#cyclinglife

I will admit I haven’t been very present in my kitchen all summer – hence not much food related content on this blog. Somehow, while transitioning to a plant-based diet (yes, I feel I can openly admit that I am eating plants only) I find I don’t need to spend half as much time in the kitchen as I used to when eating animal products. The truth be told there is not much cooking necessary when eating plants and the cooking that does happen is of the quick and dirty variety. Mind you, one can certainly spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking on this WOE, but during the summer I mostly opt for raw foods, such as big-ass salads and such. My cooking has been limited to marinating my tofu/tempeh, throwing it together with sweet potatoes into the oven to bake. Later I’d integrate those with some raw vegetables and pour over some salad dressing and voilà my meals in a nutshell. It really doesn’t have to be more complicated than that – however, my work peeps still ask me every single time I eat at my desk what it is that I am consuming, with just as much interest and awe as when I spent hours upon hours in the kitchen:). So what have I been doing if I am no longer devoting as much time to cooking as I used to?

I’ve revived my passion for biking and am taking every possible opportunity to put on the mileage. It’s usually very uncomplicated: I hop on the bike and start along route 60 or what some like to call it “the old way”. Other times I try to plan it out a bit more and have a route in mind, but to be perfectly honest I am not much of a planner – I have to do these things on a spur of a moment basis, otherwise I’ll start analysing the activity too much and what ends up happening is I scrap the activity in favour of some productivity in the kitchen/house. Also, I hate to make a big production of something that is just supposed to make me move – getting out on a bike shouldn’t feel like I’m planning a wedding or some other time and resource consuming activity.  It’s a bloody #bikeride, not a life-changing undertaking 😉

Yes, you could say that biking is to blame for the lack of fancy meals and right now I am OK with that – there is only so much time left before the weather turns bitter cold, making it unsuitable for biking…

You know that every ride I take I snap as much as I possibly can.

This restaurant always has its parking lot blocked around supper time. I’ve only eaten there once, in another life, but what I do remember about it is that the baked potato dish that they served was to die for. I don’t remember much else, but that mashed potato was splendid. I remember when I first came to Canada about 17 years ago I was taken aback by all the utility poles still above ground. I was used to them being buried underground, but not so much in Newfoundland. Later I found that to bury them underground wouldn’t be very feasible here where we pretty much sit on a rock.

 

This was my first ever fall on my bike – I was warned that it might happen with clip-in shoes, but I was very careful up to this point. I spent a good deal of time learning how to clip-in and clip-out my shoes having my bike held for me. Every ride I made damn sure that when I anticipated a stop that foot would be out of the pedal long before my stop. In a way, I did get a bit overconfident. I thought I got it down pat, but I was wrong. Especially after having trekked through the woods in my clip-in shoes to get through a path to the highway one day. On that day I almost fell down but saved myself by unclipping my non-dominant foot just in time. The next ride I took I thought my cleats were clean and ready for more cycling but did not account for the fact that all this banging, cleaning and unclipping might have shifted the placement of my cleat on the shoe and now releasing it by twisting my foot outwards was no longer feasible. No matter how much I twisted my foot it wasn’t enough and my left foot didn’t unclip in time to save me from a fall this time. The fall was pretty gentle, but quite embarrassing, right in the middle of traffic. Turns out I have to twist inward now to unclip. Definetly a learning point in my cycling adventures 🙂

When I bike I tend to go-go-go, but I recognize the opportunity to stop and appreciate the scenery.

This hill used to give me a hard time – it is such a drawn out hill when going uphill. Don’t get me wrong, the hills are what makes this place much more challenging for a cyclist and that’s a good thing! What would a bike ride be if there were no hills? It’d be no more challenging than walking but add hills and all of a sudden you have an activity that’s building your muscles while also elevating your heart rate to burn off the crazy 😉 This stretch I am referring to goes from Topsail Rotary Park to Sobey’s in Paradise and according to google maps is about 4km. Here is what’s super awesome about cardiovascular activity (or really anything that you put your mind to) – practice makes perfect! A month ago I used to have to take 3 breaks on this stretch going uphill. Now I take none both ways! 4 km of steady uphill with no breaks feels just as exhilarating for some reason as turning around and picking up the speed downhill!

 

This is what Newfoundlanders call a beach – it will do, but I’m always scoffing at the idea of a rocky beach, having grown up being spoiled with sandy beaches 🙂

I swear these are going to be my proudest body part come next summer! I’ve been working on those wheels 4 times as hard as I used to prior to my shoulder injury that they have to come out on top no matter what!

 

Took a relaxing moment before getting inside – my legs always get a beating during my rides. Somehow they always end up dirty as if though I was crawling and down on all fours – I swear I’m actually biking 😉

 

