Saturday, 7 December 2013

How to catch a monkey.

Funny how my last post was about an ode to keep up consistency with this blogosphere, only to have the longest period between posts since I started.

This isn't going to be some recipe or prose, just me, sitting at my laptop at 4AM on a Sunday morning with a report hanging over my head.

I've been having a tough month, not going to lie. I had a few bad accidents, was bedridden with the worst case of bronchitis and laryngitis I've experienced yet, and dealt with a relapse of my "demons".

If you scroll through my posts you'd probably have seen me reference my demons. To put it simply, they're a literary personification of my past depression, bulimia, and anxieties. 

I want to talk about bouncing back from a low place. From what I've experienced, it's watching your past happier self through a glass, almost cinematic, like a black and white silent film.

Everything feels like the heaviest shit you have to face. Getting out of bed, work, cooking, dealing with people, all of it feels like a chore, like a huge inconvenience. 

Funnily enough, when you're in that mode, you don't realize that the one person that can SNAP bang you out of that attitude is the one staring back at you while you're brushing your teeth.

In this scenario, I'm referencing yourself. Unless you have a creepy person standing behind you while you scrub your pearly whites. In that case, carry on..

As corny as that may sound, it's true. You're the person in control of how you feel, how you react, nobody else. You are the one choosing to feel this depressed. To react this way.


is it so bad to be in those low moments? 

I know that there are all sorts of spiritual leaders who preach that balance is key to consistent happiness. What goes up must come down, and all that. Which is why I believe it's healthy to feel depressed.


Yeah, I'm serious. If I didn't have my moments of complete and utter depression, where I'm left crying the Nile into my pillow not knowing what the hell I'm doing, or who I am, or what I should be doing with my life, or why the people I've given my heart to have thrown it into the juicer and used it as a mixer, or how friends pass through my life as if I were some form of a drive through; I wouldn't have those moments of clarity where it's so simple.

Nobody knows what the fu*k they're supposed to be doing all the time. Nobody has a set plan and has it all work out the way they doodled it out to be in the 6th grade. The world doesn't fu*king revolve around you and your thoughts. 

I call myself the 'cat of all trades' because I thought it was a neat way to personify what I've done so far: 
I'm cat person. And I do a lot. ... ... .. In a more articulate manner, I should explain that I've dilly dallied in many fields and forms of art, expression, you name it. 

Make up, photography, painting, dancing, acting, performing, poetry, presenting, editing, cooking, and yet somehow I feel more like the jack of all trades, but a king of nothing.

I look at people who just KNOW what they want to do and go for it. I can't help but feel slightly envious. They seem so sure of themselves. So hell bent on their passions that they throw themselves 100% into it and don't resurface until they hold a list of accomplishments.
And here I am, someone who wants to jump into ALL the pools of passion. I don't want to give up anything. Does that make me the monkey with his hand in the hole of the box? Clutching the treat, but knowing I can't pull my hand out unless I just let go?

Do I follow logic? Or chase my dreams? Or logic and then dreams? Or both simultaneously?
How does one hold onto all the things that make them who they are without losing out on everything else?
It's these things that plague me in the misty hours of the night. How do you shut up the voices and angry little French men that play golf inside your mind? Scoffing at your doubts as if to say "Oui, zat  noh doubt eez a hole in wan." ... sorry, France.

There's a conversation I had with myself earlier today.
And yes, I talk to myself a lot more than anyone sane cares to admit.
I thought to myself, 

Is there anything I can do to change my situation? Where I am physically in this world?

Not at the moment.

Is there any way I can change my  way of thinking ABOUT the situation?

Yep. But that'll mean I'll have to admit I was being an idiot.

There you go. You can't always plan everything to be the way you want it to be, and why would you even want to? Life is like being in a rickety boat that you've constructed with your bare hands, floating in a torrential sea of stormy water. You can either feel flooded and sink, or welcome the chaos with a smile, the same way you do when it rains and you lift your face to the sky, not caring about getting drenched.
It's never ever EVER going to be smooth sailing, because life isn't like that. Life isn't easy, and anyone who has it easy probably doesn't feel as satisfied. 
You shouldn't dread the hard times. As someone in her early 20's, you've experienced just as much as most 30 year old's you know. You've dwelt in the darkest caves and have found the glow worms at the ceiling. This is only the beginning. You are still a baby, as much as you hate to admit that, but whatever you've experienced is but a smudge of what life is going to throw at you, and it's up to you whether you're going to fall flat faced into the water, or grab onto your knees and canon ball the shit out of it.

