Vegan Bulletproof Latte

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If you know me, you know that there are a few things I really really love. One, of course being Happy Hubs, the other being coffee (and depending on the day, I may sometimes love coffee over Hubs). I literally cannot before coffee. Sometimes even after. I am NOT a morning person to say the least.

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However, about a year and a half ago I discovered Bulletproof Coffee and it may or may not have changed my life. Of course, the kind I made at home wasn’t technically bulletproof because I didn’t buy the MTC oil or use the endorsed coffee, BUT I did blend my coffee with some grass-fed butter (which is incredibly hard to source in Toronto if anyone else has noticed, ugh!) and a bit of coconut oil for quite some time. Let me tell you, that stuff kept me going. It made me love Hubs before my coffee even because I knew what sort of great energy boost was coming my way, and even better, I could function well into the morning on this stuff, no repeat cups needed. Eventually though, I tired of it (and I also moved downtown and could walk literally 3 minutes to amazzzzing cafes with amazing whole milk lattes) and stopped drinking it.

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Well, recently for the sake of my eczema compromised skin (and because of my Cowspiracy triggered environmental guilt), I have been going dairy free. As someone who LOVES a whole milk latte, this has NAWT been fun. Almond milk lattes just aren’t the same…

It’s been harder to function in the morning without looking forward to a whole milk latte. Until I remembered that blending coffee with coconut oil creates a yummy creamy blend too.

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For the past week I have been drinking this on the daily. It provides a healthy dose of fat in the morning to help fill you up, keep hunger at bay and stabilize blood sugar levels and it definitely helps curb that 2:00pm slump when all I want is sugar! Seriously, this is like drinking the juice out of energizer batteries, I kid you not.

Of course if you don’t have an espresso machine or milk steamer, you can just blend some coconut oil into your regular brewed coffee and throw in a splash of almond milk (or non-dairy milk of choice), it is a slightly different experience, but still pretty amazing with the same benefits that will go a long way.

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I use my own homemade nut milk for this recipe (I follow Erin Ireland’s recipe) but store bought also does the trick in a pinch.

Try it out and let me know what you think!

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup almond milk (or dairy alternative of choice)

1 tbsp. coconut oil

1-2 shots espresso

cinnamon, to taste

Instructions:

Steam milk to desired temperature. Place coconut oil in mug under espresso spout and pour shot(s) on top (this makes it melt). Pour coconut oil and espresso into blender and blend for about 10 second. Pour back in mug and add steamed milk on top. Sprinkle with cinnamon to taste. Put feet up, enjoy and prepare to take over the world!

 

Financial Wellness

It’s been a bit quiet over here recently but I’m back! Before I jump into my post I just wanted to give a quick shout out to the Giving Tree Retreat in Collingwood Ontario for providing the most absolutely perfect accommodations for our much needed Valentines Day/Family Day long weekend getaway. If anyone is need of a break/romance/time to unwind, I cannot recommend this place enough! Seriously, check out this picture:

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That’s right, that’s an open-air tub looking out on a snowy meadow next to a wood stove. The best part about Giving tree’s Karma cabin? No wi-fi! I am a total phone addict and while I still did get cell service here, this really did force me to disconnect and reconnect with my husband. Go there now, do it!

Now, to focus on the main content for today: Financial Wellness. Said getaway was booked at a time when Happy hubs and I had much more of a disposable income. Unfortunately, due to my contract ending, this hasn’t been the case and has kind of been the reason I haven’t been posting much on here. I know, I know, having no job means I should have all the time in the world to post on my blog and feel inspired, but for a Type “A” like myself I find it to have had the exact opposite effect. Worrying about money is exhausting. It’s depressing. I realize I say this from a place of privilege as I am not going hungry and I have a roof over my head, but trying to function like my normal (happy fit and free!) self has been a real struggle when I’m not sure if I can make my student loan payments, or pay my cell phone bill and constantly have to say no to social outings that I can’t afford (I know, first world problems but stressful none the less- I’m not asking for pity here). Couple that with living in 2016, a time when every millennial makes you feel inferior by plastering all of the oh-so-amazing parts of their life on social media (guilty as charged) and I’ve ended up pretty down in the dumps. Social media is NOT conducive to feeling great when you are just trying to get by and all it does is trigger a 21st century “keeping up with the Joneses” syndrome.

