Monthly Archives: January 2015

Things I’m Loving Lately: January Edition (plus, looking into my and my blog’s future!)

It’s Friday and it’s the end of January! Hooray for the end of things (which of course means the beginning of new things)! I’ve actually scheduled this post all the way back from Monday because the dude and I are taking a trip for the weekend. We’ll be heading up to central Ontario for a nice quiet weekend in a cabin. We’ve totally earned it. We’ve both worked really hard at our own jobs lately (well, we always do), and I’ve been working really hard at this blog!

I’ve had a lot of time to think about where I want to end up with this blog — what road I want to take it down. And I’ve come to realize that having an end goal of my blog bringing me $X by [date] or having [# of visitors] or bringing me publicity from [cool vegan magazine] is an unreasonable goal which will take me away from why I started it in the first place. I mean, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I had big dreams of this blog launching me to semi-stardom the way Oh She Glows did for Angela Liddon, help me finance my own cookbook and lead me to a self-made career as a vegan blogger.

But the thing is, I like my day job, I like my current life (even though it is busy!) and I started this blog for one simple reason: I like sharing.

So since last Friday, I’ve had some time to think about some more things. I’ve already shared that I have plans to stay living in Scarborough and work at my current living space. Our kitchen is coming together nicely. Instead of moving on to the living room next I’ll be tackling a smaller project — too many big projects at once isn’t good for me. I’ll be painting and re-organizing my bathroom and putting up just one shelf, and then painting and re-arranging my room. I look forward to sharing progress from both projects with you!

As for how my goals relate to the blog, I would like to start getting more serious about photography. For while I’ve gone back and forth about the merits of a DSLR and I’ve decided that I will hold off on getting one until I either magically run into an extra couple hundred dollars or my blog somehow starts generating revenue. That said, I want my pictures on this blog to start looking like I give a damn. And it’s totally possible to get great results from phone pics, especially when you have a good phone (I do — heck yes Galaxy)! But there’s a pretty simple reason why my pictures tend to look like crap: I take my pictures when I actually make the food, as in, when I’m going to eat it. I’m not a professional food blogger, so I don’t make food for the sake of taking pictures (yet). As the result of my crazy schedule, I often take food pics in the early morning when it’s still dark or late at night when it’s… once again, dark. This may change in the summertime. Anyway, what I plan on doing is gradually going through the blog archives and replacing the old crappy pictures with better ones. But that is still a ways a way. In the meantime, pardon me while I try to get a handle on my photoshop skills. We’re all learning, here!

Lastly, here’s some recipe projects I’m working on for you all that you can expect over February and March — all of these are gluten-free on top of being vegan:

  • Easy crispy breaded tofu
  • Zesty cilantro pesto
  • Avocado and dill veggie dip
  • Black bean “Big Macs” (with veganized Mac Sauce!)
  • Sweet and nutty veggie gnocchi
  • Healthy and chewy banana cookies
  • More smoothies — OF COURSE!
  • Bonus: a guide on keeping your tattoos fresh in a vegan-friendly way

That’s about it! Now, for the real reason I sat down to write this: ten things I’ve been all about these days.

  1. HurRAW! lip balm in root beer — it’s a raw (cold-pressed), vegan lip balm that has made applying lip balm go from fun (because let’s face it, applying lip balm is already pretty rad and good-for-you) to totally addictive. I’m already terrified of what will happen when I run out — do I buy more root beer or try another flavour? (Yeah right, I’ll probably buy three).
  2. Wilderness Family Natural’s raw coconut spread. I’ve been all about coconut lately (must be the coconut nectar in my life)!
  3. Parsnips. I didn’t know what a parsnip was for the longest time. Like, I knew it was a vegetable, but… that’s about it. The first time I even heard the word was in Homestar Runner. Remember Homestar Runner? Anyway, I’ve been really into parsnip fries and hash browns lately.
  4. My Penfield toque — this is the design I have it in. I wear this toque almost every day. Oh, Canadian winter, you are no match for me!
  5. Coconut bacon — I use pre-made, but I am going to try and make my own very soon.
  6. The Piano Guys’ cover of “Ants Marching” by Dave Matthew’s Band. I wish this had been out when I was choreographing my ballet routine last year.
  7. EVERYONE Soap in coconut and lemon — I love do-it-all products, and this is a scent that’s exciting enough to wake me up but gentle enough to cap off the day with.
  8. Hot Yoga. I’ve been going back to yoga class since quitting the gym! I’ll admit that leaving the gym was really, really hard at first. But with the current routine I’m on, I’m no longer hungry all the time or sore all the time. I’m mostly doing yoga and ballet with a little contemporary here and there — oh, and climbing, of course!
  9. Dan Mangan + Blacksmith’s Club Meds — it’s a nice and different direction for Dan Mangan, who has really moved past his cutesy, swayable songs.
  10. Rooibos tea. I’ve been moving back down to one cup of coffee a day, and trying to generally work my caffeine consumption down. Rooibos is good for when I want a full, bold flavour but can still get a fresh taste.

