No fuss, no muss, and a whole lot of fibre…

Last night I made a batch of one of my easiest homemade breads. It’s more of a method than a recipe, although the proportions have been worked out after much experimentation. (In the EAT section of my site, you’ll find other recipes, including other breads).

There’s nothing like homemade bread for breakfast, or a sandwich, or just as a snack – but I’m always trying to sneak in some more healthy goodness. One of my tricks is always to add some chickpea flour, for extra protein. This one also benefits from whole wheat flour, and whole grain rolled oats. It is a bit time-consuming (you’ll want to start a day ahead, or first thing in the morning to bake for dinnertime), but it’s worth the wait, and doesn’t require any kneading at all.

Enjoy!

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!

Success Starts Early!

Success Starts Early!

I pack a lot into my days, including time for exercise. It makes me feel healthier, stronger, and better able to deal with whatever life throws at me. So when someone asks, “How do you find time to do that?”, I tell them. I get up at 5:30 most days of the week, sometimes even on weekends.

What is really important in your life, that you can’t find time for? Is it healthy eating? Exercise? Travel? Time off with friends and family? Whatever it is, schedule it in. Not everyone’s an early riser like me. You have to know yourself. Maybe you’re better in the evening. I just know that if I leave it til later, I’m much more likely to make excuses. That means prioritizing my work, and working smarter, so I can fit in the things that I say are important. Productivity is about more than shoving more work out the door. It’s also about creating a way of working that lets you live a life that’s right for you.

Want to find out whether working with a coach can help you fit in more of what’s important to you, and less of what’s not? Fill out this contact form and I’ll get back to you. Let’s chat!

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!

Savour the flavour…

Yesterday was an absolutely stunning day here in Toronto; we took a nice long walk (about 5.7km) through the city, taking in the sights and eventually making our way to St. Lawrence Market for produce. We stopped in along the way to take in the awesome Gothic Revival Cathedral Church of St. James, with memorial plaques commemorating many of Toronto’s noted citizens. We were intrigued by the very contemporary Stations of the Cross.

To the south, we swung by Berczy Park’s new dog fountain enroute to the market. Kids and pets alike were enjoying the spraying water. We had fun finding the one cat statue amongst the dogs, and to discover just what she was looking at. (We won’t tell just now – you should check out the mystery yourself!)

The sun was blazing and hot, so by the time we arrived home, we were in the mood for something quick and cool, that wouldn’t overheat the kitchen. We put some potatoes on to cook while we enjoyed a cool beverage on our balcony and took in the sights of the neighbourhood. When they were cooked, we let them cool in the fridge while we prepared the rest of this tasty curried salad. For two, as a main course:

For the dressing, whisk in a large bowl:

3 tablespoons (45ml) mayonnaise

1/4 cup (60ml) cider vinegar

2 tablespoons (30ml) curry powder – more or less, to your taste

3 boiled potatoes, cooled and peeled, and cut into chunks

1 red pepper, diced in bite-size pieces

2 cups cooked chickpeas (or one can)

1 cup frozen green beans

1/4 cup (60ml) chopped unsalted peanuts

3 leaves basil, sliced finely

Mix all the vegetables into the salad, including the chickpeas. Divide between the plates and sprinkle with peanuts and basil. You can easily scale up this recipe to serve more people, and it keeps well in the fridge, gaining flavour as it sits. Enjoy!

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.

Better For You Bread

If you’ve been following my posts for a while, you’ll remember my obsession last year with sourdough. I still love it, but the care and feeding of an infant dough all the time can be kind of time-consuming. I still follow my “no store bought loaves” rule pretty well all the time (even hamburger buns, although I don’t know the last time I actually used them for burgers). Yet I will admit to using store-bought yeast as it does speed up the process.

I’ve made lots of changes to bread that really help it be healthier than what we buy in the store. Of course, eliminating salt really helps. Yes, salt can be a regulator of the rise, but frankly, with modern yeasts, that is really rarely an issue. Keeping the amount of sugar down is just plain good for you, and using something more natural, like maple syrup, is better than a refined version. What else can I do to make the break healthier?

Recently I needed chickpea flour for a recipe – and in my neighbourhood, we have lots of neighbours from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Middle East – all of whom rely on this staple in their cooking. That means we can get it in huge bags, very cheaply. But what to do with the rest? I tried an experiment a couple of weeks ago with my bread, and it turned out really well. The texture was not compromised; if anything it was better, and the added bonus was to increase both the fibre and protein content of the bread.

Here’s what I did:

I always start with water that has been boiled then cooled to lukewarm, because that gets rid of some of the chlorine, which can inhibit the yeast. Begin with 3 cups.

I added a tablespoon of maple syrup and sprinkled on two tablespoons of traditional yeast, not the breadmaker or instant kind. This should sit in a warm place for about 10-15 minutes until it is good and foamy. Stir it with a fork and add to a large bowl. You can mix this bread with a mixer and dough hook, or by hand with a spoon and your hands, but the batch is a little large for a food processor. You could cut the recipe in half, but it seems a waste to heat the oven for a single 8″ loaf

Many traditional recipes have fat – butter, lard, or oil, but I added none to this. I did add a cup of chickpea flour, and then 5-6 cups of 100% whole wheat flour. Add the flour a cup or two at a time, with the machine running, or with the spoon, stopping to knead in by hand when it becomes difficult. About halfway through add tasty treats if you want – this batch had sunflower seeds, but I’ve also done raisins and cinnamon or other kinds of nuts or seeds.

Knead until the flour is incorporated and you’ve used just enough that it feels elastic and not sticky – or if using the mixer, until it cleans nicely away from the sides of the bowl. Remove it from the bowl, spray the bowl with cooking oil or wipe gently with cooking oil, and put the dough back in, turning to coat. Let it rise, covered with a clean tea towel, for an hour or so (not much more, or it will deflate).

Then shape it into two loaves, or a loaf and a cookie sheet with 12 buns (divide the second half of the dough into 12 even pieces, and press or roll into discs, about 4″ or 10cm across). Cover with clean cloth and let rise for another hour. This is a great project for when you are also making soup, when you are snowed in, or when you have a long project you’re working on at home.

About 20 minutes before the end of the rising time, heat the oven to 400F. Bake your loaves about half an hour; if you make rolls, check them about 20 minutes in. Tap on the bottom and listen for a hollow sound to be sure they are done. Remove from the oven and take them out of the pans to a wire rack immediately.

The “no store bread” rule has meant I can enjoy my bread without eating too much of it, and that’s a compromise I’m willing to work for.

Alterations and substitutions: 

I have also substituted 1c/250 ml old-fashioned oats, soaked in an equal measure of hot water, for 1-1/2 c/375ml of the wheat flour.

I have used 1 c/250 ml of dark beer instead of the same amount of the water – this can make a very light loaf with a lovely flavour.

Any kinds of nuts, seeds or dried fruit can be added, about a cup or 250ml in total. Herbs, olives, or sundried tomatoes also make a very interesting bread.