Category Archives: Making Life Good Recommends

Take time for yourself-DAILY

This winter I have found myself giving advice ‘to do something today that makes you happy’. Upon further reflection, what is really behind that thought is the truth of taking time for yourself to take care of yourself on a daily basis helps each and every one of us to be our best. I have often wondered what it is that makes a person leave a yoga class feeling ‘better’, as I have received many a ‘thank you, I feel great’ at the end of classes I led. I am quite certain that taking the time to enter a relaxed meditative state is like a medicine to help is feel more positive by connecting with ourselves. Meditation is medication.

There is plenty of expectation and judgement with meditation and many of us feel we should try to meditate to better ourselves. The practice of meditation is open and available to all of us anytime, anywhere. In the end, meditation is the simple act of taking a moment to take notice of what is happening for us at the present moment. From that present moment, our awareness of ourselves within and our consciousness can expand. What we go through in our daily lives can leave us frazzled and racing, which makes it even more important that we get into the habit of taking time for ourselves daily. What does taking time for yourself mean to you? Is it a walk, a bath, reading something you enjoy, an activity, practicing yoga, meditation, being inspired by art…it really could be anything, and the conscious action of taking time for yourself is a great act of self care that benefits yourself and all around you-making life good

Recipe: White Bean Mushroom Pasta

There is always debate on the “healthiest’ diet and foods to eat, which is different for every person at different points in their life. There is one dietary concept that everyone could use, which is to eat more plant based foods. This is a delicious vegan pasta dish I have perfected in the past couple months with beans cooked from dry: http://www.vivianlaw.ca/cook-beans-from-dry-skip-the-cans/

tossed together with Tinkyada brown rice pasta shells, sautéed mushrooms, capers, pickled hot peppers, green beans (or whatever greens you have on hand) and parsley. Tinkyada is my brand of choice for brown rice pasta in terms of taste and texture. The capers and hot peppers add really nice flavour to the beans and mushrooms. The portions can easily be modified with about 1 cup of cooked white beans, 1/2 cup pasta and 1/4 pound of mushrooms per serving.

For 2 servings:

1.5-2 cups cooked white beans

1 clove garlic

1 shallot minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 pound mushrooms finely chopped (any of or mixed: cremini, portobello, white)

salt, pepper and thyme to taste

1 cup brown rice pasta shells, I prefer the taste and texture of Tinkyada

1 cup chopped greens of your choice

2 tablespoons capers

pickled hot pepper to taste (optional)

In a medium to large pot, bring salted water to a boil and cook brown rice pasta shells according to package instructions. Throw in green beans or whichever green you are using into the boiling pasta and water at the last minute of cooking and drain altogether.

Meanwhile, as the pasta is cooking, saute garlic, shallots and mushrooms  in olive oil until mushrooms are browned and cooked through. Season with thyme during the cooking process. Finish with salt and pepper to taste.

In a another small pot, bring beans to a simmer (you can add a little water and reduce as the beans warm up), add a splash of olive oil and salt to taste.

In the medium to large pot, toss together white beans, mushrooms, pasta and greens, capers and hot peppers. Top with chopped parsley and enjoy!

 

Recipe: Banana Chia Pudding

This summer my good friend K offered me a chia pudding cup. I never got around to eating it, so I asked her what it was made with and she said banana. The next time I came across some ripe bananas, I figured I would make my own banana chia pudding. I had full fat coconut milk on hand, so I mashed the banana, added coconut milk and Coconut Dream to make my chia pudding. I swirled in some strawberry jam as sweetener and found a tasty snack, or breakfast or alternative to yogurt. Chia seeds also have the added benefit of aiding digestion by moving through the intestines. I prefer whole chia seeds. However, this week, I showed a client how to make this pudding and found she had only ground chia seeds, so we made pudding with just banana and added coconut water as liquid with a touch of cinnamon plus maple syrup to sweeten. Quite pleasant tasting…

I am not going to include a photo of either forms of pudding as they actually look a bit like barf. Think of chia pudding as an alternative to yogurt or a tasty medicinal digestive aid, so give it a try. This is so easy to make that I will suggest you create your own recipe to suit your tastes:

3 tablespoons whole white chia seeds

1/2-1 whole mashed ripe banana

1/4-1/2 cup coconut milk (from a can)-optional

1/4-1/2 cup non dairy milk of your choice or juice or coconut water

Mash banana in a medium bowl, stir in chia seeds, add liquid to create a pudding like consistency. Refrigerate for an hour or overnight, When ready to serve, stir again and add more liquid for desired consistency. Sweeten with jam, maple syrup or honey. Top with granola, nuts or fruit and enjoy,

Posture and Breathing First

It has been a long hot summer in Toronto, the best one ever yet. Some days have been so warm and humid that I notice myself breathing quite shallowly. Having started studies in traditional chinese medicine this spring, I have come to the conclusion that proper breathing is extremely important to optimal health. As a personal trainer, I know that posture is exceptionally important. I have found that improved posture is the most valuable result of working with me my clients report, as it brings such a positive change to their life.

