MAP Wellness

MAP Wellness
Spreading the Health

Monday, August 24, 2015

Mindful Eating


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Mindfulness is simply the awareness of the present moment. It's living in the here and now. When we practice mindfulness, we are able to escape the "monkey mind" -- the constant droning on and on of the ego, the thought process, living in the past and future-tripping forward in time.
Not only is mindfulness valuable in day-to-day life so that we may be more aware of the bliss in every single moment of our lives, it is also a useful tool in keeping our physical body in health. Cultivating awareness around our meals and the food we consume allows us to more fully appreciate what we put into our bodies, sometimes requiring less food to satisfy our bellies!
It is SO important to be conscious about our culinary choices! Join our Conscious Culinary Chef tribe, won't you?
Here's are some easy ways to begin being with your food more:
1. Eat in a calming environment. Costa Rica is a great choice. You can also sit down at your dining room table and light some candles, or head outside and eat in a local park. Try to avoid eating at your desk, in your car, or in front of the TV.
2 Chew your food! Digestion begins in the mouth and the more you can liquefy your food, the less taxing it is on your body to assimilate from it all the nutrients its needs.
3. Give gratitude. Take a moment before you dig in to appreciate the plate in front of you. Be thankful that you are able to nourish yourself and honor the food and all the vitality and strength it will afford you.
4. Savor. Before you take a bite, take a smell. Allow the aromas of your meal to penetrate your nose, your awareness. With each bite, notice the tastes and textures, perhaps noting the different flavor combinations as they hit different spots on your tongue.
5. Take Time. Eating slowly will help your stomach realize when it is full. This will then give your brain enough time to get the message that it is time to stop eating.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

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It rains.

As I sit in my mountain top jungle casita this morning, I wonder if today will be another full day of hibernation, as mother nature unleashes her seasonal weeks of weeping over the Costa Rican coastline. Yes, October is considered to be one of the rainiest months here in Central America, and since my return here this past weekend, the skies have not disappointed. Lush, green, and clean, the tierra and vistas throughout this region (not to mention farmers crops) absorb this moist magic, and in return offer up the makings for some of the most magnificent months ahead; visiting The Rich Coast here in November and December is quite possibly the best time in my opinion, as the jungle is at it's most fertile, but the days begin to dry as the sun takes back the sky.

So as I sit here, sipping my spirulina smoothie this morning, I am grateful to be home.

And I am also thankful to all that helped make my recent three week tour to Canada and the US a joyful journey; as life in the North can be quite overwhelming after months spent living the pura vida.

Yes, looking back at my whirlwind trip that had stops in Ottawa, Toronto, Exeter, London, Milton, Newmarket, Atlanta, and LA, I am just happy to have survived! Planes, trains, and automobiles, plus noise and hurry, one raw food event, two TV appearances, and perhaps too much wine with dinner, made for one terribly exhausted yet exhilarated gal, when all was said and done!

As the summer is now ending, and the cooler air is inevitable (for most, not so much me her in CR), I know many of you will be planning air travel in the coming months for sweet refuge from things like "polar vortexes" (shudder).

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And there are a few go-to tricks that I always adhere to when planning travel, and I want to share them here today. As I am vegan for the most part, some of these tips may sway towards my being a plant-based diet kind of gal; but don't brush this list off even if you are omnivorous! If you can adhere to a more veg-friendly diet whilst in transit, I promise you that YOUR transit will thank you....get me? Travel constipation much?


  1. Green Juice. This is the ultimate jet-lag preventative measure. I always juice 2 huge jars full; one that I will drink in the taxi en route to the airport, the other that I freeze solid, and can usually get past security in that state, to enjoy on the plane!
  2. Pack plane food. Do not succumb to the $8 corn nuts and colas. You must pack a bag of light, water-rich meals for the trip. My go-tos? A huge salad topped with raw and roasted veggies, lots of fresh fruit, vegan sushi, and a whole avocado. Sometimes you have to flirt with the border guards to get the produce through, but I am prepared to stoop to that in the name of wellness. You should be too.
  3. Got a stopover? Research your airports. Find out where there is WIFI, what restos offer light vegan fare, if see if there are there sleeping quarters available to grab a quick nap.
  4. Hydrate. Drink your weight in water. Gulp it pre-flight, during, and post. Who cares how many times you have to ask your aisle seat neighbour to move so that you can mosy on back to the restroom? At least your skin will remain soft, and your mouth moist and happy.
  5. Enlist the help of others to ease the transition once you arrive at your destination. Raw juice delivery companies like Raw Juice Guru in Toronto, and health and wellness gift basket delivery businesses like Jule's Baskets, can ease the stress of having to source your own local nutrient rich beverages and foods since they can deliver straight to your hotel! All you need to do is land, arrive, and imbibe!
So what are ya'll waiting for? Book those flights, as the longer you wait, you know the more expensive your getaway is gonna get!

