With heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, dementia and other common and often fatal maladies on the rise, people are finally beginning to awaken to the fact that good health begins with what we choose to put on our plates. With mounting evidence that a diet largely consisting of plants can prevent and reverse many of these debilitating diseases, the world is beginning to embrace a plant-based, healthy lifestyle. That’s right, veganism has become cool. And it is high time.
Many fast food restaurants are jumping on the bandwagon and have begun to offer vegan options. Chipotles offers a couple of healthy vegan dishes, even eschewing the use of GMOs, and Wendy’s is now rumored to be creating a veggie burger. It’s a beginning.
On VOAA’s trip to Chicago to participate in VeggieFest Chicago this past weekend, we were blown away to discover Native Foods Café, a gem of a restaurant that offers nothing but healthy plant-based fare made from scratch. All vegan, all the time! What a concept!
This revelation began when I happened to stumble across chef Drew Swint of Native Foods Café performing a cooking demonstration while Cherle Link, Director of Sales and Catering for Native Foods, proudly showed off their exquisite full-colored cookbook featuring some of Native Foods’ best recipes. Connecting on a “gut” level, as only foodies can, Cherle and I made a date to visit Native Foods Café in River Forest in late afternoon, once Sunday’s cooking demonstrations were behind us.
Native Foods is not the new kid on the block. It’s been in operation since 1994 and has opened 25 stores nationwide, largely in the midwest and the west coast which explains why we had never crossed paths. (Veggin’ Out and About! has been largely an east coast operation slowly gaining popularity in the mid and western states.) The food is reasonably priced with entrees at less than $10.
We chose to visit the River Forest location for its proximity to the festival. We found it located in a trendy strip mall next to Panera Bread and perpendicular to a Whole Foods market in River Forest. While it appeared to be a fairly small establishment, there was plenty of seating in an environment that was casual and uncluttered. We slid into a four-seater with Cherle and her partner, Mike, and hunkered down for some serious eating.
The chefs know what they are doing, juxtaposing sweet and sour flavors with bitter and piquant. Our first dish was one of Native Food’s Earth Bowls, the Thai Meatball. The meatballs are made from seitan (wheat gluten) and are tossed with a mango-lime chili sauce. Sweet, tart and peppery accents merge to create a flavor explosion that is balanced and at the same time exciting.
What we found most amazing were the faux-meat dishes. If I didn’t know better I would have sworn that the “chicken” dishes were in fact the tender white chicken breasts I remember from my days as an unenlightened carnivore. I had to keep reminding myself that no animals were harmed in the creation of my meal; the chicken is made in-house from non-gmo soy, pea and wheat proteins. The “bacon” is a soy product as well and has the smoky sweet flavor of real pork. It is incredible! The numerous breads served at Native Foods are made in-house as well. Ashley Cox is an accomplished baker at the River Forest location.
I have personally never been a fan of meat substitutes. However, the meatless cusine of Native Foods Café has convinced me there is a place for these foods in my diet. They are a perfect transition food for those who would like to eat healthier but can not imagine giving up some of their favorite foods, like chicken, beef and pork. These dishes give you the texture, flavor and mouthfeel of animal protein without causing harm to our bodies, the environment and our animal friends.
This is also a great place to take your carnivorous friends where you can all find something to please your palates. I chatted with another diner, Tracie Worthy, who shared with me that she and her husband, Thomas, dine often at Native Foods Café because they can both find food they enjoy. She is a vegan and her husband, Thomas, is not. It’s not an issue here because they both like the food.
Native Foods has created a restaurant model that is able to produce high-quality whole foods on a scale that has been proven to be replicable. They began in 1994 and now have 25 stores nationwide. Native Foods has a plan for rapid expansion over the next four years to reach a total of 200 stores across the nation.
As yet another facet of their growth, Native Foods has just launched a catering program. Their model has been the Chicago area. Now they plan to offer this service at all of their stores. Clients can have events catered, such as business lunches and dinners for busy corporate offices, home parties, university parties, rehearsal dinners and any event where vegan food is desired. Native Foods aims to offer their catering services wherever their stores are located.
Rich and I sampled more than 20 dishes and I have to say there was not a thing on the menu I wouldn’t order again, and again. Each dish retained it’s unique signature flavor giving the diner plenty of opportunities to try a completely different flavor profile on their next visit to Native Foods Café.
Well… I suppose I should qualify that statement to admit I don’t think my waistline could survive endless servings of Native Foods’ decadent desserts. These sweet, creamy, and rich delicacies will leave your sweet tooth satisfied and your mind marveling that these are made dairy and egg free.
