Thursday, September 1, 2016

Back to Work 'Grab and Go' Lunch Ideas

Pretty soon it's going to be 'back to school', which for me translates to 'back to work'.  I've always found that in the summer, when I have time to prepare all my meals, I really put in all my effort to carefully select what I want to eat and then make everything fresh.  It seems reasonable to want to do this when I go back to work and I always start with the best intentions.  In fact, the first two weeks I'm waking up early, making a fresh salad etc etc.  Then something usually happens.  The carefully created beautiful lunch turns into a 'grab and go'.  You all know exactly what I mean by a 'grab and go' - it's the grab a piece of bread and ketchup packet you have in your fridge because you're either 1) tired or 2) figured it's the end of the week, so why go food shopping?  What happened to the beautiful fresh mozzarella and brushetta salad, the gorgeous grilled calamari or mediterranean tuna salad from the summer?  Every year I tell myself that I'm going to make this for lunch:

This year, I want to hold myself to my word.  If I've learned anything from this summer, it's that there is just no comparison to wholesome, clean, homemade food.  During those stressful 'grab and go' days (which you sometimes can't avoid) - why not have some better choices on hand?  Imagine grabbing some olives, a can of tuna, some cherry tomatoes and some sliced cheese?  It takes just as much time to grab those things as it does the bag of chips or the bread and ketchup :)  In fact, you can get really creative with changing up your 'grab and go' days.  Next time you're at the grocery store, check out all the amazing canned fish, smoked fish, European vegetable spreads (the Balkan Avjar is amazing and packed with veggies), antipastos, portioned sized cheese cubes, olives etc etc.  You'll have people thinking that you just got off the plane from the Mediterranean.  Now, don't get me wrong, every time you have the opportunity to make something fresh and use organic fruits and vegetables or make a meal from scratch, that's always the best.  The fall and winter months are perfect for soups, stews, baked pasta dishes.  However, it's always wise to stock up on something that you can take with you in a pinch and this is still fairly healthy.  A can of tuna with a side of Ajvar will be much healthier than a chemical laden 'hot pocket'.  Convenience doesn't have to be unhealthy - it just has to be well thought out! 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Changing of the Seasons

The reality of an amazing summer gone by is slowing starting to sink in.  However, I love the flow of the seasons and I know that as Fall/Autumn starts to creep in, it will bring some amazing culinary and personal adventures for me.  I can't wait to make some pumpkin and butternut squash soup, pumpkin-spice pancakes,  hot apple cider - Yum!  Fall is an amazing season full of hearty dishes and great aromas, spices, soups and stews.  Lets not forget how beautiful fall is - with the bright and warm coloured leaves and comfy sweaters.  A big part of me is getting uber excited for all the great things to come.  Summer, however, is still here!  Before I can allow myself to get too excited for 'all things comfort' - I want to bring into the next season all the wonderful things I learned this summer.  I find that each summer, I grow as a person.  I gain some new insights, some fresh perspective on things.  This summer has been about letting go of my inhibitions.  I traveled to a magnificent country - Spain!  I explored a whole new world of culinary adventures.  I started this blog :)  I said good-bye to all the heavy makeup (although I keeping the classic red-orange lipstick) and I've finally learned to 'listen' to my body and appreciate it's wisdom.  I'm truly HAPPY to be in my own skin and to appreciate the person I am and flow into the person I'm becoming.  I love that it's a 'process' and that there is no rush, no judgement, no regrets, just 'moving forward' in pure acceptance and self-respect!!!  

Monday, August 15, 2016

Your Body - The Struggle, Message and Treasure of Embracing Your Truth!

