Happy Year of the Snake! Recipes #1

100_4704Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Cooking club this time set out with a whole new challenge. Fat-free vegan Chinese celebration food- how’s that for a tall order? I think we did a great job, with some good recipes and some innovative techniques. Check out some of the fun recipes we tried:
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More Fun Charity Sites

by Dominic’s pics

I have been enjoying seeing how people are raising money creatively, so I thought I would round up a few more of my favourites to inspire us all to keep thinking outside the box when we look to give back. After all, why shouldn’t we have fun while we do good?

First is a yearly event in Canada that is happening two days from now. It is done with humour and originality (although it does rely a bit on old stereotypes- still, I believe the intent softens that). This Thursday is National Sweater Day, when we are all encouraged to turn the heat down and put on our favourite sweaters to help the World Wildlife Federation take action against climate change. And to help us remember, they have a group of very funny grannies that you can book to call and remind you (or for more fun, you can book one to call one of your unsuspecting friends). Watch some of the grannies in action HERE and book your call.

Second is an inspiring site called Tim’s Running Reviews. Tim is working to raise money for The Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics. To do this, he is hosting a virtual 5K race. Read all about it on his blog HERE. You might not be able to resist joining in and doing his virtual 5K!

And the third one that has come across my page lately is Moolta. This is a site that challenges people to do very silly things to raise money for charity. The types of challenges would (generally) likely appeal more to younger people- some are a bit baffling to me- but I loved the most recent post HERE, all about Rag Week. Rag week seems to be a British tradition for university students, who spend the week doing quite funny things to raise money for charity. I think rag week is a tradition that should move across the pond, don’t you?

So much fun to do so much good! It makes me smile and giggle. What can be better?

Starting a Healthy Diet, Part 2. Pick One of These…

By their nature weight-loss diets are restrictive, and that makes them nearly impossible to sustain over any extended time. But once we move our focus away from merely losing weight, and aim at eating good healthy nutritious food, a whole new world of possibilities opens up for us. In order to have a truly healthy diet that supports our heart and immune system, we should be doing all of the things I will list below (and get lots of good strength and aerobic exercise, too).

However, the neat thing about this list is that you can choose to implement these ideas one at a time, and still enjoy improved health and healthy weight loss right from the start. Some people will decide to only ever do one or two things from the list, and that might work well for them. However, it has been my experience that some steps are important for me to keep my own food addictions in check. If you eat irrationally by indulging cravings (or if the thought of changing your eating habits makes you feel panicky and you want to run out and buy a particular food), you may want to start by following the starred (*) items religiously. The panic and cravings are a clue that you may have some food addictions too, so you have to break them. After toughing it out for a few short days, you will no longer feel the panic, and eating this way will begin to feel good- honest.

1*. Eat REAL food, not processed. If you are used to eating mainly processed foods and takeouts and this seems daunting, start by finding one homemade recipe based on your favourite meal. Treat it like a game, experimenting with recipes until you find one that tastes good and is easy for you to make. You will likely discover that the homemade one is cheaper (bonus), and likely does not take much more time to make. After you get good at one recipe, choose another. The aim is to replace ALL processed food with real food. Start reading labels and you will see why this is a good idea. If you eat processed foods, you have no idea what strange things you might be ingesting. (See this and this for example).

2*. Eat alternatives to refined sugar (and cut down the sugar consumption overall). Once you start eating real food your tastes will change and your sugar cravings will be reduced anyway, but it is still good to be mindful of what you put in your recipes. For sweetness, you will be surprised how quickly you find a new taste for fresh fruit, and in recipes you can replace refined sugars with smaller amounts of unrefined sweeteners like agave nectar, maple syrup, brown rice syrup or coconut sugar. For more information, see this article.

