Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Blog

After one year, Chris and I have decided that the vegan blog has run its course. We have talked about it the past week or two and think the best decision for us now is to spend all the time we have being active and productive rather than taking time away to share what we've been up to. I realize I am not finished with the challenge but the idea of continuing the blog for another two weeks just to finish the challenge seems unnecessary and relatively unappealing. I have enjoyed blogging, but with everything else that needs to be done and with the time involved in posting, I don't feel like the blog is adding to Chris or my life any longer. We hope you understand and we hope you will continue the vegan lifestyle. We may post again some day but for now, so long.

May your days be healthful!

Monday, September 10, 2012

MTV Power Yoga

This DVD was good, though not the greatest. I think it would be good for beginners/intermediate yogis looking for something a little different. It would also be good for those who are a bit younger and are looking for a non-spiritual, straight-forward workout. It was 45 minutes long, with a 5 minute bonus pilates workout at the very end. The workout was good, with a lot of sun salutations and fluid movements that were repeated. The instructor didn't explain all the moves as well as I would have liked for a DVD but there were three other people doing the workout who showed beginner, intermediate, and advanced modifications of the exercises. I liked that aspect of it and I feel pretty good overall. The music is more techno and house than rock or alternative, which surprised me.

Monday, September 3, 2012

National Yoga Month: Shiva Rea, Bob Harper, and Exhale Core Fusion

For today's workout, to celebrate National Yoga Month, I did several different DVDs with a yoga and subtle movement theme. National Yoga Month is a program that brings awareness to yoga and gives you one free week of yoga classes in the month of September at many locations across the nation. I hope to participate this year with a friend.
The first DVD I did was Exhale Spa Core Fusion: Thighs and Glutes. Core Fusion's workout classes are frequented by the toned celebrity elite and a few years ago they were the biggest thing to hit the fitness world since the pilates craze of the early 2000s. Now the husband and wife team have several DVDs out and I decided to review the Thighs and Glutes one because I feel those are my weakest areas. I have done their Body Scuplt workout and while the movements are small, they are effective and tough. The same holds true for this workout which was a bit slower than I would have liked but I certainly feel a difference in my thighs and lower body. I did 3 segments from the DVD-Turned Out Thigh, Standing Gluteal Toner, and Kneeling Gluteal Toner-as well as a 5 minute thigh toner included in the bonus section. There are also two 10 minute segments from thier other DVDs which I think is really great because it gives you a chance to see thier other workouts and you could do two or three glute segments and include one or two of the bonus ones for a total body workout! My only complaint is that for some exercises the instruction is a bit confusing, as on the Kneeling Gluteal Workout where they simply say "turn your thigh out" and do not specify which way.
Second, I tried to do Bob Harper's Inside Out Method: Yoga for the Warrior and it was HORRIBLE! I only did 20 minutes out of 60 and for me that is saying A LOT. He was very arrogant in his commentary, saying something to the effect of, "You've never done anything like this. I am taking yoga that you know and turning it on its ear." Chris almost always does yoga with me but he wouldn't even consider doing it after hearing the introduction and music (grunge-rock). For one, from what I did and saw (I watched some more of the workout toward the middle and end), it was not that hardcore or revolutionary. Second, he was obviously gropping the two female participants in the workout. At the 20 minute mark, because of his commentary and obvious gropping, I had had enough. It wasn't a bad workout, either. Just one with a ridiculous instructor and music. I thought I would really like him, too, because he is vegan and knowledgeable about nutrition and whatnot, but I even tried The Biggest Loser: The Workout with him and he was so...patronizing and condescending that I had to stop after 10 minutes. Also, like Jillian Michaels, Bob Harper does not do the workout with you and for me that is rather unsavory and unmotivating. If you are going to brag how tough the workout is, get down and do it with me!
So then Chris and I did Shiva Rea: Creative Core Abs which is 37 minutes in length and it was really grand.  Chris says that he liked it and parts of it were challenging. She is a wonderful woman who is very knowledgeable and passionate about living yoga. I really liked this and would recommend it for those who would like to get into doing yoga but who also want to get a real workout in. Keep in mind, however, that this is focusing on more "traditional" elements of yoga that may not be what you expect: there are not many downward dogs or other poses/asanas that are familiar. Mostly, it is ab work through fluid movement with spontaneous movement weaved through that allows you to focus on your body and the movement it wishes to follow. Overall, it is a very liberating and strong workout.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Firm: Body Sculpting Basics

This is called Total-Body Workout with Weights with Susan Harris. It is 60 minutes in length and an overall effective workout. The older Firm workouts (those on VHS) are more weight-based as opposed to cardio-based. I really didn't like the music for this one because it was a little slow and very silly but most older tapes have pretty good, upbeat music. As an instructor, Susan Harris was good but the workout was a little difficult to follow at times. I would say overall that this is a typical older-Firm workout and anybody could benefit from it but those new to exercise might want to try something a bit easier and more upbeat.

