Eat Clean – Best Recipes of 2013

Avocado ToastEver since cutting out dairy and wheat {mostly}, I’ve spent A LOT more time in the kitchen. It can be tricky eating out — and almost always stressful when you are starving at your desk at 2pm with chocolate and latte cravings. When I eat crap, I feel like crap. When I eat dairy or wheat, I feel disgusting. So, about a year ago, I made a commitment to myself to pay more attention to what I put into my body and start making clean eating a priority.

I’ve learned that I fuel my body with the best when I’m organized. For me, this means having a plan of attack before heading into a new week, thinking through meals, weekly grocery shopping and finding new recipes that I’m excited about. I’m very much a learner and have thoroughly enjoyed stepping outside of what I know and experimenting with the unfamiliar.

For the most part I eat vegetarian, no dairy, no wheat. Every so often I eat fish or seafood. Why? I like it.

Throughout 2013, I tried a ton of recipes. Lot of wins, some failures. When I’m looking to try something new, I tend to check out: Oh She Glows, The Kitchn, Elana’s Pantry, Edible Perspective and Vegan Yack Attack. Pinterest also has many gems — Whole Foods does a great job of curating content.

This year I learned that… you have to add banana to a green smoothie in order for it to not to taste like ass; it’s super easy to overcook rice pasta — set a timer; you need to rinse quinoa {high five!}; overnight oats make for healthy {and efficient} breakfasts; sorrel is a tasty green; and that I love avocados more than any other fruit or vegetable. Obsessed.

These were my favourite recipes of the year:

…. um, YUM. The strong majority of them get 5 stars, a few get 4/5 stars, all are worth trying them out.

I’m not going to pretend that trying out new recipes doesn’t take time. It sure does! My advice to you would be stock your kitchen with the ingredients you always use {for me, this would be grains, beans/legumes, nuts, seeds, oils, vinegars, almond milk and coconut milk}. Then, buy the fresh veggies, fruit or meat you need weekly {or daily or whenever!}.

I never ever EVER eat well every day of the week. Something will happen in my week that throws me off track and the next thing you know I’m at Starbucks having an Awake Tea Latte for “lunch.” Heh. I almost always take time over the weekend to think through lunches for the week and find a few new recipes to try {usually 2 max}. The more recipes that you try, the more often you’ll be able to wing meals. With a large recipe rolodex in my head now, I’m a lot less dependent on recipes and often couple “winging it” with new recipes and a bit of the basics.

Never forget about the basics. I’m pretty sure my favourite snack on this planet is avocado on {gluten free} toast with crushed roasted red peppers and sea salt. I  love rice pasta with olive oil, garlic, lemon and sea salt. Pancakes are my best life. Love love love.

When brainstorming basics, think about mexican {tacos are simple and amazing}, italian {pasta with veggies — easy peasy},  thai {stir-fry with basmati rice} or a simple salad. Any of them can be whipped up in a pinch!

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.” – Julia Child

Interested in salivating a little bit more? I save all recipes I find {and fall in love with} in my Evernote vortex. It’s public — no need to have Evernote, to view them! Although, I highly recommend you get it. :) It’s an awesome way to keep life organized!

Got a fave recipe that you’ve tried this year? Share it with  me. I’d love to try something new!

Major gratitude to Joanne at The Healing Cuisine for always teaching me a new thing or two about nourishing your body with good. If you are ever in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, look her up! Her cooking classes are off the hook!

PS – Be mindful that your  meals are balanced — ensure you have calcium, protein, iron, vitamin B12 and omega 3’s in your diet!

Reset Me, Juice Men!

My home girl, Devon Brooks, introduced me to The Juice Truck {and then The Juice Cleanse} forever ago. Zach and Ryan are the two lads behind both concepts — and Devon is their mentor through the Canadian Youth Business Foundation.

Anyways, The Juice Truck is amazing. They have a food truck-esque setup in Gastown and fill locals bellies full of goodness every day! The Strawberry Coconut and Blueberry Matcha smoothies are divine!