In a recent friendly discussion with a fellow professional, I realized I feel so strongly about optimal posture that I prioritize a client having optimal posture over how much weight they can squat or deadlift. I notice that I am mindful of my own posture and whenever I have my photo taken by surprise, the first thing I check is my posture. Another perspective I have taken recently is poor posture is one sign of aging that a person can avoid with their exercise program. Good posture helps a person to look their best and comes with the benefit of alignment within the body to facilitate optimal breathing, which is integral to optimal health. Good posture and breathing are keys to optimal health, as it helps to maintain peak function of the lungs, an organ we have much conscious influence on with our breathing. Take a few deep belly breaths whenever you can,

Recipe: Shortcakes for summer

I have loved strawberry shortcake since childhood. There are differing versions, spongecake layers versus biscuit like shortcake. I have taken a liking to the simplicity of the biscuit form of strawberry shortcake as a delicious summer treat that happens to be low in sugar. I feel it is best to make your own whipped cream with organic whipping cream. Here are two recipes I make regularly with ease and great results. The first recipe was first seen in the the Globe and Mail from Lucy Waverman many years ago. The second recipe is gluten free adapted from the Coconut Diet Cookbook.

Simple shortcakes

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar, plus a little extra for sprinkling if desired

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup whipping cream

Preheat oven to 400F. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl, mix well. Add whipping cream and stir together with a spoon just until the mixture resembles a ball of dough.

Shape dough into a ball with your hands and press into a disc on a lightly floured surface, flatten to 1/4 inch thickness.

Use a round cutter of your choice (2-3inches) and cut dough into rounds, placing onto a baking sheet. Gather scraps of dough and cut until finished. Brush with tops of the rounds with the dregs of whipping cream and sprinkle with a touch of sugar if desired.

Bake for 20-22 minutes or until tops are golden. Let cool slightly, slice in half and top with whipped cream and strawberries, enjoy!

Makes 4-6 shortcakes depending on the size of cutter you use.

 

 

Coconut Shortcakes (gluten free)

 

1/3 cup melted coconut oil

6 eggs

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

 

Preheat oven to 400F. In a medium bowl, whisk together coconut oil, eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla. Add coconut flour, mix together with a spoon until a batter forms. Pour into muffin tin or silicon baking cups filling just over halfway. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 10-15 minutes before slicing in half, serving with whipped cream and strawberries.

 

 

 

10 weeks of tacos!

I have been a big fan of Seven Lives tacos since I ate my very first one in 2014. I started studies in traditional chinese medicine in April and found myself at Seven Lives for lunch. I told the manager Alex that I may have no motivation to bring my lunch and I wondered if I would tire of eating tacos? Alex promised I would not tire of the tacos and suggested I have lunch there every week I was at school-10 weeks of tacos became the name. During this time, I was offered a shift behind the counter on the grill(!) Spongebob may be a better fry cook than I-

I actually ate 12 weeks tacos diligently with the addition of amazing popsicles (paletas) when the Seven Lives Paleteria opened. My enthusiasm for the tacos remained steady and I will endorse having one of their tacos as an ideal lunch to maintain good energy levels in the afternoon. Definitely some of the best and most original tacos I have eaten, with the octopus taco being my favourite. If you haven’t had some Seven Lives tacos, I highly recommend them.

On the note of my top picks, I would also like to add Holy Chuck as the best quick burger. I have tested a few and the burger at Holy Chuck comes in as my favourite with P & L as a close second. This is a topic of hot debate and I am happy to test any other burger recommendations…

Happy Canada Day!

 

Peace at Every Meal

I recently started studying traditional chinese medicine. Part of the learning for me is being treated as a patient at the student clinic. I have been prescribed some food therapy while studying herbal medicine as well. One thing I can conclude with my all my studies in nutrition and health is a lot of conflicting information on what we ‘should’ eat exists. In our world of privilege, we have unprecedented access to food of any sort combined with a vast array of information on what is best for health. It is easy for meal time to be conflicted with what we ‘should’ eat and what we actually want to eat.

