Monthly Archives

March 2011

mains, recipes

Spaghetti with Swiss Chard Pesto

Swiss Chard Pesto Pasta with Garlic Toast

Today I’ve got an interesting, unique and flavorful pasta dish to share! It’s incredibly simple to throw together, and though the recipe calls for swiss chard, you could easily substitute other green leafies like spinach or beet greens.

I always stare longingly at pesto recipes whenever I see them on blogs. Then I sigh. Sometimes I even shed a tear. Why, you ask? Because basil is really difficult to come across in Saskatchewan, unless you’re really prudent in the summer or grow a big stash of your own.
Grocery stores do sometimes provide basil in little plastic containers, but they’re very overpriced and often the basil is already going bad. While grocery stores often carry bundles of fresh dill, cilantro, parsley, mint and even watercress, basil is never amongst them. It’s tragic.
So being basil-less, I still wanted to enjoy a yummy green sauce on my pasta, to switch it up from the typical tomato sauce. Enter swiss chard, Leafie Extraordinaire! I’ve always loved chard, especially lightly sauteed with a little garlic and balsamic vinegar. But when I got a huge, handsome bunch of chard in my organic produce box, I knew I was going to have to go above and beyond my typical use of it.
Swiss Chard Pesto Pasta
Spaghetti with Swiss Chard Pesto

Ingredients:

10 oz. spaghetti
2 tbsp olive oil
1 med. bunch swiss chard
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp tahini
3 tbsp lemon juice
4 sundried tomatoes
ΒΌ tsp salt
3 tbsp water, or more for consistency
1 med onion, chopped
6-8 large olives, chopped
2 tbsp water, for consistency
Vegan parmesan, for serving

Directions:

1. Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
2. Separate the swiss chard leaves from the stems and set the stems aside. Chop the chard leaves. Sautee the garlic and swiss chard leaves in the olive oil for about 10 minutes, until the leaves have softened. Add to food processor with tahini, lemon juice, sundried tomatoes, salt and water. Process to a paste. If you want a thinner sauce, add more water one tablespoon at a time.
3. Chop the chard stems into small semi-circles. In the same pan you used to sautee the chard leaves, sautee the stems and onions in a little water until soft, about 10 minutes.
4. In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta and sauce and mix well. Toss in the cooked onion and chard stems, add the chopped olives and mix well. Top with the optional parmesan. Serve with garlic toast.
This pasta recipe is also my first contribution to Presto Pasta Nights, where bloggers from all over the Interwebz get together and share noodle love. This week, Ruth from Once Upon A Feast is the host so be sure to check out her blog on Friday to see the latest pasta roundup!
bowls, recipes, salad

Tabouleh-Inspired Salad

Whoa, it’s Tuesday!

Today we were supposed to be experiencing a winter storm, but apparently it’s sidestepped my city this time. Phew! It’s still windy and icky out, though.
The past couple of days, I’ve been house-sitting for my parents, which means I have an abundance of space, freedom and privacy. I love it! And when I’m all by my lonesome, working hard on various projects, I tend to gravitate toward simple, fresh food. I want my meals to be energizing, not draining, so I can keep being productive without getting all tired and slack!
That’s where this tabouleh-inspired salad comes from. I call it tabouleh-inspired because I had no parsley in my fridge, which is a main ingredient of traditional tabouleh. I also included some very non-traditional elements, like kidney beans and avocado. I’d break tradition all the time, though, if the outcome is always this good. When I sat down to eat my bowl, I brought out a bottle of hot sauce, because that’s how I roll. Then, after I polished off the bowl, I realized I hadn’t used the hot sauce at all! You know your meal is awesome when you forget about hot sauce. πŸ™‚

Tabouleh-Inspired Salad
2 very large or 4 small servings

Ingredients:

1 c. bulgur

2 and Β½ c. water

1 19-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

2 tomatoes, diced

2 small cucumbers, diced (about 1 heaping c.)