So that’s it… how do you end these things? Uh… *tap dances away*


Slightly sweet and incredibly easy vegan, gluten-free bread.

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Pardon my language, but I really had my shit together this past weekend. I managed to not only make myself a totally delicious breakfast before dance class on Saturday, I also made a loaf of bread (vegan and gluten-free, of course). Best part? I managed to not eat it until that afternoon. And then I ate pretty much the whole thing (my partner helped just a bit!) in only two days. Whoops.

I don’t own a bread maker and I would definitely say this loaf is more of a cakey brad with similar texture to banana or carrot loaf than the kind of bread you get in a bag. But I’m a sweet girl (I think) who likes her breads thick, soft and (ewwww) moist. I know, we all hate the word, but is there a better way to describe that kind of texture?

Oooh, I know! Decadent.

Anyway, this was my second attempt making this bread. The first time the yeast didn’t puff up enough and it ended up totally flat. It still doesn’t rise a ton, so beware if you’re expecting a big puffy loaf. Anyway, here we go.

Gluten-free vegan bread

Ingredients

  • Yeast mix
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
    • 1 cup warmed unsweetened almond milk
    • 1 tbsp coconut nectar (or maple syrup or agave if you’re not a big fructose nerd like me)
  • Wet mix
    • 1 cup warm water
    • 1/4 cup flax seed meal
    • 3 tbsp melted virgin coconut oil
    • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • Dry mix
    • 3 cups sorghum flour
    • 1/4 cup tapioca starch
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 3/4 tsp xanthan gum
    • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (1/2 if you want a more distinct taste)
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp fine grain sea salt

Directions

(Seriously, this is so easy)

  1. Combine the yeast mixture and stir to incorporate the yeast. Let sit in a medium-sized bowl for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Once the mixture has puffed up, add all of the wet mix and whisk to combine.
  3. Meanwhile, mix all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk so they’re well-combined.
  4. Let rise for at least 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Once the bread is done rising, spread into a deep rectangular baking pan and let bake for 60-75 minutes. The outside won’t change colour much, so text it with a fork!
  6. Let cool for 30 minutes and slice to your heart’s content.

This bread was so so easy and yummy. I topped it with coconut spread and Crofter’s Strawberry jam. I also meant to enjoy it with some avocado mash, but I was too busy EATING THE ENTIRE LOAF IN TWO DAYS. Warning: It is a bit difficult getting this bread in and out of a toaster, so I’d recommend warming it up in an oven or a warm, dry skillet.

Variation ideas I want to try:

  • Incorporating more of a coconut taste — perhaps more coconut nectar and adding some shaved coconut;
  • Pumpkin and ginger! Perhaps I could sub some of the oil with pumpkin;
  • Shredded carrot and pineapple to make it more of a dessert bread.

“Keep it simple” tofu scramble and rosemary root veggie home fries

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I love a good tofu scramble. And I really believe that with tofu scramble, there’s no way you can really go wrong. Add whatever you want and eat a dang rainbow.

But lately, I’ve been wanting to scale back and simplify my tofu scramble. Maybe that’s because I have never quite achieved that nice, sulfur-like taste that I admit I missed a bit from scrambled eggs and I wanted to scale back on the other veggies until I cracked (get it!) the code.

That is, until now.

This was what I fueled my Saturday morning with, which proceeded to ballet class, yoga class and an adventure to IKEA. I hope to show you the progress I’m making on our kitchen, my room, and our bathroom. Whee!

“Keep it Simple” Tofu Scramble, serves three (or two very hungry people!)

Ingredients

  • One brick extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • Three cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup spinach
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella Daiya or other shredded non-dairy cheese
  • 3 tbsp tumeric
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • Black salt, to taste*

*This charcoal-infused salt is what gives the scramble that nice “eggy” taste. It’s tough to find (I found it at The Big Carrot) and is a tad pricey. Just sub with regular salt if you can’t find or don’t feel like the splurge.

Directions

  1. Drain and press the tofu
  2. While the tofu is pressing, chop your garlic
  3. Warm the oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic. Let sautee for about four minutes or until fragrant
  4. While the garlic sautees, crumble the tofu (I shred it a bit with a fork before breaking it down with my fingers to give the chunks some nice variety in size). Mix in a large bowl with the tumeric and the nutritional yeast.
  5. Add the tofu to the pan and sprinkle on the black salt.
  6. Toss in the Daiya and spinach and mix around. When the spinach is wilted, the Daiya should be nicely melted.

Rosemary root veggie home fries

Did I ever love these! I’ve been increasingly obsessed with root vegetables outside of standard potatoes (and you guys know how I feel about potatoes!), and this was a great, colourful start to my day. It was ridiculously easy to do while working on the tofu!

