Getting into the great habit

Developing new habits to help balanced living, can be a big challenge. The norm is that it takes 21 days to create a new habit.  Over the past 2 years, I have nurtured and created new habits and have been successful with maintaining them. Looking back, I can see that there were some important factors that were essential to my success.

Developing good balanced-living habits:

1. Create time – don’t wait for time, take time.

2. Make good routines – Do the new endeavour in the same way and at the same time – the same thing – at the same time – every time. It is easier to create a habit if you make it a routine, for example do the same time every time i.e., running in the morning, mediating from 7 -7:15, etc. Especially in the beginning as the habit is forming – you will be motivated by the great feeling it gives you. You feel how good it is for you and will fall into the rhythm of doing it, because you want more of that feeling.

3. Keep at it – the more that you do it , the easier it is, so do it again, and again, and again, – you are creating new little paths in the brain that eventually turn into new highways. Every time you do it, it becomes easier.

The biggest challenge though, when it comes to creating a new habit, is in the mind. The “monkey mind” I call it. The one that will tell you that you do not need to go for a run right now, it is too early, you are too tired, it is raining, it is cold, you are too busy and tomorrow will be much better. It will continue telling you that you are much better off without and it will, if you allow it, convince you that, yes indeed, mañana, will, of course, be much better.

The problem is that if we let ourselves be seduced by the “monkey mind”- days will go without running, meditating, writing that book, losing the weight, stopping smoking, dancing, taking care of ourselves – or whatever the goal is, days will pass, months will pass, years may pass, a lifetime may pass!

So how to turn off the “monkey mind” and get over the upstart to our jogging, meditating, writing? We can’t turn it off,  but the less we listen to it, the less obnoxious it is .

First of all – the “monkey mind” never tells the truth, so by starting to realize that we are being fooled and conned by the a lying “monkey mind” – is the key. Starting to observe the messages and ask if this is really truth, is an important first step.

Monkey mind : This is way too early, turn off that alarm clock immediately, this has to be a joke !

You: Right it is early, but I will be grateful that I got up to run.

Monkey mind: Hey common – you can’t be serious, feel the warmth of the bed, close your sweet little eyes and dream.

You: Okay, I hear you are really tired and maybe we can nap in the afternoon.

Monkey mind: No no no – now is better, much better and apart from that it is cold and dreadful out there and by the way, you are too old to start running, you don’t need this!

You: I know what you are up to – and it sounds good, but I need my run, that is the truth, so I am off, tired, old and all.

When I wake up having planned an early morning run at 7 am – I can assure you that the “monkey mind” is there, trying every dirty trick in the box, to get me to stay in my warm bed and take another hour or two snoozing. So I am aware – and I know what is coming.

I have tried it so many times that I know that going out there running will benefit me in so many ways that I tell the “monkey mind” – “thanks for your input I’m off running anyway, buddy” – I know by now, that the run will do me so much good and I will love myself for doing it later, so I do it!

Other times I will follow a trick from Jeff Galloway the former Olympic runner, and say ‘ okay I hear you, you are so tired and all we will do this morning is, put the shoes on and run to the end of the drive”! But by the time I reach the end of the drive, I have smelled the fresh morning air, felt the air on my skin, and the sun on my face, and the “monkey mind” is forgotten and I am out there enjoying the run.

“Good habits, once established are just as hard to break as are bad habits” Robert Puller

Inspired by tortilla soup from heaven

A few weeks ago, I made tortilla soup inspired by a recipe from one of my favorite Canadian cook books “Whitewater Cooks at Home “, by Shelly Adams.  It was with all the trimmings and it was so tasty and so good. Spicy, hearty and full of intense flavors. It was such a success that I named it “Tortilla Soup from Heaven”. And then I started thinking, hmmm, how can I make a healthier version of this?

I guess I have been wanting to make soup lately because the weather on the West Coast of Canada has been kind of  crummy, cold and rainy – I heard someone call it Junuary – so quite frankly, when the weather is like this, you need a good soup to comfort the soul and brighten the spirit.

 

The soup above is so tasty and so good – it has all the trimmings, chicken, tasty cheese and fried tortillas!

Okay – so I really wanted to create a healthy version of this. And this is what I came up with – a healthy variation inspired by my earlier Taco Soup from Heaven.

Instead of chicken, cheese and fried tacos, I added sautéed mushrooms and zucchini with lemon and garlic and steamed quinoa.

