A tamari soaked week of healthy food goodness.


I have a great love for all things fermented. A couple of weeks ago Anthony and I went to Picton, Ontario for the second annual fermented food festival. I walked away with jars of fermented treasures, despite the lack of samples the vendors were providing. Amoung my finds was a jar of real lacto-fermented pickles and fermented turnips. My belly is happy! I usually enjoy fermented foods as a snack or included in my salad bowls.

Here’s our lineup this week, much of which included tamari which is similar to soy sauce but it’s thicker, more fermented [usually] and is wheat free. It’s also more expensive than soy sauce, but that’s the price for being unable to have wheat. For those that can’t have soy, there are coconut aminos.

Chicken Pad Thai using Thug Kitchen‘s vegan recipe with chicken swapped for tofu. Anthony won’t touch tofu or soy protein which I respect, so  I baked 4 chicken breasts and chopped them up to add to the pad thai.

Split Pea Soup from the How it all Vegan cookbook.  In my slowcooker I put a cup of green split peas, 1.5 litres of chicken broth, a tsp of cumin, 2 bay leaves, 1 potato, 2 carrots, TBSP tamari and chopped smoked ham. Again, added meat to the soup so that it’s tastier and more filling. You can also add turkey kielbassa as a substitute if you can’t find decent ham.

Baked Portabello Mushrooms from the How it all Vegan cookbook. I destemmed and cleaned about 7 portabello mushrooms and sliced onion and layed the mushrooms in a baking dish with the onions on top. I put 1/2 cup almonds in my mini food processer and ground them to a powder [you could also use ground almonds]. I mixed these with 1/4 cup tamari, 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar, tsp italian seasoning, 1/2 cup water, 2 garlic cloves. I then poured the sauce on and baked for 40 minutes on 350. I am going to serve this on top of quinoa with some goat cheese and the sauce drizzed over top.

Quinoa – I use the Instant Pot and I mix 1.5 cups chicken broth with 1 cup quinoa, 2 bay leaves and a bit of salt. I set the IP to 1 minute and let it cook. After 10 minutes of decompressing I can take it out. It’s fluffy and flavourful.

Dill and Lemon Baked Trout. It’s a staple – either trout or salmon. I eat fish at least once per day because with my Lupus, having omega 3s helps my skin heal if I’ve had a flare up affecting my skin. Plus it tastes really good!

Sweet Dijon Turkey Meat Balls – I’ve still got some the current flavour of my Kozlik’s mustard left. I think everyone should have a jar of this in their fridge. Great for smearing on meat for quick flavour, making dressing or brightening up a sauce.

Slow Cooked Sweet Potatoes – I’m a huge fan of sweet potatoes. They are so good for you, inexpensive and very easy to prepare and eat. I love to make them in the slow cooker. It’s not messy and I’m not worried about having something baking wrapped in aluminum foil as sweet potatoes are often prepared. To make, you rinse them in water, don’t dry and place in the slow cooker for cook for about 8 hours. This length of time is good and they come out fairly firm. I just peel and slice and put them in the fridge.

I’m also making an endless supply of chaga tea. I’ve been reading that it helps the immune system by boosting when needed or backing off when too active. I hope it’s true, because that would be awesome. My immune system is my main problem. But at any rate, mushrooms are good for us and I’m down for anything healthy and tasty. Half a bag of chaga chunks makes about a week’s worth of tea [the way I drink it which is one mug every day]. I just steep 1/2 a bag for 2 hours and then pour into a large bottle from Ikea and refridgerate. I heat it up when needed. I dry out the chaga chunks on a plate and I repeat this about 4 times.

Happy eating and drinking this week!




How to be an iron maiden – get to know and love weights.

weightThe misconception about strong women needs to die. Women who lift weights don’t look like a man, they don’t get bulky and lose their femininity. The reality is that women over 30 need to lift weights. We start losing lean muscle tissue when we turn 30 and that continues for the rest of our lives. The only way to combat that is by lifting weights and challenging ourselves. That helps with the diminishing lean muscle tissue and to help stave off osteoporosis.

I can tell you from my own experience, I don’t look like a man but I sure lift like one. The problem with typical resistance training material out there, is that it’s usually geared towards male bodybuilders. Women don’t train like men do and most of us don’t have the same goals. Over the years of training myself and clients, I’ve found a framework that is pretty effective for most women, especially over 40.