A few months ago The Juice Truck launched The Juice Cleanse. I have always been somewhat skeptical of juice cleanses {or any cleanses, really} — it just hasn’t been my thing. I kinda put cleanses in the same world as ‘lemon water’ and ‘cayenne’ diets. ;)

With that said, I have learned a lot about healthy eating and my body this year. The raw food course that I took with Joanne at The Healing Cuisine in Costa Rica totally changed my life. I began to explore all sorts of different foods and I’m becoming more and more skilled in the kitchen!! Housewife skillz up in here!

Now, I pay attention to labels — I want to know what’s going in my body. I aim to shop local and spend time at the farmer’s market. I’m on my way to cutting out dairy and wheat. I make a conscious effort to include super foods in my diet — whether that be avocados, blueberries, quinoa, kale, walnuts or chia seeds! Yes my idea of a good time is still brie, a baguette and a glass of red wine. ;)

Couple these diet changes with running and — whoa, this is the year of healthy mind, healthy body!

I’ve realized it’s time. Time for me to become one with the le juice.

Time for me to press reset and detox the body.

It’s all going down this Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Stay tuned!

Trading Baguettes for Buckwheat

Just over a month ago, I was chatting with my friend about our careers, life, boyfriends {or lack of ;)} — and we got on the topic of her Naturopath. She raved about how Dr. Alea Gill at Vancouver Naturopathic Clinic is the bees knees of Naturopaths.

About 5 years ago, I dabbled in the naturopathic world — nothing really came of it and I honestly put in zero effort. Over the last few years, I’ve struggled with my blood counts {generally run on empty — white blood cells, neutrophils and ferritin}… and have yet to receive a diagnosis from a GP. Some have told that my low blood counts are now my normal, others have said I need to get blood transfusions and others think I have an auto-immune disease. My last Hematologist in Calgary was convinced I had celiac disease — and that my consumption of gluten was preventing iron absorption {and the like}. Celiac screen — negative. Celiac scope — negative.

So anyways, add in the Scoliosis and I’ve been around the block when it comes to doctors. :) The good news is that I know my health history off the top of my head and I’m totally up for exploring any type of alternative health practitioner.

I booked an appointment with Alea and thought if she can figure me out, I’ll heart her forever. I filled out the application form in advance {tough questions on there!} and patiently waited for October 22nd! Something I love about the field of naturopathic medicine is that it’s a holistic approach to the body — Alea wanted to know everything from physical health history to major life stresses to health habits to expectations.

Mind – body – soul treatment is totally up my alley.

I made it to my first appointment and we had quite the heart to heart. I’m convinced that Alea is going to be able to get to the root of the low blood counts… we both agreed that something internal is preventing absorption. I’m thinking it may be trial and error for the next few months, but my goal is to get everything sorted by late Spring. Alea challenged me to do a few things — and asked me if I’d be willing to take a food allergy and sensitivity test… To date, I’ve never been told I have an allergy, but I’ve always been curious about the test and thought why not!

A week later I went in for the Vega testing. I was already on a mission to cut dairy out of my diet — see 2012 goals… but I didn’t want to be told that I was allergic to bananas, tomatoes, avocados or any of my favourite things.

The results surprised me… officially allergic to wheat, dairy, eggs, peanuts, chocolate, sugar, MSG, cats and dogs. Oh man, eh.

This is how the results were processed in my brain: I love bread. LOVE BREAD. WHAT WILL I DO WITHOUT BREAD? I’m already planning on cutting out dairy. No biggie. Never really liked eggs — talk myself into eating them usually. Sigh, peanut butter, sigh. :| Chocolate? Meh, not a fan anyways. Sugar… ok. MSG… don’t like Chinese food. Not a cat person. Dogs? … ok.

I met with Alea after the test was done and she walked through next steps. The plan would be to cut all of the sensitivities out for the next 3 months and determine how my body reacted. Apparently sometimes you are able to reintroduce sensitivities back into your diet once your body has sorted itself out.

I went home that day excited about the change. I thought this is not big deal, as long as I start to feel better. My biggest complaint on a day to day basis is that I’m freaking tired — all the time. Yes, many of you are reading these words right now thinking — slow the eff down. I know, I know. But to my core, I know that there is more to my constant state of tired. Something is going on in the le body.

