Friday, December 31, 2010

barefoot and frolicking: a year in review part 1

With New Years Eve fast approaching, I thought it would be more than fitting to take a look back at 2010, the year I predicted at this time last year to be "everything zen"  (I've since come to realize that predictions might not pan out as intended, but perhaps, the way we need them to in the long run).

2010 was probably the most difficult, yet expansive year of my life. It was a year full of highlights, lowlights, personal advancements and setbacks, beautiful moments and amazing (and multiple) travel experiences. Reflecting on the past year, I've come to recognize each of these instances as valuable life experiences and lesson. Without them, I wouldn't be where I am (or who I am) today.

Also, I've come to realize how important it is for me to have stress-reduced lifestyle. At moments throughout the year, I found myself caught up in very stressful situations and moments. Ideally, I like to have the time to balance myself through proper health, nutrition, fitness, and rest. More and more, I realize the interconnectedness between mind, body, and soul and how these factors can be influenced by our surroundings, as well as the foods we choose to eat.

Here is a summary of some of the many incredible moments I experienced this past year, some raw food and vegan related, others more directed towards life, living, health and well-being (this list will also give you some insight into my 'other life' outside of Barefoot and Frolicking). Check them out in a mostly chronological order:

1.  Meeting Barbara Hulanicki, January.

I first blogged about my meeting with Barbara Hulanicki, the proprietor of the famous British boutique and department store, Biba, back in January. This was an absolute thrill for me - I have been a huge admirer of her work (clothing and interior design) for many years, and have even researched her resonance in popular culture  (more on that later). Not only did I receive Barbara's autograph, but I also had my picture taken with her; granted, the worst photo of me ever, but still - it is of me and Barbara! For more on Barbara, I highly recommend checking out the film Beyond Biba (2010).

2. University of London-Birkbeck College, April.

Some of you may know of my previous and current dalliances with academia. This past April, I had the amazing opportunity to present a conference paper related to my current Master of Arts research interests (Swinging London, youth culture, and 1960s British cinema) for the "Re-Living Disaster" Graduate Conference, held at the University of London-Birkbeck college in London, UK over two days at the end of April. I presented a paper discussing the 1970 film Performance (starring Anita Pallenberg and  Mick Jagger!) and had the most wonderful conference experience with graduate students from schools in Germany, Spain, the UK, and Canada. For more on the conference, you can visit the Reliving Disaster blog, as well as a conference report in Scope, an online journal of film and tv studies.

3. Swinging London revisited, May.

While in the UK for the conference, I had the opportunity to stay with some wonderful members of my extended family. I hadn't been to England in over 10 years, so this visit was a long time overdue. I have always loved and adored England, specifically London. There is just something about the city and it's varied history that I find so familiar to me (no wonder my thesis focuses on Swinging London!). During my stay, I was able to research the many different sites and locations associated with Swinging London in relation to my own research on the subject. Constructing a map of these long forgotten sites, I felt like a veritable 'London' spy, unearthing the spaces and places of Swinging London - a budding cultural historian's dream come true!

One day after the conference, I took tea in Carnaby Street and perused the now pedestrianized district, which still has some interesting shops, and has retained a sense of history about its heyday as a symbol of youth fashion and culture in the 1960s. I just love this parody of Carnaby Street from one of the film's I've researched, Smashing Time (1967). After re-watching an Austin Powers film over Christmas, I've noticed the similarities in how Carnaby Street is represented and reconstructed in various films.

I pranced around the original Biba locations (the one on Church Street, Kensington, pictured above during my visit in 2010 and 1966). Each time I retraced an original boutique location, I saw my research come to life before my eyes. It was so thrilling to run through the streets of Kensington trying to relocate the Biba spaces. 

I also sought out the original location of the Granny Takes a Trip boutique (my photo from 2010 and its original appearance 1967 (above). This boutique is located at the World's End, and interesting tip at the end of the King's Road. Check out this video for more information about this once magical place.

A stone's throw from Carnaby Street is the original location of  The Beatles Apple Office in Savile Row, Mayfair, home of the group's infamous roof-top gig in 1969. Standing at the foot of the building, I imagined what that fateful day must have sounded like, with the streets full of radiating music. I had already walked across Abbey Road and visited the neighboring Abbey Road Studios, on a previous visit 11 years ago, so I let the one remain in memory.