For 6 portions

3 shalots

1 small tbsp ground cumin

5 cloves of garlic

2 small bunches of fresh cilantro

half a small red chili

Olive oil

2 small tbsp of flour

2 teaspoons of sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

6-7 sun ripe tomatoes

1.2 liter of mushroom broth

1/2 cup of sprouted quinoa

400 g of brown mushrooms

1 medium-sized zucchini

1 Lime

Finely chop the shalots and the garlic, throughly rinse (one bunch)the fresh cilantro and chop it, finely chop the chili, cut the tomatoes. In a pot heat some olive oil, add the shalots, the garlic, the cumin, and the cilantro, saute till all is soft.

Add the chopped tomatoes and saute till the tomatoes are tender, add salt – add it to the blender and blend into a smooth sauce.

Add a bit more olive oil to the pot and add the flour, whisk it around till it has dissolved, put it back on the heat and add the tomato mix, reduce over medium heat for about 5-10 minutes while stirring. Add the mushroom broth.

Cook 1/2 cup of sprouted  quinoa – set aside.

Stir fry the mushrooms in olive oil until they are golden brown, add a squeeze of lemon juice, some freshly pressed garlic and sea salt. Saute the zucchini till golden, add lemon juice, freshly pressed garlic and sea salt.

To the soup add a small bunch of finely chopped fresh cilantro, the juice of one lime – taste with salt and pepper.

In a bowl put the quinoa, some mushrooms,  some zucchini and some avocado bites

– pour the hot soup over the mixture and serve

If you would like to make the original “Tortilla Soup from Heaven” with chicken, cheese, etc., just follow the recipe above but use chicken broth instead of mushroom broth. And use chicken instead of mushrooms and zucchini.

In the healthy version, I used quinoa instead of making fried tortillas. If you would like to make them, in a separate pot put 1/2 cup of olive oil and gently fry strips of tortillas, turning them once – til they are just slightly browned. Put them aside on a piece of paper towel.

When the soup is ready add 400g of cubed fresh organic chicken breast and gently poach it in the soup for about 5 min and then add the cilantro and lime juice. Serve the soup with fresh avocado bites, freshly grated cheese and the fried tacos.

Enjoy!

So while writing this post the sun has come out and it is the most beautiful day! I’m wondering, if writing blog posts about warm hearty soups to comfort the soul on a rainy day, works in the same way as every time you remember to wear your gumboots and to bring your umbrella – the sun is sure to shine?

I am off to enjoy a green smoothie in the sunshine!

Freshly squeezed health

Watermelon juice is not your everyday juice! It is packed full of goodness, it nourishes, it cleanses the body and it is deeply satisfying on a hot summers day! But, what has it to do with Viagra?…

But before I tell you, I would like to thank Camilla at Care By Me, for nominating me for The Illuninating Blogger Award, thank you Camilla!!! Camilla is a young Danish designer, who designs the most beautiful things – inspired by nature, all natural and supporting sustainable principals. Please visit Camilla’s blog and see her beautiful design!

Now to the watermelon! We usually think of watermelon as a summer fruit that tastes great, but without having any significant nutritional value. But those days are over! Watermelon is full of goodness! Scientists and researchers have found that watermelon is incredibly healthy. It is in fact a health booster, loaded with vitamin A, B6, C and full of important antioxidants!

Watermelon is alkalizing, it helps to reduce inflammation in the body.

But hold on, there’s more… something very surprising – according to Science Daily, research has shown that watermelon may have a Viagra effect! Scientists say that a watermelon has ingredients that delivers viagra-like effects to the body’s blood vessels and may even increase libido!

Want to know more about the many health benefits of watermelon click here or read more about the research

This juice is addictive, so watch out  – it tastes so fresh and so good that I may have to make it again tomorrow!

Watermelon Juice

I made the juice from one small watermelon

1 1/2 lime fruit

a small bunch of fresh mint

It all went through the juicer

Serve on ice in the sunshine

Enjoy!

Compassion

Last week I wrote about Dr. Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist and researcher of meditation. His research shows how meditation changes the brain and benefits us profoundly. Fascinating to find research that actually proves there is something we can do right here, to improve overall health. Meditation is one of them.

Dr. Davidson has been looking at war veterans who are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. If you did not get a chance to read it, here it is

Today my post is about the connection between meditation and compassion. Dr. Davidson’s research shows that our ability to be compassionate, increases when meditating regularly and our capacity actually increases the more we meditate.

Compassion, including self-compassion! is such an important capacity  – when we are met with compassion, we are more relaxed, we are happier, we perform better, we laugh more, we enjoy life more -we grow and feel nourished. When we feel compassion, we are better parents, friends and lovers.

