The main rules I use to compose a well rounded salad such as this are as follows:
Sushi at home is far easier than you would expect and so much fun to customize. Although my boyfriend is half-Japanese, his British father taught him how to make sushi, and in turn he taught me. We don’t talk much about this fact, because he CLAIMS my sushi is far better looking than his, and pouts over this fact until we actually sit down to eat the sushi and he realizes it doesn’t matter when it tastes delicious.
I don’t use a sushi mat, and I don’t have any specific views of what needs to go in a sushi roll. Since these pictures were taken over a year ago, I’ve since made vegan sushi (no mayo), used lots of different fruits and vegetables and I tend to use short grained brown rice these days instead of white rice. Experiment with this recipe! If you are looking for a good plain sushi rice brand, Nishiki and Kokuho Rose are my favourites. Just like my post on pierogi, sushi is also a fun meal to make together with friends. Have all the toppings laid out and ready and everyone can customize what they would like!
How to make sushi:
1) Cook the Sushi Rice:
3 cups Sushi Rice or Short Grained Rice
3 1/4 cups Water (or made according to package instructions
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp Sugar (optional)
Salt to taste (I usually don’t add any)
Cook the rice and water in a pot or in a rice cooker until ready. Place in a large bowl and mix in a vinegar/sugar/salt mixture. Stir (and fan at the same time if coordinated) until cool and stops steaming. Set aside covered until ready to use.
2) Prepare your ingredients:
Peel and prep a variety of vegetables, and if brave enough, fish and seafood. For example: Cut cucumbers in long strips, blanch asparagus or green beans, avocado, cook strips of yam, squash or sweet potato in the oven until tender, then cool. Other fun ingredients include mango strips, sushi grade fish, baked or blanched shrimp. To cook shrimp so it doesn’t curl – cut the shrimp on both the inside and out about a third of the way in to the centre. Lay out straight.
3) Prepare the mayonnaise:
Make your own mayonnaise, or use your favourite brand. To make spicy mayonnaise, combine mayonnaise with a little bit of Sambal or other preferred spicy sauce to taste.
4) Toast the Nori (seaweed):
Use pre toasted nori, or toast your own (they usually come in packages of eight, ten or twelve). If the package is old, you may have to refresh it again anyway. Toasting the nori makes it more crisp and easier to chew – you can leave it plain, but expect to have to chew a lot. To toast it, use a plain large skillet or pan on medium high heat. Place the nori flat on the pan for about 15 seconds.
5) Build your sushi!:
Place the Nori on a sushi mat (I don’t use one anymore – I find it more of a nuisance than a help) rough side up. Place a layer of rice on about 2 thirds of the roll. Spoon a strip of mayo or spicy mayo in the centre of the rice. Place two or three or more toppings on top of the mayo. Now comes the tricky part: Fold the nori over, allowing the two sides of rice to touch. Pull the nori in and roll it tight. Seal it with a bit of water or rice vinegar along the edge. Set aside and roll the rest of the nori.
To make an inverse roll, place some wax paper or plastic wrap on your counter. build a rice layer on this as wide as your nori. Place the nori rough side down on the rice with the top corners aligned with the edge. Build your mayo and fillings on this. Fold the nori free of rice over the fillings and roll until the rice meets up on the other side. Sprinkle black or white sesame seeds on the outside for a decorative look.
6) Cut, build and serve:
Cut each roll in six or eight pieces according to preference. Fatter rolls can be done thinner and thin rolls can be thicker. Platter however you like, with daikon, lettuce, pickled ginger, wasabi, soy sauce etc. and enjoy your sushi feast!
Oatmeal and I have never gotten along. It was always too sticky, too flavourless, too plain for breakfasts in the morning. I grew up with processed cereals that were far too sugary drenched in today’s milk products. One day last year I decided oatmeal was good for me and forced myself to make it often. I would douse it in maple syrup, honey and mixed a lot of nuts and seeds in to make it more interesting. It still always tasted flat and uninteresting to me, and some mornings I really couldn’t handle it – to the point of chucking the batch and grabbing toast and jam instead.