Perhaps one of the more visceral experiences on my trip occurred during my visit to Maryon Park, a small space in Woolwich, which is also featured extensively in Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow up (1966), another film I've been researching. This visit was undoubtedly one of the strangest experiences of my life (must have been the odd vibes I carried with me from the original film). Check out the link for the final scene featuring the tennis court (can you hear the tennis ball?). The park still features a sense of ominous uncertainty, and this is one of my all-time favorite film endings - dig that ambiguity.  

4. Liverpool, May.

As if my trip to the UK wasn't already complete, I visited my dear friend Kit who is studying all things historical in Devon, and we embarked on a two day excursion to Liverpool. From the time I was a young girl, listening to Beatles songs ad infinitum on my record player (that's right, vinyl), I have dreamed of visiting The Beatles hometown. The music of The Beatles and John Lennon have played a major role in my life, inspiring my ideas and perceptions of art and popular music.

In short, Liverpool was quite the experience - a city both encumbered with the legacy of the group, but also enhanced by the various sites immortalized in song. Our first stop was The Cavern, the original home to The Beatles live musical performances, literally a stones throw from our hotel. Since reconstructed, part of the original cellar club remains.

Embarking on a Magical Mystery Tour (literally, a bus tour in the city) we were able to visit not only Strawberry Field (the site of a now non-existent Salvation Army home), but also drive through Penny Lane's famous roundabout under "blue suburban skies." We also had the chance to see John Lennon's childhood home, Mendips, which was a major moment for me, as well as the childhood homes of Paul, George, and Ringo.

My trip to England and experiences there will forever be with me - they hold a very special place in my heart, and I will never forget the kindness of those I stayed with. Stay tuned for my upcoming post, "Barefoot and Frolicking: A Year in Review Part 2"; in this post, there will be more of a focus on raw foods, teaching, learning, life, growing!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

all I want for Christmas is cacao

Cacao, chocolate, holidays, fun, delicious, scrumptious, snowfall, yum

These are just some of the words that come to mind when reflecting on Christmas this year. As I mentioned in my previous post, I whipped up some delicious raw dessert goodies as presents for friends and family. I made an assortment of raw dessert gift boxes, along with raw dessert glass jars chocced (pardon the pun) full of raw goodies and sweet treats. 

Inside these fun little prezzies were an assortment of raw food goodies, ranging from a sampling of Lemon-Coconut bars, Chocolate Truffles, Chocolate Coconut Cups, and Fruit and Nut Bars

For the glass jar assortment of raw goodies, I layered Lemon-Coconut Bars, Vanilla Chai Macaroons, Chili Chocolate Bars, Chocolate Caramels, Fruit and Nuts Bars, Chocolate Truffles, and Fruit and Nut cups, separating each layer with a thin sheet of parchment-y paper (the paper that separates the tinfoil I bought for wrapping my chocolates).

an interesting shot of the Lemon-Coconut bars inside the jar
 a work in progress...take your favorite goodies and assemble

a close up view of the chocolate truffles and a fruit and nut cup

all the pretty glass jars in a row

Once assembled, the jars were adorned with some homemade orange ornaments (quick recipe: cut oranges into slices, spread on a baking sheet and 'cook' for 4 hours at 175 degrees). These looked so pretty on my Charlie Brown Christmas tree (I had a miniature tree!). I also love how the glass jars can be reusable for other raw food staples (nuts, seeds, dried fruits) in the kitchen. 

Now, some of you may remember my rendition of Vanilla Chai Spice macaroons last year. Well, I revised the recipe, and have created a fantastic and delicious macaroon cookie ('macarookies' anyone?! haha).  By far, my favorite raw macaroon recipe ever, not too chewy, not too sweet, and just the right texture.