1 avocado, diced

ΒΌ c. freshly-squeezed lemon juice

2 tbsp minced dill (about half a bunch)

2 tbsp minced mint (4-6 stalks)

Β½ tsp cinnamon

Β½ tsp salt

1/8 tsp allspice

Directions:

  1. Combine the bulgur and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until cooked. Drain and rinse under cold water.
  2. In a large bowl (or the pot you cooked the bulgur in), combine the cooked bulgur and the rest of the ingredients. Stir well. If you plan on saving some for later, keep the avocado and tomato separate, since the avocado will brown and the tomato will loose its crispness.
Gather all of your ingredients…

The carrots were just there for munching purposes – not part of the recipe. πŸ™‚
Then, perform some kitchen magic, and voila! A happy, hearty, healthy bowl!
This was so yummy and refreshing! It was also my first time ever cooking with bulgur. I hear about all of these neat looking grains, but I just never get around to trying them. I’ve got brown rice and quinoa, why would I want more? But curiosity sometimes gets the best of me, and I’m really glad I tried bulgur. It’s got a pleasant flavor and a nice, slightly chewy texture that I could totally get into. Plus, it’s awesome budget food.
Well I’m off to write some music! Peace out for now! πŸ™‚
bowls, recipes

Super Fresh Bibimbap

One thing Logan and I tend to do, as we sit at the lunch table and chow down on our yummy, typically healthy vegan food, is talk about vegan food and animals. Go figure, hey? πŸ™‚

Our conversation today landed on how Logan’s high school once had a midieval day, which involved dressing all old-school and having a traditional pig roast, among other things. Logan spent his entire life being more or less uncomfortable eating animals, and he talked about how barbaric it seemed, and how happy he is, in retrospect, that he didn’t partake in the pig-eating.

After telling me how greasy and unappetizing the pig flesh looked, our discussion wandered into how bland meat is unless it’s highly seasoned and salted. Logan recalled the experience of eating roast beef, remembering how dry and flavorless it was unless it was smothered in gravy. I remembered a piano student I had once, a vegetarian from birth, and his story about accidentally being served meat in a wrap. He took a bite, chewed, and then realized he had eaten chicken. His initial observation was how bland and tasteless it was, and he wondered why people seemed to be so interested in consuming that particular animal. He told me despite his lifelong abstinance from meat, he had no desire to eat it. Why bother when there were so many flavorful plant foods to choose from?

It’s interesting that carnivores and the vast majority of omnivores have taste buds on their tongues that respond to the amino acids in meat, but not us humans. We can taste carbohydrates and salt, but not meat. So my former piano student eating chicken in a wrap might find the taste bland and flavorless, but to a cat, there would be plenty of flavor. Like Logan said, trying to imagine that taste would be like trying to imagine a new color.

Meat tends to be comfort food for a lot of people, but not for us. One meal that we find particulary comfort-foody is bibimbap, a yummy, spicy Korean rice bowl!

Bibimbap has everything going for it, though – fresh veggies, brown rice, tofu, super spicy red paste (gochujang)…My vegan versions of this classic Korean dish might not be completely authentic (since there’s no meat or fried egg), but it’s hella tasty and no animals had to be used and abused in the making of it – all good things in my mind.

The original bibimbap I made was this:

Rice (you can’t see it but it’s there!), blanched mung beans, sauteed zucchini, marinated tofu, steamed spinach, shredded carrot, gochujang paste and toasted sesame seeds. It’s hard to beat this stellar combo.

Alas, the contents of my fridge vary week to week, depending on what I get delivered in my organic produce box and what looks pretty in the grocery store. Today I found myself wanting bibimbap something fierce, but I had no zucchini, spinach or mung sprouts. So I improvised!

In order to cut the prep time and maximize freshness (and nutrients!), I prepared all of the vegetables (except the asparagus) raw. This made for easier clean-up and less dirty pots to clean!

