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Peanut Stew

Peanut Stew and Cornbread MuffinIngredients

1 onion, cut into 1 in. piece
3 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
1 in. piece ginger, minced
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
3 yams, peeled and chopped into bite-sized cubes
1 sweet red pepper, cut into 1 in. pieces (red or yellow look nice)
2 c. boiling water or broth
1 can whole tomatoes with juice
1 can chickpeas, rinsed
1 can black-eyed peas, rinsed
½ c. unsweetened organic peanut butter
1 bunch kale, chopped (substitute collards or spinach if you want)
Salt and pepper to taste
Hot sauce (optional)
Cilantro (optional garnish)
Fresh whole peanuts (optional garnish)

Preparation

  1. In a large pot over medium heat sauté onion, garlic and pepper, with a bit of water. Cover with lid to keep the moisture released from the veggies in the pan. Stir frequently to prevent the veggies from sticking.
  2. Add spices and sweet peppers. Cook for a couple more minutes, continuing to stir.
  3. Mix the peanut butter with the boiling water and whisk to dissolve to prevent clumping. Either use a 4 cup glass measuring cup or place it in a mixing bowl so that there is room to stir.
  4. Add the peanut broth, yams, tomatoes and juice, and beans to the stew pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Stir in corn and kale and cook for about 5 more minutes, until yams and greens are tender. Add water if you want a brothier feel for the soup or let reduce for a thicker stew. Serve over brown rice or quinoa and garnish as you wish.

Add Some Maple Sweetness to Your Life!

Maple Syrup bottlesHow to substitute maple syrup for sugar in your baking.

Maple syrup is a staple in our kitchen at Sugar Ridge. It gets used in many of our recipes as a sweetener or flavour and is the ever so important topping for our yummy pancakes! Something you may not be as familiar with is that you can substitute maple syrup for the sugar in your baking. 

3/4 cup maple syrup – 3 tbsp liquid = 1 cup granulated sugar

Reducing the liquid is to decrease the wetness of the recipe that the syrup adds. If you are adding milk, water, etc in your recipe, these are good ingredients to reduce.

This substitution will not work for every recipe, as some baking you do not want to add more moistness to it, but it makes for another great way to add some of this sweet, springtime liquid gold to your life.

Thanks to our super-awesome chef, Jen, for her continued kitchen mastery and the baking modification for this post!

Enjoy!

Tofu-Mushroom Heaven

Tofu Mushroom HeavenIngredients

2 lb firm tofu (900 g)
1 cup dried shitake mushrooms or 2 cups fresh shitake or oyster mushrooms
1 1/4 cups water
2 tsp dried oregano
4 cloves garlic – pressed
1 ¼ cups olive oil
1 cup red wine vinegar (I use balsamic if necessary)
1 ¼ cups red wine
1 ¼ cups soy sauce

Preparation

  1. Use a saucepan that will hold all ingredients except the tofu and simmer the mushrooms in the water.  If using fresh mushrooms then use very little water to cook them slightly.
  2. Toast the oregano in a small dry pan.  Do not use any oil.  It will be toasted when you can smell it but don’t burn it.
  3. Add the oregano and all other ingredients except the tofu to the mushrooms and bring to a boil, then simmer for about 5 minutes.
  4. While the marinade is boiling: cut the tofu into small rectangles or cubes and arrange in a deep casserole dish. Avoid layering the tofu so that when the marinade is poured on it can reach all the pieces of tofu.
  5. Pour the boiling marinade over the tofu and jiggle it around so that the marinade gets in between the pieces.  Cover and let this stand for several hours or overnight.  Do not refrigerate because the oil may congeal.
  6. Serve the tofu and mushrooms and set the marinade aside for future use – it also makes a great salad dressing.

Vegan Tiramisu

VEGAN TIRAMISU

1 pkg. ladyfinger biscuits

Soaking Syrup
3/4 c. freshly brewed coffee, cooled
3 tbsp. sugar

Mix coffee and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.

Vegan Mascarpone Filling
1 3/4 c. raw cashews (no need to soak)
1/3 c. maple syrup
1/3 c. coconut oil, melted
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. non-dairy milk

In a blender, combine cashews, maple syrup, coconut oil, salt, vanilla and milk. Blend thoroughly until smooth and silky.

Divide mixture in half into two small bowls.

