#MotivationMonday

April 26, 2016

I’m writing this post from my bed, a lot later than I had planned to, because I am not feeling so hot today.

The reason I’m in such rough shape today is because I ran the Mercedes Benz Oakville 10k race yesterday morning, which in my opinion, was well worth the state I’m currently in (even though it would be nice to having feeling in my legs again). The course I ran was absolutely stunning, and took me on a winding journey throughout downtown Oakville, along the waterfront, and past some of the most gorgeous mansion homes. It was no surprise I woke up feeling not so great, because similar to last year when I ran the Nike Women’s 15k, I got super sick the next day, which is fairly common if your body isn’t used to running long distance races.

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In my training leading up to the race, I had ran a total of 46.5k and finished 10k in under an hour, so I was very confident that the race would go well (as I was much better prepared than I had been for the 15k last year).  But boy was I wrong. Yesterday was an extremely challenging day for me, both physically and mentally.  During the first three kilometres, I was thinking “okay, I got this, this is going fine”.  But as I neared the halfway mark, I noticed my problematic knees really beginning to give me trouble, despite having attended physiotherapy the day before the race for knee mobilization work and taping. It also didn’t help that I was overdressed for the run, and the sun decided to show up and warm things up, making it even more of a challenge for myself.

To be honest, I was so close to giving up and walking.  My stomach started cramping up, and I started feeling very weak and exhausted around the 7k mark. I have no idea how, but I somehow found the strength to push through and keep going, and I think that is partly owed to some of the people with smiles from ear to ear clapping and cheering the runners on from the sidelines.

I finished the race with an official time of 01:12:17.9, with a pace of 7:13/km.  At first, I was very unhappy with my race time, due to the fact that in all my training leading up to the race, I had ran a lot quicker and finished in much less time. But what I soon realized is the fact that the time really means nothing. The medal is what means something, and this medal signifies perseverance and personal growth, which is much more important.  When I think back to three years ago when I used to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, and I couldn’t even run to catch the bus without losing my breathe, my race distance and time shows significant strides. The race was not easy, but it was definitely worth it. Although my time wasn’t what I had hoped for, it still represents personal growth, and it is a nice reminder that running really teaches you that you are capable of much more than you could ever imagine. Thinking back to my lifestyle a couple of years ago, I would have never in a million years believed anyone if they had told me I would willingly run 46.5 kilometres in less than a month.

My time not only shows I have come a long way in changing my lifestyle for the better, but it also inspires me to keep doing so, and to keep running so I can beat that record next time. The slogan of the race was #MindOverMileage, and I couldn’t think of a quote more fitting to sum up how this race made me feel. Running is all about your mindset, and a positive mind can help take you to places you could never have imagined, not only in regards to running, but also in regards to every aspect of your life. There will always be instances in life when you don’t achieve things in the time you wanted to, but no good comes from beating yourself up over it. You must remember to always be proud of what you have accomplished, and to persevere and push through the struggles that come your way and keep going until you get what it is you want.

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Recipe: Vegan Chana Masala

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April 22, 2016

  • Cookbook: (Adapted from) The Oh She Glows Cookbook – Angela Liddon
  • Recipe: Vegan Chana Masala
  • Cuisine: Indian
  • Prep time: Twenty minutes
  • Cook time: Twenty minutes
  • Total time: Forty minutes
  • Servings: Four

I first came across this recipe two years ago on one of my favourite vegetarian food blogs, Cookie+Kate. She adapted this recipe from the vegan cookbook titled ‘The Oh She Glows Cookbook‘, written by Angela Liddon. I am most certainly not a vegan, nor do I even come close to identifying as one. But funny enough, some of my favourite restaurants and recipes are actually vegan! As I mentioned in my post about the Paris Agreement, one vegan meal saves more water than skipping 176 showers, because as we all know, the meat industry requires the use of large amounts of energy. In honour of Earth Day today, I have chosen to stick to a vegan diet, which is one of the many ways I am showing my support towards helping the planet today.

