They’re Here!!!!

Yes, I know I’ve been missing from the scene for quite a while, but (for once) I have a really good excuse. I’ve been busy finishing off not one but TWO new books, which are both available as paperbacks AND as e-books. I’ve also created an e-book version of my first book HELP! There’s a VEGAN Coming For Dinner! Not bad, eh? Admittedly when I say “I created” I actually mean “my tech guy created”, but that’s a minor detail. (Thanks Hon. Love ya.)

Let me take a moment to introduce you to my new babies:

HELP! There’s a VEGAN Coming For Dinner – Japanese Style.

I think the title says it all! An entire cookbook of Japanese style vegan goodies, with no raw fish in sight. Learn how to make fish-free dashi. Make your own tofu quickly and easily. Fry up some tempura and serve it with miso soup. Noodle your way to a great dinner. Bake red bean filled buns. Create curry-filled donuts. Who would have thought vegan Japanese food could be so easy, tasty and fun?

perf8.500x8.500.indd

Tall Travel Tales: Japan. Tokyo, Takayama and Beyond. 

Follow in our footsteps as hubby and I, along with a small band of fellow travelers, journey around Japan. With tons of colour photos to show highlights of our trip you can enjoy some time away without having to leave the comfort of your armchair. Visit a ninja temple. Stand at the snow line on Mount Fuji. Eat strange squishy things. Hear crows caw ominously as you approach a shrine. Visit Tokyo, Takayama, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Kyoto, Kawaguchiko and Mount Fuji, travelling from city to city on Japanese trains. It’s fun, fun fun.

perf6.000x9.000.indd

HELP! There’s a VEGAN Coming For Dinner!

For those of you who have not already purchased a copy, let me take this opportunity to introduce you to my original cookbook. This gem contains 100 recipes to tempt even the most ardent meat-eater, all taste-tested by omnivores and given a seal of approval. There’s soups, salsas, tofu, beans, lentils, nuts, veggies galore and desserts! From the easiest curry ever to faux-chicken pot pie, there’s something for everyone in this book!

9780992082604-cov.psd

These books are all available directly from me (I only ship to Canada and the US) and can also be found on Amazon. They make great seasonal gifts 🙂

Amazon: Paperbacks and Kindle

E-Books

Check them out and let me know what you think.

Karen 🙂

Why I will never be a success on Twitter

I’m going a bit off-topic today to talk about Twitter. Tweeting. Tweeters (or are they called Twerts?). To tweet or not to tweet – is that even really a question? As I sit here pondering the mysteries of social media I have to ask myself: Should I tweet? I’m regularly told by people (who usually aren’t tweeters themselves nor do they follow anybody on twitter) that the way to “get ahead” in the world of writing, self-publishing, blogging and being “seen” is to tweet. But I’m not convinced. I’ve always been under the impression that twitter’s reason d’etre was to discuss topics such as the size of someone’s boobs, the latest disaster in Justin Beeber’s fucked-up-fantasy life, or clothes seen at the Oscars. Is that even how Justin Beeber spells his name? I’m sure someone, somewhere has tweeted about that!

A few weeks ago I crumbled under the pressure and started a twitter account. I learnt about hash tags and @ names. I looked at trending issues and read the secrets to successful tweeting. And then I tweeted. Perhaps I should now join a self-help group? “Hello, my name is Karen, and I tweet.” Or perhaps not. I decided to follow a few other tweeters to get a feel for what’s going on out there, and chose 24 which looked OK. It seems that some people “follow” hundreds of other tweeters, which leads me to believe that they either have no job, no life (or both) or don’t actually read any of the tweets. My 24 tweeters fill my inbox with a constant stream of…what shall I call it? Information? No. Comments? Nah. Important social observations? No. Life-changing insights? No. Definitely not. They fill my inbox with…tweets. I have neither the time nor the motivation to read them, even though some of them might link to something more substantial. Who has the time for this???? And why do they do it? Does it drive business to their website? Help them make sales? I really don’t know. What I do know is that the person who once filled my facebook feeds with multiple tweets written during (and about) a really bad episode of Dr. Who got moved into my “archived” list of friends! Is there such a thing as over sharing? Yes there is!!!!!

