My apologies for not blogging as of late – I was suffering from writer’s block. That has been cured by my weekend cooking ventures as I had some girlfriends over last Saturday night for some wine and appetizers. One of my good friends is a vegan and another is allergic to gluten. This can make for some risky recipe undertakings but this time, I came out on top. I will share the other two recipes I made with you this coming week.

I made a vegan spinach and artichoke dip with the help of my lovely sister and it turned out fantastic. It was a great alternative to the heavy/cheesy traditional one that I am used to eating. It was really light and we ate it with Mary’s crackers (seriously, so delicious even though they smell a little peculiar) and gluten free/vegan nacho chips (and regular whole wheat crackers for those of us without special dietary needs).

I adapted my recipe from two different ones from Gluten-Free Goddess and She Knows Miso Vegan respective sites.

You will need the following ingredients:

  • 5 oz spinach chopped
  • 1/2 onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of pressed garlic
  • 1 cup of artichoke hearts drained and finely chopped (you could use the frozen kind too)
  • 3/4 cup of vegan sour cream
  • 1/2 cup of vegannaise
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of sliced almonds
  • 1 tablespoon of Earth Balance vegan butter
  • Pinch of black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375ºF.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet pan on medium heat. Add in onions and cook until they are translucent. Stir in garlic for 1 minute.
  3. Add artichokes and half of the spinach, let it sit.
  4. Using an electric hand mixer, combine the sour cream and vegannaise until it is smooth.
  5. Add the sour cream and vegannaise with the remainder of the spinach to the pan. Keep stirring until the spinach wilts.
  6. Pour into a pyrex dish (or whatever dish you have handy).

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For topping:

  1. In a small frying pan, heat the butter substitute and almonds until the vegan butter is melted.
  2. Pour on top of dip that is already in the dish.

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Put in the oven!

  1. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until it is bubbly around the edges.Image

And here’s the girls enjoying the dip!

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Happy cooking! You can find the ingredients at your local health food pantry store. Let me know how your dips turn out!

Peace. xx.

-H.

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Making Peace With Your Body: A Highly Recommended Article

I’ve only got time for a quick post today. I thought that I would share an article that I stumbled upon and really struck a chord with me.

Body issues seems topical to me, we all feel the pressure to conform and look a certain way to fit in to our society. I think that it’s amazing when individuals can do away with these negative expectations. I for one, am not a person who can bury these insecurities. As a ballet dancer, I was made aware of the flaws and limitations of my body from a very young age.

Yet there comes a time when you don’t need to settle or accept your shortcomings but embrace how beautiful your body is in its natural state. I will never have long legs, high arches or an hour glass figure. Instead of focusing on all the have not’s, I really need to start caring (because growing to/falling in love your body is a long and arduous process) and showing affection or even courting my body. I need to be kind to my body and not just in the way that I take care of it but in the thoughts I send to it.

I think that we all need to be a little mindful and aware of how we think of our bodies. I know that I will have negative days, I have a tumultuous relationship with my body; but if I try to be kind, those days will become fewer and far between. I am going to try to think at least one nice thought per day and I hope that you will all do the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peace. xx.

-H.

This week I am starting my training plan for my half-marathon. I have a certain time goal in mind and I have 7 months to train and work my way up to 21k. I’m running a 10k race at the end of next month, so I’ve got to get going and work on my 10k time as well.

One thing that has always been hard for me when it comes to actually making myself go for a run is a) motivation and b) the feeling that I’m not improving my form or time remotely. This has earnestly discouraged me in the past. So I have decided to compile a list of ways to improve my running.

  1. Focus on breath. A huge part of why I want to stop myself while running is because my breath starts to become shallow.  If you focus on breathing through your nose slowly as opposed to quick and shallow, it will actually help circulate oxygen to your extremities, slow down your heart rate, and keep you cool as a cucumber. Breath is the link between your mind/body connection – they rely on one another and when one waivers, there is an adverse reaction for the other.
  2. Get a good playlist! (Though I’ve already blogged about this)
  3. Do more yoga! Yoga will help you to master the technique required to breathe through your nose. Not only that, but it will stretch out your Achilles and improve your flexibility.
  4. Get good running gear. Now I am not suggesting that you drop hundreds of dollars at Lululemon. But seriously, there is nothing worse than running in shorts or leggings that are too big for you and keep falling down. Talk about attractive! Also, for all the ladies out there: never underestimate the importance of a good sports bra. Your girls will thank you in the long run. My last tip: go to a quality running/sports store and get fitted for your shoes. It will help your shins in the end and no shin splints = a happy runner.
  5. Come up with a good pre-run snack! A good idea of how much to eat and what you should eat can be seen at this link from FitSugar: http://www.fitsugar.com/What-Eat-Before-Run-24108225I hate it when my stomach starts cramping during a run and that usually happens because I’ve eaten the wrong thing. This is something that I am unabashedly guilty of.
  6. Work on those Abs! Since I started working on my abs in barre class, I have noticed a serious difference in my running stance. It is so much easier for me to keep my body erect as opposed to slumping over when I get tired. Plus, holding in your abs while you run is a great work out in and of itself! I recommend some planks to really target the lower region of your abdominals that is so difficult to build muscle in.
  7. Run Alone. I find it so much easier to run alone than with someone else. That way, I’m not competing with anyone. If I want to incorporate sprints and hills, I can do it on my own time and when I’m feeling ready. Also, isn’t it nice to just get some time by yourself as you most likely have to deal with other people all day long. Take some quality me time!
  8. Have fun! Even though I’m training right now, that doesn’t mean that my goal shouldn’t be to enjoy myself. If I don’t enjoy running, then I should not be doing it. I love how it makes me feel and that’s why I keep pushing myself to get out there.

