My Summer of Indulgence

You might say that I have had a rather decadent summer. Occasional morning runs to Starbucks somehow turned into an everyday occurrence, I spent a fair amount of time just lounging by the pool with the kids soaking up the sun, my semi-regular workouts dwindled to near non-existent, my menu planning morphed into “what take-out shall we have tonight?” and I enjoyed more than a few cocktails, bags of potato chips and chocolatey treats.

To be perfectly honest- I  am a mass of contradictions at the best of times. Although I aspire to optimal health and nutrition, I’m more of a “green juice for breakfast and glass of red wine for dinner” kind of girl. Kale chips and meditation at lunch and salty potato chips while watching So You Think You Can Dance that same evening. Louise Hay AND People Magazine on my nightstand. Kick-butt 6am workout closely followed by a few days of sitting on aforementioned butt.

I will admit that I really admire those purists – the “I haven’t had a cup of coffee in 10 years” and “I never eat anything processed” kind of people. No matter the season or holiday, there are some dedicated health enthusiasts who manage to maintain their healthy eating and exercise routine in the face of the toughest temptation and peer pressure. But I’m definitely not one of those people! (if you know me you’ll be familiar with how little twisting of my rubber arm it takes to convince me to have just one more glass of Prosecco or to share a hunk of gooey chocolate cake ; )

perfectionism louise hay

This is not to say that I’m going to throw in the towel and chuck the healthy living for a life of reality tv and bonbons (tempting though..). I think the key is becoming more mindful in my approach to diet and lifestyle. Do I really need that latte or french fry? Well yes, frankly, sometimes I do! I’m not going to beat myself up over the odd bump in the road if I continue to focus on health and wellness the majority of the time. My own quirky and flawed approach to life doesn’t necessarily make me weak or less than – it just make me human.

Is there room for improvement? Absolutely! Am I ever going to be one of those “I’ll-never-step-foot-in-a-fast-food-restaurant again” people? Not likely. And I’m beginning to make peace with that. So I will continue merrily along the path of learning and living a natural and healthy life with a fair share of stumbles and more than a few potato chip wrappers left along the way.

*P.S. I am planning to embark  on another 3-week Kathy Freston Cleanse starting Sunday, September 8th. (no alcohol, sugar, gluten, caffeine or animal products for 21 days). Is anyone else in need of a detox after a summer of overindulgence like mine? Drop me a line in the comments and we can share tips and recipes!

Advertisements

My Biggest Lesson from the 21-Day Cleanse

I am a worrier. As far back as I can remember I have fretted over things, often to the point of developing a physical side effect like a nagging tummy ache. In fact, as a child people often compared me to my grandma who was famous for worrying over every little thing.

This legacy has stayed with me into adulthood and was only amplified once I had children. There are soooo many more things to freak out about now that I have 3 precious little beings to love and protect.

worry 4

I had many “aha” moments in doing the 21-day cleanse this time around but none so profound as the realization that I often numb my worry/stress/anxiety with food and wine. About 5 days into the cleanse, I couldn’t figure out why I felt so great physically and so strung out mentally. I was anxious, tense and distracted. And what I came to understand was that I had eliminated all of my coping mechanisms. Tough day with the kids? Have a glass of wine. Up all night with a sick toddler? Hit the Starbucks drive-thru for a venti. Argument with my husband? Grab a big hunk of chocolate. Anxious over an audition? Plunk myself in front of American Idol with a bag of chips. Overscheduled and strung out? Good time for a slice of pizza and a piece of cake.

I’m sure you see where I’m going with this. I have been avoiding “feeling” most of my feelings because I’ve put things in place to compensate. I never slow down long enough to figure out what is going on in my mind because I am racing through life at full throttle without taking inventory of how I am really doing. And guess what? Once I couldn’t turn to my beloved glass of red wine or a big hunk of Lindt chocolate, my worry was still right there waiting to take over.

So what did I do? Well after I shed a few tears, I decided to take this as an opportunity for personal growth. I dusted off my copy of Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life and reread it. I read Spirit Junkie by Gabrielle Bernstein and When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. I downloaded guided meditations off of iTunes (Kathy Freston, Louise Hay, Pema Chodron and Gabrielle Bernstein are my favs) and I listened to them first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I wrote. I loaded my Louise Hay CD (How To Love Yourself) into my van and listened to it whenever I was driving around. I shared my feelings with my husband, my sister and a couple of close friends. I took good long Epsom salt baths. I stopped to breathe when I felt my worry taking over – 3 slow deep breaths in through my nose and out through my mouth. I got a massage. I constantly reminded myself to stay present with my children. I watched Modern Family and laughed my head off. And I started to feel better.

dale carnegie worry

Even though I am far from having this thing conquered, I truly feel that I am on the path to more genuine peace and serenity. And I’m not going to be so darn afraid of my feelings anymore. Heck, they are all a part of me and I’m going to either work towards setting them free or figure out how to incorporate them into my life.

