March 20, 2014

M.A.K.E. Matthew Kenney Cuisine - Santa Monica Raw Food Restaurant for Dessert!

M.A.K.E. Restaurant in Sant Monica

Matthew Kenney (formerly of Pure Food and Wine) has founded a raw cooking school and restaurant in Santa Monica, California. Not too long ago, I was seriously considering attending this school for raw chef training. The location is a bit hard to find, since it is on the top floor of a shopping centre in The Market at the end of 3rd Street and is more of a cafeteria in feeling than a fine food restaurant, being open to the mall. We actually stumbled upon it by accident and planned to return.

The afternoon we stopped by for dessert, we were the only people in the place, other than a lot of staff (or perhaps students) who seemed to be having a meeting. The service was rather slow considering the how little effort was involved in plating ice cream and pre-made desserts, and the fact that we were the only paying customers, but we didn't mind sitting a bit after walking around The Getty Museum all day.


"Banana Split"

I was disappointed by this "Banana Split" since I like to have an actual banana included. We had a really delicious non-dairy version of the "Banana Split" at Real Food Daily (another Santa Monica vegan restaurant) a couple of days prior and I am sad to say that the M.A.K.E. version paled in comparison. The raw ice cream here at M.A.K.E. was delicious, but one type was almost melted and the others were firm. They didn't serve me one of the flavors I requested, since it was apparently too soft, but I am kind of glad, since the best flavor was the substitute. The replacement flavor, the green one in the center (avocado) had some kind of crunchy substance underneath that was really delicious - probably some nut and date combination. The sweet crisps stuck in the ice cream were apparently made from banana. I would have loved more sauce as well - that sad little drizzle was not nearly enough!

"Chocolate Cake with Peppermint Ice Cream"
 My son ordered the chocolate cake which was rich, silky, moist and dense - I would call it more of a chocolate cheesecake texture. I had a taste and it was delicious.

Pineapple Cheesecake with Coconut, Strawberry, Goji Berry"
This "Pineapple Cheesecake" was pretty good, although I found the texture kind of grainy. I think it had a nice presentation, but the serving size was lamentable. Those little mounds measure about an inch across (note the strawberry slice to compare) so very pricey for what you get.

Overall, I was left unimpressed with M.A.K.E. After having the most exquisite, creative raw dessert (both visually appealing and amazingly delicious) in the candlelit ambiance of Pure Food & Wine in New York City (owned by Sarma Melngailis, Kenney's former partner) I would not highly recommend this place. Save your dollars for NYC and go there instead!

March 12, 2014

Don't Hate Me Toronto Peeps!

At the end of Route 66 - Santa Monica Pier
Greetings from sunny California - well, actually we had torrential rain the first week I was here and I had to wear my down coat. Now it is quite pleasant, although not scorching hot and I am joyfully replenishing my Vitamin D stores.

I am especially grateful to be here rather than Ontario after hearing about the 9 inches of snow (so far) my hometown got today!

It has been fun to run around taking photos of flora and fauna, farmer's markets, architecture and beaches in flip flops. Los Angeles is chock full of the latest and greatest ideas for healthy living, so I am excited to share some new ideas in the weeks to come.

Next week, back to the ice and snow (and full-time school to complete my last couple of courses before graduating in April) apparently, but how much longer can it go on?


February 23, 2014

California Here I Come!

Yes, that snow drift is taller than me!
Okay, I officially can't take it any more! This has been the longest, coldest, most miserable winter in decades here in Toronto. The photo above (at our cottage north of the city) was taken a couple of weeks after we had already had the driveway completely cleared. I can't imagine how high it would be otherwise.

Thanks to years of profligate spending, I am happy to tell you that I have some air miles to use and I decided this would be an opportune time to do so. Here is a tip - if you are flying anywhere from Toronto, try to do it out of the Island Airport (YTZ) instead of Pearson (YYZ) - it will not only be a much nicer experience (3 hours spend standing in line to go through customs at YYZ vs. a comfortable chair, internet, cookies and a free capuccino at YTZ....but I digress) you will also save $$ if using air miles. My 2 flights to L.A. through Montreal cost only $135!! If I had gone through Pearson it would have been double that.

