Lunch at Work v.4 – Coconut Lentil Soup

12 03 2011

Lunch at work got you down? I started a new contract a few weeks ago, and phew, it has been busy. I wasn’t off that long, but throw Christmas and January in there you really do fall into a sleepy state in the dark of winter. Getting back into the swing of things took a few weeks. I think the biggest challenge is that we have been in a cold snap here in Calgary. You know, I’m okay with it, I didn’t think it was that bad until March came. Then I was like, ‘ok, I’m done with this weather’. We have holidays coming up and the weather is sunny and above zero here today so things are looking up!

I have been packing soup almost every day to lunch, and my pick the last three weeks (yes, a bit of a habitual eater) has been lentil soup. It is nourishing, rich in fibre and protein and easy to consume on the go with the right thermos. Throw some cut veggies and whole grain crackers on the side, hunger is gone, energy sustained.

I have tried a few versions of Lentil Coconut Soup this past month, but my favourite is the one below. It honestly takes all of 30 minutes to make. I don’t remember where I got the original recipe from. Unless it is in a book I have, I google recipes until I find a few I like, save them all, try them and tweak the recipes to my liking. That’s the fun of cooking and experimenting in the kitchen.

2 cups Red Lentils
3/4 inch Fresh Ginger (2 cm), peeled and chopped
1 small Onion, chopped
1 Garlic clove, chopped (or a touch of garlic powder, or omit altogether)
1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
1 tsp Turmeric
1 2/3 cup Veggie Stock (1 -2 cubes of low sodium variety in hot water)
1 can (398 ml) Crushed or Diced Tomatoes, with liquid
1  can (398 ml) Coconut Milk
2 cups filtered Water

  • Rinse and drain lentils (I have been finding red kidney beans in my Indian ones I have, too funny)
  • Heat the coconut oil in a pot and sauté ginger, onion and garlic until softened
  • Add turmeric, hot veggie stock, coconut milk, water, tomatoes and the lentils; bring to boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes
  • Take off the heat, puree the soup using a hand-held blender (or in a blender carefully, read the last post on this here)

Seems weird to blog about such trivial things as to what I ate at work. I hope that all my blog friends are paying close attention to what is happening in the Middle East. Our people, our human relatives are striving all over the world to voice their rights. Rights that we take for granted in our country and more importantly, don’t pay attention too. What is happening in Wisconsin is an extension of the struggle that goes on in Egypt, Tunisia etc. As well, today, we watch the unfolding disaster in Japan. The feats of our engineering have saved thousands of lives in comparison to what happened in Haiti last year, an earthquake of similar magnitude. High rises swayed instead of collapsing. Although, those same feats of engineering and science have us holding our breath as we monitor the breakdown of a nuclear power plant. If only we stopped fighting one another and embraced our human-ness. The trillions of dollars in debt we have from our previous poor decisions over the decades has put us in even greater risk as we figure out how to survive and support one another. Priorities.

Be well, Eat Well,


A Quiet Moment

31 10 2010

It’s been awhile since my last blog. Life throws you curve balls sometimes and you find yourself managing day to day. Funny how when you come up for air, that a blog can help you get back on your feet, think through some things and deal with what life throws you.

Recently a dear friend of mine passed away after a lengthy illness. To explain the true nature of her being and the impact she had on all those around her would take many blogs. A friend described her as a ‘valiant spirit’. She never complained, challenged the conventions of pain management, handled the most difficult of situations with the grace of a butterfly, and, like the buddhist prayer I read at her service this weekend, ‘always had a half-smile on her face’, even in her final days. She told you she loved you each time she saw, emailed or texted you, but this wasn’t new, she did this from the day she fell in love with you.

Tea is a ritual shared by so many. It has a rich history in trade and culture. It seems that you are either a tea drinker or a coffee drinker, I am a tea drinker. My friend was too. That was our thing, it was her thing, she had tea with everyone. She even started a tea gathering and support group at Wellspring in Calgary (if you don’t know about this organization please look into it and pass it along). At her service we served tea and cheesecake, her favourite, in celebration of such an inspirational life, a lovely tribute.