As most of you know, I went on a Vipassana sit last month. The schedule was pretty tight – ten hours of sitting meditation a day broken up with breaks for breakfast, lunch, and tea. Other than the meditation, we had enough time during the breaks for meals, showering, laundry and walking the gorgeous grounds. As I was attempting to keep as gluten-free as I could during the retreat, I was happy when I heard there were decent gluten-free oatmeal for breakfasts (most oatmeal contains flour as they are processed in the same plants as wheat).
Every day the morning bell woke us up at 4am. We would do a meditation sit from 4:30am-6:30am. We would then break for breakfast. The smell of oatmeal and the wonderfully hot prune syrup was extremely welcoming after a difficult, sleepy meditation. They had other add-ons for your oatmeal – yogurt, milk and milk substitutes, sunflower seeds, granola, raisons, ground flax, bran and lots of fresh fruits. The other options for breakfasts consisted of toast, preserves, nut butters, orange juice and a large selection of tea.
After a long day of meditation, and then the hour long uplifting discourse (lead by S.N. Goenka), I would go to sleep dreaming of the next morning’s oatmeal. It was something tangible to cling to while my mind was working on the deep operation of the subconscious that is Vipassana. As the week goes on, the technique becomes more involved, and you retreat deeper and deeper into the depths of your subconscious. Vipassana teaches you how to train your brain and body not to blindly react to situations around you. Any habitual blind reactions that come from the subconscious — caused by different negativities, like anger, fear, anxiety, passion, etc — are dug up and released. While at the retreat, no distractions are allowed – no books, no journals, no music, no sexual misconduct, no talking or communicating in any way, which forces you to focus solely on yourself and working the technique.
With all those rules and the difficulty of having to face a lot of things you may have suppressed in the past, many people seemed to turn to food as comfort, or even out of boredom. While my eating habits would fluctuate depending on the type of day I was having, generally my appetite decreased as the week went on and by the end I was eating six to ten bite portions and drinking a lot of tea. As we weren’t expending a ton of energy, this made sense to me. But one thing I couldn’t seem to give up on hefty portions was the warm oatmeal after the morning sit. Halfway through the week I wanted toast, so I began putting honey, jam or peanut butter in my oatmeal for variety.
Ten days of Vipassana practice is not enough time to actually change your habits, but the benefit of going is that of immersion – you live the technique, and you feel enough of the benefits that you are motivated to keep up with it. Even so, new students often find it hard to sit on a regular basis when they come back to real life. I haven’t meditated since I got back, nor have I had the same warming bowl of oatmeal. Today, I finally grabbed the tin of oats in my pantry and decided to recreate the experience. Maybe later I’ll find an hour to sit in silence and “Start Again”. May All Beings be Happy! <3
Perfect Thick Oatmeal (serves 2-3)
1 cup Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
2 1/4 cups water
pinch of salt
1. Combine water and salt in a pot or saucepan. Bring to a boil.
2. Add the oatmeal, turn the heat to low and cook, stirring until the water is just absorbed. Take off heat, cover and let sit for about 5 minutes.
3. Serve with various toppings such as nuts, seeds, dried fruits, fruit syrups, maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, jams, peanut butter, yogurt, milk, rice milk, soy, or anything you want! One of the most versatile cereals out there – anything goes here!
Delicious Brewed Prunes – Inspired by volunteers at Dhamma Surabhi
1 cup prunes
1 1/2 cup water
1 piece rind of an orange
1 Cinnamon Stick
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup honey, maple syrup, or cane sugar (optional – prunes are naturally really sweet)
1. Combine the prunes, water, sweetener, orange zest, cinnamon, and vanilla in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Stew for about 10 to 20 minutes or until the prunes are soft.
2. Fish out the cinnamon stick, the orange rind and pour over your nice hot oatmeal. Or, make a larger batch and keep in your fridge as a quick oatmeal topping.