I know that when depression hits, there's a moment where you just cry your heart out, not even crying about one thing in particular, but there's that lump in your throat. And almost every time, right after you ugly cry the hell out of every angsty Radiohead song, you get filled with this sense of calm. Your smarter, inner voice that's subconsciously telling you that things are going to be ok. 

You know you're going to be ok because just like the most recognized symbol of life: the heart rate monitor, if you're not going up and down, you're flatline dead.

My point? It's ok to be sad. It's ok to feel like you can't get up. Go talk to someone you care about or who cares about you. If you don't want anyone to know, record yourself on film. Opening up and talking about how you feel sometimes makes you realize how damn insignificant your worries are. And even if they're not, you'll feel better just by getting it out.

I'd like to end this big ol' rant with something I know will come off as a little bit sappy:
I'm so grateful that I've been given all that I have been given. I forget how my issues and problems are those that millions of people go through, and there are billions who deal with things so much worse. I turn to my future self, my inner, wiser voice of whom has helped me through so much; from backing off the ledge, and mentally holding me even when my mind, soul, and heart have been wringed out of all its contents and left to dry; that little light was always there. 
I am grateful for the people in my life, for the support I've been given, however controversial, and for all the friends that have taught me life lessons. I'm grateful for the fact that I never gave into the darkness completely, and that I realized that no matter what people have said, or called me, or done, I was able to bounce back, middle fingers in the air, and said
"Screw you, I'm living life right."

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Clean, Paleo, Chocolate Decadence: The Souffle + bonus ice cream recipe.

Gathered around the TV, post dinner, my family and I were (of course) watching the Food Network.
Our conversation dominated our attention towards the television until one snapshot of a delectable dessert shut us all up:


That gloriously thick chocolate, looking rich enough to buy enough carpets to cover a sultanate’s palace, just glooping in the bowl along with an oozing, sinful amount of butter; and that fluffy, sky-high cloud of whipped egg whites and sugar that looked so whimsical it just made us smile.

The two married together in a performance so practiced you’d have thought it was an act. The pale gold white and deep, dark chocolate danced and flirted with one another until they melded to become a whipped chocolate dream.
It was then that my father looked to me and said:

“Can you make that?”

As some of you know, I’m a bit of a performer in the kitchen. I stare at the pantry for a good twenty minutes, sniffing and tasting spices and mustards, and once I make a decision on what tastes go together, I throw it all in and jump around, fingers crossed, hoping it’ll come out alright, and it usually does.
Baking has never been my forte because it requires precise measurements that allow the scientific bubblings behind the ingredients to work.

So, when my father asked me to whip up a soufflé, I turned to our good friend: Google.

Clean baking and eating is something I absolutely advocate. However, it’s not always easy to find a clean version of certain baked goods because of the necessities of the exact ingredients.

Lo and behold! Thanks to the green movement of the 21st century, there were recipes to choose from that allowed me to make something naughty, but with ingredients that were nice.

No processed ingredients, flour, white sugar, no bad shtuff, thanks.
I adapted it to suit what I preferred and to what I had available to me in my pantry, but for the most part, it’s a pretty simple and easy recipe.

On paper, that is.

There were a couple of moments when I had my heart in my throat because it wasn’t going as planned, but I’ll point those out to you later in the recipe.

Speaking of which, let’s get to it...
Clean Paleo Chocolate Souffle. Serves 2  in medium ramekins.

3 TBSPNs grassfed organic butter / ghee (substitute could be coconut oil, but haven’t tested that)
2 TBSPNs unsweetened raw cocoa powder
3OZ /89grams dark organic chocolate (I used a combo of 78% and 85%)
½ tspn vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
2 egg whites
2 TBSPNs coconut sugar (can be granules or nectar, It works with both)
Pinch of salt
Pinch of baking powder (the original recipe called for cream of tartar, but I didn’t have any)

Preheat your oven to 190C (375F).
Butter your ramekins with a third (or however much needed) butter, then dust with cocoa powder, shaking out the excess.
Melt the chocolate and remaining butter in a bain Maire (glass bowl over simmering water in a pot, make sure NOT to allow the bowl to be immersed in the water, not even touching!!).