The Dalai Lama heard of Dr. Davidson’s research and invited him to Dharamsala India, to interview monks with extensive experience in meditation. Davidson was amazed by the level of compassion he experienced there.

I hope you will give yourself time to see this interview about compassion, with Dr Davidson here – it is a great interview!

Meditation is an act of self-compassion. It fulfills a need – a deep underlying need for just being, in peace and stillness. When we satisfy our needs and allow ourselves to be with whatever is, we reconnect to love and compassion residing inside us. Research shows that it builds the area in the brain, adding to the capacity of compassion.

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion”  The Dalai Lama

Orange vanilla brownie

Yesterday, my kitchen was full of happy teenagers who had gathered to make a cake.  I LOVE  a busy kitchen, humming with life, conversation and good food.

Earlier, my daughter and her friends had been out shopping for the things to make the cake. And, as you know how I am an advocate for authentic honest food, well I admit, I was challenged! Out of the shopping bags came Orio biscuits, jello and chocolate cake mix – the only real ingredient for the cake were eggs! Sorry, I don’t mean to be a bore, but really – we have been fooled to believe that using cake mix is easier and cheaper than making the real thing – from scratch – and that’s just not right!

The cake was mixed and went into the oven, while music, chatter and laughter filled the kitchen.

When the cake was ready, they tasted it – still hot from the oven. They were digging into it with their forks and I overheard: “Hmm, it tastes kinda gross, don’t you think’?

Taking my cue, I offered to give a cake course during the summer! The response was loud and in unison: ” Yes, please, that would be so cool! ”

Here’s a recipe that is quicker and just as easy to make – and it tastes good!

Orange vanilla brownie

You will need;

2 eggs

175 g  cane sugar

3/4 cup  butter

100 g of good dark chocolate – I use the 70-85% coco kind.

90 g flour

1 vanilla pod

1 organic orange

a small pinch of salt

1 handful of freshly chopped walnuts or pecans ( As I had run out of these – I just left them out, but it does taste good with nuts in it.)

In a bowl, whisk the eggs and the sugar, break open the vanilla pod and scrape out the bean, add it to the eggs and sugar and whisk some more. Melt the butter and the chocolate slowly over a water bath.

Add the melted chocolate and butter to the eggs and sugar, while whisking. Grate the rind of an organic orange, add it to the mixture and squeeze in the juice of 1/2 the orange . Fold in the flour and the chopped nuts.

Add the batter to a greased pie tin and bake for 25-30 min at 350F

Serve with a coulis of raspberry or fresh berries.


Meditation changes the brain

I recently read some research concerning how meditation affects and supports us. I always find it encouraging to find research that proves it is possible to improve our health and life-balance naturally – research that challenges and changes the way we think of the world.  Professor of psychology and psychiatry, Dr. Richard Davidson, a pioneer in the research of neuroscience, has made revolutionary discoveries. He became fascinated with meditation in the 60s and has been meditating since he was a medical graduate student at Harvard University. He is passionate about meditation and his research concentrates on how meditation affects us and changes the brain.

Professor Richard Davidson’s latest research has been with war veterans from Iran and Afghanistan. Soldiers who returned home with deep traumas and wounded souls, suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and high anxiety. He studied how meditation affected them. And he has shown that meditation has a tremendous positive effect on the war veterans suffering from  PTSD and anxiety.

His research shows that the brain is elastic and that it is an organ that is transformable.

A Danish Documentary (in English) called Free The Mind, has been made about Richardson’s work – it has just been released.

Free The Mind – read more about the documentary and see the trailer here 

“You should sit in meditation for 20 min a day -unless you are too busy, then you should sit for an hour” – Old Zen adage

Summer Infused Pizza

Frequent visitors to this site may notice a few changes. The “Happy Health” diet and exercise has become a part of the larger “Balanced Living” that I feel better describes my journey.

I realized that an important part of me had been missing: – the gourmet chef, my old recipes, my old signature dishes. The scrumptious food that is still part of what I eat.

Before getting into Happy Health diet & exercise – my life-balance was out of whack. I was eating rich food all the time and my body was suffering because of it. But with the new diet& exercise, my life-balance changed and it made a world of difference! I lost weight and gained energy. I now feel vibrant and full of life, my hereditary (bad) cholesterol is now normal and I’m off medication! I started to exercise more and I enjoyed it! My satisfaction with life grew as I could feel that things were “in-balance” again. These were just some of the amazing changes I have experienced, re-charging and re-balancing my life.  (See my updated “About” and the new “Balanced Living” page here).