Whether you are vegan, vegetarian or just veg-curious, you owe it to yourself to check out Native Foods Café in one of their 25 locations from California to Washington, D.C. Look for their expansion to an area near you and visit their website if you’d like Native Foods to consider adding a location in your area. Native Foods catering services are likely to be an easy affordable solution to your next gathering.
VEGGIE FEST CHICAGO TO CELEBRATE
THIS COMING WEEKEND
IN LISLE, IL
Aug 15-16, 2015
Veggie Fest, one of the largest vegetarian food festivals in North America, will celebrate its 10th Anniversary this summer with another incredible weekend of family fun on August 15 & 16, 2015. The two-day festival, which drew record-breaking crowds of over 30,000 people from around the world last year, will be held in a new location this summer: Benedictine University, 5700 College Rd., Lisle, IL 60532.
“We’re really excited for the new venue this year,” said event organizer Jonathan Kruger, “It’ll give us even more room to make our 10th Annual Veggie Fest bigger and better than ever.”
With a huge international food court; health professionals speaking on diet, lifestyle, and environmental issues; engaging food demos by restaurant owners, chefs, and authors; an incredible children’s tent with face painting, clowns, and crafts; live music from some of Chicago’s best bands; over 100 vendor booths to explore; and free admission and free parking, Veggie Fest has become a highly anticipated summer event in the Chicagoland area.
In addition to keynote talks on both days by Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj, world-renowned spiritual Master and head of Science of Spirituality (Veggie Fest’s host sponsor), Dr. Mason, Chief Operating Officer of the Cook County Public Health System, will be back to talk about the importance of the vegetarian diet. The Mayor of Lisle, Joe Broda, will also return to cut the ribbon at the start of Veggie Fest on opening day.
Veggie Fest attendees can “pledge to go veg” for 14 days by taking the Vegetarian Challenge, complete with recipes, tips, and shopping lists; they can visit the Learn to Meditate tent for simple instructions that can benefit the body, mind, and spirit; and participate in our blood and food drives that give back to the community. Business owners, bloggers, and other like-minded service professionals can become “Friends of Veggie Fest” through a mutual link exchange program that aims to spread the message of good food and healthy living.
Over the last ten years, Chicagoland residents have come to look forward to the annual festival, and event organizers are expecting another year of record-breaking attendance. With free admission, free parking, and tons of fun for the whole family, make sure you put August 15 – 16, 2015 on your calendar now so you don’t miss out on the special 10th Anniversary of Veggie Fest!
Stay tuned for more details by finding Veggie Fest on Facebook, Twitter, and on their site: www.veggiefestchicago.org
She’s at it again! World Champion Long-Distance Triathlete, Kate Strong, aka Strong Kate, is creating a conscious living/fitness event that will take place in Wales, Britain on Sunday, December 6, 2015. She will be attempting a Guiness world record for the most miles ever achieved in one hour on a stationery bicycle. The fact that Kate has never been on a stationery bicycle is entirely beside the point. I spoke with Kate about this curious endeavor. After all, she competes constantly in world championships, ironman competitions and the like. Why a world record on a stationery bicycle?
Society loves labels; like you’re a vegan, you’re a triathlete and that sort of pockets you in a place you can’t easily break free from. I realized there is more to life than living one or two labels and I didn’t want to start limiting myself. Yet, part of my journey and my passion is to inspire others to live more consciously through positive change in their own lives. The way I do that is by attempting what most people think is impossible.
If I can do it, you can make a change in your life too. You just have to be more conscious in what you are doing today that might be limiting you to make that one change. Yes, I go extremes, competing for world championships and world records, but I’d like people to look at their own lives in a positive way, to become just a little more reflective and make that one change that can add more value to their own lives.
A few weeks beforehand we’ll start shooting a documentary where I’ll be predominately in Britain but I’ll be touching mainland Europe as well. I’ll be asking people: What is health and fitness to you? How are you healthy? What do you do, what do you eat, what do you think, what do you believe that adds value to your own life. This is completely nonjudgemental. I’m not here to change to world, to get everyone to become a triathlete, to look at their own eating habits and to eat like I do, but just start getting them thinking, start to realize and own what they do, to say: yes, I do this but I’m actually proud of what I’m doing, and I’m not going to change, but I’m happy. And to share, and hopefully I’ll learn more as well.
The weekend coincides with the anniversary of the day Kate began her own journey of conscious living. Dec 8, 2012, was the date she was supposed to get married. She realized she was unhappy where she was and needed to make a change in her own life. She broke off her engagement and began a journey of transformation that resulted in winning the 2014 World Championship in China in women’s long-distance triathlon in the most competitive category. Kate wants to share her discovery of awakening to her own passions and encourage others to ignite their inner spark, that personal mission, whatever it may be, that brings value and meaning to each unique individual’s life.