Vanilla Chai Spice Macaroons

1 cup cashews
1 cup + 1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
4 tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp lucuma powder
3 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla chai spice sugar
pinch of salt

Process all ingredients except for the 1/4 shredded coconut together in a food processor. Chill mixture in fridge for at least an hour. Add in the 1/4 cup shredded coconut. Using an ice cream scoop, press mixture to make circular macaroon shape. Sprinkle extra vanilla chai spice sugar on top of each macaroon. Dehydrate for 4 - 5 hours or until macaroons are molded and 'dry' (check in on them periodically to make sure they haven't dried out 'too much'. Less dehydration time will yield a softer, moister 'cookie'). Amazing!

I hope you all enjoyed your holidays. I loved having the time and opportunity to make some homemade (and raw) gifts - it is one of my all-time favorite things to do. Did you make any raw goodies for the holiday season?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

raw christmas cacao recipes

I can't believe that Christmas is right around the corner. Over the past little while, I've been trying to fit in 'mini-kitchen' marathon sessions in order to make some sumptuous raw food dessert gifts. I think there is nothing nicer than taking the time to craft or make something for someone, infusing it with time and creative energy, making a gift personable rather than purchasing something mass-produced. I feel there should be a resurgence of this kind of gift-giving, especially at Christmas.

Raw chocolate is a great gift to give this time of year - last year, I shared my first endeavor at making raw food chocolates for Christmas with you. I had so much fun making truffles and cookies for friends and family; these included some White Tannenbaum Macaroons with Vanilla Chai Spice, Hazelnut and Peppermint Truffles, and other choccie treats. Yummers!

Inspired by many other blogger's treats and chocolates, I'm back for another round of raw holiday chocolate making this year. I've had a chance to reflect on what I've learned working with that crazy-amazing substance known as cacao (seriously, one of the most versatile plant foods out there), and I've been exploring new, original recipes and different flavor combinations.

I made this little assortment of cacao goodies for some friends of mine over the weekend. These include some Chocolate flowers and Peppermint Candy Cane and Cacao Truffles.

Inspired by my childhood memories of peppermint candy canes (minus the icky sugary teeth and blood sugar rising feeling), these truffles combine peppermint and cacao. It is amazing how the combination of goji berries with the agave and peppermint extract really do taste like candy canes. For these awesome truffles, you will need the following:

1 cup cashews
1 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened (* could also substitute 1/2 cup hazelnuts for 1/2 coconut for a richer taste)
1/4 cup agave syrup
1-2 tbsp goji berries
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2 tsp coconut oil (optional)

Mix ingredients together in a food processor until well processed and crumbly. Mold into round balls. Coat with Dark Cacao-Chocolate and roll ingredients together. Dust with cacao powder and/or decorate with various toppings (I used goji berries and some 'lightly toasted' coconut flakes). Will keep for 4-5 days in the fridge, or a few weeks in the freezer.

Dark Cacao-Chocolate

1/2 cup cacao powder
1/3 cup cacao butter, melted
1-2 tbsp agave syrup
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of sea salt

Shave cacao butter and place in a bowl. Melt over a pot with warm water on the stove. Once melted, mix with agave syrup, vanilla, sea salt, and cacao powder. Whisk until mixture is smooth. Roll truffles in the cacao mixture.

What I love about raw desserts is that truffles come in all different shapes, sizes, textures and flavors. Plus, inspiration is all around us from our fellow raw food bloggers. I found this interesting and unique recipe for Chocolate Truffles by those fabulous gals over at Golubka, and experimented with a few subtle changes to their original recipe. The results - amazing; I love the warming feeling of the nutmeg and cinnamon combined with the cacao. Here is my recipe:

Warming Cacao Truffles

1 cup almonds
1cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 cup honey dates, pitted
2/3 cup walnuts
1/2 tbsp maca powder
1/2 tbsp mesquite powder
1 1/2 tbsp cacao powder
2 tbsp carob powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp coconut oil, melted

Combine ingredients in a food processor and process until crumbly. Mold mixture well into small, round balls and dust in ground pistachios and/or coconut flakes. The natural oils from the nuts as well as coconut oil will make the mixture malleable. Makes 36 small truffles. Will keep for 4-5 days in the fridge, or a few weeks in the freezer.

I found I was so busy this year, that I hadn't given myself enough time to order extra cacao butter (just in case). As fate would have it, one day I stumbled upon Truly Organic Foods, a local (Niagara) superfoods distributor! I couldn't believe it - cacao and superfoods in my neck of the woods?! I am still in shock that there is a company such as this in my area.