Does this mean I’m never going to have a glass of wine again or that reality tv is now off my radar? No chance! I’m still planning to enjoy life’s guilty pleasures. I’m just going to be sure that I don’t come to rely on them quite so much.

Bottom line – shit is going to happen. I get that. But I can’t spend the rest of my life worrying about past events and impending disasters and still fully enjoy being present as a loving wife, mom, sister, daughter, aunt, friend and human being. And I can’t grow as a person while racing through life with a glass of wine in one hand and a bag of Doritos in the other. It’s time to face my fears and move forward. Yay me!

Lessons From My 3-Week Cleanse

Yahoo I did it! 21 days with no animal products, gluten, alcohol, caffeine or sugar. It was a roller coaster 3 weeks but I made it through and I’m feeling great. Here are a few insights from my 3-week cleanse to offer a little inspiration and information:

1. Gluten and sugar are in so many of the foods I eat. It is shocking really. Did you know that there is a good amount of sugar in most tomato sauce, granola bars, ketchup, gf pizza crust and salad dressing? And that aside from bread and pasta, there is often gluten in french fries, veggie burgers, flavoured potato chips, salad dressings, soy sauce, cereal, soup broth and bouillon?

2. Going away for the weekend during a cleanse with girlfriends who love to sip wine and eat at fancy restaurants is a very, very bad idea! Thank goodness for the toddler who provided the perfect excuse for not joining in on all of the fun.

3. The Happy Cow app on my iphone is a lifesaver! It offers up a list of veggie restaurants and markets in whatever city or town I find myself in with links to websites and additional information. This came in super handy when I was away from home.

happy cow

4. It is hard to meditate in the morning when your toddler is yelling “MOM – try to find me!”, your older son is watching hockey highlights at full volume and your daughter is stomping around looking for her favourite shirt. Meditating in the afternoon while the kids were in school or in the evening before bed turned out to be much more enjoyable.

5. I am super fortunate to live in a community with easy access to an organic market (Goodness Me), 2 fantastic vegan/raw restaurants (Kind Food and The Naked Sprout) and a Whole Foods. On those days when I just couldn’t muster up the energy to cook for myself, I could simply stop in to one of these places and grab a filling and nutritious meal to take out.

kind food

6. The best way to shake off the blahs was to get my heart pumping with some kindness missions! I am telling you I felt like a spy and my heart was racing when I tried to execute my kind acts in secret. I had so much fun dropping flowers with notes at strangers doors, leaving chalk messages at a local park and leaving sticky notes with encouraging messages around town (on change room mirrors at the mall, at the grocery store, in bus shelters, on books at the library). This is one habit that I’m definitely going to keep doing and I’m excited to get the kids doing it with me.

guerilla goodness

7. My munchies alarm seems to go off regularly mid-afternoon and in the evenings. Even though intellectually I was poo-pooing the idea of a handful of walnuts or an apple or a banana to replace some chocolate or a bowl of chips – it actually worked! Who knew? (I also popped up some popcorn in my air popper one afternoon and sprinkled on some sea salt and nutritional yeast flakes. Mmmmmm…)

8. It’s really not all that hard to cook vegan and gluten-free. Honestly. All it takes is some planning and the willingness to try out new recipes. And there are so many amazing cookbooks and blogs devoted to plant-based eating. Some of my favourites are: OhSheGlows, Alicia Silverstone, The Savvy Sister, Meghan Telpner, Plant-Powered Kitchen and Healthy Happy Life.

9. I can’t even count the number of people who asked me “What do you eat?!” There is a bounty of amazing foods that get completely overlooked when meat is the focus of a meal. I ate a rainbow of fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, rice, tofu, quinoa, almond milk, hummus, amaranth, chia, green smoothies, coffee-less lattes, oat flour pancakes, rice crackers, stir frys and many more yummy foods. Now that being said, I did miss a good old hunk of bread and a piece of chocolate ; )

10. I’ll share my biggest lesson from the cleanse on Wednesday. I had a huge “aha” moment this time around and I thought I’d devote an entire post revealing it. I’m also thinking about a new challenge…maybe 21 days of yoga. Anyone wanna join me?

***Before I wrap up I want to send a special shout out to my mom and dad who did the cleanse for a full week. Awesome! Way to go! It was great to have someone riding the roller coaster with me and I appreciate your support.