So here’s what I’m currently thinking. I believe in saying things when I think they need to be said. And, usually, it will takes more than a sentence to say it.  I will never master the art of verbal diarrhea to the point where I will be able to tweet successfully. Does anybody care if I have crappy nails because I swim a lot? Getting help on such matters are what my friends are for. Should I tweet that I found a new vegan product in my local grocery store? I don’t think so. That’s what my local vegan facebook group is for. Should I send out tweets about “vegany issues” in the hope that someone, somewhere will read them and say “OMG! I should go vegan!” as a result? I’m way too planted in reality to believe that would ever happen. So rather than sending short messages out into the social media void, or reading the tweets landing in my Twitter account, I’d rather spend my time finishing the second edition of my first cookbook, making changes to my 2nd cookbook now that it’s back from my editor (vegan Japanese cooking! How cool is that?), and working on my third one (Vegan Indian recipes and travel tales). And maybe writing the middle bits of a novel. And going out having fun. In fact, that’s why there’s no pictures of any sort with this blog – I’ve left my house sitter to sleep with my cats and gone to Toronto to have some fun, forgetting to bring my camera cable with me 🙂

So, here’s what I think. I tried twitter and, as expected, I didn’t like it. I’ve also tried tempeh, and I’m not sure I liked that much either.  And as for papaya – I’ve now tried it twice and it tastes like something that died a week ago.  I might give either one or two of these another try, but I’ll need some convincing first.

So, tweeters, why do you do it? Enlighten me please! But don’t tweet your answer – I probably won’t see it.

Karen 🙂

New Blog Schedule

I’ll be posting blogs every Tuesday and Friday from now on to give me time to work on recipes and photos for my “Help! There’s a Vegan in India!” Cookbook. I’m also waiting for “Help! There’s a Vegan Coming for Dinner – Japanese Style” to come back from my editor, which will no doubt require some work when I get it. If you don’t want to miss a blog, click “follow” in the bottom right corner of your screen or in the menu bar at the top ….. or somewhere!…..and they’ll be delivered directly into your email inbox.

Karen 🙂

Here I Go. Again.

For those of you who followed me on my previous blog site, I do apologise for my long absence. I’ve been busy doing stuff. Important stuff. Like going to the gym. And doing home renovations to sell a house. And downsizing. And doing home renovations on another house. And popping off to India. Boy, that was fun. Delhi (yes, we went into Old Delhi on the train), Agra and Rajasthan. It was wonderful. And recovering from a really nasty flu bug which I caught from an Australian lady while in India. And, perhaps more relevantly, sorting out a better way to blog. And here it is. It will take me a while to get all the recipes imported and linked together, but that’s it – I’m back!!!!

So…what am I up to now? I’m about to embark upon another eating adventure, adding whole foods to my diet while still sticking to my vegan principals. After re-watching the movie Forks Over Knives ( I first saw it years ago) my hubby and I have decided to give the whole-food diet a go. Perhaps, maybe, hopefully, there’s a small chance that we might lose a bit of weight, skimming off the fat we accumulated on our recent trip to India. “What?” I hear you say “You PUT ON weight in India? How the heck did you manage that?”. Watch this space – I’ll blog about our adventures sooner or later.

romance (Copy)Anyhow, back to the revised dietary plan of the Jennings household. I’ve been eating a plant-based diet for what most people would consider to be a very long time (getting on for 30 years, with the occasional blip here and there) and, while I’m fit and healthy, I’m not exactly what one would call “slim”. I’m certainly happy in my skin, and have no aspirations towards getting a body-type which is contrary to the way that I’m built, but losing a few pounds would be a good thing non-the-less. Over the years, before I accepted that being skinny is not what my body wants or needs, I tried everything from weight watchers (I had temporary weight loss), the Bernstein Diet (OMG!!!! I lost no weight and nearly passed out before they suggested I should leave the program!) and even the raw food diet (which is TOTALLY not for me!!!). But the Forks Over Knives (FOK) diet just might work. It seems to be basically what I already eat, but without the fat, white rice / bread / flour and refined sugar. Wholegrain products have never been a large part of my diet. I’ve always reasoned that a lentil curry, for example, is so full of fibre that I don’t need to eat brown rice with it, especially when white rice tastes so much better. However, over the years my portions of white rice and pasta have increased and the quantity of veggies on my plate has gone down. Last night I asked Alan “Do you have any idea when we last ate a salad?” The answer was “no”, which I suspect most veg#ns and FOK people would shake their heads at in sorrow.