My firstborn is coming with me for the first leg of the trip, then later baby (age 13) and dad will follow during March break. Yee haw, can't wait to haul out the flip flops!

January 23, 2014

Your Bucket List - What Have You Done?

Just because I love these colourful birds
This was kind of fun, although some of the things on this list I would never want to do in a million years!

The instructions are to BOLD the ones you have done.

I got it here if you would like to give this a go!

1. Started your own blog (clearly…several, actually)
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world (does Universal Studios and Legoland count?)
8. Climbed a mountain.
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo 
11. Bungee jumped (NOT going to ever happen)
12. Visited Paris (a few times!)
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch (started doing portraits in grade school)
15. Adopted a child (no, but have adopted LOTS of cats)
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you're not ill (it was mental health, so maybe yes?)
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice (watched one though - too expensive!)
29 Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33 Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors (Ireland & Wales - want to do this for sure!)
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language (still working on it - French)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo's David (sort of - the copy in the square in Florence) museum closed :(
41 Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45 Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance (a rollerblading accident)
47. Had your portrait painted (by myself!)
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie (does  TV show count? Had my hair done ... makeover)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60 Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Gotten flowers for no reason
64 Donated blood, platelets, or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66 Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67 Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book (this is going to happen!)
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible (probably, but in pieces)
86. Visited the White House (outside it)
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (NEVER!!)
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life (my youngest son, from drowning...long story)
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby (Two boys)
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a lawsuit (someone put regular gas in my diesel car)
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

January 2, 2014

My Top Dozen Health Living Tips for 2014!

Apple 6x8 oil on panel - done with palette knife


Make over your life with these suggestions for your best year ever!

1.  Try a 3-week detox! Get the stimulants, depressants, gunk and potential allergens out of your diet, including: gluten, dairy, sugar, coffee, alcohol, trans-fatty acids, unfermented soy and corn -  then pay attention to how you feel when you re-introduce each of these foods (one at a time every 2-3 days).

2.  Improve your sleep! No Technology after 8 pm, instead wind down in a warm bath, spend time with family or read. Get in bed before 10 pm and sleep in complete darkness; No caffeine after noon to ensure at least 7-8 hours of restorative sleep.

3.  De-clutter! Throw out 50 things you do not find useful or beautiful. Open up to new possibilities and simplify your life so you don’t waste valuable energy and time taking care of things that you do not need or want.

4.  Exercise! Walk for at least 20 minutes every day – preferably in nature, but a treadmill will do if the weather is frightful. Stretch or take a yoga/pilates class at least a couple times a week for flexibility. Make sure you also do resistance strength training at least a couple times a week for anti-aging benefits, to maintain muscle and bone mass.

5.  Clean up your environment! Get as many chemicals out of your life as possible, whether they are in cleaning supplies (use vinegar instead of toxic solutions) or personal care products (look for paraben and phthalate free as a start). Check out www.EWG.org for more information about what to avoid.

6.  Make green vegetables a diet staple! Also, eat at least one big, raw salad for vitamins, phytonutrients, minerals and enzymes

7.  Be mindful when eating your food! Chew thoroughly and savour every bite.

8.  Supplement! As a baseline, include fibre, Vitamin D (or sunshine), freshly ground flaxseed (or EFA algae capsules) and naturally fermented sauerkraut (or Probiotics).

9.  Improve your mental health! Choose your battles – be happy and let some stuff go since your health will pay the price when you get upset or angry on a regular basis. Find ways to de-stress, including spending time with a furry friend (and if you do not have one, consider visiting a shelter and giving an animal a happy home), deep breathing or meditation.

10. Have an attitude of gratitude! Every night before bed, reflect on your day and write down at least three things for which you are grateful.

11. Keep yourself hydrated! Drink enough water to ensure your urine is clear or very pale yellow.

12. Get lots of antioxidants! Green or white tea and colourful fruits and vegetables supply beneficial phytonutrients. Science does not yet know the extent these contribute to our health but they promote a healthy glow, so if you want to look great, eat as many varieties as you can.



December 8, 2013

Phytates to Prevent Osteoporosis!

