Momma Nature visits my my house and is all like "Hey, I have something for you, darlin'! It's kinda bloody and painful... but it's totally natural and healthy!" Ugh. Fine. I will deal with it because it means everything is working in there [my body]. This post is about being and staying vegan while on your period (duh, Emily, I got that from the title). But first I will be sharing my own history of body image issues which resulted in me losing my period, and how I got it back - all while being vegan. This is a pretty bulky post compared to my normal ones, but I think every word could prove valuable to you, so please read it all! Let's go.


PART I: BODY IMAGE ISSUES 

When I was younger (13-16), my period wasn't an issue at all. I hardly even noticed it; no cramps, no back pain, super light flow, etc. When I became vegan at 16 years old, it stayed the same. Then I got into raw food when I was about 17 and - here comes the eating disorder phase of my life - I started getting really obsessive and strict about what I ate. I exercised for about an hour every day but thought I could survive on just a few pieces of fruit. I loved how it made me feel at first, but eventually I started becoming weak and getting constant head aches. I remember my mom being worried, my parents saying I had to eat more, going to school with just a sliced mango and strawberries for lunch and wishing I could eat what my friends were having. I became underweight and I stopped getting my period... for eight months. At the time, I was still in my "RAW FOOD IS THE ONLY HEALTHY DIET" mindset so I was happy to say goodbye to the uterus gunk and slight discomfort it's shedding brought every 28 days. Of course, I look back now and wanna slap myself in the face. For girls and women, getting our monthly flow is a sign that our bodies are functioning normally. If your period stops - but not because you're pregnant - it is a serious red alert that something is wrong; usually it means that you do not weigh enough and/or you are not consuming enough calories. At this point, I still wanted to lose weight; I didn't think I was thin enough. Why? Because the bodies I wanted to look like were the photoshopped, perfectly toned ones in magazines and other forms of media. Read this post from Janurary 2012 where I try to hide my guilt about eating a sandwich. Yeah, it got bad.

Here it goes: the typical girl-with-self-esteem-issues-caused-by-society story. But that is exactly what it was. I didn't stop and think for a second that every body is different, and they are ALL EQUALLY beautiful as long as they are healthy. It took me a long time to accept that my ideal and healthy body weight doesn't look like all the women's on TV. I have learned that when I eat the healthiest I can, and live the best I can: my body is a bit curvy! Even though I am eating clean 99% of the time and exercising pretty hard almost every day, I am not particularly lean, I ain't got no thigh gap, and I have cellulite! SO WHAT. I love my body now, because it is the body that living well has given me. As long as you treat yourself right, you should love yourself no matter what you look like. Because at the end of the day the very specific body types we idolize are never intrinsically beautiful; they change with time and culture (a few hundred years ago, this was the epitome of beauty). Even now I sometimes wonder: what am I doing wrong? I eat all the right foods, I work out all the time... but I don't look like her! Then I remember that I am not doing ANYTHING wrong; human bodies simply vary as much as our personalities. Why WOULD every one of us have the same body? No reason, because there's this little thing called genetic variation. If every one of is lived the exact same lifestyle, we'd still all end up with different-looking bodies. It's nature, babe. So live healthy, eat enough (of wholesome, plant foods), get sweaty sometimes, and embrace whatever body that lifestyle gives you, because it's damn sexy. If this were the Renaissance or even the Marilyn Monroe days, the girls on magazine covers now would be trying to stuff their faces with cake to look like the bodies that were put on the pedestal at that time - curvy, busty women who had pasty cellulite on their asses. It would basically be the reverse of what is happening right now. At the end of the day: it's still just people trying to change their natural bodies to look like something they're not, because they think that whatever one type of body the media says is beautiful, is the ONLY one that is. Well that just ain't true. Am I saying that skinny people will always be skinny and "heavier" people people will always be heavier? No.

I am saying that whatever body a healthy lifestyle provides you with is your ideal weight and shape.

Celebrate it. Work it. Love yo-self. This goes for all humans because you better believe that men have problems with body image that are just as damaging. These days when I think about what beauty and sexiness mean to me, I think about ability and not appearance. I am one of the strongest, fittest girls I know, and I am pretty confident I am stronger than my male partner (we both agree, by the way). I can push my body to do half-marathons, one legged squats, push ups, and whatever else I want - and that is one of the best feelings as well as a major motivation for me to love a healthy lifestyle so much. Being fit - however that may look on your body - is freedom. I've moved past caring about what I LOOK like, now I realize all that matters to me is what I can DO with this gorgeous body.

