This Pandemic Life: Self-Isolate More, Not Less

Memes are pretty much my favourite thing right now. I love scrolling through Instagram trying to find things to make me laugh so I can share and make others laugh without doing the work. I also really like doing research about COVID-19; I try to find credible sources that are sharing real, valuable, and truthful information about what’s going on, so I can arm myself and my clients with the best advice to stay healthy and safe during this weird-ass time. Truth be told, I am online WAY too much. Anyone else feel me on this?

I watched/listened to Elizabeth Gilbert answer a fan’s question this morning on Instagram, and it really hit home with me. In her 16 minute answer (which I highly recommend, watch it here), she suggests that during this isolation period, maybe we aren’t isolating enough. And as a self-isolating extrovert struggling every day without human interaction, I couldn’t have disagreed more. But then, after taking it all in, I couldn’t have disagreed less.

She suggested that our eyes and ears have no choice to eat up what we feed them and that we need to isolate ourselves more from the things we are forcing upon our senses when it is negative, or anxiety-forming or self-esteem crumbling, or negative in any way. And this has never been more true.

black flat screen computer monitor on black wooden table
Insomnia and screen time go hand in hand these days

Our senses feed our souls. Please read that again. Our senses feed our souls. What we consume with our eyes and ears is taken inside as perceived nourishment, and often it is so completely the opposite that it’s harmful to our health. But we have a hard time recognizing the signs. Or rather, connecting those signs with our sensual diet, if you will. We don’t see how what we expose to our senses can cause insomnia, but rather the opposite; When we can’t sleep we turn to our phones to get us through.

If you’re like me, you’re a fact seeker and or a fact-checker. This research can send your mind to places it shouldn’t go, and send your thoughts spiralling out of control. Not all of what you read is real nor can it be trusted, but it is hard to distinguish between the two. Fake news disguises itself as legitimate publications, but when the mask is taken off and we examine things more closely, it is nothing more than terrible writing with some hidden agenda; a wrinkle-free, botoxed version of the truth made to appear as true. However, the real truth is ugly, and it’s hard to find those flaws. There are also so many unknowns, and the truth is evolving and changing as everyone learns.

Right now, more than ever, we need to isolate ourselves from what is playing out online. The stress and anxiety of what we read, see and hear isn’t worth our time, and can negatively impact what is already a very hard time for all of us right now. Stress levels are high, anxiety is amplified, and we need to give our bodies and our souls a break. What we expose our senses to can be a source of stress, anxiety, insomnia, self-loathing, depression and so much more. Or we can choose to expose our senses to things that are real, that aren’t on a screen, and that drive positivity. We need to absorb less of what we are told, and more of what we do in daily screen-less moments. How can we do this?

By being diligent to our wellbeing:

  • Catch up on the news once daily from a known and reputable news source
  • Limit your screen time to a couple hours a day
  • Get outside safely, any way you can, and daily
  • Be diligent in filling up your time with activities that do not involve screens, whatever those may be to you
  • Connect with other people in safe and meaningful ways – deeper than digital

The world will not end if you don’t add to your Insta story today. You CAN make food without showing the world. Your walk in the woods doesn’t need to be recorded. We, including myself, can all be better at this. Our life is not a performance; live not for the audience but for yourself. Being in the present moment, living mindfully, can create deeper and more meaningful experiences and connections. Let go and live deeper.

apple tree
Get outside daily however you can

 

Guacamole

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Since moving to Southern Ontario and really getting into the tourism and restaurant industry, I have celebrated this “holiday” with excitement, because I love Mexican food and drink of all kinds. I actually have no vested interest in the day other than to celebrate the cuisine.

Cinco de Mayo isn’t really a big deal in Mexico tbh. The anniversary signifies victory by Mexico over France in the Battle of Pueblo, which was more of a symbolic win vs a strategic war victory. Today in Mexico, May 5th is mainly celebrated in the state of Pueblo, where the triumph occurred.

However, the holiday is widely celebrated in the United States, especially in areas with large Mexican-American populations. Los Angelos, Chicago and Houston host large festivals honouring Mexican culture with parades, music, dancing and, of course, all of the delicious food, including tacos and mole. The tradition eventually made it’s way north of the border to Canada, mostly on the backs of American chain restaurants that featured Cinco de Mayo food and drink specials to get people out to try something new.