Super Fresh Bibimbap

Ingredients:

-Enough brown rice for 4 people

-(1) 1 block of tofu, cubed and marinated in 1 tbsp soy sauce for an hour

-(2) 2 carrots, shredded and tossed with 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

-(3) 1/2 head kale, chopped and massaged with 1/2 tbsp oil and 1/4 tsp salt to wilt the leaves

-(4) 1 bunch asparagus, woody ends discarded, chopped and sauteed with 1 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper for 5-10 minutes

-(5) 1 cucumber, thinly sliced (I used a mandoline)

-2 tbsp sesame seeds

-(6) 1 recipe of gochujang sauce (follow the recipe here)
Directions:

1. Prepare the tofu and set aside to marinate. In a bowl, combine the carrots and sesame oil and set aside. Massage the kale in a medium bowl and set aside. Sautee the asparagus and set aside. Place the thinly sliced cucumber in a separate bowl and set aside. These are all of your little bibimbap components!

2. In an oven preheated to 375 F, warm the marinated tofu for about 10 minutes. This is optional but I prefer warm tofu over cold. Put the sesame seeds on a dry baking sheet and toast in the oven until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Watch carefully to avoid burning them!
3. Prepare the gochujang sauce using some of the sesame seeds you just toasted in the oven.

4. Assemble! Start with a portion of brown rice, then layer on the tofu, carrots, kale, asparagus and cucumber. Top it off with a dollop of the gochujang sauce and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.

Then, stir that pretty presentation into delicious disarray!

Yummers. I purchase my gochujang, the red paste, at a Korean grocery store here. It’s what makes bibimbap truly awesome, so if you have access to it, definitely pick some up. A word of caution, though: this paste is spicy! If you’re a spice wimp, this might not be the dish for you. It’s a well-rounded spicy flavor, though, and I love it!
So we’re headed into the weekend now, and my number one priority is to sleep! I want to get rid of this cold I’ve got by the time Monday rolls around, so I can conquer my work week without being all lame and pathetic.
recipes, sandwiches

Bean, Rice and Kale Burrito Recipe

You know what’s awesome? Weather that isn’t in the negative degrees! The past couple days, it’s been above zero here, which is starting to get me into that festive, it’s-almost-spring mood!

Logan had been bugging me to make burritos again, since they’re probably his favorite food. In fact, in an earlier discussion we had on what your last meal in life would be, he seriously considered burritos. As for me? I couldn’t even come anywhere close to narrowing it down!

Burritos are the epitome of fast, easy comfort food, at least to Logan and I. We eat burritos on a regular basis (often this black bean and sweet potato burrito), but today we were in the mood for a classic rice and bean burrito. And since we happened to have a stash of kale in the fridge, that naturally got thrown in the mix to make a happy, healthy and delicious burrito!
Bean, Rice and Kale Burrito Recipe


Ingredients:
Makes 6 servings


1 and 1/2 c. brown rice, uncooked
3 c. vegetable broth (or 3 c. water + 1 bouillon cube)
6 cloves garlic, pressed
2 16-oz cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained (or 4 c. cooked pinto beans)
1/4 c. water
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp red wine vinegar
3 packed c. kale, chopped
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1-2 tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice

For assembly:
6 large flour tortillas
1-2 avocados, peeled, pitted and mashed with a fork
Salsa
Hot sauce

Directions:
1. Combine the brown rice, vegetable broth and garlic in a covered pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer for the amount of time your brown rice package suggests, typically 45-55 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

2. In a medium pot, mash the pinto beans with a potato masher, leaving some texture. Stir in the water, chili powder, soy sauce and red wine vinegar. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat until it develops a paste-like consistency, stirring frequently, about 10-15 minutes. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, combine the kale, oil and salt, and massage the kale with your hands to soften the leaves. Once it’s softer and reduced in size, add the lemon juice and mix. Set aside.

