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Macro Monday: Checking in / Markets / Grocery budget chats.

Hi there friends,

It's been awhile since the last Macro Monday! But now it's June, and June is a lovely month. So Happy Macro Monday!

I've been feeling more inspired by cooking again lately, and am working on a few recipes I'd like to share with you soon.

One of these is a vegan lentil bolgonese sauce. I have a bit more tweaking to do, and then I'll send it your way.  

And another recipe in the works for you is the lovely vegan wholegrain carrot cake I made at Easter. It had a lemon cashew icing, and was delicious. If you follow me on instagram (here's the link!), you may have already seen it. This carrot cake was super healthy, hearty, and very much like what I imagine baked oatmeal would be like. I enjoyed the leftovers for breakfast.

Other than that, I have been doing some gardening, and have already enjoyed eating kale and komatsuna from my little container / pot garden on my balcony. The weather has been fantastic, and T & I have been spending as much time as possible outside. 

GROCERY COST / BUDGET CHAT

I have been doing the larger part of my produce shopping at my local market again, now that it's open at full capacity. This has gotten me thinking a lot about grocery budgets. If you've seen my instagram posts, you'll know that I love sharing pics of my weekly grocery haul. Sometimes I just get a few things, but usually I get a large full basket full of a variety of produce, and while the berries are in season, lots of berries. I try to make this my only produce shop for the week, and this usually works just fine for T & I.

In my experience, at least here in Victoria, despite what many people think, this is much friendlier to our grocery budget, than if I were to buy the equivalent organic things at most grocery stores. And sometimes, I feel like it's even better priced than some of the conventional produce. I know that Vancouver Island has an amazing growing season, but I just can't get over how fairly priced the local and organic veggies are.

In case you're interested, I'll list a few items I regularly buy, with the market price listed first (M), and then a common grocery store (GS) price after:

DAIKON - $2 - 4 M // $5-10 GS (side note: perhaps cheaper in china town).
KALE - $2 -3 M // $3-5 GS
SPROUTS - 2 packages for $5 M // $3-5 per package GS
STRAWBERRIES  - $4-6 M // $5-7 GS (on sale perhaps you can get them for $4).
Fresh BASIL -  $3 giant bunch M // $3-5 GS for a smaller container
Mixed SALAD GREENS - $3-5 M // $4-7 GS 

Here's my giant basket-full of veggies from this weekend:

In case you're wondering, all these vegetables are local (duh), and organic. The quality of these vegtables are MUCH higher than anything I can find at the grocery store. The daikon alone is about half the price of what a similarly sized organic daikon would be at any store, and it is of such higher quality I can barely even compare the two. (most daikon I find at stores is either limp, spongy, or worse yet often moldy!).

This Saturday I packed my basket full of: komatsuna, broccoli, daikon, sprouts, green onions, radishes, collards, salad turnips, the most beautiful green leaf lettuce, basil, mixed kale, baby summer squash and the most tasty little strawberries. The hummus I bought from a local shop on the way home so I haven't included in the price. The total for all these vegetables was $37 CAD. Now, I'm definitely no financial wizard, and perhaps I'm crazy, but this seems like a STEAL of a DEAL! Also considering both the turnips and daikon are sold with their beautiful tops - you can eat these like any other leafy green. I'm all about the 2 for 1 veggies.  I am fairly confident that had I chosen to buy all of these things at a health foods store, I would have paid much closer to, if not more, than $50 CAD. And perhaps more like $40 - 45 for the organic versions purchased at a conventional grocery store.  

I would say this is likely the average amount of produce I buy weekly at the market (some weeks more, some weeks less), but when the berries really start to roll out, my weekly produce price will increase as berries are my fav and are our ultimate summer treat and I will be adding those along to my regular veggie haul.

How much do you spend per week on produce? What do you think - especially fellow Canadians - does $37 seem like a reasonable price, expensive price, or good price for this basket full of organic produce? I'm honestly curious here and welcome your opinions. If you think I can do better, I'd love to know how! (other than growing all the veggies yourself, as I'm doing the best I can at the moment with my balcony garden). 

It makes you think and realize - if you stick to eating veggies, and then items from the bulk bins (whole grains, dried beans, nuts and seeds), with the occasional detour for things like tempeh, tofu, fish, high quality bread, oils, etc., healthy groceries can definitely be affordable.

And one more thing: I understand if organic produce is not importance to you, but it is to me for a few reasons. Firstly, TASTE! Not always, but most often, organic versions are tastier. Seriously. Especially local and organic veggies - so much PRANA! Secondly, the nutritional content issue. Most organic versions of food are higher in vitamins and minerals. Usually, they are grown in better soil yielding more nutritious crops. More nutrition bang per bite. And lastly, obviously, the potential chemicals used in conventional crops are a bit scary. I know that many big organic chains use "organic" pesticides that are supposedly better (they may or may not be), but in my own experience, I have never had organic strawberries that tasted like chemicals, but I have had regular ol' strawberries that do. And ditto that for grapes and all other berries. YICK. 

I'm not completely rigid over organic - I do tend to follow the dirty dozen / clean fifteen guidelines whenever buying 100% organic produce is not possible. And I will try to choose local foods with equal importance as organic because I believe it is the most responsible thing to do environmentally speaking, but I also understand reality and budgets, and I do realize that often organic foods can be more money.

