Friday, 9 October 2015

Fun Food Friday - Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have a confession to make.  I really, really don't like pumpkin spice lattes.  The first time I ordered one, I was really excited to try this amazing coffee that everyone seems to get so excited about.  After one sip, I was shocked that anyone would do that to a perfectly good cup of coffee.  Perhaps my dislike of the PSL comes from the fact that I don't really like pumpkin pie either.  There is a texture and spice blend that happens that really doesn't work for my palate.  I do like pumpkin in other recipes, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin soup; you get the idea. 

So I do appreciate pumpkin.  But I've noticed, pumpkin is in everything as soon as fall hits.  There is a pumpkin spice cliff bar and pumpkin beer.  It feels like a right of passage for fall let's put pumpkin in everything! So this year I said to myself "I'm not going to make pumpkin recipes."  It just feels like too much and there are other wonderful fruits and vegetables that are at their peak this time of year that deserve a spot light - squash, sweet potatoes, turnip, a massive list really.  

But then I picked up my crop share this week, only to find this at the bottom of my bag.....

I thought about keeping it as a decoration but then I wouldn't be using a perfectly good piece of produce for its real purpose.  So I chopped and baked and cooked a bit more and pureed.  Then I decided to bake some cookies using coconut flour.  The extra moisture in the pumpkin works perfectly to balance the sometimes dry texture coconut flour creates in baking.  

Aside from a high moisture content, pumpkin is high in dietary fibre, low in calories and provides a ton of antioxidants.  Pumpkin is high in vitamin A which is an important antioxidant for helping maintain and protect the skin, mucous membranes and eye sight.  Finally pumpkin is a good source of B vitamins and mineral such as calcium, potassium and phosphorus.  So all around, pumpkin is a great addition to a lot of your cooking and baking and is perfect in the fall when pumpkins are at their peak freshness.

After whipping up these cookies, I still have a great deal of pumpkin left.  I can see my future now - pumpkin smoothies, pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin gnocchi.....

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

by Denise Boyd Dunlop
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Ingredients (36 cookies)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
Cream together butter, eggs and maple syrup. Stir in pumpkin and vanilla. Sift coconut flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Stir into wet ingredients. Add chocolate chips.
Scoop dough by tablespoons onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.
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Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Workout Wednesday - Improving Your Running from the Ground Up

I have been running pretty regularly for almost 10 years now and have (luckily) not experienced any injuries or setbacks to my body from running.  One of the most important reasons related to not having a running related injury is from cross training.  I've spoken about the importance of incorporating yoga along with running and the benefits related to the strength building and stretch that happens during a regular yoga practice.  But today I'm focussing on a specific area of the body that can make or break our running enjoyment and success. - Our feet and ankles.

When I first started to run, I almost quit within the first week of my learn to run program.  My ankles were so sore that I could not walk without a limp.  I discussed my problem with the instructor of the running group and was told that it took a while for all of the little muscles around our ankles to strengthen.  He was right to an extent but I didn't want to wait for these muscles to strengthen on their own.  Looking for my own solution, I did a bit of research on ankles and feet.

Did you know that your feet and ankles consist of more than 26 bones, 36 joints (many of which are articulated) and hundreds of ligaments, muscles and tendons.  The structure of the foot allows for a great deal of movement and absorption of impact while we walk.  When we run, we increase that impact by a factor of 10.  Which is why proper footwear and building strength is crucial to helping with our running.  The stronger our feet and ankles are and the more we support them the more we increase our potential to run pain free and enjoy our run!

The move I found to alleviate the foot pain and help not only build stronger muscles to support my ankles and to stretch my calf was writing the alphabet with my foot.  It is one of the most simplest exercises to do and can be done virtually anywhere. 

  • Sitting down lift one foot from the floor.
  • With your toes and the ball of your foot write each letter of the alphabet.
  • Repeat with the other foot.
  • That's it.  I usually do this twice a day.

You can do this exercise anywhere, your desk at work, watching TV, basically anywhere you are sitting.  You can also pick upper case, lower case, cursive whatever you feel like writing.  This movement is great for allowing the foot to move through its full range of motion while stretching all of the muscles around the ankle and into the calf.  Strong ankles and flexible feet make for less chances for injury and a greater sense of stability on all different types of terrain.  Happy Running!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

A Leap of Faith

This phrase always reminds me of the third Indiana Jones movie when Indy is almost to the end of the quest for the chalice and he crosses the bridge he can't see.  I'm pretty sure in the movie he does actually refer to it as a Leap of Faith.  These are great words, an inspiring expression to use to motivate yourself or others to move ahead with something in their or your life.  Words are wonderful ways to create a drive for change or momentum and can initiate change.  But it is the action of the change that requires true courage.  Both are important, but without that action words fall short.