I’m not sure how many of you have been following the story of Talia Jane, the 25 year old ex-yelp employee who called out her CEO publicly for not paying bottom tier employees a livable wage. There are a lot of things wrong with what Talia did, but there are a lot of things I agree with as well, one being that it’s not acceptable that large corporations can get away with paying such small salaries to these people and two, that minimum wage is not liveable and needs to be regionally specific (this is a very big problem in Toronto as well). In a rebuttal, Stefanie claims that Talia needs to suck it up and make sacrifices, something I don’t really disagree with, but as pointed out in this rebuttal to the rebuttal, Stefanie is making a lot of assumptions- the big ones being that Talia can live at home while she gets through this and that her family is helping her out, when this may not be the case at all. I am lucky enough that when I was a new graduate I was able to live at home, rent-free, with free food which allowed to me to work for free and gain some experience that no doubt led me to being successful in my field. It seems that Stefanie had these same privileges. No where does Talia mention living at home, in fact, she mentions that she moved out to escape a living situation that made her want to die. Another thing that I liked about this rebuttal to the rebuttal was this statement:

“Bay Area companies are notorious for having figured out that offering their lowest level employees bells and whistles is a cost-effective smokescreen for what they actually pay human beings”

This is something that I have found to be all too true in Toronto as well, and something many people close to me have experienced first-hand. I don’t like how so many people are labeling Talia as “just another entitled millennial” even if some of what she has said does come across as entitled. What particularly irks me are the people saying “you said yourself that this job is something any 18 year old could do and that you don’t need a degree to do it, so why did you take it and then complain about it?” Clearly, these people have not experienced what it is like to be a recent grad facing our current job market. A lot of us millennials know that we have to work hard, and we know that we have to work our way up and get experience and may not make a ton of money, for some time BUT I ask these people, have you looked for a job in 2016 as someone with little to no experience? These are often the only types of jobs we can get, and they are still extremely hard and competitive to land. We take them because we don’t have a choice (been there, done that) and I was just lucky enough that when I was making very little money my mother welcomed me with warm arms and let me stay with her. There aren’t “entry level” jobs for University graduates. There are minimum wage jobs and unpaid internships (and not everyone has the luxury of being able to take an unpaid internship), and then there are careers for people with 5+ years experience. This is not how it used to be. Yes, our parents had to work hard and they had to accept low paying jobs, but generally, they were able to get by, and many were even able to purchase a house a few years later. My own mother told me her first salary was $25,000 in 1981. In current day dollars, that is $67,000. That $25,000 is not much less than what Happy hubs was offered at his first “real” job in 2015 (and I’m not complaining here, he needed his foot in the door and we were lucky to be in a place where we could make this work, just explaining for comparisons sake).

BUT, I don’t want to get all political here, because this wasn’t really the point of my post. That was all just a long-winded intro to what I really wanted to talk about. The main point that I took from all of this is that Talia said the thoughts of her financial state consumed her, and for months, her hands were constantly shaking due to the stress and constant state of worry she was under. When considering the dimensions of wellness, it is so important for all of these reasons discussed to really take a hard look at financial wellness. A few months ago, I was talking to an old colleague of mine about how we wanted to run a financial wellness seminar in our workplace.

I guess our discussion came about because we were discussing that even in our well-paid employee population, there seemed to be people who were struggling. This conversation then came to the realization that it is simply impossible to be well if you are struggling financially. This can be summed up with the familiar saying “wealth equals health”. In order to be healthy, you must be able to afford to access things such as medical care and healthy food. Beyond that though, even when people do have decent paying jobs and can access health care and decent food, it doesn’t mean that they are financially well. Many people are still crippled by the high cost of living, food, loans, expenses of children, etc. and these financial worries can be extremely stressful. We discussed that day how if (even working, decently paid) people are stressed financially, they simply are not going to be making wellness a priority in their lives. This is for many reasons, they could be spending all their money on childcare with nothing left over to buy healthy food, they could have a huge mortgage and don’t have any extra cash for a gym membership, or they simply could be too stressed over money to be motivated to get out and go for a long walk or run. We could give people all the tools they need to live a healthy lifestyle, but people wouldn’t act on it if they don’t have the resources to do so.

While all the dimensions of wellness are important to include in any workplace wellness programming, I’m thinking today that financial wellness is arguably at the foundation of it all. This is definitely something to consider when it comes to planning your workplace wellness programs. (Also, this is another reason to pay your bottom tier workers a liveable wage- giving them the resources to be healthy, productive and engaged employees). Financial health is not something that many of us are taught in school. Even running workshops on creating a proper budget and budgeting and saving techniques could go a long way in terms of helping your employees live a healthy life.

What sort of financial wellness programs do you run in your organization?

(Healthier) Super Bowl Eats

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I don’t know about you, but when I hear “Super Bowl” I think two things; the first being “puppy bowl!” and the second being “food!”

I would be lying if I said I actually pay any attention to the game itself, but come on, who doesn’t love a good reason to pig out on some indulgent food??

I have spent more than my fair share of Super Bowl Sundays pigging out on food that I wouldn’t normally eat, and I find I’m often still paying it for it days later. This is especially true after spending Super Bowl Sunday with my mid-western american relatives. YIKES, talk about some super heavy, zero nutritional value comfort food (velveta cheese and breakfast sausage dip anyone?)

This year, instead of heading out and ordering some crappy bar food (we are also pretty broke and didn’t want to spend money), we decided to stay in and have a little more control over what we ate. Don’t get me wrong, I still plan on indulging a bit but I really wanted to do it in a way that wouldn’t make me feel sick afterwards. I love me some junk food, but more than that, I love food that is actually full of the good stuff, but disguises itself as the bad stuff. That way, I can completely shove my face in the spirit of football and feel okay about it afterwards.