The event is going to be held at the valodrome in Wales, UK. Kate is working with the organizers and is hoping to create a mini-festival, to have stalls, and other events besides hers. “There will be other people doing other things and I’ll be in the corner attempting a world record. It’s a celebration of everyone at everyone’s level, not just mine. It will be a day of festivities to celebrate health and fitness.”
For arguably the best pizza in the Tri-Cities area you need look no farther than Scratch Brick Oven. Located in Johnson City’s historic North Roan Street district, in a restored 1900’s home on the corner of Unaka and Roan, it is only two easy blocks from Interstate 26 in Johnson City, TN.
Rich and I were first introduced to this gem nearly seven years ago before we embraced a plant-based lifestyle. At the time Scratch was a relatively new establishment that operated as a bakery, smokehouse, charcuterie and wood-fired pizzeria. Since then the business has scaled down to meet the growing demands of it’s clientele as a pizzeria, and for good reason. Everything is made from scratch, even the oven, which was hand-built by the owners.
When we became vegan we put Scratch out of our minds, since it never occurred to us that an establishment that focused on the preparation of meats would have a vegan option, not in this “country-fried-ham” area of the country. An unexpected dental emergency found us in the area recently and while I was having my tooth rescued, Rich sauntered over to Scratch to check out the situation.
What he discovered was one of the best vegan pizzas we’ve had to date! The French bread or whole-grain vegan cheese-less pizzas at Scratch are one price, 16-inch for $16. For those who need their pizza gluten-free, there is a ten-inch offering for $10. This is one of the few restaurants we’ve reviewed that recognize that vegetables are cheaper than meat and cheese and reduce their prices accordingly.
There are, of course, many options for your carnivorous companions and a deep dish Chicago-style pizza is also on the menu. But once your pals see how appetizing your pizza from plants looks, perhaps they’ll want to skip the meat altogether and discover just how delicious a vegan pizza can be! We can always dream…
You can choose from an array of veggies and fruit toppings, like granny smith apples and mandarine oranges, or you can order a “Trust” pizza, one in which you simply trust the chef to make something special for you, a topping mélange that will be sure to have you coming back time and time again. You can choose either a French bread, whole grain, or gluten-free crust. The sauce is slightly sweet, something that came as a bit of a surprise and one we found paired well with the veggies as was quite delightful.
Orders can be called in for pick-up or you can dine in. There are also picnic tables outside to enjoy when the weather is fine. You may also bring your own wine to have with your meal if you are so inclined.
If you are in the Tri-cities area and hankering for a great oven-fired pizza in a casual, laid-back atmosphere, check out Scratch Brick Oven. It’s a dining experience you won’t want to miss!
Health & Medicine Magazine has embarked upon an exceptional endeavour of providing a wide range of knowledge regarding the benefits of being vegan. This new magazine is entirely free to readers in Florida and has an amazing assortment of articles that are intended to promote a healthy plant-based lifestyle. The articles in the magazine aim to enlighten readers with the simplest and most delicious ways of adding nutritious foods to their diets while and incorporating fitness and other life-enriching habits into their lives.
Health & Medicine Magazine has a unique collection of the latest books on vegan foods, the major vegan eateries in the United States, plant-based conferences and events, and all things vegan. The magazine brings to the table a wealth of information for the veteran vegan, those who are new to the plant-based lifestyle, and to those who are just veg-curious and want to be connected with the vegan community all over the United States and abroad. Additionally, Health & Medicine Magazine offers access to lots of resources from which readers can further learn about how to easily incorporate a plant-based diet and fitness routines that will insure great health.
Among these various sources of knowledge that are available for vegans is the collection of major books by authors who have been following a plant-based lifestyle for a long time. These books offer great insights into the reasons one should consider adopting a plant-based lifestyle and many authors share first hand experiences in these books. One of the books that has managed to find a place on the top of our list is: “Time For Change: Whole Foods For Whole Health!” by Danielle Bussone.
In order to highlight the importance of health and nutrition in one’s body, the magazine’s team is currently amassing support from the backers on the web portal called KickStarter. Realizing the noble endeavour of Health & Medicine Magazine’s founders, people are generously contributing towards the fulfilment of our dream. The project on Kickstarter has already many backers who have contributed more than $1000. However, the goal of the magazine is to reach $12000 in order to cover the cost involved in bringing the magazine free of cost to the citizens it serves. Please be a part of a revolution that will change your life and the life of our planet.
For more information, please visit our Kickstarter Page and view our short video!
