That first week after Labour Day always gives me a bit of a New Year’s vibe. A seasonal change is imminent, sure, but I think we all crave a new routine after summer’s farewell weekend is gone. That sultry season is all beer hangs, slightly more indulgent snacks/meals, throwing our concerns out to the wind, late nights, and full days of leisure or sweaty garden grunt work, depending on how you roll. But the sun’s starting to go down a bit earlier, the nights are steadily cool and comfortable and early rises feel like they could come with a bit more ease. It’s a good time to refocus on what matters, maybe start a new personal project or two, and to cultivate some good habits that stick.
Admittedly, I’ve been feeling rather MEH for the last month or so. This summer kind of crushed me with all of its things and places. Some unfortunate everyday elements repeated themselves and some crap habits were lightly carved in as a result. If I was working at the restaurant, I’d generally be up late and would therefore wake up late the next day as well. On most days, I’m usually not hungry right away in the late-morning hours, so coffee seems to hold me over until I rig up a toast-centric lunch. And then before you know it, I’m getting my stuff together to either head into the restaurant again OR to ship off to some sort of social/family event or get caught up on some other work. From there, a solid meal becomes a spotty prospect. My ability to sleep has been hit or miss to the utmost, which inevitably offsets the eating/normal life schedule. Not complaining though! Just emphasizing how easy it is to slip into some motions that aren’t terribly kind to your body.
So I think I’ve hit the breaking point if I’m being really real. It’s time to start making some changes and to refocus the glance on wellness in a very mindful way. Cue up this matcha mint chip shake/breakfast bowl to start things off. I’ve made a version of this shake for a while–always with the greens, mint, vanilla, frozen banana, and cacao nibs. But I thought it would be fun to bring matcha into the picture for an extra boost, and top it off with crunchy, delicious, super-power ingredients too. It makes a fine shake for a morning meal or a little afternoon pick-me-up.
Thankfully (so thankfully), the kind people at VEGA contacted me a couple weeks ago about trying their plant-based protein + nutrition shake mixes. I’ve been a fan of VEGA and Brendan Brazier for a long time and VEGA ONE has been a part of my daily routine for the better part of the last 4 years. I might have squealed with delight in the health food store when they introduced the french vanilla flavour a while back. So rather than “trying” the goods, they made it possible for me to revisit and really appreciate my faves all over again. I’ve always loved that the product is Canadian too :) The best thing about VEGA ONE is that it’s really easy for me to blend into whatever smoothie or bowl I’m making and just like that, I have total reassurance that 50% of my nutritional needs are being met for the day, all formulated from a super clean plant base that tastes amazing. Even just trying it for 5 days will blow you away with good feels, promise.
And now I get to extend that kindness to you! VEGA is letting me give away 2 incredibly generous prize packs to a couple lucky readers. Two (2) winners will each receive one (1) tub of VEGA ONE nutritional shake + one (1) box of VEGA ONE all-in-one meal bars! This would be the coolest prize for any person looking to up their game in the realm of wellness or just for someone who really prioritizes health, but is so dang busy. This one is open to residents of the USA + Canada only, folks.
And how to enter? There’s two ways:
1) Leave a comment on this post telling me about your go-to smoothie/healthy shake combination.
2) Tag photos of your blended creations on Instagram with #THEFIRSTMESSxVEGAONE. And pssssst, you can follow VEGA team (link) and myself (link) while you’re at it… I mean if you want to ;) I’ll be sharing some off-the-cuff killer shake combos on my account for the next bit to get in the spirit. Weeee! Giveaway is closed, guys! Thanks for participating :)
So yeah! Lots of chances to win yourself some very high vibe gear. I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with! Cheers, x’s and o’s to you all :)
matcha mint chip greens shake/breakfast bowl recipe
serves: 3-5, depending on hunger/need
notes: I like milder greens for this, like spinach, chard or beet greens. Save the kale for some salads, peeps! Also, if you have a 1/4 of a ripe avocado to spare, I feel like it might do nicely here.