This VHS also has the Firm's somewhat famous 20 Questions about Fitness, which is a 40 minute piece answering 20 common fitness questions. The information is surprisingly up-to-date and modern. The answers were very forward thinking and honest. Some of the questions posed are ones that modern fitness research is still trying to grapple with. For example, concepts like muscle confusion, aerobic training zone, and what constitues a healthy diet. The answers provided were along the lines of: muscle confusion-doing many different exercises with different weighted dumbells and intervals-is necessary for sustained results because the body does not have a chance to adapt. Your target heart rate should be a certain percentage (70-80% I believe) of your max heart rate which is 220 minus your age (mine target is around 140-165) and not the lower intensity "fat burning zone." Lastly, they came right out and said don't eat processed foods or sugars if you want to be healthy and lose weight. In the 90's, with the rise of convenience foods, that statement was really something.

I found a link on Vimeo for 20 Questions about Fitness and would recommend checking it out if you want a crash course in health and fitness or are curious about how to begin a healthy lifestyle program.

Also, I want to say that Chris inspired me to work out tonight. I didn't want to but he said he would stay up with me if I did my VHS tape. Look for motivation and inspiration in others when you can't find it in yourself.
Lastly, I leave you with a quote I read in my Runner's World magazine today:
Change doesn't happen in your comfort zone.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

On Motivation and The Firm: Calorie Explosion

This is an interesting workout by The Firm because it is much different than most they have done. It is comprised of a four minute warm-up, four 12 minute segments (Kick Butt Athletic Drills, Explosive Power Moves, Cardio Kickboxing, and High-Intensity Moves) with a three minute cool-down to finish. I really like the Cardio Kickboxing segment because I love kickboxing and I feel really strong punching and kicking. The segment is what one would expect from a Firm Kickboxing workout: some exercises are tough but overall not really badass.

Today, however, I did two other segments I have not previously done: Explosive Power Moves and High-Intensity Moves. Overall, I was a bit disappointed. Alison Davis-McLain is my favourite instructor of all-time, but with these workouts they are just too short and not as challenging as they sound. I did them back-to-back (I skipped the cool-down on the first segment and I skipped the warm-up on the second as they are the same for each segment) for a total 31 minute workout. I did not feel sufficiently challenged, though I do feel like I got some working out done. I would recommend these for a beginner, but the moves go really fast in places and I fear that a beginner would have trouble with certain exercises. So I would sum up my review by saying it is good for when you want short bursts of exercise (like when you are in a hurry). I would also say that it is good for beginners who are familiar with proper form for squats, lunges, and the like or for those who run, bike, swim or otherwise don't do a lot of strength training and who would like to incorporate some easy, quick workouts with weights into their routine.
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(Image is one of my many "drawings" on Microsoft Paint.)
I also want to take this post as an opportunity to talk about motivation. Luckily, Chris and I do not have a television, couch, or much junk food so I have less things to distract me from working out (which, incidentally, is why we don't have those things...) but not everybody is willing or able to go to such extremes. Besides,even without those I find it difficult at times to motivate myself. I want to share some tips below for how to become and stay motivated. 

I chose to do this workout specifically because I knew that it would be short and there wouldn't be a lot of reps for any exercise. When your motivation is flagging, don't ask your brain to do 3 sets of 25 reps or something you find equally tedious. I also chose one with my favourite instructor to help push myself. Overall, I normally would have done a longer workout but under the circumstances, I think it is always better to move some than not at all. That way, your confidence and mood get a boost as well as your waistline.

What to do if your motivation is flagging:
1. Identify why you don't want to work out. Tired? Working out with give you a surge of energy, especially running or biking which give an endorphin rush. Bored? Do something you haven't before or call a friend.
2. Think about how working out will make you feel.
3. Pick something that is relaxing or isn't very demanding. Yoga, pilates, running, and walking all have added psychological benefits with varying levels of difficulty.
4. Still not into it? Say "just 15 minutes" (like the segments in Calorie Explosion). 15 minutes goes so quickly that you will still have plenty of time to do all you need to and still some leftover to relax. If you feel like going more, keep going!
5. If after 15 minutes you aren't feeling it, call it a night. Feel good that you moved. You have proven to yourself that you can workout!
6. Also, if you are constantly flagging, try working out in the morning before work and chores stress you and distract you.

I hope that gives you the boost you need. Look for at least 23 more videos in the coming weeks!
May your achievements be many!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pilates and Yoga: Mari Winsor and Shiva Rea

Today I did a 50 minute VHS tape from Mari Winsor that brought me back to my early teens. I started pilates when I was 13-14 and I feel in love with how simple and effective it was, in only 20 minutes. I have always thought Winsor pilates was among the most effective out there and Mari Winsor's guidance is both amusing and helpful. What I like most about pilates is that you can get a great total body workout without any equipment in relatively little time with almost no sweat. It is pretty slow paced in the video I did, called Accelerated Body Sculpting (there is a DVD version as well) but that allows you to really target small muscles and is a nice change from boot-camp style tapes or those that are really aerobic. The only downfall is that you get almost no cardio in the workout, so I wouldn't recommend doing just pilates. I think it would be ideal for runners or bikers who do a lot of cardio because it would provide much needed core strength while strengthening smaller, less used muscles and giving you a bit of stretching throughout the workout. Adding pilates to your routine one to three times a week would bring a lot of benefits. To sum it up: her style is really fun and though the workout can be a bit slow at times, it is a really great core and total body workout with no weights.
 
