Sunday, January 30, 2011

Canadian Moose Bourguignon


A few weeks ago I made Beef Bourguignon - with moose, and it was incredible! Years ago I made it despite the fact I was a vegan and didn't eat it, so this time it was nice to be able to indulge in my efforts. This particular recipe comes from Ina Garten, from The Food Network. The only changes I made were to swap the regular flour for millet flour, and of course, use moose instead of beef. The dish takes a few hours, but makes a large batch, sure to keep you fed for days. 



Beef Bourguignon

Copyright Ina Garten, All rights reserved

Prep Time:
30 min
Inactive Prep Time:
--
Cook Time:
1 hr 15 min
Level:
Intermediate
Serves:
6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 8 ounces dry cured center cut applewood smoked bacon, diced
  • 2 1/2 pounds chuck beef cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound carrots, sliced diagonally into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)
  • 1/2 cup Cognac
  • 1 (750 ml.) bottle good dry red wine such as Cote du Rhone or Pinot Noir
  • 1 can (2 cups) beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, divided
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound frozen whole onions
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms stems discarded, caps thickly sliced

For serving:

  • Country bread or Sour Dough, toasted or grilled and rubbed with garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, optional

Directions

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate.
Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside.
Toss the carrots, and onions, 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper in the fat in the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol. Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with the juices. Add the bottle of wine plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat. Add the tomato paste and thyme. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 1 1/4 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork.
Combine 2 tablespoons of butter and the flour with a fork and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned and then add to the stew. Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.
To serve, toast the bread in the toaster or oven. Rub each slice on 1 side with a cut clove of garlic. For each serving, spoon the stew over a slice of bread and sprinkle with parsley

Monday, January 24, 2011

Answers and Chocolate Cravings


Today I'm answering some questions that I've recently received. First, a reminder that I'm only speaking from my own personal experience, and according to the plan my homeopathic doctor has put me on. I get some really in depth emails from folks who are still confused, not knowing what to eat, and asking me - but the truth is, I don't know any better than they do. I'm still finding what works for me. I'll say it once again - if you are confused and struggling, consult some kind of holistic practitioner.

Do all your MAIN meals include protein? Do you ever eat just eat veggies by themselves?

Yes, all my main meals include protein. Usually eggs with breakfast, meat or fish with lunch and eggs or meat at dinner - always with veggies. Sometimes I eat veggies alone. I might have a salad, soup or veggies with a dip for a small meal. But for most of my meals I eat veg with protein. This will probably change when I start introducing sweet things again, like fruit, although I will have to make sure to keep enough protein that I don't crave sugar like I did before.

Are you allowed to eat lentils or legumes?

The word "allowed" really makes me cringe. It seems that our society is so terribly caught up in doing the "shoulds" that we don't listen to our own bodies - myself included. I have eaten a small amount of legumes lately. For example - I made split pea soup for guests last week and had a bowl. I ate hummus while out with friends yesterday, but before that I don't remember the last time I ate these foods. In my mind, the question is - how does it feel for YOU to eat these foods? For me it feels heavy so I keep it minimal.

What do you think of vega? And brown rice protein powder?

I've tried vega once and found the taste to be horrific. I've tried a few brown rice proteins and find that my body responds fine. I particularly like Epic Protein (Vanilla Lucuma), but am not currently consuming it while being off sugar.

What made me switch over from raw vegan? 

I'm still being asked this question occasionally- read my health story HERE, and a progress update HERE.

Am I eating too many fats? I eat avocado, eggs, cheese, yogurt, meat, and oils. 

First of all, I believe our bodies require healthy fats. Secondly, I think it really depends on YOU. I eat all the fats you mention, and I think I'm consuming too much fat at the moment, but I think the fat in combination with the protein is what's helping me stay off sugar, so I'm going with it for now.

What's a typical 3 day meal plan for you?

This is SO individual. Check THIS POST for what I have been eating daily. We all have different bodies which means we all have slightly different food requirements. Also, my diet changes subtly these days, so 3 days wouldn't necessarily provide the best overview. For example, one day I might eat some starchy things like yams, while the next day I may not eat any.