1/3 cup soaked raw cashews, drained
3 cups loose-packed greens
2-3 frozen bananas (depending on size)
1/4 cup mint leaves (about 3 sprigs)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla powder
2 tsp matcha powder
1-2 scoops VEGA ONE powder, french vanilla or chocolate flavour
3 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk/other plant milk
maple syrup or stevia to taste (very optional–I find it isn’t necessary most of the time)
1 tbsp cacao nibs
various optional toppin’s:
bee pollen (do not use if you’re strictly vegan, obviously)
extra cacao nibs
coconut whipped cream/cashew cream
In an upright blender, combine all of the shake ingredients except for the cacao nibs and blend on high until totally smooth. Throw the cacao nibs into the blender and blend for a couple seconds, just to break them up a bit. From here you can drink the shake straight up or you can serve it in small bowls with any combination of the specified toppings. Serve cold.
You might also like…
I never thought I would have a vegetable garden in my backyard this year. It seemed like this silly thing that I would finally, finally get to when the deck and kitchen were both finished, the shed was built and the porch was stained. My dad grows enough vegetables to feed 75 or more people, so I figured I could just glom onto that and be satisfied. And hilariously (!!), right at this second I have a thriving vegetable garden, no shed or deck to really speak of, a kitchen that STILL isn’t totally finished, and we have the most unintentionally distressed-looking porch floor (oh, and my dad still brings me stuff from his garden anyway). Priorities are a funny thing that creep in when you’re not looking.
So now, even when there’s “nothing to eat” we have a hundred square feet of total edibles just getting bigger and riper by the day. It’s true that at any given moment there’s some urgent thing that needs to be fixed, tidied, cleaned, shopped for, photographed, edited etc., but we almost always make time to eat well–even if the loosest translation of that means tossing a couple kale leaves into a daily smoothie because uuuuum, vitamins? Yeah, let’s go with that. If you have some good and honest food at hand, even just a little bit, you can inspire yourself to make the time.
I think Erin from Yummy Supper understands these ideas of nourishment all too well. Just a quickie flip through her beautiful new cookbook will give you inspiration for a week’s worth of meals that glow with abundance, yes, but also with the more immediate appeal of accessibility. It’s a gluten free book, but not in a way that you would notice right away. I tend to gravitate towards the variety and colours of natural foods, and Erin’s book really celebrates this. Instead of focusing on what’s off limits, there’s page after page of gorgeous naturally gluten free foods combined with a knack for seasonal consideration. There’s pears poached in Lillet, popped amaranth with cumin and coriander, a crispy kale salad with curried chickpeas, millet crepes, parsnip chips, and black rice pudding with coconut–among so many other thoughtful dishes. Whatever your dietary inclinations, you’ll find something in this book that speaks to you.
And this stew! It’s a good one–nice and spicy with tons of vegetable goodness. I was scanning through the ingredients thinking that I had most of what was called for (fresh beans, corn, tomatoes, shallots, garlic, chilies), knowing that I would substitute a couple things based on what I had in the garden. Swiss chard instead of napa cabbage and bok choy, eggplant for the mushrooms, maybe some extra carrots and some sliced up chard stems too. I was a only a little bit worried that I would change the intended flavours slightly. But Erin condones the switch ups! It’s an all season-approachable dish that mostly relies on the flavour base of fragrant coconut oil, chilies, onions, garlic and tamari. The sharp edge of heat and little bit of bite from the vegetables makes this stew glow with vitality. It’s hard to stop eating it–just feel good food through and through. Some coconut oil-browned cashews and shallots get sprinkled on top and that textural/flavour contrast is so bang on. It’s all just right for the slowly cooling nights ’round here.
And a little add-on bonus! Lindsey, Claire, and I are working with the fine folks at Pure Green Magazine for a hashtag challenge called #PGMinseason. They have all the details on their site here, but on the PGM blog we’re sharing some recipes and our more personal ideological/health-related aspects of choosing local food. You guys know I’m all-in for anything that celebrates the seasonal eats, so it’s exciting to be a part of something that aims to bring even more inspiration and conversation around that movement. Earlier this week they posted my recipe for harissa grilled eggplant with burst tomatoes, quinoa and herb salad, which you can check out here!
vegan bali garden stew recipe
from Erin Scott’s Yummy Supper
notes: Erin’s recipe calls for chicken as well. I just went with the goodness of the veggies, but you could easily add diced tofu or chickpeas if you’d like a little extra protein in this stew. She notes a little tip in the book that I completely agree with: have all of your ingredients chopped and ready to go once you have the stove turned on. The whole thing goes pretty quick. Also, serve this with some cooked rice if you’re feelin’ it.