My intentions, starting tomorrow and for the following 29 days, are to stick as closely as I can to the wholefood plant based diet suggested in Forks Over Knives and see what happens. Alan is on-board with the idea, which is a bonus. If I lose a bit of weight – fabulous. And if I achieve nothing more than making my vegan meals even more nutritious than they already are – that’s fabulous too. I’m going to try buckwheat and farro and amaranth. If I can find any millet I’m going to try that too. I’m going to eat…..(drum roll)…..salad. I’m going to re-introduce vegetables into my meal plans. I’m even going to eat some fruit!!! And I’m going to have a lot of fun creating or modifying recipes along the way. I can’t see it being too hard. And yet………

Walk a Mile in my Shoes #2

Posted 7/4/2014 – moved to wordpress

sparta1

A few months ago I posted a blog about the dilemmas of owning leather shoes when eating a vegan diet. Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean I pull on a pair of thigh-high black leather boots every time I sit down to eat a bean or two – but I’m having problems with the whole leather shoe thing.  If I don’t want to digest animals, why would I want to wear them? I think, perhaps, that the best use for leather is to hold the insides of a cow together instead of being used to keep my feet comfy. In “walk a mile in my shoes #1” I proposed that I would go through my closet, remove shoes which I didn’t wear, and respectfully send them off to somewhere new. Since then, I’ve sold a few pairs to people who promised to wear them and appreciate them. Then today, much to my surprise, my vegan sandals and I stumbled upon a way to downsize my shoe collection, give my footwear a second chance, and help people all at the same time! I’d driven to Dymon storage in Kanata, over by Canadian Tire at Kanata Centrum for you local folk, to pick up some extra packing paper, and while I was there I saw a large box containing shoes. The poster said “Soles4Souls Canada – Changing the world, One Pair at a time”. Interesting. I returned home and looked up the website. It said “Soles4Souls is a Nashville-based charity which collects shoes from warehouses of footwear companies and the closets of people like you.” (Hey – I think they mean ME!!!!!) “We distribute these shoes, free of charge, to people in need around the world. Since 2005, Soles4Souls has given away over 7 million pairs of new and gently worn shoes (currently distributing one pair every 9 seconds). The shoes have been distributed in 125 countries, including Haiti, Kenya, Nepal and the United States. Visit http://www.giveshoes.org for more information.”

This could be just the thing I’ve been looking for! I have more shoes than I need, and I feel bad that animals were slaughtered, skinned, turned into footwear, and then left in the dark corners of my closet to collect dust. I admit that by donating them to Soles4SoleCanada I’m doing nothing to improve the lives of farm animals, I’m doing nothing to promote veganism, and I’m not supporting the production of non-leather footwear. What I am doing, however, is hopefully helping people who are not as fortunate as I am. I can pick and choose what I eat, what I wear, and what I put on my feet. I’m aware that, living here in Ottawa, I’m extremely blessed to be able to make so many lifestyle choices. I have ready access to plant-based proteins such as beans, lentils, nuts, “faux meats” and tofu, and have an overwhelming number of fruits and vegetables to chose from. I have no need, nor desire, to munch on a slice of Bessie-the Cow, pork-out on a piece of pig, or heat up a hock of horse. I also, quite honestly, have no  need to wear a piece of cow or horse on my feet. So….sing along with me:

Hi ho, hi ho
To Dymon here I go.
With a boot and a shoe
(and a neigh and a moo),
Hi ho hi ho hi ho hi ho
(Thank you Disney for the inspiration).

If you’ve got any unloved footwear in your closet, whatever it’s made of, why don’t you drop it off at a shoe collection point too? Singing the little song is optional, but I strongly recommend it! See if there’s one near you at http://www.soles4soulscanada.com