Jacksonville is fortunate to have a strong vegetarian/vegan community. There are a couple of Meetup groups here that host regular functions. The Northeast Florida Vegetarian Society is Jacksonville’s vegetarian society and JaxRaw Meetup Group is for raw food enthusiasts. Recently I had the opportunity to attend one of these gatherings which convened at the European Street Café.
Approximately 40 people attended an event which featured a tour through the garden behind the Beach Boulevard location. One of the daughters of the owner is quite involved in setting up the garden.
She is working with a permaculturist who has created a garden that is self-sustaining. They grow quite a variety of plants in the garden, featuring peppers, collards, various herbs, fruits and other vegetables. We had the opportunity to tour the garden and learn about how it was put together.
One of the interesting things I saw was a worm composting area where they actually drain the liquid created by the action of the worms and pour that “worm juice” on to the soil where the plants grow. This is done by using the worms and scraps from the restaurant to create the liquid which feeds the plants. The plants then feed us and the whole cycle begins again. This project depends on a lot of volunteers, and people are happy to participate since they learn a great deal about how to create their own self-sustaining garden at home. We picked a bunch of collard greens and some herbs and went back into the restaurant to order our meal.
On the menu was a variety of raw food choices. I chose the sauzage Alfredo Noodle Bowl, with spiraled garden squash topped with Brazil nut and Coconut Alfredo sauce, almond and Brazil nut sausage, sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives.
Marjie chose the Raw Reuben with fresh Dilly Kraut, tomatoes, spicy mustard and cashew cheeze slices. We also sampled the Cashew Chesse and crackers featuring creamy cashew cheese, home made gluten free crackers and cucumber slices.
While we were eating there was a demonstration about how to make pesto and place it into a collared rap with shredded carrot, tomato and parsley.
Then it was time for dessert.We ordered a Shakti dessert called Strawberry Fields (anyone remember this?). The Shakti desserts are totally organic, vegan, gluten-free and made with cashew cheese. After tasting the dessert no one would believe that it was good for you.
They also feature a great selection of beers from all over the world as well as some that are locally crafted.
There are four locations of the European Street Café in Jacksonville. There is one downtown in the Riverside area, another just outside of downtown in San Marco, a third in Jacksonville Beach, and a fourth on Jacksonville’s Southside. All of these locations are easy to get to and can be found quite simply by doing a Google search for European Street Café. The search will pull up all four locations with Google tabs which can then be found by clicking the Google map location. Stop in and go raw or get something else from their menu. There are many choices. Just don’t forget to save room for dessert.
I attended the Jacksonville VegFest in April of this year which is where I found out about the Reggae Shack and where I met Danielle. The Reggae Shack’s booth at Veg Fest always had a long line. I was busy doing other things and could not spend the time waiting in line to sample their food. I made the decision to visit them on one of my dive trips to Blue Grotto or Rainbow River. I had the opportunity this past weekend to stop there on the way back from Rainbow River.
The Reggae Shack is located in Gainesville, Florida on University Avenue. It is very easy to find since is located on one of the main roads through downtown. Once we were seated I had a chance to look up the owner. I had a great time speaking with Omar and asking him questions about how he does things. They purchase their food as much as possible from local vendors and look for the highest quality freshest products they can get using local, organic and Non-GMO products. All of their food is cooked from scratch using many of their own seasonings grown in a small garden behind their restaurant.
He took me on a tour of the facility and was very enthusiastic about showing me his herb garden behind the restaurant. He let me sample a scotch bonnet pepper and some moringa leaves.
I was unaware of what moringa was, which led me to start asking questions. He was very enthusiastic about this plant and the nutrition that it possesses. This plant contains 10 times more vitamin A than carrots, more vitamin C than oranges, 17 times more calcium than milk, 15 times more potassium than bananas, 25 times more iron than spinach and nine times the protein of yogurt. He uses it in smoothies and other concoctions that are offered at the restaurant.
There are many vegetarian dishes on the menu and I was all set to order the Escoviech Tofu until the waiter informed us they were out of it. He told me that his second favorite dish was the Curry Tempeh which I ordered. My wife ordered the Brown Stew Tofu which was also delectable. Every dish comes with rice and peas, steamed cabbage and plantains. All of the vegetarian dishes are 100% vegan. We both saved room for dessert counting on having vegan coconut cake and vegan carrot cake. We were all set to order this when the waiter informed us that they were out of both items. While this was somewhat disappointing it did not dampen our spirits.
It just gives us another opportunity to come back and sample the cake. Hopefully they will have the Escoviech available when we return.
