In the fall of 2014, I started planning to grow my own food. I knew that I couldn’t do it on my own, if I wanted to learn effectively in a short period of time, rather than through trial and error. I hired the expert edible gardeners at Victory Gardens in Vancouver for some one-on-one instruction. Now, it is May 2015 and I am already benefitting from their tutelage. I have been harvesting beautiful greens for eating. It is incredibly exciting to watch tiny organic seeds germinate into food producing sources of nourishment – all in my own backyard! The only challenge to date has been our raccoon family, who we adore and happily share our hedges. Some days the entire raccoon family can be seen sunbathing and napping on top of the hedge. Other times they pass through the garden in a cautious, delayed single file. The raccoons have not eaten any of my produce. Though they did spend the winter digging up a portion of our lawn for grubs. I thought it was wonderful; they were aerating our lawn. My husband wasn’t amused and tried to discourage them with a wire mesh ground cover (no plastic allowed) and a motion detecting sprinkler, which mostly sprayed us – forgetful that it was on. Since the hunt for grubs has been over for a few months, the raccoons have now turned their attention to the gorgeous earth worm laden soil where I’ve planted my brussels sprouts and kohlrabi seeds. For the last four days, each morning I would be disappointed to find that garden bed completely upended. I put up a little wire fence to deter them. Hopeful. But it didn’t work. And the few little sprouts that were making their way to the surface were disturbed. I set everything right and planted a few more seeds. My husband, who is often in conversation with our seasoned and successful gardener-neighbour told me that he uses cayenne pepper. From my spice rack I pulled out the organic cayenne pepper and sprinkled some on the garden soil where the raccoons have been visiting. The next morning? Everything was left untouched and the little sprouts are happily growing. Here is a link to an article describing some natural options for deterring pests in the garden. It’s a delicate balance because what deters the harmful insects and pests can also harm the beneficial.
Category Archives: Food
“Until 1946, half of all produce was grown in people’s back yards!”
Some sage advice? at 6:13 in the above video:
“Take responsibility for your own food.”
“If you really want food security grow your own food.”
“If you can’t grown your own food, then know your farmer.”
“Know where your food is coming from.”
“Don’t buy food from somebody you don’t know.”
“You don’t have to wait for the government to make legislation around genetically modified food.”
“If GMO is not in-line with your personal values? Then don’t buy that food.”
“If you don’t think chickens raised in tiny cages is a good idea? Then don’t buy those eggs.”
“We have all the power.”
“We don’t need to occupy anything but our own kitchens.”
“Vote at the cash register at the grocery store…better yet, don’t go there.”
“Buy food from your local farmers.”
“Value food for the true value of food.”
“Don’t do it by yourself.”
“If its worth doing its worth doing poorly the first time.”
Meet Joel Salatin from Polyface Farms: “Beyond Organic” farmer. The following quotes are taken from an article written in 2006 by Michael Pollan for Mother Jones. “We ask for too much salvation by legislation.”
“Don’t you find it odd that people will put more work into choosing their mechanic or house contractor than they will into choosing the person who grows their food?”
“Greetings from the non-bar code people…”
“…whenever I hear people say clean food is expensive, I tell them it’s actually the cheapest food you can buy. That always gets their attention. Then I explain that, with our food, all of the costs are figured into the price. Society is not bearing the cost of water pollution, of antibiotic resistance, of food-borne illnesses, of crop subsidies, of subsidized oil and water—of all the hidden costs to the environment and the taxpayer that make cheap food seem cheap. No thinking person will tell you they don’t care about all that. I tell them the choice is simple: You can buy honestly priced food or you can buy irresponsibly priced food.”
“When someone drives up to the farm in a BMW and asks me why our eggs cost more, well, first I try not to get mad,” said Joel. “Frankly, any city person who doesn’t think I deserve a white-collar salary as a farmer doesn’t deserve my special food. Let them eat E. coli. But I don’t say that. Instead I take him outside and point at his car. ‘Sir, you clearly understand quality and are willing to pay for it. Well, food is no different: You get what you pay for.’
Yesterday, I chose to stand with thousands of people fasting for climate change on the first day of each month. My previous post explains my reasoning for participation. This post will explain how I did my first ever fast (on the first of October) and how I felt.
