Building Community: From DIY to DIWO

Today I had the great pleasure of meeting with some interesting, inspiring business-builders in my neighbourhood. Our community is in the midst of a big change, and we came together to share and learn how we can help each other’s businesses grow and thrive. We left our unofficial “launch” with an attitude of gratitude, and on reflection, I know what it is that I’m most grateful for: that we’ve moved from DIY to DIWO.

What’s that, you ask? It starts with an idea, any idea, you may have to strengthen the bonds with your community. Taking a step into action, any step, however small, means you’ve moved to “DIY”, or do-it-yourself. Encourage even one other person to join you, and your movement will suddenly become “DIWO” – do-it-with-others. That’s where community happens, and there’s nowhere to go but up!

No Skipping Allowed!

Breakfast: for me, it’s still the most important meal of the day. I know there are plenty of trends promoting fasting, or other approaches to weight loss or maintenance, but for me, exercise and breakfast are “must-haves” for a good start to any day. And it’s more about feeling great and having lots of energy to face life’s challenges, than about weight.

Our breakfast rotation doesn’t vary a whole lot – all year, one of the options is a smoothie; in winter, another is oatmeal (granola in warmer weather), and occasionally an egg (with or without leftover pizza). This particular version features one of my favourite smoothie ingredients: a beet. Along with that, there was a carrot, some kale, ginger, cinnamon, a few berries, sunflower seeds and soy milk. Creamy, delicious, and fast!

What’s Your Sign?

Challenging times…what do you do when  it seems like your values are being assaulted every day? Sometimes all you can do is declare yourself. Hatred has no place in my world, and I am disappointed to see anyplace that declares itself to be liberal, open-minded, and supportive of freedom and liberty, allowing the preaching of hatred, or the dissemination of fear. This has been weighing on me, as I watch my friends’ worry increase (for good reason). So sometimes I just ask for a sign. This was one I received today on my morning walk. Morse Street Junior Public School, thanks. I needed that.

Need a translation? Here you go:

 

Work With What You’ve Got

Farmer’s market fresh! One thing about summertime trips to the market is that (in the words of my grandfather), your eyes can be bigger than your belly. That’s sort of what happened with the basket of fresh peaches we picked up on Tuesday. To be more specific, it was our capacity to consume them before they hit their tipping point. We’re surrounded by overripe fruit, and so there are peaches in every meal. To top it off, we had a surfeit of cheese, left with us by some departing guests. What to do?

When I have a host of items that need to be used, one of my first thoughts is always salad. It’s a go-to when vegetables are in season. This one started with a vinaigrette of homemade red wine vinegar, canola oil, and Kozlik’s Balsamic Fig and Date mustard – in equal proportions. I mixed this in a large bowl, and then began adding veg – greens from the balcony garden, cucumbers, radish, and celery – but use whatever you have, like in this Kitchen Sink Salad. Then I topped it off with some walnuts, sliced peaches, and crumbled Stilton. If you’re a vegan, omit the cheese or use some chopped smoked tofu instead.

Even though I bought too many, I never get tired of too many peaches. We love them, and all the other seasonal bounty, so I’m grateful to be able to have many delicious ideas to use them up.

Fill Yourself Up!

In an ongoing quest to be better every day, I’m always working on health as one of my priorities, and that starts with walking, and also with eating well. Filling yourself up is important – starvation, deprivation, and denial just aren’t sustainable. So instead it’s really helpful to focus on putting as many good things into a meal as possible. Empty calories are easy to banish when you choose lots of healthy vegetables, brilliant colours, lean protein – with a nod to Michael Pollan, mostly plants! This tasty salad has sweet potato, peppers, red onion, pink beans, and a tasty curry vinaigrette (equal parts Dijon, cider vinegar, canola oil, and a teaspoon or so of curry powder for each serving).

There’s more to filling yourself up to eating, though – something I have been discussing with a friend quite a bit lately.  It’s important to fill your mind with positive, helpful, forward-moving thoughts. Often when we are overwhelmed with trying to help others, we forget to take care of ourselves – but the oxygen-mask rule can help keep us on track. If you’ve ever flown on a plane, you’ll recall that they tell you to put your own mask on before helping others. That’s because if you aren’t filled up (with air), you won’t be any good to anyone. So my favourite fill-up method is to get out for a good brisk walk, early in the morning as the city is waking up, and to drink in the sights and sounds around me. Today I was particularly inspired by the sunlight filtering through the trees in Allen Gardens – just steps away from skyscrapers and streetcars. That alone has filled me up with enough gratitude to last all day.