This establishment can be reached very easily from I-75. If you are going North, take the Archer Road exit and follow Archer Road to 441, turn left and then continue to University Avenue, Turn right, and go about 0.5 miles, The Reggae Shack will be on the right. If you are traveling South on I-75 take the ML King Blvd.(441) exit, turn left and follow 441 to University Avenue. Turn left at University Avenue and go about 0.5miles. The Reggae Shack will be on the right. If you’re driving south from Jacksonville just take a right off of 301 on to 24 and you will go right past the Reggae Shack. It will be on the left. Say hello to Omar and tell him the guy who didn’t know what Moringa was sent you.
There’s a special buzz in the air when competing in a World Championships. I adore mixing with the international competitors, flying to a new country and also, of course, competing in a triathlon!
There is a down-side which is the displacement from my home adds extra pressure in packing & transporting my bike, having limited equipment with me and also the pressure of correct nutrition.
I follow a whole-food plant-based diet, which comprises eating less processed foods, such as pasta, breads, gels and pre-packed bars and more fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and seeds. It is always a challenge finding a supermarket that offers a complete range of produce that I require to eat a balanced diet.
I was surprised to find that Sweden offered a limited range of whole-foods and due to this, I was obliged to compromise my diet leading up to the race and eat more pasta and bread than I would normally do.
Also, for the race, I prepare my nutrition at home, choosing tasty natural ingredients (such as dates, chia, apricots, lemon and almond meal) to create my fuel. Again, some of these ingredients were hard to source and I couldn’t carry enough ingredients with my on the plane due to weight restrictions.
So…. This meant that I ate some processed sweets and sugary lollies to keep my energy-levels up.
This might not mean a lot to most people, as the Western diet is very high in sugar, yet for the past ten months, I have been consciously reducing my refined sugar intake with the intention to break my addiction to this white poison.
It’s been a test of will-power! I was shocked at how much I crave it and caved into the hunger for it.
So, leading up to a World-Championship race, it was less than ideal that my diet started to lean towards high sugar and processed foods.
My training these past few months has been sporadic: peppered with injuries that prevented me from running to personal tasks pulling me away from the pool and my bike, and also relocating to a different country and finding new training routes. With this in mind, I knew that my result from the race would be impacted, so I chose to see the race, not as a means of achieving a position, but as a day to celebrate the journey of what I’ve completed to date.
To compete for my country yet again is an honor I cherish. The morning of the race, I put on my “green and gold” Australian triathlon suit.
Even in summer, Sweden is quite cold and the water temperature was 14oC: 5oC than my usual outdoor water training temperature.
Conscious that I feel the cold and would be in the water for around 30 minutes, I wore a second triathlon suit over the first for an extra layer of warmth!
Arriving at the race, there was a hive of activity: other athletes were carrying out their race preparations and I did the same. I checked my bike brakes and wheels and realized I had a flat tire! I still had one hour before the race started, so I stopped myself from panicking and took my wheel to the on-site mechanic to help change the inner tube.
Fifteen minutes later, my bike was as good as new. I had two bags for the transition area: BLUE for swim-bike transition, and RED for bike-run transition.
I double-checked I had all I needed in them and hung them next to my number in the transition area.
With only fifteen minutes before the start of the race, I found a quiet corner, changed into my wet suit, wet suit hat (new purchase for this cold-water race) and relaxed.
Lining up with the other competitors, I delayed entering the cold water for as long as possible not wanting to cool down more than necessary and as soon as I did swim to the start, I treaded water and held my hands out of the water to stop them from becoming too cold.
One minute to go and people are getting excited! There are about 500 other competitors around me and everyone is squeezing together – I realize that there’s not much space to swim and for the 1,500m swim, I am going to be fighting for a space.
The gun starts the race and I take my first stroke. Kicking hard – to not only move forward but promote blood flow to my legs to keep them warm, I am more pushing people out of the way than actually swimming.
The lake is crammed with bodies. In theory, we are all swimming in the same direction, but every person swims in a slightly different course resulting in spaces disappearing and me being forced to swim over & under bodies.
A few times, an arm grabs my shoulder and I’m pulled backwards, I hope by accident, but then some people do take competitions “seriously” so I’m not sure if this is the case.
For the swim, I struggle to find a rhythm: the crammed group of swimmers adds turbulence to the water and the cold temperature takes my breath away.
The swim is usually 4km and I am very grateful that it was shortened to 1,500m by the officials because of the low water temperature.
I exit the water and am surprised to realize that the cold affected me so much: my hands are not working! I try to push buttons on my watch to stop the time, and struggle. I try to remove my swim cap and I can’t!
I run to transition, grab my BLUE bag and slowly remove my wetsuit and put on my bike helmet and socks.