1/4 cup + 2 tsp coconut oil
1-2 cayenne chilies (or something similar), seeded + minced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tsp tamari soy sauce
4 cups water
3 medium carrots, peeled + thinly sliced
2 medium (or 4 small!) tomatoes, diced
1 small eggplant, chopped
kernels from 2 cobs of corn (1 1/3 cups)
1 1/3 cups sliced green beans
1 cup raw cashews
4 shallots, thinly sliced
4 cups chopped swiss chard (including stems)
salt + pepper
Heat a 1/4 cup of the coconut oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the chili, onion and garlic. Cook until very fragrant and onion has softened slightly, about 2 minutes.
Add the tamari and water to the pot. Bring to a boil and then add the carrots. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and eggplant and cook for a minute. Add the corn and green beans and cook for another couple minutes. At this point you can turn the heat off until you’re ready to serve it because you’ll just need to bring the pot to a boil for the greens.
In a small sauté pan, heat a teaspoon of coconut oil over medium low heat. Add the raw cashews to the pan and toast them in the oil until they brown a bit on all sides, about 4-5 minutes. Empty the cashews onto a small plate and give them a little sprinkle of salt if you like.
Return the small sauté pan to the heat and add the remaining teaspoon of coconut oil. Add the thinly sliced shallots to the pan and stir them around here and there until they turn deep brown and a bit crisp in some areas, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
Bring the pot of stew to a boil again and add the chopped swiss chard. Cook until the greens wilt a little bot, about 1 minute. Serve the stew hot with the toasty cashews and shallots on top.
You might also like…
I will say this with comfort and clarity because I know I’m not alone: it’s surprisingly easy to get overwhelmed by life on a regular basis–the wonderful parts, but also (womp womp) the more stress-inducing bits. We’re away for a bit on the east coast of Canada this week with my man’s family and all I could think about leading up to our departure was A) How much stuff I have to take care of before I get in the car with my duffel bag, snacks and camera, B) How much stuff I could be accomplishing if we weren’t going, and C)How realistic/possible it would be to get some work done while we’re ON vacation. I swear I can’t be the only person who thinks this way. In the same moment, there is a pull of necessity from the natural world calling for release, but also the thoughts of deadlines, career, and the “How will we ever get ahead of it all?” questions that shore up in the weaker moments.
Some of my plans got all messed up last week, my schedule was thrown off, there was a very scary thunderstorm, I didn’t see Mark for a few days because of the “passing ships in the night” quality of our conflicting work schedules sometimes, my dining table was a mess of recipes to be shot, food props, fibreglass door brochures, and just stuff, I think I ate too much sugar and drank mostly coffee, there’s still messes around every corner of our yard as we try to get it ALL together this summer, it’s August already?!, then THIS etc. In the middle of one of my now-daily marathon list-making sessions, I texted this to Mark: “I feel like I’m paddling really fucking hard and not getting anywhere.”
My tendency, when there’s probably too much going on and I’m asking the big life questions, is to go inward a bit and figure out why it’s all happening. I get stuck in my own head is another way to put it. It takes a while for inspiration, in the form of human interaction, something I’ve read/seen, or a moment of intentional quietude, to pull me up back into life and living. A worrier and an over-thinker to the end–just how I operate. But I had a very chill contractor/landscaping/handyperson-type dude here the one morning, just as the sky was darkening something fierce for another round of rain. He was giving me an estimate on a new deck + shelter structure kinda deal and we were talking about what a mess the yard had been before we lived here. The drops were puttering around and he calmly said something about being able to see past the the frustrating/messy/uncontrollable aspects of less desirable situations because he had the work/life experience to know that it all works out in the end. Pretty much exactly what I needed to hear, even if he was just talking about some outdoor livin’.