There are a number of different types of resistance training and I cycle through three of them in order to gain lean muscle tissue, gain strength and to ensure I have functional strength long term. I like to do five weeks at each phase. For the first two weeks, I lift enough that I’m feeling like I’m working and challenged. For the next two weeks, I kick it up a big notch, keeping in mind safety but pushing myself that much more. On the final week, I lower the weights slightly lower than the first week to “de-load” which helps me recover from the more demanding previous weeks. This is linear periodization and works well for beginners or novices who consistently hit the weights 2-3x per week. In order to stay interested and get results, it’s best to  have a Workout A and a Workout B and alternate between the two every workout. The guidelines and samples I’ve listed below are good for someone new to resistance training.

Hypertrophy Phase – this is when lean muscle tissue is increased. The sets and reps for someone starting out would be around 3-4 sets and 8-12 reps. During this phase, you’ll be hungrier and protein will be very important while you are building muscle. You’d be looking at having protein (about the size of a deck of cards) with every meal and at least one snack. A hard boiled egg would be perfect for this. You might find that you gain a bit of weight during this phase. When we are in “building mode” we will gain both fat and muscle. We don’t gain muscle and lose fat. We’re either gaining or losing. The good news is that during subsequent training phases, this weight will be lost, as long as you are eating moderately.

Here is an idea of what this kind of routine would look like. The exercises I selected are very basic ideas of what you’d want to be working/doing. Before you’d attempt a Deadlift, having someone coaching you can be valuable or even watching a good video like this one. Same goes for Squats – here is a good video on proper form. You’re going to select a weight that is heavy and you have to work to lift, but you can, with effort, lift about 10 times or so.

Workout A
Circuit #1: do all these exercises 3-4 times in succession, having a 1-2 minutes break between each circuit. Squat [bodyweight, dumbell or barbell], Pushup, One Arm Dumbbell Row
Circuit #2: Lats Pulldown, Step Ups, Hammer Curls
Circuit #3: Plank, Side Plank

Workout B:
Circuit #1:
 Deadlift, Chest Press, Barbell Row
Circuit #2: Lateral Lunge, Overhead Press, Reverse Lunge
Circuit #3: Back Extensions, Stability Ball Jackknife

Strength Phase – The main adaptation during this phase is on your central nervous system. It teaches the brain to fire the correct muscles and to work together. At the end of a strength phase the muscles that you made bigger now have the oomph to back them up. When putting together a routine at this phase, include 2-3 sets for and about 5 reps. You’ll likely be less hungry and would find yourself snacking less or loading up your plate less. Listen to your hunger cues! For weight selection, heavy is best. You’re only moving this weight five times and you want to be working hard each repetition. You want to be able to maintain correct form but still push yourself.

I’ve put together a basic routine with some very fundamental exercises as an example.

Workout A – do them one at a time with 2-5 minutes break in between exercises:
Deadlift, Chest Press, Assisted Pullups, Front Squat [I don’t recommend heavy Back Squats the same day as Deadlifting], Medicine Ball Crunches

Workout B – Back Squat, Incline Pushups [or regular ones if they are hard enough], One Arm Dumbbell Row, Hip Thrusters, Lats Pulldown

Endurance Phase – most women are very familiar with this phase. Many fitness classes and workout videos include muscular endurance. I like including an endurance phase in programs because it provides a good recovery physically from the challenging prior phases and offers a chance to do different exercises like Kettle Bell Swings, Squat Thrusts, Pushup Rows, Jump Squats and Stability Ball exercises which are less technical and fatiguing. This is when you can use a video, like Fitness Blender [which is a free, online fitness streaming service] or just a combination of the above exercises but much lighter. In addition, during this phase, if body composition goals are something you’re working on, this would be an ideal “cutting” time which is when you’d be losing the weight you gained in the first stage. Your set and rep range would be 2-3 sets and 12+ (try about 15) reps. You’ll pick weights where your muscles feel tired at the end of the workout but something you can do a bit longer. In addition to weights, you could also do cardio moves like Burpies or Mountain Climbers during breaks between sets or you could include a cardio finisher which would be 10 minutes of HIIT training at the end. You won’t be smashing the same meals and snacks that you would have in the past. This is when you’d practice moderation because you’re body isn’t going to be screaming for food.

So now that you are armed and dangerous, it’s time to get fierce in the weight room!