My hands are still cold and I waste time putting my timing watch on, clumsily grasping the strap, but eventually I complete all I need to run to my bike and exit transition and start the 3-loop bicycle leg.
The 120km cycle is absolutely stunning. It passes through forests, past red farmhouses and around fields of hay and grass. The Swedish countryside takes my breath away. I have a fondness for clouds and skylines and have been known to sit in an open field for hours taking pictures of clouds and silhouettes of trees and structures against the skyline. It takes an enormous effort to focus on cycling and remove my attention from the picture-perfect sky and surrounding scenery.
The road is undulating with some very fast sections downhill. There is also a strong breeze that, when behind you pushes you along, though there is one stretch of the road where you are greeted with a wind similar to cycling into a wall!
I cycle to just past a comfortable level of pushing and maintain this for four hours.
During the cycle, I also have to ensure I eat. Over 80% of all nutrition for the race is consumed during the cycle and I have reminders when to eat and also drink.
I make my own fuel from almond meal, dates, chia seeds, sesame seeds and maca powder. I also drink ‘natural’ comprising lemon juice and coconut sugar.
For endurance racing, my body needs glucose as a fuel source and I balance the ‘sweetness’ with the bitter lemon making it more palatable and also easier to absorb into my body.
The last 10km always feels like one hour, and I focus on the moment, shutting out ideas of what’s to come: the run.
Cycling into transition, I wave at the remaining supporters, jump off my bike and run back into transition this time in search of my RED bag.
Pulling off my extra clothing, helmet and glasses, I put on my trainers and exit transition. It’s time to run!
Running along the lake’s shore through a forest distracts me from my nerves surrounding the 30km run. I come from a running background and usually enjoy this last third of a triathlon.
But, having just recovered from an injury sustained three months ago meant I hadn’t run much let alone trained for this discipline.
The first two laps passed well and I was pleasantly surprised with my pace. The last 10km was a different story unfortunately: I hit the pain barrier.
The upper part of my legs, my quadriceps started to hurt and pull. Then my hip flexors, the muscle where your legs fold at your hip, made its presence known. I was in pain.
I pushed through and even though I was running much slower, I refused to stop.
Seeing the sign for the last kilometer was a glorious blessing, it was down-hill all the way to the finish-line.
The crowds built up as I approached the end and I started clapping them, thanking them for all their support throughout the day.
Regardless of the country you were competing for every person cheered you on. It had been a long seven hours for me and I wanted to acknowledge the crowd as it had also been a long seven hours for them. We all had something to be thankful for and celebrate!
As I crossed the line, I was in the present moment: I had no thoughts about my physical pain, my start-up business put on hold for me to attend this competition, my friends missing me, my home I am building in France. I was void of all ‘what if’ thoughts and relished the success of finishing my second World Championships.
Coming into this race, I was carrying a lot of pressure: last year I won this competition in China so was defending my title. My (now ex) coach had projected a very intense and aggressive training plan to ensure I was in peak physical condition to do my best at finishing with a good place, maybe back again on the podium.
Yet, I realized that during the many long hours of training (I was averaging 30-35 hours a week), I was missing out on life. I started to see swimming, cycling and running as a chore: a job I had to do and this did not sit well with me.
I appreciate that short-term pain during training sessions does permit your muscles to rebuild stronger, but I am against sacrificing the joy of the journey in the hope of a one-off destination.
By putting all our focus on one moment in time, I risk the potential to not only wish ‘life away’ whilst building up to that event, but also find the day I’ve been looking forward to a disappointment and leave feeling deflated and let-down.
I chose to focus these last few months on balancing my life: I relocated from Australia to the French Alps; I sold my business and am creating a new one more in alignment with my values; I chose to see family and friends over sleeping and recovering from long training sessions and I decided to focus on the journey, not the reward.
I don’t know my placing in the world for 2015. I know I am no longer World Number One for my age, and I am OK with this. I have rekindled a love for sport and am able to enjoy this with friends, family and with myself.
Sometimes, it’s better to enjoy every day and not get a medal, than amass titles and awards and forget why we started this journey in the first place.
Watch this video to learn how to make Coconut Curry with Indian Spices! This recipe is from my new book, “Time For Change: Whole Foods For Whole Health!” It is a perfect food for transitioning to a plant-based diet. It is deliciously decadent and filled with health-promoting antioxidants and phytonutrients. YUM!
There seems to be a learning curve to this business of making cooking videos. I made lots of mistakes in the production of this one, but the ladies from ElderSpirit were very forgiving and a lot of fun. Rather than cut out the mistakes or redo the video, I’m sharing it with you blunders and all hoping you will be equally forgiving. We did cut out a lot in the interest of time and clarity.