Karen 🙂

Art for the Animals

Posted 6/24/2014 – moved to wordpress

I recently had a clearout event for my art studio, which I closed after 20 years of painting. It sounds like a sad thing to do, but in reality it’s something I’ve been planning for quite a while. Downsizing has given me the final push I needed to get the artwork out of my house and into other people’s homes. The plan was simple – post the event on Facebook and Kijiji, take anonymous donations for an animal welfare charity, and brighten the walls of friends and strangers. For the most part, it worked exactly as planned. People came, selected artwork, made a donation, and left happy.kids I’m still smiling about the guy who took a painting containing Pythagorean calculations to put in his computer room, the lady who now has chickens hanging on her kitchen wall, the tearful woman who took away her first ever pieces of original art, and the young mother who now has artwork for her small son’s room. Heartwarming stuff. And yet, sadly, one person became the fly in the ointment. The cloud on the horizon. The hair in the peanut butter. The rain on my parade. The one who said “OMG – I feel so guilty,” as she threw the loose change from her pocket into the donation box and left with a considerable number of paintings to hang in her new four-bedroom home. “They’re for my children,” she cried as she loaded up the small paintings hidden behind the large ones. I really wish I didn’t know that her kids are well past the age of car and ABC paintings. “My walls are so bare!” she declared as she maneuvered the medium size ones out of the door. “I feel just awful!” she said as she dragged out the large ones. Her final words were “I feel so bad! So bad!” as she leapt in her van and drove away. I felt bad too. She took what should have been a joyful event and tainted it. Greed and guilt are things we do to ourselves, and neither brings happiness. It bothered me, perhaps more than it should, until a friend told me a Polish proverb. “Every time you feel yourself getting pulled into someone else’s nonsense, repeat these words. Not my Circus. Not my monkeys.”

japanese

And then I think of the other people who came, and my day brightens again. The lady who returned with a sealed envelope to put in the donation box, because helping animals was important to her. The young woman who fell in love with three small pieces to hang in her tiny apartment. The hugs, the tears, the smiles, the laughter. The ones who took art to sell at fundraisers for other charities. The gratitude of lovely people who understood that art is special and something to be enjoyed. And my gratitude at seeing my creations go to loving homes. And, of course, the happiness I felt at the end of the sale when I selected some charities to donate money to. It was a difficult choice to make. Should I give everything to one organisation and make a big difference, or split the cash between a number of charities? I the end, this is what I chose to do. Five animal welfare groups would each receive an equal amount, with the remaining twenties and loose change going to a local fundraiser to renovate a home for a child. After all, how could I choose to help cats, my companions of choice, and not help dogs? How could I ignore rabbits, when I lived with one as a child? How could I ignore a sanctuary which promotes animal welfare? And, of course, how could I ignore a local handicapped child when my niece spent her short life in a wheelchair?

These are the charities I chose:

The Cat Rescue Network: http://www.catrescuenetwork.org/

Gentle Jakes Coonhound Rescue, which a friend has connections with: http://www.coonhoundrescue.ca/

Sit With Me, as recommended by someone at my clearout event: http://www.sitwithme.ca/

New Moon Rabbit Rescue: http://www.newmoonrabbitrescue.ca/

Big Sky Ranch: http://www.bigskyranch.ca/

Help Lauren King: https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/ek9m8/ab/61dXM2?fb_action_ids=4268372085728&fb_action_types=fundrazr%253Adonate&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582

Thank you to everyone who made this possible by giving words of encouragement, making donations, giving my art a loving home or picking up pieces to help other charities. And to those who read this blog and decide to make a difference in the lives of animals or people… thank you. Make a donation, volunteer, email a neglected friend, write something kind on someone’s FB page. Do something nice for someone today – you’ll be glad you did.

Karen 🙂

The Mystery of the Missing Blog

Posted 4/29/2014 – moved to wordpress

Today is Tuesday. Blog day. And yet….there is no blog waiting to be posted. Despite my intentions of writing one every week (but no more than  one per week – I don’t want to be suspected of having  verbal diarrhea!) I’m sitting here looking at my files and finding nothing. Now please don’t be mistaken – I’m not apologizing or making excuses – there’s no blog because I’ve been too busy LIVING to worry about blogging. This last week has definitely supplied plenty of blog material for future posts, such as the head-jerk reaction from a meat-eater opening a bag of vegan cheese, or the omnivore who, despite my ascertains that he wouldn’t be happy with the texture, cooked a box of vegan “shrimp”.  Oh boy, did I ever laugh. But they will have to wait.

