Vitamix: Day 11 / Vegetable Soup

Yesterday I said I was “working until 9pm“.  Actually, I was filling out TOP SECRET DOCUMENTS, which are now complete, so I feel that I can finally announce:

I got a studio!

I’ve been looking for a place with a friend for several months.  We found a studio we absolutely loved, but the owner backed out of the deal twice.  Since then, nothing good really came up.  Yesterday, we looked at 3 places that I wasn’t too excited about on paper, but one of them ended up being super awesome.  It’s a 1600 sq ft loft on two stories.  I’ll be able to move in February 1st.  I’m looking forward to getting back to work AND having a sweet photography space that isn’t 10′ x 10′.

Here’s a picture of the kitchen from my phone, because it’s nicer than my own kitchen at home.  I envision many photoshoots here!

I pushed myself too hard today.  I was feeling pretty good, and excited, and invincible, so I did a whole bunch of stuff (including walking several blocks with heavy bags of groceries) and ended up in bed at 4pm because I couldn’t stop shaking and I was exhausted.  So, not invincible, but still much better than I was a few weeks ago, and I have to be thankful for that.

I made soup for dinner.

I accidentally turned on the Vitamix while the switch was set to “high” and ended up getting Exorcist-ed.

Does that whet your appetite?  This recipe was out of the Vitamix cookbook, and I’m really iffy about it.  I’m going to post it anyway.

Spinach and Vegetable Soup
Yield: 7 cups

  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp diced onion
  • 1/2 cup carrots, chopped and steamed
  • 4 spears asparagus, steamed
  • 3/4 cup broccoli, chopped and steamed
  • 1 cup zucchini, chopped and steamed
  • 1 cup potatoes, diced and cooked
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 15-oz can chick peas, drained
  1. Place everything in the Vitamix in the order listed, except the chick peas.
  2. Select variable 1, turn on, quickly increase to 10 and then high.  Blend for 6-7 minutes or until steam escapes from the lid.
  3. Reduce to variable 2, add chick peas and blend for 5-10 seconds.

Okay, so my problem with this soup:  way too watery.  The taste was fine, but it needed some texture.  I think next time I would reduce the water, and add more of the veggies at the end.  During the demo at Whole Foods, she added a bunch of chopped peppers and stuff at the end and it was really good and not too watery.

I’m still pretty pumped that I can make soup in the Vitamix and it heats BY SCIENCE.

I have no idea what I’m going to make for the next 11 days.  High five!

Vitamix: Day 9 / Pesto

The other day I grabbed a package of this stuff at the health food store to try out in my smoothies.  It’s Vega Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer in berry flavour.  I’ve been looking for a protein supplement to add to my smoothies that is a) gluten-free, b) dairy-free, c) non-ass-tasting.  I added it to my smoothie this morning:

It wasn’t that great unfortunately.  The “berry” flavour totally took over the whole smoothie and just tasted kind of weird.  I was not a fan.  I still might try the chocolate version.  Can anyone recommend a better one?

In other super important news, I finally found some damn basil so I could make pesto again.  I used a slight variation of the same recipe, with real cheese instead of nutritional yeast.

Pesto

2 cups fresh basil
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup pine nuts
5 cloves garlic (I like garlic)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor until nuts are ground. Pesto should still have texture and not be completely smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I wanted to see how the Vitamix did compared to my food processor.  Pros of the Vitamix: less parts, easier to clean.  Pros of the food processor: it was WAY easier to scoop out the pesto.

I don’t know if there’s some trick I haven’t learned yet about getting stuff OUT of the Vitamix, but I ended up trying to scoop it all out with a rubber spatula for about 5 minutes until I gave up.  Quite a bit was wasted because it was stuck in the blades.  It blended almost as well as the food processor, but I did find a few stray pine nuts.

I think I actually liked the nutritional yeast better than the parmesan!

Vegan Pesto

“Hey Jen?  Why is this photo so terrible?”

Good question, self!  I started this blog to encourage myself to cook more, bake more, and work on my food photography.  I’m a fairly lazy person, and when I went gluten-free in May I realized I couldn’t eat Kraft Dinner anymore.  I have to actually prepare meals.  And if I want to be healthy, I need to learn about proper nutrition, both in general and for my specific health issues.  What better place to learn than among passionate people who write about this stuff every day?

I do photography for a living, but with all of my chronic health issues I’ve barely been able to work for most of this year.  My body cannot currently take 16-hour film shoots outdoors in below zero weather where the only thing on the craft table is bagels and Tim Hortons donuts.  I can’t handle being on my feet all day when I currently need a nap after loading the dishwasher.  If I had a normal job, I would be on disability.  But I don’t.  Instead, I’ve been focusing on stock photography so I can maintain a passive income stream on the days where I don’t feel well enough to work.

Food photography always seemed super easy to me.  I’ve got to eat at least 3 times a day, right?  That’s easily 3 stock photos right there!  Except… no.  I’ve realized that I hate setting up food photoshoots.  When something is ready to eat, I want to shove it in my face.  Patience is not my best quality.  I have a lot of respect for food bloggers who take amazing photographs, like Angela, Elana, Deb, everyone who shows up on FoodBuzz’s top 9, etc.

When I made this pesto,  I already started stirring it into my corn pasta before I thought to myself, “maaaaybe I should snap a quick picture for my blog.”  I’m glad I did, because THIS IS THE BEST PESTO I’VE EVER HAD.  It was delicious.  For the next few days, I put pesto on everything.  Pasta, wraps, pizza, cupcakes.  (Okay, maybe not cupcakes.)