4. It’s assembly time! Start by layering about 1/3 c. of the rice across the bottom half of a flour tortilla.

Next, spread about 1/3 c. of the pinto bean mixture across the rice.

Add a layer of salsa, hot sauce and mashed avocado.

Top it all off with a handful of the kale mixture.

Now here’s how I wrap the whole shebang up, step by step. Start by folding in the sides and pull the burrito edge closest to you over the rice/bean/veggie mixture.

While keeping the sides tucked in, pull the lip of the tortilla shell over top of the mixture, keeping it packed as tightly as possible.

Continue rolling, keeping it nice and tight, until you reach the end of the tortilla. The finished product should look like this:

At this point, you can grab it with ease and devour the delicious burrito! With practice, you’ll get really good at sealing the sides so that you don’t have a supremely messy eating experience. Not that those aren’t fun.

You can also slice it on the diagonal, like so:

I wish it was meal time so I could eat this all over again! πŸ™‚

See you later, and hope spring’s peeking out where you happen to live!

travel and restaurants

Vegan Friendly Restaurants in Regina, SK – The Regina Inn

First things first – I just joined Twitter! I’m super excited about it despite my initial resistance to change. Now I’m starting to realize it’s perfect for me – I love chatting! And please be my friend! πŸ™‚ I know Twitter is probably old hat to most people but it’s still fresh and novel to me.

Now for brunch! Every now and then, my family loves getting together for a brunch buffet. It’s a festive gathering of 10-20 folks, and tradition tends to unite us all at the Regina Inn.

Now, vegan folks know that going out for breakfast or brunch can be a challenge, since most breakfast items – pancakes, waffles, sausages, bacon, eggs, etc – are decidedly non-vegan. And Regina isn’t a terribly hip city – there’s 1 place in town that serves a tofu scramble. That said, there are plenty of vegan options at the Regina Inn, despite how conventional the brunch spread is.
Here’s a picture of my plate:
Here you see a bright and colorful array of fruits and veggies – the portions were big, though you really can’t tell from this photo. I got lots of pineapple and strawberries, a yummy navel orange, raisins, olives, some sort of veggie salad, and roasted potatoes drizzled with ketchup. It was a happy plate!
And here’s Logan’s spread:
He found vegan bread and made toast (with PB&J, of course!), and piled his plate with a ton of potatoes and a pasta salad. I think he was yearning for comfort food. πŸ™‚
There were other simple vegan items I saw, like bananas and melons, pickles, and some salads. There was also a ton of non-vegan food like omelets and bacon, but we definitely found enough to eat. Regina Inn win.
Of course, they offered a bunch of (non-vegan) dessert items as well, but we were prepared for that:
With cupcakes! I made some cupcakes last night, since we were going to a birthday celebration, where there’s always the inevitability of cake. We like being armed and prepared with vegan sweets in such situations. And the leftovers definitely helped us feel more at home today at brunch!
Here’s the best part about the cupcakes:
They were stuffed! With peanut buttercream! It was amazing, and I was surprised by how easy cupcake-stuffing is. But it seems so high class and fancy – at least to me.
Of course, what would a traditional brunch experience be without your favoritest cousins ever?
Cara, bemused at her “fortune”. Since when do brunch places offer fortune cookies?
And Jenna, looking all zen and peaceful and stuff. She must’ve had a good fortune.
So the final verdict on the Regina Inn is that you can totally fill up your belly there as a vegan. Chow down!
That’s all for this Sunday – it’s time to engage in the ritual of weekly goal-setting and Angel watching! Season five, here we come! πŸ™‚
recipes, salad

Roasted Beet, Avocado and Orange Salad

It’s Friday, and today I’m very thankful that I’m living in the frosty, snow-ridden Canadian prairies. My home and loved ones have not been taken away by a tsunami and I don’t live in the Ring Of Fire. The worst natural disasters we get here are blizzards and tornadoes. The latter we rarely ever see, thankfully, and since we’re so used to getting blizzards we’ve got the infrastructure to deal with it. I just hope the worst of it is over for Japan.