I was raised on english orange pekoe tea, milk and sugar. Today the morning ritual is similar, but it’s admittedly Tetley with homemade almond milk, no sugar. In the afternoon I love a cup of green tea, my favourite at the moment is Genmaicha, a green tea with toasted rice. I ceremoniously carry it with me and steep a cup where ever I go. My parents were just in Japan and brought home a fresh new package mmmm. I love Masala Chai, of course! It is hard to find or make a chai that tastes like India though. The milk they use, heated over a flame and the fresh spices. ‘Chai’ actually means tea, ‘masala’ means spiced, so properly it is masala chai. I know most people have figured this out by now, but just in case 🙂

Now that it is fall and winter is approaching, the evening tea is becoming more common. I love a chamomile blend, mint blend or ginger. Fresh ginger with lemon is great for digestion. Adding honey to your tea at night promotes a good nights rest, something I learned in recent years. Roobios is another favourite at night, it is an African ‘red bush’ tea, naturally decaffeinated and can be found in many blends.

There is something calming about sipping a cup of tea on your own or with friends. I know each time I sit to enjoy a cup of tea and a quiet moment, I will remember a very dear friend, one whose presence alone made you connect with what it means to be alive and human.

Be well,


Meat vs. Veggie

7 10 2010

My favourite meat eater, Anthony Bourdain (chef and author of famous writings, most recently Medium Raw) had a debate on eating meat with Jonathan Safran Foer (author of Eating Animals) on Q, a CBC radio show. I don’t try to convince people not to eat meat on this blog, but my blogs are mostly vegetarian and represent the choices that I make. I do feel strongly about sharing my rants about the production and distribution of food in our society and feel even more strongly that we need to educate our generations on how to shift our focus away from our ‘fast food’ mentality. I don’t just mean McD’s but the movement away from cooking and the family kitchen. We are all busy, me included, far too busy most days, but we do our best. It is something that will be important, and not without its challenges, to teach our kid(s) (when and if that day comes).

Back to the debate! I have to admit that Bourdain has some good points when he speaks to the tribal and common ground humanity has with each other when it comes to the meal, he goes so far as to say this is from the hunting and preparing of meat. He believes that the rejection of meat shuts us out from the curiosity, culture and community it brings together. He believes the worst offence is letting grandma down and rejecting turkey dinner. Jonathan reminds him that the meat Anthony has the benefit of eating represents 5% of the meat available to the public and comes from organic, cruelty free farms. He says that we are constantly at odds with human values we all share, like cruelty towards animals, the environmental destruction and the danger to humans. Jonathan says “I like the taste and smell of meat but I don’t like it infinitely”.

Infinitely, that’s the key point here. At what cost are we willing to continue the consumption of mass produced, poorly treated, medicated meat? Most people have lost the association with where their food comes from AND our food production industry is at risk of major collapse having little to no redundancy systems worked in. Bourdain reminds Jonathan how many families eat at fast food chains because they are cheap and quick (and frankly because their kids are brain washed). Jonathan agrees and offers that conventional vegetable dishes (not organic, he admits this is unrealistic) are cheaper and more nourishing than a cheap fast food meal will ever be. This is an argument that I feel very strongly about. Anyone who has travelled the world, where meat is not common, people live off the land and legumes just fine and healthy, on pennies a day. However, the larger issue with this is that we have lost the culture of cooking and eating together.

I think Bourdain is right when food is connected to a ‘deeply fundamental human experience’, not just a meat one though. The gathering and preparing of food, whatever it’s nature, has predated most culture. It is the first of our story telling, altruism, pro-social behaviour in caring and nurturing one another. In a conversation I had today about auto-pilot behaviours and the implications, the same goes for the preparation and enjoyment of food. The more eating is an auto-pilot experience the further we are from the source of our food and worse yet the solution to the problems we are facing.

You can listen to the podcast here: Should we eat meat?

Be well, Eat well,


Kids These Days

2 10 2010

Life’s been busy, you? I thought once September was over things would simmer, not so much. I haven’t had the time to skim thoroughly all the info sites I normally do. Thank goodness friends share stuff. I know we all get a lot of email but it is so nice when friends do share stuff they know you would be interested in. That way when times are busy, like they are now, you don’t miss out.

This was passed to me and I had to share it with you. This boy does a perfect job in just a few minutes to sum up so much of what the food industry is about these days. If this is the result of home schooling kids, then sign me up (oh right, need a kid first). He likes Joel Salatin as much as I do, enough said. Happy Saturday.

Be Well, Eat Well, Nat

The Majestic Plastic Bag

26 08 2010

Some of you may remember my post on the Midway Journey and the impact plastic has had on our oceans. The other day a friend of mine sent me a mockumentary about the journey of the plastic bag, it is short and worth a watch. 19 BILLION plastic bags are used in California a year. That’s three times the population of human beings on EARTH!!! If you don’t already take your own bags to grocery shop, maybe this will help you consider that (and if you didn’t see the Midway Journey blog, the link is above).

Watch The Majestic Plastic Bag here.