Meal Prep with the Instant Pot

pottyThis week, my Instant Pot made my life a lot easier. The glass of champagne I enjoyed while prepping also helped! This machine is amazing and I recommend it to all my clients who are looking to cook healthy meals quickly. It’s great too if you’re not huge on prepping meals in advance because it can make a complete dinner in about 30 minutes.

I kicked it off with my weekly hard boiled eggs. I cook them in the IP for 8 minutes on high in a steamer basket with one cup of water and then plunge them in cold water [helps with getting the shells off] when they are done.

Next I made lemon mint quinoa (1 cup dry) which was cooked in 1.5 cups chicken broth for one minute and then I let it sit for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure. After I took it out of the pot, I fluffed the quinoa and added lemon juice, a little apple cider vinegar, a wee splash of olive oil and mint I grew this summer.

I then made a big tub of brown rice. I used 2 cups brown rice and 3 cups chicken broth and a couple of bay leaves. I cooked it on high for 22 minutes and then let the pressure come down naturally for 10 minutes. I plan on having a little bit with salad or with the soup or Thai chicken curry I made. I’d recommend getting to know and love brown rice. It packs a way bigger nutritional punch and you don’t have your dinner turning to sugar immediately in your system, only to crash later.

Finally Potty Mouth [my nickname for my IP] made me a Nom Nom Paleo’s Thai Chickent Curry [the recipe calls for beef but I used chicken]. I serve it over the rice I made earlier. One thing you can also do to help get more veggies is add frozen veggies to the finished meal. It helps cool off the dish before putting it in the fridge and adds more veg to you day. It’s a win all around!!

Outside of the Instant Pot, I made Turkey Meatballs seasoned with paprika, salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. These are going to be served with a salad. I made a caesar salad dressing because while I like a splash of lemon or vinegar, Anthony prefers a creamier and more robust dressing. This dressing is awesome and tastes like caesar dressing without all the additives of the bottled dressing. To make the dressing, mix together the following: 1/2 cup coconut cream, 1/2 cup mashed avocado, 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 cloves pressed garlic, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 2 teaspoons mashed anchovies, 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp onion powder. To get the coconut cream, put a can of coconut milk in the fridge for a day. Open the can and scoop out the fatty goodness that will rise to the top. You can use the watery leftovers for shakes. Or add a bit of rum and have some fun!

fish.jpgI baked some trout with lemons and dill. Another great addition to my salads.

To go with the the quinoa, I made Thug Kitchen’s Spiced Chickpeas and Tahini Dressing     again this week because it’s so good! Again great with the quinoa and some greens.

I always try and include one or two vegetarian dishes because they are good for us – beans being so full of fibre and veg dishes add variety. I made Oh She Glows Soul Soothing African Peanut Stew. It’s delicious with rice as well.

And finally I made homemade I used the Healing Kitchen’s Thin Pizza Crust recipe which here I have doubled because the original doesn’t make enough to feed a hungry male: 1 1/3 arrowroot starch, 1/2 cup plus 4 TBS coconut flour, 2 tsps cream of tartar, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 4 TBS olive oil, 1 cup warm water, 1 egg. The one egg was my addition because I was concerned about making a crust without anything to bind it. It turned out okay, maybe a little chewy but it was my first time. I made a ham and pineapple pizza because it’s Anthony’s favorite and there is a great ham from Rowe farms that doesn’t have chemical nitrates.

And of course, my usual tub of raw veg which included broccoli, red cabbage, yellow peppers, carrots, celery and cucumber.

All of this cooking and chopping took me three hours. With the IP and a good strategy, I whipped through a week’s worth of meals for two people and now I have tons of time this week to do other things.





Awesome eating this Monday meal prep

spiderThis week we are continuing with the Tex-Mex theme I love so much (mostly because of guacamole which is my favorite thing right now). Also because I noticed Anthony gazing longingly at a tub of layered dip at the grocery store and decided a fun meal and homemade dip would be a good reward for him dutifully eating all the salads I prepare in the summer.

We had some great quality finds this weekend for our kitchen, including laco-fermented pickles, fermented turnips and smoked garlic scape salt.