Ingredients

  • One Yukon gold potato, cubed
  • One parsnip, cubed
  • One sweet potato, cubed
  • One tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • One sprig rosemary
  • Four cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • One lemon, divided into quarters
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Celsius and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. Cube the veggies and add to a plastic zip baggie or a bowl
  3. Add the rosemary stems to the bowl along with the oil, chopped garlic, and juice from 1/4 of the lemon. Mix around and add to the baking sheet. Add the remaining 3/4 of the lemon to the sheet to add an extra lemon-y aroma.
  4. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until the veggies start to brown

I enjoyed this dish with some Julienned carrots and blueberries, and of course an herbal tea. It was a great breakfast for energizing me which surprisingly didn’t weigh me down. And seriously, it was so easy!

Tomorrow I’ll be posting a new vegan, gluten-free bread recipe — so make room in your stomachs!


Let’s talk about ED-NOS

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I often feel like I have to tell people that I’ve had a past pattern of “disordered eating” rather than stating what is the full truth, that I am in recovery for an eating disorder that first materialized at about the age of 17.

When I have used the term “eating disorder,” I usually get one of the following reactions:

  1. They ask me if I had anorexia or bulimia;
  2. If they’ve known me for a long time, they say they had no idea because I never seemed to starve myself;
  3. If they’ve known me for a long time, they don’t believe it was “that bad” because while I was very thin, I never looked sickly.

I learned the term “ED-NOS” when I was in university and I first started going to counseling. Now, here’s something crazy — at the time I was in counseling, literally no one knew I was in counseling. I’m an over-sharer, but this was one thing I just wasn’t comfortable telling people. I started in my second year and went regularly until halfway through my third, then semi-regularly until graduation. Throughout this I went through two relationships and neither knew that I was going to counseling (I usually said I was doing extracurriculars or even in class).

Going to counseling initially started as me seeking advice for what to do about a good friend of mine who has long suffered with ED-NOS and elements of anorexia and bulimia. I wanted to be a good friend throughout her difficult time. The more I spoke with the counselor, the more I realized that I exhibited a lot of problematic patterns myself, and even though I knew that food and weight were always sensitive issues for me (I never denied that), I was shocked. I thought, I didn’t “have” an eating disorder. Yes, I’m obsessed with my body image, but I’ve never starved myself or purged. I’ve never had an eating disorder.

ED-NOS, for those still scratching their head, stands for “eating disorder not otherwise specified.” And I have it. And I’m kicking its ass right now (even though it still occasionally shows up to say hi).

To specify, I and no one around me thought I had an eating disorder because I literally never did any of the following:

  • Skipped meals, even breakfast;
  • Physically measured quantities of food;
  • “Measured” my waist in the mirror obsessively;
  • Forced myself to throw up or abuse laxatives;
  • Passed out from how thin I became;
  • Binged;
  • Cut specific foods out of my diet.

Here’s what I DID do:

  • Worked out at an obsessive rate. I started going to a gym the summer I turned 18 and I saw results right away, and this was the start of me feeling like if I ate “too much,” all I had to do was work out and I’d be fine;
  • Tried to keep my heart rate in the “fat burn” zone at all times, even when I wasn’t working out. I’d run to my next classes across the school, take a lap around school between classes, jump around with my friends (they chalked it up to my personality), hang out on their exercise bikes while we were together;
  • Sucked my stomach in at all times. I couldn’t stand the idea of letting anyone see an ounce of fat on my body;
  • “Felt” fat after almost any meal I’d eat, and I’d feel incredibly embarrassed and like everyone could see it. I usually didn’t like being around people after I ate;
  • Because obsessed with numbers going down. I used to be a 29 waist and as I saw myself go down to a 26 I felt so proud — but also scared, because I felt like I would just die of embarrassment if that number ever went up;
  • My first instinct became to look at every nutritional information label on every piece of food I ate — unfortunately, it still is (although I’m focusing more on looking at protein content than calories and fat). I am not proud to say that I at one point could tell you the approximate calorie count of almost anything you were eating.

Why did I do it?

  • Short answer: A lot of reasons.
  • Longer answer: I’m scared of being fat. I always have been, and I’d be lying if I said I weren’t still scared of being fat sometimes. But why? I know in my head that being fat is not inherently a bad thing. It’s the things that we associate with being fat thanks largely to media portrayals of fat people. We associate fat as unattractive. We associate fat as lazy. We associate fat as stupid. When in fact, fat people are none of those things — or if they are, it has nothing to do with them being fat.
  • Another reason: If I were to believe everything people told me about myself, I would think I have a pretty crappy personality. Okay, I already do think that sometimes. But when I started losing weight in my last two years of high school, I was getting compliments. I was suddenly told I was pretty — all the time! People respected my opinions more and everyone just gave me a chance. It’s sad to say that when I was a bit chubbier (and honestly, I was never even that large — but definitely not comfortable in a bikini), no one really noticed me. When I became a “hot girl” everyone did notice me. And it felt good for awhile, until I realized that people’s interest in me started and stopped at my looks. But I did keep chasing that validation, because at least it was something, right?