Dr. Michael Gregor of www.nutritionfacts.org has an interesting video that talks about research into whether phytates from whole foods, such as beans and grains, results in Osteoporosis:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bmg9kLe3tQI

Previous studies on puppies showed a bone softening effect from phytates and subsequent studies on rats (fed an excessive equivalent of 10 loaves of bread per day) confirmed that phytates are anti-nutrient.

However, subsequently, in a study on several people partaking of a high phytate diet, bodies become accustomed to phytates with no adverse effect.

Since then, a new study asked, do people who avoid high phytate food have better bone mineral density?


The results were interesting in that those eating a lot of phytates ended up with greater bone density. The phytates had a protective effect. Low consumption of phytates was found to be a risk factor for osteoporosis. A follow up study found the same results: more phytates = greater bone density and a lower risk of fracture.

The reason seems to be that phytates block formation of bone eating cells similar to Fosamax, but without the side effects such as horribly disfiguring osteonecrosis of the jaw.

November 19, 2013

Not Buying It: No Buy November

Snow has arrived in Ontario - although not quite to this extent yet!

This time of year, especially given the frigid temperatures we have been having lately, many of us are taking stock of our wardrobes. We are putting away our lightweight clothing and exchanging those items for warm and wooly sweaters and heavy coats.

Every time the seasons change and I have to accomplish this task, I notice how many of the clothes in my closet are seldom worn. I can also see that there are only a few favourite items that are worn to death. In addition, I am a little overwhelmed with the sheer volume of things I have accumulated.

After a recent move, one of many recent moves, I am growing less and less enamoured with stockpiling things. I have also started to question the wisdom of holding onto things “just in case” they suddenly became wanted, needed or useful. Usually when I do need something I know I possess, I cannot find it, so I have to go out and buy it again anyhow.

I think I am done with buying any more stuff - especially clothing! I periodically have donated piles of clothing and accessories, but somehow things start to accumulate again and I end up with more than ever. I am determined that this will no longer be the case. I want to lighten my load and feel more free and in control of my life. Having too many things is definitely an obstacle to living a simple life.

Cheap, trendy, disposable clothing just doesn't seem worthwhile when you consider the cost to human lives overseas. Shopping "vintage" is better in that respect, but can also lead to too purchasing too many things to house and look after, despite the attraction of reusing and recycling.

Perhaps we should take a long, hard look at what we have and decide what we will really wear on a regular basis. Pareto's Principle comes into play, in that we wear only 20% of what we have 80% of the time and 80% of what we own is only used about 20% of the time. Maybe we ought to take a page from the French and purchase fewer items of higher quality that we will enjoy wearing all the time.

Finally, if we stay out of stores, we won't be tempted to buy things. Shopping can be a distraction and form of entertainment that wastes our time and resources and leads to accumulation of way too much unnecessary stuff.

I just discovered a blog called No-Buy-November - sounds like a good idea to me!

November 14, 2013

Interview with Meghan Telpner, Nutritionista

Oliver enjoyed the interview too...check out his hind legs, so cute!

I am sure you will enjoy listening to this fun radio interview with wildly successful fellow nutritionista and author of Undiet, Meghan Telpner. She is now semi-retired, having shifted most of her business to online courses. She is also living temporarily in sunny California (lucky duck) with her husband while enroute to Bali. I want her life! She has worked hard and is now reaping the rewards. Enjoy the interview!

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/healthychatter/2013/11/14/undiet-eat-your-way-to-vibrant-health-with-meghan-telpner

October 26, 2013

Have Your Cake and Great Health Too with "Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free" by Ricki Heller

Ricki Heller, who writes a very entertaining and popular blog has recently released a gorgeous new book, Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free. Her recipes are not only delicious and creative, but also good for you. They are made from whole foods, with no gluten or sugar added. You really can have your cake and great health too!

As a tester for the book, I can attest to the variety and quality of the recipes in this big, beautiful volume. I don't usually do a lot of baking or preparation of desserts but I (and my family) really enjoyed experimenting with all the nutritious ingredients and flavours that Ricki uses in her recipes. You really can have yummy treats that taste amazingly good without the sugar and other less than desirable ingredients in standard desserts! Also, a lot of the "gluten-free" baked goods on the market are made with starches that are less than nutritious, so it is really great to have a resource that uses whole foods instead.