Here is what is on tap for this afternoon, try these out for yourselves for a healthier, while still indulgent evening:

1. Life Affirming Nacho Dip by Oh She Glows

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Okay guys, I swear this is amazing. I make this all the time and people can’t stay away from it and ask me for the recipe. I usually wait until there is only like a tablespoon left in the dish to reveal that the recipe is vegan. People often don’t believe me. But for serious guys, it’s vegan and it’s delicious and it’s good for you and it truly is life affirming. You won’t regret trying this, I promise.

I change it up a bit by adding a little bit of chipotle powder for some smokey flavour and a touch of dijon to just give it a little more something-something, but it is already full of so much flavour, these additions aren’t totally necessary.

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2. Buffalo Cauliflower bites

These bad boys have been circulating allllll over the interwebs recently, and for good reason. Do we actually love wings because we love the taste of the chicken? Or is it about the sauce? Instead of chicken wings, these buffalo bites are made from cauliflower and I swear you can’t really tell. Even my meat-lovin, chicken wing obsessed husband loves these! Pair with some blue cheese dressing or if you’re a vegan, try this recipe for a dairy-free ranch dressing from the Hot For Food blog.

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I roughly follow the recipe that is linked above, but I usually use spelt or sprouted whole wheat flour instead of the junky white flour. And like all recipes, I throw in a little bit of chipotle. I also will usually substitute the butter with some ghee or if I’m going for a vegan version, some coconut oil. I like to drizzle some more wing sauce on top after they are done as well. More flavour that way! You seriously can’t lose with this, and they definitely satisfy the buffalo wing craving!

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Of course, if all of this seems like too much work, don’t forget some “junk” foods aren’t as bad as others. Dig in to some guacamole, some hummus or white bean dip, or pop up a batch of popcorn on the stove.

What are your favourite Super Bowl foods and do you have any secret healthy versions?

Happy Super Bowl Sunday everyone!!!

What does “Wellness” mean to me?

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I will be honest, this post is a contest entry. BUT, in order to enter the contest, I have to explain what wellness means to me. Motives aside, this is definitely an important question to ponder and reflect on and I am so happy that The Healthy Maven, Run to the Finish and Fit Foodie Finds have made me stop to think about this. In my last job, I ran the wellness program in our HR department and I often talked at length with my colleagues about what “wellness” meant. It was quickly apparent that it means different things to different people, no doubt. In the case of our job, we had to learn to separate what wellness meant to us and what we wanted it to look like, from what the organization saw wellness as (and all the complications that came with working in a large organization with a lot of complex policies, budgetary restraints, etc). That being said, our jobs may have been easier if we had just had someone tell us what wellness meant in this context.

This makes me think, because I often talk about my passion for wellness, but I haven’t exactly defined what it means to me, my perspective and where all of my actions come from. Takes me back to my undergraduate years and always making sure my research papers had an operational definition. How can I go about living my life a certain way without a starting point, a concrete philosophy to leap from? Not to say that these things cannot be flexible in the way they can’t be in a research paper. I think wellness is such a personal thing and as we grow and evolve, it makes sense that our definition of it may be a bit plastic as well.

As a classic Type “A”, I definitely struggle with letting perfectionism go. This is hard for me, because I truly used to see wellness as having a perfect body, eating a perfect diet, having perfect work/life balance. However, I (thankfully) have learned that this is not possible, and defining wellness that way is only going to achieve the opposite of what I want it to be.

I came across this saying a few years back and it definitely hits close to home and has become my mantra when it comes to my health and wellness:
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BUT, to put it in my own words; Wellness is about treating my body and mind with respect, activity and nourishment. Wellness is being emotionally present, aware and connected to myself and to others. It is having a positive relationship with my home and work environments, as well as with nature. Wellness is flourishing, living happily, healthily, holistically, and with gratitude.  It is not comparing myself to others but to personal milestones, and how far I have come, whether I have made progress or taken a few steps back and knowing how to better myself (whether this means taking a mental health break, losing weight, gaining weight, resting, connecting with loved ones). It is about doing my best under the circumstances, and not beating myself up when I can’t do my best (like today when I ran very slowly through the rain). It is fostering my ability to live life to its fullest while understanding that the good and bad must co-exist. It is about being me, it is about being okay with it.

To be able to spend a week at Wellfit Malibu would be an incredible experience, a chance to step back from the current chaos, and press the reset button on my health goals. It would be a chance to remind myself to really take care of ME and be in the moment. It would be a dream come true!
#WellnessThatFitsYou

Raw/Vegan Key Lime Pie Mousse

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Is anyone else still craving holiday treats or is it just me? Maybe it’s because I’m not working right now, or perhaps it is because it’s cold and grey out, but I also suspect that it may be directly correlated to binge-watching “Scandal” for hours every night. What is it about a good netflix binge that makes me just want to pig out?