I felt very well the entire day. Our household starts to stir around 6am every morning (except weekends, which is by 7am). I did my usual bed stretches and my current version of a 4 minute-morning. Made the kids their breakfasts and walked briskly with Dot to the bus. Got home and did household chores, and some on line research. I had been drinking a natural amount of water throughout the morning – about 8oz each hour. By 10am, I started to feel a faint request from my stomach for a morning snack; I acknowledged it with a smile and carried on. By 11:30am, I started to feel that rumbling, more like demanding for lunch. I kissed that demand with some hot water and started contemplating what other liquid would be acceptable for my rules of this fast. Tea came to mind but then I remembered that the previous day I had made a batch of beef stock. By 1pm I drank an 8oz glass of hot beef stock. It was the most amazing drink. The homemade beef stock nourished me; I felt like a wilting plant that stands to attention when given water, I could sense my very own cells responding in that way. I chose beef stock over herbal tea because, being naturally low on iron I would need something substantial to sustain a clear mind, as I was running out the door to run errands before picking the kids up from school.
Shortly after 1pm I was out the door stopping at the Soap Dispensary to refill my liquid dish soap containers and got a great tip to try out a solid house soap for cleaning my pots – this soap will get it’s own post one day because it is remarkable. Photo below.
Then to the sewing machine store, followed by the butcher to pick up stewing beef (in my Life Without Plastic stainless steel container) for my family’s Irish Beef Stew dinner, which I modified from this recipe, using the already prepared homemade beef stock. By 3pm I had picked up Dot from school then 3:30pm had picked up my son. Just before 4pm I was back in the kitchen preparing the stew and of course my timing was off so had to prepare something else for the kids’ dinner. UGH. Silver lining…we could have it for breakfast…which we did, and it was worth the wait!
By 5pm I sipped another 8oz glass of hot beef stock. It was good. My husband and I had to go out to a school parent social organized for our daughter’s grade. There was a lot of beautiful food and drink laid out. I should have taken a photo to show you. I drank two glasses of sparkling water while I was there.
The only negative effects I felt, was by about 8:30pm I started to get chilled, and started talking faster than normal. By the time we got home I began my wind-down-for-the-evening routine, including my “before bed stretches” then was in bed reading by 9:30pm and lights out before 10pm.
“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”
I was wondering how I was able to get through the day the way I had. With zero cravings or near slip ups. The answer is simple. I have been re-training my mind over these last few years. I don’t nibble or nosh randomly or with abandon. And with yesterdays fasting experience, I have now discovered that I have actually learned something worthwhile from the years of this self-discipline around being selective with food. Because I have been methodically eliminating suspicious foods from my diet for fixed periods of time (over the last few years), I have learned how to go without. I have trained myself to make choices; I choose to eat with my mind and with intention for the nutrition of my cells, rather than for taste alone, instant gratification or because of a demanding gut or weak mind. I don’t mindlessly slip food in my mouth while I make the kids their meals, partly because I don’t usually eat what they eat. I don’t nibble at socials just to be polite or because I can’t resist temptation. There is no marketing which subliminally controls me.
I know that I am on a different level than most, because most people tell me that they couldn’t do what I do. But, I counter, ‘of course you can, anyone can, humans have amazing minds, we are capable of so much’…”we don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” ‘
Be careful how you train. You reap what you sow.
After learning about Fast For The Climate from Cory at Aquarian Bath, it didn’t take more than a second to decide that I would join this “movement of youth, environmentalists and people of faith [who] are showing their strength of commitment by going without food once a month to call for world leaders to do more to solve the climate crisis.” ¹
I decided that I would stand with the fasters. My first Fast will be Wednesday October 1, 2014.
The idea of fasting on the first day of each month appealed to me on a few levels. Firstly, because I already practice compassion and self-discipline: when, on occasion, I hear my inner voice announce that I need a treat or something sweet, I think about mother’s like me who may be four blocks away or hundreds of thousands of miles away, living in poverty who don’t have the luxury to casually escape into indulgence. Thinking about those mothers snaps be back into reality and gives me strength to not give in. It strengthens my resolve to both take better care of my health and environment. Therefore, going forward, I can Fast For The Climate on the first day of every month.