How did I stop it?

For one thing, I feel like recovery is almost a perpetual state. Just the other day I remarked to my partner about how I am currently in a phase where I “feel my food” in my stomach after I eat ANYTHING, like even a cup of tea is too much! So I’m not going to sit here acting like I’m perfectly recovered and everything is fully behind me. But here’s what I do know has helped me get to where I am:

  • Going to counseling. Though I no longer see a counselor regularly, seeing one in university really helped me get to the root of my problems and address them head on. My counselor helped me not blame or get angry at myself for what I’d done. If you can, find one specializing in eating disorders. Trust me, these people know what they’re talking about, and you’ll never feel judged or like a bad person.
  • Developing a better relationship with food. Learning to have fun with food helped me feel like food was my friend, not my enemy.
  • Take some time away from exercising. Learn to exercise not because you feel like you “need” it but because you WANT to be active. For me, that meant taking time away from the gym — but if I felt like biking, I knew I had the freedom to bike. If I danced, it was because I wanted to dance, not because I wanted to burn calories.
  • Seek out fat role models. Women like Gabourey Sidibe and Mary Lambert have meant the world to me. They are beautiful, intelligent, dynamic and inspiring women. And they are fat. They are living proof that being fat means nothing more than being a certain size — it says nothing about your lifestyle, your personality or your identity. Another beautiful, intelligent, dynamic, inspiring woman? My Mom. My sister. Both fat. Both incredible.
  • Tell someone. TELL SOMEONE. Keep the conversation going. It is so much more common than people realize, more so because people don’t think ED-NOS is an “actual” disorder. Reach out to someone — you may never know who needs their hand held. And you also may never know how strong you are until you find yourself in this position.

Brownie batter chocolate protein smoothie

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 presetI did it — I got a month of hot yoga passes! And I’ve actually managed to wake myself up and get out of my house before 6:00 a.m. to make it over to the Danforth for a nice sweaty hot yoga session. It feels awesome! It took me awhile to get into the whole hot yoga thing. I don’t believe the theory that our body is full of evil, ambiguous “toxins” that we need to force out (our bodies, when functioning properly, are smart and know when to expel bad things. That’s why we pee so much when we drink alcohol!) but I DO like that the heat provides increased mobility and easier stretching of a lot of my muscles. Yoga is also a great workout for my mind, and it’s good to have my brain that turned on in the morning besides just mainly going through rep after rep at the gym. I’m loving it so far!

For a workout like this I obviously need something that stays down easily (read: isn’t heavy!), is portable, but also will keep me full until the end of the morning. Hooray for protein smoothies, right?

This smoothie doesn’t actually have any added protein powder, though nothing is stopping you from it. Originally it started out as a variation on the Gym Rat smoothie from the Oh She Glows cookbook, but it took on a life of it’s own so it’s pretty much unrecognizable.

One of the main things I’ve had a challenge with for this smoothie is replacing the dates. Ever since I started cutting out high-fructose foods, dates have been a no-go for me. I’ve made a few exceptions for things like raw peppermint brownies, and honestly, I regret it every time. What I did instead was add some walnuts and raspberries to the recipe to bind it a little more. There will be a distinct raspberry taste if you do this, though, so if you don’t like raspberries and are cool with high-fructose foods, just use two pitted dates (medjool or honey).

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond (or other non-dairy) milk
  • 2 tbsp certified gluten-free rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup walnut halves or pieces (cashews might also have the same effect!)
  • 1/3 cup frozen or fresh raspberries
  • 1 small/medium banana
  • 1 tbsp hemp seeds
  • 1 tbsp whole flax or chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp nut butter
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • NO ICE. I cannot stress this enough. If you want it to be nice and cool, freeze your banana/raspberries beforehand, or put it in the fridge. What makes this smoothie the “brownie batter smoothie” is how thick it is!

Directions

  1. Blend the milk, oats and walnuts on high for about 30 seconds until the solids start to really get pulverized. I find doing this ahead lets them incorporate into the rest of the mixture better.
  2. Let the mix sit for about 10 minutes.
  3. Shake or stir the mixture before you add the remainder of the ingredients. Blend until smooth.

PB & J Pick-me-up smoothie, self-care, and apartment re-arranging.

20150116_152556I’ve started a new routine that is proving quite beneficial to me: I’ve started working from home on Fridays. See, I’ve been telling myself (and telling everyone who reads my blog) that I’m going to start practicing self-care more diligently. Unfortunately I’ve realized that if I want to practice more self-care, I need to spend more time at home.

Here’s a catch: that’s going to be impossible this week. I’m subbing at my dance studio tonight and Thursday, plus my regular teaching on Tuesday. I’m going to be one sleepy girl this week, but I keep swearing up and down that this is the last week that things will truly be “crazy.”