Today I will celebrate with a Margarita in one hand and a taco in the other (well, more likely a taco bowl and a fork but we shall see what the day brings), and no taco is complete without guacamole.

My guac recipe borders on traditional, but omits cilantro (I prefer it as a garnish vs throughout the dip) and the jalapenos, again because I prefer those as a garnish. I also add a wee bit of garlic to mine, as I find it really compliments the flavours well without overpowering them. This dip is also an opportunity for you to #snacksmarter by avoiding processed dips that almost always contain inflammatory refined vegetable and seed oils and unnecessary additives and preservatives.

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Guacamole

2 avocados, flesh removed and smashed with a fork

1 clove of garlic, finely diced or grated on a Microplane

2 tsp sea salt

Juice of 1 lime

6 grape tomatoes, cut in half and each half cut in 6

1/4 of a medium red onion, finely diced

Smash the avocados until a bit smooth and a bit chunky. Add garlic, 1 tsp of salt, and the juice from half the lime. Mix thoroughly with a fork. Add the grape tomatoes and the onion, making sure to separate the onion as you drop it in. Mix with a fork until tomato and onion can be seen throughout. Add the remaining lime juice to the top of the dip, and then sprinkle on the remaining salt. You can adjust the salt to taste, but I like my guac salty, so it makes me thirsty for a margarita 😉

Serve immediately with bell peppers or flax chips for dipping, on your favourite taco or bowl, as a spread on crackers or sandwiches, or as a topper for fish or chicken. This dip, unfortunately, due to the quick browning nature of avocados, does not keep well in the fridge. However, you can freeze for later use, and it actually works out just fine.

Avocados are high in healthy fats and are high in B Vitamins, Vitamin E and Omega-3 fats, and are a great addition to any food lifestyle you may be following. This dip is also another option to #snacksmarter.

 

 

Almond Flour Crackers

Part of my business is working as a fasting coach, helping clients with strategic planning to reduce calorie intake and reap all of the benefits that fasting offers. An essential part of any fasting strategy is ditching snacks because your goal is to a) not eat and b) leave ample time between meals to allow your body to process them completely. Unfortunately, during this time, when we are all required to stay at home, I have become a snacker. It’s mostly from boredom, and I usually could do so many things to get rid of the boredom, but right now, there are not a lot of options.

So I have switched gears. Rather than fighting my urge to snack, I am trying to snack healthier. Avoiding chips, candy, and processed crap has been saving my mental health and keeping the scale from climbing. During these times, we have to shift and adapt as best we can, and I know that avoiding snacking is not a thing that is going to happen right now. So this recipe will be a series of many that encourage you to #snacksmarter, because the best defence against any sickness is your health, and what you eat controls that almost entirely.

One of my snacking go-tos is crackers, and they are one of the most terrible food options when you buy store-bought. Manufactured versions include inflammatory seed oils, crappy substitutes for real food ingredients, and refined sugar, which not only makes no sense at all but also makes them very addictive. Enter the easiest, healthiest, and most delicious cracker recipe, Almond Flour Crackers. The best part about these bad boys is the options for flavouring…it’s kind of a choose your own adventure cracker. Add whatever you like. Your favourite fresh herbs, dried spices, cheese, make them vegan, whatever you want. For this batch, I used 1tbsp of chopped fresh rosemary, and some black garlic salt I got when I was in Oregon, and they were insane.

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Almond Flour Crackers

2 cups of almond flour

1 egg, beaten or 1 flax egg

2 tsp salt

1-2 tbsp of fresh herbs, dried spices, or cheese

Preheat oven to 375F. In a medium-sized bowl, combine almond flour, egg and salt. Mix with a fork and then your hands until mixture forms a ball. Place the ball in the centre of a large piece of parchment, and then cover with another piece. Press the dough down as much as you can with your hands, and then roll until thin and even, spreading it out to the corners and edges of the parchment. You should have a flat sheet now; the thinner you go, the crispier your crackers will be, but don’t go so thin that they just crumble.

Place on a cookie sheet and remove the top layer of parchment. If you want uniform-shaped crackers, score a grid the size of the cracker you want into the dough. For a more artisanal look, you can just break into random pieces after baking. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the top starts to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool completely before breaking. These will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container, or you can freeze for 6 months.

