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self-care

2017: The Year of Self-Care

Happy New Year, everyone! As 2017 commences, I’m sure many of you are doing what I’m doing: trying to mindfully come up with a tangible wellness goal. My usual go-to is “I won’t drink any alcohol in January!” or “I will work out every day no matter what!”

But you know what? Those goals usually become stressful because they may not be realistic. And when your new year’s resolution doesn’t come to fruition, it can be depressing. Which starts the cycle of feelings of failure and disappointment!

Ugh.

So instead, this year, I’ve decided to focus more broadly on self-care. This means no hard rules, but it encourages me to remember that being mindful about all facets of my health is important. Here are 5 ways in which one can focus on self-care (and this is my personal plan; what I’ll be doing):

Eats

The first thing most of us think of when adopting a self-care routine is a diet tweak. And fair enough! I mean, you are what you eat, right? The fuel we choose to put into our body directly correlates with mood, behaviour, weight, aging, and more.

So what should we be eating?

I think the trick is to not be strict and deprive yourself. (Because most of us can’t stick to an all-or-nothing plan.) Instead, a healthy balance is optimal. In general, tons of fresh vegetables, lots of whole grain carbohydrates (like yams and sprouted grains), and lots of plant-based or lean protein.

Basically, anything that makes you feel good and gives you energy and lends to quality sleep and rest is what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a new healthy cookbook, try Vegetarian Comfort Foods!

Drinks

Water, water, water. That is all. (Haha…) Here’s the thing: we know that caffeinated beverages and alcohol are dehydrating and affect mood. We know that sodas and juice contain way too much sugar, which spike our blood sugar and then leave us feeling sleepy after.

And more recently, I’ve discovered my go-to non-alcoholic drink of choice (club soda with lime and cucumber) makes me bloated because of all the carbonation. So I’ve come to the conclusion that water and herbal teas should definitely make up the bulk of what I drink during the day and night.

To find out how to make your own herbal teas, check out The Good Living Guide to Medicinal Tea!

self-care

Movement

Movement is so essential to our bodies and growth and development, and yet we forget to move! Most of us intentionally schedule in time for movement (which is great), but ideally, our bodies should be moving a lot more. Small ways to incorporate movement into our daily lives, include taking the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator, parking on the outskirts of the parking lot so that you’re forced to walk a little more, getting up from your desk and stretching every 45 minutes, and so on.

Think about what you can do to incorporate more movement into your life, and your body will thank you for it.

Sleep

Fresh off of reading The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington (which I mentioned in a previous blog post HERE), I’m really beginning to understand (and I mean REALLY understand) just how much we should all be appreciating and emphasizing better sleep.

Our culture has somehow evolved to think of being busy and sleep-deprived as something to be celebrated or respected, and yet, being sleep deprived is basically the same as being intoxicated. Would you go to work drunk or drive home from a business meeting while under the influence?

I hope not, and yet we all do it in the form of being exhausted. Let’s start NOT doing that. Let’s just remember to place appropriate emphasis on sleep, and celebrate what it feels like to not be tired!

Mental

As in mental health, that is. Although everything that’s listed above contributes to better mental health, we can a couple more things to really give a final push.

  • Meditate.
  • Be grateful.
  • Say thank you.
  • Breathe deep.
  • Love yourself.
  • Try aromatherapy.

And that’s it. By committing to general improvements in your own self-care routine, you become more in tune with parts of yourself that you can’t possibly reach when you’re not as well as you could be.

Happy New Year, friends! Cheers to self-care, and to living life with intent and grace. Give yourself a break, and tune into YOU!

You deserve it. xo

Chia seeds in pudding

The Chia Pudding Recipe Obsession Continues…

“Also for chia seeds. Honestly, we don’t know what we’d do without you.”

This is what Tanya R. Loewen and I wrote in the dedication section of Baby Nosh, and that was over a year ago. Guess what? We’re still obsessed! Or I am, at least.

So I had to share my newest, most favourite way of making chia pudding for fall and winter. It’s gone from 3 measured tablespoons of chia seeds and one cup of almond milk (stirred), to an approximate pour of chia seeds to whatever milk alternative I have on hand (I love coconut milk best!), shaken.

chia seeds pudding

That’s right, shaken. Lazy Chia Pudding (because this is what I’m calling it, now), is created in a jar with a lid. And.today I added pomegranate seeds which completely changed everything.

(I know I’m being dramatic. I can’t help it.)

Other fun things to add are raspberries, blueberries, chopped dried apricot, shaved coconut, or whatever else you have in your fridge and/or pantry that you think might rock your chia world. So bottom line? Just throw stuff in a mason jar, lid that sucker well, shake the hell out of the contents, wait a little bit, shake the hell out of it again, and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, you’ll have amazing and super nutritious Lazy Chia Pudding. (The best kind, remember.)