I started to explain about how healthy garlic is and I managed to botch that section of the video. Here is the lowdown as explained by Dr. Michael Gregor of NutritionFacts.org. Garlic is the number one cancer fighting food. However, the protective effect of garlic may be destroyed in the cooking process so it is better to eat it raw or to crush it ten minutes before cooking. Crushing the garlic allows the compound alliin and the enzyme alliinase, which are located in different parts of the garlic’s cells, to combine and form the powerful enzyme allicin. This enzyme, once created, is resistant to heat. It takes ten minutes for that enzymatic process to take place.
Another gaffe I made is I forgot to put the spices in towards the end of sautéing the onions. This allows the flavor of the spices to develop and adding them at the end of the sautéing process prevents scorching. Usually, spices are tempered in a little oil when cooking Indian and Thai dishes. Since we want to avoid using oil, which damages our endothelial cells and restricts blood flow, we add the spices at this point.
Adding the spices later didn’t noticeably affect the flavor at all, however, try to remember to add them earlier. Just the fragrance of the dish while cooking will make everyone scramble to find a seat at your table.
Also, because I was cooking for a crowd who did not care for spicy foods, I eliminated the chili pepper from this recipe. I really love it with the ground chili pepper but it’s fine to eliminate it if you wish. For simplicity I used a five-ounce package of organic spinach for this recipe, however you can add as much as eight ounces if you want to add more of this delicious phytonutrient. The original recipe calls for six ounces.
Coconut Curry With Indian Spices
This dish smells as good as it tastes. The aromas will drive your family and dinner guests wild while they are awaiting this treat. Again, don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients needed. You’ll use these spices over and over. Measuring them out in advance into small bowls will prevent mistakes. It is easy to forget a spice if it isn’t handy. If you prepare the rice in advance, it will save you some time when you are scrambling to get food on the table. It is also very good served with French whole wheat couscous, which only takes 10 minutes to prepare. It is also excellent served over linguini.
Note that the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, and cardamom pods are for flavor and should not be eaten. Pick the cinnamon and bay leaf out before serving; the cardamom pods will be harder to find so just warn your guests that they are not to be eaten. They won’t hurt them, but the seeds are very fibrous and have a woody texture. Plus, biting into them may give your guests a jolt of cardamom flavor that could be overpowering.
Time: 35 to 40 minutes
Yield: 7 cups, plus rice
Prepare in advance:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat French Couscous
2 1/4 cups mirepoix vegetable stock or filtered water
2 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, or one can organic chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground hot chili powder (You can substitute cayenne.)
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
2 cups diced onion (1 large onion)
2 bay leaves
6 cardamom pods
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 can organic coconut milk
6 ounces baby spinach, washed and spun dry
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half (1 3/4 cups or about 40)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Preparation: about 20 minutes
Transfer drained, cooked chickpeas to a bowl. Set aside.
Set aside cinnamon stick and cardamon pods. Measure remaining spices into a small bowl. Set aside.
Method: 15 to 20 minutes
In a dry skillet, sauté onion with bay leaves, cardamom pods, and cinnamon until soft and translucent, stirring frequently (about 10 minutes).
Stir in ginger and garlic. Sauté 2 minutes, adding a little water a tablespoon or two at a time if necessary to prevent scorching.
Add turmeric, garam masala, ground chili powder, and black pepper. Stir until spices are fully incorporated with the onion mixture.
Stir in coconut milk, tomatoes, and chickpeas. Cook for 5 minutes or so on medium heat until sauce is bubbling and tomatoes have wilted. Adjust spices to taste.
Just prior to serving, remove saucepan from heat and fold spinach** into mixture until wilted.
Stir in lemon juice and serve immediately over rice, couscous, pasta or grain of choice.
*You can cook chickpeas on your stovetop if you don’t have a pressure cooker, though it will take longer. Or you can substitute canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed.
**Don’t over-cook the spinach. It should be added no more than 5 minutes before serving. Spinach becomes a little slimy if allowed to cook for too long. Heat it only until it is wilted.
In cooking demonstrations I often substitute couscous for rice, simply because of time limitations. Actually, couscous is very delicious with this dish. Coconut Curry With Indian Spices can also be served over linguini or angel hair pasta. Please refer to my book, Time For Change: Whole Foods For Whole Health!, for instructions on cooking beans, vegetable stock much more.
French couscous is a tiny crumble-shaped pasta that looks a lot like cracked wheat and its precooked form, bulgar wheat. If you store your grains and pastas in jars, be sure to label them. More than once I’ve had to call the large health-food chain in the next city to ask them to look up the bin number on the items I just purchased because I couldn’t tell the difference between cracked wheat and French couscous. When I buy them in bulk, I’ve learned to write not only the bin number but the name of the item on the package.