Chris and I then did Shiva Rea's More Daily Energy with solar and lunar flow mixes for daytime and nighttime practises. Chris and I both dearly love this DVD as it really allows us to relax and focus on our breathing and how our body is feeling. Like other Shiva Rea DVDs, this one has a customizable "yoga matrix" that lets you select between seven 20 minute practises. This is a good place to start for a beginner, for somebody who would like to take their practise to the next level, or who simply wants to get a good start to the day or wants to unwind at the end. Highly recommended!!

Vegan on the Cheap: Healthy Ramen

For this cheap and easy dinner idea, I used two packages of Koyo vegan ramen (I used the mushroom and tofu with miso kinds) along with some additional ingredients to jazz things up for a large serving that Chris and I split.

some onion
5-10 white button mushrooms
1/2 package firm tofu
2 cups chopped red cabbage (from our garden!)
several frozen carrot slices
1-1 1/2 cups frozen peas
2 packages of ramen
1 tablespoon vegetable broth (powdered)
optional: additional spices such as soy sauce, garlic, onion powder or pepper.

Sauté onions mushrooms and diced tofu for 15-20 minutes. Then add in water (follow direction on packages, plus 1 cup) and the vegetable broth. Add in cabbage, carrots, peas and all other remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Let cook according to pacakge directions, I would say about 8-12 minutes depending on how you like your noodles done. The meal cost around $8 or $9 for the both of us. Also, if  you want to make your own from scratch, Fred Meyer has some stir fry noodles for around $3.00 that I have used before to make this. It is not as good as real ramen noodles, but if you can't find any vegan ramen it is a good alternative. I was going to be really cheap for this and use the "Top Ramen" by Maruchan in Oriental flavour, which is vegan, but it had almsot 400 calories and 14 grams of fat!!!! The vegan ones I saw by Koyo on the other hand, had only 1 gram each and about 100 calories!

Look for more "Vegan on the Cheap" posts next month!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

3 DVD Day: Shiva Rea and ENVYgirls

I did two DVDs today by Shiva Rea called Radiant Heart Yoga and Yoga Trance Dance which were both just okay. The first is only 35 minutes total, which is unusual for most of her DVDs because she usually has a "yoga matrix" filled with 5-30 minute segments that you can mix and match. Chris and I did it together and it was meditative, though not quite what we expected. We didn't particularly care for the prayer wheel section because that wasn't what we were feeling like tonight. I would recommend this for somebody who is looking to relax and learn more about authentic yoga practise.
The other, Yoga Trance Dance was not really what I expected. I did 5 minutes from a video on youtube (click link to watch video) a while back and I really enjoyed that. Unfortunately, that was the best segment I did from the whole DVD. I would say I spent about an hour or so dancing and I did a fair number of segments. I did the complete "introduction trance" that was 20 minutes, plus others from the yoga matrix. They were less guided and most seemed to encourage spontaneous movement, which doesn't really need a lot of instruction...So I would say this was fun, interesting, and meditative (though in a very different way than the other Shiva Rea video) that would be good to add in to your routine when you find yourself in a slump in your day, in your yoga practise, or in life but not something to rely on. 101 minutes total.
Then, I did the ENVYGirls workout which has 4 DVDs that are about 30 minutes each (5 minute warm up, 20 minute workout, 5 minute express workout) that work specific body parts: Arms, Abs, Legs, and Buns. Each workout is guided by a woman with a "superpower" or body part that is enviable. The workouts are really good surprisingly and they thoroughly show you the moves before you do them. One feature I like is a rep counter that appears on the screen showing how many of each exercise you have left to do. Because of this and the fact that they list the name of each exercise before you do it, these would be a good workout for the deaf or hearing impaired. I did all of them today, skipping the warm up on all but the first one, and think that they are really interesting, effect, and something different than the norm. I would recommend these for when you want to change things up or target a specific body part.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Restarting the Challenge: The 500 Calorie Workout

I apologize for restarting the challenge-the past week has just been so hectic. I try to be an inspiration and motivator for everybody, but sometimes there is just too much going on and you need to take a bit of time away. The challenge will now end on SEPTEMBER 25, 2012. (the day I take my GRE!!!!) There are two main reasons why I have not posted, or done any videos:

1. I was ill for several days with stomach cramps and problems.
2. The biggest factor: Chris and I have decided that I should apply to graduate school at UC Berkeley for next fall. That means I am going to work on my PhD for the next 7 or so years, if I get accepted. They have a master's and PhD in the History of Art program that is combined, so you can focus on studying. I want to explore the relationship between art and war, and their effects on culture. Particularly in France and Germany in WWII and how the Parisien emigré artists who came to New York during the war affected American Modernism and Abstract Expressionism. I have been super busy compiling information about moving, applying for jobs, going to interviews, getting letters of recommendation, studying for the GRE, and writing. I have spent a great deal of time on this project because it means so, so much to me and I want to be as well informed as possible. I am ready to recommit to working out as of today, however. I know that these next few months will be hectic but I hope to show that health should always be a priority and give advice about how to stay motivated when you get busy or are moving to unfamiliar territory.