Chocolate Cravings


Today for the first time in ages, I'm craving cacao - and I'm rather annoyed by it since sticking to my new diet has been effortless for the most part. One day last week I had a minor sugar/cacao craving as a result of a liver cleanse remedy that Denyse had me on, so it was "to be expected". I rode it out, and sure enough it passed within a few hours.

I realized today that the craving is a result of my monthly friend, who just arrived. What's interesting is that in the past I ate so much cacao all the time, that I never noticed a difference during my period. Now that I'm so far removed from cacao, I can see that this isn't an emotional craving, but clearly a hormonal thing. In fact, I have been around chocolate quite a lot lately - pulling it out of the freezer for guests, sending off choccie packages to friends, and so on - so I am certainly past the "craving" stage.
Anyway, I battled it out for a while. I ate a colostrum/hemp milk/chia mix for breaky, salad with venison for lunch... but then I just couldn't hold any longer. I ate a small piece of raw chocolate before heading out the door to the gym. Yes, I could have walked away, but I decided to have a bit. I felt fine physically, and the craving went away. Plus, it doesn't mean that everything has to come undone just because I "broke my diet". I'm moving on.

Muscle and Fitness


Moving onto another point... the great weight debate, strength, and fitness. As I mentioned in another post, I have gained weight since adopting my new lifestyle. While I have my occasional freak outs about this, I can confidently say that some of it is muscle. I feel MUCH stronger now, and feel better in general. I have become stronger in my yoga practice, and have recently started working out at the gym for the first time in years. I'm going partly because it's minus a million here with 10 feet of snow on the ground which means no outside activity, and partly because I'm going to a bikini destination soon and want to trim down. An incredible surge of energy had me running on the treadmill the other day, and it felt great. My newfound strength has me walking on the treadmill a steep incline at a pretty fast pace - effortlessly.

As an aside, many years ago I did gymnastics, then got into cheerleading, running, and light weight lifting. When I became vegan (upon turning 14) I lost my strength, and about 10 lbs (although I was at a fit, normal weight to begin with) so fast that I couldn't do some of my regular gymnastic moves anymore. At the time I didn't know what the heck was going on, and my coach/friends accused me of not eating and being anorexic, but now I see that it was my body's negative response to removing the animal protein from my diet. In fact, at one point my hair started thinning, I was tired all the time, skinny, and super pale. When it was recommended that I start eating meat again, I said "Absolutely NOT" and continued on for 13 years. I think my body adapted to some extent - but I've come to realize that it adapted trying to get as much sugar as possible, in the form of constant cravings.

I still believe that some people can thrive on a vegan diet, however, I am not one of them. If I could go back to being raw vegan and be completely balanced, I'd return to it in a heartbeat. I will always have a major passion for raw foods, and it will always be a part of my life.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Soup and Salmon


My sugar/cacao free cleanse successfully continues, and I'm still surprised at how easy it's been. Sometimes I wonder how it would have been, had I adopted this way of eating years ago. I could have preventing some serious overdosing on sweet things, that's for sure! Better late than never though.

I'm having fun playing with new recipes, although most often I eat the same things every day. My morning plain yogurt followed by breaky of salad with wild meat or 2 eggs with veggies - then the reverse for lunch. Last week I made a fabulous moose meat lasagna, with eggplant and zucchini for the noodles, organic tomato sauce, veggies (zucchini, onion, bell peppers, mushrooms, spinach), and raw white cheddar cheese on top. I think I could eat it every day.

I've also made a few more recipes from Nourishing Traditions. My friend Nancy, and I have started doing weekly dinner dates where we choose new recipes to try, (often from the book) and it's been a lot of fun. We've made spicy moose patties, spaghetti squash casserole, broccoli timbales, roasted veggies, and almond dill crusted pickerel.