Today I’m going to share a salad. I know it’s not comfort food in the same way a (veggie) burger or cookies are, but a good salad makes my day brighter. Whenever I bite into a tasty assembly of veggies, it’s like my body is all, “thanks for giving me what I really wanted, yo!”, and I’m all, “for realz”.

Roasted Beet, Avocado and Orange Salad

Ingredients:
Serves 4

3 lg. beets
6-8 c. spinach, packed
2 navel oranges, sliced
2/3 c. black olives, pitted and sliced
2 avocados, pitted and sliced
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp flax oil (or other oil)
2 tsp prepared mustard

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Wash the beets and trim any long ends. Individually wrap in aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet and bake for about an hour, or until the beets are easily pierced with a fork. Set aside.

2. Tear the spinach into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Add the oranges, olives and avocados. Note: if you’re not planning on eating all 4 servings of this salad immediately, only prepare one avocado.

3. Once beets have cooled, rub the skins off with your thumbs. If they’ve baked long enough, the skins should easily slide off. Chop and add to the bowl.

4. In a small bowl, combine vinegar, maple syrup, flax oil and mustard. Pour on salad just prior to serving. If saving some salad for later, store the dressing seperately.

I pretty much love anything involving roasted beets and avocados, so I knew that this simple salad would be a big hit with me. I also love oranges, spinach and olives – it’s really hard to go wrong with such an awesome team of fruit and veggies. The dressing is tangy and sweet, which is everything I need in a dressing to be happy. I used flax oil for the omega-3s, but you could use whatever oil you like.

decadent treat food, dessert, recipes

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Happy Wednesday!

Here in Regina, Saskatchewan, we’ve got lots to celebrate – the high temperature today is -9 degrees Celsius! Yay to almost average temperatures – one quickly tires of January weather when it’s supposed to be warming up!

In the last post, I discussed my pre-performance food and wellness tips, mentioning that I was going to be sharing a cookie recipe! Because what better way to celebrate good, healthy behavior than with a batch of cookies every now and then? πŸ™‚
Without further ado, check out these classic vegan chocolate chip cookies!
Now I know pretty much everyone has a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. But on the slight chance that you don’t, these ones are definitely worth checking out, since they’re perfect! Yeah, I said it. Perfect. Lightly crisp on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside…what more could you ask for from a vegan chocolate chip cookie?
Oh yeah, and this recipe doesn’t come anywhere close to being healthy. This is the kind of cookie you can offer up to doubting non-vegans who have the inaccurate perception that we only eat bland and crunchy food. They’ll be all like, “om nom nom…best cookies ever…” and you’ll be all, “they’re vegan!” and they’ll be all, “say whaa?” Beautiful moments, those ones.
Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 2-3 dozen little cookies

Ingredients:
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp hot water
1/2 c. organic white sugar
1/4 c. organic brown sugar
1/4 c. Earth Balance margarine
1/4 c. vegetable shortening
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 c. + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. vegan chocolate chips
Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and hot water and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream together both sugars, margarine, and shortening. You can use electric beaters or just use your arm muscles and a big spoon. Once it’s fluffy, add the cornstarch mixture and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Add the flour, baking soda and salt and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips.
3. Grab a couple of ungreased cookie sheets and get to work! Drop heaping teaspoonfuls of batter on the cookie sheets and leave them 2 inches apart from each other. Don’t flatten the cookie balls – they’ll flatten plenty in the oven! Bake for 8-10 minutes, until they start turning slightly golden. Let cool on the baking pan for a minute or two before transferring to a cooling rack. To keep your oven and cookies happy, only put one baking sheet in the oven at a time!
4. Om nom nom. Cookie paradise.

See you tomorrow! πŸ™‚

Health and Nutrition, Music

Pre-Performance Food and Wellness Tips

I’m well-aware that most of you reading this are not lead singers regularly performing in a rock band. However, I do feel like I have learned a lot about keeping a singing voice clear and healthy not only for performances, but for daily life and practice. And if you have any musician friends, feel free to forward this post to them!