It took me a fair amount of time (most of a year) to realize that losing my period and feeling weak all the time was not sustainable or good for me. I wasn't happy anymore. Gradually I began incorporating cooked foods like steamed broccoli and tofu back into my diet, WITHOUT feeling guilty about it. And eventually I was eating a normal, whole foods vegan diet again. I had gained back weight, had energy, and felt strong. This when my period returned. Unfortunately, it sucked. It came back more painful than it had ever been, with a heavier flow, cramps, and lots of back pain. I'd have trouble sleeping and I'd get headaches. I thought: "Dang, this must be what everyone else complains about!" I thought I was finally getting a regular period! Maybe not... It stayed pretty painful for about a year but I reflect on that now and realize that it was because that entire time I was in a very stressful relationship. Stress has a major effect on your hormones. When that relationship ended, so did the excessively painful periods. Now my period really IS normal; it lasts about 5-6 days, I can tell when it's coming because my lower back gets sore, the first 2 days I have back pain and crazy emotions, but after that it's smooth rolling, my flow is light and cramps are unusual. I guess you could say I have a healthy period, but it's on the light side, and I like to think this is because I eat clean and vegan. Processed foods like sugar and white flour can really eff up your time o' da month because they screw with your hormones. If you aren't vegan already but your period sucks, I would definitely recommend trying to eat more whole foods and see how that changes things.

I actually see my period now as a time to celebrate my womanhood and primal, fertile self. Many ancient cultures and tribes saw the menstrual cycle as holy and sacred, and when women were bleeding at their time of month, they were given special huts to meditate and reflect in  (WHERE THA HECK DID THAT TRADITION GO, I ASK). I love to research what is going on in my body during this time. It's pretty darn amazing and I think all us ladies should be proud of what we go through 12 times every year. But that's just the feminist in me speaking. If you went through the same lame sex education system I did, you probably have no clue what is goin' down during your period. Also - another feminist outburst - school doesn't teach us girl #$%& about our genitals, and the word "clitoris" in our society can be paralleled to "Voldemort" in the Harry Potter series: people are scared to say it. If you don't know where or what your clit is, PLEASE find out. It's gonna change everything.


PART II: STAYING VEGAN ON YOUR PERIOD

Here's what ya really came for. I am writing this post because when I am on my period every month, I sometimes will crave foods that are not vegan. Usually it's eggs, organ meats or chicken. Ew, right? Please don't hate me or freak out. It should go without saying that I would and will NEVER eat these foods. A meal is never worth murder or abuse. Duh. This why I am vegan. However, I can't deny that I DO get these cravings. I personally don't feel guilty because I understand it's a physical thing, not a reflection of a weak moral compass or anything like that. Clearly my body just wants something that those animal foods have in high quantities, but that doesn't mean plant foods don't also have that "something" my body is craving. Yesterday night, I REALLY wanted a plate of chicken. I thought it meant I needed protein, but eating a package of tofu did not sound appealing at the time. I recalled chicken - and meat in general - is high in iron. I added some Vega powder to my smoothie and ate some iron-rich foods for dinner and the cravings went away. Done.

My point is: when you crave non-vegan foods on your period, it is because your body wants whatever those foods are rich in. Usually it's protein, iron, or B vitamins. You know how we all go mad for chocolate when it's that time of month? That is because cocoa is high in iron and magnesium (but also because we want sugar to make us feel better... that is a whole 'nother story though). I always make sure to eat lots of dark - preferably raw - chocolate during this time. Cacao is even higher in iron and magnesium than cocoa. I honestly see it as a health supplement just like taking a vitamin in the morning. I also make sure to have a B-complex regularly. And I eat lots of protein! Beans, tempeh, tofu, Gardein products if I feel like it. If you are craving sweets, eat as much fruit as you want and make or buy dark chocolate, or make any of the raw vegan desserts I have on this blog. If you are craving eggs, dairy, or meat: take a B vitamin, and eat greens, tofu, beans, figs and nuts. Consider buying a nutritional supplement mix like Vega; it provides a terrific amount of iron, protein, B vitamins and so much more. Obviously getting this stuff from whole plant foods is ideal, but I see my period as a special time where supplementing really comes in handy.