Leanne and Kent Oszust started their company with the intention of providing "superfoods for a super life" (I love the motto). They offer some amazing raw vegan and superfood products; I ordered some cacao butter and lucuma powder. I was so impressed with their prompt and fastidious service (they not only delivered the next day, but they delivered the order right to my door - talk about service!). I look forward to ordering from them again.

I'll be back in a few with some more chocolate and raw food dessert recipes - stay tuned!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

warming december recipes

Here in Niagara, it seems as though we've started winter early this year. In other words, on these (shorter) days I'm more inclined to curl up on the couch next to the fire with a good book (or rerun of Law and Order: SVU), with a mug of apple cider (or, nourishing herbal tea)!

It can be a little tricky to stay predominantly raw in our diets during this cold time of year, but there are many ways in which we can incorporate some warming foods into our diets with the same amount of health benefits and yummy tastes.

Here is a recipe for a delicious sweet potato soup. While not completely raw, it incorporates the fresh flavors of lime and cilantro, and the health benefits of miso (fermented foods = good for our digestion). I'm still a fan of cooked soups, and think they can be a great addition to our diets, depending on the ingredients.

This recipe has instantly become one of my favorites - the combination of lime with the sweet potato is such a fresh flavor combination, and the cilantro gives it that little extra 'something.'

Sweet Potato and Lime with a Dash of Cilantro Soup


6 cups water
5 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 vegetable cube (organic, vegan) + 2 tbsp rice miso
1 inch knob ginger, diced
1 scallion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lime
sprig of cilantro

Combine vegetable cube and miso with 6 cups water. Simmer until contents are mixed well. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil. Add diced scallion, garlic, and ginger and simmer for 1 minute or so (until scallion is golden brown). Combine the vegetable broth with these ingredients, and add in the sweet potatoes. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 30-35 minutes. Puree with a hand blender.

For the garnish, add freshly squeezed lime juice and cilantro. Would also work fabulously with a dash of coconut milk and/or cashew lime kream (see Ani Phyo's fantastic new book, Ani's Raw Food Essentials). Serves 4-5.

This carrot salad recipe is from a cooking class I taught last week in Mississauga. The warmth in this recipe comes from the yummy root veggies we call carrots, and also the cayenne pepper - tahini combination.The dried fruit option (Thompson raisins or dates) makes this an extra-nourishing recipe.

Tahini Curried Carrot Salad

5 cups cups shredded carrots (approx. 7-8 large carrots, peeled).
1 cup organic Thompson Raisins (or dates)
1/4 - 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (raw)
1/3 cup tahini
1 tbsp curry powder
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tbsp maple syrup
dash of sea salt
dash of cayenne powder (optional)

In a small bowl, combine the tahini, lemon juice, maple syrup, curry powder, black pepper, salt. Whisk well (the mixture will set as thick). In a large mixing bowl add the carrots, raisins and pumpkin seeds. Pour the dressing over the shredded carrots and toss well. Pour into serving bowl to set. Allow salad to marinate in the fridge for at least an hour or so, and serve chilled.  Serves 4-5.

What are your tips for staying warm during 
the first few weeks of winter?

Monday, December 6, 2010

birthday cake and brandon flowers

This year found me welcoming in yet another year of living AND raw foods. Last year, I spent my birthday with the good folks at Raw Aura, taking in a great guest lecture by Tim Van Orden. I was glad that this year found me still celebrating with raw food intentions.

While I wasn't able to celebrate on the actual day, I was able to make a birthday cake later on in the week. I wanted to experiment with a flavor combination I had yet to try in raw dessert making, and decided on a version of Sweet Gratitude's recipe for Pomegranate Cheezecake, scaling the ingredient amounts in half for a smaller sized cake. This cake uses cashews for the base, with the addition of pomegranate juice, lemon juice, agave, coconut oil, and soy lecithin, amongst a few others.
I thought this was a fitting choice for this time of year, as pomegranate's are 'in season', as well we being such a fun and delicious fruit. Here's a simple trick to taking out the precious, jewel-like seeds: lay the fruit on its side, and cut the top off the pomegranate. Then, slice the fruit into five sections, and take the seeds out over a bowl. Be careful not to spill the pomegranate juice inside (also, this will make for messy red fingers a la beets). At any rate, we should welcome the vivacious red hues of the pomegranate; nothing but healthy antioxidants.