Action shot!

I’ve always loved singing. My friends and I would play singing games; harmonizing on long walks, critiquing performances a la American Idol (long before the show existed!) and writing little songs after school. My diary contained more original songs than it did personal entries. Of course, at the age of 10, my lyrics left a lot to be desired (You think you’re so cool but you are not true/There’s more than a million you), but then again, my earliest influences did happen to be sticky-sweet pop bands like the Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys.

Over time, the quality of my lyrics, melodies and songs improved, and I joined a band called The Criminal Kid. It was in this band, which brought me my first dose of live stage performances, that I learned the importance of taking care of your body and your voice as a singer.

The worst thing that can befall a singer on a performance day is to be sick with something that affects the sinuses and/or throat. You ever try singing with a cold? Your voice sounds like crap. And this is exactly what happened to me on my very first show. That experience did, however, teach me two things:

-Singers can’t afford to get sick during performance-heavy times of the year, and
-I needed a squeaky-clean immune system.

After some trial and error, I found a rhythm that works for me. It’s segmented based on how close the performance date is – the month leading up to a performance is slightly more strict than my average living, the week leading up to a performance is more strict than that, and the day of a performance is the most strict of all.

General Health For the Vocalist

Being vegan is awesome for the voice, since you’re already cutting out some foods that negatively affect it. Dairy’s the worst offender, making your throat super mucus-filled. It’s been too long for me to tell if meat-eating negatively affects vocal quality; I assume it wouldn’t make much of a difference. However, meat is difficult for the body to digest and it’s also full of toxic chemicals in addition to being very acid-forming. All of this leads to a weakened immune system, and who wants that?
Regular exercise is awesome for the voice in a variety of ways. First of all, it’s a great way to develop hardcore lungs – brisk walking, jogging, running, playing sports – it’s all good. By strengthening muscles associated with singing (like your core), you’re amping up how much power you can tap into. Being physically fit also allows you to expend a lot of energy on stage without worrying about being breathless while singing.
These days I’ve been alternating strength training with cardio activities. I love walking so I do a lot of that. Sports are tons of fun and a great way to stay in shape!
The Month Prior To Performance

If I’ve been slacking off, drinking more beer and eating lots of sweets, this is the time I start getting back on the (super healthy) wagon. See ya later, cookies and udon noodles! I don’t do anything drastic in this time period but I do watch that the vast majority of my food is whole and unprocessed.

Aside from making healthier dietary choices, I start paying attention to mental health – stress can lead to illness just as easily as a poor diet. Simple meditation and breathing exercises do the trick – I usually do them when I wake up and when I go to bed since it’s easiest.

Other things that keep stress levels low is making sure I get a good sleep. A couple late nights and early mornings can definitely weaken the immune system, and is almost always one of the main reasons I come down with an illness.

Since I’m a vocalist, I start training my voice more the month leading up to a performance. I do daily singing practice by going through my band’s set list as well as singing songs by other artists. I generally sing 30-60 minutes a day depending on how busy I am – often some of this singing time happens in my car as I drive to work!

The Week Prior To Performance

In the week before a performance, I step it up a little more. Instead of the vast majority of my foods being whole and unprocessed, all of them are. I eat more raw foods and often ditch the gluten. This is the point in time where I absolutely cannot afford to get the sniffles, so I take preventative measures.
I also don’t drink booze. Not a drop. Booze is harsh on the body which leaves you more prone to catching a virus. I caught a cold the night before my very first performance, which I suspect had something to do with the fact that I had drank two nights in a row prior (and didn’t sleep much!).

I have also recently adopted the habit of using a neti pot during this time period. Sure, sticking water up your nose is kind of unusual, but it helps clear out any gunk and bacteria that gets clogged in there, and I breathe so wonderfully afterward.