I was in the mood for a silky, hot, buttery soup last week and this smooth butternut squash soup was born... the coconut milk in this recipe and a bit of shredded coconut on the salmon below are the extent of the sugar I've eaten, so I guess I have ingested a little bit - but very minor overal.


Butternut Coconut Ginger Soup

1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped ginger, or more
1-2 teaspoons red curry paste
1 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium/large butternut squash (peeled and chopped)
1-2 stalks celery
6 cups water or stock
1 can coconut milk

In a large pot, saute the onion in the oil until translucent.
Add the garlic, ginger, curry paste, coriander, and salt. Saute for another few minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients except for the coconut milk, bring to a boil and the simmer until the squash is soft.
Add the coconut milk and puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor.
Thin with a bit of water if the soup is too thick.

Another day I made some Coconut Crusted Wild Salmon with Cilantro Jalapeno Yogurt Sauce which was inspired by a salmon recipe in a new book that my bestie, Lauren, got me for Christmas called The Earthbound Cook. It's a great book with heaps of recipes using whole foods. While the author served the fish with a sweet chile sauce, I went in a different direction with a creamy herbed sauce with a touch of heat.


Coconut Crusted Salmon with Cilantro Jalapeno Yogurt Sauce

Coconut Crusted Salmon
Double or half the coating according to how many pieces of salmon you want to make.

Juice of 1-2 limes
1 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup finely chopped macadamia nuts
Sprinkling of Himalayan salt and black pepper
Salmon fillets

Brush or pour a little lime juice over each fillet.
Toss the coconut, nuts, salt and pepper together in a shallow bowl.
Press the top of each fillet in the coated and place coconut side up on baking sheets.
Bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through to your liking.


Cilantro Jalapeno Yogurt Sauce
I didn't do any measurements for this sauce, so just add according to your taste.

Plain yogurt
Chopped cilantro
Minced jalapeno, to taste
Squirt of lime juice
Pinch of salt

Stir ingredients together. Serve over the fish.

Dilly Salmon Salad



I cooked extra salmon and turned it into a delicious salmon salad the next day. I love it on salads, on cucumber slices, and in celery sticks!
Add large chunks of cooked salmon to a food processor, along with lemon juice, fresh or dried dill, green onion, olive oil, salt, pepper, and apple cider vinegar, and blend until smooth.

Coming up... Moose Bourguignon!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sauerkraut Recipe


Last month I made a huge batch of one of my favorite foods - sauerkraut! Mmmm, I go through periods of eating a lot of it - sometimes it gets my tummy bubbly (read: gassy) if I haven't had it for a while, but that's just the body adjusting. Unpasteurized sauerkraut and any fermented veggies contain bacteria that is highly beneficial for the gut, aiding in better digestion.

While you can add all kinds ingredients to your kraut to flavor it, I prefer mine pretty simple - either plain, with caraway seeds, or dill. In the past I've made it with dill and garlic which is also nice.

It's really very easy and inexpensive to make kraut, so if you haven't already, give it a try! I'm sure there are a million variations but here's how I make it:

Sauerkraut

1 large green or red cabbage
1 tablespoon himalayan salt
1 tablespoon caraway seeds, dried dill, or other herbs/spices (optional)

1. Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and thinly slice it with a knife or in a food processor.

2. Toss the cabbage and salt together in a large bowl. The salt draws water out of the cabbage, creating a brine, and also preserves it during the fermenting process. I added caraway seeds at this point.

3. Massage the cabbage, speeding up the release of water, and/or place a plate with a weight (rock, or jar filled with water) on top until you notice the liquid. I like to massage it and then let it sit with a weight for 20- 30 minutes. A good amount of liquid should be release before moving on.

4. Add herbs/spices of your choice, and/or other veggies and toss together.

5. Spoon the mixture into glass jars and then firmly press the kraut down (I use a wooden dough press) to release all air bubbles, and to bring up liquid level. The liquid must rise above the cabbage.


6. I like to press the extra cabbage leaves on top, to hold the mixture down.


7. Screw the lids on and set the jars in a neutral temperature for a few days. Check after 3 days and then store in the fridge, or ferment for a few more days. I usually ferment an old large pickle jar for 6-7 days. It will continue to ferment as it's left out, and will stop once refrigerated.