That brings me to a very important point: I LISTEN TO MY BODY. I have made the mistake of trying to keep my normal diet while on my period, even though I really don't feel like it. What do I mean by this? My body is like: "Em, you aren't even hungry... just don't eat dinner!" while my brain is like "You gotta eat, girl! You always have a huge dinner bowl of steamed veggies and rice!" I have learned that listening to just my body works best while on my period. The last few cycles when I have been bleeding (including this one), I have had almost no appetite but am endlessly thirsty. So I drink as much water as I want, and have a smoothie for dinner instead of the big, lightly cooked meal I usually enjoy. But it's just as plausible that I could have a massive appetite, so in that case I would devour as much food as I wanted. Keep in mind drinking lots of water is important even if you aren't thirsty. And if you are hungry: eat as much as you want, but make sure to eat healthy food! Don't cram down processed junk but instead make a huge meal of lightly cooked veggies with whole grains, bread or noodles. Or whatever you feel like. If you are craving pizza: by all means, make a pizza! Buy or make a whole wheat or gluten-free crust, then top it off with a healthy vegan sauce and tons of veggies and dairy-free cheese. Seriously, whatever you are craving, there is a healthy vegan version. Just Google whatever it is with "vegan" in front of it. Vegan ice cream is a thing, and it's SOO GOOD. If you aren't hungry: I'd still suggest getting in enough calories to keep a stable metabolism for when your appetite returns. Smoothies, juices or soups are best for this because they don't take a lot of effort to consume.

Well, that wraps this up! Please comment on this post to let me know your thoughts or questions. Much love! Stay fertile, my friends.

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Friday, 15 August 2014

BLUEBERRY VANILLA CREME CAKE


Eat local! The inspiration for this recipe was the bushes in my family's front yard. They are of the blueberry variety, in case ya didn't catch that. I have shared this truth before but I will say it again now: I live for the blueberries in our yard. All year I patiently wait for them to flower, bloom, grow and ripen, salivating at the memories of their sweet, unique flavours and juicy insides. Finally, when the time is right - I strike. For those delicious 3 months every 365 days, I turn into a herbivorous beast. The neighbours have seen me at all hours grabbing every little blue jewel I see and greedily stuffing it in my mouth. My family knows that if they want any they need to pick them when I am not around and hide them away from my sight... otherwise they will be stolen and inhaled... by me. 

What I am trying to say is that I love blueberries. Probably too much (NO THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS LOVING FRUIT TOO MUCH OKAY).

Another thing I love - and I know that you all love - is cake. Raw, vegan cake. Make it creamy and fill it with fresh, organic, local fruit? Life is good. This cake is good. We're all sexy people. This song exists. What is there to complain about? Can I complain about my life being too blessed? (Technically-speaking, yes, but I'm not THAT lame). Oh my god I just remembered that I have a jar of Nutiva coconut butter in the kitchen... I could eat that stuff with a spoon. Wait a sec - I already did that yesterday. This post having a specific theme? Forget it. It's not happening. What is happening? Me sitting at my computer trying to concentrate on writing a decent blog post for you guys - it's not happening - but being distracted by the house music and disco playlist I have bumping... and refusing to turn it off because it's too groovy. Fun fact: I watched Saturday Night Fever a few nights ago and it was too funny. The SHOES people wore! Honestly, John Travolta in 2 inch wooden platforms. I have the soundtrack to that movie on vinyl. Bee Gees, anyone? I love seeing movies from past decades and trying to get into the headspace folks were in when the movie was new in their time. It blows my mind every time I consider how much we are shaped by the current culture, yet culture is so fluid! I look forward to the future when the cultural norm will be to live environmentally-friendly and cruelty-free. 

Yes, I did just promote a vegan message via a disco movie. 


BLUEBERRY VANILLA CREME CAKE

Crust:
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup dates

Creme:
2 cups cashews (preferably soaked in water for 4 hours or so)
1 teaspoon vanilla powder
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup water
2 cups blueberries

To make the crust: process the oats into flour in a blender or food processor. If using a food processor, add the dates and process until it all begins to stick together. If using a blender, dump the flour into a bowl and add the dates, mashing everything together with your hands until it begins to stick together. You really gotta get in there. Press the "dough" into the bottom of a springform pan or adjustable pan (mine was approximately 7 inches). Put in the fridge.

To make the creme: blend everything together - except the blueberries - until smooth and creamy; like thick yogurt. Pour half of this mixture onto your crust, then sprinkle on 1 cup of blueberries. Add the remaining blueberries to the mixture still in your blender, and blend until smooth. Pour this on top of your first layer and blueberries. Put in the fridge overnight, then decorate with whatever you like, slice, and enjoy! This can go in the freezer too. 

Note: If you wanna make this lower fat, use less coconut oil and then add dates instead. 

