Lazy Sunday

Good morning all, I managed to get up early enough to cook some breaskfast for L and I. Well, I didn’t cook anything, but ate the leftovers from last night’s dinner party:

leftovers

GF couscous salad, GF vegan lasagne and pita bread (well I didn’t eat the pita bread, but L did).

I love dinner parties where everyone is talking about things, and even L got into it :-) I tried my hardest to get him to sleep before everyone arrived, but alas, it was not successful. So he had a late night while dining on all the food people brought over.

I cooked the lasagne using the cashew tofu ricotta recipe out of the Veganomicon (I doubled the recipe), used GF lasagne sheets, and a bottle of store-brought pasta sauce, and a whole lotta baby spinach, grated carrot and grated courgette. I didn’t make the cheesey sauce I normally make with it, and even though everyone loved it, it definitely needed that cheesey sauce.

My friend Keri, who is currently training to be a chef, brought over the GF couscous salad and a some lovely chocolate banana soy vegan ice cream. We enjoyed that with strawberries (the season has just started in NZ). Another friend brought over some sushi and edamame, whilst another brought over some hummus, sauerkraut, and the following:

kombucha

canned pumpkin

I love kombucha, and you can buy NZ made stuff, but this friend thought I would love the taste of this one from the States. He also got me 2 cans of pureed pumpkin so I can make this awesome GF pumpkin pie from the Gluten-Free Goddess blog. In NZ, supermarkets here do not sell canned pumpkin, because we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here. When I saw that recipe, I knew that I had to make it. I’ve only had pumpkin pie once, which I made (and that took forever due to cutting a pumpkin up, cooking it, then pureeing it in batches), and I loved it. I was going to go to a store that sells popular foods items from the States, but this friend found some organic canned pumpkin. So they will be sitting in my pantry for another couple of weeks until I get the rest of the ingredients together.

I would also like to thank Heather from Heather Eats Almond Butter for the shout out on her blog :-)

I was going to write about why humans are natural herbivores, but considering it is a Sunday, the weather report says it will be sunny and warm, I am gonna hit the shower and go for a 15km walk. Most people are shocked that I walk 10 to 15km, 4 to 5 times a week, but I love the exercise :-) So that particular blog post will be posted in the next day or two (I’ve been working on it, as it is sitting in my drafts folder).

Have a good Sunday everyone :-)

Why I became a vegan

In my previous post, I mentioned I would tell you why I became a vegan.

But before I do, I thought I would share what I managed to conjure up in the kitchen tonight with odd bits of veges left in my fridge:
lentil soup/stew thing
(sorry for the blurry photo!)

I had a half a bag of baby spinach and a couple of carrots that needed to be used up. The spinach wasn’t suitable for salad anymore, and the carrots were starting to look a tad tired. So I put 3/4 cup fo brown lentils and 1/4 cup of puy/french lentils in with 3 cups of water and 2 cubes of Rapunzel salt-reduced vegetable stock. Brought to the boil and then down to the simmer for 20 minutes until the lentils were cooked. Took off heat, then added the 2 carrots (which were grated) and the spinach (half a bag is about 2 to 2.5 cups) and stirred. The heat wilted the spinach nicely and cooked the grated carrot. I served with a little sprinkle of himalayan salt, 2 sprays of Braggs and a tiny drizzle of raw agave nectar. Lucian absolutely loved it, and has been one of the few times I have got spinach into him (normally it’s in a smoothie or hidden in a lasagne). It was absolutely delicious and filling. Plus the serving I had provided about 55% of my daily iron needs along with a lot of protein and complex carbohydrates.

Now to the story of how I became vegan Continue reading

Avocado love and organic food

I just commented tonight on Facebook that I have managed to consume 8 avocados this week. NZ appears to have a glut of avocados this season, so Countdown have been selling 2 for $1. Avocados are one of the few fruits I don’t bother really buying organic (unless organic is cheaper than non-organic, which happens quite a bit). The local organic shop, Harvest Wholefoods, has been selling organic avocados for $1.85 each. According to the list on the Environmental Watch Group website, avocados are number 4 on the clean 15. Whilst I try to buy as much organic as possible, when you have a tight budget and you know that list, I will buy non-organic fruit and veges.