Note: Sometimes a layer of mold will form on top of the kraut. Apparently it's still safe after skimming this top layer off, however I did have a jar go bad once and threw it out.


I hope you'll try a batch now that you see how easy it is to prepare. Have a happy weekend!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dinner is Served - A Few Recipes


Time for some recipes. Here are a few great Paleo meals I've enjoyed recently...

A dinner of fresh trout crusted in a crunchy pesto and baked, perched on roasted cauliflower. With more cauli on the menu, I also made a creamy cauliflower veggie soup.


Trout with Crunchy Pesto Crust

My dad caught a huge trout last week and he handed it over to me to cook. I don't have an exact recipe because I threw it together, but here are the ingredients for the coating. Instead of pureeing it down to a paste, I chopped the ingredients by hand (really only takes a few seconds if you have a good knife), and tossed them together, keeping texture. I kept the walnuts slightly chunky and finely chopped everything else.

Roll fish fillets in the coating, pressing it to adhere, and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake at 350F until cooked through. Cook time will depend on the size of your fillets. I cooked mine about 20-25 minutes.

Pesto Coating
Fresh basil
Walnuts, chopped
Garlic
Olive oil
Red pepper
Himalayan salt
Raw Parmesan
Lemon zest

Roasted Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower
Olive oil
Himalayan salt & pepper

Slice the cauliflower, about 1/2" and layer on a baking sheet that has been brushed with olive oil.
Brush olive oil on top of the cauliflower slices and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake in a 350F oven for 15-20 minutes (or until cooked through), flipping over after 10 minutes.


Creamy Cauliflower Soup


This soup is creamy without the cream - although I would have enjoyed adding some fresh raw cream if I could get it around here. Sub the water for veggie stock (and cut down on the salt), nut milk, or part fresh cream/milk if you like. It's got just a little bit of heat from the red pepper flakes, which is all I can handle, but add more if you like it really spicy.

2 teaspoons butter or olive oil
1 med onion, diced
1 stalk celery
1 medium cauliflower, chopped into florets
1/2 small zucchini, chopped into chunks
1/2 medium sweet potato
1 clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Ground pepper, to taste
5-6 cups water
1/2 cup full fat coconut milk

In a large pot, heat the butter. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes on medium until translucent.
Add all the other ingredients including the water. Bring the water to a boil on high heat and then simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the veggies are soft.
Puree the soup with the coconut milk in a blender until smooth, and re-season if necessary.


Moose Meatloaf



This recipe is inspired by the Spicy Meatloaf in Sally Fallon's book, Nourishing Traditions which I recently purchased. It's an excellent resource for recipes and information on natural foods and includes lots of variety. While I've leafed through the book a number of times, I've only made a few things from it. This original recipe calls for real cream and bread crumbs, I made my own "cream" and used hemp seeds in place of bread. I've been loving this chopped up cold in my salads. It would be nice in lettuce wraps with tomato slices too, I'm sure.

1 1/2 lbs ground meat (I used moose)
1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large stalk celery, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1/2 small zucchini, finally chopped
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon himalayan salt
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (use more or less depending on how spicy you want it)
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons powdered colostrum
1 egg
1 cup hemp seeds
5-6 tablespoons tomato paste

Saute onions, carrot, and celery in the butter until almost soft. Add the zucchini and saute until all veggies are soft. Add the seasonings and stir.
Whisk together the water and colostrum (or use fresh cream).
Add the egg & hemp seeds and whisk again.
Add the meat and veggies. Mix all together until combined.
Press the mixture into a 9x13" pan, or 9x9" (if you want a thicker loaf).
Spread a thin layer of tomato paste on top.
Bake in a 350F oven for 35- 45 minutes (9x13), or longer for a 9x9".


A sauerkraut recipe coming next! 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What's On My Plate?