This summer I had a pretty significant a-ha moment.    Let me begin by saying that I have always been body conscious.  Throughout my life I have been at different weights - at times, thin and at other times, overweight.  I can relate to the feeling of going shopping and being able to wear whatever I wanted, to crying in the change room because I hated the way I felt in the clothes I was trying on.  It's one of my life struggles.  One thing that I have noticed is that no matter what my weight is, when I look back at photos of myself at various times, I realized that I judged myself very harshly.  I'd look at a photo where I felt like I gained a few pounds and I look 'great'.  Or I'd look at photos of myself when I was very thin and realize that I wasn't very happy at that time or didn't even look my best.  Lets add to this whole equation that I've been on every diet known to man - I've tried 'everything' from atkins to being vegan, to the blood type diet etc etc.  My a-ha moment came when I was in Spain this summer and at one of the local beaches.  I noticed women of every shape and size, every height and weight and I left with this sense of peace and self-acceptance.  I finally had the understanding that we truly are all different and we shouldn't be striving to look and be something that we're not.  Not every women is 6 foot tall and a size two.  We have succumb to the unrealistic vision created by unrealistic individuals in the fashion industry that there is only one model of beauty and that is the tall, overly-thin woman.  Yet, when I was at that beach in Spain, I saw truly beautiful women.  What made them beautiful is that they all 'owned' their own bodies and were proportionate to their own weight/height.  Everyone looked the way God created them to look.  They looked like real women not barbie prototypes.  There was no judgement on that beach and in fact, every woman gave off this energy that they were comfortable in their own skin.    I realized right then and there that the issue isn't always with what size we're wearing, its how good we feel in our own bodies and how we treat ourselves.  Do we accept ourselves?  Do we treat ourselves with kindness?  Do we even allow ourselves to feel beautiful? or have we placed on ourselves this unrealistic agenda that we can only feel beautiful once we're a size 6.   The second that I stopped comparing myself to everyone on the beach, decided to embrace my body and allow myself to feel attractive, was the beginning of my own sense of self acceptance.  From that place, I was able to make choices that really reflected how much I accepted and appreciated myself.  It's 100% true that you need to value and love yourself first.  Once you're able to do that, you no loner need the outside world and it's approval of you. That being said, the goal, therefore, should be to strive to 'feel good' and do something good for yourself everyday.  It's about loving yourself and your body, giving up the judge/jury dynamic and doing something everyday that celebrates the gift of being 'you'.  So, what does that really mean?

Understand that your body-temple was created for you and only YOU can give yourself the gift of loving your own body.  It's 100% only your responsibility!  Therefore, give yourself permission to love every inch of who you are.  Once you begin to accept yourself and love your creation, you will WANT to give yourself the best: the best food to fuel your body, the best messages to encourage yourself, wearing the colours that look best on you, wearing clothes that highlight your best features, doing an exercise that makes your body feel amazing, listening to what your body needs - Perhaps it's telling you that it needs more sleep or that alcohol/coffee/dairy/gluten etc etc doesn't make you feel the best.  Once you know you are deserving of the best, you must give yourself the best.  Knowing that something isn't right for you, but continuing to do it, isn't an act of self-love.  It's the opposite.  I realized that for me, I love eating a Mediterranean diet, more fish and vegetables, less meat and bread.  However, I also saw the value of moderation and not denying yourself something.  It's enjoying that glass of wine with gusto, eating that piece of bread without self-judgment/hatred afterwards.  It really comes down to how do you treat and talk to yourself?  If you're talking to someone you love, you don't belittle them for making a wrong choice, you help them acknowledge and see why it wasn't the best choice and be aware of it (i.e. wow, I really overdid it last night - I can't handle red wine like I used to, I feel bloated after eating all that bread etc etc etc - whatever the case may be) - but 'own it' and then give yourself permission to forgive yourself and take responsibility for making a better choice next time.  When you love yourself, you treat yourself like your best friend.  So become your own best friend to yourself - tell yourself you look great, acknowledge when you do something amazing.   You will know when you are acting on your best behalf when you choose that healthy meal and know you are deserving of feeding your body the best....and....... you will also know that you are being your best friend when you have that piece of cake and feel in alignment with your choice and don't beat yourself up afterwards.  Life is too short to not love the person you were created to be.  

Take the time to see the uniqueness that is you.  Look at your creation in the mirror and allow yourself to appreciate every inch of who you are.  We often identity ourselves as our bodies, but at our deepest level, we are beings of light who have a greater purpose.  When you embrace and recognize that the being within you is eternal and that your body is simply a temporary vessel, you will know that your true worth can't be weighed or assigned a number.  Yet, the vessel you are in was assigned to you for a reason.  Perhaps when you finally accept, love and appreciate that vessel, you will see the true worth of what lies within it!  The true treasure that is YOU!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Breakfast Blessings..........