There are, however, some things I will only buy organic – broccoli (I am surprised it isn’t on that list), kale (actually haven’t come across non-organic kale yet in NZ, only organic) and pretty much everything else on the dirty 15. I don’t mind buying lettuce and salad greens from non-organic sources due to how they are grown in NZ, but during the summer organic lettuce and salad greens are cheaper, so will switch. Strawberries are also another exception, but do prefer organic as they are sweeter. It will be strawberry season very soon, and prices between organic and non-organic are pretty much the same at the height of the season. I do stay away from non-organic apples, pears, mandarins, nectarines and peaches imported from the USA (sorry guys, but NZ nectarines and peaches taste better) and potatoes.

The reason why I am talking about organic vs non-organic is due to the change of how I purchase food for myself and my son this year. I lived in Dunedin for a year and was spoilt by the fantastic farmers market there. I was able to buy only organic fruit and vegetables for $30 to $40 a week. I also ate seasonally (apart from buying a bunch of fair trade bananas once a week) and used the organic store to purchase my dry goods such as lentils and chickpeas. The New World supermarket in central Dunedin had a fantastic selection of organic food (dry and fresh) and a good range of gluten-free products that were also vegan. Since moving back to Auckland, I am no longer spolit with the choice of buying only organic fruit and vegetables for $30 to $40 a week. If I want to buy the volume of fruit and vegetables that I do each week, I would be spending twice that amount. I trialled this a couple of times when staying with family and not paying any rent. At the moment, I spend $40 to $50 a week on a mixture of organic and non-organic fruit and vegetables, and feel okay about it with that list by EWG.

Sometimes I do worry if I am ingesting too many chemicals in my food, especially as I now mainly eat raw (with one cooked meal each day). I’ve also been investigating the 80/10/10 lifetsyle and the Low Fat (well they noe call it high carb) Raw Vegan lifestyle as well, but yet again, Brendan Brazier’s Thrive principles seem to resonate with me more and his nutrition advice appears more sound. I’ve been using my body as a guinea pig to see how my body reacts to each diet before I finalise my nutrition plan for bodysculpting training.

Nutrition wise, it has been pretty good. I am absolutely loving the new web-based version of Cron-O-Meter. I do quite like the standalone version of it, but it appears they will no longer be doing new versions of it. Which kinda sucks, as some people may prefer using the standalong version and rely on updates. They also allow you to upgrade your membership to gold, which offers more functionality (such as exporting all data in .csv format). You can, however, import data from the standalone version and it doesn’t matter if you are a free or gold member. I was an avid user of MyDailyPlate on the Livestrong website, but got sick of the changes and things not working on it, so made the switch to Cron-O-Meter.

Ceres Organics have started selling this:
Growing Naturals Rice Protein Powder

I am pretty excited, as Sunwarrior is hella expensive – $90 for 1kg. Even if I brought from a site like iHerb, the cost would be around the $70 a kg mark when you take into consideration currency conversion and shipping costs. This raw, sprouted, vegan rice protein powder by Growing Naturals is $27.45 for a 459g package, so about $49 a kg. A lot cheaper than $70 to $90 price for a kg of Sunwarrior. I will be using protein powder supplements when I fully get into training, but only something that will be used once a day to help increase the effects of weight training.

I’m getting pretty excited about training very, very soon. I am also hoping to get some sponsorship to help offset some of the costs involved. I only know of one vegan bodybuiler in NZ, who is male, but no vegan female bodybuilders/bodysculpters/fitness competitors.

Well that is pretty much it, and my next blog post will be exploring the reasons why I went vegan :-)

QUESTION FOR READERS – What is your stance on organic food?

Part two – Direction and focus

Last night, after finally finishing the blog post about the end of the challenge, I decided to do a mind map of where I want to take this blog, but more importantly, what direction I should take career wise.