As we continue to get our bearings on this life and some of the seemingly fresh things it’s been throwing at/graciously handing to us, I think we get a bit more confident leaning into the “Everything’s going to be alright” mentality. And not in a a way that leaves it all to the fates. We’re learning and grasping and nodding our heads YES because we have a clearer sightline on human capability. I still make decisions on a whim and overcommit myself 98 percent of the time, but I feel stronger in putting my head down and getting to the work in a more intelligent way than ever before. If this is maturity/getting old/full-tilt-boogie-level adulthood, sign me up.
In addition to seeing ahead + realizing some human potential, I’ve been coming up with cooler recipe ideas and just making better things in general. It’s cool when inspiration from certain sometimes stress-y life moments stream colour and inpspiration into your everyday needs. Of course I didn’t invent collard wraps, but dang if I didn’t just try them for the first time recently and absolutely love them. My first exposure to the collard-as-wrap was in Sara’s book actually, and I was immediately pulled in by her emphasis on avoiding the “hippie mush” problem when fixing them up. Actually, just the expression “hippie mush” was enough to catch my interest (#HIPPIEMUSH). Anyway, this version has some highly varied textures and lots of summer tasties from the tomatoes and basil. Marinated and charred tempeh, chickpea mash, a little sundried tomato flecked quinoa, extra tomato, maybe a balsamic drizzle. Lots of plant-powered protein in a little leafy package. A good travellin’ snack if I do say so myself.
So I’m off to re-charge the batteries on that eastern shore. Catch ya next week or perhaps on Instagram in the meantime? :) Big love, all.
super powered tomato + basil collard wraps
notes: Like any decent burrito or wrap-type thing, overstuffing these will lead to failure/messes everywhere. If you’re transporting them, I would recommend securing with toothpicks before you go anywhere, just so there aren’t any surprises at your destination.
1 block of tempeh, cut into half inch strips
1 chili, sliced
4-5 sprigs of basil, divided
splash of red wine vinegar
1 shallot, peeled and sliced
salt + pepper
1/2 cup quinoa
handful of sundried tomatoes (not the oil-packed ones), small dice
2 cups cooked chickpeas
2-3 tbsp tomato sauce
8 large collard leaves
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced (or 1/2 pint of grape tomatoes halved)
balsamic glaze/reduction (optional!)
In a shallow dish, place the tempeh pieces, sliced chili, 2-3 tablespoons of chopped basil, the red wine vinegar, sliced shallot and a good glug of olive oil. Season the mix with salt and pepper and toss to coat the tempeh. Cover and set aside for 20 minutes.
Combine the quinoa with 1 cup of water and a fat pinch of salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring the quinoa to a boil and simmer until all water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Scrape quinoa into a medium mixing bowl and allow to cool.
Once cool, to the quinoa add a glug of olive oil, 2-3 tbsp chopped basil, the diced sundried tomatoes, and some salt and pepper. Toss to combine.
In a shallow dish, mash the chickpeas with the tomato sauce, salt, pepper and a splash of olive oil. You want a mixture that kind of holds together but also a few whole chickpeas too. Set aside.
Heat a grill to high and place the marinated tempeh slices on the grates. Grill both sides until char marks appear, about 4 minutes per side.
To make the collard wraps, start by laying one collard leaf down on a cutting board so that it’s on a horizontal orientation. Lay another collard leaf on top, overlapping the stem ends considerably. You should have an almost solid rectangular-ish sheet of collard green now. It almost looks like a very chunky figure 8. Spoon some of the chickpea mash into the middle, pressing it down. Lay two tempeh slices on top of the chickpea mash. Then place some sliced tomato on top of the tempeh. Place a few slices of tomato and whole leaves of basil on top. Finish with a drizzle of balsamic glaze if you like. Pull up the long side of the collard wrap and fold it over the filling. Bring in the short sides as if you were making a burrito. Then roll the whole thing until you’ve sealed the wrap.
Repeat this process with remaining ingredients. Secure wraps with toothpicks if necessary. Slice wraps in half to serve.
You might also like…