MAP Wellness

MAP Wellness
Spreading the Health

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. 


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:


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


  • 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.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Dairy Got You Down?

Come see me make this LIVE at my upcoming "Intro to Raw Food" Culinary Workshop on May 26th.  Seats on sale now for $40!

It's smoothie season!  Well, wait.  Every season is smoothie season as far as I am concerned.  But the seasons of spring and summer certainly do inspire lighter eating in many of us.  I know that personally, I do tend towards more raw food and liquid lunching this time of year, and even though I have recently retired my hat as a  vegan, I do still prefer using a non-dairy base in my blended concoctions.  Why?  Well I often puree up more than one beverage in the morning, enjoying one straight away for breakfast, and toting the second in my bag to work to enjoy as a midday pick-me-up.  And I don't like the idea of my smoothie greens marinating in dairy all day long...I don't know is that weird?  Not to mention  I also like to add fresh or frozen fruit to my smoothies too, and the combo of dairy and fruit can wreck some real havoc on my digestive system! 

I prefer to make my own rather than purchasing one of the many tetra pack products from the store as this way I can control what goes into the recipe; non of the additives or preservatives that mass produced beverages often require. 

Regardless of reason, I think we can all stand to ditch the dairy every now and then, and replacing your cows' milk with one of these plant-based options in your daily drink is a great place to start.  Nut and seed milks are packed full of protein, and make for nutritious and delicious snacks any time of day.
Classic Almond Milk
1C Almonds, soaked at least 6 hours
4 C water
2 dates or 1 T agave syrup
2 t vanilla

Drain almonds from soaking water. Add to blender with water, dates and vanilla. Process for 2 minutes. Strain through nutmilk bag. You can save the remaining pulp, dehydrate it and use it as flour for other recipes.

ALTERNATIVE: If you do nut have a high powered blender or nut milk bag, or are simply in a pinch, combine 4 cups water & 2 tablespoons raw nut butter and blend.  No straining necessary!

Coconut Milk
3 C coconut flakes or unsweetened dried coconut shreds
5 C water

Blend, strain, enjoy!  Store in the fridge, and bring to room temperature, and re-blend  before serving for best consistency.

Be aware that homemade milks do separate upon rest.  Shake vigorously prior to serving!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Creamy Cashew Coconut Soup

I have been rather absent for my blogging the last few weeks due to some major deadlines & projects that took up more time than I had imagined!  But it feels good to be back here online, and back in my kitchen playing with FOOD!

I just wrapped up a very busy weekend up in cottage country, where I was guest speaker/presenter/yoga teacher during the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario's Spring Wellness Weekend at Taboo Resort.  It was a beautiful event, and I feel blessed to have been selected to lead not one, not two, but THREE sessions over the course of the three days.  My two hour lecture on how to overcome trauma and life's many hurdles was a brand new experience for me, but received great response, as did my yoga class & RAW Food Demo (60 ladies got to sample my recipes!).  I am very excited to have been asked to again take part in another upcoming retreat weekend with the organization in June, and if you want to see picture highlights from this past week's event, and hear about what's on tap for MAP Wellness in the coming months, sign up for my newsletter HERE.

Now, onto today's recipe...

With the warm weather that has finally been whisked into our world, I find myself even more in want of easy, breezy raw meals.  Sometimes a gal gets tired of salads, and so I decided that this week I wanted to whip up a light and fresh soup that I could snack on all day long, but that also had enough sustenance to hold off hunger pangs if it was all I managed to scarf down on busy afternoons at the clinic.  What I came up with is the following cashew creation, that I managed to create using only a handful of ingredients I had on hand; no grocery store trip required.  Whiz away!

Creamy Cashew Coconut Soup

In a high powered blender, puree the following until rich, smooth, and frothy:

2 C water
1 C dried, shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 C raw cashews
1 clove garlic
3 dates
2 T fresh OJ or 1/2 an orange
1/2 t onion powder OR 1 green onion
pinch chili flakes
1 t sea salt

To serve, top with your choice of thai inspired stir-ins such as:

cucumber or zucchini noodles (I used tofu noodles)
cherry tomatoes
fresh basil
fresh cilantro
baby spinach 
diced fresh shallot
sliced avocado
(I used tofu noodles, green mango, basil & goji berries!)

Friday, April 26, 2013

We Are All OK.

I have been working on a project the past few months.  This project involves my having to reflect upon, and write about my life, and then put it all to Powerpoint.  This has been one of the oddest things I have ever had to do.

Another odd thing, is that while I have been working on said project for two months, I have very little to show for it.  A handful of family photos filed away in a folder on my desktop, a slew of my favourite quotations highlighted, their pages dog-eared  in all my most cherished books, and a scribbled walk down memory lane on paper.  But that’s it. And I feel ok about that.  It is my story after all, and no one knows it better than me.  No script required. 

I have been contracted to do a talk about overcoming trauma. Because that is what I have done; or, am doing – every single day. Does my past make me an expert in this area? Maybe. Maybe not. But one thing is for sure – I have no qualms talking about any of it. 

To say that I am over all the heart-breaking, soul-crushing events that have transpired in the last three years is a stretch, however. To say that I have learned how to accept them, love them, and own them, is fact.

This project is so very welcomed.  You see, I want to tell my story.  Just this week I had a conversation with a woman I have known very casually for all of a month about just this.  We concluded that my being so open about my experiences is what drew us together.  That we found kinship in our secrets, made public.  Thirty days into our relationship and she knows all about my eating disorder, that I was a “cutter”, that I once had a fiancĂ©, and that my nephew had a brain tumour.  She is fully aware of my need to talk about the fact that my father is gone, because each and every time I say it out loud, another layer of shock that has been shielding my 20/20 vision begins to fade.  She knows that I was once bankrupt, and that I used to drink myself into unconsciousness as a teenager.  This new friend and I were able to connect through our truths.  And know that we are not alone.

Why do I choose to share all of this?  Because it is all ok.  It is ok that I have a history.  It is ok that I have let people down, I have embarrassed my family, made a poor example, and pissed people off.  It is all ok. It is the truth, and it is real.  And all of it makes me who I am.

I would not be here, writing this, preparing for this lecture, had it not been for all the chaos.  Had I not screwed up, thrown up, and finally grown up, I would not be able to share my journey and with that, hopefully inspire some acceptance in other peoples’ hearts.  And the acceptance I am talking about is that of the self.  We all need to accept and love ourselves as we are, now.  Full stop.

It is high time that we all ditch the guilt, toss aside the shame, and just be.  Our innate desire as humans is simply to be loved, and we can give that to ourselves.  We can BE love.  Because we are all ok.  And love is always the answer.