Before Happy Health I had a 80/20 “balanced” diet – 80% rich gourmet food, meat, cheese, butter, cream etc and 20% vegetable, fruit, grains and nuts – Today I’m 20/80 – I eat 80% plant food and 20% of “anything”.  But, I still assure that the “anything” comes from the best sources – organic & honest!

I have been wonderfully inspired by New York Times food-writer Mark Bittman who created VB6 – Vegan before 6. Eating only plant- based foods until dinner, he then goes to work – and eats at great restaurants serving the wonderful food he writes about. And now, no longer does this rich food make him ill – because he is not eating it all the time! His balance was wrong. But VB6, vegan before 6, changed his balance and he is fit as a fiddle today. You can read more about Bittman  here

In our family, we have been inspired by VB6 and have even made our own version – VUF – Vegan until Friday.

Summer Infused Pizza

We love pizza – Pizza can be divine if it is made with real ingredients and kept simple.

This recipe is made from scratch with love and sunshine. Made with sunriped tomatoes, garlic and lots of fresh basil and oregano.

The pizza dough:

1 teaspoon of dry yeast – if you have fresh 25 g

2 1/2 cups of water

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

1 tablespoon of olive oil

5 cups of organic unbleached flour

You will need approx. 2/3 extra flour when you work with it later.

Dissolve the yeast in the water, add the olive oil and the salt. Add flour a little at the time while you stir. Add all the flower while you keep mixing til you have a dough that has “accepted” all the flour, meaning no flour on the side in the bowl. Leave the dough out on the counter to rest, with a clean wet cloth. The longer the better – you can mix this in the morning or the night before and put it in the fridge.

Freshly made tomato sauce on pizza is the best – it is such a treat and you will never want to eat store-bought pizza sauce again, if you can help it.  Another important thing is – the nutritional value in freshly made sauce is priceless. Click to see, tomatoes are a true SUPER POWER FOOD – packed full of goodness and taste!

Tomato Sauce:

1200 g fresh ripe tomatoes (the more reder the better)

2 shalot onions

2 cloves of garlic

one big bunch of fresh basil

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2 spoons of olive oil

dash of white wine

2 bay leaves

Wash and chop the tomatoes, chop the shalots and the garlic. In a frying pan add the olive oil, saute the shalots, bay leaves and the garlic, add the white wine let it reduce a little, add the chopped tomatoes – let it cook over slow heat till the tomatoes are cooked through. Add the chopped fresh basil and let it cook for another couple of min.

Add the mixture into the blender and blend it into a smooth sauce. Taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper – the sauce is ready to go on the pizza.

I make a garlic/herb/chili olive oil marinade to drizzle on the pizza – and by adding some fresh arugula or any other lettuce on top of the pizza, you will get a divine mouthful!

The garlic/ herb/chili marinade is made from – olive oil, finely chopped fresh oregano, slices of red chili,fresh garlic some sea salt – I make a good portion, often I make it ahead to allow it to infuse the oil, to make it more intense. You only drizzle a little on top – so any leftovers are perfect for preparing vegetables, frying fish or chicken – or as a drizzle on your favorite anything.

Fresh herbs are so full of goodness!

Now to the actual pizza making.

Add some flour onto the counter and pour out the dough – add some more flour on top of the dough and start to work with the dough, needing it and stretching it. It will be ready when it stops being sticky, add flour until it feels elastic and is easy to work with. I use a rolling-pin to roll it real thin – add it to a hot baking stone or to a baking tray with baking paper.

Now add the homemade tomato sauce and sprinkle with grated Grana Padano, fresh mozzarella cheese and some good olives. Bake in a hot 420 F oven until baked and the crust is right. Keep an eye on it!

You can prepare smaller pizzas directly on the barbecue – with or without cheese – this is really an amazing way to make pizza too!

Once the pizza is ready – cut them, drizzle a little marinade on top, add the arugula and serve with a great bowl of salad.

Enjoy!

p.S. I just found Pinterest, I know I have been living under a rock, but I will be signing up, it looks like fun! I realized that my photos were there! I am so happy, grateful and thrilled to see that some of you have pinned my photos – THANK YOU!! I was not even aware – gratitude, I really appreciate that!!

Muscles reward exercise

I found this very interesting interview with Professor Dr. Med Bente Klarlund Pedersen in one of the Danish newspapers, Politiken (the Danish Article).

Professor (Dr. Med.) Bente Klarlund Pedersen is the director of Copenhagen Muscle Research Center and her focus is on inflammation and metabolism(CIM)

Her results are very interesting to us looking to improve health and balance our lives. For example, her early research has shown that there is a connection between physical activity and the immune system.