Let food be thy medicine

Have you ever heard the claim that as long as you exercise you can eat what you want? I have heard people say this time and time again and my response to these claims is: “You can, however, you cannot outrun a bad diet!” to which most people don’t know what to say. So why negate all the hard work with putting junk in the trunk? The reason why we do it is because many of us have a skewed relationship with food in that we use it as therapy, as a trophy, as a friend, or the worst of all… as a reward.  Our relationship with exercise is also broken in that we treat it as a punishment, we feel that once the exercise is completed we will have a free ticket to reward ourselves and what better way than with indulgent food? The idea that exercise might be a tool in obtaining health and food might be a tool in fueling this exercise and recovery is foreign to many.
Why do I care so much about watching what I eat even when I am putting in the work? Wouldn’t I want to relax a bit and gobble down a tub of ice-cream after a long hike? I would, it would be so much easier, but I know better. In a nutshell, I strongly believe that it matters what we eat regardless of how active or inactive we are.
When you take a sedentary, sick and overweight person, your first instinct is to point out that the reason they are sick and overweight is because they don’t move. But make that person move and they will not heal. They might lose a few pounds, but they might not because they will probably compensate by eating more of the wrong foods. Why do I think that’s the case? Because there are plenty of active people who still get sick. You might not have heard of Bob Harper’s – the host of the Biggest Looser – heart attack, or maybe you have – in any case, wouldn’t you expect that the person who helps other people get in shape, be himself a picture of health? I would. He looks fit and trim, he is active – how is it that he has almost died from a heart attack? I have one word for you – DIET or the lack of proper diet.
I’m pretty sure most of us know at least one fit, active person who on the outside looks like a walking and talking health encyclopedia, but it’s only when they suffer from a heart attack, a stroke or other physical manifestations of sickness that we see there is something wrong on the inside and exercise alone is not able to prevent it.
This is why I feel so strongly about fueling myself properly even when I know I’m putting in the work by moving my body. I want it to receive the best fuel there is for any activity I perform and reward it with the best fuel for recovery. I don’t believe in punishing my body by putting junk into it just so that I can have a momentary taste buds pleasure – yes, it’s true: junk food tastes good – the companies making it made damn sure of it. That’s why it’s important that we reclaim our taste buds and relearn to like to eat real food.
Here is an example of 2 meals, evening and morning that I had on my last overnight hike to Cape Broyle:
After hiking a measly 7.5k to the campsite I made a pasta meal with dehydrated mushrooms and sweet potatoes. This is a complete meal with plenty of protein and carbs.
This pot is half full, so even though it doesn’t look like much this is actually quite a bit of food. Depending on your exertion level and how much you ate prior to the hike you might follow it with a snack. I did have a Larabar as this meal was low on fats, so Larabar filled the gap just perfectly with about 10g of fat.
This is the pasta I use for my hiking trip meals and for flavoring I use 10g of this soup mix. The reason I use this particular pasta is because it’s made out of beans so it contains both carbs and protein – I do not need to worry about adding a protein source to this meal. I also like it for its simple ingredients: beans! And as a bonus, it is very lightweight and takes literally a couple minutes to cook, especially if you pre-soak it. The flavor mix is optional but highly recommended as it thickens up the dish and contains only real ingredients. If I am out of this soup I will make my own spice mix (any Mrs. Dash, pepper, turmeric, smoked paprika, sumac, etc) and add some nutritional yeast to thicken and to give the meal a cheasy vegan kick.

The following day for breakfast I served quick oats with a crumbled Larabar and some dried apple slices:

I used about 40-50g of quick oats for their quick cooking time. Ideally, I would have some steel cut oats, but that would require 20 minutes of cooking, so not ideal for the trail. I was out of my homemade Larabar so I simply used the store bought one, which worked out fine because this meal was missing some fat. You could add nuts or hemp seeds instead of Larabar for fat, you could also jazz it up with all sorts of dehydrated fruit thrown in there for flavor.

 

You might be wondering about the color of my oats – the beautiful yellowish color comes from this Raw Plant Protein Powder by Vivo. It’s entirely up to you if you decide to pump up the protein by adding protein powder or not. If you decide you want to, you have to be careful which protein powder you chose, because they are not created equal. I have been experimenting with a few different brands of plant based protein and this one is quite tasty. I also like Garden of Life protein powders.

 

And the ingredients, as well as the macros, are quite spectacular if you ask me.

And voilà! It’s that simple. Putting this together pre-hike did not take very much time out of my day – I simply measured the servings and put them in plastic baggies. It was just a matter of having the right stuff in my pantry.

I will also point out that if I am going on an overnight hike, where cooking a meal is required, I don’t believe in snacking in between. Let’s face it, I am not exerting myself enough to justify extra food in between meals – I simply make my meals nutritiously dense enough that I only get hungry when it’s time to eat. If by any chance my meal does not satisfy my hunger, I will follow it with a snack. And if I am going on a day hike I do take a snack just in case but intend not to eat it and I will eat regular meals at home before leaving and upon my return. Snacking gets a bad rep in my books.

Enough about food… After all I came along for the pictures…. and for the kiss-ass workout…. and for the wildlife…. and of course, there was fog.

 

This little precious baby bird was sitting right smack in the middle of the path! It was only by chance that he was not stepped on. Since I’m always with my head down looking at what I am stepping on (not keen on breaking a leg over sticking out roots) as I was approaching him I yelled out “OMG there is a bird on the path”, which I followed with “I’ll be here a moment”… After all, I came to take pictures….

 

He seemed to have been injured because he would not budge one bit. We gently relocated him (without actually touching him) so that somebody else would not step on him. Needless to say, on the way back the following day he was nowhere to be found and I don’t want to contemplate what might have happened to him.

It’s all about that light – it can make the least exciting subject look spectacular and fetching.

 

As usual, fog did not disappoint, but there are still ways to make it work 🙂
And this is how we hydrate – never carry all the water that you’ll need, there is plenty around you that you can make drinkable 🙂

Maybe it’s just me, but is he checking his watch as if to say “Hurry up!” 😉 ?

 

Speaking of making food work for you instead of against you – here is a little video for you. She touches on some very important points – definitely worth a watch.

 

On a roll

Sometimes when I can’t do what I am used to doing (like right now) I become stagnated feeling sorry for myself. Until I snap out of it. And when I do good things happen in the kitchen 🙂 

In fact, if I keep going at this speed I might have to get a new pantry to store my hiking snacks because there is probably enough to fuel every hike until the next season. This time I have taken to making my own Larabars because at $2 a pop they are a pretty expensive snack – for that price I can get 500g of dates (the main ingredient for Larabars) and make a pretty decent batch of them myself.   

Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing bad to say about Larabars. For those whose main fuel is carbohydrates, Larabar is about the only snack food that I would fully endorse- there is literally nothing bad in them. The reasons why I choose to make my own are:

  1. It’s way cheaper.
    From my calculations making Larabars at home runs me between $0.30-0.40 per bar and this is a very rough estimation. The price will vary depending on what type of ingredients you use – if you use a lot of nuts it could be more expensive. Also, do your math before you dish out the big bucks – I found that dates tend to be the cheapest when you buy in bulk at $0.39 per 100g, but if you buy them pre-packaged you can expect to pay as much as $1 per 100g. 
  2. It’s way fresher.
    That’s a no-brainer – you have just made it yourself, so it has not been sitting on a shelf getting old. 
  3. You can choose your won ingredients.
    I like this part the most – Larabar only comes in so many flavors but when you make the bar yourself the sky is the limit. For example, if you want to make it nut free you certainly can; if you want to add any dry fruit to yours you sure can. You can literally make it any flavor you desire. Be creative!
  4.  You get a certain satisfaction that cannot be achieved by simply buying the bar.
    I used to think of cooking as a chore in the past, but these days I feel I’ve done something good for myself and my loved ones when I make something from scratch instead of buying a ready to eat product. 