I continue stress-busting techniques like exercise, good sleep and meditation. I also continue singing practice because what good is keeping your immune system in good shape if you’re not even exercising your vocal cords?

Performance Day – Foods I avoid

On the big day, I restrict certain foods. The crucial ones are:

Sugar – Particularly the refined stuff, but also added sweeteners like agave. I even go easy on the fruit, especially bananas. Sugar makes your throat sticky and takes away that nice crystal-clear sound you need for a sparkling performance. Plus it mucks up your energy levels, boosting you up really quickly, and then crashing you down.

Chocolate – This one is usually associated with sugar, but even when it’s not, I find cocoa/cacao to be mucus-stimulating and so I stay away from it.

Gluten – If I haven’t already ditched gluten the week leading up to a performance, I do it on performance day. The reason is the same as the above – it’s mucus-forming.

Non-Vegan food – Obviously all of my food is going to be vegan because, well, I am. But for folks who aren’t vegan or even vegetarian, dairy is extremely mucus-forming and if you’re serious about singing, looking into ditching it. Lots of people talk about how much of a difference simply omitting dairy makes on their vocal quality. Meat is really taxing for your body to digest – your body needs tons of energy on stage, so eating easily-digestible food is a must!

Performance Day Foods I Love


On performance day I eat simple and mostly raw. Since performances generally don’t start until 10 or 11pm (and often much later), I eat a big supper around 7pm, usually something involving lots of fresh veggies and brown rice. Since it takes so much energy to play a show (much more than you would think!), the addition of brown rice to an otherwise raw menu makes a huge difference in keeping me grounded and free from hunger.
Green Juice
Green juice is ideal for any time of the day, and it’s nice to drink before a show, too! My favorite juice is a combination of cucumber, romaine, kale and lemon juice, with a little green apple sometimes. A piece of ginger adds a nice kick. It’s the juice of champions!
Green Smoothie

Green smoothies are completely delicious. They taste just as good as regular fruit smoothies, but with the electrifying addition of spinach or kale (or any green you fancy)! Mangoes, bananas and papaya all make great bases for smoothie, though bananas and mangoes are high in sugar, which leaves your voice a little sticky. Apples, oranges, grapefruit, pears, berries and papaya are all excellent lower-sugar choices! Throw a couple of the aforementioned in a blender along with a handful of greens and nut milk (or water), and whatever flavors you like (cinnamon!), and you’ve got yourself an awesome smoothie. Adding less liquid can create a pudding which is equally awesome.
Coconut Water

Talk about nature’s sports drink! The water inside young coconuts is full of electrolyte goodness and the meat is soft and delicious. I like to sometimes make a green smoothie using the coconut water, the soft white meat inside, and any other fruit and greens my heart desires. So much better than Gatorade – no weird dyes or ingredients and no white sugar. If you’ve never tried this stuff fresh from a coconut then you must – it’s incredible!
Avocado/Big Salads

…Or in this case, a big salad with an avocado dressing. A gigantic, avocado-filled salad makes an excellent pre-show lunch – it’s fresh and light, yet keeps you going thanks to the avocado. Avocados are amazing, delicious, and incredibly nutritious. To bulk up a salad and make it meal-sized, I’ll sometimes add some steamed sweet potato.
Fresh Rice Bowl
This rice bowl contained more avocado goodness, tomatoes, red bell peppers, pineapple salsa and brown rice. A huge bowl of this makes for excellent fuel for a long night of loud music and performing.
Summary

The singer has a special responsibility in a band. As a singer, your instrument is your body, so if your body breaks down, so does your instrument. If our guitarist Vic were to get the sniffles, he might not be as energetic on stage but his guitar would still sound lovely! That’s not the case as a vocalist. Us singers have to take care of ourselves!