3. Try substituting any dried fruits for prunes – dates, figs, apples, peaches, apricots, raisins, cranberries etc.
If you would like to know more about Vipassana, or the centre I attended visit: http://www.surabhi.dhamma.org
Find a centre near you: http://www.dhamma.org/en/worldmap.html
Hey guys! Just saying ‘morning and bye!
I’ll be away at the retreat until around the 30th.
Nervous and excited.
I’ve been on my elimination diet for six days now. Besides the first three days it is turning out to be surprisingly easier than I thought. I’m filling my body with lots of fresh, exciting foods.
The First Three Days:
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. I am so glad that I was home and unemployed those days. I felt queasy, sick and tired. Those three days I stayed in bed reading, catching up on mail and taking short walks around the block to get some fresh air. I cooked minimally, lots of steaming of veggies and brown rice and roasted veggies and fruits and such beautiful foods. The third day I woke up craving gluten. Specifically bread. All I wanted was a nice BIG sandwich. I decided to roast some root veggies for lunch, hoping to get rid of said craving by filling up on carbs. It worked. Then I started craving fish!
The biggest effect was I had headaches everyday. I started becoming aware of all sorts of smell – especially my daily body odor. I found I needed to shower more often and brush my teeth like five times a day. This is because one of the ways the body eliminates toxins is through the skin – via sweat. I didn’t feel like I was sweating much more than normal, but I could feel my skin and my cells doing their thing. Another way the skin eliminates is through acne. I got quite a bit of acne over the holidays with all the sugar and the feasting, but it didn’t go away after, and even got worse with the elimination diet. I can’t wait until my skin clears up – I feel like I’m in high school again!
Work and Eating:
I wasn’t expecting to be working right as I got back, but the catering company I was employed at over the holidays got busier than they could manage and called me in for a few days this week and next. As they rarely serve anything that I might eat under this new diet, I’ve been bringing grain and bean salads for lunches. It’s been surprisingly easy to resist all the wonderful foods they serve. A month ago, there was no way I would say no to a bit of spiced grilled chicken, buttery roasted carrots and couscous salad. I feel like my body knows what it wants now, and all it wants right now is veggies veggies veggies!
[Side note: THE Chef offered me some pretty awesome special order sausages yesterday. I couldn't say no. I took a small bite. Tasted damn amazing. Felt sick for 2 hours later. Kinda reminded me what I'm trying to do ]
Maintaining the diet:
I don’t think it will be difficult for me to maintain this diet over the next few weeks. Because I chose to eliminate my entire list all at once (I really, really don’t recommend this) it is hard to know what my body will want or need in the next little while. I hope to maintain what I’ve started, but if it is too difficult and I need to take a step backwards, this time I know I will do it under controlled circumstances. If everything seems like too much, I will add one thing back into my diet at a time and eliminate it again at a later date when I get a hang of the rest of it.
The next few weeks:
This weekend I am going to Victoria. When traveling it is often difficult to accommodate special diets. My goal for the weekend is to stay as true as I can to the elimination diet as possible without compromising what I’ve already accomplished.
Next week, I am headed (yes, I was accepted!) to a ten day silent meditation retreat. They serve amazing vegetarian/vegan foods, and have gluten free options so I am definitely not worried about the time spent there. In fact, it’ll probably be the easiest it’s been on this elimination diet as there is nothing else to eat but fresh and wonderful foods! <3
I hope to write one more post before I head off for the Vipassana Retreat. If I don’t get around to it – I wish everyone a wonderful end to their January – and I will see you next month!
An Elimination or Detox Diet can be quite rough on the system. It is difficult to manage all at once, which is why before you start you should examine your current diet and what you plan to eliminate. There are many different degrees of detox diets and it is best to choose one that is best for you. Ask yourself what your end goal is. Do you want to eliminate “the non-foods” as I call them – sugar and processed foods? Do you want to see how you feel on a more plant based diet? These rules don’t apply just to once in a while detoxes – they can also help if you are interested in changing your way of eating for good.