These bars were so easy to make that I made 2 different flavor batches: Apple Cinnamon and Banana Almond.

Apple Cinnamon Bar
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 6
  • Serving size: 50g
  • Calories: 123
  • Fat: 2
  • Saturated fat: 0.9
  • Carbohydrates: 25
  • Sugar: 20
  • Sodium: 40
  • Fiber: 3
  • Protein: 4
Recipe type: Snack
Cuisine: Vegan
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Better, Tastier and More Satisfying than the original
Ingredients
  • 200g Dates ($1)
  • 100g Figs ($1.50)
  • 20g Pumpkin Seeds ($0.10)
  • 1 scoop of Clean Protein by Vega ($1.30)
  • 12g Unsweetened Coconut Flakes ($0.16)
  • 1 dehydrated Green Apple ($0.50)
Instructions
  1. Chop your dates and figs to help with the processing.
  2. Put pumpkin seeds and apple into the food processor and run on high to chop into small pieces. I reserved a handful of apples and chopped them to add at the end for a bit of texture.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse for a while until smaller pieces form. This is important because the dates and figs are quite hard on the food processor - you don't want to ruin it.
  4. Add a bit of water to help the mixture bind.
  5. When the mass is pretty uniform transfer onto a cutting board and form a flat surface with your hand, you can use a large knife to help with this.
  6. Once one big flat mass is formed cut into individual bars.
  7. Transfer onto a piece of parchment paper and put in the freezer to solidify.

Banana Almond Bar
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 10
  • Serving size: 50g
  • Calories: 180
  • Fat: 7.5
  • Saturated fat: 1.5
  • Carbohydrates: 28
  • Sugar: 21
  • Fiber: 3.6
  • Protein: 3.8
Recipe type: Snack
Cuisine: Vegan
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 300g Dates ($1.50)
  • 100g Almonds ($1.00)
  • 100g dehydrated Banana ($0.19)
  • 15g Sunflower Seed Butter ($0.18)
  • 20g Pumpkin Seeds ($0.10)
  • 12g Unsweetened Coconut Flakes (($0.16)
Instructions
  1. Put Almonds and Pumpkin Seeds in the food processor and process on high until you get very small pieces.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and incorporate well making sure to go easy on the machine at first.
  3. Transfer the mass onto a cutting board and form your bars with the help of your hands and a large knife.
  4. Transfer to the freezer to solidify.

And then I decided to cut both of them up in tiny little bite-size pieces and throw them in a bowl for random enjoyment 🙂

 

In addition to getting creative in the kitchen, I have finally completed my first bike ride. I’ve been itching to go out there and start at it again. I would love to bring back the year bike rides were a weekly ocurrence. I have been getting pretty jealous of whoever owns the 3 bikes always parked at work until I found out one of them doesn’t live very far from me and I got an idea that maybe I could be biking daily to work…

So yesterday I set out to bike as far as my work just to get a feel of what it would be like. Mind you I have done the distance before (even longer distances were the norm at the height of my biking), but I haven’t been biking outside yet this season and we’re taking biking before work and right after work – a total of 50km which would pretty much mean I’d get up go bike to work, bike back home and go to sleep to do it all over again the next day.  

My try-out bike ride to work did not go as far as work, but pretty close and on the ride back I run out of steam, so I had to be rescued. But I was glad I did it.  

Here is a snapshot of the trail for your enjoyment. Forgive the portrait mode, I’ve been told to never do it again 😉

Hiking food prep made easy and cheap

One of the ways that I decided to adopt to deal with my shoulder injury is to focus more on training my legs –  and what better way to strengthen and lean out at the same time than to hike? If you ask me it’s a win-win. I am of course looking forward to resuming my regular routine, but you can only work with what you’ve got and right now I have an incapacitated shoulder but a pair of pretty strong legs 😉

As a form of treatment for my shoulder, I have decided to try Chinese Medicine. Yes, I know, many people would probably dismiss this idea as a waste of time, but the thought of physiotherapy, that I was referred to, did not seem that appealing to me, so I went in the totally opposite direction. So far I have received traditional acupuncture, cupping and laser treatment. Initially, I figured I would only want to go once every 2 weeks, mostly because of the cost, but now after only 3 visits, I wish I could go every single day. Is it helping? It’s hard to say right now because I am ingesting a lot of ibuprofen and it’s only been 3 visits, but I am very optimistic, except for the times when I get deeply depressed about my situation and images of an operating room flash in front of me in my nightmares. I am actively trying to refocus, though and find peace within myself to help my recovery. Here is what I looked like after my last treatment, turns out there is a lot of inflammation in the general area of my injury, which is the anterior deltoid.

To take my mind off this irritating, debilitating issue I have taken to prepping easy to store, grab and go snacks for the trail – dehydrated vegetables and fruit.  Sure, you can buy them already made, but a lot of it has added sugar that really isn’t needed when we’re talking fruit, not to mention preservatives and other additives. So here is how I make mine.

You will need a mandoline and a dehydrator. I can almost hear you rolling your eyes with cynicism, but trust me all you need is the most basic one there is, it will run you about $40 at Canadian Tire and if you are smart about reducing the weight of your pack while hiking you will use it a lot.