One of the things that I miss the most about travelling, is waking up and having that inner knowing that you are somewhere far away from your everyday reality and enjoying breakfast with this feeling lingering in the back of your mind.  I don't know what it is about 'enjoying breakfast' while being away from home, but it has transformative abilities.  I think that part of the reason is that breakfast for me is always a time for reflection.  I'm a morning person and I relish in those early morning moments of philosophical 'a-ha's'.  Breakfast is one of those meals that when organized correctly really is amazing.  You have the quiet, reading the paper kind of breakfast which is amazing (and equally reflective) or you can have breakfast with your family/friends, where everyone is in that semi-awake state; more authentically themselves and highlighting what the day will bring.  For me, I love both scenarios.  However, when you're travelling, these moments are always intensified.  At a hotel, you are often having breakfast with your family, surrounded by other travellers you'll never see again.  Yet, you are drawn to them - Where are they from?  What will the day bring for them?  The inner-stylist in me loves to see what people are wearing and just people watch.  I think the best moments of the day come when you can reflect like this.   Then, you have the breakfast with your family that you are visiting or staying with.  You get to sit down with them, catch up on all that's happened since you've last seen them or get excited about what you plan to do that day.  Sometimes you even get to enjoy the type of breakfast where people come down in 'spurts' - you know the one where your Uncle is up at 5:30 making coffee, half of the family is making their way downstairs to the table, just talking , looking at the paper and talking politics, what's happening in the city etc.  Then the 'late crew' wakes up just in time to eat with everyone else, some of them with just one eye open because they literally just woke up.  I love being the observer of this type of scenario because everyone is just being themselves :)  Plus, how awesome is it to see your family that you know you may not see again for a couple of years - you cherish these moments because they are the ones you will remember the most.

Now, I can't talk about breakfast while traveling unless I bring up the food.  Visiting my family here in North America, it's usually pretty consistent - some type of toast, eggs, bacon, sausage, coffee, orange juice etc etc.  Then there is my favourite breakfast, the European continental - croissants, buns, a selection of breads/pastries, various sliced meats, cheese, yogurt, fruit, coffee with steamed milk (my favourite) and perhaps some hard-boiled eggs.  I love the coffee and open faced sandwich idea for breakfast.  I try to make a healthier 'bread' version by using the European Wasa oat-crackers with cheese, Baltic salami, a touch of mayo and salt/pepper.  This somehow transports me back to Europe.  However, I have to say that my 'favourite' breakfasts were in Paris.  Since I'm the morning person, I'd wake up before everyone else, walk down to the local cafe (which was conveniently located across the street from the Patisserie-Bolougerie) and sit there with my Cafe au lait, people watching, thinking, philosophizing etc.  Then when the Patisserie opened, I'd usually grab a few croissants or a quiche slice to bring back to the hotel.  I had so many amazing moments during that trip and yet Breakfast was when I was able to let it all sink in.  This brings me to the best part of breakfast - coffee.  To me, coffee and reflection go hand in hand.  No breakfast is complete without a good, strong cup of coffee.  I often wonder how many amazing creative ideas, a-ha moments, plans, novel lines and inspiring moments came about during a morning cup of coffee.  We all have those moments that are sacred for us.  For me, it's usually a combination of traveling and breakfast where I feel the most connected and in-tune with life and those around me.  Recognizing this is a true blessings in and of itself :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Coffee, Lipstick and Consumerism :)

I really love that anyone can order a coffee just the way they like it.  Starbucks makes it possible for you to order a tall Pike's Place or a double shot, soy skinny vanilla latte with a dash of cinnamon :)   Society sometimes rolls its eyes with it takes you 5 minutes to put in your coffee order, but one thing that we take for granted is that we have that privilege.  I've been thinking a lot about consumerism and commercialism.  In an attempt to declutter my wardrobe, I've come across so many things and a lot of 'stuff' that I just don't need.  It's bothersome to think that all it takes for some of us is to see a 'SALE' sign and we're buying 10 things of something that we don't need.  Yet, there are times when we really do need that white shirt or new purse.  So what's the real issue?  It's not knowing what you have, what you need and who you are!  Consumerism isn't bad in and of itself - it's how you 'respond' to it.  Someone once told me that the true definition of 'responsibility' is to be 'response-able'.  Your ability to respond to what's in front of you is your true personal power.  When you respond to that inner need of wanting more, you become the person who buys 10 things you don't need.  However, when you respond to your inner-compass of knowing what you truly need, you will respect and enjoy the fact that something you 'really need' is on sale.  Commercialism and the 'sale' isn't the problem, our ability to respond to our own needs/wants is what we truly need to look at.  So how does this all relate to Starbucks and Orange lipstick??? :)  When I began to define myself vs allow society to define me, I discovered a new sense of freedom in a world that tries to control me and my spending.  I was always in awe of someone who could walk into a department store, go straight to what they needed and walk out, enjoying the rest of their day.  I used to be the person who would walk into a department store and within seconds, I'd be at the makeup counters, walking out 2 hours later with makeup I never intended to buy and makeup that I didn't even need.  It would be like a scene from the movie 'Shopaholic' where the protagonist gets the visa bill and thinks it belongs to someone else because she doesn't remember half the things she purchased.  When you have an INTENTION behind your every action, you cannot be swayed by the pull of commercialism.