I have so many interests that I need to make a kinda clear decision I want to do. A friend of mine recommend a book called Refuse To Choose by Barbara Sher, so I will be locating a copy in the library or ordering off Amazon. There are a couple of things I am definitely going to do and that is:

- Enter my very first bodysculpting/bodybuilding competition in May 2012. I’ve been researching all of the different federations in NZ, but will make a decision around March/April which federation I will go for, depending on how hard and lean I end up looking. All the federations appear to have their Auckland competitions in May, and would love to place in the top 3 in the category I will be competing in. I’m not going for the physique or figure look but still want to show a fair amount of muscle tone and definition.

- Find a job! I need to find a job asap, and something that I will enjoy doing until my mind decides what it wants to do and I have completed some further study at university. I would really like to study environmental management; the idea of having some sort of positive influence on how cities and towns manage environmental issues fascinates me.

- I have this crazy, crazy, crazy dream of also doing fitness modelling and proving to the world that being vegan does not equal looking weak and feeling lethargic. All of the interviews in fitness magazines in NZ with fitness models/athletes seems to revolve around eating chicken breast and drinking whey protein shakes. It would be great to see an interview with a vegan fitness model/athlete talking about quinoa, lentils, tempeh and having smoothies made from rice protein :-) And to also talk about grim realities of agriculture, plus the health benefits of being vegan.

- I also want to write a book and find a publisher to publish it on vegan nutrition. I know there are many books out there at the moment, but the idea I have will make it different from the rest. I have done study at university on nutrition, and I feel I would need to do a little more, specifically on sports nutrition and plant-based nutrition (such as the online course through eCornell).

So, my two main goals at the moment is to find suitable employment and start training for this bodysculpting competition. I need to be even more aggressive with finding work now and hope something comes up very soon. As for bodysculpting, I need to get my nutrition and training plan sorted asap.

I have to share this photo I took of the scrumptious tofu scramble with roasted asparagus I made the other night (which was posted on my Facebook page):
tofu scramble

It was absolutely divine and I have also finally perfected my tofu scramble. It had a block of Tonzu organic tofu, grated organic carrot, chopped broccoli, grated courgette, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder and some Braggs/tamari. All fried in a little coconut oil.

So here is the actual recipe and instructions for it, as a friend on Facebook requested it:

- 1 block of Tonzu organic tofu (this tofu seems to make the best tofu scramble. For non-NZ readers, this type is like firm tofu)
– 1 large carrot, grated
– 1 large courgette, grated
– Half of a red onion, finely chopped
– 1 to 1.5 cups of broccoli, finely chopped
– 1 to 1.5 tbsp of nutritional yeast
– 1 tsp garlic powder
– 1 tsp onion powder (do not use onion stock powder!!! far, far too salty. In Auckland, Fruit World sell packets of onion powder for $2)
– Braggs/tamari – hard to say how much, to your taste I suppose. I have a spray bottle with Braggs in it and probably put about 5 to 6 sprays into it.
– 1 tbsp organic virgin coconut oil, for frying
– 2 tsp of raw agave nectar (optional)

1. Prepare the veges by grating carrot and courgette into a bowl. Finely chop onion and broccoli and add to bowl. Set aside.

2. Heat oil in a medium sized pan on medium heat. When heated enough, crumble tofu, with hands, into pan. Using a wooden spoon, break up large pieces if tofu into smaller pieces. You don’t want the pieces to be tiny but small. Fry for a couple of minutes, taking care not to dry out.

3. Add nutritional yeast and stir. Cook for a minute, while stirring. Add garlic powder and stir. Add onion powder and stir. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, taking care not to burn the garlic powder (there should be enough moisture in the pan to ensure this doesn’t happen.

4. Add grated and chopped vegetables to the pan. Add Braggs/tamari to taste and stir. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes and add extra Braggs/tamari if needed. Do not overcook, or else the broccoli will look and taste bad. 4 to 5 minutes should be sufficient time for the veges to cook. If you like it a bit sweeter, add the agave nectar, but the sweetness from the red onion and carrot should be sufficient.