 

Fuel Up! Keep Your Body and Mind in Shape…

When you start to think of food as fuel, instead of comfort, you re-evaluate what you eat all the time. Salty, sugar-y treats don’t look so appealing any more. But in a busy life, it can be difficult to figure out what to cook. One of my go-to dishes when I’ve had a long, stressful day is homemade pizza. We make the whole thing ourselves, starting with the crust. Here’s how:

Turn on your oven to 425F so it will be ready.

In a measuring cup, put 3/4c of warm water with 1t of maple syrup or sugar, if that’s what you have. Sprinkle with 1T of yeast and let it rest. I sit mine on the stove since that will be giving off some warmth. While that happens, relax. Have a glass of water. Check your Facebook. Read a blog. Give yourself a little neck massage. Put away some laundry. Whatever.

Next, stir the yeast mixture and pour into a medium bowl. Sprinkle in some oregano, hot sauce or smoky paprika for  flavour. If you don’t have any, no worries! It’s good plain. Add whole wheat flour, stirring in with a fork in a circular motion, a little at a time until it begins to come away from the sides of the bowl. Then sprinkle a little flour on the counter, dump the dough on that, sprinkle with a tiny bit more, and knead a couple of times to form a ball (not for ages, maybe a minute at most).

Spray the bowl with cooking spray or oil it lightly, and put your dough ball back in. Cover with a tea towel and put it in a warm place (like the top of the stove) to rise for 10 minutes.

Put a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet or pizza pan. This will save you cleanup time! Pat the dough out to the size of the pan on the parchment, using floured hands to keep from sticking. Top lightly. For this one we used 1/2c marinara, a few sliced mushrooms, and a diced red pepper. If you eat dairy, add cheese – 2oz of feta and 2oz of manchego. That’s it! Bake for 18 minutes, cool slightly, and serve. For two, you can do 6 slices, and save 2 for breakfast. Ready in less time than to select, order, and wait for delivery. The best part? When you get up as early as this to fit in a walk the next morning…

…when you come back home for breakfast, those extra slices will be waiting. Great topped with a poached egg! Feeling grateful, hope you are as well.

Drinking Well is the Best Reward

 Today’s re-post from a coach I’m following contained some great food for thought – it was a post about drinking (or more to the point, not drinking). She is currently working her way around the world with Remote Year, and one of her co-travellers blogged about her experience travelling the world while sober. It was a great reminder that, although we may love a toast, an after-work cocktail, or a glass of wine (or two!) with dinner, everyone doesn’t do that. They shouldn’t have to. And we absolutely need to get over the idea of having to cajole them into doing so.

So when you’re thinking of enjoying a beverage to celebrate, remember you always have options, and whether for religious reasons, health reasons, or just because that’s how they roll, remember to include your friends who don’t make alcohol the centre of every celebration. Some delicious options you can offer include:

Fizzy water garnished with a slice of orange or lemon, cucumber, or a sprig of mint

Plain old ice water, with or without a tiny splash of fruit juice for flavour

Smoothies, sweet or savory (here’s today’s recipe, for two):

1 banana

1 cup washed strawberries, fresh or frozen

1 carrot, chopped

1T/15ml or so of fresh ginger, chopped

1t/5ml cinnamon

Add these to the blender and then pour in unsweetened, low sodium soy milk to the 1L/4c mark. Blend until smooth and enjoy. No added sugars, no artificial anything, filled with fibre, sweetness, and good-for-you vitamins.

Salut! Slante! A la tienne! Prost!

Keep it simple!

Sometimes when you’ve had a long day, it can seem onerous to make homemade food. That’s when something like a one-pot or oven dinner comes in handy. Also, if you’re really tired, the best thing for you is to get some fresh air and exercise, so you’ll be able to sleep when the time comes.

Earlier this week we combined both of these – after a long day’s work, we walked up the street to our friend Mark’s butcher shop, and picked up a couple of pork chops and some fresh Ontario asparagus. We circled back home for this tasty oven dinner:

First, heat the oven to 400F. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Then scrub your potatoes and slice 1/4″ or a little less than 1cm thick. Brush with olive or canola oil (we use canola, because it’s Canadian). Press a sage leaf into the top of each slice and place on the pan in a single layer. Sprinkle sparingly with salt, if you like, although they are very tasty with just the sage.