Vanilla Cream & Coffee Cream
1/4 c. non-dairy milk
1 tbsp. coconut oil, melted

1/3 c. freshly brewed coffee, cooled

Vanilla Cream Filling
Use first half of mixture, thoroughly whisking in extra 1/4 cup milk and 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Set aside.

Coffee Cream Filling
Blend second half of the vegan mascarpone mixture with coffee.

Assembly

  • Dip ladyfingers in soaking syrup for just a second or two and place into the bottom of a 9×9 baking dish.
  • Top with a layer of Vanilla Cream and dust with cocoa. At this point, freeze for 10 minutes.
  • Once out of the freezer, top with a layer of Coffee Cream. Freeze for 10 minutes.
  • Repeat process once more – soaked biscuits, Vanilla Cream and Coffee Cream – freezing cream layers for 10 minutes before continuing.
  • Once complete, dust the tops with cocoa powder and leave in the fridge for at least 4-6 hours to firm up before eating.

Spiced Indian Cabbage

Spiced Indian Cabbage

Ingredients

  • 1 medium cabbage
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp honey
  • ¼ green pepper, chopped

Instructions

  1. Wash and cut the cabbage into small half-inch fragments.
  2. Heat the oil in the large skillet and add the mustard and cumin seeds. Cook the seeds with medium heat until they start to crack and pop. Be careful not to burn them.
  3. When the seeds are cooked, add the turmeric, cabbage and the remaining the ingredients, except the honey. Cook 5-10 minutes, until the cabbage is tender, but not mushy.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the honey.

Easy Kim Chi

Kim Chi

Ingredients

1 medium nappa cabbage

1/3 cup pink Himalayan sea salt, NOT iodized

1 tsp arrowroot flour

3-5 garlic cloves

3-5 red finger chilies, chopped

1 small cooking onion, chopped

½ cup peeled & chopped daikon radish

¼ cup Korean coarse red pepper powder

2 tbsp tamari soy sauce

1 tbsp chopped fresh ginger

1 tsp pink Himalayan sea salt, NOT iodized

3-5 green onions, halved lengthwise & cut into 1-inch pieces

Instructions

  1. Remove leaves from cabbage. Cut in half lengthwise; cut into bite-sized squares. Spread 1/3
    of the cabbage in a large bowl; sprinkle w/ 2 T water then 1-2 T sea salt. Repeat layers 2 times.
  2. Cover & let stand, turning every 30-40 minutes, for about 2 hours. Drain.
  3. Fill the bowl w/ cold water; rinse & drain the cabbage 2-3 times. It should be salty, but not
    inedible. Drain in a large strainer while preparing the spice mixture.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine arrowroot flour with 1/3 cup water. Bring to boil
    over high heat; continue boiling, stirring constantly, for 20-30 seconds. Set aside to cool.
  5. In a food processor, blitz together arrowroot mixture, garlic, ginger, chilies, radish, onion, salt,
    red pepper powder & tamari until smooth.
  6. Press cabbage to ensure most of the liquid has drained. Combine cabbage, spice mixture &
    green onions; mix thoroughly.
  7. Transfer to large air right jar, pressing down firmly with the back of a wooden spoon to
    remove air pockets; leave roughly 5cm (2″) head space.
  8. Loosely seal and place on a tray/plate to catch any overflow. Let stand at room temperature
    for 24-72 hours or to the desired flavour.
  9. Store in the fridge for up to 2 months.

Thanks to Mike Murdoch for this awesome recipe!

Raw Balls of Bliss

Ingredients

1 cup of nuts (I prefer almond)

3 tbsp flax or chia seeds

1/3 cup unsweetened coconut

1 cup dried fruit (dates, cranberries, apricots)

1 tsp ground turmeric

½ tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp raw cacao powder

2 tbsp maple syrup

 

Instructions

1. Mix all ingredients in a food processor and blend into a paste.    Roll into truffle sized balls, and then roll in coconut, cacao powder, icing sugar or simply eat them as they are.

2. This recipe is packed with goodness for your body.  It can be altered to suit any taste and be completely raw or use toasted nuts and coconut for a different flavour.  Every different fruit makes it a different flavour too and you can do without the cacao if you prefer.