Here comes the sun, much love, pura vida!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Kombucha-Aged Cheeze, Please!

















(originally published for One Green Planet)

One of my fave ways to make my cheeze, and eat it too, is the following recipe. It uses a technique I learned while training as raw food un-cook, and I make it almost weekly these days. I have actually snuck this awesome spread onto a platter alongside brie, goat, and blue cheese, with no one the wiser that my contribution was in fact of the plant-based variety! So why not give it a go, and see if you and your loved ones can't taste the difference!

Gourmet Dairy Free Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 raw Kombucha tea (I brew my own, learn how!)
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 2 T fresh herbs of choice (I like basil & rosemary)

Preparation

  1. In high powered blender or food processor, add all ingredients and process until a smooth, ricotta-cheese like consistency is reached.
  2. Using a spatula, scoop mixture into a strainer bag/nut milk bag and tighten bag around the cheese, forming a solid ball.
  3. Place the ball & bag into a bowl, and drizzle a little more Kombucha over top.
  4. Cover with a towel and leave on the counter overnight, and up to 3 days to “ripen”.
  5. Check cheese often to test flavor and ferment. Once happy, eat it!

Notes

Store in the fridge up to 1 week.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Chia Lucuma Smoothie

Quick! Hunger strikes! And your body craves protein, plant fibre and flavour! Do not fret, I got you covered.

I was saving this recipe for m recipe book, due out end of August (yes, I am finally writing a cookbook, and doing all of the food photography myself!). It is going to be fully vegetarian (mostly vegan) and primarily RAW ('cause that is my passion, friends!).

But, after making this much loved smoothie for myself once again this afternoon, I decided that it is just too damn good not to share. NOW.

Chia Lucuma Smoothie
1 C almond milk
1 C water
½ C coconut milk (or 3 frozen coconut milk cubes are even better)
½ very ripe banana
1 t cinnamon
2 t lucuma powder
1 T chia seeds
½ t stevia or 1 t agave


Blend. Drink. Love.

*Lucuma: this fruit powder is a natural sweetener but also hosts a slew of health benefits - fibre, protein & potassium to list a few. It has a delicate caramel like flavour. 

Intro to Raw, Rapid Raw & Raw with WINE! The last 3 classes I'm teaching in Canada! Book now!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Thriving Through Chaos and Dancing Into Bliss


In May of this year I spent two weekends working as guest speaker, culinary nutrition expert, and yoga teacher with the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, as part of their "wellness weekend" events for staff.  The theme of these getaways was focused on how to achieve and maintain life balance even during the hairiest of times.  I was honoured to be able to not only host one of my raw food culinary workshops and lead some vinyasa yoga classes with the groups, but I was also selected to speak for two hours about my life.  The title assigned to my "talk" was Thriving Through Chaos and Dancing Into Bliss, a title that so well describes what I have lived the last few years, and where I am heading now.  Having left a twelve year career in television production just over sixth months ago after a series of life altering events, I am thrilled to be able to share my experiences and hopefully inspire more loving kindness in people I reach, and perhaps help instigate even a tiny shift in people's perceptions and reactions to stress in life. 

Whenever I meet new people, they always seem curious about why and how I got to where I am today; what happened in my world to motivate such massive shifts in my life's direction.  So today I want to share the Cole's Notes version of my journey. 

So, lets start at the beginning.  


Bulimia. In my teens, as early as fourteen, I was spending a lot of time with the older, cool kids in school, and had taken up smoking, drinking and drugs.  I was drunk every weekend, and often skipped class to get high or sneak a few beers before study hall.  I wrote exams high on acid and was smoking a pack of cigarettes a day by fifteen. I felt great pressure to fit in in every way, and had my first experience with binging and purging in grade ten.  That initial euphoric moment in the bathroom at my girlfriend's house led to an abusive relationship with food that I have now spent more time with, than without in my life. 