Once melted, add in the vanilla, and wait for it to cool slightly before adding in the egg yolks, one by one.

It was at this point that I added the egg yolks when the chocolate was still too hot, leaving me with chocolate seizing up and panic rushing through me. I almost gave up but seeing as I had no other chocolate to start over with, I let it cool and put it aside. I then used a few good scoops of the beaten egg whites to mix in and loosen up the chocolate. Thankfully, it worked like a charm and it became rich and pour-able again.

Set aside your chocolate mixture, and beat the egg whites, sugar, salt, and baking powder until firm peaks form.
Another mistake I made here was beating the egg whites too soon, and then having them stand on the counter during my chocolate panic, only to have them become watery and unusable. I just had to toss them out and start over with new egg whites.

Once your egg whites are whipped, fold in a third into the chocolate. Don’t worry about being too careful here, you’re just lightening up the chocolate mixture so that when you mix in the rest of the whites, the air won’t be knocked out of it from over mixing.

Then, fold in the rest of your egg whites into the chocolate to form a glorious, pillow-y chocolate fluff.
Carefully spoon the mixture into your ramekins, filling them about ¾ of the way up, and running your finger around the edge of the batter and ramekin so that they can rise straight up.
Bake for approximately 20 minutes. They will rise up in the oven and look glorious.

They will deflate when you take them out of the oven, so let the serving be done right away for a bit of a show-off, then enjoy them when they’re slightly cooled.
They will be light, fluffy, yet decadent. Very much like a fancy brownie.
For even more deliciousness, I suggest serving it with clean ice cream. Oohhh what a treat!

For clean, vegan, ice cream, all you need are:
Peeled, sliced, frozen bananas,
Milk of any form (coconut, almond, rice..); just a splash.
Vanilla stevia or extract
Simply throw all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and scoop out to enjoy! It’ll have the consistency of soft serve ice cream.
Enjoy! Stay happy, stay smiling, stay hydrated. 

The 9-5er's guide to surviving the desk job.

I'm in a long distance relationship with sleep. Oh, how I miss the feeling of the soft, down-filled pillows and the burrito-wrapping of duvets that I so very much enjoy.

Sleep goes by for any student or office-worker, and as tempting it is to snooze through in front of the 13-inch screen, we've all got to keep moving in order to stay healthy.

"But I'm working at a desk every day, how on Earth can I be active in an office?"

I'm not talking burpees by the water cooler, so slow your roll. I'm talking about simple ways to avoid the dreaded 
"office ass". 

"Office ass"; Noun; Definition: having the behind perfectly sculpted by the seat of your office chair due to not getting off of all.

Researchers have said that a sedentary lifestyle is one of the biggest killers, so if we're sitting on our behinds for 8-9 hours a day, then sitting at home, then sleeping, how on earth are we supposed to expect the weight to come off?

I'm not only specifying weight loss here. Heart health, back pains, all of these ailments can be fixed by implementing a few things in your daily routine.
I've looked online for what others recommend when it comes to staying active in the office, and I've got to tell you, I found some pretty ridiculous tips.

Things like "running up stairs during your lunch break for 10 mins for a quick HiiT workout" and "20 push ups every time you get up for the WC". As good as they may be for general fitness, I have yet to meet someone willing (or able) to sweat it out in a suit.

I mean, have you ever met someone during a meeting and thought, "She/He needs to be sweatier"? No. Because suits aren't meant to be sweat in. That's what jump-suits are for (heyoo transition win? No? Alright..).
Besides, the list that I have come up with aren't only exercise-based. It goes through nutrition as well. So, grab your cup of Jo and notepad and let's begin.

1. Food Prep.

I can't stress enough that food prep is key for any fitness/health goal. Some of you have mentioned that you don't know what to make that's quick/easy/simple/tasty, and all I have to say is this:

Get creative.

Some of my favourite and most common lunches i pack are a simple case of peeled veggies, boiled eggs, some grain (quinoa or brown rice), and some nuts to snack on. 

For example, today's lunch is just that. Instead of having a calorie/sugar/fat ridden dip of (conventional) mayo or salad dressing out the bottle, I dipped my veggies in brown mustard.