Today I'm going more into what my diet consists of these days, as I've received a lot of emails from people wanting to know exact meal plans. I understand the dilemma. When I first changed my diet, I didn't know what the heck to eat either, nor did I have the energy for much preparation so I kept it simple - come to think of it, I still keep it simple. While my diet has evolved a little in the past three months, I still eat most of the foods I mentioned in my updated health post, in October. Here's what I've been eating since starting this new sugar free phase, after Christmas.

I mentioned eating a high protein diet, but I realize that it's actually more of a moderate level of protein. Much lower than the protein levels of most fitness models, athletes, and body builders, that's for sure. Relatively speaking, though, this is high protein for me since I'm not used to eating protein rich animal foods. Matt Stone is often quick to remind me that it's important to eat enough carbs. Carbohydrates I do eat - gluten free ones, mostly in the form of vegetables both raw and cooked. I'm not interested in analyzing the ratio of macronutrients in my diet. Instead I'm happy eating a various fresh, whole foods and go by how I feel to gauge my progress. I drink lots of fresh spring water all day long, and sometimes medicinal and herbal teas.

Here are the foods I eat:

- Veggies/nonsweet fruits - romaine lettuce, cucumber, tomato, bell peppers, zucchini, celery, avocado, chard, kale, eggplant, broccoli, cabbage, onion, cauliflower, lemon, lime
- Wild meat, mostly deer/moose/elk
- Wild fish (raw & cooked)
- Sauerkraut
- Plain yogurt
- Eggs
- Seaweed
- Nuts/seeds
- Squash/yams
- Fresh/dried herbs, himalayan salt, miso, apple cider vinegar
- Olive oil, coconut oil, cultured butter

I start the day with 1/4-1/2 cup plain yogurt, as a probiotic. My breakfast is either eggs with veggies, or a salad with meat - and I have the other for lunch. I often make a big enough batch of salad dressing to last a week, or I mash some avocado and a drizzle of olive oil/ apple cider vinegar /salt into my salad. I usually have another salad for dinner - maybe with an egg or two, or fish (if my dad has caught any), or with meat if I haven't had any earlier in the day (I eat meat once a day). Or I might have a combo of raw and cooked veggies for dinner, which sometimes includes yams or squash, either baked or in a soup. For snacks I enjoy nuts (I love cracking nuts these days), plain yogurt, and veggies with dip.

Here are some typical daily meals:

- 2 eggs, cooked in a little coconut oil or cultured butter - scrambled, overeasy, or sunny side up - along with lightly sauteed chard and zucchini, with raw tomato on top (in the past few days I've also been adding a bit of my eggplant dip to my eggs).

- Salad with romaine, cucumber, celery, tomato, avocado, sauerkraut, seaweed, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, and himalayan salt with moose/deer meat which I cook in a little bit of water (on the rare side).

- Baked yam or squash (which I eat with veggies).

- Veggies - roasted, stir fried, or in a soup.

When I write out these meal options it looks plain and boring. But I love love love salads and veggies, so it works for me, plus there are so many things you can do with basic foods. With all the ingredients I mentioned above, I've made various egg dishes, curries, soups, dips, stir fries, and noodle dishes. I'll post recipes soon.

Confession time. In all my humanness I've had one slip in the sugar free journey thus far. After 6 days of being really diligent, I had a few treats to ring in the New Year. The difference is that it had nothing to do with cravings. I was feeling really good with the diet, and when it was time to celebrate, I decided to enjoy a martini (vodka, fresh lemon & lime juice, ginger, peach medicine flower extract, sparkling mineral water), some wine, and 2 small truffles.

Like I said, this plan satisfies me and I'm without any sugar cravings for the first time in my life. Cheers to great health!

Questions? Post a comment :)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Letting Go of Sugar and Cacao

Today I'm picking up where I left off in my updated health post regarding my sugar/cacao free diet plan for the next month, and how I am making it possible. Ideally I should be off sugar completely for a few years, as a result of all the damage I've done overdosing on sugar over the years. Instead, my goal is to take it one step at a time.

