Vegan-ish

Yesterday was Kukur Tihar in Nepal. It is a day during the festival of lights where dogs all around the country are worshiped and celebrated for their cherished companionship with us humans. While I was looking through the #kukurtihar hashtag on Instagram admiring dogs adorned in paint and marigold flower crowns, I was reminded of why I went Vegan, about 9 months ago.

 

As I’ve mentioned before, there wasn’t one reason I went Vegan, but rather a handful of moments that made me reflect on meat consumption in general. One moment happened to be when I saw a petition circulating which opposed the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, held annually in the city of Yulin, China. I wondered how many of these (predominantly Western) people signing this petition eat meat? How many of these people consume meat that came from a factory farm? How many of these people eat pigs and yet cannot see the similarities between pigs and dogs? Then I asked myself the same questions. 

 

The truth is, I wasn’t really that aware of the similarities. I grew up downtown not surrounded by animals and nature. Meat came in a package. I wasn’t aware that 70 billion land animals are killed annually to feed 7 billion humans. That is not counting aquatic animals. I didn’t stop and think about just how unsustainable and heartbreaking that is. I didn’t stop and research the similarities between pigs and dogs, but once I did I realized I could never eat pigs again. I discovered that when cows are forcibly separated from their calves they scream and cry for days. I visited farms and looked animals in their eyes. I watched Cowspiracy, footage of terrified animals on their way to slaughter, and started following the @torontopigsave Instagram page. I felt I needed to watch them. I needed to cry. I needed to donate to animal sanctuaries in an effort to attone.

For the first several months I felt incredible. Not only did I feel lighter, healthier and experience more energy overall, I also felt my mood lift dramatically. However, by the 7 month point, I noticed that I was beginning to lose energy and vitality. In order to be optimally healthy while vegan, it is important to be on track with supplements and your personal dietary requirements. I have never been great at staying on top of taking supplements. I felt no desire to eat meat, and yet I felt that I needed to do something different.

 

I looked to my nutritional mentors, Chris Kresser and Dr. Mark Hyman. I love Chris Kresser because he’s informed, rational and fair. He’s also an ex-vegan surfer who has the upmost respect for animals and the environment. For anyone that is Vegan but isn’t experiencing optimal health, I strongly encourage you to check him out, including his podcast with Joe Rogan (link below). As Chris explains in this particular podcast, if you are considering adapting your Vegan diet to a Vegan-ish (as I have done) consider adding in protein & fats that have the highest nutrient density and sustainability, with the lowest amount of cruelty. The best example of this would be to consume things like clams, mussels or oysters. All of which have no pain receptors and are packed with nutrients like zinc, iron and B12.

 

I am now about 90% vegan. I have added in mussels & oysters on occasion, as well as good-quality, ethically raised, free range grass fed butter and chicken which comes from a local farm. I realize I am fortunate to have access to such a farm. 

I learned so much about myself by taking the time to be an active participant in my food choices. I realize that choices like this are a privilege that not everyone can enjoy. If you are lucky enough to be in this position as well, I encourage you to begin eating from a conscious perspective, with gratitude and respect for every farmer and animal that contributed to your meal.

Further information:

The Ethical Case for Eating Oysters & Mussels Pt. 1

The Ethical Case for Eating Oysters & Mussels Pt. 2

Chris Kresser & Joe Rogan:  or watch on YouTube:

The Emotional Lives of Dairy Cows

Dr. Mark Hyman on “Pegan-ism AKA Paleo-Vegan”

 

 

Cold Brew Iced Cappuccino

This is one of my absolute favourite drinks of life. It's perfect. 

Ingredients:

1 tbs. raw almond butter
2 soft Medjool dates, chopped (you can soften these by putting them in hot water for 5 minutes)
1/2 cup almond milk, or to taste. 
2.5 ounces of cold brew coffee
small handful of crushed ice

All all ingredients together, saving the almond butter and ice for last.
Blend in a high-powered blender for about 15 seconds or until your desired consistency is reached.
This recipe is easily adjusted to suit your preferences. Try adding in 1/2 teaspoon of raw cacao powder to make a mocha version, or adjust the milk/almond butter to your desired consistency. 

 

Easy & Cheap Vegan Chickpea Curry

Ingredients: 

Olive Oil
2 yellow onions, sliced
2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 cans chickpeas, rinced and drained
1 small fist-size of ginger, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. tumeric
1 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. graham masala (sometimes I forget this and it's fine)
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1 cup of water
1 cup of basmati rice
chopped cilantro & 1/2 sliced avocado for garnish/extra magic

Instructions:
1. Heat olive oil in a large pot - add onions and cook until browned, about 10-15 minutes.
2. Add chopped ginger and garlic, stir and cook for 2 more minutes. 
3. Combine spices with a splash of water and stir to make a paste, then add to onion, garlic ang ginger. 
4. Add chopped tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes, adding some water if it dries out. 
5. Add chickpeas and 1/2 cup of water and simmer for 20 minutes. 
6. Cook basmati rice separately.
7. Spoon curry over rice and garnish with cilantro and/or avocado slices.  