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Thursday, 14 August 2014

A GUIDE TO HEALTHY LIVING THAT I AM EXCITED ABOUT

If you couldn't tell by the title of this post; I am excited. Why? Because today I am sharing an amazing program that teaches you to how to be the healthiest you can be from Beyond Basics Health Coaching (BBHC). I would like to first say a couple things though.

1) This program is designed for beginners in mind. It has been created specifically for people who are interested and serious about evolving into a more organic, wholesome, plant-based diet and lifestyle, and looking to stay that way long term. If you are curious about becoming vegan, vegetarian, or simply healthier but don't know where to start - this program will change your life because it is exactly what you need. Of course if you are already confident and happy with your diet and lifestyle, this program would still be very useful (I thought knew everything there was to know about eating plants but after just a few minutes into one video I learned something new)!

2) I don't wanna make this post sound like a gimmicky, sneaky way to get money from you guys; although I am an affiliate with BBHC that I will be talking about, I am hardly interested in financial profits. I want this to benefit YOU. I hope you know by now that I have pretty high standards for the products and companies I choose to publicly support. This is no exception. I am super excited to be sharing this program precisely because I know it can help so many. I get endless emails from people who want to start living a healthier, more plant-based lifestyle but they don't know where to begin. Now I can simply direct them to this program because it has all the advice I would provide myself, plus much more.

Okay, let's get into this!


INTRO
I would like to introduce you to Beyond Basics Health Coaching, run by Mary Pietras, who has trained holistic nutrition in Europe, has her BS in nutrition and fitness, is a certified holistic practitioner, and has almost completed her masters in nutrition. I have had several lovely talks with Mary on the phone and she is an amazing, inspiring woman who genuinely wants you to find your best health and - most importantly - be informed, educated and prepared to live healthy long term. We both believe knowledge is the key to success (and we agree on just about everything else too), so learning the right information is paramount to achieving long term wellness and happiness. Mary is a personal health coach and through her program she has had such great success with her clients that she decided to create a video series of her health coaching sessions so that no matter where you are, you can benefit from all the useful information she has professionally compiled. I have watched many of the videos myself and love the personal, educational tone.

WHAT IS THE PROGRAM?
What is this program all about? It is a series of 140 educational and cooking videos where Mary shows you how to - in essence - live healthy from the ground up. To be more specific, you will learn: how to make these changes fun and easy for you and the family, about new kitchen appliances (blender, food processor, juicer, spiralizer), how to satisfy your cravings with healthy foods and learn WHY you crave certain foods, storing and prepping food, replacing bad habits with healthy ones, how to find the best produce in your area, eating healthy in social settings, and the benefits of making your own meals. 

If that's not enough, you will also become educated on: the emotional, physical and psychological connections you have to your food, the benefits of super foods and how to use them, handling stress, adding in more veggies to meals with minimal effort, GMO's, organic foods, acidity vs. alkalinity in the body, gluten and wheat, eating healthy on a budget, making the best smoothies, detecting chemicals in your food, learning how to read food labels, making replacements for cheese, meat, bread, pasta, and more, and how to make this a successful long term lifestyle where YOU are in control. Finally, Mary provides a huge resource list of books, documentaries and websites (in fact, she found me because she wanted to include my blog and recipes in that list)!



You can watch the videos at whatever pace you feel is comfortable, although Mary has it sectioned to span 22 weeks if you prefer to follow that. You have the option of choosing a support buddy online to go through this program with. Mary has a private Facebook group that you will gain access to, and where you can ask any questions that may arise. There are weekly challenges and goals, and Mary will help you figure out how to reach your goal, or why you didn't manage to meet it if that is the case.

I have watched several of the program videos myself, and that is exactly why I am so excited to be sharing it with you. If you have the desire to live a healthier life, but are unsure of where to begin, then I honestly think this program is the key to your future success. If you are already feeling good about where you are, but want to take your health and diet to the next level, this program will also prove very beneficial to you. Is the information in this program available for free elsewhere on the internet? Probably. But no where else will you find it all compiled so neatly and with such a personal yet professional attitude and specific plan in mind. Think about it like this: I go to university and I pay quite a lot of money for it. Is all the information in my textbooks, lectures, and tutorials available for free on the web and other places? Definitely. But I pay for university because it is taught by experienced professionals and my courses have clear and guided direction and goals. This is the same situation (except this program is not expensive at all, especially considering what you are getting).

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST? 
The big question. What are you paying to get 140 educational and cooking videos spanning all the topics I just talked about above and more, with information that will take you from ground zero to being one of the most knowledgeable people on well-being and health around, all taught by a successful, experienced and certified holistic practitioner who has been teaching nutrition for years? $150. 