I was happy to ask Ricki some questions about her latest book. I was also interested in Ricki's strategy to maintain a healthy vegan diet.

Ricki Heller


Q: When you studied to become a nutritionist, was your intention to become a cookbook author?

Not in the least! Although I had already published a book by then (I wrote a college textbook while teaching English), I never, ever thought I’d write a cookbook. If anything, I had always dreamt of becoming a fiction writer (like every other English major, I have boxes of short stories and novels in draft form in my basement). My first cookbook came about really as a result of requests from customers of my bakery, Bake it Healthy. When I closed the bakery, people kept asking me if they could buy the baked goods directly from me. I decided it made more sense for me to publish a cookbook so that they could continue to enjoy the treats at home; that became Sweet Freedom.  Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free  was the next logical step, taking some of those recipes and revising them to be in line with my current diet by making them gluten-free and low glycemic. I also added some new recipes to Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free, plus some of the more popular recipes from my blog.

Q: Why have you chosen to focus on sweet treats?

Well, anyone who knows me knows that I’m a total dessert fiend! When I say that I’m a chocoholic or sugar addict, I actually mean it.  Part of the reason I became sick and was eventually diagnosed with candida overgrowth was because of my penchant for sweet things. I’ve loved dessert since I was a little girl, baking my first batch of chocolate chip cookies at age six (with Mom’s supervision, of course). I grew up in a house where there was always something home baked sitting on the kitchen counter.
So, there was just no doubt in my mind that when I had to change my diet to remove all high glycemic sweeteners (and, in fact, all sweeteners of every kind for the first while), that I’d somehow have to find a way to still enjoy my beloved desserts.

Another reason I focused on dessert (and breakfast-based baked goods) is that those are the foods that most people find hardest to replace when they go gluten-free, or sugar-free, or egg-free, or dairy-free. When you switch from wheat flour to gluten-free flour, it’s the baked goods that are tough to replicate (other foods, like fruits and vegetables, are already gluten-free, so no need for fancy kitchen magic there). I wanted to show people that it’s really not as difficult as they may imagine to make the leap to baking with healthier, allergy-friendly ingredients.

Q: You have followed a vegetarian and then vegan diet (for the most part) for many years but ran into health problems after about 15 years. Why do you think that happened? 

I think you’re referring to the period when I was told to go back to eating meat? When I first became ill with candida in my late 30s, the doctor I saw conducted a battery of blood tests and proclaimed that my albumen levels were perilously low, and that I had to start eating animal proteins again. This was after about 15 years of a primarily vegan diet. I remember the day well; that night, my husband and I went out to eat at The Keg (a steakhouse); I ate a steak; and I felt as if a rock were rolling around in my stomach for the following two days.

When I think of how I used to eat in those days before I attended nutrition school, I cringe. I have no doubt that I became ill because I was a classic “junk-food vegan.” My favorite foods were chocolate, cake, cookies, pasta and muffins, with a side of potato chips.  In those days, I could easily go for an entire day without so much as one vegetable serving! No wonder I was lacking nutrients and developed a case of candida—I was not only feeding the yeast exactly what it wanted to thrive, but I was also going through a very stressful time of my life back then, with both the death of my mom and my divorce less than a year apart. It wasn’t until I started seeing a naturopath and studied holistic nutrition that I began to understand what a healthy vegan diet was all about, and I was able to turn my health around.

Q: After learning more about nutrition, how did you change your diet in order to make it more healthful? 

Well, for one thing, I began to eat A LOT more vegetables! It was during my days at nutrition school that I first sampled kale, chard, collards, nutritional yeast, chia seeds, seaweeds and probably dozens more foods that I eat on a regular basis now.  And I began to drink green smoothies and fresh juices, both of which I adore! I learned about how to ensure my body absorbs the protein from plant-based sources, how to combine foods for optimum calcium absorption, as well as which plant-based foods are the best sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber. I broadened my ingredient repertoire and began to eat a much more varied menu.