Over the next few days I planned how the wheat-free, dairy-free life would look… I wanted to be prepared and organized for November 1st {diet change day}. Yes I sure did have a baguette in my final days with wheat haha. Regardless of my good intentions, the first few days of November were TERRIBLE. I was not organized — and VERY hungry. On around day 4, I realized that this diet change was going to mean a lot more cooking at home, packed lunches and weekly grocery shopping. I took this lifestyle change as an opportunity to get back in the kitchen and enjoy cooking again. I’m a big ‘everything happens for a reason’ person — so I do think this is probably the kick in the pants I needed to find a bit of routine in my life.

“What is always speaking silently is the body.”

– Norman Brown

On a wheat-free diet, you can still have kamut, spelt, rye, barley, oats, buckwheat, rice, quinoa, coconut flour and nut flours. Surprisingly, lots of options — I can still have bread! Dairy-free has been no big deal, as I’d already made the switch to almond milk, coconut milk yogurt and soy-free Earth Balance! I picked up some Daiya cheese and I was good to go. No need to bring up the brie that will arrive at my Mom’s house over the holidays next month please and thank you. I tossed the peanut butter and bought almond butter — which I find nasty by the way {apparently it’s best if you make it yourself} and I’ve just become aware of my sugar intake. I am a brown sugar in black tea kinda girl — but that’s an easy habit to switch.

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

For the last few weeks, I’ve been experimenting — and totally loving it! Not ever dish I’ve tried has been a success, but these ones sure have:

The easiest way to be successful with diet changes is discipline and routine. I created a recipe vortex in Evernote — and it’s been a lifesaver for ideas and last minute meal planning on the way home from work.

I updated my pantry with some new staples: buckwheat flour, coconut flour, oats, chickpeas, red quinoa, chia seeds, nutritional yeast and all sorts of nuts. One of my favourite food blogs is Oh She Glows — and Angela has a great post on the vegan pantry {for the most part I would consider myself to be a wheat-free pescatarian who dabbles in the raw and vegan world}. A few people have said to me — ‘instead of focusing on what you can’t eat, focus on what you can eat.‘ BUT WHAT ABOUT MY BRIE AND BAGUETTE? ;) I’ve taken away bread, couscous, milk and cheese — but I’ve added way more foods! Way more!

For the most part I have followed the diet to a tee — yes, I did have a mini chocolate bar a few days after Halloween and I did go to La Taqueria one day for lunch {flour tortillas… boo}. I have been craving all sorts of things that I’ve never craved before — and I think it’s just psychologically because I can’t have it. I’m not going to get all psycho on myself when I slip up {it’s bound to happen}, but I do know that I feel ass-tastic when I eat wheat or dairy. That’s what has stopped me from going to Finch’s for a baguette these past few weeks– so good, yet so bad now…

The hardest part of this whole adventure is leaving the house — ha ha. Yes, you read that correctly! All is well when you’re whipping up delicious meals under your own roof. As soon as you leave the house though? You’re not in control and it’s stressful. I now know that I need to find the restaurants in the city that cater to my lifestyle and stick with them. Vancouver is actually a really easy city to be vegetarian and/or gluten free — lots of options {Acorn, Heirloom, Naam, Nuba, East is East and the list goes on}. Last weekend I had a brunch date at Harvest Union and devoured gluten free waffles. So legit — better than the real deal.

Quinoa Cakes

I have no idea where this new lifestyle will head in the coming months — but what I do know is that I feel the best I’ve felt in months — maybe even years. Crazy, eh? Perhaps it’s the paying attention to my body… perhaps it’s the new diet… perhaps it’s a combination of a whole lot of other things going on in my life… I’ve got no idea.

Feeling good is a great thing though.

Regardless if you’re a carnivore, vegetable addict or baguette and brie lover… do what you gotta do to live your best life.

Note: Some people don’t believe in naturopathic medicine, some do. Some people don’t support food allergy and sensitivity testing, some do. Some people don’t support a ‘vegan’ diet, some do. Figure out where you stand and just do what’s right for you. :)