I will leave you all with a quote about breath from a yogic stance as it really is so important. Breath is life, “”When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore, one should learn to control the breath.” – Svatmarama, Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Happy running! Peace. xx.

-H.

It is easy to get caught up in the rigour and hype of exercise. You can be on a high when you are running and when you make it back home it is easy to flop on the couch, have some water and call it a day. The same thing can apply when you work out at the gym – you can become so focused on trying to build up strength, burning calories, cardio, and working on your abs that you just leave the gym without properly stretching.

I lecture as if I am not guilty and that would be the pot calling the kettle black. The more I take yoga and dance classes, it has become quite apparent to me that stretching is key. I am certainly more flexible now than I was when I was a teenager, but I credit yoga for that. Stretching really will help create long and lean muscle lines but also keep you limber. I find that when I consistently stretch, my body (my back in particular) just feel better.

Apparently, the medical community is skeptical about the benefits of stretching and that it is not necessarily detrimental to your body if you do not stretch after exercising. To this I say, bullshit. If I run 10k and do not (at the very least!) stretch out my calves or my thighs, I am going to feel it the next day. I am going to develop shin splints and my achilles will shorten over time. I can feel my Achilles tightening as I think about not stretching. I must say, as much as I enjoy running – I am quite the cynic when I read running magazines. It is not that I don’t think that there is no value in some of those articles but I grew up in the dance world – we don’t stretch and we don’t believe ingesting weird little gel packs for energy.

It also seems to be a fad right now (that I myself am buying in to!) that everyone wants to have lean muscles and bodies like that of a dancer’s. Isometric movements followed by stretching are the fastest and surest way for lean muscles to be built up. When you have increased flexibility, your body will work other muscles in a general muscle area to keep your leg up for instance and this will actually help to keep you injury free for the most part. It does a lot more than being bulky does. I know a lot of people who are beautiful and have bulky muscles but can barely touch their toes.

Suffice it to say, I’ve been trying to stretch as much as possible after my runs or gym trips. I like to go home while I’m still warm, grab my yoga mat and play a 20-30 minute playlist that will relax me and actually place me in the frame of mind to stretch. I usually only do static stretching after a workout. When you stretch, your sensory receptors tell your muscles to contract. By performing a static stretch and holding the stretch, your body will eventually relax and surrender to the stretch – and allowing for more space to increase the flexibility.

Here are some stretching routines that I like to do:

I also like to stretch my hip flexors/psoas in a lunge with my back knee bent:

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I usually also stretch in a straddle second with my feet flat against a wall and pick my behind up and move it closer in to the wall slowly.

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Be careful as to not overwork your stretch – if your leg starts convulsing or quivering, back off!

For my next post, I will share some of my relaxing tunes to help you through your stretch as well.

Happy stretching! Peace. xx.

-H.

I am a whiner. I can be a huge brat – this is a fact. Sometimes certain aspects of my life don’t turn out the way that I hoped that they would and I harp on it. I have been trying my very best to just let go of these sentiments but also of these expectations. Setting expectations is good, I am goal-oriented and I make plans – but sometimes they are too lofty or we become too attached to them.

Some factors aren’t as perfect as they could be but I’ve just been asked to teach some ballet classes at my old studio. I always welcome a new opportunity. Perhaps my social circle has become a bit smaller lately but sometimes you have to shed negativity and things that hold you back. I’m not a Buddhist but Buddha said it best, “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional”. With that in mind, I know that some things will hurt me but I have it in my power to move on as to not suffer or let small trivialities affect me.

So when I feel like a brat and like the whole world is crashing down on me, I know that it is time for a reality check. I take a step back and think of the things that I am grateful for. While I take some pride in my body’s health and wellness, it is equally as important to check in with your mind’s. You can exercise until the cows come home but your mind is the centre of it all and it corresponds with your body so intimately.

Here is my list:

  1. I am grateful that I have the facility and ability to practice yoga and run.
  2. I am grateful for the fact that I received a University Education and was allowed to.
  3. I am grateful for the simple things – sipping on a tea at the end of a hard day.
  4. I am grateful for the smell and sound of the ocean. That is a sensation I can always feel when I am away from it and will never not miss.
  5. I am grateful for my family and all that they’ve given to me.
  6. I am grateful for that glass of wine on Friday evening after my work week.
  7. I am grateful for my boyfriend who I can go home and vent to about all of the stupid stuff that happened during my day.
  8. I am grateful for the roof over my head.
  9. I am grateful that my body listens to me and (knock on wood!) hasn’t been injured for quite some time.
  10. I am grateful for this quote from one of my favourite authors about gratitude, “Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.” – William Faulkner

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What are you grateful for, readers?? Remember, your mental health is just as important as your physical health.