Thus, starting as of today is the new challenge. I will review 30 + tapes during these next 30 days (not including the two I have already viewed) and keep you updated on the moving/school plan.
 
The workout I did today was The 500 Calorie Workout by The Firm which is really tough but really effective. Personally, Kelsie Daniels is not my favourite instructor because she is less...personable than the others I suppose, but she always creates a good workout that gives results. There are a lot of reps that are challenging, the push-up section is a killer because I am not that good at doing them. Most of my body strength is in my biceps and shoulders, not so much my chest or upper back. Plus, push-ups are just hard! I like that she does some longer workouts (this one is 67 minutes) because I like working out for long periods of time and most other Firm tapes nowadays are around 45 minutes in length. I have checked out a lot of exciting DVDs from the library and look for a 3 DVD day tomorrow (Shiva Rea Trance Dance, Firm VHS and a surprise DVD)!

In other news: Chris and I got a new mattress and box spring set that is made with ORGANIC COTTON!!!! We are loving it and I am so happy we could find something sustainable. They had organic bamboo ones, too!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cardio Dance Fusion

This workout is SO fun. Really. And the music is great. The Swing section with the Charleston move is my favourite. I love Alison Davis; she is probably my favourite fitness instructor of all time. At 45-minutes in length, you get a good workout that is all cardio/body-weight exercises. Great for when you need a light workout or something to do when you are dragging in your routine. Chris almost always suggests doing this workout when I'm feeling unmotivated and I am always glad he did once I finish. Good for beginners-advanced looking for something interesting, fun, and uncomplicated.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

2012 Workout Video Challenge

So, it is nearly that time of year again. I have decided to do this year's 30 days of workout tapes challenge a bit early because I have done so many great workout tapes this year and have some more coming in the mail any day now. I want to share some of my favourites, ones that look interesting or challenging, and let you all know what I have to say about them. If there are any you have been looking at, heard about, or would like to know more about, I will try just about anything. Yep, I have done The Envy Girls workout...one "envy girl" is a playboy model. But, you know, it was a tough, well-planned workout. Sometimes things are surprising! (I will check it out from the library and review it formally, so keep a look out.) Just leave a comment in the comments area if there is anything you can think of.

For me, workout tapes are up there on the list of the easiest, most effective, and enjoyable ways to stay fit. That is because: they are cheap (many I am going to review are available from the King County Library System or for pennies [literally] on amazon.com), they require little or no equipment, provide extra motivation, and can be done at any fitness level at any time in the comfort of your own home. What more can you ask for?

If you would like to see the tapes I reviewed last year, click August to see the beginning of the challenge and some of the reviews, and click September for the rest.
First up is Low Impact Aerobics VHS tape with Janet Jones. At 65 minutes in length, it is a good all-around workout. And you have got to love the music and hairstyles! Seriously though, this workout really strengthens your arms and lower body (especially glutes and thighs) while being well paced and fun(ny). I bought my tape on amazon.com for under $5 with shipping and everything! I may do another DVD/VHS tonight...I will just post it on tomorrow's workout if I do.

May your multi-coloured spandex leotards be many...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Raw Camping Weekend

This past weekend Chris, myself, and just about all of our friends went to La Push along the Washington coast. Chris and I decided to bring along only raw foods and we both ate completely raw all day on Friday and on Saturday Chris ate raw until about 4:00 pm and I ate raw until about 8:30 pm, at which point we had both felt like we were lagging and without a lot of energy. (Thanks to Loren and Corey for sharing their cooked vegan fare.) Friday felt amazing; we both were full of energy and we felt light on our feet. The morning on Saturday was great as well-we both awoke relatively early and headed down to this part of the beach where there are tall rocks and did some morning-ocean beach-yoga. It was so great to move and breathe along to the sounds of the waves. After yoga, we sat upon some rocks and meditated for about 15 minutes or so and then walked back and started our day. Towards the afternoon is when we started losing steam (Chris got a little cranky...) and we talked about eating some cooked/non-raw things later in the day. I made it a total of about 44-5 hours, Chris about 40 hours. Overall, the first 36 hours were grand and detoxifying.
We brought the following, sharing some things with others and with a lot of left-overs:
Items with an asterisk * were not organic
Items with a backslash / were largely uneaten

4lbs of grapes
2 large cucumbers
4 lbs of blueberries*
2 lbs of strawberries
less than 1 lb of raspberries
4 apples
5 avocados*
2 green, 2 red, 1 yellow bell peppers*
1 fennel bulb /
2 peaches
1 nectarine
3 plums
1 red onion
1 small white onion from our garden
2 boxes of small white mushrooms*
4 stalks of celery /
2 cups almonds (or so)*
2 cups sunflower seeds (or so)*
3/4 head of red cabbage from our garden /
1 large box of spinach
several basil leaves from our garden /
1 bunch each of cilantro and parsley /
3 marigolds, 2 nasturtiums and a pansy from our garden
2 small boxes grape tomatoes
2 cans of olives*
4 oranges
2 large heads of broccoli /
1 box of deli sprouts
1 head of green curled leaf lettuce
1 small package of baby carrots /
1 kiwi /
1 large bunch of bananas
1 package dulsse seaweed, uncooked (SO delicious!!)
Chris says: The first day felt good. I enjoyed all of the fresh foods and the tasty recipes we created. The guacamole (pictured above, left) Jessica made was really good. For me personally, being raw long-term would be very difficult.