That is why I'm SO EXCITED when it's market season, because my grocery bills usually drop! 

So to wrap up please, tell me about your healthy, perhaps organic, grocery budget tips and tricks!

Check back soon for those recipes <3 <3 <3 

And I'll leave you with a beautiful article written by Phiya Kushi that I found to be extremely inspiring.
 

Macro Monday: The Superfoods Trap

Happy Macro Monday friends!!

Today's post is about something that I have played around with in my own shopping and eating experience, and is something that you are likely familiar with if you're into the health world. So...let's chat about being bombarded with "superfoods."

 My kind of SUPER foods :)

My kind of SUPER foods :)

Macro Monday: The Superfoods Trap

For the past while, it seems that there is a new superfood that makes appearances in the stores and in internet-land each and every week. We've been through goji berries, to acai berries, to spirulina, lucuma powder, coconut oil, chlorella, maca etc. Whatever ~~~berry has "just been discovered." And you just "must try it."

Now, before you put your guard up - I'm not trying to knock healthy foods. And not the ones I mentioned above, either (some of them are dang delicious and wonderful, and things I do use from time to time). If you know me, you'll know that I'm all about healthy eating. But I do feel there is a giant "superfood" trap out there that we need to be aware of. And I also think we should be calling many more foods "superfoods" -> because any foods that are truly health supporting, in my mind, are indeed SUPER.

But I think it's a shame that a lot of our focus has shifted away from fresh, whole food, and moved towards these so-called "superfood" powders, extracts, tonics and elixirs.  We've really adopted the faster and more is better mentality with these foods. The real superfoods, in my mind, are the ones that you might mix in with those powders: a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole-grains and healthy fats.

Straight up local and organic veggies in their whole form are truly SUPER in all ways. They probably don't come in a fancy package, they aren't advertised (usually), and they generally don't run at $15 - $100 per item. In other words, these kinds of foods probably seem boring, dirty (literally, covered in dirt sometimes), and not so miraculous in comparison to their shiny new "superfood" friends.

But I want to tell you something, friends, and I'm speaking from my heart and my experience. Whenever I have been tempted and lured into purchasing these amazingly packaged powders, tonics & superfoods, I usually regret it later on. Not because they don't have some healthful properties, or they taste bad (they can often taste delicious). But because nothing alone, no one single powder, ethically sourced and straight from the jungle healer's hands, is the key to health. And when you invest your hard-earned dollars on something that is advertised as being so essential and so amazing, it's likely that you will begin to believe it (hi cognitive dissonance), and you might then, feel that you MUST have these things to be healthy, feel stressed if you can't afford them, and you may begin to overlook the regular boring FOOD that has sustained humans, healthily, for a long long time.

Something new & exciting that has the price tag to match it's "amazing healing properties" is, in the long run, probably not so sustainable - for your bank account, but also for our beautiful Earth. So many of these miracle foods that become "superfoods" have a high ecological toll because the demand for them skyrockets out of the blue. Those foods, I'm sure, have likely earned at least some of their SUPER status - but maybe we should consider the small communities that have been eating them traditionally for thousands of years and often rely on these foods, and perhaps adjust our over-consumption, slow it down a little, so that we can give our Earth time to adjust for the increased demand.

For myself, when I forget about this and that superfood, and focus on eating local and organic food in its whole form,  I feel SUPER. I feel healthy. Eating more vegetables + whole grains always make me feel good. These are also foods that we have been eating as humans, for a long time, and they are also the foods that natural healing systems such as Macrobiotics and Ayurveda promote. We've been growing these kinds of foods all around the world for a long time, and we for the most part, seem to have the hang of it. Another bonus when I eat this way: my bank account loves me for it. I never regret buying vegetables, fruits, and wholegrains - when I fill my cart with these things, I never cringe at the grocery bill. If my eyebrows ever raise at the checkout, it is always because I've on a whim thrown in something in a pretty package that most likely includes the word SUPER on it.

Of course, if your budget allows, and health is your passion, then play away, responsibly! I'm not trying to halt you on your quest for health, or discourage you for trying things out for yourself. Experiment with some of these new things if you so desire. I am certain that I will end up trying at least a few more - it seems really hard not to. And they will either be a repeat buy because they truly add something to my life (this doesn't happen so often), or end up in my "superfood" graveyard - the pile of random bulk baggies and jars of interesting things at the back of my cupboard. But here's what I've been trying to do: when I see something new and fancy and SUPERbly exciting, I won't buy it the first few times I see it. I'll read the labels, do some research, and avoid buying it for as long as possible, until I feel like I actually have a good reason to use it, and that is is indeed something that will enhance my everyday cooking and eating. I also try to look for the original, whole form of these superfoods, rather than the fancy powders, tonics and concentrated elixirs. For example, actual goji berries and cacao nibs in their "whole" form > goji berry cacao superfood smoothie powder mix, in my mind.

I guess, all I'm asking is that you don't forget the old-school once famous stars of the show: carrots, broccoli, oats and other grains, a variety of greens, traditional herbal teas, nuts & seeds, pumpkins and other veggies, apples, berries, etc. These guys are easy to find, have been considered healthy for a LONG time across all countries, and they won't cost you an arm and a leg.