All you need to do is slice your fruit (apples, bananas, strawberries, mangos what have you) or vegetables (mushrooms, sweet potatoes, beets, carrots etc.) quite thinly and lay them out on the trays like so:

 

 

You think produce is expensive? Think again! These 3 beauties were discounted probably for their blemishes. I got them at half the regular price. Again, it pays to pay a little attention – don’t dismiss the discount shelf at the grocery store, there is often great things to be had at a fraction of the cost 🙂

Turn on the dehydrator and forget about it for at least 12h. When you are happy with the level of dehydration harvest your crop and put it in an airtight container and store until needed. For tracking nutrition purposes only I weigh my pre-dehydrated produce and divide the weight by 100g. When the fruit/veg is fully dehydrated I weigh it again and divide that weight by the number I got from weighing it raw. This way I know how much of the dry product equals 100g of the raw product. For example: if my raw fruit weighs 500g, then I know there are 5 servings of 100g in the whole batch. Let’s say the dehydrated version has shrunk to 150g (by eliminating water content), then I’ll know that to get 100g I need to divide 150g by 5 and weigh out only 30g of the dehydrated product. Why is this important to me? Well, it’s easy to overeat on dry fruit and I’m not looking to gain any weight while I’m exerting myself. I want my body to tap into my stored energy more so than to overload it with energy. But of course, this step is not necessary if you are not tracking your meals.

What do I do with my dehydrated fruits and vegetables? You saw how I incorporated Sweet Potato Chips in my Chickpea Burger recipe. Granted you won’t take that on the trail, but you can just as easily throw some chips into your pasta meal for added crunch or simply use them instead of traditional chips. In fact, for this batch of Sweet Potato Chips, I sprayed them lightly with some coconut oil and seasoned with some Himalayan Salt so they resemble traditional chips quite well (not as greasy, though). Dehydrated fruit usually ends up in my morning meal while hiking which mostly happens to be oatmeal, but you can most definitely put it in your trail mix or munch on it like you would on chips. Or go a step further and include it in your homemade granola bars! 

When these were baking in the oven the house filled out with the most amazing aroma. If I didn’t know any better I would have said there was an apple pie in the oven!

I sprinkled the apple slices with some cinnamon because everybody knows cinnamon and apples make the greatest of marriages!

 

Apple Granola Bars
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 12
  • Serving size: 50g
  • Calories: 153
  • Fat: 3.6
  • Saturated fat: .4
  • Unsaturated fat: .8
  • Carbohydrates: 24
  • Sugar: 7.8
  • Sodium: 53
  • Fiber: 4.2
  • Protein: 7.1
  • Cholesterol: 0
Recipe type: Snack
Cuisine: Vegan and nut free
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Don't settle for junk, make your own granola bars that are chock-full of nutrition!
Ingredients
  • 200g whole Oats
  • 1.5 scoop Clean Protein by Vega (you can sub for your favorite brand)
  • 60g Natural California Raisins
  • 200g Bananas
  • 60g Prunes
  • 20g whole Flax Seeds (ground)
  • 50g dyhadrated Apple chopped into tiny pieces (optional but recommended)
  • 20g Chia Seeds
  • 20g Hemp Seeds
  • 1tsp Cinnamon
  • ¼ cup of water
Instructions
  1. Grind the flax seed and add to the rest of the ingredients and incorporate with your bare hands. Add enough water for the mixture to bind together.
  2. Transfer the mass onto a parchment lined pyrex dish and press with your hands to mold it into what's to become your granola bars.
  3. Place in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees and bake for 40-50 minutes depending on your oven.
  4. Check for doneness - you want the edges to crisp up a bit.
  5. When out of the oven cut into individual bars.
  6. Store in the fridge to preserve freshness.

 

Since we are on the topic of hiking I feel it’s necessary to share pictures from my umptieth visit to Deadman’s Bay Path. I kid you not, for a person known for not being that much of a hiker I know this path inside and out 🙂

Chickpea Burger

I have never felt this incapacitated as I do now and have been since October 2016. I like to research new ways of training, adding things I’ve never tried before and I remember distinctly having found a YouTube video with a different type of shoulder training around the time my shoulder started bothering me. I was very eager to try it, moreso because it was performed by one of my ketogenic diet gurus. Lo and behold, the following day my shoulders were on fire. I didn’t pay much attention to the discomfort since a healthy dose of soreness is good for progress. That is until it got worse and it no longer felt like the regular DOMS I’m used to getting. Fast forward to today and I might as well cancel my gym membership because I have completely stopped training upper body due to this injury. One might think “Big deal! Take care of it!” however to me – even though I am taking care of it – it is a huge deal.  

This injury has affected me in ways that I cannot begin to describe as I am unsure that I comprehend them myself. Not being able to do what I do that pretty much defines who I am is like cutting off a bird’s wings and still asking it to fly. I have been training at the gym for the majority of the last 8 years, if not longer. I am not a professional competitor, I don’t make a living with this activity – It’s what I do to feel good, to start my day in a positive way. I’m a cranky morning riser, so getting that rush of adrenaline first thing in the morning is what makes me go – and now that’s mostly gone. On days that I do go to the gym to train legs I still feel like I am unable to workout with the intensity that I know and love – so it seems that it’s a wasted time.   

When you depend on your fix and it’s not delivered your life starts to crumble. You start doubting your self-worth, you don’t see a point in carrying on, you become depressed and moody for the smallest of reasons. In your mind it all comes down to one thing – you are not able to do what you love and it makes you miserable no matter how much you’re trying to resist the misery.  

This has been my reality for much too long and I know it’s affecting more than just me…. Right now I am trying to find a way to be OK with the way things are until things get better, but it’s difficult when there is no improvement, no light at the end of the tunnel and all odds seem to be against me. My mind is unwilling to look at the bright side of things and be hopeful without compassion and understanding – instead, it inevitably gravitates towards the worst case scenario. How does one fly with no wings? 

So as a way of being OK for the time being I have started to experiment in the kitchen a bit more – trying to find ways to incorporate more and more plant-based protein in my meals. It’s more a way to occupy my mind than anything else, but I have been finding quite interesting to try new things and to develop my tastebuds so that I don’t depend on the same old, same old. Here you have it –  today’s supper was a Chickpea Burger with a side of homemade Sweet Potato Chips. 