Take care my readers and have a great weekend!

Peace. xx.

-H.

P.S. I registered for my first half-marathon, it is in May. There is no turning back now! Ah! Scary!

Ok, so I am basically obsessed with black beans. Yeah they look a little gnarly and eating beans is so geriatric and responsible. Oh man are they delicious. I do put them in a lot of dishes – my dad went so far as to give me 6-7 cans of black beans when I moved away from home. The only thing that I had in my cupboard was black beans for a long time. It was sad, really.

There are so many incredible dishes that you can make with black beans. Plus, you not only get protein (which I as a vegetarian do need to up my intake of) but lots of fibre (keepin you regular!) and apparently they’re even good for your cardiovascular health. Now without further ado, I present you with today’s topic: Black Bean Burgers

I adopted my recipe from Skinnytaste: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2012/06/spicy-black-bean-burgers-with-chipotle.html. I make mine slightly more spicy because I’m adventurous like that.

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz Can of Black Beans (Rinsed and Drained) – I like the PC Blue Menu Brand if you have access to Loblaws.
  • 1/2 Red and 1/2 Green Bell Peppers
  • 1/2 cup of chopped green onions
  • 2 garlic gloves peeled and pressed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup of oats
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of hot sauce of your choice (you can omit this!)
  • 1 jalapeno diced
  • Whole Wheat Flat Bread Buns
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1/2 Hass Avocado sliced, spinach and light mayonnaise (to dress)

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  • Step 1: After the beans are dry, mash them up in a large mixing bowl using a fork until it forms a thick paste. (I am lazy and made my boyfriend do this part, he bent the fork backwards. Be careful people, you are not Thor – though he is dreamy)
  • Step 2: Add peppers, onions, cayenne, hot sauce, jalapeno, a dash of pepper and garlic in the bowl.
  • Step 3: Add breadcrumbs and egg. Now, if your mixture is too dry, you can add another egg to it but be careful if it is too wet – if it gets too wet, chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Step 4: Mix everything in together.
  • Step 5: With clean hands (!) Use your hands to form burger patties.
  • Step 6: In a large frying pan heated to medium with olive oil, place the burger patties. Keep your eye on them, only leave them for about 2 minutes each as they will cook fast. Flip them over and they will look brown and crisp. Keep going until you reach your desired texture.
  • Step 7: Dress them with avocado, light mayonnaise and spinach.
  • Step 8: Enjoy!

You can also bake these in the oven, I just found that they were less floppy and flimsy if I put them in a frying pan. You can also freeze the patties and have them as a quick dinner option on a busy night. Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of them when I made them…I was just too hungry! Feel free to use whatever condiments you enjoy.

They are truly delicious. Don’t be afraid to use your hands and get messy. It will be difficult to get all of the ingredients mixed in and make the patties if you don’t use your hands. They are also pretty easy to make. You should budget 35 minutes for the prep and 10-15 for the cooking time.

Happy eating! Let me know how they turn out!

Peace. xx.

-H.

Your legs feel like jelly, your breath is short, your lungs are burning: suddenly, your run is no longer fun and you might as well just stop and walk (rolling or crawling home is usually a good option at this point). This is an all too familiar scenario to me. I can see it playing out in my head right now as I write this – accompanied by my bright red tomato face. This feeling of defeat is what ends up discouraging me and sometimes preventing me from going out for my run.

The only weapon I can use against this is a dope and pumped up playlist. Seriously, I am not one of those people who can run without music or even with a buddy. I get distracted by my head movies. There are a million things running through my head: “what should I eat for dinner?” “what am I going to wear tomorrow?” “How long did it take for Colby Rasmus’ corn rows to get done?” “What the heck is a first down?”  “I wonder what Rod Stewart ate for breakfast today?”

Moving along, the only thing that keeps those musings at bay is a playlist that makes me want to dance but also motivates me to keep going. There are definitely certain things that I associate with the different songs that I listen to – like any Beyonce song, I just think if she can practice all of that choreography in heels; then this girl can run for 5 more minutes without dying. Plus, I get pumped up when I hear these songs and it gives me that extra bit of energy to keep going through the entire length of a song.

So here are some of my faves: (I can already predict that most readers will be laughing as they read my choices)

Music can keep you upbeat and motivated. If you’re really hardcore, you can match your desired bpm to your song choices and invent a strategy for your playlist – be careful not to go overboard though. I like to choose songs that make me feel empowered and I’m still a running rookie. Dance songs are great for keeping me going. This is just a sample playlist. Let me know what some of your favourite running songs are in the comments?

I love to make a playlist for when I’m stretching after my workout as well. I will be posting that up soon!

Happy running! Peace. xx.

-H.

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