Thoughts, dear friends? If you have tried a lot of superfoods, which ones have been worth it and are now something you use regularly?

Macro Monday: daikon

When I wait in line at the market, and at grocery stores, I often overhear a variation of the same question..."what IS that?" says someone, while pointing at the giant daikon in my shopping basket... and "what do you do with THAT?"

Well, dear friends, if you've ever wondered just that, then this post is for you. It's all about what you can do with one of my favourite veggies:

Macro Monday: Daikon

Daikon are a kind of Asian radish, and are characterized by their enormous size. They most commonly look like giant white carrots, and can be up to 14" long.

 Thanks  Wikipedia , for the image :)

Thanks Wikipedia, for the image :)

Daikon have many healing properties, and are used extensively through Asia as both food, and as remedies for specific conditions. They are often used to make pickles - Japanese style, and Korean style (spicy like kimchi). They are often in miso soup, too. Really the ways of using this wonderful veggie seem unlimited. It's just THAT good :)

I have found that the smaller and/or shorter or rounder ones have a stronger "radish" flavour. Look for ones that have the leaves on - they will be fresher, AND you can eat the leaves too (chop them up, and lightly steam or saute with the daikon).

Today though, I want to talk about a few of the different ways of preparing it!

How to Prepare Daikon

When you cook the daikon, it loses a lot of its pungency and bitterness, and instead becomes gently sweet.

Steamed

My favourite, as far as simplicity and taste goes, is simply to steam it. I cut off a chunk, scrub it, and cut it into rounds, then in half, so I have some nice half-moon shapes. Then I simply steam it, for about the same length of time as you would steam carrots (depending on the size). Daikon & carrots steamed together make a fine match, just are steamed daikon and greens. Drizzle a tiny bit of umeboshi vinegar after steaming. Yum.

Stir-Fry

I have also cut thinner rounds, and/or diced it into small chunks and thrown it into a veggie stir-fry or saute.

Long cooked // Daikon stew

You can also easily make a delicious dish of stewed daikon. And it's one of my favourite ways to enjoy this veggie.

Cut the daikon into thick rounds (peeling the skin off makes for a nicer flavour), place a strip of kombu in a saucepan, and place the daikon rounds on top. Add just enough water to cover the daikon. Bring to boil, then turn heat to low and slowly simmer with lid on. Check often, and continue adding tiny bits of water as needed, as it boils away. You can let it cook for a long time - up to an hour or perhaps even more, depending on the thickness of your daikon rounds. The longer you cook it, the sweeter it'll be. The daikon is ready when a toothpick can be easily inserted. Once it is done, add in a few teaspoons of shoyu and let simmer for 5 more minutes or so. Clamp the lid down (using an oven mitt), and give the pot a good shake, and serve.

Raw

And of course you can slice it and put it in salads just like any other radish. You can also julienne it, and/or grate it - you may have noticed that white vegetable they serve with sashimi at Japanese restaurants...yep, that'd be daikon.

Have you ever tried daikon? What's your favourite way of eating it?

I'll leave you with a photo of my goodies from the Market this week. Summer's the best. Do you see the daikon hiding in there?

Have a great week, friends, and see you back here on Friday, for MacroTreat Friday!

MacroTreat Friday: Pizza

Hi friends!

Too busy this week for baking...but I did let someone woodfire me a pizza that dreams are made of!

I prefer to skip the vegan cheese, and just enjoy the flavours of the delicious veggies. Also, FYI, if you can, skip the salad (usually a waste of money at most pizza places) and get fresh arugula on top of your pizza. You often end up with more greens than if you ordered the green salad :)

Pizza is probably my favourite treat to have when eating out, and there seem to be more & more "naples certified" pizzerias that know how to make simple ingredients taste fantastic.

What kind of pizza is your favourite? I like anything with olives & mushrooms!

Enjoy the weekend friends.

Transient

Macro Monday: Grain Coffee

Hey Friends,

Today's post is short and simple, and all about grain coffee. Grain Coffee, also called coffee substitute, is made from roasted and ground grains/nuts/fruits instead of from coffee beans.
I've tried quite a few, and while none of them taste like real coffee, they can be quite enjoyable as a thing in and of themselves.

MM: Grain Coffee

Grain coffee is often used as a coffee substitute - it can be a way to help ease off of coffee, if you are trying to give it up. I do enjoy a bit of real coffee of course, but especially in the evenings if I'd like something warm and cozy, sans caffeine, I often make tea, or a delicious hot grain coffee drink.

The grain coffees all vary widely in taste. Some are made with roasted acorns, figs & other nuts. Most have barley and chicory in there too. And often they include dandelion root. I have included a bunch of information and links below to my top 4 favourite grain coffees.

[Please note: the following links use my iherb discount code, which will give you $10 off your first order, and some points for me - use it if you like, or not :) thanks friends].

#1 Favourite Grain Coffee - Dandy Blend

I really enjoy Dandy Blend! I buy mine online, because it is much cheaper than I've seen it in stores...hopefully one day prices will drop in store.

I like Dandy Blend because it is gluten free, and has a very nice taste - it blends really easily. The ingredients are: extracts of roasted barley, rye, chicory root, dandelion root and sugar beet. It is not sweet, despite the inclusion of sugar beet - all the sweetness disappears during roasting. 