Until then, though, working from home on Fridays helps me keep balanced. I’m able to do my laundry, prep food, spend time with Chris, and get little projects done. This week we started a big project — organizing the kitchen! I’ll be sharing some progress pics soon to show how we are working toward our big goal. Until then, here’s some big news to share with you all:

I’ve decided to stay in the Parkcrest apartment well past the end of our lease.

Why? Well, a lot of reasons.

  • The price is right. I’m making a lot of money right now and paying low rent. I’d rather continue on this path toward saving for my future than go back to barely breaking even.
  • It’s a car-friendly neighbourhood.
  • Chris is a great roommate.
  • The apartment is beautiful, big and well-managed.
  • Moving sucks and is expensive!

But if I’m in it for the long haul, that means a few changes. So here are the plans and goals for over the next year:

  1. Rearrange, organize and paint the kitchen (we’re going with electric teal!), completed by Chris’s reading week (Family Day week)
  2. Rearrange the living room, decorate and put up some shelves
  3. Rearrange and paint my room (still haven’t decided on a colour yet… any suggestions?) and organize our storage closet (which is off of my room).

Here are some more long-term goals that are still, right now, “wishes” rather than “plans” because I’m not sure if or how they’ll ever pan out.

  • Create a corner in the living room specifically for food photography for the blog.
  • Do SOMETHING with the bathroom (so blah!)
  • Help Chris get his room in order (ultimately, it’s up to him).

Anyway, when it comes to self-care I’m happy to announce that I’m doing better, despite still not being able to slow down (remind me that it is OKAY to say no to my studio owner once in awhile)! I’m eating almost no processed foods or take-out, am enjoying more raw foods, have kept gluten and fructose low and my energy high. I’ve also found good deals on hot yoga classes and will be spending a month doing some pretty hardcore yoga in the mornings. Wish me luck!

Here’s the smoothie that I made on Friday, very much a “reward yourself” kind of smoothie. It’s naturally full of protein and sweetness, and it’s just thick enough to feel luxurious without feeling like a dessert. I had it along with a small “instant noodle” jar for lunch (I’ll share my “instant noodle” recipe this week — it’s been great having food I can make ahead of time).

You can use a full cup of almond milk instead of the coconut water, but I found this gave it just the right consistency that it was smooth without feeling runny.

Peanut Butter and Jam Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • One small or 1/2 large banana, sliced
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries or raspberries
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 ice cubes

Blend in a high-speed blender and voila — you’ve satisfied your inner child for the day!

Catch you later this week, Internet. Hopefully I won’t be a total zombie.


Thoughts on happiness + peanut butter breakfast quinoa parfait

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I have a fairly small but noteworthy collection of regular readers. And I think it doesn’t take a detective or even someone who knows me very well to tell that I was having a rough Christmas. It’s funny (but not ha-ha funny). I used to think that depression for me was seasonal — and that I’d actually be at my worst in the summers, because when weather is too warm I become lethargic and unmotivated. I’m realizing now that it’s just the ways my brain decides to work some days.

Of course, circumstances weren’t great around the holidays. I was bummed from receiving some pretty harsh criticism right before I left to go to my parents’, then my time there turned into a bit of a rough go as well. I spent the rest of the break trying to recover, while being bogged down with period cramps. It was rough, I tell you.

I’ve been on a bit of a role lately, despite being sick.

What I’ve learned is that I need to strike a balance between two unreasonable ends:

  • I need to stop thinking that there’s a magical successful trick to just becoming happy and staying happy
  • But I can’t let the fact that there is no “trick” stop me from making the most of my happy days, celebrating my good moods and taking it all in.

I think the Internet is obsessed with happy women, especially once you step down the vegan/fitness/healthy living rabbit hole. Everyone is all smiles and natural light and exclamation points and long paragraph captions about gratitude, “Namaste! :)”

I’m not saying I don’t buy it. But I am saying that it creates a lot of unreasonable pressure to live up to, and I don’t want to ever have to feel like I can’t express my blahs.

Quick story time: last week I got rejected for a job I really wanted. It was a news editor job for a marketing magazine. They didn’t hire anyone, because none of the candidates were qualified enough. Tears started rolling down my face and I couldn’t stop. The first thing I did was text my partner. I’m used to, in the past, having someone who would tell me, “Don’t be upset” or “It’s okay.” Instead he told me, “I can understand why you’re so upset. It meant a lot to you.” We talked a bit about why I was so upset, but soon I was focusing on the positive — what I was rejected for (lack of senior editorial experience) was nothing I could have changed! I did everything I could, and I came up a little short. I made a great connection with the EIC and publisher, and even followed up with them and confirmed that they really, really liked me. It’s been almost two weeks since the rejection and you know what? I feel great. I’ve been on a turnaround. I’m sure this won’t last forever, but I learned one thing from this:

Pushing down your sad feelings when you feel upset just puts it off. Letting them come to the surface and working through them will help you move on from them in a healthy way.