Vegan Pesto

1 1/2 cups fresh basil
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup pine nuts
5 cloves garlic
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor until nuts are ground. Pesto should still have texture and not be completely smooth. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

YUM.  The stupid thing is, I haven’t been able to find any basil at the grocery store since I made this.  Not even Whole Foods had fresh basil.  HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO FUEL MY PESTO ADDICTION WHEN I CAN’T FIND ANY BASIL?

I’m off to Vegas for the weekend with my mom and aunts.  Don’t eat all the pesto while I’m gone.

Pizza and Making Yourself Do Stuff

Check out this awesome misshapen pizza.  The recipe came from Silvana Nardone’s Cooking for Isaiah: Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Recipes for Easy Delicious Meals.  I found out about this book thanks to Lorenia’s post, which I saw the day I decided to be gluten-free.  I spent about an hour flipping through cookbooks at Chapters before deciding on Cooking for Isaiah.  It’s quickly becoming my favourite cookbook.  Ever.  This morning I made one of her waffle recipes and immediately considered changing my religion on Facebook from “Cadbury Creme Eggs” to “Silvana Nardone’s Cinnamon-Toasted Waffles”.

Anyway, pizza!

Firstly, you need a gluten-free flour.  I use Silvana’s.  So far it has been awesome in all recipes.

Silvana’s All-Purpose Flour Blend
6 cups white rice flour (preferably Bob’s Red Mill)
3 cups tapioca flour (preferably Shiloh Farms; I used Bob’s Red Mill since Shiloh Farms doesn’t supply to Canada)
1 ½ cups potato starch (preferably Bob’s Red Mill)
1 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp xanthum gum (preferably Bob’s Red Mill)

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, salt and xanthum gum. Transfer to an airtight storage container and store in a cool, dry place or in the refrigerator.

Secondly, the pizza crust. I screwed mine up somehow. It didn’t get as fluffy as it did in other pictures, but it tasted alright. The one thing I’ve noticed about gluten-free pizza crust (from my vast sample size of 2) is that it’s denser and WAAAAY more filling than other pizza crusts.

Perfect Pizza Crusts
2 cups Silvana’s All-Purpose Flour, plus more for dusting
1 (¼ ounce/7.5g) package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites, at room temperature, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
¾ cup warm water

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Add the egg whites, olive oil and water. Using a wooden spoon, beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  2. Divide the dough into two equal pieces; place each on a lightly floured, 12-inch (30cm)-long piece of parchment paper.  Lightly flour the top and, using your fingertips or a rolling-pin, press the dough out to make a round about ¼ inch (9.5cm) thick. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
  3. Position a rack in the bottom of the oven with a baking stone on the rack and preheat to 450ºF. Working with one piece of dough at a time, slide the dough with parchment paper onto the preheated baking stone and bake until puffy and crisp on the bottom, about 8 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining dough.

I think I may have screwed up with the yeast.  It calls for 1 7.5g package of active dry yeast, but all the packages I found were 8 grams.

Thirdly, the pizza.  I don’t have a recipe for this.  Just get a bunch of pizza toppings (sauce, tomatoes, veggies, cheese, etc) and slap ‘em on the crusts.  Then cook on a pizza stone at 450ºF for about 8 minutes.  Terrible, I know.

They were pretty good!  Messed up crusts and all.

—–

I’ve been meaning to write about something I’ve been struggling with: forcing myself to do stuff.  With chronic illness, it’s so easy to just give up; to decide you don’t feel well so you’re going to stay in bed.  I’ve quit school (twice) and jobs, skipped events with friends, and lost relationships.  I’ve gone weeks without leaving my apartment; days without leaving my bedroom.

It becomes a cycle, because staying at home certainly doesn’t help me feel better, and the worse I feel, the harder it is to push myself to do the things that might make my situation improve.  So, I’m trying to force myself to do stuff.  I tell myself, you just have to go, and if you get there and you don’t feel any better, then you can leave.  But it’s hard to know where to draw the line.

I recently signed up for a soccer team, even though I haven’t played in over 8 years and I haven’t been keeping up with my exercise routine.  I mentioned that I fell down the stairs on the way to soccer practice last week.  I had already tried to force myself to go – to get out of bed, to put on my soccer gear, to leave my apartment – and then I just lay there on the staircase feeling like a (bruised) failure.  I didn’t go.  But I did reschedule for Saturday, and even though my brother had to pick me up at my apartment and escort me to the field, I made myself play and it felt really great.

We had our first game on Monday, and in the first 2 minutes, I thought my heart was going to explode in my chest.  So out of shape, I literally thought I was going to throw up and then pass out on the field in my own vomit.  But I made myself play right until the end, and I felt AMAZING afterwards.  If I had just done what I wanted (stayed at home watching Netflix) I wouldn’t have felt so much better and I would have continued being miserable.

Then there are bad days.  On Thursday, I forced myself to go to BodyPump class.  But I felt “off”.  I kept pushing through, hoping the endorphins would kick in, but I eventually got to the point where I had to stop.  There were only 3 songs left in the class, but it took every ounce of energy I had to just put my equipment away and then walk home.  I was shaking so much I dropped my bench on someone’s leg.  I had no energy for the rest of the day.

It’s hard to know when things are going to make me feel better, and when they’re going to make me feel worse.  I’m trying learn when to listen to what my body is telling me, and when to override those feelings because I know I’m just being lazy or scared.

Mostly I just want to feel better already.  I need my life back.  I need to get back to work and I need a social life.  I have decided that it’s time to find a proper doctor who wants to work with me to figure this out, and stop trying to do everything on my own.  I need help.  But the thought of having to find someone new is making me want to dig a big hole and hide in there forever.