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.

 

Community Equals Connection

Recently our neighbourhood came together for an annual spring event, the Big Park Cleanup (in fact the whole community gets cleaned, as much as we can). Many hands made light work, and Regent Park looked even better when we were done. We had volunteer photographers, like Mark Shapiro, we were well fed by the Regent Park Catering Collective, and community facilitator and animator Barb Brook and volunteer Leonard Swartz organized us in grand fashion, just to mention a few.

Tonight many of us will come together again for our bi-monthly community potluck – the theme this month is gardening. Can’t wait to try all the delicious food! (Hmm…do you sense a theme here?) It’s at the Daniels Spectrum, 6:30pm. See you there!

Seeds grow more than plants

IMG_5006Learning to grow your own food, whether it’s a single pot of herbs on the kitchen counter, or a bigger enterprise, like this, is an empowering activity. When you grow something you can eat, you appreciate all your food just a little more than you did before. For many of us, gardening is a labour of love, and out of tiny seeds, many lessons grow. Here are just a few:

  1. Attention: some gardeners plop seeds or plants in the ground, water, and walk away. If they don’t see something happening immediately, they stop paying attention. They don’t realize that daily attention will help them learn when to water, whether there are pests or problems, or how to recognize the living things they are producing, at each and every stage.
  2. Patience: plants can be fast-growing, and beans, or other species, are useful for first-timers. They show themselves very early. This is why transplants can be helpful in the first-time gardener’s plot. The beets and carrots, on the other hand, make us wait. And wait. But we learn they are worth it.
  3. Resilience: sometimes things don’t work out as we hoped. Gardens teach us to go with the flow. They demonstrate that sometimes we get something more wonderful than we expected, but that there are also disappointments – yet the garden carries on regardless.
  4. Ingenuity and charity: over-abundant plants, whether they are tomatoes, zucchini, or other super-producers, provide us with an opportunity to research ways of preserving them to eat later. They can nourish us in the winter, when food prices escalate, or they are natural, healthy gifts we can share with our friends and family.

Gardens need not be restricted to giant country or suburban plots. Small spaces produce amazing and wonderful amounts of food. Busy lives mean that parents may never have learned to garden, and so can’t pass this valuable skill on to their kids. Fortunately there are dedicated volunteers like the folks at Green Thumbs, who are making sure the gardening knowledge is passed on to new generations of growers. I urge you to click the link and check out these neighbours of mine!

 

How do I Find A…in Regent Park?

Dive In!Regent Park is a neighbourhood in transition – where new residents are meeting and mingling with folks who have lived here for a very long time. So some of us newcomers, like me, are finding our way around to the services, people, and places that surround us.

One of the places to connect is our amazing aquatic centre – with this friendly guy at the entrance. There are lots of other opportunities to connect also; all you have to do is dive in! (Yes, I’ve been known to like a pun or two).

Today, for example, and every Wednesday for the summer, you can get an amazing, tasty meal for only four bucks at Regent Park. Just show up around 6pm, and buy a ticket from the folks in the Community Food Centre booth. Get in line, and be prepared for something delicious (last week it was rice, lentils, curry beef, and salad – tasty!) While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the vendors on site, selling fresh bread, Ethiopian coffee, and lots of other treats.

One more great way to get involved in the RPNA Logoneighbourhood is the Regent Park Neighbourhood Association, or RPNA. You can also find the RPNA on Facebook, or follow what’s happening on Twitter. There are lots of amazing people to meet, with tremendous community spirit, and whether you want to simply find out what’s going on, to communicate with others who live in this fantastic community, or you need to find where to get a…well, you name it, the Neighbourhood Association’s got a place for you.

So come and visit, or if you live here, walk around – there’s so much to see and do. And if you’re so inclined, follow my WalkEatLive blog, or my tweets where I talk about places to walk and sightsee; healthy, fresh-made food; or other stories about the way we live and get the most out of life.

30 Minutes or Free?

When we’ve had a long day and don’t have a plethora of things in the fridge, we nearly always have the ingredients for pizza. From start to finish, in just over 30 minutes – a healthier, less expensive version than takeout, and you can keep the tip for yourself.

Preheat your oven to 400F

In a small bowl or measuring cup, put 1/2 c or 125ml lukewarm water. Stir in 1 t or 5ml sugar, honey, or maple syrup. Sprinkle 1 T (15ml) yeast over top. Set a timer for 5 minutes and choose some toppings. 

When the timer goes, your yeast should be foamy. A few grains may still float on top, and that’s okay. Stir with a fork and add this to a larger mixing bowl, along with 1T/15ml olive oil. Sprinkle in whole wheat flour, stirring with a fork, until it forms a ball and starts to clean the bowl a little. Knead on the counter half a dozen times with another light sprinkle of floor. (Other flours work also – experiment!) Sometimes we add dried herbs or pepper to the flour. Grease the bowl and pop the dough back in. No need to wash, the bowl should be mostly clean. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for 10 minutes.

In this case we started with a base of caramelized onions, but pesto or marinara work great also.

  
For toppings we added mushrooms and olives, and a bit of Beemster cheese.

 18 minutes in the oven and it’s done – we usually let it cool five minutes before cutting as no one loves that pizza cheese mouth burn!