The menu this week:

I kicked off the meal prep with a Layered Dip. The first layer is fried beans. I smooshed the beans in a bowl with my hands and then added them to a pan with some taco seasoning and water. In minutes I had amazing fried beans without the nasty of the canned stuff. Next layer was tomato salsa. Following that, ground turkey that was browned in taco seasoning. I topped that with a layer of guacamole. Then sprinkled some red and orange peppers diced tiny. I smeared on on sour cream that I whisked in some onion powder, garlic powder and a little salt and topped it with old cheddar. Along with a big bag of torillas, he has a few indulgent lunches. I made it in smaller containers so that it wouldn’t get all nasty during the week.

Continuing with the theme is Oh She Glows Tortilla Soup. I enjoy it topped with a dollop of guac or some sliced avocado. Not a fan of the tortillas, personally. If I feel like I need a starch, I’ll add a spoonful of brown rice.

I had an eggplant sitting lonely in my fridge and decided to put it to work in a Grilled Eggplant with Soba Noodles from Thug Kitchen. I deflowered this vegan dish with the second half of the pound of ground turkey.

I picked up some ostrich burgers from The Trading Post just outside of Port Perry, Ontario. Ostrich is a lot like grass fed beef but with a bit more flavour and it’s quite lean [not as lean as bison, but pretty close].

I also made Thug Kitchen‘s Spiced Chickpea Wraps with Tahini Dressing. I don’t eat it in a wrap but what I do is put it on a salad and add a dollop of tahini dressing.

Not food, but I recently discovered chaga tea which is a mushroom that grows on chagabirch trees in cold places [Siberia, Alaska, Northern Ontario]. It’s full of antioxidents, it leaves acai berries in the dust for battling free radicals and apparently is great for inflammation [good for those of us with autoimmune dis-eases]. And most importantly, it’s delicious. It’s like the magic of the forest in your mouth. I made two litres of it with seven chunks I steeped for two hours in boiled water.

The simple, staple food I made which are great with a salad is: baked chicken breasts that I annointed with smoked garlic scape salt (from Pyramid Ferments), onion powder and paprika, grilled trout with lemon and dill, brown rice prepared in chicken broth and bay leaves, a giant tub of chopped veggies, baggies of veggies and hard boiled eggs for my 3pm snack.

What I also do with the ends of my cucumbers, carrots, zucchinis etc is put them in a big container and use the veggies in my shake in the morning. For two people, I fill the Vitamix to the brim with veggies, a bit of water, vegan protein powder, collagen, cinnamon, banana and blueberries. For Anthony a glug of kefir to help him get his fill of probiotics.

When you eat awesome, you feel awesome.

Be in the moment and don’t miss out on life’s treasures.

20170814_140524 (2) While out walking yesterday, I spotted this little pigeon. It made me not only think that this guy gives zero effs about the purpose of this food, he’s sitting on something of value and not really aware of it.

How much of our time or resources do we mindlessly spend? As a fitness professional, I talk to a lot of people who don’t have time to exercise, but when asked to track their time or think about what they are doing with their time, there are pockets realized that could be filled with a little physical activity. In my own life, I would swear I don’t have time to take a class or work on creating content, but then when I think about the time I sink into watching You Tube or on busywork, I realize that I have more resources than I seem to think.

Money is another one we squander. Vegetables purchased and discarded, clothes and household goods bought and donated. If I add up all the money I toss into a Value Village bag, I’d probably be shocked. I’m not even going to do that because I would!

Energy spent on worrying about things that aren’t real, living in the future, caught up in memories of the past. A lot of that energy could be redirected to connecting with people, planning and executing on worthwhile activities.

Mindfulness is a big buzzword right now. And while it’s everywhere, it holds truth. However, being mindful isn’t easy when you’re not here. When I’m off in another place mentally, I immediately do something pleasurable that brings me into the “now” [which doesn’t involve eating or spending money because those are often mindless, escape-type activities]. That could mean getting up and going for a walk around the block. It could mean having a chat with someone quickly. It could mean making a cup of my favorite tea and watching the steam rise up from the cup. For me, it’s also organizing my closet.

Mindfulness does not have to the result of hours clocked on the meditation cushion. You can be more mindful in life by peppering it with enjoyable and “in the moment” activities.

Meal Prep Monday

spoonEvery Monday, I cook for the entire week. I like what Mel Joulwan, author of Well Fed, says about meal prep vs. cooking dinner. She says [and I’m paraphrasing] the she enjoys creating food in the kitchen which is a lot different than the race against time [and hunger] in order to get dinner on the table. I hate that feeling too. Usually I’ve nibbled and sampled my way through the prep and by the time I sit down for my meal I have a full belly.