5. Serve with other veges of your choice, such as roasted asparagus or baked potato. If doing this for breakfast, I like to toast a couple of bits of GF bread and put the scramble on top.

Enjoy :-)

Part One – The end of the power-free challenge

I’ve had to redo this post so many times. Just doesn’t seem to flow right, so hopefully this attempt makes it online.

I ended the challenge 12 hours early. I had surpassed the original target of one month and was going to do it a bit longer, but on Thursday afternoon I could no longer handle not being able to vacuum the carpet or have a hot shower. I was also getting pretty peeved off at having to heat water to wash dishes, and my kitchen floor needed to be washed.

The first thing I did when I turned the power back on was to hook up my iPod to my new speakers and play some music- loud. A month of only listening to music with earphones was really annoying. Pre-challenge, I would blast tunes from my laptop. I love the effect that music has on my brain. Then I vacuumed. I have never liked vacuuming so much, and because I was only sweeping my carpet, I had a lot of dirt that needed to be lifted out. I have a bagless cyclonic vacuum, and needed to empty it 2 times – shows how much dirt can build up in a short period of time.

As you know, I was harping on about how much I missed having a hot shower. Because I turned the power back on at 6pm on Thursday, I had to wait two hours for the water to heat up in the hot water cylinder. But because I had a lot to catch up on, internet wise and laundry wise (which meant a trip up the road to the laundromat), I ended up having that hot shower on Friday morning. It was absolute bliss and loved how I felt so clean afterwards. During the challenge, it took half an hour to heat up enough water to wash myself with, then 15 minutes to wash myself. It is nice being able to be in and out of the shower in 15 minutes.

I’m also enjoying the other parts of having electricity again – having access to the internet at home, being able to charge up my cellphone fully (unlike the 30 minutes I had at the library), use of lighting in the evening, and being able to store food in the fridge and freezer. It is amazing how much we rely on electricity, and I still had to figure out ways of using electricity for the absolute essentials – my cellphone and laptop.

So, what did I learn from this challenge? I learnt that many families in New Zealand actually have their power disconnected on a regular basis. I was talking to some people in the library about this challenge and was surprised at the number that do not have power. The main reason for it was due to the high cost of power and not being able to afford to pay their bills in full on time. I also read articles about how Mercury Energy has been installing pre-paid meters into homes where some people have only been one to two weeks late in paying their bill. It may sound ok, but when you see the overly-inflated price that pre-paid customers pay for electricity, it forces even more families, who are already struggling, further into poverty. A majority of people who have had pre-paid meters installed are beneficiaries and already adds to the stigma they face.

One of the reasons for doing the challenge was to also pay off my mofo-of-a-power-bill in full as quickly as possible, which I did. At the end, I have a nice amount of credit sitting in my power account, as I put a large chunk of my AECT dividend onto it. I also spoke to my electricity provider and my brother (who is a bit of a electrician whizz) on what I could do in the winter to keep my power bill below $200. At the moment, I pay $60 a week, which should equate to a nice big credit next winter, but would like that weekly amount reduced to $40 a week by then. They both suggested only using the dehumidifier every second to third day, no use of a fan heater, get the water cylinder insulated, turn off appliances at the wall which are not in use and try not to be too frivolous with hot water. The main culprit for my big bill in August was near 24/7 use of the dehumidifier and fan heater.

If you ever decide to do a challenge like this, it would pay to do your research and be prepared. With No Impact Man, he also tackled the problem with packaging, which I sadly did not. At present, my wheelie bin only needs to be emptied every 3 weeks and my recycling bin once a month (the recycling bins we have in Auckland are HUGE). I recycle as much as I can and tend to reuse a lot of bottles (especially glass jars). For food scraps, well they go into the bin. I wouldn’t mind getting a Bokashi bin for food scraps, but I don’t have a garden and don’t know of anyone who would want the end product of the fermentation process for their garden. The amount of rubbish did not increase or decrease during the challenge, even though I was hoping for it to decrease.