I got things together enough by the end of secondary school to be able to head off to college and train for a career in media, a course that I excelled in and helped land me my first job in Toronto with Global TV at age twenty.  I spent much of the following decade bouncing around in the biz, working various jobs directing and producing at every major network in the city, never satisfied, never really content, always in search of the next promotion that would make me enough money to land me the bigger flat, allow me more travel, grant me the freedom to be happy.  All the while I numbed myself with too much booze, most nights not recalling crawling into bed; whether solo or with a strange unnamed man I met while leaving the bar that night.  And I was racking up massive debts at the grocery store with my ongoing bulimic binges to support my eating disorder during the day, and my alcohol binges at night.

And then in 2009 I met the man that would eventually (well, right away actually) sweep me off my feet.  He was older.  Wiser.  More aware.  Within three months we were living together, planning our future.  We decided that if we were to meld our worlds together via the act of marriage, then I needed to clean the slate.  We did not want to bring my accumulating debts into our union, and so we made the decision, together, that I would file for bankruptcy. 

And on December 3rd of 2009 I did just that.

At this point in time I was in another job transition, having just quit my post as director with one of the city's top morning news shows in favour of a less stressful nine to five gig with a satellite TV provider.  Things were looking up. 

Then, in February 2010, everything changed.  I received an email from my mother explaining that she and my father had been to the doctor several times, and that what we thought was just a hearing problem affecting dad as he moved into his sixties, was in fact something much more serious.  FTD.  Or, frontotemporal dementia.  Dad's brain with failing him, degenerating slowly, and eventually, that new label, that four letter acronym, was going to prematurely take his life.

In my panic (manic?), I quit my new job, unable to control the overwhelming feelings of anxiety and terror I felt every day after that.  My man, witnessing my downward spiral, decided we should rent a car and travel down to Florida where my parents vacationed every March, and spend what might be one of the last they could have there, with them.  At this point my dad had lost much of his ability to speak, and it was clear the FTD was robbing him of many of his skills as an eloquent, mannered man.  As we dealt with these changes, my man, the fixer that he was, also decided we needed to even further distract from this new reality of my father's fate, and so two days after we arrived home from the south, we were on a plane to Costa Rica.  A trip that ended up being our "promise trip", a trip where he committed to one day proposing to me.
 

April 2010.  Our next trip as a couple brought us to NYC.  The romantic trip to end all romantic trips.  We did it all; Tiffany's, dress shopping, fancy dinners out, Central Park carriage rides, and champagne at the boathouse that ended up in an engagement ring on my finger.   Bliss.

Over the next few months, I realized I needed to venture back into real life, and eventually found a job running admin for a vegetarian restaurant chain as we began planning our nuptial celebration.  We decided to put a rush on things, to guarantee that my father would be able to walk me down the aisle.  But the stress of coordinating a venue, choosing a guest list (it grew from 27 to 75 all to quickly), deciding on a menu and seating charts, and designing invitations, eventually did us in.  It was on a sunny July weekend during a trip to the country that we called it all off.  After an explosive argument (that I think started out as a simple disagreement, and eventually turned into the inherent issue of our age difference), we went our separate ways.

What transpired over the following months was a lot of heartbreak, self-destruction, and the eventual disintegration of our co-dependent, obsessive and addictive relationship.  I was couch surfing, having nowhere to call home after moving out of his apartment, and was struggling to get my EI in line and even just make my car payments.  

About a week after what was to have been our wedding day (October 2, 2010), I received another phone call from my mother.  She and my father were just back from a three week trip to China, and were about to set off on another to Greece.  But she called to let me know that they had been to the doctors again, and after another battery of tests, my father had been given yet another dire diagnosis. 
 

ALS.  Another three letters from hell.  Lou Gherig's disease.  Now, my father's body was not only coming apart cognitively, but now his muscles were deciding to bail too.  It was only a matter of time. 
 

ROCK BOTTOM.