So, speaking of healthy, because I’ve been on this upward spiral, I’ve been more passionate than ever about taking care of myself. I’ve been trying to have more solid breakfasts lately (I average about three liquid breakfasts and four solid breakfasts a week now).

I’ve been a little curious about breakfast quinoa. I’m still not great at cooking quinoa, and it always turns out sticky, but this calls for slightly sticky quinoa. I also was very late to jump on the quinoa train (I found it tasted very harsh) and felt apprehensive about buying quinoa knowing that the harvesting practices are quite exploitative.

The quinoa I used was harvested in Canada, which feels a lot better.

This breakfast is sweet, sticky, fun and keeps you feeling fed. What more could you want?

Peanut butter breakfast quinoa parfait, makes 2 large parfaits

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp PB2*
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup granola
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup goji berries
  • 4 tbsp coconut spread
  • Coconut shavings, unsweetened
  • Coconut nectar or other liquid sweetener

* — PB2 is powdered peanut butter that I often use for baking. It can be really difficult to find, so you can use regular peanut butter, but melt it so that it is fine and liquidy and mixes into the quinoa well.

Instructions

  1. Cook the quinoa. Bring 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover for 15 minutes.
  2. Fluff the quinoa and add the vanilla extract, cinnamon and PB2. If it’s too dry to incorporate everything smoothly, add a bit of water.
  3. Let the quinoa cool slightly in a bowl so it’s warm, not hot.
  4. Warm the coconut spread so you can pour it easily.
  5. Layer the quinoa, granola, blueberries, goji berries (I soaked them first) and coconut spread to your liking. Drizzle with coconut nectar and coconut shavings.

Thanks for listening to my ramblings, followers! I hope everyone has a great day and keeps up the smiling when they can – but don’t be afraid to be sad. It’s good for you.


Gluten-free flax and buckwheat crackers (plus, my climbing workout routine)

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I’ve had a rough week — I got sick with a bit of a cold. I normally don’t get sick too often, so one bout of strep throat in late November and a cold this past week has made me feel a little crazy. But of course, my system is in a bit of shock. It’s recently gotten very cold here in Toronto, and with my partner, my boss and virtually everyone around me being sick, it was only natural that it get to me too (grumble grumble).

I’m really lucky, however, that I have a job which allows me to work from home as much as I need, so that I can be productive and get my work done without having to go into the office. Sometimes staying still for too long drives me nuts. My roommate actually made fun of me because on two “sick days” I drove to my office (in Markham!) to pick up my laptop, did all my work duties from home, cooked a bunch of food, did three loads of laundry, worked out and did some writing for fun.

Yeah, relaxing, you know?

Anyway, one thing I’ve been more conscious of this past week is eating foods that don’t make me feel weighed down. I’ve been having increasingly amazing results with lowering my gluten intake. Not only am I not nearly as flatulent (sorry, TMI!) but I have more energy! I’m just scurrying up the walls!

I’ll post a bit about my favourite breakfasts later this week, but I want to talk about these amazing crackers that I actually made by total accident. Initially I was looking for a buckwheat pizza crust recipe. When my yeast mixture failed, I then tried to make a more cracker-like crust. The result was a pretty cool, if not unconventional pizza. Then I re-adapted the recipe and, well, the rest is history! You can make these crackers sweet or savoury (I kept it neutral) to go with any topping. They’re high in fibre, gluten-free, and amazingly crunchy and tasty.

Gluten-free flax and buckwheat crackers (makes 12 large rectangular crackers)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup whole flax seeds, one tablespoon set aside and ground into a meal
  • 1/4 cup raw buckwheat groats (or sub with GF rolled oats if you can’t find buckwheat groats), processed into a flour
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, processed to coarse crumbs
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cinnamon (1 tsp if going for a “sweeter” recipe)
  • 1/2 tbsp coconut nectar or other liquid sweetener (only if going for a “sweeter” recipe)
  • Pepper, to taste (only if going for a more “savoury” recipe)
  • Any other savoury spices of your choice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the whole flax seeds, the flax seed meal, the buckwheat groats, the salt and the cinnamon (and any other spices).
  3. Add the water and stir to combine.
  4. Let sit for about 20 minutes until the mixture is thicker and more gel-like.
  5. Add the processed walnuts and sweetener, if using.
  6. Spread onto the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
  7. After 35-40 minutes, remove from heat. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing (they are super crispy)!

Enjoy these with any toppings you like. As you can see, I went with mashed avocado, salsa, grape tomatoes and hemp seeds for a savoury combo, and peanut butter, cacao nibs, coconut nectar and goji berries on the others. Maybe a fun challenge would be to show me what you top your crackers with!

I also wanted to share the routine I’ve been doing lately for climbing. This includes my full warm-up, body conditioning, climbing regimen and cool-down. It’s pretty intense. It all centres around what your peak grade is (for example, my peak grade for top rope is 5.11-) and working toward that before a nice, relaxing cool-down, while incorporating core conditioning and hand workouts.