The recipe for the guacamole is simple, yet so delicious. I used 2 avocados, several sliced grape tomatoes, a pinch of chopped cilantro and parsley, chopped dulse seaweed (sort of salty and so, so good), a tiny bit of chopped red and white onion and some salt and pepper. I then mushed everything together with a fork and we were set. We ate it with red bell pepper slices and it was so satisfying. I also had some with mushroom slices but Chris and I both preferred it with the bell peppers.

That meal was then followed by an excellent creation Chris discovered while reading, of all things, a book I recommended by John Grisham called A Painted House. In the book, they set out a plate with their meal filled with cucumbers, tomato slices, and onion slices topped with some salt and pepper. So good!

That was followed by a massive fruit bowl filled with grapes, blueberries, strawberries, and apples.
Later, at night, we had a mega salad that impressed everybody around the fire. Thanks go out to Jimmi for taking the photograph! It had everything: spinach, cabbage, olives, flowers, sunflower seeds, dulse, lettuce, chopped fennel, basil, cilantro, parsley, tomatoes, avocado, mushrooms, and sprouts. Whew! After that salad, we were both feeling really good.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Confetti Garden Salad

I made this salad a few days ago with red cabbage and other greens from our garden and lots of edible flowers from the garden as well: rose petals, pansies, nasturtiums, violets, and marigolds. I added in some spinach from the store and topped it with a French vinaigrette we have that is kind of sweet and it was really grand! Balsamic and oil or another favourite vinaigrette would do well with this salad. Most garden salads need something subtle, because they are delicate and can be easily over-powered by traditional dressings.

If you don't have a garden, you should start planning. No space? Salad greens like kale, lettuce, chard, and mustard will grow just about anywhere as will herbs and strawberries. In pots, on the side of the house, in a vacant lot...give them a try. Too late, you say? Salad greens of all sorts do best when it's cold, especially heat sensitive spinach and mustard as well as other plants such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Head to the supermarket or nursery and pick up a couple packets of Russian Red Kale, Rainbow Chard, Curled Mustard, Green Salad Bowl Lettuce, and whatever else strikes you. Also, if you take a stroll around your neighborhood or go to visit friends or family, I assure you that you will find some nasturtiums, marigolds, roses and/or other edible lovelies. Go ahead and snag a few. Nobody's looking....Don't forget, too, that there is a lot you can forage! Dandelion greens, for example, are quite edible and tasty in a salad. Also, one of my favourite things are blackberries and they are just coming in to season now. Throw a handful in to the salad and jazz things up even more! Read this excellent article on foraging no matter where you live for more ideas. When foraging, it is a good idea to research well. This fall, look for more ideas on wild plants and see our foraging exploits in the woods!

So, that's my advice for making this salad. It is fun to eat, pretty to eat and you certainly get a good nutritional boost if you follow the advice of having lots of colours on your plate!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Pasta Alternatives: Raw Pesto

This is a raw pasta dish made with our basic pesto recipe, kelp noodles, avocado, and sliced zucchini.  The pesto is made with garden basil, pistachio nuts (pine nuts are traditional, walnuts are good as well), fresh garlic to taste, and olive oil.  Parmesan cheese is traditional as well but to make it vegan we substitute nutritional yeast.  Adding spinach is good for making more pesto with less basil, we always seem to have lots of spinach around.  Part or all of a red bell pepper or shallot will add a bit of zest to the sauce, I used a quarter pepper and an eighth of a shallot for this dish.  Combine all ingredients in a food processor and mix until creamy.  It helps to grind the nuts before hand I have found but a little chunky is not always bad.  I don't use specific measurements with the pesto, it's quite simple, just keep adding and tasting until you dial it in.  Just start with a fistful of basil and a clove of garlic and go from there.  Be sure to rinse the kelp noodles and store the rest in water till you need them.  Then slice up some avocado and zucchini and serve.  Its very fresh and crisp, good for summer time.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hemp Product Review

Corey this post is for you! For those of you not fortunate enough to know Corey, he, among many other things, is the industrial-hemp advocate for our group of friends. He knows his stuff!
Anyways, in this post I want to share three hemp products that Chris and I know and love. The first is a granola bar that is super nutritious and delicious. The second, a castile soap that is made with hemp and almond, though other scents are available in hemp. Click here to see them all. Smells really good and works wonders.The third is a hemp protein that Chris and I add to smoothies and other dishes, including pesto!

Nature's Path Sunny Hemp Granola Bars:
The nutrition information is good for these, we like to use one as a midday snack or along with a small smoothie for breakfast. There are 140 calories, 3.5 grams of fat and a bit high with 24 grams of carbohydrate and 11 grams sugar. However, there are 3 grams of protein and fiber, 100 mg potassium, only 90 mg sodium, along with 2% calcium and 6% iron.