Luckily, since I’m currently not working I have enough time to experiment with recipes and make delicious yummy treats, which is how I came up with this one!

I originally made this in the food processor but I found it a little too fibrous for me still so I threw it in my blender to make it extra creamy. I’ll leave the process vs. blender choice up to you. I got this idea from various raw key lime pie recipes I saw online as well as from this delicious Avocado Chocolate Mousse from Chocolate Covered Katie. As Katie points out Avocados are quite the super food- they are low in sugar and loaded with fibre, vitamins and minerals. Avocados are a great evening snack in my opinion because they leave me feeling full, and not ravenous for any junk I can get my hands on.

I know, I know, it’s not exactly Key Lime pie season, and I’m definitely not in the Keys. However, I think this is why my mind was thinking about a treat like this. I also can’t technically call this “Key Lime” because it doesn’t have any actual key limes, but forgive me just this once. Once I find some key limes I will definitely try it out with them.

Not only is this mousse good for you and satisfying because it is full of healthy fats, it’s also low in sugar and tastes a little bit like sunshine. Perfect winter couch indulgence. I can almost hear the waves and feel the ocean breeze….

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Ingredients:

2 ripe avocados

1 ripe banana

1/2 cup coconut cream (place a can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight, the cream will separate and harden making it easier to scoop out)

Juice from 2 limes

1 tsp. lime zest

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

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Instructions:

Place all ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender and process/blend until smooth. Serve immediately. Store any leftovers in fridge (if you have any!) for a maximum of 3 days. It’s that easy I swear!

 

27 Kilometres for 27 Years

With an early January birthday, I often feel that my birthday is the REAL beginning of a new year, because it is literally a new year, at least for me. I find it hard to believe that as of last Thursday, I am now in my 28th year of life. The highlight of my day may have been when my mum FaceTimed me from school and had her entire kindergarten class sing “happy birthday” to me. The most endearing part of this is when they did the “are you 1, are you 2, ” part and the kids stopped counting at 9. I’m not sure if they just didn’t know how to count beyond 9 or if they just couldn’t imagine that their teacher had a “kid” over the age of 9. With a bit of coaxing, they (exhaustingly) made it to 27, and I think I heard one kid say “wow!” haha. I hear ya kid, when I was that age, if someone said “27” I would have thought wow too. Yet here I am, now in my LATE twenties, when most days I still feel about…14.

I will say, as I mentioned around New Years, I’m always amazed at how quickly time seems to pass as I grow up. With each year, it just seems to go faster and 26 FLEW by, and what a year it was. Being in the latter half of my 20s has without a doubt been such an amazing stage of my life thus far. Of course it  has had its challenges, but I am so acutely aware and have enough perspective to know that these challenges are often somewhat juvenile, and in the grand scheme of things, life in my 20s has been truly charmed and dare I say “easy” (I’m being really positive today guys).

As 27 approached, and I thought about how I would like to ring in my own personal new year I knew that I wanted to start this year off by challenging myself more than I had the year before. I got the idea from a camp friend of mine who is always a big advocate for pushing yourself and making yourself better through it all. With a few big goal races in mind this year, I decided to start the year off with a big challenge of running 27km, a single kilometre for each of the 27 years I have spent on this planet. While my camp friend often does her birthday run in MILES (so impressed) I’m not quite there, but 27km would definitely be a challenge for me, and the furthest I had ever run.

So, on the dawn of my 27th birthday, I set out with a running buddy and long time friend of mine (seriously bless her soul for agreeing to this insanity) to run 27km. I decided ahead of time I would dedicate each kilometer to something that had made an impact on me in my 27th year. I figured that this would give me a reason to get through those tough kilometres when I was struggling and didn’t feel like I could go on. I knew that this would be difficult, but I wasn’t quite expecting how difficult it would actually be. The first 17kms were not that bad, however, since I haven’t really been training distances longer than 12km in QUITE some time, the distance definitely caught up with me and the last 10k was STRUGGLE CITY. All in all though, we did it! Even if that meant having to take some pretty hefty half kilometre walk breaks in the final third of our run. In the end, it felt AMAZING.

Without further ado, this is what got me through each and every kilometre and what made my 27th year one for the books:

Kilometer 1: This one went out to my dear husband (it’s sometimes still weird saying that) and the love and support he brings to my life day in and day out. Thank you for being my best friend, biggest fan and my rock. I absolutely love our little home and the life we are creating together and I can’t wait to see what the next year and all of those after it bring with it.

Kilometer 2: Dedicated to our beautiful fairytale wedding, including all of the stress that went into it and the two weeks of sleepless nights leading up to the big day. I wouldn’t have done it any other way and sometimes I still can’t believe it was real and actually happened.

Kilometre 3: For my running buddy, Sarah who somehow agreed to run 27km with me on a day when it was -3. Who does that? Well, she did, and I absolutely could not have done it without her!