Be well, Eat well,



17 08 2010

I received two comments from a recent post about the David Suzuki show The Bottom Line. The comments weren’t about the content for that post but the two posts I linked to, about Food Inc, and other rants about agriculture and our factory farm practices. You can check out the comments and my reply’s by following these links to Seriously Now and A Way Forward.

I think comments are great, I really appreciate them. These ones had  me thinking about how and what we think ‘sustainable’ is. The commentor says “What is sustainable? Are they what actually works, or only ‘sustainable’ if they fit into someone’s preconceived ideas. If the current form of agriculture in the U.S. will feed the most people why is it not sustainable?” Great question! This is the essence of Michael Pollan’s, Joe Salatin’s and others argument, and what David Suzuki is exploring in his series on Soil (have you listened to the podcasts?).

I am reading the book The End of the Long Summer by Dianne Dumanoski. If you are interested in the environment, our species and what the future requires to survive our misguided choices, read this book. If you are interested in thinking of the greater systems at play that need to interact in order to prepare us and our future generations for the world we can no longer predict, read this book. If you want to understand how we got here, to this day in 2010 and have the problems we are facing like global warming, increased populations of starving people and increasing violence and discontent, read this book. If you want to learn how we can face it and prepare and succeed, read this book. Here is an excerpt on how we can think differently about ‘sustainable’.

“Without the torrent of energy, for example, the world’s population could never have expanded fourfold in the twentieth century. The amount of land devoted to agriculture grew by only one third during this period, yet the global harvest multiplied sixfold, mainly because of a breathtaking eightyfold increase in the use of energy to produce food. New crop varieties that fuelled the Green Revolution required more synthetic fertilizer, pesticides, irrigation to deliver their impressive yields, and all of this demanded far more energy. ‘Industrial man no longer eats potatoes made from solar energy,’ as the celebrated ecologist Howard T. Odum put it. ‘Now he eats potatoes partly made of oil.’ Today the U.S. food system uses ten kilocalories of fossil energy to deliver a single kilocalorie of food energy to the supermarket. American farmers who produce this food expend three kilocalories of fossil energy for every kilocalorie of harvest.”

If you are still reading this, that’s great, this is important. Now I am sure putting food on the tables of American, Canadian and others (growing) population is sustainable to most people. I’d argue that we are currently tipping the scales into a great period of duress with our current practices. I am not an expert but the evidence is mounting. Dianne Dumanoski, James Lovelock, Paul Hawken and others like them are making this point very clear.

On CBC today there was an interesting episode of In the Field that explored a ‘slow money’ movement. Similar and supportive of the ‘slow food’ movement, it is a way that economists and agriculture are integrating their thinking to solve current issues created by factory and big agriculture. The small, sustainable farms (aka the Joe Salatin’s of the world) can not raise capital without hitting up regular venture capitalists. The venture capitalists want 20% returns on their investment. We have come to ‘expect’ these returns as one broker says on the show. If we slow down, fit with the times and except a 5-6% return, we can shift our investments to companies that are not large public corporations but small operations attempting to build sustainable practices. Frankly, these are the people who will help us figure out what to do in the future as we split at the seams. However, the ‘market’ doesn’t make these investments easy to do, the market system at play doesn’t support a new way of investing.

Doomsday, no, a realistic rant. I offer a different view. We have been partying it up, taking the earth for granted and building more wealth and and even more poverty (the largest irony going, how did we get so technologically advanced and rich and starve millions of people?). Something is out of balance, i’d rather be on the team that is thinking about this then believing it is ‘sustainable’.

Be well, eat well,


Blog Time and Cherries

13 07 2010

Sheesh, I just started a new consulting gig and boy has it been hard to fit everything in, get to yoga, to my volunteer obligations, stay connected with my business network, pack the perfect lunch and have time to eat! We have been so busy at work hours go by and my stomach is embarrassingly growling. In a short time I have managed to just break out the food, we all have. The team is great and I am excited about the project. I know I’ll find my rhythm soon, but it always takes time at the beginning.

In all the busy’ness I missed getting to the market this weekend. I have mentioned before that the Kingsland Farmers Market opened and we are so excited about it. I was at a yoga workshop all weekend so Tony covered the market for us. He chatted up the owner of Broxburn Vegetables and Cafe again. We have bought most of our produce from him the two times we’ve been there (they only opened a couple of weekends ago). I had one important request from the market, cherries! We ate a box of raspberries from there last time, this time it is a big bag of cherries. Raspberries and cherries are two of my favourite fruits. Tonight, finally some down time, I consumed a bowl of cherries 🙂

And since we are on the topic of cherries, you can’t enjoy them without a blast from the past – Cherries Jubilee. My ultimate favourite dessert. This is a pic of Cherries Jubilee being served at Wellington’s in Calgary, a dining institution in Calgary, at my birthday last year. Cherries, orange juice and brandy are warmed in a pan, table side. To finish it off, the brandy is lit on fire and when it burns off, the cherries are poured over vanilla ice cream. Although not a steak eater, I have spent many a birthday there, dating back to my pre-teens, enjoying my usual fav dessert.