“To bring climate change under control we need to exercise self-control, we need to act together, fasting enhances our focus and determination.”
Secondly, on a regular basis, I think about the impact products of modern commerce have on our climate. The shipping, manufacture including pre-production and post-consumer waste of products, which affect everyone but mostly affect those living in poverty. Can each of us be more mindful about our needs versus our wants? I can practice making less garbage, which means being more mindful about not buying products that come in plastic or single-use disposable packaging. I can forego that chocolate that comes in single-use packaging even though it can be recycled, I know that recycling is something that should be practiced as our last resort but has become a way of justifying selling and buying more products.
Lastly, I think about the ingredients of man-made products. What are these ingredients made from? Are they processed? The mere act of processing creates by-products which need somewhere to go and often end up in landfill or polluting our waterways. If we are consuming products that are highly processed, then our health declines. As our health declines we become dependant upon pharmaceuticals which eventually enter our water ways therefore contaminating the very water systems that support life. Think global numbers here and think about how many pharmaceuticals the average person from North America alone is prescribed. Now think about our water quality. We can change this.
It should be everyone’s goal to practice eating real, unprocessed food and to not eat “products”. We should prepare our own food, which is very different from assembling ingredients that are ready-made store bought ‘products’. We need to change our behaviour from eating on the go with the belief that we can swallow our nutrients in liquid form while multitasking. We need to join the slow food and plastic free movements to ensure a happy healthy civilization (including all beings) on an equally healthy planet.
“To keep in health this rule is wise.
Eat only when you want and sup light.
Chew well, and let what you take be well cooked and simple.
He who takes medicine is ill advised. Beware of anger and avoid grievous moods. Keep standing when you rise from table. Do not sleep at midday. Let your wine be mixed (with water), take little at a time, not between meals and not on an empty stomach.
Go regularly to stool. If you take exercise, let it be light. Do not be with the belly upwards, or the head lowered; Be covered well at night. Rest your head and keep your mind cheerful. Shun wantonness, and pay attention to diet.”
-Leonardo da Vinci, excerpt from Notebooks pg. 263
Can you imagine what Leonardo da Vinci would say about our global climate crisis?
“A nonviolent protest against wanton disregard for the natural world,
And a spiritual affirmation that we are all part of that world,
Responsible for its careful tending.” – Fast for the Earth
You can subscribe (upper right corner) to receive future posts via email. I will post “Reflections on My First #fastfortheclimate by the end of the week. I will share what my kids think of this and how I can include them without having them Fast.
Today while shopping at Whole Foods Market, in the bulk section (using my reusable cotton bulk food bags) I happened across Diane Sanfilippo’s book: 21-Day Sugar Detox. I don’t really think of myself as someone who needs a detox because I practice eating very naturally. But as I started flipping through her book I found it incredibly informative and came across concepts that I had not included in my understanding of nutrition. I decided that I would introduce this 21-Day Sugar Detox philosophy to my family. Even though I rarely, if ever eat sugar anymore, my kids still do, mind you in lesser quantities, since I have been learning more on the subject.
Over the last year and a half, my kids and I have been following an elimination diet based on the results from our individual ALCAT blood tests, from which, my son was advised to avoid ALL sugars and gluten for an entire year – a tall order for anyone, but imagine how that would feel for an eleven year old. He surprised us all by accepting the challenge. When his friends were “enjoying” treats, he declined. When teachers handed out candies as rewards, he declined. When school-mates’ parents brought birthday cupcakes and donuts to school, he declined. He stuck to the plan and his health changed dramatically. He also learned a lot about himself in the process. He learned to practice self-discipline, something not many people practice. However, once the 12 months of being strict came to an end, he anxiously started to add in those toxic treats from time to time. What we noticed? His behaviour changed, and he admitted to feeling lousy each and every time he indulged. He learned a lot about himself going through that yearlong experiment and especially what happens to himself when he reintroduces those unhealthy ingredients. He is learning to control what he chooses to eat, backed up with knowledge.
The way I see it, our entire life is an experiment and my job as a parent is to help my children (and myself along the way) to continue to become educated on how to truly nourish ourselves as opposed to just fuelling up and dashing off to the next activity.