My time since the last blog has been spent driving to Toronto and back twice (putting over 2000 km on my car while doing so), rental-room hunting with my eldest son (insert the words “what the heck is that smell?” here multiple times), being scolded at tango lessons for bending my knees when walking (who would have thought it?) and taking a dance lesson on stage at the Panasonic theatre in Toronto before watching a fabulous performance of Arrabel (memo – when watching a play when the plot is totally explained through interpretive dance, read the synopsis before the play starts lol). I’ve also collected number 2 son from a train station so that he could celebrate his 20th birthday at home and have his wisdom teeth removed today, started to pack my house in anticipation of staging it ready to sell, and made considerably less progress on the Japanese cookbook than my editor would like. Phew! Yesterday I played at being a taxi driver because my husband’s car was at the dealership being fixed (I took number one son to work, husband to work, number 2 son to dentist, a friend to a dealership to retrieve her own car, brought number 1 son back from work and brought husband back from work). And my crowning achievement? Making a birthday cake for my amazing friend Margaret as she celebrates her 50th birthday today.

So, that’s why there’s no blog about vegan-y things this week. But there are, at least, pictures of a vegan cake to keep you happy until next time.

Karen 🙂

cake1 cake2 cake3

Doh!

Posted 4/22/2014 – moved to wordpress

I have friends who love cakes and cookies, ice creams and mousses, sweet treats and desserts. These are the friends who, when invited for dinner, invariably say “Can I bring dessert?” Sometimes I say yes, simply because it saves me the trouble of making a sweet treat which I probably wouldn’t eat anyway. Even before I metamorphosed into an “as close as I can sensibly get” vegan, I tended to avoid desserts. I’m lactose intolerant, and my gall bladder was removed after going mad, so cream was a BIG no-no for me. I’m the only person I know who’s spent a week on a cruise ship and not eaten a single dessert. Not because I was trying to be “virtuous” (as my mother-in-law would put it), but because sweet things simply don’t “do it” for me. Give me a simple bar of dark vegan chocolate every now and again and I’m quite content. Or a bag of salted potato chips – now that would make me happy! So why did I find myself sitting in a parking lot on Sunday wolfing down a donut as if my life depended on it? Personally, I blame the National Capital Region (Ottawa) Vegetarian Society’s facebook group.

Over the past few weeks there have been various posts on the National Capital Vegetarian Association Facebook page showing donuts made by Auntie Loos (https://www.facebook.com/AuntieLoosTreats), which is a vegan bakery in Ottawa. The reviews accompanying the photos and links were super positive, and obviously the donuts are a huge hit. Somehow this idea of “donuts=good!” implanted itself into my subconscious, ready to spring out at an opportune moment. That moment, as it turned out, was on Sunday afternoon.

Before I go any further, let me get my excuses in place to rationalise this sudden need for a sugar-and-fat overload. On Saturday Alan and I drove to Toronto to deliver groceries to our youngest son (no explanation is going to be offered to explain why he didn’t go and buy his own. Kids, eh?) and to see Arrabel at the Panasonic Theatre. (Memo to self – when going to see a play totally explained in the form of dance, read the synopsis before the play starts!) On Sunday we got up bright and early to view rental properties with our eldest son who is looking for somewhere new to live in York in September. There were questions I really wanted to ask the landlords but somehow managed to hold back, such as “What the feck is that SMELL?” and “How old is that “bed”?” and “Where’s the window?” and, more than all the others, “Would you let your child live here?” The first property we saw had two police cars sitting outside. One of the officers explained that usually there would only be one car, but he and his partner had been lucky enough to get one each on Sunday. I’m not sure that made me feel any better! I was definitely feeling a little stressed by the time we had viewed the available rooms and declared them all to be unsuitable. Next came the trial of fitting the contents of a student’s room, along with 3 people, into a car and then closing all the doors. We managed to do so, but it took some snarling at each other to achieve it.

So, after hitting the road and heading back to Ottawa, we stopped at a service station to get some liquid caffeine to assist us on our journey. Hubby and son both wanted a donut, and as I stood at the counter the subliminal message planted in my brain (Donuts! Yum!) leapt into action. I heard myself order a chocolate dip donut for Alan, an Easter donut for son #1, and a maple dip donut for myself. I was a little surprised, but paid the cashier and took my treasures back to the car. Before I even sat down, my donut was gone. It was sugary and maple-y and cakey and fatty, and I loved every bite. However, as I folded up the empty bag, the thought hit me. “I bet that wasn’t vegan!!” It was then that I realised I had absolutely no idea how to make a donut. Do they contain eggs? Butter? Does the icing contain milk? Obviously it was too late to worry about it since the donut was well and truly gone by this point, but I vowed to check it out after I got home. I googled the Tim Horton’s webiste and their helpful document (http://www.timhortons.com/ca/pdf/Allergen_Information_-_Canada_-_April2014.pdf) quickly pointed out the error of my ways. Their donuts are vegetarian, but not vegan. Doh. So, the next time I get the urge to indulge in a something of a donutty nature, I’ll be heading off to Auntie Loos to sample her vegan treats. However, given that the donuts I’ve eaten so far have been at least 10 years apart, I don’t think I’ll be going there for a while!