By Christmas of that year, dad was functioning at the capacity of a child, no longer able to care for himself.  My mother became his full time caregiver, pureeing his meals, tying his shoes, helping him with all the normal every day tasks our minds and bodies carry out that we oft take advantage of.  It was terrifying for me; I can only imagine the toll it took on my mom.
 

January 2011.  By now I was a wreck.  I was working again, but was anesthetizing the pain with daily runs, yoga, acupuncture, wine, and men.  One cold and lonely January eve, it all became too much and I experienced a massive relapse in my bulimia that saw me held overnight at St. Joe's hospital, with a twelve inch long spatula lodged in my chest.  I had swallowed the kitchen utensil whilst trying to force myself to vomit after an aggressive binge.  I was out of practice, and ended up driving myself to the emergency room where I narrowly avoided open-chest surgery, thanks to a crew of outstanding doctors.  In all the years ED (my eating disorder) hovered over me, I had never let it get to this point.  But there I was, 31 years old.  I took a few days off from work, and then I went back to living in my state of destruction and denial.  Things couldn't possible get any worse.
 

February 2011.  It was Thursday night, and I was just leaving my weekly therapist appointment when I noticed that my mother had called.  My heart sunk, my thoughts immediately going to my father.  Oh God, what had happened?  I climbed on the King streetcar and dialed.  Mom answered, saying that I had better sit down. I had better pray for my nephew.  That hour, at Hamilton Children's Hospital, my then 6 year old nephew was about to go in for emergency brain surgery.

As it turned out, my brother in law had taken my nephew in for a routine round of eye exams earlier that day, and upon the discovery of some swelling on his eye, an MRI was ordered.  And from there, we learned that he had a softball sized tumour growing on his brain, that the doctors can only imagine had been there since birth. 

By 4am the next morning, the little guy was out of surgery, sewn up (titanium plate and all), and asking for a Popsicle.  The tumour had crushed the optic nerve in one eye, blinding him, but overall he came thorough like a super hero.  One more crisis.  One more survival.
 

May 2011.  I was hired by a TV show that spring that required me to travel all across Canada for the month of May.  From Halifax to Vancouver, I spent three weeks out of province, at the time that my father's health was taking the most drastic turns for the worst.  He went from using a walker in April, to requiring a full wheelchair come May.  The week I landed back in Toronto at the end of the month, was the same week that landed my father in the hospital with a bout of pneumonia that just didn't seem to want to let go.  The night I got the phone call from the hospital we all knew was inevitable, my ex-fiancĂ© was actually by my side, us attempting yet another try at things.  It was near midnight, and thanks to him, I was able to get to my family, get to my father's side.  By the time I reached him, he was long unconscious, barely holding on.  And I couldn't wake him, as hard as I tried.  I couldn't say my goodbyes, I couldn't say all that had long been left unsaid...

It was just before noon the following day, a sunny Sunday, when my father finally opened his eyes to see all three of his daughters and his loving wife before him, only to take a final breath and close them once more, once and for all. 

And on that day I knew I was forever changed.  It was that moment that I felt I had the strength and love inside me to make great change. I had to.

And so I did.

Even during all the chaos, there were two places that I went to feel peace.  One was my kitchen (even with all my food troubles, cooking was always very therapeutic for me), and the other, my yoga mat.  So I read a ton of books, signed up for countless classes, and used all my income to pay for certification courses that would allow me to live the life of my wildest dreams.  I busted my butt seven days a week, creating a bubble of bliss that I could exist within, saying goodbye to all the things and people that no longer served me.  I dedicated several hours a week to yoga practice, taught myself how to be mindful, and started saying "yes" to every opportunity I was given.  I fell in love with life.

And now, just over three years since it all began, I am the happiest, most at peace, and most whole I have ever been.  As I look towards my thirty third birthday in November, I am also firming up plans to move to Costa Rica, where I will begin work full time as yoga teacher and raw food retreat facilitator at a rustic retreat centre on the Pacific coast there.  The small seed of intention I planted so many years ago during my first visit to the beautiful Central American land has grown and flourished into a future of unknown beauty, an opportunity for greatness.

I have thrived through the chaos, and will be dancing my way into bliss, in the tropical heat of Hacienda Del Sol, and am forever grateful for everything that I have gone through and for all it has taught me.  I am a broken person, held together by love, and that is ok. 