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Kilometre 4: I ran this one for the sport of running. For each and every run that I was able to go on this year and for being better for it after each one. For the deep meditation that comes along with the sport and for every race I ran this year. For the people that I have connected with and re-connected with because of running and the community that I have found within it.

Kilometre 5: For landing an amazing job shortly after my 26th birthday. I work in a pretty niche field and there are not many people who have finished my grad program and ended up in a job actually in the field. Through some incredibly hard work (and having the fortune of “right place, right time” on my side) I landed a dream, adult job in my field with zero connections in the organization. THAT was satisfying.

Kilometre 6: Unfortunately, said dream job was a contract filling in for someone who was on leave. This wasn’t a case where my job could be extended unless the other employee did not come back. So, in December I found myself unemployed again. Kilometre 6 went out to dealing with this frustrating reality and learning to be positive when things didn’t play out the way I wanted them to.

Kilometre 7: This one went out to my colleague Michelle who was my life line over the 10 months at said job. Seriously, I couldn’t have done it without her and I am so grateful for the friendship we formed, which helped me get through the bad and stressful days!

Kilometre 8: Went out to Jose Bautista, because Game 5, need I say more.

Kilometre 9: Went out to my family who is there for me no matter what happens. This includes the family that I was born into and the family that I have chosen as my own. It was definitely a year when I had to lean on all of you and ask for a lot of support and I was met with that and then some, every step of the way.

Kilometre 10: This one was dedicated to our new government. HALLELUJAH!

Kilometre 11: This one went out to my very first grown-up, and probably overly-generous salary. For the first time in my life I was able to save, pay all my bills and then have a solid sum left over for spending. This amazing salary allowed me to do so many great things in my 26th year and I recognize it was a real privilege. This kilometre also went out to the loss of said salary and learning to be okay with it. R.I.P. disposable income

Kilometre 12: This one went out to the beautiful Canadian rockies and the west coast. The beauty of our country is truly something that everyone should see in their lifetime. I am lucky enough that I have seen this area twice now, and it was so special to share that beauty with Zach this year.

Kilometre 13: This one went out to coffee. I don’t need to say anything else really, but living downtown has it’s perks, and FINALLY being able to walk to about 4 different incredible coffee shops in under 5 minutes was definitely a highlight of this past year.

Kilometre 14: Craft beer. 26 was a year of discovering and trying so many amazing beers both here and in the states. Enough said.

Kilometre 15: This one was for our condo, we waited a long time to find the perfect place and it is so great to have a place that we call home in (what we think is) the best neighbourhood in the city.

Kilometre 16: This one was for the sun who decided to shine on the second half of our run, making what could have been a very cold day a little more bearable. Thank you for 27 years of sunlight.

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Kilometre 17: This one went out to my new in-laws who are quite possibly the sweetest people in the world. We may come from very different places, see the world a different way and I may be really LOUD while they are pretty quiet, but I believe these differences make us have a stronger relationship and I was so happy to welcome them into my life as parents this year.

Kilometre 18: This one goes out to kleenex because god knows I cried a lot this year (which wasn’t unique to being 26, but is just me)

Kilometre 19: Went out to my mum who let me and Zach live with her well beyond our stay and gave up so much to help us as we got on our feet independently and for all that she sacrificed to help us make our dream wedding come true.

Kilometre 20: This one went out to airplanes. Airplanes are INCREDIBLE people, how do we forget this? This year airplanes brought me some REALLY special people who I hadn’t seen in a long time, and that was awesome.

Kilometre 21: This one went out to my camp friends (some of whom arrived by said airplanes this year) and having the type of people in my life that I can go years without seeing and still have the closest of relationships with, picking up right where we left off!

Kilometre 22: This one went out to the St. Lawrence Market for bringing me so much joy this year. Food=joy.

Kilometre 23: Went out to my legs. Who just could. not. at this point. But, the pain was a reminder that I am alive and I am able bodied and I am runner. This went out to my legs who carried me to and from work every day and led me to win quite a few “workweek hustle” fitbit challenges this year. Despite their flaws, and my negative feelings that I sometimes project on their appearance, they are truly the greatest thing I own.

Kilometre 24: This one went out for a year of a really healthy mind. I’m not sure that there have been many others in my life that have been this healthy. Of course I had my moments, BUT I believe that is just what we call life. Our mental health is so precious, and I am so grateful to have had such a healthy year.

Kilometre 25: Went out to my Aunt Janet who was so sadly taken from us this year, much too early. Aunt Janet was a force to be reckoned with. She was an incredibly successful and determined business woman who often reminded me to work hard if I want to get where I want to get. I still can’t believe she is gone and I am so happy I was able to spend time with her before her passing.

Kilometre 26: Went out to my country and the gratitude I feel every day for living in a place where I feel safe and have the power to make the choices I want surrounding my life and my body. It was a bit of a scary year and I often have to remind myself how lucky I am to have been born by some random chance in a country like Canada. There are so many other people out there who didn’t get that lucky, and it is so important to remain humble about this.