So I meal prep for me and for my husband. We don’t eat a different meals every single day. We repeat a lot [especially me, but I like what I like and if it tastes good, why wouldn’t I want to eat it more frequently.] It’s a lot of work but I enjoy a little kitchen witchery every week with my trusty (and well loved) wooden spoon. I know what’s in the food I make from scratch and I can control the salt and the healthy fats so that we’re getting what we need without excess.

My menu for this week:

seasoning.jpgTaco Salad – browned ground turkey seasoned with Simply Organic spicy taco seasoning, avocadoes, salsa, spinach, chopped veggies and cashew sour cream. For some crunch on the side, Mary’s Crackers.

Pumpkin chili a la Thug Kitchen with organic  blue corn chips. [I avoid non-organic corn because conventional corn is a GMO product]

Black Bean Burgers from the Oh She Glows cookbook on a bun of grilled eggplant and topped with salsa, cheddar, guac. Will be served with a simple dijon and white wine vinegar potato salad – no recipe, just making it as I go.

Chicken Shawarma and Sweet Potato Fry bowls.

Brussel Sprout Salad with shredded brussel sprouts (roasted with 2 garlic cloves and mustardbit of coconut oil on 350 for 15 minutes and tossed every 5), watermelon radish (if I can find it in this city), 1 beet, 1 carrot, 1/4 cup red onion, 1 cup toasted coconut, 1/2 cup roasted macadamia nuts. The dressing will be 1/3 balsamic, 1/2 cup olive oil and 1 TBS Kozliks Italian Mostada mustard. Note: this is the greatest mustard ever. It’s a small family in Ontario and while it’s around $6 for a jar of this stuff, it’s incredibly versatile for a number of recipes.

And then of course a ton of raw veggies for snacking and hard-boiled eggs to kick my butt out of the 3pm lull in the afternoon.

I’ts going to be a week of yum!


Anxiety – ain’t nobody got time for that.

monkey-pigEver realize that you wasted so much time on anxiety? I can say I have. I’ve sabotaged my dreams, my health and my relationships. Finally I have gotten to my 40s and I’ve realized that it’s more time and energy than it’s worth. Being stuck because of what’s going on in my head is something I can’t afford. At this point in my life I’m hearing about people my age losing battles with cancer or getting knocked down by really crappy things. Life’s short. We don’t know what’s coming tomorrow.

But we have control over what’s going on in our minds right now. We have control over our actions and our reactions. That’s all we’ve got. We can choose positive thoughts and positive actions that’ll take us closer to our goals, dreams and our happiest future.

How do we get there?

We take action on things we can control. I feel anxious when I’ve got a lot of loose ends with insurance or finances. I know that neglecting these things is going to weigh heavily on my mind. Taking care of these issues, even if it’s painful at the time [sitting on hold with an insurance company is no fun, I can attest to this last Monday] but it eliminates any excess anxiety.

We focus on the tasks that will get us the results we want. If checking Facebook isn’t getting you closer to your goals, limit it and write that blog post, read that business book or prep your meals. I don’t think anyone has a shortage of productive activities on the to-do list in the back of their minds.

Work out your feelings quickly. I journal every single morning at the start of my day over a cup of rooibos tea. It’s at that time that I purge any dark feelings quickly on the pages and release any worries. Writing it out makes me feel better. It’s quick and private – the way I like to deal with things. You may feel better speaking to someone else. That’s cool if it’s your thing. The important thing is to get it out before it starts churning around in your mind and festering.

Let go of the past. There’s nothing I hate more than a therapist rehashing the past over and over again. It’s over. Most of us didn’t have a lot of control over the events of our childhood. The only thing we have control over is today. And ourselves. You can let it go and move forward. I don’t see the value in picking at old wounds. Healing happens when new experiences replace the old.

Surround yourself with awesome people. Negative people or people who constantly deride your dreams are not worthy of being in your life. It’s hard enough to stay positive and believe in yourself and it doesn’t help if you have someone constantly reinforcing the negative and pessimistic thought patterns you are trying to change. It’s painful, but necessary to end those kinds of relationships.

Say yes to yourself. So often we deny ourselves comfort or luxury and this only keeps us in a state of anxiety. Spoiling yourself doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. It could be letting yourself have that extra hour of sleep or a long soak in the tub.

Ditch the anxiety and you’ll add precious hours to your life.