She shows that our muscles are not alone making us capable of moving around, but work similarly to other organs producing hormone-like compounds – important for our overall health. She has shown that muscles work like vital organs setting “turbo-on” conversion of sugar and fat during exercise.

Another really interesting point that Dr. Klarlund has found is that in people who are not physically active, not only do their muscles deteriorate, but lack of exercise also makes them more prone to diabetes, heart disease, dementia, cancer, osteoporosis and depression. She is focusing her research to find out how inactivity can be connected to so many different lifestyle diseases.

Her basis research shows that muscles not only get messages from the nerves, but also communicate through many hormone-like compounds. Thus, muscles work like organs. Some of their research experiments with people paralyzed from the neck and down showed that by stimulating their muscles, they could achieve the same positive effects as if they had been exercising! Their bodies burned sugar and fat and they could even experience “Runner’s high” even though they were paralyzed and not physical active in any way.

In another experiment, they asked a group of people to limit their activities to walk a maximum of 1.500 steps a day – where 10.000 steps would be the norm. The results showed that lots of things happened – for example, they lost 1.2 kg muscle mass. They became insulin resistant which is the stage before diabetes. When they consumed fat, the fat remained longer in the body and built up around the inner organs – in just 2 weeks!!!

Her own 2 sons were part of the study and she explains how they, during the research, became irritable and short-fused. This gave her the idea to the next study she did. She teamed up with Neorospychologists to research how peoples’ focus and ability to concentrate changed when they didn’t get exercise. They are still collecting data but preliminary results show, as they expected, that it is more difficult to concentrate and focus when we do not exercise.

Professor Dr. Bente Klarlund Pedersen recommends a minimum of 1/2 hr of exercise every day. Some of her new research also points out that exercising helps to keep muscles stay younger for longer.

I find her research interesting on so many levels –  when it comes to preventing disease, how exercise affects our levels of concentration and our performance. I  find it fascinating to read about research on how exercise affects our emotional health and well-being.

Dr. Pedersen is currently researching marathon runners – she says she is fascinated by the extremes – to find the difference in the people who exercise a lot – and the people who do little or no exercise.

It is exciting to see what comes of her research.

Morning run in the clear blue

The weather here on the west coast of  Canada has been grey, cold and rainy all winter so many of my morning runs have been in pouring rain. But, I don’t mind, I actually think it has its charms – the freshness and the coolness of the air is invigorating. But…I must admit that it is much more fun when the sun is shining and the sea is calm — like this morning!  I hit the road at 7 am with my friend and running partner – and as we solve the world’s problems as we run, I always return with a light heart and a smile on my face.

 

The Olympic Mountains (USA) in the background. Amazing clear blue sky.

This arrangement made me laugh!

By the lighthouse at the end of the pier.

You can walk on the side of the pier on these impressive stones.

The lighthouse in its full beauty.

The pier – not protected by anything – which is quite amazing considering. It gives me a sense of freedom as I head out to the lighthouse.

Beautiful wild flowers and grass – I adore that everything is natural and allowed to be wild.

Mr. Jonathan Livingstone Seagull

The sea is as clam as my soul after a good run.

Hope you have a great Saturday !

Stuffed baked Portobello mushrooms

I was in a hurry and I needed to have dinner ready quickly – but — no compromises! I wanted it to be healthy and delicious too.

Luckily in-house I had a tray full of incredibly red and ripe tomatoes – sweet, locally grown and with intense flavor and aroma. I also had some Portobello mushrooms and a bunch of fresh basil.

Not only that but I also had some really good bread (from the greatest Italian bakery)! and, oh and a big clove of garlic. Everything I needed to make a quick feast!

 

I cleaned the mushrooms – took out the stalks, chopped them and some tomatoes, found a good bit of fresh basil and added some olive oil to the pan. When it was hot I added the Portobello stalks — left them to brown and then added the tomatoes and cooked them until they were soft. Added the fresh basil and some garlic. I flavoured with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and a fresh  squeeze of lemon. Then I added a slice of that great bread which I had cut into little cubes. I mixed it all together and added the mixture into the Portobello “cups” –  I put them in a baking dish drizzled with a little olive oil and put them into a 350 F hot oven to bake for about 20 min. I kept an eye on them because they are ready when they are just slightly browned and the Portobello meat is tender.

In the meantime, I cooked some sprouted quinoa in slightly salted water. When it was cooked I added a dash of olive oil, some freshly squeezed lemon juice and a sprinkle of ground coriander. This made the perfect match to the baked Portobello.

There is nothing like cooking with fresh ingredients, tomatoes together with the fresh basil and the Portobello were so good. A perfect summer meal!