 

This is my idea of “fast food” – it was fast to put together, it was delicious, but it didn’t clog my arteries the way that a regular fast food burger would and that’s a bonus!
This little patty pack in a lot of nutrition and flavor. No, it doesn’t taste like meat, it tastes way better! I haven’t been eating beef in a long time, so I don’t feel like I am missing anything, anyway 😉

Chickpea Burger
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 5
  • Serving size: 50g
  • Calories: 193
  • Fat: 9.5
  • Saturated fat: 1
  • Unsaturated fat: 4
  • Carbohydrates: 20
  • Sugar: 3.6
  • Sodium: 24
  • Fiber: 7.5
  • Protein: 8
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Vegan
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Better than meat burger!
Ingredients
  • 300g cooked Chickpeas
  • 100g grated Carrots
  • 30g Tahini
  • 70g Avocado
  • 20g Hemp Seeds
  • 15g ground Flax Seeds
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1tsp Cumin
  • 1tsp Turmeric
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 10g Nutritional Yeast
  • 2-3 cloves of Garlic
  • ¼ cup of Lemon Juice
Instructions
  1. Reserve the carrots and 50g of Chickpeas for later
  2. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mass is smooth.
  3. Add the rest of the chickpeas and carrots and pulse only slightly to incorporate, you want to leave some chickpeas somewhat chunky.
  4. Form patties and brown on both sides in a non-stick frying pan.
  5. Assemble your burger with the bread of choice - I decided to use Ezekiel bread because that's what I had on hand. Also, I used a leaf of purple kale - it has the most beautiful fragrance and purple veins. As a side I served my very own Sweet Potato Chips that I made simply by slicing the potato on a mandoline, spraying the individual chips lightly with some coconut oil spray and sprinkling a tad of pink Himalayan salt. As a spread for the bread, I used my own hummus.

 

What the Health

I promise this is going to be the last review post and I will get right back into cooking. I’ve seen this title so many times being touted as the crème de la crème of food documentaries that I just had to sign up for Netflix and see for myself. I thought to myself that if nothing else, I would have gained some blog fodder 🙂

I will admit that the first time I attempted to watch it, I only watched the first 10 minutes of it due to the multiple attempts of making refined sugar seem like the good guy in the “food pyramid”. I just couldn’t get over the fact that anybody in their right mind would try to convince anybody that eating sugar won’t kill you. That was a deal breaker for me and I had to turn it off in utter disgust and disappointment. However, I did return to it with a clean slate and decided to give it a try in hopes that I would be able to crush it in my review.

First of all, the sugar commendation in the first 10 minutes of the movie is a very weak attempt at trying to convince the viewer that carbohydrates in general are not the enemy and should not be feared. The authors mistakenly and to the film’s detriment, in my opinion, dump refined sugar in the same category as other sources of carbohydrates coming from natural plant sources (think sweet potato, rice, fruit, beans and veggies). To me, this is very off-putting and inaccurate – I don’t believe that a calorie is a calories and it does matter where that calorie came from. If it comes from refined sugar it will only make you crave more of it, if it comes from a plant it will satiate you and nourish you until your next meal. So, I think it would have been a good idea for the authors to scale back on the promotion of pure refined sugar at the beginning and instead talk about carbohydrates coming from vegetable sources. 

However, there was a reason why the film specifically mentions sugar as the good guy –  in order to promote veganism/vegetarianism the film needed to convince us that high carbohydrate diet is not the source of disease such as diabetes or obesity. A specialist in diabetes Dr. Neal Barnard states that ” diabetes is not and never was caused by eating a high carbohydrate diet, and it’s not caused by eating sugar.  The cause of diabetes is a diet that builds up the amount of fat into the blood, I’m talking about a typical meat based, animal based diet.” To show how this happens we get to see an animation of the muscle cells being blocked by the buildup of fat that prevents the natural sugars from getting in the cells where they belong and this causes insulin resistance as the sugars now have to remain in the blood steam. This sounds plausible, until you get to listen to the next guy.

Dr. Garth Davis states that “carbs cannot make you fat in and of themselves”. He points out that we have storage in our bodies for carbs called glycogen in the liver and in the muscle – so when we eat carbs we either store them or we burn them. When we eat fat, he says, it goes straight to our hips and organs as there is no inbetween for fat. He fails to mention, though, that the storage for carbs is only about 2000 calories. So what happens when we eat more carbs than we can store or burn? Well, we’ll get fat. He briefly states that you would have to overdo it by a lot to get fat just from eating carbs. But the real kicker comes when we get told that the cookie would not be bad for its sugar content if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s accompanied by fat. In other words, the only reason why the cookie will cause you to gain weight is because you cannot efficiently use the energy from the sugar in the cookie because of the inhibiting powers of the fat surrounding the sugar. So, this assertion made me consider that, maybe, if you eliminated sugar from the diet, fat could be used for energy and as a result would not block sugar from getting into the cells? Think Keto.

I don’t have answers to this hypothesis, but one thing that becomes more and more obvious to me is that you have to pick your campsite and stick to it. You are either an efficient carb or fat burner and you either thrive on carbs or fats, not both. Does the fat have to come from animal source, though? I don’t think it does and the authors of the film don’t think so either, but their reasoning is completely different than mine. But I won’t spoil everything for you, you should find out for yourself, because there is more in the film that’s worth watching. Not least of which is the type of conflict of interest that the government is a part of by taking money from the industry to sponsor studies and research that will then put this industry’s products on the shelves of your grocery store. How can you trust the government advising you what to eat by creating their infamous food pyramid, when you know that the various conglomerates in the food industry basically paid the government to promote their individual products?  It’s quite upsetting to realise that any industry has this much say in what the government is recommending you to eat – this fact alone makes me want to reconsider my entire menu. 

Whether the movie convinces you to ditch the meat or not, I think the main message of this film is a good one : eat more of the real, plant stuff because it is good for you.

 

What rock have I been hiding under?