3*. Switch from simple to complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs include the sugar mentioned above, but also things like white flour and most store-bought baking (see this article about breads for an eye-opener). Complex carbs are found in vegetables, beans, lentils, and many other leguminous plants.

by Gary Wilmore

4. Trade meat and dairy for other dense proteins, like tofu, beans, seitan, and tempe. There is overwhelming evidence that meat and dairy are extremely bad for you. If you want to check this out yourself, read The China Study or go to the website for Physicians for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), or google it- there are numerous good evidence-based studies about this. Nevertheless, I know that many people may not be comfortable with this change. Again, you need to make choices that you are comfortable with, in the way that you can live with. You could always approach this one step at a time. Like with the processed foods, you could start with the “meatless Mondays” idea and replace one meat meal a week. Or, you could choose one meat/dairy dish and go on a hunt for a healthier replacement recipe that you will be happy with, and then repeat until you have subbed out all your old meat/dairy dishes.

And that is it! Do those 4 things and you will be well on your way to a healthy body, without counting calories or spending exhorbitant amounts of money on “diet” (fake) food and supplements.

CHALLENGE! (for you)
What is your best/easiest/tastiest recipe that replaces an older favourite food? (ie- were you addicted to a certain fast food burger and now you have a rival vegan recipe?) Share with us- I’ll bet there are others who feel the same.

CHALLENGE! (for me or others)
Is there still a recipe that is just outside your grasp, and you’d like me or other readers to find or develop a healthy alternative recipe that makes you drool as much as the old one? Send it out and we can all work on it together. I can start the ball rolling. I am still trying to crack the code for making a vegan version of Pizza Hut’s breaded hot chicken wings. (I think they are only sold in Canada, and even the individual restaurants don’t have the recipe- I’ve asked. lol. They come to them frozen and pre-breaded). Has anyone out there found that perfect crunch and want to share it with us? Or do you have any tips or ideas for me to use as I continue the quest?

Starting a Healthy Diet- Part One. The Problem With Our Weight Obsession

Yes, being overweight is generally part of being unhealthy, and especially in the more affluent countries more people are overweight than ever. Also, overweight people are more likely to be obese than ever before. But in spite of society’s ridiculous obsession with appearance (really- grow up shallow people of the world! Fat shaming is OK? How about we start non-critical thinking shaming?), focussing on weight loss is not how we will make society healthier.

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What Do Vegans With Colds Eat?

100_4449I’ve been feeling a little under the weather for this last little while100_4366– fighting off some cold symptoms- so I when the weekend finally hit I decided it was time for a nice “chicken” soup and early to bed night. Instead of using tofu or dried soy chicken, I naturally turned to my newest experiment- green jackfruit. It worked very well cut into small chunks, with looks and texture remarkably like chicken in the soup.

But- chicken soup has been shown to actually help colds, and I wanted to do more than just soothe myself psychologically, so it was time for a little research into why chicken soup in particular helps a cold. According to Dr. Stephen Rennard, MD’s research, chicken contains an amino acid called cysteine that is released when the soup is made. This amino acid thins mucus in the lungs, aiding in the healing process. So I checked the nutrition charts where I discovered that 100g of chicken contains 42% of the RDA of methionine and cysteine (both are listed as interchangeable in charts) and jackfruit only contains 3-8% of the RDA. However, I also discovered that good plant sources of Cysteine include lentils (21% for 100g), miso (12%), and onions, peppers, and garlic.

Also, Dr Rennard notes that onions in chicken soup “contain protein, calcium, and especially sulfur, which decreases swelling and aids in reducing nasal congestion. Another significant ingredient in chicken soup is carrots. Carrots enable our bodies to produce vitamin A, which strengthens our white blood cells and in turn allows us to better fight off infection”, and “hot soups in general help keep nasal passages moist, thin out mucus, prevent dehydation, and soothe a sore throat”, so “the more ingredients in your soup, the better”.

With all of this new information, I was ready to make my own vegan version of healing “chicken” soup. Feel free to change up the vegetables based on what you have on hand.