Kilometre 27: This one was for no one else other than ME. For freaking doing it and running further than I had ever run before and living to tell the story. And for my 28th year and everything it is going to bring. For being the best I can be.

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Easy healthy meals for when you just don’t wannnnnnna

It’s January and it’s the first Monday of the new year and well, that just kind of stinks. I’ve been there, and I’ve experienced that awful feeling of leaving for work when it’s still barely light out and then leaving work and finding it’s already dark again. You may sit in front of a computer all day with little access to natural light and that little light only comes from a window if you’re very very lucky. If you’re like me, you are probably struggling hard right now with breaking that post-Christmas sugar and junk food addiction. Pair all of this with that sadness of returning to a normal routine after a week or so of relaxation, sleep and time with loved ones and you’re left with a perfect recipe for low low energy.

As New Year’s Eve rolls around most of us are inspired to get back on track with health goals whether it’s getting back to the gym or eating well. I am pretty proud of myself for staying active over the holidays but I’m always in need of resetting my eating habits after the holidays. I have a lot of motivation to do this….until Monday rolls around and I just want to come home from work and crawl into my bed and stay there until Spring.

I find days at work really suck the energy out of me, even when I’m inspired to make a healthy change. If I make myself get to the gym after work, I feel pretty good, but I still come home and just do. not. want. to. when it comes to cooking. Take-out and netflix always sound like a better idea!

How do I get through this? If I plan my meals ahead of time and make sure I have all of the ingredients at the beginning of the week, I’m much more likely to come home and cook a healthy meal. However, the key here is that it has to be easy as can be, or more likely than not, I probably will reach for that take out menu.

Without further ado, I present to you my go-to easy-peasy after work struggle healthy meals!

Thai Red Curry

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Photo by Cookie + Kate

I more or less follow this recipe by Cookie + Kate. Only I take a down a notch to make it even easier. I usually eat it over quinoa since I don’t eat much eat much meat, and I find the extra protein in the quinoa keeps me much fuller for longer. I also omit the ginger (hubs does not like fresh ginger), soy sauce, rice vinegar and coconut sugar, though these things would not take too much effort to add in. I find that the key here is the red curry paste that you use. I really don’t like the one that is linked in the original post. I use one that I found at the local market, which is much more flavourful and authentic (and probably why I don’t feel the need to use the other seasonings), you can get it here, just be aware that this paste contains shrimp, so this isn’t a good option if you are a vegetarian. I usually make this recipe with whatever vegetables I have left in my fridge. The hardest part of this recipe is remembering to make the quinoa before you start and the chopping of the veggies. However, it’s not that bad if you do these things ahead of time, or just turn up some tunes and chop away (it takes 15 mins max). Easy as pie and DELICIOUS!

Portobello “burger”

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Photo by www.cookinglight.com

This one is extra simple, and a good way to sneak in some extra veggies while still feeling like you’re eating an indulgent meal. If you’re super motivated, you can marinate a portobello mushroom the night before or in the morning before you go to work and keep it in the fridge. To make the actual burger, all you have to do is throw it on a skillet on medium heat or on the grill until it is juicy and tender. I usually marinate mine with balsamic vinegar, some onion powder and some garlic. The possibilities are endless here but we’re going for simple. Once the mushroom is cooked, I throw it on a piece of bread if I want an open faced burger or a bun (those thin buns work well for this) and top it like a burger. I usually throw on some avocado, salad greens, hummus, caramelized or fresh onions, a slice or two of cheese (omit if vegan), some greens, and this Oh She Glows hemp pesto (I make this every other month and keep it in my fridge for occasions like this). When I have extra energy I’ll even slice up some sweet potato and roast it as a side. BOOM.

Spaghetti Squash

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Photo by www.ohsheglows.com

The convenience of spaghetti without all the carbs and calories. The hardest part of this meal is cutting open the squash. Yes, I’m serious. Cut open a spaghetti squash (this doubles as a workout if you skipped the gym) and scrape out the seeds. Place it open side down on a cookie sheet and poke some holes in the skin. Roast that squash at 400 for about 40 minutes (I know this is a long time but if you do it when you get home it’s not that bad) or until the inside fleshy bits are stringy and cooked. You alternatively could roast this with the flesh up and some seasoning but that’s extra effort. Once done, scoop out the flesh and put it in a bowl. Now top that squash how you would spaghetti. On an adventurous night for me this means with shrimp, sautéed veggies and some marinara. But let’s get real, thats a lot of work. This tastes equally as good with some good old jarred sauce (just look for one with no added sugars!) and a sprinkle of parmesan.

Polenta with eggs and caramelized mushrooms

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Photo by Half Baked Harvest

This one has a few more steps than the others but it is really simple and beyond delicious. Click here for recipe!