I have been in the midst of some pretty big changes in my life.  I'm in the process of letting some things go and moving in a new direction.  All exciting changes, but pretty scary as well, to let go of the familiar and actually chose to act in a new way.  Changes of any sort can be pretty overwhelming whether its starting a new exercise regime, changing your diet, letting go of relationships that are no longer working or starting a new job.  These types of changes to your lifestyle require you to trust in the unknown and that through this process you are going to be ok, better than ok, through the journey.  But taking that very first step and working up the courage to do so is the bravest part of making a change.

My new thing for August summed the actual physical fear and overcoming a leap of faith.  For the past year or so, I've wanted to jump of a bridge into water.  I admit, it is a little silly for a fully grown up and responsible mother of two to want to have any urge to jump off of anything, let alone a bridge.  But I have been wanting to do it.  I can't explain it. 

There is a fantastic park in my town that I walk through regularly and in it, a bridge, I cross a couple times a day.  It is a beautiful bridge.  

In the summer, teenagers jump into the river and it looks like a lot of fun.  It is also pretty high from the water, but the water is deep enough.  I have envisioned myself taking that leap of faith and jumping into the water repeatedly.  I imagine the freedom that I would feel during the fall and how great it would feel to hit the water.

After talking about wanting to jump for a while, my husband said "Alright, let's do it."  We picked our weekend we were going to jump.  Somehow the word spread to our families and both of our parents came to watch along with some of our siblings and their spouses.  No chance of backing out at this point.  To top the pressure of having family come to support us on this insane thing that no one over 20 should be doing, there were some tourists in the park recording our jump.

We decided to jump separately in case either one of us piked or landed on the other.  My husband went first.  When it was my turn, I stepped over the side of the bridge and looked down.  I was really far from the water.  Really far.  

I clung to the side of the bridge completely regretting my words.  I should also mention that I am the type of person who hesitates to jump in from the side of the pool.  I would much rather use the ladder or slide in off the side of the deck.  

So on the side of the bridge, people cheering me on, me clinging for dear life.  Minutes ticked by.  My husband said I was up there for 8 minutes.  The video of my jump was 42 seconds.  I haven't felt as physically scared of something in a long time, I literally thought I was going to faint.  I even started to jump then pulled back.  

Then I thought to myself - really what was the worst thing about taking that step off the bridge that would happen?  There was enough water to land in and something inside me wanted to jump for a really long time.  So I let go.

I hit the water and when I surfaced everyone was cheering.  Swimming to shore, I was asked if I thought I'd jump again and immediately said "No."  Once was enough - I did it.  

I've thought often over the past few weeks about the feeling I had when I was so torn about taking that step and feeling so much fear about letting go.  Often when we face the opportunity to make that change in our lives that we have wanted for so long it is the fear of the unknown or perhaps possible discomfort that cements us in place.  But if we can trust in ourselves that we were right in our decision for ourselves to want a change or a difference in the first place we can have the courage to take that leap.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Fun Food Friday - Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Energy Bites

I'm teaching a 2 hour Body Gratitude workshop tomorrow and have promised the participants a nutritious snack following the workout.  We won't be working out for a full two hours but it will probably be more than an hour worth of work.  To receive the most benefits from your workouts and to help your body recover quicker, it is ideal to have a balanced snack or meal within 30 - 60 minutes of a workout.  A combination of protein and carbohydrate will help with muscle repair and work to restore depleted glycogen stores from your muscles.

These little energy bites are a perfect blend of carbs and protein.  The dates are quickly digested and provide natural sweetness and the hemp hearts along with the peanut butter provide both protein and healthy fats.  Aside from those benefits they taste like a peanut butter cup without all of the nasty stuff.  These energy bites are easy to whip up and quite addictive.  They are easily transportable and a great idea not only for following a workout but also for helping keep your energy levels up during long hikes or bike rides.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Energy Bites

by Denise Boyd Dunlop
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Ingredients (serves 12)
  • 7 medjool dates
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup hemp hearts
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
Place ingredients in a food processor, mixing until smooth. Roll into balls and place in fridge or freezer.
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Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Workout Wednesday - Interval Training

One of the best workouts that I love/hate to do is interval training.  Interval training is a great way burn extra calories in your workout compared to steady state cardio training.  Basically think of your body firing up the way your car does when you first start to accelerate.  You and your car both burn through extra fuel until you get to a steady speed or state.  So extra calories burned for you (and extra gas for your car).  