This recipe is not challenging whatsoever, it just requires a bit of time in the kitchen. My favourite part about this recipe is that my kitchen always becomes filled with the most beautiful aromatic scents, as all the different Indian spices fuse together to create this classic and comforting dish. I’ve made this dish for both lunch and dinner, and I personally love eating it when I’m craving something a little more substantial and filling after my workouts.

Make sure you prepare all ingredients before you start cooking, as this is a fast paced recipe!

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoons cumin seeds (scale back a little if you’re not crazy about cumin)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon pressed or minced fresh garlic (about 5 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger (about a 1-inch piece)
  • 1 green Serrano pepper, minced (seed it first if you want to tame the spice level)
  • 1½ teaspoons garam masala (or tikka masala)
  • 1½ teaspoons ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¾ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, with their juices
  • 2 cans (14 ounces each) chickpeas (or 3 cups cooked chickpeas), drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup uncooked brown basmati rice, for serving (rice is optional, I like to cook extra rice to have on hand for other meals)
  • Lemon wedges, for garnishing
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnishing (optional)
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Cook the rice (if you want to serve the chana masala on rice): Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove. Pour in the rice and give it a stir. Boil the rice for 30 minutes, then turn off the heat and drain the rice. Return the rice to the pot and cover the pot. Let the rice steam for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff the rice with a fork and season with sea salt to taste.
  2. Cook the chana masala: In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. When a drop of water sizzles upon hitting the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the cumin seeds. Toast the seeds for a minute or two, stirring frequently, until the seeds are golden and fragrant. Watch carefully to avoid burning the seeds.
  3. Raise the heat to medium and stir in the onion, garlic, ginger and serrano. Cook for about five minutes, stirring often. Stir in the garam masala (or tikka masala), coriander, turmeric, salt and cayenne (if using), and cook for two more minutes.
  4. Add the whole peeled tomatoes and their juices. Use the back of a wooden spoon to break the tomatoes apart. You can leave some chunks of tomato for texture.
  5. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the chickpeas. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes or longer to allow the flavors to develop.
  6. Serve over basmati rice, if desired, and garnish with a lemon wedge or two and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro.

You can definitely play around with this recipe a bit (as I often tend to do), to suit your personal taste and preference. As you can see from my picture, I added a lot more than a sprinkle of cilantro!

 

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Earth Day 2016: #ParisAgreement

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April 22, 2016

Today marks a very important day for two reasons. One it is Earth Day, the most important day of the year for environmentalists and the environmental movement as a whole. Two, the signing of the Paris Agreement (which may very well be one of the most significant global accords of our generation) is taking place today, making this years Earth Day one of the most important in history.

I am filled with excitement knowing that today, leaders from 160 countries around the world will be gathering at the United Nations in New York to officially sign the Agreement. It is predicted that this will be the largest same-day signing in the history of international accords, which I find very fascinating. Furthermore, this accord is unique in the sense that it is essentially the first of its kind to take action in uniting such a large number of countries.

The Paris Agreement not only requires these countries to undertake commitments to action (aka ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’) regarding global emissions. But further, it necessitates countries to review and re-evaluate these pledges every five years, beginning with “global stocktaking” in the year 2023. Another beneficial clause worked into this agreement is that countries are actually unable to lower their targets, and instead, they are pressured to elevate their commitment with each year that passes.

Although the first adoption of this was in December of last year, today marks the actual singing, thus resulting in the countries officially accepting the agreement. After the agreement is signed and accepted, the final step is uniting at the national level by way of executive and/or legislative action. As the UN Foundation Blog notes:

For the agreement to “enter into force,” it must be accepted by at least 55 countries that together produce 55% of the world’s emissions. China and the United States alone, who recently announced that they would join the agreement, produce nearly 40% of the world’s emissions between them. Then comes implementation, when countries “put their money where their mouths are” and act upon the specific national commitments they’ve made.

You can learn more and follow the conversation by using the hashtag #ParisAgreement. Another great way to stay informed today is to check out the live UN stream of the signing, which is what I’ll be doing!