I know it looks simple, that's because it is. The key is how you spice things up.

Personally, I give a good shake of cayenne pepper onto my eggs and quinoa, along with a generous squeeze of lemon, a tablespoon of coconut oil, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and a bit of cinnamon.

Trust me, cayenne and cinnamon are an amazing blend. 

If you can't stand the thought of mustard and don't know what to dip your veggies in, try a bit of greek yogurt with lemon, cayenne, cinnamon, paprika, a teeeny bit of tumeric, salt and pepper. That packs a powerful amount of anti-oxidants and healthy kicks into your food.

I like to organize my foods into "categories". So, the raw veggies will be my "main snack", the almonds/nuts my "after lunch snack", the quinoa and eggs my "main meal". But then again I just have to deal with a little OCD. 

The "main meal" usually has the grains.

Cook your quinoa/brown rice/sweet potato/vermicelli IN ADVANCE.

So, while you're watching your tv show or pumping iron, take a few minutes beforehand to put the stuff into a pot with the alarm on so that you can have a good amount to keep you going through a few days. This goes for everything you cook: soups and salads especially.

Once you're done with your workout, or when you're preparing your dinner for the evening, take an extra 10 minutes to peel and slice an extra serving of vegetables. Boom, there's another meal done. 

If you've roasted a chicken for dinner, put aside a piece to rip up and toss into a salad (or rice).
Tip: squeeze lemon and sprinkle cayenne pepper on everything. The health benefits are amazing and it makes your food that bit extra yummy.

One main point that I'd like to stress is that it's called "PREP" for a reason. Who has time in the morning to cook up quinoa and soups and salads?  By doing this the night before you can eliminate the "I don't have time" factor and start controlling what you eat rather than settling for the nutrition-void subway foot-long that you frequent.

2. Drink enough tea to drown an Englishman.

Being an honorary (and technical) Brit, I do love my tea. I have an entire drawer in the office dedicated to all kinds of teas so that I can sip till my heart's content. Oh I'm not joking..

I have a rule for the office: "Refill, refill, refill." 
If my mug is empty, I'll get up and brew another cup. 
If I'm done drinking my cup of coffee, I make sure to re-hydrate twice-fold. I like to keep bottles of water right next to me so that it becomes second-nature.
Yes, you do need to use the bathroom often, but that's a passable side effect to staying hydrated.

There's another reason why I make tea so often....

3. Get up shake it.

Every 30-45 mins (or every time my mug is empty), get up, stretch, walk around the office, go use the WC, just MOVE

If you're in an environment where you can't stand while using your laptop, make sure to get up every so often to stretch out your back and legs. 

Stretch out your arms, shoulder, neck, and back, making sure to breathe deeply to relax your mind and give your eyes a rest. Go to the WC and do some squats, lunges, wall-squats, anything that might be a little embarrassing to be seen doing by coworkers.

When sitting at your desk, make sure you're sitting up straight, and that your posture is correct. This can be a pain to do in the beginning, but once you train your body to do so it'll get easier. Your neck and back will thank you.

Some ways to utilize your office chair in a quick workout (sans sweat) can be found here:
, but I suggest saving some of those for when the boss isn't around.
For some "secret" exercises, check out this link:

Having an exercise ball to sit on instead of a chair is a great way to stay balanced, correct your posture, and work on your core all at the same time. Besides, you can bounce on it, what else do you need?

4. Elevate your results by taking the stairs.

I should be shot for that pun.  But hey, dealwiddit. 

Contrary to what I first mentioned, taking the stairs doesn't have to make you a hot mess.

Instead, when going up the steps, take two at a time, pushing into your heels and engaging your core to keep your back straight. By doing this, you work your muscles without ending up looking like you, well, ran up a flight of stairs.

5. Rest

One of the most important things that is most usually looked over is rest.

I, myself, am very bad when it comes to getting an adequate amount of rest. 
When you're training, working out, or just want to survive a day of work without the coffee, rest is key. Sleeping is the best thing you can do for your body, and not only, it helps with weight loss. Aim for 6-8 hours every night, as often as you can.

6. Exercise

Gone are the days where I thought it was all about running for 1 hour on the treadmill to get my cardio in. No no no. If you want energy for the day, wake up, wash up, and do a quick 5-10 minute HIIT workout.

