MAP Wellness

MAP Wellness
Spreading the Health

Saturday, December 22, 2012

No-Bake Gingerbread

rarely do any holiday specific baking.  Growing up, we always left that to mom and were never disappointed by the array of merry morsels she would lay out come party time, snack time, or  when in a pinch to round up a last minute gift for an unexpected visitor or invite. 

Over the years I have attempted only a few times to mass produce some simple desserts for gift-giving; everything from mom’s almond or shortbread cookies, to homemade chocolates molded in cute Santa shaped cut-outs.  Each time I did offer up these from-the-heart treasures to my nearest and dearest, they were greeted with warmth, love and honest appreciation.  So I get why so many folk spend countless hours in the kitchen leading up to the holidays sweating over recipe after recipe, stocking the fridge, freezer and fancy jars with an endless supply of decadent delights.  It feels good to bake for those you love.  And it feels even better to give the gift of goodness, and watch as every morsel is savoured with sweet satisfaction.

So this year I challenged myself to create one new vegan seasonal recipe.  And I went after the big one;  I went after gingerbread.  And not just vegan gingerbread.  I went so far as to make it one step simpler, by developing this no-bake version that you don’t even need to fire up your oven for.  So stir yourself up a mug of dairy, egg-free nog, and give this one a go:

No-Bake Gingerbread

2 C millet puffs (you could substitute brown rice puffed cereal)
2 T sunflower seeds
1 t ground cloves
1 t nutmeg
2 t cinnamon
3 t ground ginger
1 C dried cranberries
3 T molasses
3/4 C tahini
1/4 C agave

·      Process the millet puffs in food processer until broken down into a powder.
·      Add sunflower seeds, all the spices and cranberries and process again until very well combined.
·      Add in molasses, tahini and agave and process until mixture begins to come together into a dough.   You may need to add more tahini to moisten.
·      Once the dough is holding together nicely, dump in onto a smooth surface (wooden cutting board, clean countertop) and roll and knead into a smooth ball. 
·      Using a wooden rolling pin, roll the dough out into about ¼ inch thickness and then cut into desired shapes.
·      Refrigerate or freeze to set.

If you don’t want to go as far as cutting the dough into shapes, you can always just roll the dough into bite-sized balls.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

When I Have...

"When I have..."
Last fall, one year ago, as I was wandering home one day from my local LCBO (that just so happens to be the huge & beautiful Summerhill location), I got to thinking about gratitude and presence.

As I walked up the long sloping hill of Yonge street, between Alcorn Avenue and Balmoral, I reflected on what an amazing stroll it was, through such a pleasant and welcoming neighbourhood.  Not only is the best wine-stop only an eight minute walk from my then new apartment, but there is also an abundance of fancy foodie shops, grand restaurants, superb home decor stores, and plenty of coffee houses nearby to cozy up in for tea.  My hot yoga studio is around the corner, there are two grocery stores within a stone's throw, I can see the subway station from my balcony, and I can walk to my workplace in under 25 minutes! 

For the first time in all my years living in Toronto, I felt one hundred and fifty percent completely and utterly happy about where I resided.  Not only did I declare my adoration for the 'hood, but I really loved my new flat and all that I have furnished and designed within it.  Sure, at that point, there was still a lot I could have done to make it "homier", but it was perfect as it was, and I loved it right then.  I have moved a total of 13 times in my 11 years in Toronto.  Consistently, I would move and then soon begin to long for something a wee bit better, bigger, cooler....I figured that "only when I have" a better flat, my life will be perfect.  I had developed a bad case of the habitat "when I have's".

That day I also consciously noted that I was really into my job.  Like, really.  I have been plugging away at my career in TV for years, and almost from day one I was already striving to do the next thing.  Once I got comfy in one role, I became unhappy, needed change, got miserable, and looked for new work.  Once I nailed that perfect gig somewhere else, the cycle would begin again...get good, get sad, get resentful, leave.  Eventually I worked my way to the "top" as far as I was concerned, as a director in live TV news at the ripe old age of 27.  Pretty great, right?  Well it didn't take long for my high about that position to wear off either, and I quit that too. 

It took my "phoenix years" rolling around in 2010 to finally snap me out of it.  After dabbling in various fields outside of TV that year, and taking on only freelance and contract work for most of the year following, I finally landed the role that saved me.  In September of 2011 I started a full time job that served me very well. I have spent the last year going into work with a huge smile on my face every day.  Every. Single. Day.  It has been pretty great.  I have loved it just fine, in the moment, as that was what I had. In the moment.  For the first time ever, I acknowledged the greatness that was. 

Now, this is not to say that weren’t a few instances when I felt a tad restless in my role as it related to my other business, MAP Wellness [].  I had to reign in my mind-spin more than a few times when I (in the words of my gal Gabby Bernstein [ “future-tripped” about the day that I would leave TV fully and focus all of my time and energy on my true passions.  Yes, I had a few hurry-up-and-get-there thoughts creep in on me to be sure.  And, now that I have officially resigned from that role, I can honestly say that I did so not because I grew restless in it, but because I truly and authentically GREW out of it.  Being present in my life really taught me what was truly important, and this time, the decision was conscious, real, and inspired.  More on that to come in a later post…

I have lived for my "when I have's" for thirty years.  I have been in a perpetual state of anxiety about the future.  When I get those jeans, nab that boyfriend, lose those ten pounds, learn that dance move...I will be happy...

I have always had this sinking feeling that I was waiting for something.  Something to happen, something to change, something to make my life perfect.  But my life IS perfect.  I have a life after all, and every single second is beautiful and precious and needs to be acknowledged and given great attention.