French couscous is one of the quickest and least labor-intensive foods you will find. It only needs rehydrating in hot water. Boil the water, stir in the couscous, let it absorb the water and fluff. That’s all there is to it! It is a wonderful quick substitution for rice when you’re in a hurry or have forgotten to put rice on to cook in time for dinner.
Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 3 cups
1 cup couscous
1 1/2 cups homemade vegetable stock or water
Preparation and Method:
In a small saucepan bring 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water to a boil.
Stir in couscous, making sure it all becomes wet.
Remove from heat and let it sit for 5 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed.
Fluff with a fork and serve. It is important to fluff couscous because otherwise it will become compact as it absorbs the liquid.
by Michael Wilkins
Marjie and I were diving in West Palm Beach over the weekend. On Sunday we decided to look for a restaurant for brunch that catered to vegetarian/vegan diets. We had quite a bit of time, so we sat down on the couch with the laptop and began browsing through the different options available on the internet. Many of the places listed as vegetarian either were not popular or had only one item on the menu that qualified them to be put into the group of restaurants that had vegetarian/vegan offerings. We were patient while looking for a place and our patience paid off.
We struck gold with Christopher’s Kitchen in Palm Beach Gardens, just north of West Palm Beach. The restaurant was easy to find as it was a short distance from I-95 going West on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard. As it says on their website, the mission of Christopher’s Kitchen is to serve only the finest high-quality organic plant-based food. In this restaurant you will find food that has great nutritional value and outstanding taste. There will be no need to remove items from your plate that you don’t want to ingest because I found nothing on their menu that any of us would exclude from our diet.
Christopher’s Kitchen is located in an area that includes other stores and is built like a town place setting. This seems to be the theme for many of the shopping areas that are springing up in the area. That being said, there were many tables outside and the dining atmosphere was pleasant. The wait staff was knowledgeable and courteous, as well as very gracious when I asked if I could take pictures.
The menu is loaded with many different options from starters, such as soups, nachos and nut cheese, to a house classic they call CK tacos which is their most popular dish. The CK tacos are made with handmade vegetable tortillas, sweet and spicy walnut taco mix, lettuce, guacamole, pico de gallo, and special sauces. I, of course, had to try this when I heard that it was their most popular dish and I was not disappointed. My wife and I actually split the taco because they had the option to order one taco instead of the entire plate which would be two. The reason we did this was so that we could both enjoy entrées of our own but still try the taco.
Marjie ordered a grain bowl called the Powerbowl. This dish included quinoa, black beans, sautéed vegetables, avocado, chickpeas, bok choy, teriyaki sauce and cashew cheese. She really enjoyed this dish, and in fact took some of it home because there was too much food for her to eat. I sampled her dish as well and was pleasantly surprised. I must say at this point that there wasn’t anything we tried here that left us disappointed.
I ordered the zucchini and heirloom tomato lasagna, which is a raw lasagna dish. The taste was outstanding and the lasagna included shaved zucchini and walnut herb pesto which was the best part. It also included macadamia ricotta, red sauce, tomatoes, basil, thyme and oregano.
The options also include a separate menu for smoothies and juices. A wine list is available, which includes offerings that are selected specifically because they are grown organically. I do not consume alcohol but there seemed to be many people enjoying a glass of wine.
We were one of the first customers there when the restaurant opened their doors. The outside area filled up quickly and the restaurant seem to be fairly full when we left. The only thing that may be perceived as negative about this establishment is that the prices were a little high. Our bill came to about $55, but I need to say that we sampled a couple of things that normally we wouldn’t have ordered. The restaurant also has a market next door that sells homemade cold pressed juices and many other items as well as take out which can be ordered off the menu.
If you have a sweet tooth they have a lot to offer in that regard as well. You will be pleasantly surprised to find that their desserts are sweetened with maple syrup, coconut palm sugar and other organic plant-based substances which are not GMO modified or showered in pesticides. We consider this a great find because we go down to West Palm quite a bit to do diving.
After one stop, Christopher’s Kitchen has become one of our favorite places and we are planning to go back again as soon as possible. It excites me to find these little gems and know that there are people out there offering alternatives and creating great tasting food from organic plant-based options. Needless to say, I think I have already become an evangelist for this establishment.
Christopher’s Kitchen can be found by exiting I-95 at exit 79, PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens Florida. Head West for about a half a mile and you will see an enclave of the buildings on your right, turn into the drive and take an immediate right and you’ll see Christopher’s kitchen to your left.