1. Heal your soul first. This is one most people don’t realize. You can’t make a lasting change without working on the other facets of your life. I used to be an emotional eater. When I was stressed or worried I used to eat a lot or poorly. These feelings came from a lack of self worth. I still struggle with those feelings, but working on these issues help with my need to take care of myself. When you love yourself unconditionally and accept who you are, you will naturally gravitate to a lifestyle and diet that is completely nourishing.
2. Eliminate the worst foods to start. Examine your current diet. Are you drinking a lot of soda and eating frozen processed dinners? Are you ingesting a lot of coffee, sugar or alcohol? You should begin slowly and eliminate some of these non-foods first. These contain no nutritional value to you, and can be extremely harmful and addictive. Start by eliminating those slowly while keeping the rest of your diet the same. Doing too much at once can be harmful to your body. It also has a low success rate as you will feel sick and tired and won’t want to continue. After you eliminate those you can examine the next steps you want to take in your diet. For example, start eliminating sugar, processed foods, alcohol, coffee and other stimulants first. You can take your time, eliminating one item each week. Then work on other personal goals like eliminating gluten or red meats.
3. Plan to begin your elimination/cleanse/detox during times of low stress like weekends or days off. The first three days of an elimination diet are the hardest. Your body is getting used to the lack of items it may have been addicted to like sugar, coffee, or gluten. Your system has to reset itself to process all this great wholesome food. You might feel tired, sick, have headaches or even old injuries can start to hurt. If you feel too sick, scale back the diet and start slower. Even when you begin slow you can have some of these effects. Your body is slowly loosening up toxins it may have built up over the last few years, so be careful. If you have any doubts, consult a nutritionist or a doctor, and it is wise to do so before you begin a cleanse or diet.
4. Eat enough fibre so that you poo. That’s right. I command you to poo. As much as you can. If you don’t poo the first two days, stop the elimination diet or eat more food that will help you go. The reason this is horribly unhealthy and dangerous is because even though you’re not poo-ing, you’re still releasing toxins into your body. With no way of removing them, they are just recycling through your cells making you sicker, and sicker, and sicker. POO is the KEY to a successful cleanse. Try eating lots of whole grains, beans, green leafy vegetables like kale, blueberries, apples, beets, cabbage, and pretty much any raw vegetable or fruit. I don’t remember where I heard this but we should all follow the rule “one a day as long as your arm” no matter what our diets are. If you aren’t eliminating that much, consider changing your diet.
5. Eat foods that will help cleanse and release the toxins. This is as simple as filling up on your daily vegetables, fruits, grains and beans. There are three main categories of foods. Cleansing Foods (veggies, fruits and sprouts), Neutral Foods (such as grains, water and salt) and Building Foods (meats, beans, nuts, proteins). Neutral Foods are both cleansing and building. You need a good balance of all three types of foods in your diet during a cleanse. First to cleanse your body of the bad things (toxins etc), Second to rebuild any broken or hurt areas in your body.
6. Drink more clean, pure water. Water is a neutral food. It flushes toxins from the system so aids in cleansing, but is also the main substance of a lot of our body tissues so it is also building. Drinking warm water with lemon and raw honey aids the cleansing process and strengthens your digestive system.
7. Eat Less. Don’t stuff yourself with food. If your primary goal is to cleanse, this is an important one. If you eat too much, even of the good stuff, your body can become overwhelmed with having to digest it all and will focus more on eliminating the food rather than cleansing your body. This is important especially at night before bed as we refresh our bodies while we sleep.
8. Do some light exercise. It helps to get your body moving, but do not strain yourself as your body is doing some pretty heavy cleansing/elimination work.
Combining these tips and reading a few books on cleansing can help start you on your healing/cleansing journey. Remember to always listen to your body and take a step back if it sounds like it is protesting too much. If you try a cleanse or diet change of any sort and find it difficult and break the rules set out by yourself, do not worry, and please don’t be angry with yourself. You’re probably not ready to take on as much as you did at once. Give yourself a hug and tell yourself that you love you, and try again, setting goals that are attainable.