Chia Pudding Tips:

  • The more seeds you add, the thicker the pudding with be. I like it smooth and malleable, not super thick or runny. This is a preference thing, which is totally up to you.
  • You can use literally whatever milk you want. Even chocolate–I made chocolate chia pudding on television one time. Check it out:

  • You need to let it sit for a few minutes between shakes. The initial shake is needed, and then another good shake a few minutes later.
  • You don’t need to refrigerate overnight, but it’s so easy to make the night before and then have it ready to eat for breakfast the next morning. You can mix it with some fruit, or top oatmeal with it, too.

chia seeds recipe

So there you go! Happy chia pudding time! If you want more recipes that use chia seeds, check out Baby Nosh or Vegetarian Comfort Foods.

xo

Featured Recipe: Coconut Bliss Balls

You know how sometimes you just lose it? I’m not necessarily talking about it, but I am talking about losing your routine. Forgetting what you like to do. What drives you and feeds your soul.

This has been my life lately.

I’ve been unprecedentedly (Is that a word? I kinda feel like it’s not.) insane. And my temporary (let’s hope) insanity has resulted in my forgetting to do stuff that I love. Like cook. And write. And clean my house. (I actually do like to do this usually; it clears my head.)

But as my poor husband can attest to, this activity, along with others, has fallen by the wayside. But you know what? Enough is enough! I need my life to get all semi-normal again, and quickly.

SO…here is my recipe for Coconut Bliss Balls, which began their (very minor) legacy as ‘Nut Balls’, but whose original name was quickly nixed by concerned family members, and my teen-aged son.

I made these a few days ago, and it reminded me how much I love great, homemade snacks. (And coconut. And my food processor.) Sometimes we just need a little nudge in the right direction to remember to breathe and stretch and be patient and slow down. Right? Because if you can’t remember you like to whip up your favourite snack once in a while, then life has become too busy.

So take my advice, and slow down. If roses were in season, I’d recommend smelling them.

Here you go:

Bliss Balls

Coconut Bliss Balls

Ingredients

2 cups pitted dates

½ cup warm water

¾ cup gluten-free rolled oats

¼ cup sesame seeds

¼ cup sunflower seeds

¼ cup salted pumpkin seeds

¼ cup chopped almonds

¼ cup cranberries

½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Method

  1. Mix all ingredients except for coconut together in food processor, until well combined.
  2. Form into balls, roll in coconut, and place on parchment paper or in mini-muffin cups as you go.
  3. Store in mini-muffin cups in an air-tight container, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

I should also mention that a kid-friendly, nut-free version on these babies will be made on stage at Vancouver’s 24th annual Wellness Show in February, so mark your calendars for that!

For more recipes, check out Vegetarian Comfort Foods HERE. xo

*Images by Tanya R. Loewen of Wild Honey Art House.

The Launch of Vegetarian Comfort Foods + More

This week’s been crazy. Actually, honestly, this whole month’s been crazy. Or the summer. I don’t know…but the madness is both exhausting and exhilarating.

On August 4th, my second book was let into the world: Vegetarian Comfort Foods.

This seemed amazing to me. I was at my family’s cabin last year when I was negotiating the deal with my editor, and I was at the same cabin on August 4th when it was released just a couple of weeks ago. Wow. And because I personally love an excuse to throw a party, we conducted a formal launch at a cute little shop that also is brand new, called Wildflower Artisan Collective in Abbotsford, BC.

Fresita wine

Wine was kindly sponsored for the event by Fresita Sparking Summer Wine (this was the very first time I’ve dealt with obtaining a special occasion liquor license, so that was a special project in of itself), and tons of amazing friends and family came to get their copies signed by Yours Truly, and Tanya R. Loewen of Wild Honey Art House. (She took incredible photographs of all the recipes, and I am eternally grateful.)

Wildflower Artisan Collective

More

Aside from the cookbook launch, I handed in a fourth book this summer, (Baby Nosh), my husband and I went to San Diego for our 10th wedding anniversary, my kids grew about two feet each (something about lots of water and sunshine?!), and I began working on my most fave contract of the year: the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. To wrap it up, I will be doing a short segment for Breakfast Television Vancouver on the very last day of the month.

This is live TV people, and I’m me. Go grab yourself some popcorn and nestle in for a slip or fall or some accidental profanity.

Seriously.

Having whizzed by at warp speed, this summer has been one of my best EVER, and although I don’t want it to end yet, I’m looking forward to what autumn brings. (Probably more craziness.) I hope you all have had your own summertime adventures to commit to memory, and thanks so much for reading my blog!