It all comes back to grounding yourself and knowing who you are in the midst of a material driven world.  You almost have to compare yourself to a Buddhist seeking inner peace in the midst of chaos. You need to be able to stand in the most commercial department store and not be 'swayed' by the commercialism.  You need to define yourself and love yourself in a world that is constantly trying to tell you what you need in order to be and feel worthy.  Did you ever think about why we are so in awe of those who break the rules?  or why we love stories like 'The Little Prince'?  It's because we remember our true nature and the privilege that comes with the freedom of choice to be 'ourselves'.  When you think about it from this perspective and you aren't swayed by the sales, ads and the 'definition of beauty' defined by others, you can benefit from everything around you.  So go ahead and order your favourite coffee and wear your favourite lipstick.  Own your definition of you!

Monday, August 8, 2016

'Tuna Melt' Scrambled Eggs or Omelette

Who knew that combining two classics could result in such a tasty dish?  This may just be my new favourite egg recipe to make.  If you love the taste of a 'tuna melt', this is for you!!!

I've been wanting to try this for a while, but it took a crazy 'tuna salad' craving to make it happen :)  The idea actually came from my cousin Eddie in Spain.  I remember talking to him about making omelettes and he said he put in tuna to his egg dishes.  That combination stuck in my mind for some reason and I knew at some point I would try it.  Interestingly enough, today is Eddie's birthday!  When I realized that last night I made a tuna salad for dinner (just a can of tuna, Polish 'babynias' mayonnaise from Starsky (an amazing Polish-European inspired grocery store here in Mississauga) and salt) - I had about 2 tablespoons worth of tuna left over and decided, let's try an 'Eddie Omelette'.  I combined the leftover tuna salad, 2 organic eggs, some applewood smoked cheddar and tried to make an omelette.  For some reason, I could flip the omelette properly, so it became more of a scrambled egg dish :)  When I sat down to try this dish, I actually said 'WOW' out loud.  This is an incredible combination and it's incredibly simple at the same time.  I will definitely be making this again.  I can this this being such an amazing dinner too - add some sliced tomato and a glass of chardonnay and all is well with the world!!!  Since it's 9:30 here is Mississauga I'm going to forgo the wine, but at some point, I will raise a glass to say 'Happy Birthday' to Eddie!  Thank you for this amazing recipe idea!  Miss my family in Spain so much.  They are incredible, amazingly happy people and I am blessed to know them!!! :)  Gracias Eddie!!!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Spanish Beach Food :)

It's been almost two weeks since I've returned home from my Spain trip.  I'm really missing my family and reminiscing about all the amazing experiences I had.  One of the things that I really miss is having lunch by the beach.  I had some amazing food in Spain and one of the things I really loved about it was that everything was so fresh and tasty.  Normally, I don't like the taste of fried foods, but the Calamari I had at the local beach eatery was 'amazing'.  I found that the fried calamari was never heavy and greasy - instead, it was light and airy and the calamari itself was fresh and tender (not chewy or rough as it sometimes can be when it's not locally made or fresh).  The lemon beer we had in Spain was also such a perfect compliment to the calamari.  This was my favourite 'beach treat', along with patatas alioli (garlic-potatoes) :

One of my other favourite beach treats was a fish or tuna based salad.  One of the things thats always so amazing about being near the sea is having more fresh seafood options.  I loved this fish based salad that I ordered at a local beach eatery in El Campello - it was refreshing and it inspired me to start making salads with different combinations of ingredients:

This is a Mediterranean salad at it's best - salad greens, tomatoes, fish, onions, olives, corn and a feta type cheese.  The green olives were a great addition to this salad and since I've come home, I've become a bit of an olive fanatic.  I'd actually love to learn more about olives and olive oil in general.  There is a reason that they are a Mediterranean staple and it's worth learning more about the health benefits as well as all the different varieties of olives/olive oil.

Enjoying lunch has a whole new meaning for me and although I won't be having fried calamari and lemon beer for lunch once I return back to work, it will always be on my mind :)