I usually just add some boiling water to mine, and sometimes I put in some almond milk and cinnamon, or even a touch of rice syrup or maple syrup, if you want something a little sweet.

#2 - Dandy Joe

I wrote about these guys awhile ago here. This Dandelion coffee I purchased in Edmonton. It is produced locally, in Alberta. I bought it at Wild Earth grocery on 99th street, but later on saw that they had a stall at the Farmer's market in Old Strathcona.

For this kind of Dandelion Coffee, I'd recommend following their advice, and brewing it in a coffee maker of choice. It comes out fairly clear (compared to the Dandy Blend), and pretty strong, as you brew it and don't simply stir it in. I still have some left (yay!) and when I do use it, I often make it into a Dandelion Latte. They also make some other versions that include medicinal herbs etc. For all my non-Edmonton based readers, I'm not so certain if they will ship or not, but here is a link to their Market Stall profile, with an email address below. I bet if you smile pretty they'll sent you some :)

#3 Organic Caf-Lib

This is a new to me product that I recently picked up at the store because I was out of Dandy Blend ;) It is a straight up grain beverage made with chicory, barley & malted barley.

I'm really happy with it so far. I especially like that it is instant like Dandy Blend and does not require brewing. This makes it a great quick option. You simply add either hot water, or hot milk of choice, stir, and you're ready to go.

I especially like it because it's fairly common to find, even at regular grocery stores in my area, and is under $10. <3


#4 Teeccino

This is probably the most popular grain/nut/fruit coffee substitute out there. I bet it's because of all the delicious flavours they have.

Most of these guys' blends have carob, dates & figs in there, which provide a really decadent and nice sweet flavour. Again, just like Dandy Joe, this is a grain coffee that needs to be brewed in a coffee machine of your choice.

There are tons of flavours to choose from such as: mochavanilla nut, and regular old french roast. My favourite (please note that I've only tried a few so far), is hazelnut. They seem to be continually coming out with new flavour and products :)

Now I think it's time to make a grain-coffee latte :)

 Dandelion Latte made with Dandy Joe, Almond Milk, cinnamon and a drizzle of brown rice syrup &lt;3

Dandelion Latte made with Dandy Joe, Almond Milk, cinnamon and a drizzle of brown rice syrup <3

Have a happy fun-drink kinda week <3
See you on Friday for MacroTreat Friday!
xoxo Jess

 

Macro Monday: Macrobiotics & The Nightshade Vegetables

Hi Friends!

It's Macro Monday again, and this week let's chat about nightshade vegetables, and why they aren't included regularly in the Macrobiotic diet.

Say what?

MM: Nightshade Vegetables

What are nightshades?

The nightshades are a diverse family of flowering plants (scientific family: solanaceae). It is a really interesting group of plants, including many that are known to be very poisonous such as the belladonna. (see here).

Some well know pharmaceutical nightshades are: tobacco, morphine, & novocain.

Some of the nightshade vegetables/spices/fruits include: potatoes (sweet potatoes are different), tomatoes, eggplant, spicy peppers, paprika, sweet peppers and anything in the well known genus capsicum.

As you can see, these are some of the most popular and most common vegetables found in cooking all around the world.

These vegetables each contain valuable nutrients and healthful properties, but they also contain contain a group of substances called alkaloids, which can be the source of potential health problems for some individuals.

What are alkaloids?

Plants naturally produce alkaloids as a kind of built in insect repellent, and night shade vegetables have four different kinds of alkaloids. Some of these kinds of alkaloids have been heavily researched because they have strong drug like properties - and are known for their use in both pharmaceutical and recreational drugs. Steroid Alkaloids are the kind in most common nightshade foods.

Alkaloids & our joints & nervous system.

The potential effects of alkaloids on the nervous system and our joints have been pretty extensively studied, and therefore alkaloids can be a risk for certain individuals that are highly sensitive to them, or that have specific conditions.

I am definitely not a scientist, but from what I can gather, alkaloids can affect the nervous system by influencing an important enzyme in our nerve cells, which can ultimately impact our muscle movement - potentially resulting in twitches, trembling, etc.

What I am more familiar with, and have heard more often, is about the negative impact of alkaloids on our joint health. They are thought to affect the joints through causing inflammation and altering our mineral balance in our bones - specifically lowering our ability to absorb calcium. Nightshades draw in vital minerals - meaning they pull them away from other vegetables in the garden, and when ingested, from our bones in our body. Again, I don't know the science here, but I can tell you that foods that deplete minerals are usually avoided in the Macrobiotic diet.

[also, spinach and chard are often lumped in with nightshades, even though they technically aren't a nightshade, because the oxalic acid in them creates a similar situation as the alkaloids, in which calcium absorption is interfered with]

On a personal level, I can feel the effects on my joints after eating certain nightshades - but not others. If you have joint problems such as arthritis, it may be well worth your time to experiment removing nightshades from your diet for at least 2 weeks, and noticing if you feel any difference in your joints.

What to do!?

Cooking nightshades can reduce their alkaloid content by up to 50%, and this may be perfect for people who aren't so sensitive to their effects. Other individuals may find that they still have problems, and therefore should think about limiting the use of nightshades in their diet. Perhaps including these foods occasionally, or at least less often than usual.