Colourful Quinoa Casserole

When I decided to adopt a more plant-based diet, the very first cookbook I bought was Eat, Drink & Be Vegan by Dreena Burton. You can easily tell that I adore this book because I have probably made every recipe at least once (and many dozens of times) and my copy is completely dog eared and covered in food stains. I highly recommend it and Dreena’s other books because it she is not only a fantastic chef but also the mother of three young children so she offers up a bounty of food you can make at home that is both yummy and family friendly.

eat, drink and be vegan

This casserole is a particular favourite because it is hearty, delicious, easy to make and is perfect for my cleanse. It really packs a punch nutritionally with the combination of quinoa, veggies, nuts and fresh basil and it’s a great filling dinner for the whole family. Well the whole family minus the toddler who quickly told me he “hates this supper!” Don’t listen to him though – he hates most things these days. Give this one a try and I’m willing to bet you’ll love it. You can also serve it cold as a salad over greens, in a wrap with hummus or quickly fry up the leftovers in a bit of olive oil for different variations.

And hold on just a minute before you delete this because of the long list of ingredients (yes I’m talking to you Jessica and Nancy ; ) It’s actually super easy because you just pop almost everything in a casserole dish and slide it into the oven to bake. You can do it girls!

Colourful Quinoa Casserole (adapted from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan by Dreena Burton)

colourful quinoa 1

1 1/4 cups uncooked quinoa (rinsed and drained 3 times)
1 cup vegetable stock
2 cups water
1 15 oz can of mixed beans (rinsed and drained)
1 1/2 cups fennel bulb, julienned
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup of thinly sliced zucchini
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp allspice
1 dried bay leaf
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup pine nuts (toasted – I just toast them in a small saucepan over med heat until lightly browned)
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (for finishing)

Preheat oven to 400. Oil a deep casserole dish with olive oil. Combine all ingredients (except for pine nuts, fresh basil, lemon juice and olive oil for finishing) and stir to mix well. Cover and bake for an hour, stirring occasionally, until quinoa is cooked and has absorbed all liquid. Remove from oven and stir in lemon juice, basil and pine nuts. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. To serve, drizzle with olive oil. Enjoy!

colourful quinoa 2

*I also have to add a “Woohoo” moment from last week. Kathy Freston – author of Quantum Wellness and the creator of the cleanse I am currently doing- sent out a tweet about me! What a thrill to get a shout out from one of my mentors. Thanks Kathy!

Luv that Lori is doing the cleanse https://lorileighwilson.com/2013/03/29/a-kathy-freston-spring-cleanse/ … Posting it in The Daily Lean fb chatroom if u want to join community

Staring Down the Sugar Monster and Almond Milk Shakes

I am heading in to day 12 of my 21 day cleanse and I thought it was a good time to address a sweet little food that quite often has a firm grasp on both me and my family members: Sugar. Ah yes, we all adore our sugary treats and no one more than my lovely 9-year-old daughter who I’m convinced would be quite happy to exist solely on candy, white chocolate, suckers and gum. This creates a real source of friction in our house because my older kids truly feel it is their right as children to enjoy candy. What’s a mom to do?

sugar 1

And here is my dirty little secret- I really like it too. I grew up eating a ton of candy and junk and there is this little voice inside my head that keeps saying “Come on, let the kids eat the candy. You did and you are just fine.” But deep down I know that’s a total cop-out for a number of reasons.

First of all, “sugar” has changed considerably since I was a child. The sugar that my grandma and mom would use for baking or gave us in treats has mostly been replaced with highly refined sugars and artificial sweeteners. The approximately 26 tsp of sugar the average Canadian is consuming on a daily basis is largely coming from substances that would be unrecognizable to past generations. My parents didn’t know that the food industry was conspiring to keep us addicted to their products by adding sugar-like substances (aka high-fructose corn syrup) to packaged breads, yogurt, juice, cereal, lunch meats, snacks and countless other foods. Also, research and education has improved dramatically over the last 40 years as to the short and long-term effects of sugar on our bodies. New scientific studies are linking increased sugar consumption with obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancer.

sugar 6

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for treats. Heck I’m often the one baking them! And I don’t plan on crashing the next birthday party my kids are at as the Sugar Police. But I’m starting to realize that in my house- it’s not just an occasional treat anymore. It’s something that is handed out and often expected at playdates, at school, after soccer games, at dance, after school, after meals and to celebrate any and all milestones (think potty-training).

Even though my kids will probably complain bitterly, I am resolved to serve less refined sugar in my home. Of course we’ll still have treats but I’m going to attempt to reprogram all of us into making candy and sweets the exception rather than the rule.