It was instilled upon me from a young age that Earth Day was a very important day. I have flashbacks to an elementary school assembly where teachers spoke about the importance of recycling and the conservation of energy, which was followed by us going outside and spending the rest of the afternoon picking up garbage. I know that this stuff is still taught to children in school, but I can’t help feel as though it bears less weight in todays fast-paced, modern, technology-based society. We are too caught up in our individualistic habits, that unfortunately, we too often take this beautiful planet for granted. We are all aware of this sad reality. The fact that we need this sort of an agreement, and the urgency associated with such, really does speak for itself.

I urge you all to please use today as a reminder to take a step back from your busy schedule, and devote some time to admiring and appreciating the earth. There are many activities we do every single day that are negatively affecting the planet on a much larger scale. Our actions shouldn’t just matter for the purpose of today, they should matter everyday. Today should be a reminder that we all, myself included, can and should be incorporating and practicing green initiatives more frequently in our everyday lives.

                Sabatage Earth Day Tips:                                               CgOlFRDUMAEKajG

* Reduce your food waste. This is number one on my list, and a personal priority at all times! Approximately 35% of food goes uneaten in developed countries, which deeply disturbs me. Having worked in the restaurant industry, I witnessed way too much food being wasted and it always struck a nerve. In Toronto, we have an amazing organization called Second Harvest, which picks up donated or surplus food which would otherwise go to waste, and delivers the food to agencies around Toronto. Dedicate some time to tracking down something similar in your community!

*Stop using plastic water bottles. Swap your plastic water bottles out for a reusable one.

*Bring reusable bags to the grocery store. You can purchase reusable bags at nearly every supermarket, and this helps you save money as well.

*Buy a reusable lunchbox and/or reusable coffee mug for work. Bringing your lunch in reusable containers, and using washable vs. plastic utensils also helps cut down on waste.

*Eat less meat. One vegan meal saves more water than skipping 176 showers, as we all know the meat industry consumes a large amount of energy. If you are unable to sacrifice meat entirely, challenge yourself to cutting meat out of your diet once a week (i.e. ‘Meatless Mondays’).

*Buy local grown food. This cuts down pollution created by transportation.

*Avoid purchasing pre-packaged food. A lot of the packaging and plastic wrap on food and groceries is unnecessary and ends up in the garbage. Try not to be persuaded by attractive packing.

*Walk, bike, or take the public transit to work.  This one is pretty obvious, but a lot of us are guilty of not practicing this often enough.

*Reduce the number of one-time-use items you buy.  I.e. paper towels. Keep several rags or cloths handy as an alternative.

*Unplug!  Even though you may not be using your phone charger to charge your phone, if it remains plugged into the wall, it is still using energy. Try to be mindful and make it a habit to unplug the cords you aren’t using.

*Apple x Earth Day.  Apple’s ‘Apps for Earth’ section has a number of apps that have been overhauled in support of Earth Day. This is a partnership with World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and all proceeds go directly to supporting environmental conservation.

 

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POST UPDATE:

Check out the links below for two great speeches from the Paris Agreement Opening Speeches! Theres a ton of other great videos from todays ceremony which can also be found on www.webtv.un.org.

http://webtv.un.org/topics-issues/global-issues/climate-change/watch/leonardo-dicaprio-un-messenger-of-peace-high-level-signature-ceremony-for-the-paris-agreement-opening-session/4857658536001

http://webtv.un.org/topics-issues/global-issues/climate-change/watch/getrude-clement-tanzania-youth-representative-high-level-signature-ceremony-for-the-paris-agreement-opening-session/4857502757001

 

Matcha Matcha Matcha

April 19, 2016

If you’re not drinking matcha, I don’t know what you’re doing! Although I’ve been aware of the stir and buzz surrounding this magical drink for quite some time, I never took it upon myself to actually adopt matcha as a part of my morning routine. But now that I have, I must admit this is an absolute game changer. Mark my words.

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For those of you unfamiliar with matcha (as I was too until about a week ago), it is a finely ground green tea powder, which has been used in Chinese and Japanese tea ceremonies dating all the way back to the ninth century. But over the past two years, this powder has become a widespread, mainstream phenomenon to say the least. It may even be more accurate to classify this phenomenon as more of a “green tea cult” that is continuously proliferating. Not only has the drink become super popular to the point that Starbucks is carrying it, but I have also observed an explosion of it being used in all sorts of dishes ranging from pasta, and pancakes, to nearly every dessert imaginable.