My kids often have sugar and grain cravings, and there are times when I do too. There is a reason why most us do experience cravings, it is partly due to to the fact that none of us really understands how to feed ourselves.
Because I had some ripe banana’s on the counter, making a batch of muffins was on todays’ agenda. However, what I learned from my quick glance through Diane’s book is that eating the overly ripe banana’s isn’t the best choice! In any case, I had already committed to using them. But because of what I learned from Diane’s book, I made some changes to the recipe I usually use. (Note: I only made muffins a few times this past year – they are not a staple). Next time I will make more changes based on Diane’s advice for eliminating more grains.
The way we feed ourselves is a vicious nonsensical cycle! We think we are making the right food choices but are actually contributing to these biological hunger games.
“If what you are doing isn’t working, doing more of it won’t work any better.”
– Alan Cohen
Nowadays, I generally add very little or no sweeteners to foods that I prepare, and it has been a long road of trying to reprogram my brain to accept that all refined sugars affect the body in very similar ways. Be it cane sugar to agave syrup, from HFCS to honey. The truth is we really don’t need any of these sweeteners.
“Removing added sugars and very sweet foods retrains your taste buds to perceive sweetness, and you’ll find that foods you once thought weren’t sweet at all become quite sweet as the days pass [when following the 21 Day Sugar Detox].”
– Diane Sanfilippo
This is true for me. I enjoy all vegetables (which are carbohydrates) with such pleasure because I can detect the pure subtle sweetness. We have cut back considerably on the amount of grains we consume in our household, and I can see from picking up Diane’s book today that I will be cutting back on them even more. The key is to understand why we eat the foods we do and to learn how to prepare meals that are nourishing.
We do allow for some organic grains in our diet but as we become more comfortable with these changes, we are more accepting of continuing to learn what else we can eliminate to thrive better.
I designed this muffin recipe specifically for my daughter after receiving the results from our ALCAT test, but now I realize that going forward, it is going to get a whole new makeover, in fact this may be the last time I ever make it.
This is today’s version…
- 2 Cups Fine Organic Spelt Flour (Anita’s from bulk)
- ½ Cup Organic Oat Flour (gluten-free)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 TBSP organic ground cinnamon
- 3 Large Eggs, beaten
- 2 Cups mashed very ripe bananas
- 1/2 Cup (-less 1 TBSP) melted Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
- 1 TBSP melted Organic unsalted Butter
- 1 tsp organic vanilla
- 1/4 Cup finely mashed organic walnuts into paste, used mortar & pestle
- 1 TBSP unsweetened cocao nibs, ground into walnut paste with mortar & pestle
- 3/4 Cup finely grated organic carrot
- Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.
- Prepare muffin tins (lightly greased with butter).
- Melt coconut oil and butter. Remove from heat.
- “Bloom” cinnamon by adding cinnamon to melted oil/butter. Stir well and set aside to cool.
- Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
- Mash ripe bananas in a small bowl.
- In a separate medium bowl, whisk eggs, then add mashed banana and remaining wet ingredients. Whisk together.
- Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and incorporate. Not too much – stir approximately 10 times. Don’t over mix.
- Fold in additions if using. Careful not to stir the mixture too much.
- Fill muffin tins 3/4 full or to your liking.
- Bake for 20 minutes depending on your oven. Check for doneness using method of choice.
- Remove from oven and let stand for a few minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool.
Yield: 12 mini muffins +1 mini loaf (I have a mini loaf pan & mini bundt pan that I use when I have some leftover batter).
Note: Spelt Flour is NOT gluten-free.
Diane Sanfilippo has great recipes in her 21 Day Sugar Detox book which is an accompaniment to her cookbook. This Fall, my kids and I will be learning and experimenting from this approach.
Let's live without single-use plastic! Better for our health and that of our planet. Stop the Recycle cycle. In this order: AVOID - REDUCE - REUSE - RECYCLE
How can a washable China Marker be essential to the kitchen, you ask?
Eliminating single-use plastic from my life is a serious on-going challenge. Remembering to bring my reusable cloth grocery bags to the grocery store was the first step; how many times did I have to experience the pang of ‘doh’ as I would reach the checkout before my behaviour changed?