“Vegan Penicillin Soup”

– One onion.
– Two carrots.
– One green pepper.
– 1/2 red pepper, chopped (what I had in the fridge, I’d add more if I had it but I wasn’t feeling like a grocery trip)
– One stalk of celery
– 1/2 cup of snap peas.
– 1/2 cup of pasta noodles- whatever you have.
– 1 cup/1 can of cooked lentils.
– 1/2 can of jackfruit, chopped (again, this is what I had leftover from the last recipe, so feel free to use the whole can and make a larger batch- adjust amounts of ingredients using your culinary discretion and preferences).
– 6-8 cups of vegetable broth.
– 2-4 tablespoons of miso (adjust type and amount to your taste).
– Lots of freshly ground black pepper.

– Chop vegetables and jackfruit.100_4401
– Pre-soften the vegetables in the frying pan for a few minutes.
– Put the vegetable broth in a pot, add the miso and vegetables.
– Add the jackfruit, lentils, and pasta, and simmer for at least 1/2 hour- the longer the better to blend the flavours.
– Enjoy hot with some warm bread or a bit of salad.

I found this to be soothing and satisfying, the babying I needed to start feeling better almost immediately.

What the Heck is Jackfruit? (A Fruit You Can Use as a Meat!)

100_4392I am committed to a plant-based diet now. I have passed the point of no return, as the thought of eating real meat now makes me feel quite squeamish. That is sometimes a problem, as I grew up in Alberta- definitely meat country- and I loved meat. I really get the bacon-flavoured everything craze. So, I am always on the hunt for new ways to satisfy an old craving. I have already posted about meat substitutes, and this week I finally sourced one that I have been wanting to try for a long time. Believe it or not, it is actually a tropical fruit. When ripe I have read that it is sweet and deliciously addictive. In fact some sources said ripe jackfruit was the inspiration for the flavour of Juicy Fruit gum.

Green jackfruit, however, has very little flavour of its own, and it can be shredded and cut to resemble mild-flavoured meats like chicken, pork, and even tuna. Most vegan recipes 100_4366using jackfruit call for jackfruit packed in brine. The fruit I found, however, was packed in water. Better for heart-health anyway, but I suspect I will need to experiment a bit more with seasonings to find the perfect fit. In the meantime, expect quite a few jackfruit recipes as I try out ways to use it. If you are looking for green jackfruit yourself (and it does not grow where you live), try stores that carry Asian or Indian foods.

It cost about $1.50 (Cdn) per can and the nutritional info per 280g (a little over 1 cup) is:
Calories 60                                       Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 g                                 Sodium 1260 mg
Carbohydrate 14g                             Fibre 6g
Protein 2g                                         Sugar 0g
Calcium 4% RDA                             Iron 12% RDA


I wanted to make a quick lunch with no cooking, so the first thing I did with the jackfruit was to use it in a mock tuna salad. It really does not require a recipe- you can just use your regular tuna salad recipe and substitute the jackfruit for the meat, but I will outline the steps I took and give a few hints about modifications you might want to try. It would work exactly the same if you wanted to make it as a chicken salad- you would just change the seasonings that you use.

Jackfruit Salad Sandwiches

– Canned jackfruit100_4353
– Mayonnaise or vegan substitute
– Veggies. I used green onion, celery, mini tomatoes in the salad, and lettuce and cucumber in the sandwich. Shredded radish, carrots, peas, even green apple would be good too. If you were to make a curried “chicken” salad, you might add green grapes.
– Chick peas or mild-flavoured beans (I used them whole. To make the salad stick together more, you could mash them before adding. They add protein and body)
– Pickles (I like pickles in my tuna salad, and the vinegar also helps to add some flavour to the jackfruit. You could also try pre-soaking the jackfruit in a teaspoon or so of vinegar and leaving out the pickle if you don’t like it in the salad).
– Pepper, spices, and extras as desired (sometimes I like chicken salad with cumin, other times I like it with a bit of chili powder. Experiment. This time I just added pepper for flavour and some hemp hearts for texture and extra omegas. Flax seed would be good for that too).
– Bread, pita pockets or lettuce for holding and delivering the salad to your eager mouth.