Omelette

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Photo by http://wishfulchef.com

Okay, this one is easier than the spaghetti squash and it doesn’t involve opening any large, hard vegetables. I often forget how easy it is to make an omelette, but once I remember, I find myself eating these bad boys at least once a week. This is the ultimate, easy as pie dinner that fills you up with protein and veggies. Sauté whatever salad greens you have with some onion and garlic. Once fragrant, add to a bowl with two cracked eggs, and throw in whatever chopped veggies you desire. Throw on a skillet and fold over half way through cooking. VOILA. Doesn’t get easier than that!

Enjoy my friends. Eating healthy doesn’t always have to be hard!

Reflections

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The hangovers have (hopefully) subsided, afternoon naps have been taken and the champagne bottles are now empty. As I grow, it is always so amazing to me how quickly the first day of a new year rolls around. As we say hello to 2016 I find myself reflecting on what was one of the best years yet. A year ago today, I was in this exact same place, yet so many wonderful things were about to unfold over the next 365 days, some planned and some unexpected. 2015 saw a lot of change and some amazing much anticipated experiences- a big move and a big wedding. Of course, like many people, 2015 handed me some loss as well, and with this loss, a healthy reminder that even a perfectly planned year will never be perfect. However, when taking the time to reflect today sitting in front of a crackling fire surrounded by those I love, I find myself pondering over the unexpected events that shaped 2015 and the smaller day-to-day lessons that have made me grow so much in one short year. What stands out about the unexpected and the day-to-day in 2015 is all of the love that surrounded me as these experiences unfolded.

While I don’t know what the year ahead will hold and I of course have some goals and resolutions I want to reach and keep, unlike last year I am most excited for the unexpected- the large and the small- the notion that 2016 begins with nothing but possibility. It’s a little exciting, a little anxiety provoking perhaps, but mostly calming.

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What I do know is that no matter what happens, the love that has been given to me in 2015 and every year prior will continue to be here. I will foster that love, with myself, my husband, my friends and my family. I will hold on to that through the ups and the downs and rely on it at the core of any lessons that life throws me. I will spread it on the happiest days and perhaps more importantly, on the darkest of days as well. Whatever you do this year, do it with love. We don’t always know what will happen in a year, but if you hold on to that love through it all, you may just find that no matter what happens, you’ll end up where you want to be. And, if you’re as lucky as I am, you may find that you start the next year in the same place you started the year before. A year older, maybe a little bit wiser, but most importantly, surrounded by love.

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Let it snow!

I have a confession to make. Last Saturday I didn’t get out of my pjs until about 6:00pm. On Sunday, I didn’t get out of them at all (unless you count the 40 minutes that I put leggings on for to go get take out, after which I put my pjs back on). Monday was not much better.

I had planned on going for a long run on Sunday as I start to train to run the Around the Bay 30km road race. However, with no one to run with on Sunday and the choice to instead enjoy that post-holiday bliss on the couch with never-ending “Friends” episodes, I chose this option and didn’t get out there. On Monday, I had tentative plans to run with a friend that didn’t pan out (i.e. I slept in) so I was faced with another long day of pjs and “Friends”. “I’ll go later” I kept saying. I find it so easy to just continue down a path of laziness once I’m on it, am I alone in this?

I really don’t like going for long runs on my own and I especially don’t like them when it’s -14 with the wind chill. I just kept thinking about this all day and it was making me pretty grumpy. WHY HADN’T I GOT UP AND JUST GONE!?  I thought about doing it on the treadmill in our condo gym, but the thought of running in the same place with nothing to look at for over an hour made it even more unappealing. Naturally, the solution seemed that I just shouldn’t run at all.

At about 4:30pm I had been thinking about this (a.k.a. whining about it) for a solid 6 hours. “ENOUGH,” I said (okay, I didn’t actually say that, but my husband did). “If you want to go for a run, then go for a run!” He was right. The more I sat around and thought about it, the later it was going to get. Eventually it would be too late, and then I wouldn’t go at all and would be so grumpy from two full days of no movement. “It’s cold!” I whined. “Then what did you buy all that expensive running gear for?”. He had a point. Besides, I had to get into my training at some point if I really did want to run Around the Bay and it would only take about an hour out of my evening, which included approximately 0 other plans.

At about 5:40 I FINALLY had all my run gear on and was ready to go. I headed out, and quickly realized that it was very windy and then ice and snow started pelting me in the face? oh well, must keep going, it wasn’t that bad. Only it kept getting worse and eventually I was running through the thick of Toronto’s first snow storm. I knew that it was cold and a bit windy out, but you’d think with all the excuses I had come up with, I would have looked at the forecast a little more closely and noticed the storm warnings (and then used this as the ultimate excuse to not go running). The streets were pretty dead, and the snow was starting to pile up. I considered turning around and heading back, but just around this point I found my pace and noticed what peace can be found running through a winter storm (occasional blustering gusts of wind aside).