If you push yourself effort wise for a period of time and then drop to a slower speed or reduced effort and repeat that whole process again, you use a lot of extra calories to power your body.  In addition, you work to improving your VO2 max improving your overall running speed.  From a mental perspective, when you push yourself physically to a level of discomfort and know that you are going to be able to recover from it, you build more confidence into your running.

You can do interval training running outside or in or biking or rowing.  All you need is a watch and a relatively flat surface.  

Start by warming up throughly, for at least 10 minutes.  
Then choose your interval time.  Typically 1 minute at 90-95% of my maximum effort followed with 1 minute of rest.  
Repeat 5-6 times.
Followed up with a10 minute cool down.  

This is an intense workout but again really effective for boosting metabolic and mental performance related to running or any other endurance sport.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Unplugging and Reconnecting

My family has a really busy schedule this year.  Like a lot people I know we are busy most week nights with activities and our weekends are pretty full as well.  When I saw how our weekly schedule was playing out with at least one of us being out every week night I proposed that we make Friday nights family night.  With the idea that we could add some flexibility.  If there was something going on a Friday night we could move our family night to Saturday or Sunday.

During these nights we would have a fun dinner - pizza, at home pub night, appetizer dinners - you get the point.  We also do activities together, playing board games, a movie we all watch together or a dance party.  Everyone has been on board so far, and we plan in advance the movie we'll watch or what we'll make for dinner together.  These family nights are a chance to wind down from the week and relax together.

The other key thing with our family nights is that no one is allowed to have their electronic devices.  Not one of us.  I've watched my kids isolate themselves playing Minecraft or watching videos on their phones and iPads, plugged into their headphones and then I look at both my husband and I checking our twitter feeds, Facebook and Instagram accounts and realize how none of use are relating to each other even while we are sitting in the same room.  I think that many people and families are like that.  We do have a rule, no devices or TV during any meal.  But I wanted the chance for us to reconnect a bit more.

So Friday nights all of us unplug even my husband and I.  We've been doing this for three weeks now and I admit the first few hours I found myself reaching for my phone when I was  looking for a bit of a break.  But after the first little bit, I don't miss it.  It is interesting to watch the shift that happens in our family dynamic without the distraction and isolating nature of our devices.  The biggest thing that happens; we actually talk to each other.  Even if we're watching a movie, we talk about the movie.  We discuss our days and the upcoming week.  Removing the device in our hand gives us a chance to connect.

It has made me think though, how many times has the distraction of our phones take from where we are and prevented us from being truly present with those around us?  I've gone for dinner with people and had the other people I'm with check their phones constantly and I do find it frustrating.  But I've also been that person as well.  I try to explain if I need to check in why I'm doing.  But still checking for texts or emails takes from where I am and who I'm with.  

It really is all about finding balance with our priorities.  I love my phone.  It is a number of things to me; my watch, my camera, how I communicate with other people, a source of entertainment, how I check in with my clients for work and I don't see myself going without my phone for an extended period of time in the near future.  But what I'm going to work toward over the next little while is making sure when I'm using my phone I'm not missing out on what is going on around me.  Instead of taking a picture of a sunset and immediately tweeting it, I'm just going to enjoy the moment.  When I'm with people, I'm going to be with them and not checking what is going on the in the digital world around me.  Ultimately, I'm going to be present with where I am and those I'm with.  

Friday, 25 September 2015

Fun Food Friday - Berry Beet Smoothie

Another gloriously sunny and warm day.  I'm loving this weather for running before we head out for our days.  I have increased my distance and activity level lately and have noticed a little muscle soreness.  For me that is a bit of an indication to take it easy for a day or two and focus on eating foods that have anti-inflammatory properties.

Beets are a perfect food to help with inflammation especially when combined with ginger.  These two root plants go perfectly together.  In addition to helping reduce inflammation, beets support the liver during phase 2 detoxification and provide other forms of antioxidants. 

I chose to cook my beets first and peel them to help reduce the earthy beet flavour.  I wanted something a little sweeter today.  This smoothie is very similar to a beet ginger juice  but thicker because I haven't just extracted the juice, so I get a bonus with a bit of extra fibre.

Berry Beet Smoothie

by Denise Boyd Dunlop
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Keywords: blender gluten-free vegan
Ingredients (serves 1)
  • 1 medium beet cooked and peeled
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries
  • 1 apple cored and chopped
  • 1 inch piece of ginger peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons hemp hearts
  • water as needed
Place all ingredients in blender and blend. Add water as needed until desired consistency is reached.
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