PS- If you want a signed copy of Vegetarian Comfort Foods, I’ll be at Costco in Abbotsford from 12-4 on August 29th, and at various Bed, Bath, and Beyond locations throughout the fall. Stay tuned! xo

Win a Free Copy of The Vegiterranean Diet!

Vegiterranean-Diet-Cover-200x300

Hey, friends! Happy Sunday!

As many of you already know, a new healthy book giveaway is introduced on the first day of each month, and February’s is a goodie! This month, enter to win a free copy of The Vegiterranean Diet by Julieanna Hever (the Plant-Based Dietician) HERE!

Good luck; the winner will be announced on March 1st. xo

Pretty in Pink: Vegetarian Foodie Pics of the Week

Black tea

Happy Nude Food Friday, everyone!

Here are my fave vegetarian foodie pics of the week, courtesy of my iPhone, and filtered by Instagram. I freaking LOVE Instagram, which is funny, because friends of mine have been trying to get me on it for years, and I always resisted.

Aaaaanywaaay, here they are. They make me hungry, they make me feel better about purchasing single, pretty dishes compulsively, they reinforce my love for vegetarian food, and they are inspired by my favorite food photographers. Even though I’m not nearly as good as they are, the fact that I can come up with these makes me a happy girl.

Also, they each have a pink ingredient or two (or five), so that’s what the title of this post is about.

Enjoy! Hope they make you as hungry as a vegan hippo. xo

Chickpea Salad with Pink Lady Apples + Raw Asparagus

Vegan salad

Local Raspberry Yogurt with Chia, Hemp + Edible Flowers

Soy Yogurt with Edible Flowers

Very Berry Smoothie with Coconut

Berry Smoothie with Coconut

Amaranth, Daikon + Beet Sprouts

Vegan Salad

Beer Battered Cauliflower Tacos with Shredded Red Cabbage

Vegan Tacos

* I just wanted to just let everyone know that this last recipe was an inspired twist on Thug Kitchen‘s Roasted Beer and Lime Cauliflower Tacos with Cilantro Coleslaw. You must try. Recipe HERE.

Stop Eating THIS for a Brand New YOU

Hi, guys! As I opened up Facebook today to see what shenanigans everyone had been up to throughout the last few days, the very first “story” caught my eye. A friend of mine had written:

“1 month meat free! Endometriosis gone, stomach pains gone, fatigue gone, new me.”

Health and happiness

Girl, Meatless

Reading this brought me back to four years ago, when I underwent the same transformation. My story would read “6 days meat free! IBS gone, fatigue gone, back pain gone, new me.” After a few months, I could have written “Four months meat free! IBS gone, fatigue gone, back pain gone, periods lighter, sleep is better, mood is more stable, lost weight, cleared skin, am happier, new me.”

So what is it about meat that contributes to such unwanted ailments and unhappy symptoms? And isn’t it sad that all you have to do is eliminate it for a week or two to understand just how crappy you feel on a daily basis?

The Effects of Consuming Meat

There are so many reasons why meat consumption changes our bodies for the worse. Logistics of whether or not we should be consuming animal products in the first place aside (this blog post isn’t about that), meat has been proven to alter our bodies in ways that contribute to sickness and disease. Because many of us have grown up with meat on our plates every day, our bodies do what they’re designed to do, and adapt.

But not well.

IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Over time, consistent consumption of animal products wear down, and have a negative effect on our immune system, bone density, natural pH, and most obviously for me, our digestive tract. Animal products contribute to chronic allergies, lethargy, hormone disruptions, cancer and heart disease, gut bacteria imbalances, antibiotic resistance, and even things like unfavorable body odor.

What the Studies Say

“When cancer researchers started to search for links between diet and cancer, one of the most noticeable findings was that people who avoided meat were much less likely to develop the disease. Large studies in England and Germany showed that vegetarians were about 40 percent less likely to develop cancer compared to meat eaters.”[1]

As human beings, we are designed to crave salt, sugar, and fat. This is a fact. Thousands of years ago, we could only access these tastes by eating meat and fruit—there was no corner-store candy or Krispy Kreme doughnuts. This high-protein, high-carbohydrate diet was essential to us back then, because we lived a very different lifestyle. We spent all day hunting and gathering and trying to keep ourselves alive to the ripe old age of maybe 30 or 40 years old.

Nowadays? We sit a lot, and we eat more than we can burn off. We’ve been conditioned to think we need all that protein, and although we’ve been eating it for a very long time, our current lazy lifestyles are just not conducive to having a chunk of animal flesh rot in our intestines for a couple of days. It takes us too long to process animal protein when we’re sitting at a desk. And the diseases and discomfort that come from a diet high in animal products often rear their ugly heads much sooner than we would have imagined. If back in the day our lifespan was only a few decades, then eating meat to build the kind of muscle and give us the type of stress function we needed was fine. But if we want to live a long and healthy 80+ years, then meat consumption needs to stop.