Some fresh tomato on a salad in the summer, a baked potato here and there, or some sauteed eggplant every once in awhile definitely won't impact you like crazy. But if you consume these foods in large quantities on a daily basis and are having joint pain, it may be worth a second look.

So...if you're curious, then experiment going without for a few days or weeks. If you have serious joint issues, then I highly encourage you to try giving them up for awhile.

Have you heard about nightshades before?

Do you experience any joint issues when you eat them?

Have a great week friends!

xo jess

 

Macro Monday: What's Up With Gluten?

Gluten has been getting attacked pretty badly these days.

frys.JPG

Almost every restaurant has little gluten-free symbols on their menu, stores have gluten free sections, and these days saying "I don't eat gluten" doesn't elicit blank stares or strange comments.

I've been asked many times about whether or not I eat gluten, or if I think gluten is bad.

Here's the thing: I don't think any food is bad.

There are no bad foods, and there are no good foods. There is just food. Some food is more natural than others, some saltier, some sweeter & some more bitter.

Each food has a different energy, and therefore, will affect you in different ways.Making this connection will enable you to make empowered food choices, to create the kind of energy you desire. And also to know what to expect from the food that you are eating.

{of course, if you are celiac or have an allergy to a certain food then obviously don't eat it!}

I avoided gluten - mainly wheat & rye - for a few years, because when I ate those foods, I felt bad: my digestion suffered, and I just felt crappy. But over the last few years, my stomach & digestion has healed a lot, and these days I can eat wheat without so many problems. Rye is still kinda touchy for me - sometimes okay, sometimes not.

When I eat wheat, mostly in the form of bread - cause that's my favourite - I try my best to choose natural sourdough or sprouted wheat bread, because I have found that they are easier on my system. I pay attention though, to how often I'm eating it, because the key thing to remember, for ANY food is:

"The dose makes the poison."

Of course, I do occasionally have other kinds of bread, and it's in these cases especially that "the dose makes the poison." Baguette with dinner one night - no problem. Having it again the next morning for breakfast (though so delicious), and then finishing it off for lunch, and a day later repeating this: for me, that's a problem. My belly can handle wheat, but not multiple times a day for multiple days in a row. (You of course, may be different!).

Choosing sprouted, or natural sourdough breads have enabled me to enjoy wheat more regularly in my diet. But I can tell when I've overdone it, and when my belly is asking for a break. And the same follows for all foods.

The best thing you can do for your diet it to make sure it is varied: eat a wide variety of grains, veggies, beans & legumes etc. And if you are having or noticing any problems after consuming any specific foods, try taking a break from them for awhile.

So back to the gluten chat:

I think that gluten-containing foods can definitely be harder to digest, and may cause problems for some individuals, especially when eaten in excess. I don't need to tell you about all the potential problems caused by gluten, because that information is everywhere these days.  But I do think that the hype around making gluten evil is very overly dramatic, and it is worth it to dig a bit deeper and experiment for yourself - don't just believe something without trying it and experiencing it for yourself. Maybe you'll agree, maybe not - but you'll learn a lot through the process.

Eating gluten-containing foods may or may not be right for you, but here are a few things to consider:

  1. The form of gluten being consumed
    Perhaps you do fine eating pasta, but you can't seem to digest bread. Or perhaps crackers are fine, but pasta hurts your stomach. Gluten isn't just one thing. There are many kinds of foods that contain gluten, from many different grains, cooked/baked into many different products. Perhaps there are other factors than the gluten itself that bother you, such as the yeast in the bread, or the sauce on the pasta, or the specific brand of bread/pasta/crackers you are buying. Sure, it may be gluten, but it can often pay off to experiment and look at the bigger picture as well.
  2. The level of processing
    Wonder bread is not the same thing as natural sourdough bread made with organic whole grains that were stone ground in the bakery. Two entirely different worlds of gluten there. Also, pasta that is made in Italy from durum wheat using traditional methods is very different than some pastas here are that are made of a blend of different wheats, with other strange things added in to boost protein and omegas etc. Choosing the oldest, simplest, most straight forward traditionally prepared gluten containing food is very likely going to be much easier on your belly than something made in a factory, out of hybrid food-like products, meant to last for years.
  3. Choosing older versions of wheat
    Spelt, Kamut, & Einkorn are all older forms of wheat - and they are more nutritious and often much easier to digest when compared with the modern wheat that was altered and developed in the sixties to increase crop yields. So, when possible choose interesting kinds of wheat, and of course, always try to buy local & organic when possible. <3
  4. Gluten-free stuff is often very questionable
    Okay, I just feel like I have to say this: I'll take a white flour bakery baguette in a heart beat over a potato starch / tapioca starch / guar gum / carageenan based gluten free bread any day. What even are those ingredients!!?? Be choosy. You can get high quality gluten free stuff, and you can also get utter junk!

I come from a long line of grain eaters - Swiss & Scottish - and I truly enjoy eating delicious & nutritious real bread, every so often. I'm so happy that I healed my belly and learned how to listen to it. Now I can enjoy my bread, but I'm still very picky if I'm going to eat wheat, and pay attention when I do.

What are your thoughts: Gluten, yay or nay?
 


 

 

Macro Monday: A Macrobiotic Staple...Miso Soup

Hi Guys,

Happy Monday. Can you believe January is already more than half over? Time flies!