Once the kids walk out the front door, they’ll be making their own food choices. I’m sure they will have their fair share of sprinkle donuts, candy, chocolate bars and pop but I’ll feel better knowing that somewhere in the recesses of their brains they’ll hear my voice gently encouraging healthier options.

fruit salad

I have also been very aware of my own sugary cravings during this cleanse (and I’m positive the killer headache I experienced on day 3 was a direct result of my over-indulged sweet tooth). Especially after dinner I find myself poking around for some dessert. Here are some of my favourite sweet things from the past 12 days:

– fresh fruit (pineapple is particularly good because it is so sweet)
Cashew Cream lattes
– a few medjool dates
– a cut-up apple sprinkled with cinnamon
– banana chunks spread with almond butter

milkshake 1

And the very best one of all – Almond Milk Shakes! There are endless variations of this delicious treat and I am having a blast testing them all out. I start with homemade almond milk, add some fruit and dates and presto – I’ve got a creamy delicious shake. FYI- dates are my go-to sweetener during the cleanse, but I am also a fan of other natural sweeteners like agave nectar, maple syrup, molasses, maple sugar, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup and stevia in my baking and cooking. Feel free to experiment with these sweet products and I would love it if you would share your best tricks and tactics for combating the sugar monster with me in the comments.

Homemade Almond Milk

almond milk

2 cups raw almonds
Approx. 4 cups water

Soak almonds in water overnight in a medium bowl with enough water to cover completely.
In the morning, drain and rinse almonds and pop them in a high-powered blender with 4-5 cups of fresh water until smooth.
Using a nut sack or fine mesh sieve, strain pulp from the milk.
Store strained milk in a glass jar in the fridge (because it is all natural – homemade almond milk will separate when it settles so give it a shake before you serve it)

Basic Vanilla Almond Milk Shake

2 cups almond milk
2 cups ice
3 pitted medjool dates
1 frozen banana (optional)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (or a pinch of vanilla bean powder)
1 tsp maca powder (optional)

Blend and enjoy!

Variations:

Strawberry: Add 1 cup of strawberries (with the green leaves)

Creamsicle: Add 2 frozen clementines (peeled)

milk shake 2

Chocolate: Add 2 tbsp. of raw cacao powder

Chocolate & Peanut Butter: Add 2 tbsp. of raw cacao powder and 2 tbsp. raw almond butter

Blueberry: Add 1 cup of frozen or fresh blueberries

You get the idea. Be creative and have fun with it!

Kids Cook Night #1

Sometimes I get a tad resentful of all of the things I do for my family that they seemingly take completely for granted. Do you ever feel that way? Grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, planning, and on and on. It can really get me down. Yes the kids are responsible for their bedrooms and for a few other small chores around the house but the bulk of the work is really done by my husband and myself.

Instead of complaining and whining (tactics I’ve definitely tried in the past), I decided I would do something about it and thus “Kids Cook” night was born! We chatted about it as a family and the kids were actually quite excited to give it a try. The deal was that they come up with the menu (I would grocery shop for their items) and then they had to prepare it all and clean up the kitchen afterwards. We agreed that 1 night per week was their turn to be set loose in the kitchen.

Since my children are 11, 9 and 2, the older two are quite capable of reading recipes, prepping and chopping food and working around the stove- and the toddler is super helpful if you are looking for someone to taste test while sitting on the table and/or make a huge mess ; )

kids can cook 3

On night #1 their menu was as follows:

Nachos and Cheese
Guacamole
Spanish Rice
Edamame

Not too shabby and since most of the items would work on my cleanse I was quite excited to see it all come together. When their night rolled around my daughter got right to work on the Spanish Rice. She totally rocked at following the recipe and she even chopped the onion by herself- while sporting a snazzy pair of her dad’s safety goggles to protect her eyes. She enlisted the help of her little brother when it came time to make the guacamole because she knew he would be a good avocado musher and he was only too pleased to sample the dip as she adjusted the seasonings. My older son got busy steaming edamame and grating cheese for the nachos and was happy to learn how to work the broiler in the oven to get the cheese perfectly melted. They all set the table and were thrilled to bits to sit down to a meal of their own creation.

kids can cook 2

And guess what? It was really good! We gobbled it down and enjoyed every bite (I skipped the cheese because of the cleanse but everything else was yummy). I was quite sure I was going to get some serious push back when it came time to clean but they stepped right up and even swept the floor after the dishes were all washed. It was fantastic!

kids can cook 1

So Kids Cook night was a resounding success. I can hardly wait to see what they come up with next week! Now if I can just get them doing the laundry I’ll be all set…..