The one that nobody would come looking for me, I suppose. But to be brutally honest I’ve been somewhat incapacitated by miserably cold and gray weather that’s been sticking around this rock for way too long and by a persistent shoulder injury. The rock I live on has a tendency to “gift us” with a prolonged winter that for people like me means depression galore. That paired with the fact that back in October of last year I injured my shoulder and it hasn’t healed since made for quite a miserable human being, who literally did not want to lift a finger. But I’m working on recovering my shoulder’s health and (knock on wood) sun has finally decided to show its face around here. So, with baby steps I’m edging out from underneath the heavy rock I’ve been living under.

All this hiding did not go to waste, though. Even though, I have not felt inspired to make any blog worthy meals, I have continued to cook to nourish myself. But I also took a long and hard look at my eating habits and I have re-evaluated my nutritional approach. Let me explain:

At around this time last year I have fully immersed myself in what’s known as the ketogenic diet whose approach is to switch the body’s energy source to fat instead of carbohydrates.  I’ve read all there is to read about this dietary approach and I plunged into it (slowly at first) believing in the premise – made famous by Steve Phinney – that in the beginning, a portion of the 70% of fat should come from body fat that we are trying to burn and not necessarily from dietary fat as shown in the diagram below:

So, when I started the ketogenic diet my dietary fat only came to about 50g, which coupled with the very low carb requirement made for a rough start. All of a sudden, all my starches were gone (sweet potatoes, other root vegetables, oats, gone were the indulgent pastries, I even modified my grocery list to remove permanently the high carb options, I no longer bought fruit and instead have been seen explaining to the Bulk Barn employee why pork rinds are a better option than conventional chips) to be replaced with fat.

So, eating 50g of dietary fat and deriving the rest of the 70% from my body fat, keeping my carb intake from all sources at a maximum of 50g and making sure my protein remained moderate as well (because if you know anything about the keto diet you will know excess protein is a no-no) I found that results came quick. I quickly moved on to the second phase, where fats were increased ever so gently and on to the 3rd and 4th phase. But what ended up happening was, that even though the macronutrient ratio increased on paper, the volume of food on my plate did not change significantly and I like volume. This was a problem – I like to eat.

There was another problem that I was frantically trying to hide from myself – I’ve been addicted to the free-foods of the fitness industry. Ever since I’ve set up my IG account I’ve been the victim of the knowledge of the masses (aka pseudo-knowledge), falling prey of all the “latest and greatest” devoid of nutrition food-stuffs that spammed my IG feed. Yes, you can rest assured that I’ve tried most of those artificially sweetened food-stuffs. And while they are promoted as calorie-free, guilt-free alternatives I no longer believe that eating them is without cost to our health. I do believe that they leave us craving more of the wrong stuff, they mess with our hormones, our perception of taste and our food inhibitions. This constant bombardment of fake food-stuff along with a high fat diet made me uncomfortable in my own body.

But it’s not just my own faulty experience that made me rethink my approach, I have also been observing other keto fellows, just to discover that there are only a few of them who are fully thriving on this WOE and achieving body compositions worth a mention. Without naming anybody, I will say that most of the ketoers (people who follow a ketogenic lifestyle) tend to become very plump, if not overweight. Is a keto diet meant for weight loss? According to Phinney and Volek yes, it is, but some claim that it is not meant for weight loss and rather for health gain. Whatever the case and whatever dietary approach one chooses to follow one thing is for sure in my books – as long as we keep fooling our our bodies by feeding it fake stuff we will continue to be fat and sick.

While under my gloomy rock I kept going back to my food journals from the pre-IG era and I couldn’t help but notice the absence of fake stuffs and the overwhelming presence of real food in my diet. I ate starchy vegetables, oats and fruits galore and I felt and looked good all while keeping my fats in a healthy range of 50-60g a day – all coming from real food. So, I kept thinking: “How is it that all of a sudden I am afraid of a piece of fruit or a plateful of veggies and feeling so under the weather and deprived?”  

I started looking around, reading, searching youtube for a whiff of fresh air – inspiration if you wish, finding similarities among the most unlikely channels, all centered around best fuel for physical performance. I revisited and scrolled through Geraldine Morgan’s – a bodybuilder vegan – IG account that seems to disappear from time to time, but if you are interested you can check her out on her FB page. And then it hit me with a force of an avalanche : I’ve been always preaching real food and we all know where Popeye’s strength and big muscle come from – spinach!

So my focus shifted to researching vegan/vegetarian bodybuilding and I stumbled upon a youtube channel unlike any others by a fellow Canadian – Derek Simnett of Simnett Nutrition  – and his easy going approach to performance fuel immediately grabbed my attention and made me put my sweet potato and oats back on my grocery list. Heck, I even bought dates and bananas! However, I haven’t eaten meat in the past 2 weeks and I feel great and haven’t lost all my muscles.

Am I a vegan or a vegetarian now? No. If I have to label myself as anything I prefer to call myself the real food monster. I still eat fat, only it’s plant-derived fat, I no longer believe we have this extreme need for dietary fat, we only need enough for vitamin absorption, hormone production and brain function. Excess fat will be stored like any other macronutrient that we over-consume. I have been forgoing consumption of meat, only because I find preparation of it very energy consuming. I haven’t become an animal activist by any means, but I do find meal preparation so much easier when it does not involve meat as the protein source. I’ve learned that plants have a lot of protein that’s easy and quick to prepare – in fact it would have never occurred to me that a fully plant based meal can deliver just as much protein as a meal centered around a piece of meat! Have a look at my typical breakfast and lunch:

Who would have thought that in 2 plant based meals one can get 53g of protein? Not me! I’ve been pre-programmed to believe that the only viable source of protein is meat and that we need a lot of it. What’s more, the volume of those 2 meals had me chewing for a solid hour 🙂  

I leave you with a video by Derek in which he explains what he eats in a typical day. Note that his protein intake is not high by bodybuilding standards, even though he points out he finds it high for that day of eating. If you look at any of his other videos you will see he has built quite a bit of muscle eating this way, which goes to prove that protein over-consumption is not necessary for ideal body composition. Have a look for yourselves:

 

Are we embracing the right principles?