Warm-up

  1. Five minutes mixed hangboard hangs (whatever you need that day)
  2. Five slow, continuous cycles through the following poses: Downward dog, plank, half-plank, upward dog. Hold each pose for four to five seconds each.
  3. 10 reps of the same cycle holding for two seconds each.
  4. 10 leg lifts
  5. 10 (each side!) right and left leg drops (oblique twists)
  6. 10 chest flies
  7. 10 lower back flies
  8. Two-minute cobra stretch

Climbing (top-rope only version) — adjust so that your peak grade is #9

  1. 5.9
  2. 5.10-
  3. 5.10-
  4. 5.10
  5. 5.10
  6. Short break for more ab conditioning — do about 5 sets, 10 reps of your favourite Pilates or similar exercises followed by a 60-to-90-second plank)
  7. 5.10+
  8. 5.10+
  9. 5.11-
  10. 5.8

Climbing (top rope and lead version) — adjust so your peak lead grade is #9

  1. 5.9, top rope
  2. 5.8, lead
  3. Same 5.9 as #1, on lead
  4. 5.9, lead
  5. 5.10-, lead
  6. Short break for more ab conditioning (see top-rope only version)
  7. 5.10-, lead
  8. 5.10, lead
  9. 5.10+, lead
  10. 5.10, top rope

Cool-down

  1. Hamstring stretch (standing), 60 seconds
  2. Hamstring stretch (seated), 60 seconds
  3. Pyramid pose, 30 seconds each leg
  4. Wide-legged hamstring stretch, 30 seconds
  5. Butterfly stretch, 30 seconds
  6. Froggy stretch, 60 seconds
  7. 10 (each side!) right and left standing oblique drops

On getting productive and staying productive when you’re easily distracted

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Any time I think I’m easily distracted, I remember that I can do this.

I was told once that I have two gears: one that is insanely active, motivated and high-energy where I can achieve anything I want if I can put my mind to it. The other is terrified to fail to a point where I don’t even start, lazy, easily distracted and slow-moving. I’ve accepted that the latter will always exist, and not to squash her entirely. Being slow occasionally and letting yourself waste some time, well, you’re not human without those days. The key is to be able to fend off those days for when you’re not going to be depended on and where productivity isn’t key. You know, like a weekend.

Balancing mental illness with working in a very corporate environment can be tough for me sometimes, but I’ve gotten way better at it since I started in September. Have I have bad days? Certainly. But I’ve also gotten better at dealing with the bad days, and more importantly, getting the most out of my good days.

A lot of typical productivity tips people give don’t work for me — like listening to music, setting apps that block certain sites, etc. If I’m feeling easily distracted, I will find a way to distract myself regardless of what music is playing or what I’m blocking out. I can even get distracted by my own cuticles. But here are a few things I’ve done that have worked for me:

  1. Set timers for simple tasks. Two of my biggest time-wasters in the mornings are my showers and getting ready after my shower. But I’ve found that if I have a fast-moving morning, it sets the tone for the rest of my day. So I set a timer on my phone — six minutes for my actual shower, six minutes for post-shower. Admittedly, you may need a bit longer post-shower if you have longer hair. I can blow-dry mine in less than two minutes. But the point is, even if I go over my timer by a few seconds, the sense of urgency helps me to stop myself from wasting time. And you can actually get a lot done in six minutes. I fully shaved my legs in the shower yesterday, and then today gave the tub a quick cleaning after my shower. Maybe you need to set a timer for your coffee time, your shower, your picking out your outfit.
  2. Do things ahead of time. Get in the habit of always having something prepared for yourself so you can jump off more easily. Maybe it means picking out your outfit the night before, or maybe it means making a template for something at work, or maybe it means pre-portioning your food so you can make meals more quickly. I do all of those! And don’t feel like a failure for having to set reminders on your phone or tablet. I also do all of those!
  3. Don’t picture the end result — picture the next step. The whole “envision the finish line” thing doesn’t work for me. Why? Because the finish line is too far away. I’m a naturally scattered person, and if I don’t plan every step out meticulously between myself and that finish line, picturing the finish line will always be a dream, not a reasonable, achievable goal. So as you do every task, picture what the next step is that you have to move on to. Picture how you will get to that next step. That helps keep everything smaller scale and less overwhelming.
  4. Make yourself comfortable. It’s pretty obvious, but often overlooked. If you’re easily distracted, something like your clothes, your chair and your shoes will become distracting to you. You can’t eliminate those distractions 100 per cent, but make sure you’re in clothes that you can shift into various positions comfortably with, a chair that supports you and have good floor space to put your feet down. If you have a standing desk, make sure you keep a stool nearby or else your focus will turn to your uncomfortable feet by the end of the day.
  5. Don’t be hard on yourself or punish yourself for failing. I’m not into the idea of rewarding yourself for every single thing you do right. But that doesn’t mean I think you should feel self-loathing or defeated any time you stumble. Let’s face it, even the people giving you advice (read: me) can’t follow their own path all the time. Always keep that in mind. The sun will rise and set regardless of the status of your goal.