In terms of how much time I am spending on Facebook since ending the challenge, well I felt like a kid in a candy store being able to stay at home and surf the internet. I think I said in one of my original posts that I was previously spending 4 to 5 hours a day on FB, well I realised that it was probably more like 6 to 7 hours a day, when taking into consideration how much time I would spend on it in the evenings. During the challenge I was spending about an hour, 2 at the most, and that was mainly to reply to any messages sent to me, post blog links and maybe comment on a couple of status updates. Well, probably not even an hour, as that time was also spent reading and replying to emails and any other important stuff I needed to do online. Since the end of the challenge, I have been averaging about 3 to 4 hours a days. I am making a point of going on for 10 to 15 minutes, then going off and doing something else. I would still like to get that down to 2 hours a day, as it can be such a time waster. Facebook has been great for meeting new friends, but I can’t rely on it for a majority of my social interaction with others.

I also decided to enter a meter reading today to see how electricty I am going through, and over the past 2 weeks I have used $30 worth of power + approximately $14 for daily user charges. Which means my first proper bill since doing the challenge should only be around the $85 to $90 mark. Huge, huge reduction to what August’s bill was and also less than 50% of June’s bill. I’ve only had the dehumidifier on once, but then decided it doesn’t need to be on, as it doesn’t feel damp. I’ve also been turning off lights that are not in use and also turning off all appliances in standby at the wall.

I also went through a huge period of self-reflection and as you know, did Louise L. Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life properly. I am so happy I did it and there was a very good reason why it happened when it did. I still have a lot of work to do and love how I am peeling anyway the layers of years of anger, resentment, guilt and pain. On Saturday, I woke feeling completely happy and at peace with myself. I attended a fantastic dance workshop by Sheree Carbery which truly a ‘ReAwakening’ for me. The energy from it lingered with me during the week and has also helped bring up further thought patterns that need to dealt with appropriately. I would highly recommend attending one of her workshops, she is truly an amazing wahine (which means woman for my non-NZ readers).

So, part two will look at where I want to take this blog and what other challenges I have up my sleeves. Sorry for the lack of photos in this post, but will start taking photos again of what I am making food-wise.

Please comment and ask any questions you may have :-)

Days 28, 29, 30 and 31 – Sugar, sugar, sugar…..

I hope everyone had a lovely weekend and it is nearly the middle of the week!!!

I have done it – gone without power for a month. And it is something I will certainly not do again (unless some natural disaster caused a power outage). I’m sticking to no power till this Friday, then I will be turning that switch back to ON on the fuse board, wait 2 hours for the water to heat up in the hot water cylinder, then standing under that stream of hot water until the cylinder is empty.

It has been a huge learning curve for me, and I am pretty sure I will be able to survive a power outage that would go on for months. I sometimes wonder why I thought it would be a great idea to do it. The novelty factor of it wore off in about 2 weeks, when I realised what I had got myself into. It also highlighted just how reliant Western cultures are on electricity. I also missed having constant access to the internet, but it helped reverse my addiction to Facebook. I am going to try as hard as possible to only Facebook for a maximum of 2 hours a day, as it can be a bit of a time waster.

Food wise, probably haven’t made some very wise decisions over the past couple of days. I brought myself a bottle of fruit smoothie with spirulina, as my body wanted lots and lots of green stuff. Not a wise purchase due to the large amount of sugar in it (even though it is fruit sugar). I really should have made myself walk the extra 10 minutes to Harvest Wholefoods for some cavolo nero and made some salad from it. I also ate a large amount of gluten-free pasta with some vegan cheesey sauce on top. It would have been better if I added some veges to it. So I haven’t eaten a lot of raw, but getting back into it today.