This is a lengthy philosophical debate that I will explore further another time. I do have a couple suggestions to consider and apply any time. First, it is a good goal to be at peace every time you eat. This peace is being mindful and free to enjoy your food as nourishment wholeheartedly. This can be accomplished by a practice of grace or gratitude before a meal in addition to taking the time to eat mindfully. Secondly, pay close attention to how you feel after you eat, as you are the best judge of what foods are best for your body. This awareness takes practice, so work on it whenever you can. These two practices are part of a healthy food relationship, which is making life good.

 

Exercise Can Keep You Young

I have said ‘exercise is supposed to keep you young’ quite a few times. Exercise of the right dose and quality keeps energy levels high and maintains optimal body function and health. However, once we get into the habit of exercise it is easy to think more is better, especially for the achievement oriented person. I coax myself on a regular basis to practice restorative yoga instead of going for another run. Our workouts need to have different energies to keep us healthy, balanced and well. We need workouts that bring us close to maximal effort in speed or strength. Steady, medium pace workouts. Recovery workouts, leisurely walks and plenty of work to maintain our range of motion with stretching or yoga.

I have noticed that it is easier for me to stay in shape by focusing on being healthy. That means having a high energy level, improving or maintaining speed and strength, range of motion (working on the splits), getting good quality rest and meditation. I need to tailor my workouts to address all of those goals, which means the workouts of different energies that I mention above. I will share that I am a big fan of 20 minute workouts that push me close to my max. This type of workout is challenging and effective for maintaining strength, speed and body composition.

One easy way to tell if you have the right mix of exercise in your program is to take stock of your energy level when you wake up and a quick look in the mirror. Do you feel energized with even energy throughout the day almost everyday? Do you look full of vitality and feel young? Do you move easily and well? If so, keep it going and stay young. If the answer is no to any of the above, time to take another look at your routine and improve, so you can feel your best all the time. Get good rest, work out smarter, not longer.

 

 

Recipe: Roasted Squash soup

I had some roasted squash soup as a special at Foxley in the fall. It was so delicious, I set out to make some myself the very next day. The recipe has taken some practice and I did ask chef Tom Thai for tips-the key is to rest the squash after it was roasted. The kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass impart such a nice balance with the rich coconut milk above the delicious roasted squash base.

1 buttercup squash

1 butternut squash

1 apple, peeled, cored and diced

1 onion, chopped

2 tablespoons coconut oil

handful of kaffir lime leaves

1 stalk of lemongrass, cut into pieces

4-6 cups vegetable stock

1 can full fat coconut milk

butternut and buttercup squash ready for roasting-2 types add depth of flavour

butternut and buttercup squash ready for roasting-2 types add depth of flavour

Wash the squash in warm water thoroughly. Usually squash are hard to cut through, so I throw them in the oven for 10-15 minutes whole to soften. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (soften up the squash as well).

Cut squash in half, scoop out seeds and rub with a little coconut or olive oil. Roast squash in a baking dish for 45-60 minutes. Leave in oven to ‘rest’ for a couple hours or until cool.

Depending on the softness of the squash, you can scoop out the flesh in chunks or peel the skin and cut into chunks.

In a large pot, heat coconut oil over medium heat and saute the onion and apple until softened. Add the squash, vegetable broth, lime leaves, and lemongrass. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the lime leaves and lemongrass. Puree with an immersion blender. Season with salt and stir in coconut milk until blended. Enjoy!

The Making Life Good weekly shopping list

I recently realized that for all that I have gone on about eating vegetables and fruit, I have yet to share what is involved on a weekly basis to build and maintain this habit. I actually have an unspoken commitment to myself to buy a variety of vegetables and fruit every week. When I travel, this is one of my first tasks upon arriving at my destination if I have a refrigerator at my accommodation and it is a must do as soon as I return home.

What do I typically buy? My good friend Emily taught me years ago that I ought to purchase in season local produce whenever possible (farmers markets are a good way to go). However, if you know me, I do have a predilection for strawberries, especially with some chilled champagne or clotted cream all year round. Most important is getting into the habit of buying and being sure to consume the fresh produce you bring home. Stocking your kitchen with fruits and veggies you enjoy is sure to improve your health by having healthy choices readily available.

Here is a rough list of what I buy on a weekly basis:

Organic lemons

Organic romaine lettuce

organic black kale

watercress

cucumber

grape tomatoes

green onion

avocados

parsley, cilantro

honey crisp apples, blueberries, pomegranate, oranges (winter fruits)

fresh fruits and veggies of the week

fresh fruits and veggies of the week