Today's post is about one of the top Macrobiotic Staples.

MM: Miso Soup

 Barley Miso at Rebar &lt;3

Barley Miso at Rebar <3

I get asked about miso a lot. I know, kinda weird, right? But so is miso. I think it often freaks people out a little...especially when they hear the words "fermented" and "bean paste." And then they think of this tub just sitting there, in the back of their fridge, and being not sure what the heck to do with it. So I hope this helps!

 

What is Miso?

Well, as I said, it is a traditional Japanese fermented bean/grain paste, dating back to China (likely) 2500 years ago, used most often for seasoning soups.

It is most commonly made from combining soybeans, sea salt, and the starter koji (usually the fungus aspergillus oryzaea ), and mixed with grains such as rice or barley. It is fermented from 3 months up to 3 years. The variation in fermentation lengths, and the different beans or grains used, allows for there to be an amazing variety in kinds of miso, each one with a differing taste ranging from sweeter to more salty.

Miso is sold as a paste, often in plastic tubs or glass jars, in the cool section of the grocery store. You want to make sure you are purchasing miso that does not have preservatives in it, and that has been actually fermented, not simply filled with chemicals or artifical ingredients.

Miso paste can be added to soups, sauces, desserts and whatever else your heart desires, to add an amazing depth of flavour.

 

Health Benefits

Miso is extremely enzyme rich and is great for the immune system, which is perfect during the flu season. It also has a plethora of other health & healing benefits, including:

  • It is a good source of plant derived B vitamins, especially B12, which is very important and more difficult for vegetarians to get.
  • Along with other traditionally fermented products (like real sauerkraut), miso is a wonderful source of natural digestive-friendly good bacteria. It can help balance & restore beneficial probiotics to the intestines.
  • Miso is teeming with all the essential amino acids your body needs to function properly.
  • Miso is very alkalizing, which is what we want, as diseases flourish in acidic conditions, and cannot survive in alkaline conditions.
  • It can help to stimulate your digestive system and get things moving along
  • Due to the dipilocolonic acid in miso, it can help your body remove any accumulated heavy metals, and can help protect from radiation
  • Miso is a great source of manganese, copper & zinc, along with other amazing antioxidants.

 

How to Use It

While there are many different things you can make with miso, I want to focus today on the basic miso soup.

It is actually not so basic, as depending on the kind of miso paste, and the ingredients such as root veggies and/or noodles and/or protein such as tofu, you can create a hearty filling soup, or a very light simple soup to accompany any meal.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • You do NOT want to boil the miso paste - this will destroy the beneficial enzymes and good bacteria. It is therefore best added at the end, after all the veggies or whatever else are done boiling, and the stove temperature is lowered so your soup is just lightly simmering.
  • It is best to mix a few spoons of miso with some warm water in a separate bowl, until it has more of a sauce consistency, before adding it into your pot. This will prevent it from simply being one giant chunk in your soup :)
  • Please note: miso is fairly salty...it's probably best to not have more than 2 tsp per person, per day.
  • There are many kinds of miso (I read 1300 types!), and some are better at different times of the year:
    • Heavier miso types like straight soybean (hatcho miso) or darker rice miso in the winter
    • Barley (mugi miso) is great for a more year-round soup.
    • White miso (shiro miso) has a sweeter flavour and works better in dressing, sauces, and desserts.

 

Recipe for a Simple Veggie Miso Soup

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 inch piece of wakame, soaked in 1 cup water (keep the water to add to the soup)
  • 4 heaping teaspoons miso paste (I enjoy brown rice, barley or a new favourite is adzuki bean miso)
  • 1-2 tsps of sesame or toasted sesame oil
  • Veggies of your choice! Here's a recent combo I really enjoyed: few inches of thinly sliced daikon, a couple leaves of chinese cabbage or bok choy, about 1/4 of an onion or leek, and a few slices of green onion for garnish. {carrots and shitake are also lovely}
adzuki bean miso.JPG

Directions

  1. Soak wakame in about 1 cup of water, until softened (around 10 minutes).
  2. Wash and rinse all veggies. Cut the daikon pieces into half circles (moons), thinly chop the leek or onion, and thinly slice the cabbage or bok choy.
  3. Heat the oil in the bottom of a saucepan, and brown the onions or leek with a teeny tiny bit of sea salt, adding a bit of water if necessary, to prevent burning.
  4. Add in the daikon slices & the cabbage or bok choy stems, stirring for a few minutes until slightly sauteed.
  5. Chop up the soaked wakame.
  6. Add the 3 cups water, and the wakame soaking water to the pot, and bring to boil.
  7. Add the wakame, and let the veggies simmer until tender, between 5-10 minutes. Add in the finely chopped bok choy leaves closer to the end of that time frame, as they only need a few minutes to soften.
  8. Scoop out your miso paste, and mix with a tiny bit of water in a cup or bowl, until it is all dissolved and runny.
  9. Lower the temperature until the soup is barely simmering, and whisk the miso in. Alternatively, you can even remove the pot from the heat completely, and then whisk the miso in.
  10. Let it cook for a few minutes, until you see "clouds" appear. The miso will kind of puff up to the surface, like clouds, and then you'll know it's done.
  11. Throw on some green onion slices if desired, and serve.