This really is an amazing price considering the endless value of what you are paying for. The question for you is: what is your health worth? Mine is priceless! So $150 is a steal in my opinion, and I really mean that. You are basically getting 22 weeks of personal health coaching! If you want to purchase this program, simply click here and follow the simple instructions. I have said what I set out to say, and with that I wish you the best day and hope this program is something you are interested in! Much love, Em.

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Wednesday, 13 August 2014

SUMMER BERRY + CASHEW CREAM PIE


I made this pie for my aunt and uncle's anniversary when my family and I stayed with them in Minnesota during the past weeks. Read and see more about that trip (and a different one I went on right before) by clicking here.  Everyone enjoyed this recipe - including the grandparents - and they were all quite surprised that the only ingredients were fruit and nuts! I was able to whip this up easily in an afternoon and let it set in the fridge so the flavours would be able to develop in time for dessert that evening. I also didn't have a food processor with me, so this was made with just a blender and my two hands! It's is a perfect summer treat since it takes advantage of what is in season here: berries! It is also refreshing and not too sweet. Serve with extra berries. Extra berries = extra fun. Every time. It would be lovely with some mint sprigs too. 


SUMMER BERRY + CASHEW CREAM PIE

Crust:
2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups dates

Cream:
2 cups cashews
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pinch Himalayan salt
Water, as needed

Topping:
Sliced strawberries
Blueberries
Anything else you like 

To make the crust: process the oats into flour in a blender or food processor. If you're using a food processor, add in the dates and process until it all sticks together. If you're using a blender, dump the oat flour into a bowl and combine the dates and oat flour together with your hands until it all is evenly gooey. This will take a few minutes and you will have to get your hands a bit dirty. Press this "dough" into a pie dish and put in the fridge.

To make the cream: blend everything together until it's smooth and thick, adding water as needed. You want it to be the texture of a thick yogurt. Pour this into your crust and leave in the fridge for three hours or preferably overnight. Decorate with berries and enjoy!

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Saturday, 9 August 2014

THAI PEANUT TRUFFLES + A COOKBOOK REVIEW


Today I am sharing a special recipe from Amy Lyons' amazing raw vegan cookbook: Fragrant Vanilla Cake. Amy has a blog by the same name and it was one of the first sources of raw vegan dessert inspiration for me. She has the most glorious cakes, cupcakes and other sweet recipes that are put together like they're in a professional bakery. I was honoured when she asked me to review her book. Every page has a unique and creative recipe, along with at least one photo. There are instructions for everything from these Thai Peanut Truffles (that I adapted into cups because I am supremely lazy) to banana oat pancakes to red velvet cupcakes! Colours abound when your ingredients are raw from the plant kingdom. If you're into raw vegan desserts and you love to experiment with new and fun flavours, get this book! If you're not sure about it, check out Amy's blog, Fragrant Vanilla Cake, and make a few of her recipes to see if you want more. 

I chose to make a recipe called Thai Peanut Truffles. Of course as mentioned above, I didn't wanna wait for the peanut butter mixture to harden (in order to roll into balls), so I just poured everything into cupcake molds. They're Thai because the peanut butter mixture also has lime, coconut, chili and ginger! Cover that all up with raw salted chocolate and you've got me drooling. My dad gave this his seal of approval! Actually he just said, 'yum!', but I'm choosing to leave the definition of "seal of approval" vague. 


THAI PEANUT TRUFFLES  
From Fragrant Vanilla Cake by Amy Lyons

Filling:
1/3 cup raw coconut butter (not oil!), liquified

1/2 cup raw peanut butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp chili flakes
1 Tbsp very finely minced fresh ginger (or 2 tsp dried)
2 Tbsp raw coconut nectar or maple syrup


Raw chocolate:
1/2 cup raw coconut oil, warmed to liquid
3/4 cup raw cacao powder
1/4 cup raw coconut nectar or maple syrup
a pinch sea salt

To make the filling, whisk together ingredients until smooth. Place in the freezer to firm up enough to roll into balls, about 10 minutes. 
Meanwhile, to make the chocolate, whisk together all ingredients until smooth.  Once the filling is set, dip each truffle into the chocolate and place on a foil lined sheet pan.  Place back into the freezer until chocolate is set, about 15 minutes. Store in the fridge.

(Alternatively you can do what I did and simply pour each mixture into cupcake paper molds, then set in the fridge or freezer until solid. Either way, these babies are delish.)

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