Oh, how one thing leads to another. From there I moved on to eliminating plastic food storage containers from my kitchen, pantry and for keeping leftovers. Simultaneously, I suddenly became aware of how the foods I chose from store shelves were packaged; almost all in plastic, even the ones contained in nice ‘earth-friendly’ boxes had plastic sealed sleeves. There were moments when I felt frozen in time, standing there in the grocery aisles, as shoppers would go whizzing around me grabbing items for their carts. I realized that I couldn’t just grab and go like I used to. I am now at a point where I don’t even bother going down certain aisles based on packaging. Funny, it used to be I only avoided products because of the listed ingredients. One change sure does lead to another. Back then, a part of me had woken up to the effects of the choices I was making — the short-term and long-term effects on my health and the health of my family. Before then, my focus had been so narrow, I was so caught up in cautiously selecting the most nutritious and organic ingredients, that I had been oblivious to the effects single-use packaging would have on the product contents (and thus ironically on our health) and on the health our planet, both in production and landfill/ waterways.
Healthy beings require healthy soil, air, oceans and planet in its entirety.
We cannot have one without the other.
To make a long story short(ish), one of the most essential kitchen tools that I have come across is the China Marker. It simplifies my effort in repurposing glass jars or using air-tight stainless steel food safe containers in the kitchen. In my transition to being less wasteful in the kitchen I started writing labels and dates on bits of masking tape and re-using them until I got annoyed with that solution; realizing that it wasn’t much of a solution because the masking tape eventually ended up in the garbage. I knew that there had to be a better way and that is when I happened to see it mentioned on Life Without Plastic’s site. Next was to track down the China Marker, which was easy: art supply store. It is wax based, and writes especially well on the outside of warm leftover containers prior to refrigeration. It doesn’t mark as well on cold jars, it helps to first warm up the writing surface with the heat of your palm.
And when it comes time to wash the writing off, simply soak in warm/hot soapy water and rub. It generally won’t just wash away in the dishwasher.
Do you have any kitchen tips to share that can help us to reduce or eliminate daily single-use plastic waste?
This delicious fish soup recipe was adapted from Elise Bauer’s blog Simply Recipes. As I try to mention on each page of this site (and you may be tired of hearing this) but my kids and I have food sensitivities/ intolerances to a variety of foods. Over the last nine months we have had to eliminate foods for a measured period of time before reintroducing them. It is the best thing we have ever done. You can read about it here. As a result we are re-learning how to nourish ourselves and in the process working towards diminishing our sensitivities and intolerances. All thanks to the ALCAT test and my friends who told us about it!
As if it isn’t difficult enough to find appealing recipes, but then I have to consider which ingredients I can safely omit without destroying the heart of the recipe. Remarkably, the few recipes I’ve reworked from Elise Bauer’s site seem to adapt brilliantly.
So in the meantime, I have to rework a lot of the recipes that I come across. Some of the time I fail miserably (not so bad that I can’t eat my flop’s, it’s just that no one else will) and other times I am genuinely surprised when my kids and husband give me five stars and proudly announce that a certain dish is restaurant quality. Blush.
Here is my version of Fish Soup:
- 2-3 TBSP. Olive Oil
- ½ to 1 Cup finely chopped leeks OR 1 Cup finely chopped sweet onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced not pressed
- 1 – 15oz can diced San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 TBSP Tomato Paste
- 6 – 8 Cups Homemade Fish Stock (pre-heated on the stove in another pot)
- ½ Cup dry white wine (I keep 1/2 cup amounts in the freezer for cooking)
- 2½+ lb. fresh fish fillet cut into 2-inch pieces (I used Halibut, Grey Cod, Sockeye Salmon)
- Pinch of dry oregano, Tabasco, thyme
- Salt to taste
1) Over medium-high flame, heat olive oil in a large soup pot. Add chopped leeks (or onions) and garlic; sautée 4-5 minutes. Add tomato and tomato paste, cooking gently for approximately 10 minutes.
2) Add dry white wine, allowing to simmer a few minutes before adding the cut fish pieces, gently stirring to cover with the tomato sauce, followed by adding the pre-heated fish stock. Simmer uncovered for a minimum of 10 minutes. Add seasonings.
Note: Other fish that I like to use are Turbot, Sole, Red Snapper, Tilapia.