Dr. Bronner's Magic Pure Castile Classic Soap in Hemp Almond:
Their soaps are described on the website as, "Unlike any you’ve ever used. A combination of organic extra virgin coconut, olive, jojoba and hemp oils, together with pure essential oils, creates a unique soap that cleans effectively without being aggressive and produces a velvety-lather that leaves the skin silky-smooth and refreshed." We think it's great. We use it on our animals when we bathe them, on us as body wash and whatever else that gets dirty ; ) At Fred Meyer one time, I talked to a woman who used it as shampoo for her hair. So many uses!

The ingredients are great: Water, Organic Coconut Oil*, Potassium Hydroxide**, Organic Olive Oil*, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Natural Almond Fragrance, Citric Acid, Tocopherol
* Certified Fair Trade
** None remains after saponifying oils into soap and glycerin
Also, certified no animal testing!

Lastly, but certainly not least, is our favourite hemp protein:

Tempt hemp protein by Living Harvest in Original is good, but we often use Nature's Way EFA Gold Protein Powder, too. In fact, that's what is in our pantry right now. I will give a run-down of both!
Nutritional information on Tempt: for 4 tablespoons or 30 grams:
120 calories, 4 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbohydrate, 9 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar and 13 grams of protein!! The vitamins and minerals are: 9 mg iron, 50 mg calcium and 330 mg potassium.
Nutritional information on Nature's Way:
130 calories, 3 grams of fat, 14 grams carbohydrate, 14 grams of fiber, and 11 grams of protein! The vitamins and minerals are: 2.5 mg iron, 40 mg calcium and potassium is not listed though there are only 15 mg of sodium.
So there they are. I hope we have turned you on to some new and interesting products that are really nutritious and sustainable! Corey, I hope you like the post and I hope you are enjoying your honeymoon! Congratulations, again!

And, if you are interested in approving and legalizing industrial hemp in the United States, specficially Washington, read and sign this petition to Legalize Industrial Hemp Farming in Washington State Corey was kind enough to pass along: Click here to read and sign.
Also, for further hemp products, read my review of milk-substitutes and see how hemp milk rates.

Quinoa Salad with Radishes and Olives

This is a super simple and easy salad that Chris and I had a night ago. I used pre-cooked quinoa that I made earlier in the week, chopped up some green leaf lettuce and several radishes and added 1/2 can of black olives. We used balsamic and oil dressing, though you could use something different if you would like.

This lovely salad reminded me of a quote: "...My salad days, / When I was green in judgment, cold in blood..." It is a line that Shakespeare wrote in the 1600's and the expression "salad days" comes directly from him, meaning days of youth and innocence.

He also said, "A man loves the meat in his youth that he cannot endure in his age."
It just proves that there's a little something from Shakespeare for everybody.

May your salad days be many!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Post Workout Smoothie

Jessica has asked me to post about our basic workout smoothie we have been drinking.  Start with a large banana or two and coconut milk (or hemp milk), add 1 tbls of maca powder, carob powder, and hemp protein.  Mix some chia seeds with a few ounces of water and let sit for a minute so the seeds gel up a bit then add the mix.  Lately we have added vanilla chai Vega powder as well.  The chocolate or berry or original is good too, just a flavor preference.  The vanilla chai is a little sweet but tasty. A good smoothie with many restorative qualities to follow any workout.  

Garden Artichokes, Vegan Eggplant Parmesan, and Quinoa Stuffed Grape Leaves

I made a really elaborate dinner last week just because I had been meaning to use some artichokes and to try out stuffed dolmas, or grape leaves. I also had a bunch of eggplant lying around and thought I had better use it. So, this Italian feast was crafted. Begin by cooking the dolmas, as they need to sit to cool for some time and you can cook the eggplant dish while they are cooling. Make the artichokes last and serve them first, as they are not good cold and they take the least amount of time to prepare.

Quinoa Stuffed Grape Leaves (Dolmas)
(pictured at the top of the plate)

This recipe is different from traditional, which usually uses white rice and pine nuts. I experimented and it turned out good! You can purchase the leaves at markets and grocery stores, they aren't too hard to find. Because the jar comes with A LOT, you could multiply the recipe and use these to make great appetizers!

For this you will need:
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
5-8 dolmas
1/4 cup almond meal (ground almonds) or ground pine nuts or walnuts
good squirt of fresh lemon juice (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 onion
several white button mushrooms
salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
2 leaves of basil, chopped finely
1/2 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons balsamic
1 teaspoon red wine
1 teaspoon dried dill

Cook quinoa in rice cooker or on stove top for 20-25 minutes. Let sit to cool. Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Sauté onion and mushrooms with wine, oil and balsamic. If making the whole meal, simply use 1 whole onion and set 1/2 of the onion mixture aside for the eggplant. In a small bowl, add in almond meal, lemon juice, spices and some more olive oil (about another 1/2 tablespoon). Rinse grape leaves and lay flat, with vein-side up. Add in quinoa to the mixture and stir thoroughly. Using a small spoon, scoop a bit of the mixture onto the grape leaf and roll up, folding in edges and sides as you go. Place in a baking dish that is taller than the dolmas. Continue until you have used all of the mixture. Add water to the baking pan, almost covering dolmas. Place in oven and cook for 1 hour. When finished, let them sit. You can actually let them sit while the eggplant cooks, making this an easy transition!

