Category Archives: Vivian Law

Recipe: Carrot, mint and date salad

My trip to Morocco was a unique experience in terms of culture and food. I will never forget the meals that came with many plates of salads, one of which was carrot salad. I am not a fan of raw carrots at all. However, once cooked and seasoned, I like carrots enough. This salad is inspired by the salads I had in Morocco and more recently by the opening of my friends’ restaurant Atlas.

5-6 carrots, peeled and sliced thick

1 tablespoon olive oil

sprinkle of cumin to taste

juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon

honey to taste

handful of chopped fresh mint

5-6 pitted dates, chopped

Bring salted water to boil in a medium pot. Add carrots and boil for 6 minutes or until desired tenderness. Drain.

In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, honey and cumin. Add cooked carrots and dates, toss together gently and top with mint. Enjoy slightly warm or at room temperature

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!

 

How do you like Halloween?

This October has been an extremely full month for me in terms of work, school and personal growth. I notice the occasion of Halloween brings many different responses in small children and adults alike. I know kids that love Halloween starting from toddlerhood. I know children that are past Halloween by age 10. I know adults that never tire of Halloween and love the opportunity to create a costume each year. I know children and adults who are afraid of all the spooky things that Halloween can bring up-you won’t find me volunteering to be at a haunted house! And there are people that really dislike Halloween altogether.

Halloween is right in between the end of summer and the start of winter. We can consider it the cusp between light and dark, the twilight zone. The depth of different responses is a highlight of humanity and how we handle the cusp of light and darkness. It is a great time to reflect on how we see light and darkness within ourselves. Can we embrace the whole entirety of ourself in relation to the world around us?

Happy halloween!

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,

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.

 

 

Dry January

Happy 2016 to all! The start of a new year always brings some contemplation to my life, as the question of what I wish to accomplish this year comes to mind. This month I noticed the term ‘Dry January’ for the concept of being sober for the entire month of January, which is 31 whole days! The idea is not a new one, but seems to have been popularized in the UK recently and brings awareness to our alcohol consumption patterns. I must admit that abstaining from alcohol for an entire month seems too restrictive to me. I also say the same about diets, cleanses and crazy workouts, as I believe in developing sustainable healthy habits. Periodically, I have been able to not drink for a week, and the longest I have managed is 20 days, but this happened naturally, as I do not have the discipline to say I won’t have a drink for a week let alone a whole month.

No health and wellness expert could say that drinking alcohol is a great idea. However, it seems to be that some alcohol in moderation can be beneficial to overall health. The big question is always what is the right amount to be moderate? Self observation, monitoring and some mild discipline are the key lifelong habits to learn and practice for being healthy in relation to food and drink. I have long recommended and practiced the habit of counting the number of alcoholic drinks I have each week and recording it in a calendar to keep myself in check http://www.vivianlaw.ca/how-many-drinks-count-them/

Booze is different than food, as it has no nutritive value, so I feel it is always important to ask and monitor what is driving us to drink? How often do you drink? How does drinking make you feel? I have heard from many people that they are not able to handle alcohol in the same degree as they get older. That may be true, especially if you can feel the ill effects in your well being and energy level. It is a wise idea to cut back on your alcohol consumption if you are not feeling your best. It is not because you are getting old, however, it is just always a good idea to take care of yourself at any moment. New guidelines in Canada recommend at least one or more days a week of not consuming any alcohol. I would agree with this recommendation as your liver could use a break from processing alcohol at least one day a week.

I love to enjoy a drink for many different occasions, so making life good recommends (ac)counting the drinks you enjoy in care of  yourself,

 

Taste Experiences of 2015

There were many awesome taste experiences throughout the year in 2015. Here they are in no particular order:

Baklava from Patisserie Royale-after reading a glowing review in the Globe and Mail for the fine pastries at Patisserie Royale, I insisted our family go and buy a box right away. These pastries have become a new family tradition and we all particularly love the pistachio royale for the layers of crispy lightly honey soaked buttery deliciousness. http://patisserieroyale.com

Squash soup at Foxley-Just as the weather started to turn cool, the special at Foxley one night was squash soup with coconut milk and it was so incredibly delicious, I had to make it again myself! I am developing the recipe to share. 207 Ossington Avenue, Toronto

Harira soup in Morocco-I tried to have many samples of harira, a traditional Moroccan soup while in Marrakech this year, but didn’t manage to have as much as I liked to see different styles. However, I did develop a vegetarian recipe I quite enjoy. http://www.vivianlaw.ca/recipe-moroccan-chickpea-and-lentil-soup-harira/

Dinner at Al Fassia-this restaurant run by Moroccan women comes highly recommended by several sources and the dining experience is fabulous. From a delicious cocktail to all the plates of extremely tasty moroccan food. Must try if ever in Marrakech.