Beet Hummus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients

One small beet, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks (one scant cup of beet cubes)
15 oz. can garbanzo beans (drain and reserve ½ cup of the liquid)
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
¼ cup raw tahini
1 tablespoon oil (sunflower, olive, or safflower)
3 large cloves garlic, peeled
½ teaspoon sea salt

1. Preheat your oven to 400 F. Spray a small pan with oil, and place the beet cubes on the pan. Spray lightly with oil and bake until very tender (this will take at least 20 – 30 minutes).

2. Place the roasted beet cubes in a blender or food processor and add the remaining ingredients (including the ½ cup of reserved bean liquid). Blend until the mixture is totally smooth and looks like pink perfection. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to a week. Serve with crackers or tortilla crisps.

Slowing Down to Sleep

Most of us could probably use a better night’s sleep. With reported increases in stress and general mental health concerns (like anxiety and depression), it is not surprising that our sleep is affected. In my own clinical practice, counselling clients often state that they can’t stop thinking at bedtime and it is hard to slow down their thoughts.

The truth is that our lives have become busier. The expectations on ourselves and from others keeps growing and the general speed of life seems to be only increasing. The insult to this injury is that we are becoming more and more reliant on our tech at all hours of the day. The worst offender being our closest friend, our smartphone, which is most likely no more than a couple of feet away from most of us at all times. So, while our lives may be spinning a little faster than is good for us, our addiction to and poor boundaries around the use of our tech devices is a major reason we are tired all the time.

Fortunately, we can do something about this. While revamping long-term bad habits can take time and the support each of us may need will vary, there are a few straightforward changes you can make today that will set you up better for a good night’s rest.

 

No screens at least 1 hour before bed.

There are two main reasons for limiting your screentime before bed. The first is to develop a behavioural winding down habit that will get your body used to having regular, ritualistic tasks that will tell it that it will be time to go to sleep soon. Your body is very habit-driven and little cues to tell it that it is time to do quieter things before bed will allow it to start slowing down.

The other reason you should not be looking at screens before bed is that most displays on our devices (including your TV) emit a high degree of blue light. There is a lot of interesting stuff that can be said about this, but the general idea is that all this blue light says “it’s daytime” to your brain and wakes your body up.

Your body also produces melatonin, which helps it to sleep, and melatonin production is suppressed with blue light. So, if you are watching Netflix or reading an ebook right up until you go to sleep, your body will feel like it is daytime…daytime…daytime…NIGHTTIME and not be ready to slow down. (By the way, all this daytime-nighttime talk reminds me of the daytime-nighttime bird. You should check it out. Very funny!)

There are a few science-y workarounds for blue light. One is that some smartphones have a feature that shifts the colour of the display more towards the warmer oranges. At the higher levels of the orange setting, it can affect the look of colours on your display, but you do do not need to shift it that far, nor should it be as much of an issue if you are just reading.

Apps:

  • I am not sure what is available on other smartphones but the Apple feature is called Night Shift and is found in the Display & Brightness folder of Settings.
  • If you have Windows 10, there is also a Night Light feature you may want to play with.
  • One other laptop app is called Flux. It works the same way as the previous ones but is a third party app you can download for free.

Another anti-blue light support idea is that some people have purchased amber-coloured glasses to wear in the evening. This will filter out all light from the blue end of the spectrum. It will also make everything look yellow. I have heard of people who have tried them and they found it helpful. They would wear them to watch TV in the later evening and found they did not feel as wound up before sleep.

 

Turn off notifications.

Close the information faucet in the evening. Stop checking email, texts and notifications. There is nothing you can do about these things while you are sleeping and you will be better rested to deal with them in the morning. They will still be there! If you have a lot of notifications enabled on your device, consider turning on a feature to disable this after a certain point in the evening. (Apple has the feature called Downtime.)

 

Lighten Up the Content.

When you are winding down the physical activity, also start winding down your mental activity. If you want to read (on a device or with physical material), move away from content that is about learning and thinking. Not necessarily mindless, but something that will not put your brain into high gear. Tim Ferris has suggested reading fiction works well for him. It gives your mind a chance to relax and slow down.

 

There are many ways to slow down before bed. Pick one that speaks to you and try it out. By doing the proper prep work to get yourself ready to sleep, you are setting yourself up to be healthier, have more energy and focus and make the most out of tomorrow.

Sweet sleeps!