I believe that staying open minded when it comes to education should be a prerequisite for all human race. If you believe in the science of human evolution then you should also believe that as we age our belief system will evolve, that is, if we open up to new findings and information. That’s why I am always interested in the latest news in the field of nutrition. I’m especially willing to listen to research that contradicts my beliefs in hopes that it will either convince me that I’ve been on the right path all along or to a lesser degree for it to sway me the other way. That’s why on my most recent solo weekend I took to Netflix in search of some new, fascinating documentaries in the food and nutrition theme.

What I found and decided to devote my time to was a title that I remembered seeing somewhere in the social media world being referred to as the ultimate in body positivity movement – “Embrace”. My common sense guard came up right away to warn me against watching this flick, but I didn’t listen and watched it anyway. And here is what I think:

The film tells a personal story of Taryn Brumfitt who overcame her struggle with body image by losing a bunch of weight, joining a bodybuilding competition, getting disappointed by how she felt and then gaining the weight back on and then some. Yes, you read that right, she is only happy now, after having regained the weight. Why? Because she claims she has accepted and embraced the way she is.

Let’s back track for a bit. After giving birth to her children her body has changed, she probably had less time to prepare meals and as a result it showed.  This caused her discomfort – like it would to anybody – that’s a natural reaction. She has the basic understanding of what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed – diet and exercise. Nevertheless, she hires a personal trainer who will guide her on her health and fitness journey. She cleans up her diet and starts an exercise regimen. She gets in shape, she is happy with her body now, she looks good, she can wear cute outfits that fit her well. Somehow, at this point she thinks to herself: “I need to validate this by bearing myself to the world.” and so she competes against other women who might or might not have been competing in bodybuilding shows for years. At this point she realizes that bodybuilding competitions are typically not a one time thing – people who compete do it for a lifetime, they don’t get settled in after one fail or one trophy. If they don’t place as well as they had hoped for – they come back with a vengeance next time, if they win – they want more and come back for more. Supposedly, this gives her the impression that it’s never enough in this sport, that those people are never happy with their appearance. She realizes that staying in shape is a lifetime commitment to taking care of yourself by nourishing one’s body properly and by training regularly for the rest of one’s life – and that’s not what she signed up for. She says that this is way too difficult and time-consuming for her to continue, so instead she abandons the new found knowledge and packs on the weight again – now she says she embraces the way she is. I guess it’s easier that way.

If you’ve read this far you probably got the sense that I disagree with the premise of the movie and you would be partly right. I disagree with how this whole embrace-your-shape-whatever-it-is BS is presented. We are basically being told to put the least amount of effort into making ourselves into what we want to be and instead just go with the flow, cake and cookies included. Such assertions – that if you’re overweight, it’s because god indented you to be this way and you should not resist it, just embrace it – make my skin crawl. I think that type of attitude is teaching our children to be complacent, to not have aspirations, to not want to better themselves – we are all humans with faults that we should strive to eliminate or lessen. Take a smoker : smoking is a nasty habit that’s hard to quit and that’s killing him, will you tell the smoker to embrace his habit? No, you’ll encourage him to quit, show him ways to do it, you’ll support him in his efforts – you won’t ever tell him to embrace it. So why is it ok to encourage and support malnourishing our bodies to the point of obesity? 

What really bothers me about this movie is the fact that Taryn compares her situation with others suffering from afflictions that they cannot control. She seems to imply that a person with a weight issue is somehow suffering from the same societal pressures and judgements as a person who has half of her face paralyzed due to brain cancer, or a person who is disfigured due to surviving a fire, or a person  who is missing limbs due to an accident. So we have two groups of people here : in one people who become overweight on their own doing and in the other people who, not by choice, are in some way shape or form physically deformed. Both groups of people should embrace the way they are instead of trying to correct their circumstances or be unhappy with how they look. Well, if you don’t see a problem here let me tell you that in my eyes that’s a huge blow to the face of the people who cannot help the fact that they became permanently disabled. 

However, I do believe that there is time and place to be body positive – and it’s to fuel our desire to look and feel great in our bodies, not by becoming complacent and lazy, but by working hard at achieving the best that we can be. I do believe that we become what we think and that’s why thinking positively about what we want is very important. “Thoughts become things” sounds like such a cliché, but what else is there to do? – the opposite is just a sure way to fail and be miserable. So, instead of going with the flow and accepting the bulge I vote for embracing the hard work and effort that it takes to be the best that we can be. Your body will thank you for it, I guarantee it!

I leave you with an article – “Don’t tell me to embrace my overweight body” – about a woman who tells it as it is without sugarcoating anything. I respect her for her courage to come out and say it out loud – embracing an oversized body is often a free ticket to eat that extra large burger without guilt. 

Longing for the simple, easier ways

Do you ever get the feeling that as you grow older you seem to have lost something that used to make your life complete and no matter how hard you try you are not able to find that something in the here and now? Most times you can’t even put a finger on it, it’s a fleeting feeling, a memory, a situation, an intangible and an indefinable emotional state… Other times you know exactly what it is: it’s the way things used to be when they were fresh, new and exciting… Why is it that this feeling had to go away? Because we are surrounded by constant evolution, information overload and “experts” regurgitating the latest truths and discoveries. Most times change is good – when it builds on that feel-good feeling, but other times change covers up what we knew to be true and skews our reality by letting us believe the past can no longer be. We know it’s there, because we get tiny little glimpses of it here and there, only for it to blur into obscurity with new experiences… new situations…. new feelings… new information.

For me, those glimpses happen when I hear my shutter click, which I haven’t heard in years now. I’ve disabled the fake shutter sound my phone’s camera produces because its fakeness is exactly the type of new reality that obscures the reality. Nevertheless, every offspring of my shutterless phone camera brings back those memories of what was. Only how to uncover it all and bring it back to life? 

    

So where is food in all this? Right front and center. To be honest, I’ve been longing to get out of the rut I’m in food-wise. I miss the times when I knew my thing and stuck to my mantra of food is fuel. I’m sad to admit to myself that somewhere in the abyss of thoughtless social media screen scrolling I have lost that conviction. Everybody wants to taste the sweet nectar of colorful, supposedly guilt-free devilish creations that we immerse ourselves in once that screen lits up. It seems that those images look more enticing and tempting than the most provocative body part.