Another thing I did was start eating nuts and seeds. Oddly, I hardly ever ate nuts before I learned about how healthy they are. I also learned that most commercially available nuts are NOT very good for you, since they are likely rancid and have been roasted in very unhealthy oils. Currently, I buy my own raw nuts and then toast them myself.

Finally, I began to drink more water.  During my year at school, I drank a glass of water with lemon almost every morning, a great habit that has fallen off since then (and one I’m trying to re-incorporate in my daily routine now). I do drink more water in general, though, than I ever did before.

Q: What do you think are the most important things to put into practice to maintain a healthy vegan lifestyle and avoid potential pitfalls?

Well, some I’ve mentioned above, such as varying the foods you eat and ensuring that you combine foods for proper protein assimilation. With a vegan diet, you can certainly acquire all the protein you need, but you must ensure that you do eat from a variety of food groups within the day—for instance, beans/legumes, nuts and seeds, or whole grains. Any combination of those will work to provide a complete protein source.

Dark green leafy vegetables are also a powerhouse of nutrition, and I try to eat at least one to two servings a day. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with osteopenia, and by increasing my intake of greens, beans, and daily walks, I reversed the diagnosis in one year.
I’d also recommend taking a daily vitamin B12 supplement and perhaps vitamin D for most people.  There are lots of other things to keep in mind with a healthy diet, but those are some of the main points that have worked well for me.

Q: Do you have a favourite recipe or recipes from the book? 

This is such a tough question!! As I’ve mentioned before, I really do love them all. However, some that come to mind are the Allergy-Free Chocolate Buttercream Frosting, a great recipe for anyone with food allergies. It contains no gluten, grains, nuts, soy, corn, eggs, dairy or high glycemic sweeteners, yet it’s light and fluffy and can be piped for decorating cakes or cupcakes. It also holds its shape at room temperature. That’s the frosting you see swirled on vanilla cupcakes on the cover of the book.

I also love the Fluffy Fruited Pancakes, which are very light and cakey, and provide a good amount of protein to start your day so you won’t have a crash mid-morning. And the chocaholic in me has to recommend at least one of the brownies in the book (there are five brownie recipes in total!), such as the Sweet Potato Brownies. Those are my “go-to” recipe when I want to impress people who may be skeptical about “free-from” baking. They find out pretty quickly that my treats are just as delicious as any others they could eat.

Q: I am curious about what is next for Ricki Heller - are you planning on writing another book and, if so, can you tell us anything about it?


This is just between you and me (shh, don’t tell anyone!), but yes, another book is planned. The next one is going to focus more on all kinds of dishes, including savory ones and other courses like appetizer and soup/salad. Though of course it will also contain desserts. . . I couldn’t write a book without those!  

October 15, 2013

Savoury Vegan Stew

Delicious on a cool fall day!

Now that fall is well underway, the craving for something warm, hearty and comforting seems to kick in. This is a yummy, nutritious option when you would like a dish that will stick to your ribs. If you would rather use tempeh or white beans instead of the tofu, go right ahead, it will work just as well.

Savoury Vegan Stew

2 T. olive oil
1 large onion
12 medium size cremini (227 g package) mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 c. white wine
2 c. filtered water
3 stalks celery, chopped finely
4 large carrots, chopped in 1” segments
6-8 medium size potatoes, cut in 1” chunks
2 tsp. sea salt
2 T. tamari soy sauce
2 c. pureed tomatoes           
1 pkg tofu, previously frozen and thawed
1 c. frozen edamame
1 c. frozen green peas
a few stalks of fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
10 sage leaves or 1 tsp. dried powdered sage

1. In large pot, over medium heat, place the olive oil and onions. Saute until caramelized, then add the sliced mushrooms and continue to cook until mushrooms start to brown.

2. Deglaze the pan with the wine and water. Add celery, carrots, potatoes, sea salt, soy sauce and tomatoes.

3. Let simmer, covered, on medium low heat for about 30 minutes.

4. Add edamame, thyme and sage and cook with lid on  for another 10 minutes.

5. Uncover pot, add the peas (and a little more water if it is too dry) and let simmer another 5-10 minutes.

                                                                                                                       



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