Vegan Eggplant Parmesan:
(pictured at bottom of plate)

For this dish, I absolutely winged it. I have never even had chicken or eggplant parmesan in any capacity. I did find out after, from Chris, that there is usually marinara sauce involved but I think this is good without. Feel free to add in some tomatoes and/or sauce though!
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 medium eggplant
1/4 cup vegan Parmesan (such as Galaxy)
1/2 onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon good red wine
2 teaspoons balsamic
2 teaspoons coconut milk
salt, pepper

Cut eggplant in half, salt each side thoroughly and let sit for 40 minutes or so. Rinse, then get out a pan and begin to sauté onion in olive oil and balsamic for 5 minutes. Slice eggplant in long thin strips or slices. Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit. Add to pan along with wine and turn to medium heat. Let cook for 10 minutes or so while the oven preheats. Grease a 9 x 12 inch glass baking dish with vegan butter and layer with some cornmeal, garlic powder and vegan Parmesan. Add in the first layer of eggplant, trying not to overlap them. Then add in another layer of cornmeal, Parmesan and garlic powder. Add until all are used. Then top with more cornmeal and a good hefty shake of Parmesan, salt and pepper. Also add in the coconut milk to the top as this will make the Parmesan and cornmeal golden and somewhat melted. Yum! Bake for 40 minutes, until golden brown crust has formed on top. So, so good.
For the artichokes:
1 large artichoke from our garden in addition to 2 small ones

I used the rice cooker and steamed them on "steam cook" at number 35. If you don't have a rice cooker, simply steam them for 30 or 40 minutes, until soft and olive-green. Scoop out the thistle part, a yellow-white coloured section of the artichoke normally seen where the large gap is shown in the photograph, add in some smart balance and serve! You can eat the whole heart and then eat the little delicious "buttons" at the base of each leaf. Chris is not a fan, but I certainly am! Especially when they are from the garden!

Buon appetito!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Almost Au Gratin Potatoes

Although the etomology is odd, Au Gratin means roughly "grated" in French. Basically, I think of it as a dish that involves thin potatoes, cheese and baked goodness. For my version, I didn't bake (though you certainly could), I used red potatoes, and vegan nutritional yeast to create this comfort food dish for Chris one day.
I used:
3 medium red potatoes, sliced thin
1 medium onion sliced paper thin
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon almond meal (ground almonds)
1 tablespoon or so bread crumbs
2 tablespoons coconut milk or other milk substitute (you can add more if needed; you don't want the potatoes to stick too much to the pan)
2 teaspoons balsamic
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
salt, pepper
1 sprig of rosemary (from our garden)

Sauté onions in olive oil and balsamic, then add in the potatoes and cook on medium heat until they begin to turn golden. Stir occasionally and add in coconut milk as needed to prevent the potatoes from sticking too much. Add in nutritional yeast and other ingredients after about 20 minutes of cooking the potatoes. Add in remaining coconut milk and stir all together, cooking another 5-10 minutes. You don't have to add in the bread crumbs or almond meal if you want a creamier texture, Chris just happens to like things with a bit more texture so I went with them. Add in some more coconut milk/nutritional yeast if you want them extra creamy. Serve with toast and a glass of coconut, rice or hemp milk for a hearty breakfast, with an open faced sandwich and soup for a savory lunch or with Field Roast faux-meat "Celebration Roast," which is stuffed with rice and squash, or other faux-meat, a small green salad and a glass of red wine for a French-inspired dinner. Happy cooking!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Veganomicon's Acorn Squash and Black Bean Empanadas

This recipe comes from a wonderful resource on cooking, with instructions for mincing, dicing, broiling and more. All vegan recipes cover everything you could want, for any schedule. Certainly a must for those who are new to cooking or who wish to improve their skills.
On page 55, there is a recipe for Acorn Squash and Black Bean Empanadas. I adapted it to fit what I wanted to fill the emapanda with, but I will include the original recipe below.

Pastry:
2 cups all purpose flour (I used whole-wheat pastry flour because we don't have white)
1/4 cup corn meal
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated vegan shortening (I used one by Spectrum)
1/2-3/4 VERY cold water (I stuck mine in the freezer as soon as I knew I was going to make these)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Filling:
1 acorn squash (about 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 average-size red onion (I used white/yellow)
2 jalapeños, sliced thinly (I don't like spice, so I used green chili peppers)
2 teaspoons crush coriander seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
about 2 tablesppons water
1 cup cook black beqans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons fresh  lime or lemon juice
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

I didn't add the cumin or crushed coriander. Instead, I added a bit of cayenne pepper, paprika, tumeric and I chopped up some cauliflower and red pepper for the filling.