So, I’ve laid aside the social media feed for a while and instead have been scrolling through MyFitnessPal history to where I know my food simply worked because it fueled not tempted with pretty colors. Back then I didn’t display it publicly because it was simple, unexciting and easy… But it worked. So I found a recipe that I used to use for my treats and overnight oats and turned it into a colorful dessert… 

Ultimately, that’s what it is. It’s not a breakfast item or even a reasonable treat, it’s way too large – between all the smoothie base, the fruit, and all the other toppings this would probably fulfill half of my energy intake for a day and then some.

Of course, my plant had to take over this picture. Even though it looks like it does not belong in the color scheme, I couldn’t resist but to make it the focal point. If there is anything I miss from the old way of photo taking, it would be a good macro lens for shooting flowers. Nothing beats an SLR macro.
It seems like the bowl is smiling at you or maybe it’s laughing… hard to tell.

You’ve probably seen these smoothie bowls all over IG, Pinterest, and FB. Mine is not as impressive as what you’ve probably seen because I did not manipulate the colors in this picture half as much as what some “experts” do. I’m also not going to tell you it’s a health item because it isn’t.

I encourage you to search for a “how to” video for these smoothie bowls and you will be blown away to find out that they are the ultimate in consumer manipulation. Come on! Purple raspberries? And pink blueberries? They represent fakeness at its best. I don’t deny editing my own pictures, but the transformation that those smoothie bowls undergo is what’s wrong with the perception of reality on social media these days. Not to mention that if you were to eat one of these you probably would not have to eat until the wee hours of the night, it would be that filling. 

In spite of my apparent negativity towards these creations, or rather towards the misinformation they spread, I do make the cottage cheese and yogurt base every single weekend, but the amount that I poured in that bowl to take a picture usually lasts me an entire week, as opposed to one meal. I use the smoothie base for my overnight oats, but they are nowhere as exciting and beautiful as the Smoothie Bowl pictured above or the ones floating on social media. So I’ll spare you a boring picture of my everyday breakfast, but don’t be fooled by the pretty colors and the illusion of well-being and health that these try to portray on social media. 

Smoothie Base
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 13
  • Serving size: 100g
  • Calories: 82
  • Fat: 1.1
  • Saturated fat: 0.5
  • Carbohydrates: 5.2
  • Sugar: 3
  • Sodium: 47
  • Fiber: 1.2
  • Protein: 14.3
  • Cholesterol: 3.5
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Not all that glitters is gold
Ingredients
  • 500g Dry Pressed Cottage Cheese
  • 500g Plain Skyr
  • 37g of MRM Mocha Chocolate Protein Powder
  • 1cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • 20g Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 12g Lucuma Powder
  • 20g Mesquite Powder
  • 1-2 TBS instant coffee
  • Stevia or Erythritol to taste
  • Extracts if desired
Instructions
  1. Put Cottage Cheese, Skyr and Almond Milk in a large capacity food processor and blend on high until smooth.
  2. Add all the dry ingredients and extract (if using) and blend on high until well incorporated.
Notes
Note 1: I use this yogurt base for my overnight oats. I measure out 2 servings of this Smoothie base, add about ¼ cup of milk, 20-30g of dry oats and mix well. I will top with some berries, sprinkle of cinnamon and dust it with stevia if I feel I want it extra sweet. Put in the fridge overnight for the oats to absorb some of the moisture and plump up. This is a perfect breakfast for the coming hot summer days 🙂

 

The Imperfect Chocolate Chip Almond Cookies

Remember my Poppy Seed Cakes recipe that almost turn out to be a disaster but I somehow managed to save it by switching gears and turning a roulade into a cupcake like treat? Well, it sort of happened again this weekend. Even though that initial Poppy Seed Cake recipe almost ended up in the garbage bin I really liked how the final product tasted so I reused the almond flour batter to make some cookies. Surprise, surprise they also almost did not materialize. I guess I have a knack for pulling recipes out of a fire when they flop 🙂 

I won’t bore you with a big write up about how these almost did not come to be, instead I leave you with the recipe, some pictures and a video that explains it all. I will say, even though I was quite apprehensive to put my voice into the video, I enjoyed the process and hope you enjoyed listening to my cookie story at least half as much. It was not easy to put myself out there for everybody to judge. But hey, nobody’s perfect, least of all me and my recipes.  

You really won’t need much for this cookie – if you are worried about the 2 ingredients that might not be readily available at your local grocery store you can skip them – I’m starting to think they might have been the reason why this cookie almost flopped. 

The Imperfect Chocolate Chip Almond Cookies
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 14
  • Serving size: 1 cookie
  • Calories: 230
  • Fat: 20
  • Saturated fat: 10
  • Unsaturated fat: 10
  • Carbohydrates: 9
  • Sugar: 2
  • Sodium: 33
  • Fiber: 5
  • Protein: 6
  • Cholesterol: 44
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
The cookie that almost wasn't meant to be...
Ingredients
  • 150g Almond flour
  • 120g Coconut flour
  • 20g Lucuma powder (can skip if unavailable)
  • 20g Sacha Inchi powder (also can skip)
  • 115g melted unsalted Butter
  • 50g melted Coconut oil
  • 50g 90% Dark Lindt Chocolate
  • 2 Eggs
  • Leftover nut butter of choice
  • Almond and Vanilla extracts
  • Sweetener of choice - I used Erythritol
Instructions
  1. Mix all the dry ingredients, making sure to get rid of any lumps.
  2. Add eggs, extracts, butter and coconut oil and mix well.
  3. Do not forget to sweeten your batter, otherwise it will taste more like a cracker than a cookie, which wouldn't totally ruin it, but people will laugh at you if you still call it a cookie.
  4. If you wish you can put the chocolate chips and nut butter into the batter like I ended up doing in the end or you can attempt to fill the inside of the cookies with each. I can spare you the frustration - it won't work, so you might as well just integrate all the ingredients in the batter.
  5. Form cookies and put in the over at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes or until golden brown on the outside.