In case you folks were wondering, our Saturday performance went excellent! We had a great turnout, in the ballpark of 150 peeps, which ain’t bad for our humble city. The bands we played with, The Screaming Daisies and The Crystal Kid, were also lots of fun. Saturday night was a special occasion since we (finally!) released our first 3-track single, which you can purchase here for a sliding-scale price of just $0.75 per song! You can also hear a full song from the album on our ReverbNation page.

And tomorrow I’ll come back and talk about how I reward myself for being good! A hint – it starts with ‘c’ and ends in ‘ookies’… πŸ™‚
Peace!

Brunch, decadent treat food, recipes

Home-Style Banana Muffin Recipe

Happy Wednesday!

Today I’m going to share this lovely home-style banana muffin recipe with you:
But before we get to the ultimate goodness that is banana muffins, let’s talk about books! Specifically, how to improve your memory.
I tend to be a library fiend (since I can’t afford to buy books all the time…*sniff*), and I tend to gravitate toward non-fic goodies. This time I found a book called “Brain Fitness”, which I voraciously devoured. I thought I’d share some of the insights I learned!
Top Ways To Improve Your Memory
Visualization: When we’re stressed out, we don’t retain information very well. The idea is that if we visualize a situation before it occurs, we’ll reduce our level of stress, and therefore retain more information.
Exercise: Not only does exercise get your blood flowing – we have all experienced the lift that accompanies a good run – it’s a great idea when you’re in the midst of learning really technical information. By taking breaks to do vigorous exercise in the midst of deep study, you’ll remember more of what you learn.
Concentration: It’s hard to process information when the radio is blaring, the dog is barking, and there’s a dance party happening five feet from your desk. Shut the door, ignore the cell phone and Facebook, and concentrate on the task at hand.
Articulation: By saying information out loud, you’ll remember it better. So simple and so effective.
Write Things Down: This one is fairly obvious, and very similar to the above.
Diet: It’s hard to sharpen your memory when crappy food is making you sluggish and sapping all your brain juice! Green leafies, fruits and veggies keep your energy levels high.
Breathing Exercises: Deep breath in, deep breath out. Repeat, repeat. Deep breathing aids focus and concentration, which equals better memory. Plus it’s so relaxing.
Smells: We’ve all had the experience of a smell taking you back to some ancient, long-forgotten memory with crystal clarity. Smells are powerful! Studies showed that students who memorized information with a particular smell (Jasmine, for example) in the air did better on their test in the presence of that smell. Students who didn’t have any smell associated with the material didn’t do as good. Apparently the aromas of chocolate and peppermint are particularly memory-friendly!
Regular Practice: Do something once and you’ll probably soon forget it. Do something twice, or three times, or four times, it’ll start firmly planting itself in your memory.
There was far more inside the book, but that was the gist of the practical information I gleaned from it.
Now, for a delicious, Home-Style Banana Muffin Recipe! The reason I call these banana muffins “home-style” is because this is the banana muffin recipe I grew up eating. Sometimes my mom would embellish these muffins with chocolate chips, which made me a very happy kid, but they’re just as awesome without. Recipes from moms are always the best, aren’t they? πŸ™‚
Home-Style Banana Muffin Recipe
Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. Earth Balance margarine, softened
2 large, very ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 c. soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)
2 tbsp cornstarch
4 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole spelt flour (or whole wheat)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil 12 muffin tins.
2. In a large bowl, cream the sugar and margarine together until fluffy. Add the mashed bananas and soy milk. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water and add to the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and stir well.
3. In a medium bowl, combine both flours, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and stir until just combined – try to avoid over-mixing.
4. Scoop the batter into the muffin tins, filling them about 2/3 full. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool for a few minutes, and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Check out that handsome, tender crumb!
This is undoubtedly not the healthiest banana muffin recipe that exists (though the addition of whole spelt flour goes undetected!), but sometimes all you really want is a treat. Or a dose of nostalgia. Serve these banana muffins alongside any breakfast spread, or eat ’em as a snack – it’s all good!
Catch you later! πŸ™‚