Why am I choosing to write about this today if I have already sorted all this out? Because I haven’t.  As much as I try to practice detachment, as much as I sit in mindful in-the-moment meditation, and as much as I spew positive mantra after positive mantra, it can still be an ongoing battle within to truly be in the now, happily.  And I also bring this to attention because it seems to be that more and more people I know appear to be themselves getting lost in the future.  Even some of the people that I once turned to for guidance in navigating this emotional ego-driven universe inside my head seem to have fallen into this trap. 

So this is my reminder, to me and to you, to give up the “when I have’s” and live with gratitude for what you have now, who you are in the present, and why everything you know is just fine for you here.  Happiness is always available within you, it is merely a matter of perception.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Raw Carrot Cake Cupcakes

It’s dessert time! 

A friend of mine believed that it was always time for a sweet indulgence, so much so that she actually had the saying “Life is short, eat dessert first”, tattooed on her forearm.  Amazing, right? 

I don’t really have much of a sweet tooth myself these days, but when I teach my food workshops, I like to welcome my guests with a sweet introduction to class by offering up a decadent treat to kick things off.  The following recipe is one that I have shared at my “Raw Harvest” workshop a couple of times this Fall to great success and rave reviews.  The best part?  These cupcakes are totally raw, vegan, and gluten free!

Raw Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cashew Crème Cheese Frosting
1 C walnuts
1 C dates
¼ C shredded coconut
2 C carrot pulp from juicing OR grated raw carrots*
3 t pumpkin pie spice
pinch sea salt
3/4 cup raisins

* be sure to squeeze out any excess water if you use shredded carrot; you can use a cheesecloth or paper towels!

1. Process dates and walnuts in a food processor until well combined and broken down.
2. Add in your coconut, spice, and salt and process until it forms a nice dough.
3. Add in the raisins and pulse to combine.
4. I like to press the dough into cupcake liners.  Once distributed into individual cakes, refrigerate or freeze for keeping.

Cashew Crème Cheese Frosting

1 C cashews, soaked for at least an hour
7 pitted dates, soaked with the cashews
1 t vanilla extract
1 t cinnamon
1 t lemon juice
Pinch sea salt
Agave syrup to taste

1. Rinse cashews and dates.  Add to food processor with vanilla, cinnamon, lemon juice & salt.  Process until well combined.
2. With processor still running, begin pouring in water very slowly, until desired frosting consistency is reached.  Add in agave to taste if not quite sweet enough.
3. Frost your cakes!
This frosting also freezes quite well.

Festive Chickpea Roast w/ Miso Gravy

Ah, the holidays.  It’s an annual event; a period that allows for legitimate excuses to imbibe, indulge and go overboard with all things decadent.  Gingerbread, cider, candy canes, hot cocoa, and shortbread; the list goes on and on!  And what other traditional ingredients really say “festive season”?  Well, dried fruit and all your usual poultry seasonings; rosemary, thyme and sage.  And who can forget citrus, cinnamon and roasted chestnuts!
This year, as a relative newcomer to the fully plant-based food world, I wanted to create a tasty main dish to share over the holidays that included all of the flavours familiar to everyone this time of year, vegan  and omnivore alike.  I also wanted a dish that would please even the most particular of palates (like those of my young veggie-hating nephews) and that would still express my playfulness when it comes creating full on collisions of different classical cuisines.  So what did I come up with?  A delightfully simple seasonal roast with deeply complex sweet and savoury flavours to boot.  A dish that I can already say will make a repeat appearance on my holiday table for many years to come.
 Festive Chickpea Roast w/ Miso Gravy
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stack celery, diced
  • 1 lrg carrot, grated
  • 1 C button mushrooms, diced
  • ½ C Vegan veggie stock powder
  • 1 T fresh sage, minced (about 3 leaves)
  • 1 T fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 T fresh thyme, stem removed
  • 2 T chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 T fresh lemon zest
  • 1 T ground cinnamon
  • 2 T sunflower seeds
  • ½ C roast chestnuts, chopped*
  • 1 can (19 oz/540 mL) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 flax egg(4 Tbsp ground flax seed mixed with  1/2 C warm water )
  • 1 C bread crumbs (I used gluten free)
  • 1/4 C dried cranberriesor currants
  • 1 t baking soda
  • Sea salt & pepper
1.       Prepare flax egg replacer.  Set aside.  Line a loaf baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
2.       In medium sauté pan, heat oil over med-low heat.  Add onion, and cook for 1-2 minutes until sweating and slightly translucent.  Add carrot, celery, mushrooms and cook 2-3 minutes more.  Add stock, cranberries and salt and pepper to taste (be liberal) and then let simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.
3.       In food processor, puree chickpeas until almost entirely broken down.  
4.       In a medium mixing bowl, add the chickpea puree plus all the remaining ingredients including the flax egg.  Stir well to combine.
5.       Dump mixture into loaf pan and press firmly into place.  Smooth out top.
6.       Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes until lightly golden and stiff on top.
Miso Gravy
·         2 T miso paste
·         ¾ C warm water
·         2.5 T nutritional yeast
·         ½ t sea salt
·         1 t powdered ginger
·         1 t garlic powder
·         2 T soy milk powder (can be found at health & bulk food stores)
Combine all ingredients in a blender.  Just before serving the roast, heat gravy in a small saucepan, reducing to desired consistency.
This is also a fantastic gravy to use with a batch of sautéed mushrooms and onions.  Savoury mushroom gravy anyone?  Yum!