These crackers are great with sesame seeds in them, everything bagel seasoning pressed into the top, parmesan cheese stirred in + granulated onion…whatever flavours you love, these crackers are an excellent vehicle for them. I use these crackers on my low carb cheese boards, and clients and students love them! Confession: my boyfriend and I ate the entire batch in one go because they were so good…the next batch I need to practise some restraint.

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This Pandemic Life: 8 Ways To Show The Earth Some Love Right Now

Happy Earth Month!

Guys this post is late. Like two weeks too late. But my days are all mixed up over here, as I am sure many of yours are too. One of my new mantras is “better late than never” because does anyone really know what day it is? While many things feel ass over teakettle (I have no idea what that means but just heard and now love the saying lol), we should take the time during Earth Month to focus on some positive changes the world is seeing, and some ways we can continue to curb our negative effects on the planet.

From the mess of the world that is COVID-19 has emerged a narrative of beautiful stories of how our planet is responding to its lack of human interaction these days…cleaner air, clearer water, more green space. It’s wonderful that we are allowing Mother Earth to breathe rather than fight the constant stress of us, although sad that it took a pandemic to do so.

Venice Canal Clear NY Post
Venice, Italy Photo Credit: New York Post

 

Air pollution has been drastically reduced in major smog-producing countries like China and Japan; Los Angeles, CA has reported the lowest levels of air pollution since 1995. Water is running clear through the canals of Venice, Italy, and dolphins are returning to Italian ports, many believe from the lack of water traffic and cruise ships docking. However, the silver lining of a cleaner, greener earth amid this terrible time is a bit tarnished, as our health and safety precautions are also having some detrimental effects on the waste we produce.

We are washing everything more – our hands, our clothes, our food, our parcels – as we should, but as a result, we are most certainly using and wasting more water. Gloves, masks, and hand sanitizers create more waste (and unfortunately more litter), as we are using more of these products. Buying non-perishables means we are buying and wasting or recycling more packaging. Online ordering means bubble wrap and boxes for days.

Littered Mask Richmond News
Littered mask Photo Cred: Richmond News

And while we can’t nor should we stop taking the necessary precautions to protect ourselves from the virus, there are areas we can improve on to try and counterbalance our increased waste in other areas:

 

  1. DIY instead of buy – Now’s the time to get creative at home about what you can make to reduce your packaging vs buying. Think anything from coffee to bread, moisturizer to cleaning products. If you can make it, make it.

 

  1. When washing more, take shorter showers – we are using way more water than we have before because we are washing our hands and our clothes and everything else more often. To counterbalance that, take shorter showers and limit baths. Wash up quick and get out.

 

  1. Take advantage of local options – whenever you can, try to choose local if you have access to curbside pick-up or delivery. Think farms, butchers, greenhouses etc that can help you reduce your carbon footprint by buying products that travel the bare minimum to get to you.

 

  1. Reduce your screen time and read a real book – screen time is super addicting right now, and binge-watching shows and binge-scrolling everything is so easy to do. But not only can this have a serious impact on your mental health, you are using and wasting extra power. Try taking the time to read an actual book made out of paper. It’s great for the brain and can reduce your wasted electricity.

 

  1. Get your garden on – whether inside or out, growing your food is a great option to help reduce waste and help the earth and the air. Grow herbs inside, or get a full on vegetable garden going in your yard if possible. This could save you money and trips to the store, which about now is a win-win for everyone.

 

  1. Keep online ordering to a minimum – while it is tempting to order things online like crafts, projects, puzzles, etc. try to keep this to a minimum and use what you’ve got. Online ordering just increases the amount of packaging you are going through, and almost everything these days is packaged to excess. Try to go through what you have, repurpose when possible, and just say no to impulse buying.

 

  1. Eat better to save toilet paper – Yep I said that. Your diet has a big effect on your poop. The better your nutrition, the cleaner your poops should be, requiring less toilet paper. Figure out what foods mess with your poops and avoid if you can. (Shameless plug, but I can help you with this, and am booking virtual appointments right now)

 

  1. Do things by candlelight – seriously who doesn’t love a little mood lighting? Reading by candlelight can feel so fancy, yoga and meditation by candlelight can shift and ground your focus, and who doesn’t love a good candlelight cuddle. Even showering with candlelight can feel so cool. And if you use beeswax candles, you are cleansing the air around you, so bonus. Ghost stories for the kiddos by candlelight anyone?
photo of hand holding lit white pillar candle
Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

What are other ways you can show some love to our planet? We are all learning how precious life is right now, and the life of our earth is no different or less important. And we are all seeing how our actions can have a positive impact on our air, earth, and wildlife. If we shift our focus from what we cannot avoid during this pandemic, to other ways we can improve our footprint, we can learn to adapt and grow for not only the moment, but also for the future.