Karen 🙂

Raw Food Rant Two

Posted 4/15/2014 – moved to wordpress

In my last blog, I talked about trying a raw food diet as a change from eating Japanese food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The challenge I set myself was to make satisfying raw food meals using minimal ingredients and as few gizmos and gadgets as possible. I used a book which claimed I could make meals using 5 ingredients, in 15 minutes or less. As I mentioned in Raw Food Rant One, I was somewhat skeptical!

Day 1 started bright and early, along with the realisation that I should probably have gone grocery shopping the day before. It’s all well and good creating a 5-day menu plan, but if you don’t actually have the ingredients in the house it can be kinda hard to stick to it! Undeterred, I headed off to the freezer and dug out 3 peanut butter-oatmeal-seed balls, which I usually keep on hand for snack-attacks. Oats are not considered “raw food”, but sometimes you have to work with what you’ve got. By 10 o’clock I was starving, so it was time to head back to the kitchen. I’d planned on making a Garden Veg Smoothie, and was happy to find the required ingredients sitting in my fridge. I plugged in my old blender, put the lid on and requested that it pureed the contents of the jar until smooth. It looked at me and laughed, so I had to settle for a somewhat textured green smoothie which I regarded suspiciously, wondering why I hadn’t simply put the veggies onto a plate and called it a salad. I poured half into a glass and put the other half in the fridge for later, mostly because the colour was less than appealing and I didn’t want to commit to drinking the entire thing in one go. Surprisingly it was quite nice, but not very satisfying, so I retrieved the other half and polished that off too.

green smoothie

By lunchtime I have to admit that the cats’ food was starting to smell good. I fought back my urge to put on the rice cooker by mixing up some parsley dressing to pour over sliced avocado, carrots, red pepper and sliced mushrooms. It was chased down by half a serving of Nutty Apple with Ginger. Mid-afternoon found me with my hand in the bag of oat balls, and the kitchen was filled with the smell of dehydrating kale in preparation for dinner. I’d planned other things for dinner, but actually ended up having a repeat of lunch since I already had the dressing made and a half-portion of nutty apples sitting around. I supplemented it with dehydrated kale and spinach, enviously watching Alan chow down a vegan lasagna from the freezer. In the evening I snacked on roasted seaweed and Japanese pickles, neither of which I believe count as raw food. I drank a glass of blueberry juice (out of a bottle – I don’t own a juicer) and went to bed feeling light-headed from the sugar-rush but virtuous. (Memo – don’t drink sugar just before bed if you actually want to sleep. Stick to whiskey as a nightcap.)

parsley dressing

I went grocery shopping on day 2 and stocked the kitchen with fruits, vegetables and raw nuts and seeds. I threw together a fruit and chia seed smoothie (turns out that I don’t like the texture of soaked chia seeds) and munched on dehydrated kale while I mixed up some of the recommended staples such as Thai sauce, curry sauce, sesame humus (it’s chunky but serviceable) and a couple of sweet treats. My blender put in a supreme amount of effort during all this prep work, but it’s totally incapable of creating smooth sauces from nuts. I tried my cracked mini food processor, but all it did was leak, and I had to settle for textured results. By the end of the day I’d consumed a couple of smoothies (I’m so sick of washing my blender!!) and tried two of the corn-based dishes (the salad was OK, but the pureed corn patties were….not). I seemed to have spent most of the day eating, but I never felt satisfied. I didn’t enjoy the sugar-rushes I got from dried fruit, and struggled with the concept of adding 3 tbsp of coconut oil to a fruit smoothie. This new eating plan contains a lot more fat my body is used to, and it’s not happy about it. When Alan and I went to a Meet-up in a pub that evening, the greasy fumes coming off the plate of fries ordered by the guy sitting opposite me made me feel nauseous. I sipped my decaf coffee (not raw, but who cares) and day-dreamed about freshly baked bread, steaming soups, and other low-fat forbidden foods.