Preheat oven to 400 Fahrenheit after you are done with the dough part; you will need the oven heated
for the squash.

Prepare the pastry: Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder in large mixing bowl. Add the shortening by the teaspoon or so. Use two knives held together to cut shortening in.Add about 3 teaspoons, then cut in. Repeat until you have used 1/2 cup.  You want a crumbly looking dough. Add apple cider vinegar to 1/2 cup water and add in about 1/3 of the mixture, then stir dough with fork. Repeat until the mixture is used. Add in up to 1/4 cup more water, if needed. Make a ball with the dough and roll out to about 8 x 5 inch rectagle, covering with parchment. Place in the refridgerator for at least an hour.

Cut the squash and place it face down on a baking sheet and follow directions on the sticker. It should bake for 30-40 minutes. While this is cooking, sauté onion and peppers and then add in corianderand garlic after a few minutes. After another minute, add in sumin, salt and the water. Add in the squash after you cut it into 3/4 inch chunks (skin removed). Let cook for around 5 minutes before adding in the cup of black beans. Lastly, add in lemon juice and syrup. Turn off the heat and prepare the dough.

Grease a baking sheet and get the dough from the refridgerator.  The authors (Isa Candra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero) say to roll the dough out to a 9 x 12 rectangle, trim edges, and cut 3 inch squares, taking each square and rolling it until it is about 6 x 6. Chris and I were hungry so I just made two large empanadas with some dough left over. Then, if you follow the recipe instructions, you should fill the 6 inch square with two tablespoons of the filling, fold into a triangle and press the edges together. Then bake all empanadas for 25-30 minutes. The recipe makes 12 empanadas that are meant for an appetizer. Like Chris and I, you could simply make a bigger square for a full meal. While time consuming, Chris and I were both pleased with the results.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Garden Inspiration

For this post, I wanted to highlight some gardening being done in Tacoma, Seattle, and beyond. There are many, many more gardening experiments around than are shown here but I hope to highlight a few every now-and-then to give some new ideas and to show how easy and/or elegant it can be.
From top to bottom: 
1. A lovely, large garden near A and 84th in Tacoma. They are growing tomatoes in pots, placed in tires so that the soil around the roots stays warm. We currently have all our tomatoes in pots, most are black, and the tomatoes are all doing well. Their roots like it warm!
2. Part of my mother-in-law's backyard. She has a large flower gardens as well but I thought this area was charming. She lives in Enumclaw.
3. A community garden near Wright Park, around J and 24th in Tacoma. Taken in the middle of winter, they have kale, chard, violets and herbs growing in this shot.
4. Taken at Tacoma Lutheran Retirement Community, near 6th and Pearl in Tacoma. They have a large community garden with all kinds of neat things. I think they are even trying strawberries hydroponically.
5. I spotted borage in a small garden while walking Bella, near C and 82nd in Tacoma. They have peas growing as well in the background.
6. Garden area near A and 84th in Tacoma. Not sure if they are growing anything edible, but it sure looks nice with the little pond and all the tall foliage for privacy.
7. and 8. Both taken at Corey's great-aunt's house, who lives in Seattle, overlooking Alki. She has planted agave and other succulents in pots for a stunning effect, which love the sea-climate. She also grows strawberries and lavender, among other things. Also, Corey has started a test-garden there with edible plants.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Thai Stir-Fry Adaption

For this adaption, I cooked a few cups of basmati rice in the rice cooker and topped it with:

1 small onion
10 small white button mushrooms
1/2 bag of frozen vegetables (zucchini, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli and green beans. You can use fresh if you like, though frozen can be convenient.)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup of coconut milk
2 teaspoons of vegetable broth
1/4 cup Annie's Lemon and Chive Dressing
Hearty shake of Italian seasonings
Cayenne pepper to taste (you want the dish to have a bit of bite)
salt, pepper

Sauté onion and mushrooms in oil and then add in the vegetables. Let cook until soft and browning. Then, add in 1 1/2 cups or so of the rice and add in the dressing and other spices. Serve and enjoy!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pizza Post

Here are two pizzas from Sammy's Pizza/Petey's Pub, a place where you can bring in your dog on 6th Ave. in Tacoma. They did a great job of accommodating us. We got the Garden without cheese with a gluten-free crust and the Popeye without cheese with thin crust. The first had peppers, red onion slices, olives and other wonderfuls and the second had artichoke hearts, red onion slices and spinach.
Then, we found a gluten free and vegan pizza crust at Fred Meyer called Rustic Crust for around 4.95 and it was really good though one fell apart when I took it out of the package. It was delicious though! I added simple ingredients. To make both I used: a tiny bit of olive oil rubbed on the crust, 1 tomato, several small white mushrooms, several small bell peppers, several leaves of basil from our garden, 1 clove finely chopped garlic, 1/4 thinly sliced onion, pepper, Italian seasonings and to mine I added a few artichoke hearts. The directions said preheat oven to 450 Fahrenheit, then turn to 425 Fahrenheit when you are ready to put the pizza(s) in. Cook for 12-15 minutes, until golden. I found the directions were true and that the pizzas turned out lovely. Chris really enjoyed it!