The new year is upon us and I wish everyone the best. I know a lot of us are making resolutions and observing our lives. I try not to make New Years Resolutions. I find that resolutions to be a better self should be constantly made and changed throughout the entire year. However, this year I couldn’t help but reflect upon how much I have grown and changed this past year. In the past twelve months, I have had triumphs and failings, and so many growth experiences I can’t even express.
This year I hope to delve deeper and align myself with who I am. I am on a wait list to attend a ten day Vipassana Meditation Retreat next week. I will try to eliminate public transportation reliance by walking everywhere and buying a bike. And I also want to be more conscious of what I put in my body to nourish my mind and soul.
How I got Here:
About two years ago, I became vegetarian. I was more conscious of what I was eating, I was devouring books on the subject and I felt a lot better. At the time I also started researching veganism, as well as raw food. I experimented with a vegan diet, and then a raw diet, and just had glimpses as to how awesome it feels to be nourishing your body, mind and soul with such amazing whole and natural ingredients.
By the end of 2009, I has a few new goals. Because of my love of food, I had decided to attend culinary school and learn how to cook amazing food. I went to Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver, and experienced such incredible growth. I also started eating meat again. If I was cooking this amazing food at school, which was largely meat based, I should experience it and know how it tastes as well, right? Excuses to eat more meat based products were piling up and I became a fully fledged meat eater by the end of the culinary term.
Enter pastry term. Sugar, Flour, Eggs, Butter, Sugar, Butter, Flour, and more Sugar. I easily transitioned back to “being vegetarian”, but it didn’t help much as I was taking home and snacking on all the wonderful sugary pastry products. I adore the pastry arts for what they are. They take so much practice and precision and time and creativity – and you can create some amazing art pieces. But as anyone knows, they are detrimental to anyone’s health. I gained the most weight during that time, and my mind and body felt sluggish and drained. I did a sugar detox for three weeks during my summer break, and it was rough.
Next came my practicum in September. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten as much good food as I did there. The lunches were delicious but very protein/meat heavy. Being a poor student, I felt I couldn’t pass up free food, especially food that was that tasty. I tried to limit my meat portions and pile up on any veggies of the day, but the more I worked, the more I began to forget myself.
Going back to Humble Food
I’ve decided I need to cleanse my body physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
One of the first things I will do is listen to my body and figure out what it needs. I’ll take more time to meditate, go on long walks, and slow down my world. This includes slowing down my food. I want to enjoy the humble ingredients that we work with in forms that are as whole as possible. To celebrate our food in its natural state is a way to feel connected to our world and nature.
Culinary School has taught me a lot about cooking with ingredients and transforming them into amazing dishes. I began cooking as if I were cooking at school or in a restaurant – creating extravagant dishes with a lot of prep time. This was great for my grades and learning, but a terribly hurried habit that didn’t lend itself to loving the ingredients I was cooking with.
Cooking humbly means to cook simply, enjoy the ingredients nature gives us and to take pleasure in nourishing our bodies and our soul.
Elimination or Enriched Diet
One way to heal your body from past years of damage, is to go on an elimination diet. The benefit of an elimination diet is that by eliminating all the foods that are suspect to have a negative effect on you, you regulate and remove the built up toxins in your body and it starts functioning optimally once more. Then, when you are ready, you start adding certain foods back into your diet one by one to see what effect they have on you. Some of the results may be quite enlightening.
I suspect I have a gluten allergy and a mild dairy intolerance, so going on a diet like this would be beneficial to see how my body reacts to these items. A lot of people don’t realize how sick they feel until they remove the thing that is making them sick.
For my elimination diet, I will be removing the following items. I will gradually eliminate each item fully over the next couple weeks, listening to my body as I go. For those of you curious about the results or why I chose this particular list, I will blog about it as I go.
Red meats/White meats
Processed Grains (ex white rice)
An elimination diet can help you eat humbly. You eat a lot more vegetables, whole products and become more aware of all the gorgeous and delicious foods you are missing out on.