So what makes matcha so special? The answer to this question lies in its preparation process, wherein the whole tea leaf is actually consumed. If you think about drinking a regular cup of tea, you steep the leaves in hot water until it reaches your desired strength, then you discard the leaves. With matcha, the health benefits and antioxidants you receive from one cup are far more abundant because you are actually consuming the leaves in their entirety!

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What originally sparked my interest of incorporating matcha into my morning routine was my feeling of wanting to break-up with coffee. I absolutely love coffee – I mean who doesn’t!? – but I found as of lately it was making me feel extra jittery for some reason, and if I drank coffee too late in the afternoon, I always experienced difficulty falling asleep at night. I thought it would be beneficial to experiment with replacing coffee with some other type of beverage, and that’s what led me to test out matcha. Plus, I needed to find out firsthand what all this hype was about.

In the past I have tried replacing coffee with loose leaf tea, but I found that it didn’t come close to the ‘kick’ coffee gave me (and let’s face it, that kick is necessary for most of us to help turn us from zombies to humans each and every morning).

Enter matcha. About ten minutes after consumption, I felt a boost of energy, mental clarity, and awareness. It was almost as though I had drunk a large cup of coffee, but without all the negative side effects my body typically associates with such. I was instantly hooked at that moment. I was eager and excited to go to the gym (which is rarely the case), and I felt absolutely fantastic.

Typically I like to do my research ahead of time, before diving into anything new. But when I tried my first cup, I knew virtually nothing about matcha other than the fact it was green, and it made me feel thoroughly invigorated. I decided to go online and learn a little bit more about the green tea powder, and I stumbled upon a very insightful article written by Dr. Sara Soloman, BSc, PT, DMD which I found on thebodybuilding.com. Not only does this article list all of matcha’s magical capabilities such as helping to lower blood-pressure and bad cholesterol, ward off cancer, prevent aging and promote longevity, speed up your metabolism, and a wide range of other positive side effects. But what I found most interesting was Dr. Soloman’s explanation as to why this drink was providing the same energy boost as coffee, but a much better version:

Matcha green tea contains up to 5 times more L-theanine than conventional green tea. L-theanine is an amino acid with psychoactive properties, capable of inducing alpha wave activity in the brain. Stress is known to induce the brain’s beta wave activity, leading to a more agitated state. Alpha wave activity can relieve stress, promote relaxation and even lower blood pressure. Although matcha contains some caffeine, the relaxing properties of L-theanine counterbalance the “jittery” effects of caffeine. Therefore, a cup of matcha green tea promotes concentration and clarity of mind without producing any of the nervous energy typically associated with coffee.

If you’re still skeptical about joining us on the green tea cult side, I highly suggest you do yourself a favour and just try it for yourself. I know it sounds too good to be true, but it really is that amazing. For some of you, it may take a bit of a time to adjust to the taste, and I would suggest the fearful beginners to ease their way into the cult with a matcha latte. That way the taste isn’t as pungent, plus, you can easily do this at home. I often switch between drinking the traditional-styled matcha and matcha lattes (in which I combine hot water with warm vanilla almond milk).

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Now the only possible downside I can really point out, is that this stuff definitely does not come cheap. Not only is the powder costly (for 20 grams of Organic Rishi Teahouse Matcha it was about $18 CAD), but you also need a bamboo whisk ($12-21 CAD) to prepare the tea. Although it is not crucial, another cost to consider is the purchase of a special matcha bowl to prepare the tea in. You can opt out of purchasing one, and use a wide, deep bowl instead if you have one at home. I invested in the “The Matcha Essentials” kit from David’s Tea ($40 CAD), which I think was worth the money, but it would likely cut costs if you were to purchase each piece separately.

Stay tuned for many more matcha posts to follow, including my experimentation with using this stuff in cooking and baking…the matcha madness is real! It is definitely safe to say I am now a #matchamaniac, and I hope some of you will be converted after trying it as well!

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