  

The Zest of Life

We’re off to see our niece and her husband this afternoon – they’re home for a visit from Germany, where Eric had an opportunity to be transferred this year. We will also be celebrating three birthdays – my hubby’s, my sister-in-law’s, and my nephew’s. The surest way to not overeat at a party is to have something healthy in advance – and hence this tasty salad.

For two:

A couple of large handfuls of mixed baby greens, and another of arugula on each plate. Dice half a green pepper, slice four  mushrooms, and drain a can of salmon – layer all this on the greens. Lastly, the dressing: zest half a lemon (keep the zest aside). Squeeze the juice into a small bowl and remove any seeds. Add 10ml/2t of Dijon mustard and stir together. Drizzle this over the salad and garnish with the zest.

  
The upside? We’ll have our cake (a little slice) but we’ll also have more time to enjoy the real zest of life: friends and family.

Grammy's Onion Pork Chops – 2016 Style

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It starts with some simple sliced onions – in this case a yellow onion, but any colour or type will do. For two, we used half a very large onion.

These are browned in a pan with some olive oil (Grammy would have used butter, but it’s much more inclined to burn).

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Don’t be afraid to use a regular (not non-stick) pan – it will give much better colour to the dish. Cook the onion until it is a little more caramelized than these, then add the pork chops. We bought the onion and the chops from our local butcher, Mark, at St. Jamestown Steak and Chops. We don’t eat much meat any more, so when we do, we like to make sure it’s good quality.

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Raise the heat a bit, and brown the chops on both sides. When they have some good colour, and the bits in the bottom of your pan are turning a nice brown, deglaze with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of wine or vermouth. We used vermouth. Grammy would have used neither. She also would have used a lot more salt, but we love the natural taste of the meat and the onions.

Next, add about 1/2 a cup of water, cover and simmer about 20 minutes over low heat – your chops will relax and become very tender.

Stir in a tablespoon or so of cornstarch that you’ve dissolved in a bit of water. Raise the heat to medium and stir, just until the juices become clear again and a delicious, oniony gravy has formed.

We served ours with mashed sweet potatoes and a simple salad of local hothouse mixed greens and cucumber, dressed with equal parts walnut oil, Kozlik’s Old Smokey, and homemade white wine vinegar.

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Never underestimate the power of a healthy start…

  Right out of the gate most mornings, we walk or go to the gym. Not a leisurely stroll, but a brisk pace, almost a run. Himself having longer legs, I have to work a little harder to keep pace. Then, back home, we have breakfast before setting to work on the day’s tasks. Once in a while our schedule means we don’t get the walk in until later in the day, and when that happens, we notice a difference. Keeping fit and eating good food, prepared from scratch gives us energy and we feel sharper and better able to cope with the day – however it turns out. We’re grateful we can afford good food, but we have also found that eliminating processed food from our diets isn’t any more expensive, especially if we plan our meals and avoid waste by using what’s on hand and buying just what we need to round out the menu. 
This tasty oatmeal is made in less than ten minutes using large flake or steel cut oats.

For two, in a microwave-safe bowl:

3/4c oats

1-1/2 c water

1 large Apple, diced

2 T chopped nuts or seeds

Sprinkle of cinnamon

Cook on the oatmeal setting, or alternately, 3 minutes on full power plus 5 minutes on 50% power. Enjoy with milk or nut milk if you prefer, and a little maple syrup.

Turnaround Time!

  
Those of you who follow me on Twitter @WalkEatLive know that I’ve been moving over the past couple of weeks. It’s been a change, for sure. A few years ago my husband and I took an opportunity to relocate to Nova Scotia. We had a great time, and made some very good friends. We embarked on the grow-your-own food lifestyle we had imagined. But a funny thing happened. Even though we had returned to the province where we were born missed the city we had called “home” for more than 30 years. We missed our kids and big family dinners. And all the pounds we had shed during our weight loss journey started creeping back on, and we started getting fat. It turns out we were a textbook example of why communities with a high walk score are a good thing. Our motto is to that it’s always better to take action than to complain. So here we are, back in Toronto. 

We’re walking like crazy and eating healthy food. Already we are seeing a difference. And we’re not so far away from the new friends we’ve made. We’ll continue to visit for the sights and sounds of the sea, and they know our door is always open. After a couple of weeks on the road, we are thrilled to be back in our own kitchen, making tasty meals like this one.
I hope you’ll keep reading as I bring some stories, some recipes, and some meal ideas to show how homemade can be fast, healthy, and delicious.

The Old Ways Aren't always the Best Ways…

We’re always reading and exploring information about healthier food choices. One really interesting documentary we watched this week is Forks over Knives, which presents a case for a whole food, plant based diet. While we haven’t thrown away all our food and started fresh, we were already proponents of eating real food, prepared at home. Our first step on the journey is to return to eating far more fruits and vegetables, and to reduce the prime position animal products are taking on our table.

So why feature these breakfast eggs in today’s post? Eggs Benedict are an old favourite of ours. We’ve eaten many, and fed them to our friends. But this is definitely a healthier option.

  
These poached eggs are served on a whole grain buckwheat English muffin loaf, which is topped with mashed avocado. Hothouse tomatoes are on the side. What could we substitute next? Perhaps some cooked mushrooms and chickpeas? Watch this space for more healthier food choices. Meanwhile, this is as good as any Benny, and moving us in the right direction.