– Shred the jackfruit with two forks to 100_4376give it the look of tuna or shredded chicken (It shreds naturally into strings). Soak in vinegar if desired (this would make it more tuna-like. When I made it plain it was more like chicken)
– Chop up veggies, pickles and extras to add to salad, and slice the ones for in the sandwich.
– Mix jackfruit, chopped veggies and extras, and add a Tablespoon or two 100_4390of mayo (to taste). Add pepper and spices (to taste) and stir.
– Pile it all up in your bread and add lettuce and other sliced veggies (you could use sprouts, too).
– Serve with a pickle slice. This was as good as tuna salad any day, and I imagine (like real tuna salad) it would get even better if you let it sit in the refrigerator for an hour or two so flavours can mix.


$2013 in 2013 Update- First 8K Run of the Year

Pre-race bib pick-up.

Sunday (13th) we drove to Saanichton on the peninsula of Vancouver Island for the first run of the year in the Island Race series. It was frosty and clear but the sun was out and the sponsors gave out free gloves to anybody who needed them. And talk about an amazing bunch of runners! The fastest runner came in at 23:49 and the first place women’s finisher did the 8K in a top 25 in the world time of 25:28!

Harriers Saanichton 8K2013
Ready to run. (I’m not there- I took the pic)

In my world, that means she had finished and was already getting her sandwiches and fruit before I was even at the halfway mark. I struggled quite a bit and found I was near the very back of the pack overall. I am used to going in the bigger races with lots more recreational walker/runners like me and I was quite outclassed as the majority of people in this race were serious runners. Still, a group of us had entered as an extended family and others in my group did very well in their age categories. My nephew came in 9th in his category, my sister came in 7th, and my daughter came in 3rd, winning a medal for her efforts! I am a very proud Mom. Considering that most of the people in our family group only started running in the last year or two, I think we all did ace, and I added another 8K onto my $2013 in 2013 tally.

Both Winners in my Book!

And later, when my daughter asked me if I would have been embarassed if I came in last, I told her that yes, part of me would have been embarassed, but I will always keep three things in mind. First, no matter how much I struggle in these races, I know how far I have come since just last year. So, others may see a last place finisher, but I’m ahead of where I was for the last 25 years and I will continue to improve. Second and third, I remember two cool t-shirts I have seen in other races. One said “No matter where I finish, I am still ahead of the people who stayed on the couch”. The second was this photo from weknowmemes:

This reminds me that we all have a story and the last person’s story may in fact represent a greater triumph than the winner’s, we just don’t know. So yes, we tend to compare ourselves to others when we race, but we should not let the fact that others are ahead of us be discouraging, because there are always people ahead of us and behind us. The real competition is against ourselves and we should celebrate every step we take to improve. So if I came in last or even if I didn’t finish, I would still be proud that I had the courage to enter and try. (And after that deep speech, I secretly vowed to up my training before the next race…. Because I don’t want to finish last).

Cooking Club- New Year, New Ingredient (Part 3). Farro and Kale Salad

Ready to start cooking club

Ready to start cooking club

At our first cooking club meeting of the year, we made two curry recipes to take home for our families’ dinners, but we decided to eat Sarah’s recipe right there. After all- we had earned a good lunch after our hike and all our cooking and cleaning. It was an excellent idea because, let me tell you, this salad is top of my new favourites list! Continue reading

Cooking Club- New Year, New Ingredient (Part 2). Kohlrabi Curry


I’m going to start here by telling you that curry is probably my very favourite food in the whole world. I love all different types of curry, and I like it hot. My Dad grew up in India, and my Mom and Dad spent the first of their married years there, learning to cook the foods that our family would be raised with. In Canada, Mom would have dinner parties where she served a beef curry from a recipe inside her head. As a young child, it was my job to fill Continue reading

Cooking Club- New Year, New Ingredient (Part 1) Chayote Squash Sidekick.

Last week was the first cooking club meeting of the new year. Following tradition, we began with an activity. Marg was hosting so she led us on a short 5K hike on the Trans-Canada Trail near Lake Cowichan. It was a perfect day for it. We had recently had snow but it had melted and the only thing that threatened us that day was rain. In the end it held off, though, so we had a lovely walk through the trail and then back along the river.

by homefinderbcby homefinderbc

Then home to cook…. Continue reading