The good thing about HiiT/bodyweight training is that it gives you energy as oppose to uses it up.  And you can do it just before jumping into the shower. You can make up your own workouts, but here are some that you can adapt them from:

and BOOM, you haven't even had your coffee yet and you've got one workout under your belt.
These can also be done when you run home for a lunch break. The beauty of HiiT is that it's so versatile, and easily adaptable.

Some of you have asked me for lunch ideas, so I wrote down a list of easy to cook meals/foods that can be combined for a filling office-meal.

Food prep:
-Chicken/meat. Roasted, baked, any leftover meats can be a great protein tossed in with quinoa or salad. John West's canned Wild Alaskan salmon is a wonderful food to stock up on, too.
-Quinoa/brown rice/brown-rice vermicelli/sweet potato/brown rice cakes
-Avocado, cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, salads, radishes, tomatoes, lettuce, etc
-Bananas, apples, grapefruits, peaches, any other fruit you like and that is easily packable.
-Nuts/seeds like pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, dried figs, dates.
-Soups. I can't stress enough how amazing soups are. Make a BIG pot of soup, freeze half of it and use the rest as meals, adding quinoa or brown rice into them to add protein/carbs.
- Vegetable Salad with lemon/olive or coconut oil vinaigrette; Quinoa with lemon, cayenne, cinnamon, coconut oil; boiled eggs/chicken/meat/salmon; handful of nuts/ seeds.
-Soup; brown rice cakes; sliced carrots and cucumbers, mustard for dip; boiled eggs/chicken/meat.
-Old fashioned steel-cut oats (cooked in water or rice/almond milk) topped with cinnamon, berries, chia seeds (if you have them); protein shake; salad.
-Thai-styled soup with sweet potato vermicelli (recipe on this blog), cut veggies; Greek yogurt with sunflower/pumpkin seeds and any other additions you'd like.
-Snacks of brown rice cakes with avocado, nuts, seeds, dates, cranberries (dried, unsweetened), figs, fruits etc.
Basically, you want to have vegetables in both of your meals/snacks, with one snack of healthy fats (nuts). 
The most important thing is to eat CLEAN. You can also check out the cheat sheet blog post I made on how to do that. No packaged foods, no crap, just real nutritional yumminess.
Now, I'm off to make another mug of tea. You get off your chair and do the same    :)

Protein Pancakes: how to not make them taste like cardboard.

If you've ever searched for a recipe for protein powder pancakes, I'm sure you'd have come by many that are solely based off of the protein powder as the "flour".

I, myself, have found that the taste and consistency just doesn't cut it. It tastes too chalky and doesn't hold when I cook them, so I've adapted  a slapjack recipe that comes out beautifully and tastes just like the real thing. 

The trick is mixing the protein powder with another flour. NOT WHITE FLOUR, no no, but brown rice flour (doesn't taste any different to conventional white flour, but avoids all the nasties). I use SUMA organic brown rice flour.


Ingredients (makes 4 medium sized pancakes):

15g/1 scoop of vanilla protein powder ( I used PerfectFit brown rice protein)
2-3 tbspn organic brown rice flour
2 whole organic eggs OR 1/3 cup egg whites
1 large, or 2 small ripe mashed banana
1/4 tspn baking soda
a teeeeny pinch of Himalayan pink salt
vanilla pod/flavouring 
french vanilla powdered stevia ( 2 packets )
a drizzle of coconut oil

Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl with a whisk to break down any lumps (though there shouldn't be any).
Add in the eggs/whites and mashed banana, adjusting the batter if need be (add more egg whites or brown rice flour depending on your preference).
The batter should be creamy, similar to "American style" pancakes rather than a crepe batter.

Heat a pan until it's medium/high heat, put about a tbspn of coconut oil into the pan and swirl to avoid the batter sticking. Keep adding a few drops of coconut oil in between each pancake.
Use a small ladle to pour in about 1/4 cup of batter into the pan. Cook until you see bubbles  in the centre (about a minute), flip, and cook for another minute. 
Top with cinnamon, PB, honey, tahini, greek yogurt with stevia, whatever you like!
I prefer mine with peanut butter, coconut flakes, and more cinnamon.