After going completely off cacao for 3 1/2 months, I proved to myself that I AM capable of going without, and I've vowed to take breaks every so often from now on. Some people can easily eat cacao occasionally (for many women it's during their time of the month) - not me. It's just like the person who cannot eat just one cracker or chip - funny, I AM someone who can eat just one cracker. But I have never been able to eat only a small piece of chocolate, or just a few bites of dessert.

On December 26, I went off sugar and cacao completely. For a while I will not even be having stevia or berries, but will reintroduce low glycemic sweeteners in a few weeks. Leading up to Christmas, I knew I had to take the step - but it was only on Christmas day that I actually decided to go for it.

Here's how I did it:

- The important thing for me was to tell myself that I WILL eat and enjoy these foods again. If I thought it had to be this way for the rest of my life, I never would have started, in fear of the deprivation.

- I have a willingness to do what is necessary for my health and mental emotional well being - this is big and what I believe to be a huge factor in avoiding self sabotage. From what I know, sometimes we don't think we deserve true health or happiness, or there is a long standing negative belief that is standing in the way of achieving health goals (or any goal, for that matter). I have done a lot of work with a spiritual therapist named Ria Caro (email me if you'd like her #) over the years to get to the bottom of why I use sugar, and it has helped tremendously.

- On a physical level, I have been giving my body lots of great fuel - specific low glycemic foods. Denyse has me on a high protein diet containing a lot of high quality animal products (much like a Paleo diet, and the meat/fish I eat is wild). While I know this appears scary to some people, I attribute the animal protein to my success. For the first time since becoming a vegetarian at the age of 14, I feel truly satisfied after a meal. I feel GOOD, and much more balanced eating this way. To me, this is a true test. Of course it's not for everyone - I know people who thrive on a raw vegan diet, and I did well for a while too. (I'll go more into my diet tomorrow).

- I eat small meals every few hours throughout the day to prevent energy crashes and cravings.

- I've dropped the idea of "eat light until afternoon". Despite the fact I did it for 13 years (juice, smoothie, or fruit), I don't think it worked very well for me, because I would often overeat at dinner, or would end up craving/eating sugary things most of the day (fresh/dried fruit, raw desserts, cacao). I now eat something substantial in the morning. Usually I have a salad with wild moose meat, or eggs and veggies.

Recap - My strategy for going off sugar:

1. I told myself it would only be for a while - that way my mind doesn't freak out and feel deprived.
2. A willingness to take the action required for my health.
3. Eating a high protein diet which includes animal products.
4. Eating every few hours.
5. I start off with a solid, low glycemic meal in the morning.

There you have it. A few steps and voila. It's been the most effortless thing and I'm still a bit in shock because I've tried to cut out sugar before and I never lasted. I was plagued with cravings and "no willpower" - but now I see that it's nothing to do with will power. I think that my body is getting what it needs, so it doesn't need to search out anything else.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Chunky Eggplant Red Pepper Dip


I was going to elaborate on my whole "cacao/sugar free" diet, but after yesterdays long post and being busy today, I've decided to post a recipe instead.

Today I made a chunky eggplant dip that is quick and easy to prepare. I've made this dip many times for a client I used to chef for. I like to eat it in romaine lettuce leaves with tomato slices, or in celery. It would also be really great in a sprouted grain wrap with veggies and sprouts.

Chunky Eggplant Red Pepper Dip

2 eggplants, peeled and diced into 1-2" pieces
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 small red onion, chopped small
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Himalayan salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

1. Toss the veggies with enough olive oil to coat lightly, and sprinkle with salt/pepper.
2. Spread evenly on a baking sheet.


3. Bake in a 375F preheated oven for 20 minutes. Check on the veggies, pushing them around and then bake another 8-10 minutes, or until the veggies are soft.


4. Roughly mash the veggies with a potato masher. Add another drizzle of olive oil.
5. Chill before serving (but I like it warm too).