Lemon mousse at Cava-We first tried this dessert late summer and declared it a winner with the flavours of tart lemon mixed with a little jalapeño jelly, heavenly! www.cavarestaurant.ca 

String Chaat at Pukka-a friend introduced me to this salad early this year, as she thought I may be able to recreate it. I was able to identify the delicious threads of apple, carrot, cabbage and rice crisps in a nicely spiced dressing. However, I have only gone back to Pukka to eat it again and would recommend it everyone. www.pukka.ca

Big Mac bao at Dailo-These mini asian style ‘big macs’ are the delightful work of chef Nick Liu, who serves these at the upstairs bar of his great restaurant Dailo. They come complete with special sauce and mini frites. http://dailoto.com

Banh Mi at Baguette and Co-These delicious vietnamese sandwiches were discovered by chance when we took our relatives to High Park and the little sign of this sandwich shop caught my eye. We later stopped for some sandwiches and they are fantastic! The owner explained that their specially sourced bread makes all the difference. 1643 Dupont Street, Toronto

Laurent Perrier Rose-One night in June, a couple friends and I attended a tasting event of sparkling wine. One standout for us was the Laurent Perrier rose for it’s lovely pink sparkly delicious enjoyment!

Andale salad-I needed lunch while waiting for a flight at the San Francisco airport and was pleasantly surprised by the Andale salad, which consisted of slow roasted chicken, black beans, avocado, salsa, lettuce, cilantro, lime, mango and cheese in a tortilla bowl. This salad left such an impression, I have started constructing my own version ever since I had it in May.

Carnitas bowl at Cantina Grill-Another airport food discovery. While waiting for a connection at Denver airport, I stopped in for an early lunch at Cantina Grill and just didn’t know what to order. The lady behind the counter suggested I have the carnitas bowl and was it ever a great recommendation! The mix of romaine lettuce, rice, pinto beans, carnitas, cilantro, jalapeño, lime was the perfect satisfying lunch. Rick Bayless has a great technique to make carnitas on your own. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kATDHi2M32Y This all in one bowl is one of my favourite food discoveries of 2015, found at an airport!

Apple Tart at Chabrol-This is a new discovery and I managed to share an apple tart with friends and family three times within a week. The house made puff pastry is light and crisp underneath layers of thin sliced perfect sweet tart apple topped with lovely calvados sabayon. Truly the best ever and masterful work by chef Doug Penfold. 90 Yorkville, Toronto

 

Step up your Indoor Workouts

Mid to late November is the perfect time to organize and step up our indoor workouts. I notice that time seems to speed up during these last few weeks of the year. My advice is to consciously step up your exercise routine now to prevent an unnecessary new years resolution.

I must admit to low attendance at the gym myself since I have been running outdoors for over 8 months and so enjoy being outside. It is a major adjustment for me to create an indoor work out routine now. I feel such resistance to going inside to work out it seems ridiculous, considering I am a professional fitness trainer! However, this is the purpose of this piece, to share motivation to get moving more at this crucial time of year-it is absolutely necessary!

Make an appointment with yourself for yourself to head to the gym now. Your body will thank you, as you are guaranteed to feel better in every way and your waistline will expand less or remain the same over the holidays. Plus, you can enjoy yourself more while you are taking care of yourself, and start the new year with the right habits already in place. Making Life Good recommends stepping up your workouts in November and really enjoying the holiday season!

Recipe: Moroccan chickpea and lentil soup (harira)

I have seen harira soup mentioned a few times in magazines and cookbooks over the years. I tried it for the first time this spring in Morocco and loved it! I wanted to make it at home and was only motivated to do so as the weather started to cool off this fall. The harira I had in Morocco was made with beef, a bit of rice, served with dates and delicious little sweet crispy fried morsels of dough. I decided to make a vegetarian version, as I felt the spicing was bold and well suited to being a vegetarian soup. I also made the soup with fresh turmeric, an ingredient I only learned of when I took a 9 year friend to Caribbean Corner and she picked up the little roots and asked ‘what’s this?’ Fresh turmeric looks like dirty mini pieces of ginger and needs to be grated on a microplane for this soup. Be careful, turmeric leaves persistent yellow stains! If fresh turmeric is not easily available, use the powdered version. Fresh ginger is another key ingredient (powder will work too). Turmeric and ginger both have anti inflammatory properties. It is also best to use chickpeas made from dry, although a can will work if you desire. Serve this delicious soup topped with fresh chopped cilantro and parsley along with some dates…and crispy moroccan morsels…if I could find them!

1 cup dry chickpeas (soaked overnight in water with baking soda, then cooked until tender, see http://www.vivianlaw.ca/cook-beans-from-dry-skip-the-cans/ )

1 cup brown lentils

1 796 ml can diced tomatoes (puree if a smoother textured soup is desired)

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 celery rib, finely chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped

1 small piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped or 1/2 teaspoon powdered

1 small piece of fresh turmeric, finely grated or 1 teaspoon powdered

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pinch saffron

4 cups vegetable broth

pepper and lemon juice to taste

chopped fresh parsley, cilantro and whole dates for serving

In a large soup pot, melt butter and saute onion, celery, jalapeno and ginger over medium heat until softened. Add tomatoes, vegetable broth, lentils and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and add chickpeas. Simmer for 30-40 minutes or until lentils are tender. Adjust salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Enjoy topped with chopped fresh parsley, cilantro and whole dates.

Delicious vegetarian harira soup, dates are essential

Delicious vegetarian harira soup, dates are essential