Had a lovely organic avocado with chia seeds and himalayan salt for breakfast today, as my body was screaming for it. Then ate a couple of oranges. Lunch was my GF pancakes topped with organic tahini and raw agave nectar. Nom. Dinner tonight will be a GF pasta dish with grated veges, shredded cavolo nero, chickpeas and a sauce made from tahini, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, raw agave nectar and water *drools*

Looking forward to the food co-op this Saturday, as I am all out of almonds and other stuff. Plus I managed to get through about a litre of coconut oil in a month, and about 2 big jars of tahini. The savings are great, which is enabling me to eat more organic food. Plus food co-ops are a great way to interact with other people in the community and ensure that such services stay alive.

Now onto Louise Hay stuff, and a couple of past emotional issues have propped over the past couple of days. I posted on my personal Facebook page about it today, and I realised that I had PPD when I had L. Because of my extreme stubborness, I somehow managed to get through it. But I do distinctly remember sitting on the couch crying my eyes out when I breastfeeding Lucian feeling like a failure. I don’t know how I got past it, but it I do think the PPD contributed to the recurrent mastitis I had and feeling rundown all of the time. The cause of these feelings and memories to come back is due to some jealously I have over a cousin who had a baby about a week ago and all of the family around the country who have visited her and have been helping her with housework and allowing her to get some sleep. I had no help at all when I had Lucian, and because it was taking a long time to heal from my c-section, I would get so angry at my-then-husband over his lack of resolve to do housework. It is a good thing that this coming up and I am now doing affirmations to move past those thought patterns and to release all of that anger in a positive manner.

The one affirmation that has been helping me move past a lot of old emotional baggage is this one in You Can Heal Your Life is this: “I am willing to let go. I release. I let go. I release all tension. I release all fear. I release all anger. I release all guilt. I release all sadness. I let go of all old limitations. I let go, and I am at peace. I am at peace with myself. I am peace with the process of life. I am safe

I have to admit, I have some pretty awesome friends who are helping me (whether you realise it or not) rediscover my identity. So thank you friends, you know who are :-)

Now, what my bodysculpting training? I am starting to incorporate some walking lunges. Up steep hills. A week of doing them is starting to produce some pretty good results already. This morning, I noticed in the mirror how much more toned my legs are. Still working on the abs, but that is definitely going to take time, clean eating and lots of cardio to shift that fat. I am starting to love my body now and not criticise it so much. I am starting to love the stretchmarks on my tummy, as it is sign that I nourished another life in me for 9 months. I am liking my breasts, as they nourished my son for 2 and a half years. Doing daily mirror work and saying “<em?I love and approve of myself” and “I love and accept myself exactly as I am” is finally starting to work and change my thought patterns.

I better end this now, as it starting to resemble the length of an essay. I may not blog tomorrow as I have a lot to do, so my next blog post will probably be about my love of hot showers :-P

Days 26 and 27 – Dreaming of a hot shower……

It seems I am doing a post every 2 days at the moment, as my son’s sleep schedule is all over the place.

Tomorrow will mark 4 weeks of this challenge. I said I would originally do it for a month (which is 28 days or 30 days, depending on how to define how long a month is), then said at the beginning of this week that I would add another 2 weeks to it. I’m only going to do it till this Friday, because I am majorly craving a hot shower. And the ability to vacuum, store food in my fridge and play some music loud.

Food wise, I haven’t made some very wise choices. I thought I had finally kicked my refined sugar habit, but then realised I haven’t due to the jam I put on my oats. So I will have to replace that bit with fruit and a little bit of stevia. I had half a block of Sweet Williams white chocolate today, and I felt a bit sick afterwards. I still haven’t kicked my Red Bull habit yet, but I am down to one bottle a week, which is better than the 4 to 5 bottles I was consuming over a month a go. I am also thinking of giving up oats completely as well, as they aren’t really gluten-free, and I notice on days that I do not have oats for breakfast, I feel lighter and more energetic. I might use start using a mixture of quinoa and rice flakes as ‘porridge’.

No photos or Louise L. Hay stuff today, but eating all that sugar has made my brain all fuzzy.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend everyone, and I will write a more cohesive, comprehensive post (with photos!!!) on Monday (or Tuesday, dependent on my son :-P).

Arohanui :-)