If you like eggplant, I promise you'll love this dip! Enjoy :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Progression - My Health Update


January 2011 - my month to break down old habits and patterns. I've come so far over the past 4 months that the only place to look is UP, and I've decided that it's time for me to thrive. I'm jumping in with my whole heart and soul. Here's a recap on what I've been through in the past 2 months, and why I've started my January "detox" plan.


Back to October
Since my last updated health post, I've forged ahead - but not as diligently as I should have. At the end of October I went to California again for 3 weeks. During that time I was extremely fortunate to have access to the healing foods I needed. My good friend Deb cooked free range bison, bone broth (you can find her recipe here), and eggs for me, plus I had access to fresh raw milk, colostrum, butter, and yogurt, which I consumed daily. It was soooo nice to be able to purchase these nourishing raw dairy products because in Canada they are not sold in stores (except raw cheese). In addition to all that I required for my therapeutic diet, I indulged in plenty of sugary goodies - raw and cooked vegan treats. I stayed away from cacao (victory!), but yeah, I was eating too much sugar.

Sugar Coated Confusion
Upon returning home I tried to get back to a lower sugar diet, and experimented with using stevia in dessert recipes in conjunction with coconut (crystals, nectar, and dried). I got into using a LOT of stevia and was proud of myself for using this "zero calorie, zero glycemic index, and zero carb" sweetener. In fact, for a month or so I was going crazy dumping droppers of stevia into my medicinal and herbal teas all day long, thinking it was acceptable. I didn't realize it at the time, but having this sweet taste in my mouth around the clock was triggering my sugar sensitivity and addiction big time.

Here's what my homeopath, Denyse, explained "our focus for you was to bust up the addiction to sugar, and forms of the taste of extreme sweet like stevia, xylitol, honey, grains, all have trigger sites on the cell that are similar in the pattern of addiction as to other addictive substances...its not that stevia and xylitol is bad, one day you will be able to play with these again, its that the trigger for sweet pulls you into a cycle of wanting more, because they are natural it gives the illusion of being "natural and okay", and keeps you in the cycle of craving, desiring, and manifesting the symptoms of sugar (or sweet) addiction."

Healthy Again
Despite the fact that I was eating sugar, my overall health remained greatly improved. By November my strength and energy had returned, my digestion and elimination were great, zero headaches, zero menstrual cramps, my mood was much more balanced, a healthy outlook on life returned, and my skin cleared up except for a persistent rash around my mouth that had been developing for a while. Denyse explained that it was a sign of my digestive system rebalancing and that a rash would naturally manifest itself at one or both (getting a rash on my tushy was a possibility too, but fortunately that didn't happen to me) ends of the "digestive tube". In addition, for the first time since being a vegan, my body started warming up! Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have been extremely cold for as long as I can remember.

I continued eating animal products, taking specific homeopathic remedies which have changed regularly and are very specific to each individual (so I will not be giving names of what I am taking - one person's remedy is another's poison), supplementation, and energetic healing work by my friend Pam. In these regards I was doing well.

Pushing Past Fears
I admit, there have been times in the past few months where I've questioned everything. "Is this the right direction? Can I follow through? Do I really have to chew my way through all this meat? Is this weight gain normal?!" It brought me to tears at times, and support became crucial. My mom has been instrumental in helping me see that I am a new person as a result of all the changes I've made, and has encouraged me to persevere. Talks with Denyse always helped to set me straight too. On a particularly rough day she listened to my frustrations and once again explained how "the body is till going through its rebalancing stages. Some water retention is natural, flush it with lots of water and take X remedy." Then she said something that really struck me "Sometimes you have to go back to the low place you were at, to see how far you've progressed". That was my "ah ha" moment where I knew I couldn't turn back. It was NOT an option to go back to the physical pain, depression, high anxiety, crazy mood swings, and thoughts of suicide that I had endured only months ago.

The Weight Debate
An approximate 10 pound weight gain has frustrated me to no end, but then again it's not surprising with all the dietary changes. In the summer I effortlessly lost some weight, and was starting to be pleased with where my body was at, even though I felt far from "perfect" (time to drop the idea of perfection!? Uh yeah).