Check out the playlist I attached — this is my personal productivity playlist. The songs may not seem well-connected, but I go for things that have a steady and noticeable beat, but not one so hyperactive that I get distracted by it (the problem with being a choreographer: everything makes you want to make up dances).

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Memere’s banana muffins, made vegan and gluten-free! Plus, an update on my feelings on gluten and fructose.

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You know how most people feel totally derailed in terms of diet during the holidays? For me it’s the opposite. Having time off work allows me to plan meals better so I’m not just stuffing a burrito together or making some pasta with the leftover veggies in my fridge (although, I mean really, that can be totally yummy sometimes).

Planning meals so well has been part of why I’m feeling so great in terms of my diet right now (and yes, this comes a full week after quitting the gym — and I feel great!)

Before you read into my transition to a less glutenous and fructose-heavy diet, here is one of my favourite recipes — my Memere’s banana/chocolate chip/peanut butter muffins. Memere, for those of you not hip with French-Canadian redneck speak, is what I call my paternal Grandmother. My Grandfather is Pepere. Maternal grandmother, despite also being French-Canadian, was just Grandma, as was my (very English) Grandpa Bill (my real maternal Grandfather was Irish-Canadian, but he passed away when my Mom was a baby. Perhaps, though, my Irish ancestry explains my love of potatoes, Irish whisky and all things green. Just a thought).

Memere’s muffins are f-in’ GOOD. They’re moist. They’re banana-y. They’re fluffy. But they’re also not vegan. So I decided to veganize them early on in my vegan days. This holiday I upped the ante — I also went for gluten-free. I’m getting way better at gluten-free baking (you should have seen my first attempt, the literal “pieces of crap” cupcakes I made for my friend Alex’s birthday).

The result? It was impossible to tear me away from the muffins.

Here’s what you need:

Dry ingredients

  • 1 cup garbanzo and fava bean flour
  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder (use certified GF if needed)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch sea salt

Wet/mushy ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond, rice or flax milk
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp cocnut oil, melted
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter or nut butter of your choice
  • 2-3 ripe bananas, mashed

And of course

  • 1/2 cup – 1 cup vegan chocolate chips (really depends how much of a chocolate fiend you are)

And it’s honestly so simple:

  1. Soften/heat your coconut oil (instead of zapping it, I like sitting the jar in a nice big bowl of hot water).
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together.
  3. Pour the liquified coconut oil in the bowl and mix in the peanut butter until it softens. Pour into the mixture.
  4. Fold in the mashed bananas (I find it much easier to add the bananas pre-mashed, not mash while in the mixture). Mash all ingredients together.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  6. Cook at 400F for about 20 minutes. When browned on the outside and solid on the inside, transfer to a cooling rack and let sit for about half an hour.
  7. Enjoy plain, with coconut oil, Earth Balance, or, if you’re feeling ka-razy, more nut butter!

As for my own diet lately, here’s a few things I’ve come to determine:

  • Significantly reducing the amount of gluten I eat does have positive effects. I’m not eating “gluten-free” because I am not celiac, but I do experience a certain degree of digestive sensitivity to FODMAPs and so I’ve had to sadly cut back on my beloved bread. What I’ve found has been a good philosophy is this: live gluten-free, don’t eat gluten-free. This means I’m not bothering buying expensive and unappealing “gluten-free” substitutes like GF bead, pre-made snacks, etc. But I am making more homemade gluten-free things (like these muffins) and, more frequently, simply avoiding wheat products more, opting for bowls instead of sandwiches and avoiding beer (not that difficult).
  • It’s been three weeks of minding my fructose intake and all I can say is WOW. There’s a HUGE difference. I never bloat anymore and my stomach does not growl like crazy. I’m no longer crazy-flatulent (sorry, maybe that’s TMI, but we’re all friends here, right)?
  • Lowering my fructose intake has been pretty easy. Here are a few things I’ve made:
    • I’ve given up apples. Can you believe it? My favourite food since I’ve had teeth, and I’ve managed to give them up.
    • I also no longer eat grapes or cherries (I was already avoiding those for a few years because I’d noticed they bothered my colon).
    • No dried fruits such as raisins or dried crans.
    • I’ve replaced the fruit I no longer eat with citrus fruits and less-sweet fruit such as honeydew and cantaloup.
    • I’ve replaced agave nectar with coconut nectar.
    • I’ve been eating more veggies to get the vitamins I normally got from fruit.
  • I have been working out a lot at home, stretching (working on my turnout) and doing core work to supplement my climbing. I’ve also gotten back to dance class with three ballet classes over the week, and I’m seeing great improvements in my technique.
  • I have a few goals for the first six months of 2015 I want to share with you: buy a DSLR (I’ve only been talking about it for a few years), start cycling and spend more time at home.

That’s it! Enjoy the muffs, friends!