To prepare the pork chops, we brushed them with some fig mustard from Kozlik’s, and put them in their own parchment-lined pan.

Lastly, we took a sheet of foil and put the washed asparagus on it. This could probably have cooked less, but we didn’t want to fuss with it. We chopped a couple of cloves of garlic and added this along with the zest and juice from half a lemon. Wrapping the packet securely, we put it on the sheet pan and added all the dishes to the oven for half an hour.

That’s it! While we were waiting, we enjoyed a beer from the latest batch we bottled at Fermentations  on the Danforth. Charles and his team can match the flavour of your favourite beverage, or help you create wine from juice or actual grapes.

We’re feeling pretty fortunate with all of the great food and drinks we can find within a short walk or streetcar ride. Thanks for letting me share.

Your Most Valuable Asset

What if someone gave you a fabulous new vehicle, that was capable of doing virtually anything you could imagine? Further, what if they told you that as long as you took good care of it, it would last for the rest of your life, and it would carry you anywhere you wanted to go?

Guess what – you’ve got it! It’s your own body. Take good care of it and it will carry you in style to the end of your days. I know there are exceptions, sometimes bodies let us down, through no fault of our own. Illnesses and conditions can make our physical performance less than optimal, compared to others. That’s the great thing, though. When it comes to your own human health and performance, you don’t need to measure up to anyone but you.

If you’re having trouble fitting fitness into your schedule, try working it in a little at a time. Make sure you make a commitment that you can keep. For me, for example, I know very well that if I plan to work out first thing in the morning, no matter how early, the odds are better that it will happen. If I try and leave it to the end of the day, life seems to have a way of intervening.

Other tips for making sure you give your fabulous vehicle the care and feeding it deserves?

  • Find a workout buddy who will keep you accountable
  • Start small – even parking at the end of the lot and walking to your office is better than no exercise at all
  • Don’t overdo – trying to compete with your younger self isn’t helpful and it may just set you up for an injury
  • Try different activities until you find one you like
  • Don’t invest in a pricey gym membership until you’re sure you’ll go – try as many “taster” classes as you can
  • Check out your local YM/YWCA or Community Centre – they’re great places to sample a wide variety of drop-in classes until you figure out the things that are fun
  • Try something you’ve never tried before, just once – who knows, you might like it!

Have fun, get fit, and here’s to your health. You’ll be grateful when you feel great every day.

Meal Plan – Week 2 – and A New Recipe Experiment

So here we are, week two. Some weeks there is more time to make a detailed meal plan, involving all three meals. Realistically, though, our breakfasts are similar – smoothie or oatmeal, sometimes granola, and the occasional egg dish. Lunches generally consist of a salad, some soup (made ahead and frozen or in the fridge), or leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. So we just made a list of dinners which we know by heart, or can easily find in a recipe book or favourite website.

Here’s the list:

Chili-stuffed squash

Mushroom and lentil cottage pie

Fish risotto

Lamb stew

Country captain chicken

Salmon patties

Homemade pizza

Once again we took stock of what was already in the house (the acorn squash needed to be used up from the holidays, although it will keep almost indefinitely in a cool place – and you might remember the veggie chili from a few days ago, leftover in the freezer). We needed some refreshing in the fridge – greens, salad stuff. We had used up the potatoes, and there was no lamb for the stew or fish for the risotto. Otherwise, most things were on hand.

We also tried this with squash recently, from one of our go-to sites, Cooking Light. It’s very searchable, by ingredient, name, or cooking method, and also, downloadable to apps like Paprika. We did make some adaptations to the recipe, since we hate dirtying extra dishes. First, we chopped the bacon, and put it on the parchment along with the squash rings. It was perfectly done at the same time as the rest of the recipe. Our rating? Delicious! (Also, since we don’t want to waste food, we baked all the leftover squash bits, sprayed with oil and sprinkled with chili powder, on a separate tray to be used in other recipes).

Thanks for visiting! Do you have meal planning challenges you wrestle with, or problems in using things you meant to make, but didn’t? I love to find novel ways to use up things that didn’t quite fit the plan.