After chilling the cheezecake base for a few hours, I topped the cake with some pomegranate seeds and blackberries. You could also top this cake with a simple pomegranate sauce (puree some seeds with a sweetener + water in a blender, or use pure pomegranate juice).

I love pommies!

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to have a night out in Toronto (some dining and 'dancing' of sorts) with my partner, which found us taking a trip to Live Organic Food Bar and also attending a Brandon Flowers concert (eee!) at the Sound Academy (formerly the Docks).

This was my first experience at Live, although I had heard about their fusion of raw and cooked vegan cuisine before. As I have visited most of the other raw food restaurants in the area, Live was next on my list. They offer an interesting array of menu items, and also sell some pre-packaged, dehydrated goods inside:

For our appetizer, we decided on the Nachos Fiesta, which were served with some delicious corn tortillas and a creamy cashew sour 'kream.' This was, by far, the best raw vegan sour kream I have ever tasted, although I found the tortillas a little too crunchy (or, overdehydrated). I also thought the guacamole, while tasty, could have been processed more finely (it was a tad too chunky in consistency for my liking), and was curiously looking around for the apparent jalapeno jelly listed as part of this dish (nowhere to be found):

I was in the mood for some detoxification (as usual), so I ordered a glass of Green Kick, a delicious juice blend of pear, lemon, kale, ginger, and dandelion greens. I've since bought these ingredients to try and recreate the blend at home.

My man ordered a fantastic cooked dish: the Tempeh cakes, which were infused with the most wonderful spices and flavors. The presentation was also quite beautiful, and featured a bed of brown rice, a side of roasted vegetables, drizzle of sweet potato 'sauce' and topped with sunflower sprouts. It was hard not to keep sampling his dish after just one bite:

For my main, I ordered the Detox Salad; this dish is not for the faint of (raw) heart. I feel it would appeal to someone who is already familiar with certain staples of the raw food diet. The salad combined marinated dulse (seaweed), sprouted white quinoa, sunflower seeds (not soaked), kelp noodles, sliced avocado, and sunflower sprouts. While I initially found this dish quite salty (an account of the seaweed and tamari, no doubt), I felt quite satisfied, as did my digestion (in fact, my digestion was great after the entire meal - much better than usual. A testament to the power of raw foods):

 dulse by candlelight

As we all know, no raw meal is complete with dessert(!). Upon looking at the various offerings (cheezecakes, truffles, cookies), we decided on some Tropical Biscotti. While never a fan of SAD biscotti, I thought I would give it a whirl. Unfortunately, I did find it a tad too hard and crunchy (the nut base), while the dried fruit was a little 'gummy.' This  makes me wonder if it was a tad overdehydrated (either that, or I'm just a raw dessert snob, preferring to make my own), although I can understand the reason behind overdehydrating certain items for preservation purposes. Ahh well. I took an Almond Dream Bar for the road (a combination of coconut oil, almonds, agave, and buckwheat), but couldn't contain myself and ate it before the concert (yummers!) 

Overall, Live offers a comforting atmosphere, a great go-to place for delicious raw and vegan food. As for the Brandon Flowers concert, it was wonderful to see him perform songs from his solo album, Flamingo:

 Over the past few months, I've become quite the fan of his solo work as well as music with The Killers. Plus, he is definitely easy on the eyes (yum!). Here are some pics from the man in action that evening:

Here is a video clip of Mr. Flowers performing "Losing Touch," a rendition of a Killers song. He also did a fantastic cover of "Bette Davis Eyes," which I have stuck in my head while currently writing this post:


Overall, it was a wonderful and rejuvenating birthday, one in which I had a chance to reflect on how important our health is to overall well-being. After the past few months, I've realized that putting one's health on the 'back burner' while being quite busy with work and other duties is perhaps, not the best option. I'm looking forward to getting 'back on track' in the coming months, as well as offering more blog posts here. Stay tuned for more!