I started day 3 with a vegetable smoothie and proceeded to munch my way through the day. I became obsessed with the idea of eating, but didn’t relish the thought of drinking yet another smoothie or chopping yet another vegetable. My body rebelled against the increased amount of fat in my diet, and when I picked up an avocado to add to a salad, I returned it to the bowl unscathed and gave it a foul look. I tried to follow recipes in my raw food book, but very few of them can be made without a high power blender and / or food processor and / or other tools, and very few of them actually only have the promised “5 ingredients”. I spent more time in the kitchen than usual, even though I had pre-mixed dressings in the fridge, and had lost my appetite by the end of the day. I couldn’t stand the thought of another handful of nuts, another sugar-rush fruit smoothie, or another feckin’ sliced zucchini. When we went out to a steampunk gala that evening (it was fab!), I stayed away from the plate of raw veggies on the snack table. I’d rather be hungry than eat one more bleedin’ stick of celery.

smoothe

By the time day 4 (Sunday) arrived, I was beginning to wonder if I would make it to the end of my 5 day trial without falling off the wagon. Breakfast was a banana-mango-hemp milk smoothie (it’s a shame raw food diets don’t include soy milk – it has much more protein than nut milks), followed by mixed veggies, cashews and Thai dressing for lunch. It tasted OK, but I had trouble eating it – I was somewhat distracted by Alan’s steaming, hot, fragrant bowl of faux-meat ramen.

hemp smoothie

In the afternoon Alan and I went to see “The Lunch Box”, which is a lovely movie set in India, following the lives of two people linked together by notes in a lunch box. Every time the man in the movie opened his lunch box and inhaled the aromas, I could smell the spices. The movie finished and I turned to Alan. “Curry?” “Oh yes!” We drove to Tandoori Fusion in Bells Corners where I had a fabulous vegan dinner of aloo gobi, spiced lentils and roti. It was a huge relief to sit down with something hot, spicy and filling. I ate half and took the rest home for lunch the next day. For the first time in four days I felt satisfied both physically and emotionally, and I knew that the raw food trial was over.

So what have a leant from this? Obviously the most significant discovery is that a raw food diet is not the right eating style for me. I’m going to add more raw veggies to my meals, but they will be joined by steaming bowls of lentils, hot or cold bean dishes, and soy-based proteins. I think it will be a long time before I can face eating another nut, but I might add hemp hearts to a salad every now and again. I’ve also learnt that cookbooks sometime make promises they can’t keep, and I will be careful to avoid this in my own cookbooks. As for dinner tonight, it’s yellow split pea soup with onions, carrots, celery, garlic and potatoes, with a side salad of…..no, I’m joking. There’s no side salad 🙂

Does anybody (Ottawa area) want a slightly used (there’s writing on some of the pages) raw food cookbook? Free to a good home – but you need to have a high power blender to make the most of it. Let me know if you’re interested!

Karen 🙂

Footnote: I know somebody is bound to be asking themselves  “But how much weight did you lose on your 4 day raw food diet?” And the answer is ……none at all. My body knows what weight it wants to be, and it’s sticking to it.

Raw Food Rant One

Posted 4/8/2014 – moved to wordpress

For the last five months, almost every meal I’ve prepared (including breakfasts) has been influenced by Japanese cooking. Heavy on the soy sauce, mirin, tofu, and rice; very light on the fresh fruits and vegetables. I’m finally into the “pulling it all together into book format” stage and desperate to munch down on some quick and easy veggie-based dishes. I’ve been intrigued by the idea of a raw food diet for a while, and this seemed like a good time to investigate it. I’ve previously been put off by the image I have of a kitchen full of dehydrators and power-tool-like equipment, so I was delighted when I found a book in Chapters which said on the back cover “No complicated equipment or techniques are required – just five ingredients and minimal know-how.” Woo hoo!!!!! This sounds like a good introductory book for raw food wannabes. I opened the book and read the introduction. It addressed the very questions I had been asking: “Doesn’t raw food take a long time to prepare, and isn’t it complicated to make, requiring a lot of special kitchen equipment?” to which the author replies “The answer to both is a resounding no. Raw food can be as simple to make as Lime Tomato and Avocado Chili…..and all can be prepared in 15 minutes or less.” Wow! I was impressed by these claims but still a little doubtful, so I read on. “In this book you won’t find recipes that require hours of soaking, sprouting or dehydrating.” (Fab!) “Anyone…..can make these recipes using standard kitchen equipment.” That was it. Sold. I bonded with the book, and held my head high as I walked down the aisle to publicly declare my intentions, witnessed by a cashier, to cherish this book ‘til death do us part.