*This miso will not be what you are used to getting at sushi restaurants...that stuff is often instant miso. It will have more of a texture. If you do not like the small bits of grain/bean chunks from the miso paste (most people don't mind), you can actually whisk your miso through a strainer like so:

More miso recipes to come in the weeks to follow :)

If you have any questions, or a favourite miso recipe to share, don't hesitate to comment or email me!

Enjoy, and may this week be nurturing, comforting, and healing for you, my friends.

xoxo Jess


 

 

MM: Macrobiotics, Victoria Style :)

One of the things I love the most about living in Victoria, are the many many MANY healthy eating options. There are just so many cafes, bakeries, healthy restaurants, and markets. Foodie heaven, for sure.

Macro Monday: Macrobiotics in Victoria

Restaurants & Cafes

I haven't even come close to trying all the Dainty Pig friendly places to eat...but here's a list of some of favourites so far. Rest assured there will be multiple followups to this post.

Kissako Green Tea Cafe
http://www.kissakogreenteacafe.com/

kissako.JPG
  • A cute, small, family style cafe in Oak Bay. As the name suggests, you can get a mean cup of green tea here. I'm talking high quality Japanese Matcha, made properly...you know, so it isn't bitter, and froths perfectly.
  • The food is great: straight up Japanese Macrobiotic food. I've tried the kinpira, miso udon, age dashi tofu, and veggie gyoza. All were the best versions of those foods that both T & I have ever tried, anywhere...even in Japan.
  • They also have a substantial brown rice veggie sushi menu!
  • They also have lovely desserts like green tea roll cakes & daifuku...which, if you're a red bean dessert fan like me, will be your remedy for Japanese food homesickness.
  • Bonus: the place is very cute inside, and so are the owners -- they are very friendly!
  • Another bonus: priced very fairly.

Rebar Modern Food Cafe
http://rebarmodernfood.com/

 Green veggie curry with tofu, lime &amp; peanuts :)

Green veggie curry with tofu, lime & peanuts :)

 Barley Miso

Barley Miso

  • Right in the heart of downtown, in Bastion Square, Rebar is a Victoria classic. Rebar has it all: plenty of vegetarian, vegan, and macro friendly options.
  • I like it because you can get simple stuff like a basket of steamed veggies and brown rice with a side miso soup...or you can get all fancy with soba salads & green curries, or you can get your sweet comfort food like tempeh reubens and yam fries.
  • Their vegetarian dishes are really great (so I've heard), with some of the best veggie burgers and miso gravy fries in town.
  • They also have a great fresh juice selection, and they have chosen awesomely funny names for their juice creations - you'll have to visit to see for yourself.
  • The atmosphere inside is funky, and also relaxing & chill. The price is a bit more than others on my list, but it's worth it.

Green Cuisine
http://www.greencuisine.com/

 Macro Takeout :)  

Macro Takeout :)
 

  • This gem is tucked away in the lower part of Market Square downtown.
  • They are basically a vegan self-serve buffet (but highly Macrobiotic)-- with eat in or takeout options.
  • The menu rotates daily (you can check before hand online) but there is always a couple of soups, cornbread, pickled veggies, salad options, steamed veggies, and tofu, seitan, or tempeh dishes. Often as well, are cold noodle salads like soba or Mediterranean pasta salads. There are usually stews and bean patties or falafels too. Toppings include gomaisho (sesame salt), and various oils like flax and olive oil, and seasonings like nutritional yeast and roasted pumpkin seeds.
  • Then of course, is my favourite part about this lovely place: the treats. SO MANY wonderful treats to choose from, all are vegan, and most are Macrobiotic. This is like finding a needle in a haystack. Seriously, so lucky to have this place here for when the sweet craving strikes and I don't wanna bake. There are daily cakes -- often cheesecakes or mousse cakes, and fruit crumbles. But my favourites are the baked goodies, like the brown rice peanut butter cookies, or the oat & hemp seed bars. Their spelt blackberry muffins are great. And if you want a really decadent treat, try their brownies or their "not nanaimo" bars.
  • Also a bonus, they make their own pickles, sauerkraut, tempeh, and amasake...you may have seen them before in larger chains like planet organic :)

Sakura Japanese Sushi & Restaurant

sakura brown rice sushi
  • A cute place tucked away on Yates street (right by The Market on Yates grocery store). It really reminds T & I of a homestyle country Japanese food.
  • The menu has lots of different brown rice veggie rolls (all delicious), and various bento boxes and donburis. Along with the rolls, the miso is fantastic, and one of my favourite things to get is the ginger tofu & veggies donburi. Super yummy!
  • Another bonus: free barley tea with your meal.