Nachos & Cheese

1 bag of tortilla chips (preferably an organic corn variety)
1 small block of medium cheddar (I like L’Ancetre brand)

Turn on the broiler in the oven. Dump the bag of chips onto a cookie sheet. Grate cheese and sprinkle over top. Pop in the oven and broil for 5 min or until cheese is melted.

Izzy’s Guacamole is posted here.

Steam frozen organic Edamame according to package directions.

Spanish Rice

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, diced
1 cup long grain rice
1 3/4 cups water
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp sea salt
1/3 tsp black pepper

Heat oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook approx. 3 minutes until soft and just starting to turn translucent. Add garlic and carrot and cook for 2 more minutes. Pour in rice and stir to coat. Add water, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, stir once and reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer for approx. 17 minutes until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let sit covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve. Enjoy!

***Cleanse Update: Day # 10 and I’m almost halfway there! I feel clear-headed, strong and confident that I can see this cleanse through to the end. I have noticed a slight dip in my energy after dinner the last couple of days so I’m going to up my water consumption around that time and see if it makes a difference. I had a crazy sugar craving on Day 9 so I whipped up an impromptu “almond milk shake” that totally hit the spot. I just threw some homemade almond milk, a handful of strawberries, a frozen banana, a few dates and some ice in my vitamixer and slurped up the sweet creamy goodness. I’ll post the exact recipe soon.

milkshake 1

Cleanse Day # 8 – Dining Out and Not Starving

I’m often asked how I can survive this 3 week cleanse (and how I can be a vegan for that matter) and not starve. Trust me, it’s can be done and it’s not even all that hard. It can however get a bit tricky when I am away from home- especially during cleanse time. When I’m separated from my kitchen and my beloved vitamix I have to be prepared.

Actually, I had to be out 3 nights last week and I was fairly sure that vegan/gluten-free options would be in short supply. So I armed myself with snacks, drinks and creative ideas for finding something to eat that wouldn’t compromise my 21-day clean eating plan.

nuts and seeds   larabar

I always keep a container of nuts and seeds and a couple of Larabars in my purse for emergencies. I also lug along a big container of water or my new favourite refreshing/energy boosting drink: Chia Fresca. I got this recipe from Oh She Glows and it is a neat one. The drink itself is simply made with water, fresh lemon juice, agave and chia seeds and is a very popular beverage in Mexico and Central America. Chia seeds are considered a superfood because of their incredibly high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, protein and fiber. They are also a mucilaginous seed which means that they get gel-like when wet and pull toxins out of your body as they travel through your system. The texture of this drink is really different so it’s not going to be for everyone- but give it a try and see what you think.

Chia Fresca (adapted from OhSheGlows.com)

chia fresca

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 cups water or coconut water
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Sweetener, to taste (I used 1 tsp agave nectar)

Add chia and water into a jar or glass and stir very well to combine. Let  sit for 10 minutes to allow the chia seeds to swell up. I like to use a jar with  a lid so I can shake it up really well and break up the clumps of chia.
Add lemon juice and sweetener to taste. Stir (or shake) well to  combine and enjoy!

So what did I do in addition to my snacks and Chia Fresca on those 3 nights? Well, on night #1 I hit up Mucho Burrito for a veggie salad bowl (minus the tortilla shell bowl) and ended up with a delicious dinner of chopped romaine lettuce, rice, grilled veggies, black beans, fresh tomato salsa, guacamole and cilantro all topped with a light vinaigrette. Not bad eh?

Night #2 I was off to Toronto for an evening voiceover gig so I packed a dinner to take along. Here is my quick on-the-go creation that left me full and satisfied:

leftover salad

2 cups of leftover rice
1/2 a can of organic mixed beans, rinsed and drained
Handful of chopped cilantro
1 chopped mini cucumber
Handful of raw sunflower seeds
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp gluten-free tamari
Salt and pepper

I’m going to be honest and tell you that night #3 was the toughest and it had nothing to do with the food. My husband and I were out at a local restaurant with friends and I really, really, really wanted to enjoy a cocktail! It was so tough when everyone else was sipping wine and beer to sit there like a teetotaler with my water and lemon. I did it though and by the end of the night I was happy to just watch the crazy drinkers and thank my lucky stars that I wouldn’t be feeling like them the next morning ; )

Bottom line – as a (mostly) vegan, I’ve had to learn to be adaptable to ensure that I can enjoy something to eat and drink in all situations without being too much of a pain in the butt. It has taken some work, some exploring, some mistakes, some research and some frank discussions with friends and family but most of the time things work out just fine. Do I always get it right? Not a chance! But hey, I’m sure not starving in the process.