I went from Diet #1lots of cacao, spirulina salads, fruit, and nuts (although I had whittled down my nut intake greatly in the summer), to Diet # 2: meat, fish, vegetables (cooked/raw), yams/squash, dairy, and eggs in addition to the salads, nuts, and fruit.

So now my body feels too big and I feel self conscious, but I'm working on getting over my issues around my weight and understand that things will balance out. After all, my metabolism was sluggish and I'm still working to rebalance. What's interesting is that even though I've gotten bigger overall, I think it's a combination of muscle and fat, not just the latter as I thought at first. I can feel the muscles (particularly in my legs) being tighter - and it's certainly true that I'm stronger. I'm back to the full power yoga routines I was doing before getting sick, and then some. I'm also teaching yoga again.

Building My Blood
In the middle of December I got some updated blood work done. Denyse wanted to see where my numbers were at, and how she needed to adjust my homeopathic remedies. She was thrilled at the progress I had made! My iron is still a little low, but everything is back to where it should be. Now we are working to cleanse my liver, bring my iron to normal, continue to rebalance my digestive system, and clean the candida from my body.

One Last Culprit

In the past month a bit of fatigue has came back. Growing anxiety also started creeping in, and my body went through uncomfortable puffy/water retention spells which were annoying and made me feel even bigger. I finally realized the culprit... Slowly my sugar intake grew, and I was consuming too much once again. Much less than I did in the past, but more than I should have been eating nonetheless, and I had the feeling it was stressing my body. Denyse said it was time to let go of the sugar completely for a while because it was having the same effect that the cacao had on me.

Cacao Free/Sugar Free Diet

No one had to tell me to stop eating sugar and cacao for a while. I know that it's the last critical component to becoming truly health again. The day after Christmas I decided to jump in all the way. On December 26, I stopped eating ALL sugar - even stevia/fruit, and all cacao. Tomorrow I'll get into more of that. But I can tell you this. I'm going extremely strong - and with sugar being my #1 favorite food, I never thought it was possible.

Healthy, strong, and happy in 2011! 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A New Space - Welcome!


Happy New Year! Welcome to my new space. I'm really excited about this new bloggie - the idea came to me a few days ago, and seems quite fitting as the new year begins. Here, I'll continue to share my healing journey which involves a step away from a raw vegan diet to eating foods from nature, both raw and cooked, including animal products.

You'll notice that Universal Eater is a step in a different direction from what you see on Sweetly Raw. I'll be taking a 180 from all things sweet as I share a detailed account of my January sugar free/cacao free "detox" plan. You'll see a more personal side of my ups and downs, and I'll be blogging daily for the whole month of January as an expression of the commitment to myself. As I stated on Sweetly Raw, I will be sharing my food plan, recipes, my emotional and physical reactions to going without my beloved cacao/sugar, how I am ensuring my success, other modalities I am using to heal, and what I've been through since my last post which detailed my health progress.

Another reason I've chosen to create this blog is as a result of all the emails and blog comments I've received with questions and stories regarding my health challenges, and my decision to make such  huge dietary changes. If you're not familiar with my story, you can read about it HERE, and an update HERE. I was shocked to see how many people are dealing with the exact same issues I was experiencing, and I was surprised to learn that many well known names in the raw food community have shifted toward a diet that includes some animal products - many of whom are not comfortable sharing openly due to expectations they feel must be upheld.

To me, the term "Universal" encompasses everything in this world and beyond - The spiritual and the physical. I like to think of a "Universal Eater" as one who is open to all foods that Mother Nature has to offer. For the first time in my life, I feel like I truly understand the meaning of "food as medicine". This medicine has turned my physical/mental/emotional self around faster than I could have imagined, and I am truly grateful.

If you have questions or suggestions for what you might like to see me post regarding my journey, leave a comment or send an email. A lot of people have told me that they'd particularly like to see what I'm eating on a regular basis, so I'll be sharing a lot of that.

Do you have any health related new years resolutions, or are you starting with a cleanse/detox of any kind?