“A growing body of evidence suggests Americans’ taste for meat and animal products is putting them at greater risk for a range of health problems.”[2]

In a 2012 study conducted by The National Institutes of Health, researchers concluded that their “study adds more evidence to the health risks of eating high amounts of red meat, which has been associated with type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke and certain cancers in other studies.”[3]

If we know all of this, and it makes sense to us, then why not conduct your own little trial run and see how eliminating meat and other animal products from your diet makes you feel? If you feel great (which you will), then continue with a more vegetarian lifestyle.

Happy Healthy Gut

It’s been awhile since I’ve felt compelled to touch (okay, rant) on this subject, but this is exactly what my book Happy Healthy Gut is about. It’s become a passion of mine to put this type of information out there. I want people to read it and find out they can do something really easy and inexpensive and natural to help themselves feel better, look better, and live longer.

Perhaps in a few short weeks, you can comment on this post and simply leave “Meat-free, one month, feel great, new me.”

Just try it. xo

References:

[1] http://www.pcrm.org/health/cancer-resources/diet-cancer/facts/meat-consumption-and-cancer-risk

[2] http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-a-livable-future/projects/meatless_monday/resources/meat_consumption.html

[3] http://www.nih.gov/researchmatters/march2012/03262012meat.htm

3 Ingredient Substitutions for Converting Conventional #Recipes into #Vegan Masterpieces!

Vegan Baking

Hey, y’all! I don’t know about you, but homemade STUFF is in full-swing around here. I’m hosting my annual cookie exchange next week, and it has me pouring over recipe books, looking for incredible-looking cookies that I can transform into vegan holiday treats.

(Spoiler alert: I found them!)

There are always three ingredients I am more than ready to substitute when looking at conventional recipes: eggs, butter, and milk. To greatly lower saturated fat, keep my IBS in check, and try and stay as plant-based as possible, these three gotta go. Wanna know how?

Flax seeds for vegan baking

  • Eggs. Eggs can be replaced by ½ cup of anything gloppy (think fruit puree, like applesauce, pumpkin, or avocado), but so can butter, and you don’t really want to substitute both ingredients for the same thing, because your recipe will end up flat and dense. Also, eggs are used in recipes as binding agents, so you need to find something else that will hold everything together the way eggs do. So with eggs, I use flax seeds and water. One egg can be replaced by 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds, mixed with 3 tablespoons of warm water. Let this mixture sit in the fridge for about 15 minutes, until it’s kind of congealed. Mmmm…congealed…(Just kidding. That word’s gross.) You can also use ground chia seeds instead of flax.

Coconut Oil.

  • Like I stated above, butter can be swapped directly for anything wet and gloppy. Pumpkin puree, applesauce, coconut oil (melted), and avocado are my faves. If the recipe calls for a ½ cup of butter, then use a ½ cup of one of the above, instead.

Almond milk instead of dairy

  • This one’s easy: swap milk for organic, unsweetened soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, or hemp milk. Keep in mind that the latter three are thinner than 2% milk. If you need thick, use soy or canned coconut milk. If you can get away with thin (like skim), then use one of the other three.

And there you have it! Easy ingredient substitutions that will help your recipes become vegan beacons of deliciousness. (Too much?) If anyone has any suggestions, let me know! If I forgot something, call me out, ok?

Happy baking! xo

Last Week's Best Vegan Foodie Images (thank you, Instagram)

Happy Tuesday, friends! While combing through some recent pics I’ve taken on my iPhone, I decided that I needed to share a few. The following images are ones I snapped within the last 10 days or so that are just too scrumptious to delete, so I’m allowing them to live on forever via my blog. (And Instagram, obviously.) 😉

Enjoy!

Strawberry-Banana Breakfast Smoothie

Breakfast Smoothie

Vegan Banana Breakfast with Soy Yogurt, Pecans, Chia Seeds & Hemp Hearts

Vegan Banana Breakfast

Vegan Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Fruit Salad with Soy Yogurt, Walnuts & Dried Dates

Vegan Fruit Salad

Green Smoothie with Kale & Vega

Vegan Green Smoothie

Vegetable Soup with Daikon & Golden Beet

Vegetable Soup

Baked Pumpkin-Oatmeal Cups

Pumpkin-Oatmeal Cups

Roasted Squash with Apple & Eggplant

Roasted Squash with Apple and Eggplant

Steamed Kale with Sweet Potato

Steamed Kale with Sweet Potato

A couple of these recipes will be available in my newest book, Vegetarian Comfort Foods. If you would like the recipe for one or more, please let me know in your comments below!

Stay fabulous! xo