Sen Zushi
http://www.senzushi.com/

japanesefood1.JPG
japanesefood3.JPG
  • Excellent, excellent Japanese food.
  • They have many macro friendly options, including brown rice & delicious udon (which they import from Ehime, the prefecture where I lived for 2 years) which you can order with natto! but in all reality, their specialty is sushi, and they do it amazingly well! Probably the best sushi I've ever had.
  • On the winter menu, you can order tofu veggie nabe (a wonderful hotpot) and it was so good!
  • This place gets BUSY FAST...so make a reservation

Be Love
http://beloverestaurant.ca/

belove.JPG
  • Right on Blanshard & Fort, downtown.
  • Be Love just opened up recently, and we've been quite a few times!
  • Really awesome space, cool design, friendly staff, and mouthwatering desserts.
  • I would say the restaurant is definitely slanted more to the raw foods lifestyle (lots of juices, raw crackers and raw breads), but they definitely do have enough cooked food options that I can't stop going back.
  • They have a macro bowl on the menu, made with quinoa, seaweed, lots of veggies, sauerkraut & flax oil -- it's delicious & I've also had an amazing polenta dish :)
  • Their desserts are pretty insane...raw cheesecakes like no others!
  • They also have some really neat drinks like Mu tea soda
  • The price is mid-range. Similar or a little less than Rebar.

Bakeries

Fry's Red Wheat Bread
http://www.frysbakery.com/

frys.JPG
  • Worth the trip out to Esquimalt in a heart beat, as it is definitely the best bread I've ever eaten. It doesn't hurt my belly...that's the most important thing...but it tastes phenomenal (also SUPER important!).
  • All of their breads are fermented naturally aka natural sourdough...and they do it right! They use whole grains and the red wheat is very tasty!
  • They have great special creations, like the time I was lucky enough to snag a wholegrain loaf that had kabocha in it!
  • They make great breakfast breads too, with hazelnuts & raisins
  • And for the treat lovers out there, their pastries look out of this world. Their german pretzels are soooo good too :)

Wildfire
http://www.wildfirebakery.ca/

 Vegan Sandwich to go &lt;3

Vegan Sandwich to go <3

  • On Quadra street.
  • These guys also do all natural sourdough bread, and they have lots of SPELT flour sourdough breads, which is pretty cool
  • They have some awesome take-out sandwiches...or you can stay in and enjoy a coffee and a delicious vegan ginger blueberry spelt muffin or some toast made with your choice of bread.
  • There are many vegan goodies to choose from (just ask) & I've been told that their absolutely stunning vegan chocolate cake is to die for.
  • The granola they make is also super yum, with all turkish apricots, hazelnuts, and orange zest

Fol Epi
http://folepi.ca/

  • A really neat gem tucked away in Esquimalt
  • Awesome design, and delicious organic bread (well, the one time I've tried it - I should go back soon!).
  • They make some really good looking treats too - like macarons, & individual pastries and tarts.
  • I've heard they make really great pizza too!

Ingredients & Groceries

Ingredients Health Food & Apple Cafe
http://ingredientshealthfood.com/

  • I stumbled into this place my mistake one time, and sure am happy about it! It's right downtown along the water on Store street, and is the bulk store of your dreams, combined with a cute cafe and a space where people can teach small groups classes
  • The prices here are some of the best I've seen in the city!

Niagara Grocery
http://getfreshwithalocal.com/

  • On Niagara street (you guessed it), in James bay.
  • This was another lucky find on a walk a few months back.
  • They have a great selection of everything: natural pickles, tofu, beans, organic veggies, nut/seed butters, jams/honey, milk alternatives, they carry Wildfire Bakery bread and other good breads, local ice creams, local vegan goodies, and plenty of organic chocolate, coffee and tea.
  • They also have a coffeebar, and a few tables.

Local Neighbourhood Markets

  • There are so many Markets here, it's a huge delight.
  • In the summer & fall, I was visiting Moss Street Market every Saturday, and stocking up on GREAT veggies!
  • There are markets all throughout the city, such as one in James Bay, Bastion Square...seriously, all over :)

Sakura

  • Same place as listed above...they also have a small grocery store attached where you can buy natto, soba, green tea, seaweed, organic miso, and other Japanese items!

The Market on Yates
http://www.themarketstores.com/

  • This grocery store has a surprisingly large selection of everything...you just need to dig a bit to find everything amongst regular items.
  • You can find ume products, seaweed, and a large selection of tofu here.
  • Also, there is a great coffee / tea section, along with lots of local chocolate.
  • They also have a pretty good bulk selection, and many organic fruits and veggies.

Ottavio
http://www.ottaviovictoria.com/

  • This is an amazing Italian market / cafe in Oak Bay.
  • If you're from Edmonton and love/miss the Italian Centre...this is the closest I have yet to find something similar, here in Victoria.
  • This would be the place for anything like olives, goat cheeses, olive oil, good quality pasta, chesnuts!!!, dried mushrooms etc.
  • They also sell one of my favourite brands of tea: Kusmi tea.

Places On My Radar That I Plan to Check Out:

Futaba
http://www.futaba.ca/main.html

  • This Japanese restaurant supposedly offers brown rice sushi, and gets great reviews

Victoria Public Market
http://victoriapublicmarket.com/

  • This public market at the Hudson, is relatively new, as far as I understand, and is inspired by the year-long indoor market at Granville Island in Vancouver
  • I can't wait to check out the regular vendors, for veggies and other fantastic products.

Fuji ya
http://www.fujiya.ca/aboutFujiya/fujiyastores/victoria.asp

  • I was recommended to check here for many Japanese ingredients I have been searching for :)

 

***And also some places very worth noting that I plan to get some of photos of next time and do a write up for are: Soltice Cafe & Bliss Cafe <3

Any and all recommendations are much appreciated!

To your delicious dining when you visit this haven known as Victoria,
xo Jess