Spoiler alert: For me, the most important parts of a relationship are trust, honesty, and integrity. The book seduced me with its come-hither looks and words of comfort and hope, then broke my heart in the harsh reality of day. I’m pausing here to sob on my keyboard, happy only that my tears are, to the best of my knowledge, raw.

raw1

The day-after-the-night-before, I got up early and curled up on the sofa with the regulated quota of cats and a steaming hot cup of tea (I never thought to ask… Is drinking hot tea allowed on a raw food diet?) to become better acquainted with my new love. I recalled the promises made to me in the store: 5 ingredients, 15 minutes or less, standard kitchen equipment. I re-read the pages which had seduced me, then moved on to the explanation of “Five-Ingredient Recipes.” Why does that need an explanation? Surely the title says it all… but wait! Somebody is fiddling the numbers! “These recipes do not count salt or water as one of the ingredients.” Hmm. OK. I can live with that. I always have them handy anyway. “These recipes may rely on recipes from the “In The Pantry” chapter to create more complex dishes, in which case the recipe is tallied as a single ingredient.” Now maybe it’s just me, but that sounds like cheating. I turned to the “In The Pantry” chapter and took a look. Quick Thai Cream Sauce needs almond butter, water, lime juice, coconut oil, agave nectar and wheat-free tamari. That’s 6 ingredients. Oh, wait, water isn’t an ingredient, so that leaves 5. I can use it to make, for example, Carrot Pad Thai (an additional 5 ingredients, one of which is salt, so let’s call it 4), topped with lime (another ingredient) and Teriyaki Almonds (5 ingredients, none of which are salt or water.) That means, depending on how fancy I get, Carrot Pad Thai actually has between 11 and 14 ingredients, not 5. Now don’t get me wrong – I have, on occasion, played with numbers to get the results I wanted, but this concept of claiming that 6 – 1 + 5 – 1 + 5 = 5 is new to me. I felt my brow start to furrow, which is not a good thing at my age – the forehead wrinkles tend to stay for hours if I frown for too long. Maybe this was just an oddity in the book. I flipped through and found another recipe: Squash Burrito. 6 ingredients, minus the salt, leaving 5. One ingredient is sunflower seed hummus, which has 6 (make that 5) ingredients. Total: between 9 and 11, depending on how you do the math. Not all the recipes require the use of Pantry items, but there’s enough to make me worried.

Another cause for concern is the repeated appearance of words like “blender,” “food processor,” “mandolin,” “spiralizer” (WTF?) and “juicer.” I flipped through the book. With the exception of 4 (that’s FOUR) recipes, every single one of them needs one or more of these pieces of equipment. Red flags started waving in my imagination. It would appear that the author’s idea of “standard kitchen equipment” differs somewhat from mine. I have a wooden spoon, a grater, an old potato peeler (oops, no I don’t – it went to Toronto with one of my kids), two really good Japanese knives and a cheap 10-year-old blender. And, of course, a rice cooker, but I don’t think that’s going to be much help! I threw the cats off my lap and went equipment-hunting in my cupboards, thinking that somewhere I might have an old hand-blender with a mini food-processor attachment. After a bit of investigative work I found it. The processor bowl has a few hairline cracks in the bottom, and it’s about the size of a grapefruit, but it will have to do.

Later that day, the cats and I returned to the sofa with another cup of tea, armed with a notebook and pen. The mission: to find recipes I could tackle with my limited equipment and create a 1-week menu plan / shopping list. I vowed not to let the words “process at high speed” and “blend on high power” deter me from trying the recipes, and I would have to find some way to use my knives and potato peeler instead of a mandolin or spiralizer. One way or another, I was going to make this work. “Good luck with that,” said the cats as they shed hair all over the sofa, me, and the book.Sparta

Let the battle commence.

Karen 🙂

Footnote: I’ve set myself a few ground rules:
If I’m hungry, I’m going to eat. I’m not doing this to lose weight.
If I don’t have an ingredient, I’ll use a substitute.
I won’t set myself up to fail – if I can see that my blender isn’t up to the task I won’t use that particular recipe.
I’m not giving up my hot cups of tea. I’m doing this to try to introduce more raw food into my diet, not to make myself suffer!