Because after all, "there is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." - Leonard Cohen

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Chocolate Cake & Celebrations


Chocolate Blueberry Cream Cake

Oh yes, summer, you sneaky little sphinx.  It appears that the season of splendor may finally be making its full appearance here in Ontario, after a spring of cold weather, grey skies, and much rain.  Yes, today kicks off the first weekend of nothing but sunshine (as predicted by the weather whisperers at the Weather Network anyway), and it also marks the day that we celebrate the birth of my big sister Steph!  Happy Birthday beautiful!



So I thought, what better way to honour both occasions, than with a cool, creamy, chocolate cake.  I whipped up this raw round of richness knowing that I wouldn’t get to share it with Stephanie as she does live up in our nation’s capital, but I will have the next best things when it comes to taste testers, as my mother is on her way to visit as I type.  The plan for she and I today includes a morning at Evergreen Brickworks, a stop at the Toronto Wine & Spirit festival in Sugar Beach, and a BBQ on my balcony later this aft.  Heck, we may even sneak in a viewing of the new flick, Man of Steel (fitting I think, as the original Superman movie was the first I ever experienced at the Drive In back when I was a wee babe).



 And for dessert tonight?  THIS:



Ingredients



For the crust

  • 1/2 C almonds
  • ½ C walnuts
  • 1 cup dates
  • ¼ C shredded coconut
  • pinch sea salt

For the filling

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 3 T agave
  • ¼ C raw cacao
  • 1/2 t vanilla 
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • pinch salt

  • 1 ½ C blueberries

HOW TO

  • In a food processor, process the almonds, walnuts, dates and salt until the mixture starts to stick together.  Add in coconut and pulse to combine. 
  • Press crust mixture firmly into the base of a spring-form cake pan.   Top with 1 C of the blueberries.
  • Using the food processor again (no need to rinse!), process the bananas, avocado, agave, vanilla, coconut oil, and salt until very smooth.  

  • Pour filling over the blueberries and crust, smoothing with the back of a spoon.  Freeze to set (at least 2 hours, I like to freeze overnight.
  • When ready to serve, release cake from pan, top with leftover blueberries, and slice.



Saturday, June 1, 2013

Black Bean Burgers (Vegan, Grain, Gluten & Nut Free!)

Ah, summer time.  It may not be here *quite* yet, but the past few days of thirty degree weather certainly had my mind on the months ahead and all that this season has to offer.   I spent the better part of last weekend tidying up my seventeenth floor balcony, readying it for its duty as an extension to my home, an extra room that I tend to spend the majority of my time during the months of June, July and August.  This is where I enjoy many a morning meal, indulge in plenty of afternoon lounging with a good book, and entertain in the evening; meals served al fresco almost seven days a week.

And here in Canada, no outdoor space is complete with a BBQ.  Yes, grilling is part of our DNA I’d say, and even though I do not eat meat, there will still be plenty of burgers flipped on my mini Coleman.  I decided it high time that I develop a new vegan burger recipe that I can enjoy, but that also caters to those with grain-free and nut-free lifestyles, but is still tasty, filling, and sturdy!  And this challenge was met with great success, as the following patty product stood up solidly to the char, and was divine with a side of grilled peppers and local asparagus and topped with avocado salsa!

Black Bean Burgers
Makes 8 patties

1 can black beans
1 large clove garlic
2 T tahini
Juice of 1 lime
1.5 t cumin
1 t cinnamon
1 t chili powder
1 t curry
1 t sea salt
½ C ground flax seed, plus 1 C

½ cup diced red onion
¼ cup grated carrot
¼ cup diced yellow or orange pepper
¼ cup salsa (I used an organic bottled version)

  1. 1In food processor, blend first  9 ingredients with ½ cup flax until combined.
  2. Add in the onion, carrot, pepper, and salsa and continue to process until combined, but still little chunky.  The mixture will be quite moist at this point.
  3. Remove mixture to large bowl and stir in remaining 1 cup of ground flax until well combined.  The liquid in the mix should absorb the flax and it will become more dough like.
  4. Refrigerate for 1 hour
  5. Once the dough is well cooled, it will be easier to handle.  Shape into 8 patties, and either grill straight away, or freeze individually on a baking sheet, transferring to Ziploc bag or glass freezer container to store.