This Pandemic Life: Truths

I Put Makeup On Today!

I know I know…great accomplishment, right? Except that right now, during this pandemic, it kind of is. Many of you are still showing up to work via online meetings so you get ready each day, and others are showing up to work at essential businesses (thank you so so much!). However, there are many of us who are at home with no work, and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Don’t get me wrong; I am super grateful for the opportunity to be able to stay inside and stay safe as COVID-19 begins to hit close to home really hard and really fast. It’s just that daily functioning has become interesting to say the least. I have always been a morning person, and sleeping in has always been a challenge for me, but apparently when I’m unemployed sleeping until noon is no problem…does anyone else feel me on that? Nothing seems normal, and everything that wasn’t so cool before is totally fine: same sweatpants three days in a row, showering optional, chips for breakfast, wine whenever, etc. etc. etc.

 

These are the things that are messed up (for me) during this pandemic:

 

  1. Daily structure – I was used to filling my weeks with 4 days of serving and the rest of my time taking clients and working on their nutrition protocols, with a splash of writing, recipe creation, and social media stuff in between. Now I am without my restaurant job, without many clients as understandably it’s an extra expense people are scared to spend right now, and struggling to focus on what I can actually do. It is so easy to slip into a pattern of looking at shit online, watching Netflix, sleeping, eating too much, drinking too much wine, the list goes on. I am trying to stick to using my day planner to give my week some structure, but often the day’s activities go right out the window.

 

  1. Sleep – I find myself going to bed earlier than usual, but then waking at 3am thinking about what I should be doing that day, or something I saw online that induces nighttime panic, or craving food, or anything else that should absolutely not be happening at that time. I then find it hard to stay off of my phone and I creep Instagram or Twitter (which FYI is pretty awesome right now), because I can fall back to sleep for as long as I want whenever I want, technically speaking. As someone who has always been a great sleeper, these weird disruptions can completely wreck me and ruin an entire day.

 

  1. Guilt – I am washed with feelings of guilt often, because there is not more that I could be doing to help. I mean from doctors and nurses to grocery store and drug store staff, to construction workers and post office employees, there are so many people out there braving the dangers daily, and all I can do to help is stay at home? As an empath, as a healer, and as a human I am finding it hard to handle. I know I should thank my lucky stars, and that staying home is helping to flatten the curve, but not being able to help more is hard. And would I want to put myself out there right now? Is it bad if I don’t?

 

  1. Fear – I have never been so afraid. Afraid of standing too close to someone, afraid to touch a door handle, afraid of sneezing in public; I am just feeling so much fear. Should I order takeout? Is grocery delivery safe? Will I survive my trip to the post office without getting ‘it’? I know I am young and healthy, but I don’t want anything to do with being as sick as this virus can get you. And my biggest fear is if I am just spreading this horrible thing without knowing. Is it better if I get groceries delivered, or does that make me spoiled and selfish and I should just go to the store? So many questions and so much confusion, all centred around this fear

 

All this being said, things are not all bad, and during such a scary and uncertain time, we definitely need to try to put more emphasis on being grateful for whatever we can.

 

These are the things that are wicked awesome during this pandemic:

 

  1. Time to work out – being stuck at home means I legit have zero “I don’t have time”, “I hate the gym”, “I’m too lazy” excuses for taking care of my physical fitness. I mean I might be feeling lazy, but how many other hours in the day do I have to live that dream? Plus, there are so many awesome online classes being offered for free and so many apps out there to keep us motivated that it’s actually easy and enjoyable to make time to build muscle mass or flexibility each day. This has always been important to me, but now I can build consistency that I hope will continue on once we get back to our normal lives. There will be good days and bad, but a morning workout for me usually means a good day.