Be well, eat well (and go get some cherries and fruit from the market, summer will be over before you know it!)


‘Polar Obsession’

25 06 2010

I know this is s health food blog, but once in awhile I can’t help but share or rant about something else. Yesterday I heard the most amazing interview on CBC radio on the show Dispatches. I got to my destination and sat in the car to finish listening to it. I love that about CBC. A National Geographic photographer named Paul Nicklen travelled to Antarctica to photograph the leopard seal. He has a new book called Polar Obsession and it looks amazing.

The leopard seal are known to be vicious. They can get to 12+ feet long.They fling penguins around until they are inside out and then eat the meat! When Paul got into the water the leopard seal took his head and camera into his mouth! Then he proceeded to try to feed Paul for four days. He would bring him live penguins and when they just swam by Paul, the seal brought him dying and then dead seals, trying to teach him how to eat. The seal was concerned he might starve. Amazing. Animals are incredible and to not want to protect every creature on the planet is crazy. Anyhow, on the Dispatches website you can listen to his interview and watch a short video, I encourage you to click on it right now. Happy Friday.

Be well, Nat

What’s in Your Food?

20 06 2010

I tweeted a List of Calgary Farmers Markets the other day. The Calgary Herald had an article previewing the markets around the city. There are more than ever, one close to us in Kingsland that is opening on June 30. I have to admit, I don’t get to the markets that regularly, with Planet Organic so close to the house, it’s convenience. I use to have organic food delivered by Spud as well, something I would recommend for busy householders. Come this summer, we will be heading to the market more regularly with it being so close. I use to go to a market near the old, old Blackfoot farmers market, called DJ’s. She has produce we can’t normally find, e.g. hungarian peppers for lecho (a pepper stew i’ll be sure to share one of these days) and stuffed peppers. I have spoken to her about her produce a few times over the years. Her crops come mostly from B.C. She goes out each January and plans the crops with the farmers, buying directly from them. Not organic though, she said they usually spoil faster, says something about how non-organics are grown.

I have always been a bit challenged on buying the B.C. farmers apples, which have the best selection in the world, versus an organic one from New Zealand. Argh. How much better are we doing when we are crating in apples from across the globe. No matter what I buy, I soak it in veggie wash, even with organics. It is a balance. Genetically Modified Foods are another concern that we frankly don’t know enough about. Here’s an article on Common Dreams today about GM foods. We think because we are in Canada we don’t have the same issues, we are mistaken. We have Monsanto in Canada and GM foods in Canada with no regulation…we don’t have bovine growth hormone at least.

With so many markets opening up for the summer and our ability to grow some of our own food, we can do our best so easily. What we put into our bodies each day is a choice, the more times you make a healthful choice the better off you are. We are unsure of the consequences of scientifically modified and processed foods in our bodies, but what we do know is our health over the past generation has declined, period, full stop. There is no question there is a connection. We all can’t eat perfectly (see my bio, I love cupcakes and wine like the next person). Anyhow, give it some thought and do your own inquiry.

Be Well, Eat Well,


Meat Free Mondays

25 05 2010

CBC Radio has a program called Ideas, it airs daily and is hosted by Paul Kennedy. Last week they started a three part series called Have Your Meat and Eat it Too! The first episode focused on providing an overview of the meat industry and th factory farm. The differences over the years on how we farm and our disconnection from the farm and where our food comes from. The second series explores, amongst other things, the argument for and against eating meat.

Meat Free Monday’s is a real program that encourages to remove meat from your diet one day a week and experiment with other alternatives. Although based in the UK, it has received some recognition here. I haven’t eaten pork or beef for a couple of decades and choose chicken least often, but this isn’t for everyone. Making changes slowly, for various reasons (health, animal cruelty, environment) is encouraged and more achievable if it is made realistic, like taking meat out of your diet one day a week. Give it a go.

I’m not blogging about becoming a vegetarian, but this CBC program does a really good job of exploring different sides of the argument, and I appreciate that. Follow the link above and you have access to the podcasts.

Eat Well, Be Well,