I told myself there wasn’t really a good reason to turn around now and running through this storm was perhaps my punishment for putting it off for so long. I set out to do this, and I would do it, if just to prove to myself I was stronger than my excuses. Plus, there is something so satisfying about getting out there and doing something that others may find crazy. I think I’m a little masochistic that way at times. Why run 12km in nice conditions when you can do it through a blizzard? Take THAT excuses. I had already put of this run for so long I didn’t want to give up, even if it wasn’t the best of conditions. Somehow, I made it to my turn around point at 6km. The distance back never seems as bad, and it really wasn’t. I was actually surprisingly warm too, proof that all you need is the right gear and a little movement. I passed another runner on my way home and we shared a friendly nod and wave as if we were in on some secret together. There was some comfort in knowing I wasn’t the only crazy one out there, and that’s what I love about this sport. Even on the strangest weather days, you’ll always see a runner out there.

There is always going to be a reason not to get out there and move. Trust me, I am the queen of excuses. Too hot, too cold, too humid, too rainy, too full, too dehydrated, too tired, etc, etc. However, as long as you have the right gear and aren’t putting your safety in jeopardy, you’re never going to regret a run. Even in the blowing wind and snow, it felt GOOD to move after two days of being sedentary. Besides, “crazy conditions” are all relative. Through the bad windy patches I reminded myself of my cousin who goes on day-long snowshoe expeditions in the Northwest Territories. On any given day there, it is -40, before the windchill! Yet, she gets out there and moves, for fun and because it feels good to move and be active. On the opposite end of the spectrum there are athletes who train through 100% humidity and 40 degree weather!

We don’t have control over the weather and this was a nice reminder that if I want to run a race in early April and train through the winter, I will probably be faced with more days like this. I owed it to myself to at least try. Now that I know I can do it, I know I don’t have any good reasons to not follow through on my training and run this race come April 3rd.

It’s all what you make it my friends. Stay tuned for more anecdotes as I attempt to take on a full training schedule throughout the winter months, a first for me.

BRING IT ON 2016!

Creamy Cashew Chai Milk

Something about the Holiday season that just makes you crave delicious warm and cinnamon-y flavoured things, amiright?

After seeing some chai flavoured nut milk in a store a few weeks back, I thought I’d have a go at it. This could be made with other nuts (almonds, coconut) or hemp, or a combo of any of these but I was really looking for something rich and indulgent (tis the season!) which I why I went with cashews.

When I visited Kenya 7 years ago we had chai every afternoon. “Chai” literally means tea, but in North America, we call it chai tea because it has a distinct flavour different than our every day black tea. The chai we had in kenya was super creamy, slightly spicy and so full of flavour. It didn’t need much sweetness (or any at all). When I returned to Canada, I couldn’t drink a chai latte again- it was all wrong! I’ve tried many times to re-create the chai that I had in Kenya by boiling the spices directly in water, adding plain black tea and then adding milk and letting in simmer. It’s not quite the same, but it’s pretty close.

This cashew milk was inspired by 1. seeing chai nut milk in a store as mentioned and 2. my recent fondness of putting cardmom in my coffee. Throw all of this together with my never-ending quest to create that super creamy Kenyan chai experience and this is what I came up with.

Yesterday morning I tried it in my latte and OH MAN was it all the Holiday cheer I needed to get through a busy day of running errands and hosting friends.

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Cashews are incredibly versatile when it comes to vegan baking and cooking. Use them to make cashew sour cream, cashew “cheese”, as the base in a vegan cheese sauce or as a creamy filling in a raw pumpkin pie. Seriously, they’re amazing. I often have some laying around soaking and ready for use because I end up using them so often. For this recipe, I soaked 1 cup of raw cashews overnight in water (to speed this up you can soak them in boiling water for an hour or so).

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I also added 2 medjool dates for a little bit of sweetness. I recently discovered that my older dried out looking dates can simply be rejuvenating by giving them a little soak (this makes it easier for blending).DSCF7633

Once the cashews and dates were good to go, I rinsed the cashews and added them to my blender with 3 cups of water, pitted the dates and threw them in and then added the spices.DSCF7632

After a good blend on high for a few minutes, the creamy milk was pretty much ready to go!DSCF7636

I strained the milk with a nut milk bag but this step isn’t necessary. Cashews (especially once soaked) blend up really well and creamy and don’t really produce much pulp, but I do prefer to strain mine, totally just a personal preference. Once blended, store in the fridge in a container with a lid. 

As mentioned, it was amazing in a latte, but this would also be delicious with some granola or cereal, in a smoothie, in some oatmeal, or simply warmed up on it’s own for a cozy evening drink.

This recipe can be made with either more or less water, depending on your preference for creaminess. Less water gives it more of a coffee cream consistency, whereas the 3:1 water to nut ratio that I used gives it the consistency of whole milk.


Creamy Cashew Chai Milk

1 cup raw cashews, soaked

2 medjool dates, pitted

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger (this would be amazing with fresh ginger as well)

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp. cardamom

A couple twists of ground black pepper

3 cups water

Directions

Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender and blend for 1-2 minutes. Strain through nutmilk bag (or omit this step) and pour into container with lid and refrigerate. Enjoy within one week.