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  1. Cooking – now many of you may not experience the joy that I do as a culinary nutritionist when it’s time to prepare a meal, but it is legit my favourite thing on earth to do. Now, the fact that I am enjoying cooking, even though I am also currently mid-kitchen renovation and without a fully functioning kitchen would shock many. But thank goodness for Instant Pots and barbeques…legit all I need to make healthy nutritious meals for me and my Matt 

 

  1. Time to do the thing – I have been struggling to focus my attention on getting my blog back up and running, and actually writing, and now it’s like the universe is telling me to stop making excuses and get that shit done. I have time to write, and writing is actually how I am able to give back to my community and provide some stability and guidance during this scary time. I can help people with immune-boosting advice, anxiety management, behaviour change, compassion and love. If you are under “house arrest” now is the time to do that thing that you know you need to do as an extension of who you are, but keeping putting off. Do the thing. Do it.

 

  1. Creative connections – from apps like Houseparty, options to video chat with Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Facetime, and actually picking up the goddam phone and calling someone, getting creative with how to connect with loved ones is kind of fun and exciting, and so important to our souls. Self-isolation is great for many, but human connection is still important to our souls in some capacity, even if it’s just a text here and there or a virtual hug of some kind. My bestie is driving around and waving to friends from their driveways or the street as a way to get outside and keep spreading the love. For extroverts like myself, socialization is imperative to my survival, so I love that I can reach out via technology to get that fix.

 

  1. Relaxing – staying home means we are being forced to slow down. To chill out. To nap. To sleep in. To go to bed early and get up late. To just watch a movie or listen to a record or read a book for fun. And during times of high stress like right now, take advantage of those times you can actually let go and have some down time. Because as the virus is on pace to soar in Canada before we flatten the curve, our stress levels will rise, people we know and love will get sick, we will feel anxiety, nervousness and fear, and for the sake of our health we need to do what we can when we can to feel ok. To feel safe and secure. To feel hopeful and safe.

 

  1. Friends – no not my friends, although they are awesome too. But Friends, the tv show. I have watched the entire series about a million times, and I can’t stop. Throwing it on in the background when I am doing something means that I can hear it but don’t need to watch it, and the familiar narrative provides me comfort and distracts me from what’s going on. This show might be different for you…The Office? How I Met Your Mother? Seinfeld? 90210? Finding comfort in familiarity and nostalgia is a big thing right now, and it feels so good. PB&J anyone?

 

So, what’s on your list? Be honest. What are you finding hard right now? What are you really enjoying? And shout-out to anyone dealing with a whole family right now…kids, pets, in-laws…you guys are all doing a really incredible job. Whatever your list, there is no right or wrong, and it’s all ok. Feel all the feels. Be grateful for what we have in this moment, but be honest about your doubts and your misses. In times of struggle, being honest with yourself can be a source of comfort and can create a sense of realness in a time that is so surreal. It’s ok to be ok, and it’s ok to not be ok. Just do what you have to do to get through each day, and hold on to those things that keep you safe and sane.

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Tastes Just Like A Cabbage Roll Soup

Meaty mushrooms make up for the lack of beef or bacon and bam! This soup tastes like the real deal.
Meaty mushrooms make up for the lack of beef or bacon and bam! This soup tastes like the real deal.

Since I stopped eating meat, there are some things I miss; bacon, chicken wings, pulled pork, Big Macs, and cabbage rolls. I love cabbage rolls. They are meaty and starchy and comforting and delicious. And I haven’t had them in over 5 years.

So I set out to figure out how to bring cabbage rolls back into my life…without meat…without rice, but with all of the flavour. And I was actually shocked when it worked…this soup tastes like actual cabbage rolls…the ones with meat…but they are completely vegan. I swear. The meatiness comes from very finely chopped mini bella mushrooms and pure luck. You’re welcome.

 

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 small cooking onion, diced

1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 stalk of celery, finely chopped

5-7 mini bella mushrooms, very finely chopped image

1 medium cabbage, shredded or chopped into strips

2 cups vegetable stock

2 cups strained tomatoes

1 can organic diced tomatoes

2 sprigs of thyme

2 bay leaves

1/2 cup quinoa, cooked

salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil on medium heat. Add garlic and sauté, 30 seconds. Add shallot and continue cooking, 1 minute. Add onion and continue cooking, 3 minutes. Add carrot, celery, and mushrooms, and cook until soft. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the cabbage, cover, and let sweat, 5-7 minutes. Remove cover, add stock and both kinds of tomatoes, thyme and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 hours. Stir in quinoa, serve, and enjoy!

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