I never thought I'd say this...but I'm going Vegan!

One thing I love about getting older (and hopefully wiser) is learning new things about myself, accepting change and being open to evolving and letting go of beliefs that I once claimed as a definitive part of me.    

I have never been one to yo-yo diet or follow any type of strict diet, although in the months leading up to my wedding I did follow the Paleo diet (heavy on meat consumption) with great success. I felt strong, lean and happy (albeit stressed at times!). While in school I remember choosing the 'Raw Vegan' diet for a research paper.  I had come across several Youtube channels hosted by raw vegans and I was struck by how clear and bright their eyes and skin were, as well as the overall vitality and passion they had. They looked SO happy.

I understood through my studies that those who are able to follow this diet in an ideal & healthy way (prioritizing fruits and veggies over heavier items like like nuts, sprouted grains and desserts) are assimilating more minerals and bioactive nutrients than most people. I knew that if you could actually follow this diet in a healthy way, you would feel incredible. I also knew that living in Canada, this would be difficult to do outside of the summer months, so I put it in the back of my mind as something I would like to try for 2 weeks in the summer. However, after carefully following a Paleo diet, all I wanted to do, post-wedding, was eat anything and everything!

This year my husband and I moved to the country, and suddenly I had the space to reflect on so many things.  I have been happily consuming meat all of my life. I definitely laughed at vegan jokes. However over the past couple of years I have had a quiet feeling of knowing that eating meat (and eating as much as I, and most people, ate) is problematic on so many levels. Our good friend Nathan Isberg had a magical restaurant called The Atlantic where he created ethical food with an emphasis on small animal protein that was low on the food chain (ex. quail, crickets). It was truly inspiring and revolutionary -  and desperately needed these days, in our obscene culture of rockstar bro-chefs competing with each other to make the most gluttonous, meat-heavy "fuck you" plates.  It's become glaringly obvious that meat consumption, especially with larger animals such as cattle, is unsustainable.  I definitely talked the talk, but didn't walk the walk - I championed free-range, ethically raised organic meat (and still do), but I didn't always eat it and of course couldn't bring myself to watch or read anything about what really goes on in a slaughterhouse (still don't want to).  

The Paleo-Vegan diet is actually the healthiest diet theory I have come across - basically the emphasis is on a mostly vegan diet, with the occasional meat protein...a very realistic version of what (many of) our ancestors ate.  I think that if most people followed this diet, they would see drastic improvements in their health almost immediately. 

I think it's really important to know that is a personal decision, without judgement of others. There is too much hatred and knee-jerk opposition in the world, too much shouting and moral outrage (hey Facebook!) which leaves no room for people to think, discuss, and reflect on important issues with each other because they are likely to have someone jump down their throat. 

As always, I offer my services in a non-judgemental setting. I don't believe everyone should go vegan or even vegetarian. I don't believe in strict diets in general - I think you should listen to your body, revisit your beliefs and stay open to change, just as life does.  

If you have thoughts on this I would love to hear them!

Yin Yang Bowl

This bowl is packed full of flavor and superfoods and only takes 20 minutes to throw together. Blood sugar friendly, it is filling and makes a perfect lunch. 

YIN YANG BOWL
Serves: 2

Ingredients:
1 bunch asparagus

½ bunch dark kale
1 avocado
1 handful raw almonds
1 handful raw cashews
1 cup quinoa
1 cup ramen bone broth/stock
harissa

salt
pepper
1 tsp. organic soy sauce or coconut aminos
sesame oil

olive oil

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Rinse quinoa, strain and place in a pot with 1 cup of water or broth (or even half & half). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.

3. In the meantime, cover almonds and cashews in 1 tsp of olive oil and a few pinches of harissa.  Place in oven for 20 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly toasted.

4. Cut asparagus into halves and fry on medium heat for 5-6 minutes until slightly softened.

5. Separate kale from stocks and chop into small pieces. Add 1 tsp of sesame oil and a small pinch of coarse salt and massage into the leaves for a few minutes until they turn shiny, dark and softened.

6. Score avocado, remove pit, then cut into cubes.

7. Mix cooked quinoa, asparagus and kale in a large bowl with soy sauce or coconut aminos. Top with avocado cubes, toasted almonds & cashews and a drizzle of sesame oil.