Kurt

Making Email Your Friend Again

What is your relationship like with your email? Do you check and check it throughout the day whenever you are bored or have a break? Do you check it every time you get a notification of a new message? Do you get stressed seeing how many unread messages are in your inbox? Many of us fall into at least some of these categories and none of them are helpful to your health. You deserve better… let’s do something about it.

What’s the Problem?

Though this is a topic worthy of a fuller discussion another day, it is important to know that multitasking is a myth. Our brains can, at best, do one mechanical (ingrained) task and one task that requires thinking at a time. When we are trying to work on a thinking task, any distraction pulls our attention out of this work and has us search out what it is to assess what to do with it. For general, background noise, some of us can get good at tuning things out, but the more attention that is required to work on the thinking task at hand, the more disruptive the interruption can be. It may take a bit of time to get back into focus and get work started again. Multiply this by repeated distractions and work can become quite untenable.

The dings, pop up messages and whatnot of email notifications are there to tell us that we have something new to look at and deal with in our inbox. And if decades of psychology have taught us anything, it is that we really like new things, and the unknown potential of what that new email could be can be quite irresistible. So, the fact that we are trying to get stuff done on a task that requires focussed attention and that there is the potential for an email to arrive at any time and notify us, which is super addictively stimulating, this is just a problem waiting to happen. Not only will every email notification break your flow of work, but the mere knowledge that there is a chance for an exciting distraction can also be enough to make it hard to stay on task. You might find that you start looking to see if something new is waiting for you.

What research is uncovering

The detrimental effects that this kind of repeated distraction is not mere conjecture or pop psychology babble. There is a growing body of research that points in the direction that when we have poor boundaries around when we check email, we can get more stressed and even start to exhibit inattention symptoms similar to ADHD. Comparing one group that was allowed to check their email as often as they wanted to one that only checked it three times per day, psychologists  Kostadin Kushlev and Elizabeth Dunn found that the group with no limits was significantly more stressed than the other.

There has been much more researched and written about this, but the point is clear: when we leave ourselves open to doing everything, we end up doing nothing. Our work productivity then looks more like a car spinning its wheels, which adds to frustration and stress.

What to do about it

The solution is pretty easy to say but may be harder to do: set limits on checking your email. Like any habit, if you are used to checking your email often it might take some time to get used to doing it differently. It is not overblown to refer to these behaviours as “addictions”. Like with all substance use and behavioural addictions, one will go through a period of withdrawal when they remove the object of addiction. So, be patient and easy on yourself. Your new habits of good boundaries and increased focus will start to feel more natural.

Here are a few tips to help you forge a healthier relationship with your email:

Set fixed times to check your email.

Instead of the take-it-as-it-comes approach, decide when you will make some time to dedicate to going through your email inbox. One recommendation is that if you are not willing to spend fifteen minutes processing and replying to email, then you should not do it at all. Try checking in the morning, at lunch and in the late afternoon or evening for a week and see how that experiment feels. You can check your email more or less frequently than that, but the point is to only do it at fixed times and for a predetermined duration. In other words, turn it into a task, not a distraction.

Turn off your email notifications.

Once you have a routine for when to check your mail, you need to turn off the tap of notifications. If you go into the settings on your smartphone, tablet or computer, you will find options to do this. You may even want to turn off the badge that shows the number of unread emails to further reduce any distractions and stress. Don’t worry, your email will be there when you check it. You are not stopping checking your email, you are just delaying the gratification of checking it willy-nilly and giving yourself dedicated time to spend on it.

Set up a mindful work environment to keep your focus.

I wrote much more thoroughly about this in a previous post, but the gist of it is to create a working space that is conducive to keeping you focused on the task you want to complete. If you set up a dedicated workspace that you only use for such tasks, you will also have the additional benefit of having your mind behaviourally get used to “shifting gears” to get ready to do that particular task you do in this space. This environmental and behavioural cue will make it easier to get and stay into the working mode you want to get things done.

Our technology has made it too easy for us to access pretty much any information we want anytime we want. This extreme freedom has led us to believe that we should be able to have access to everything, anytime, anywhere. This just is not healthy and our poor minds just can’t do it. Thinking that we can or should just leads to overload and stress and ultimately leaves us disengaged from the world around us and the other people we share it with.

Everything that was just said about email equally applies to texting and social media. Feel free to experiment with some new, healthier boundaries with your technology and see how you feel.

Now, turn off your device and go outside for a walk…

by Kurt Frost