Meatless Monday


Yesterday while I was grocery shopping I felt like making pasta. I haven’t had pasta in a while so I bought basil and tomatoes – the only ingredients that were missing from the list for a recipe I had in mind.

Perhaps a lot of us do this but here’s an important tip:                                                                                         –>NEVER GROCERY SHOP WHEN HUNGRY! <– I ended up buying some yummy snacks and of course as soon as I come home and empty out my groceries, I plant myself on the couch and snack on those mostly healthy goodies and so out the window went my dinner plan with my appetite. Oh well!

Still craving pasta I decided to make it today (Monday night dinner). For those of you who may not already know I am vegan so for me every day is a Meatless Monday! I can’t tell you how much healthier and stronger I have been since I went vegan. Not only did I shed pounds and body fat, I also have more energy to get more things done in a day in addition to saving many many animal lives and saving our environment

Before I start cooking, I usually lay out all the ingredients in front of me. As I opened the fridge to get some of the ingredients I saw I had a zucchini in the crisper drawer. In the spirit of eating healthier and wasting less food I decided to make zucchini pasta instead of using actual pasta. I had initially planned on making angel hair pasta – simple yet bursting with taste, my slight tweak? Replaced organic whole wheat angel hair pasta with fresh zucchini pasta. If I may say so myself not only did it turn out great, it was so delicious, filling and tasty that I finished everything I made 🙂 and I do not feel too full or like I over ate. Here’s the recipe for those who’d like to try it out:

Zucchini Pasta with home made tomato sauce

Zucchini Pasta with home made tomato sauce

Serves 2, Prep time: 10 minutes, Cook time: 10 minutes or less

Ingredients:

  1. 1 medium sized zucchini
  2. 1 Lb tomatoes finely chopped
  3. 1.5 Tbsp olive oil
  4. 1/4  red onion thinly sliced (you can add as much or as little as per your preference)
  5. 2 garlic cloves thinly sliced (adjust as per your preference)
  6. 1 Tbsp of italian dried herbs (oregano, thyme, etc..)
  7. A pinch of chili flakes (optional)
  8. Roughly 1/4 cup of chopped basil (Set aside a couple of leave for garnish)
  9. Lemon zest (as per your liking)
  10. Cracked blacked pepper (as per your liking)

Method:

  1. Using a spiralizer (doesn’t have to be fancy, I have a very basic $5 one), spiralize the zucchini into noodles (of course you always use good ol’ pasta too :)) and set aside
  2. Pour the olive oil in a pan and set it to very low heat
  3. Add garlic and onion and cook for a minute or two, stir to prevent it from sticking to the pan
  4. Next add the dried herbs and chili flakes and cook until garlic starts turning golden brown.
  5. Then add the tomatoes and cook a little more. Cook it longer if you’d like it to be more saucy or for a few minutes until it’s softened enough
  6. Lastly add the chopped basil, lemon zest, salt to taste and cracked black pepper
  7. Give it another minute or two before turning off the flame.
  8. Toss the zucchini into the bowl using salad tongs such that the noodles are covered with the goodness of the tomato-basil sauce (or you could eat like shown in the photo)
  9. Season with more black pepper and lemon zest if you’d like
  10. Eat to your heart’s content (^_^)

 

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Feature Friday


For better or for worse, our smartphones have taken over our lives. Necks pointing down, thumbs always engaged, swiping left, right, up and down. I am not kidding when I say this.. last year I was out on a morning run and as I waited to to cross at a traffic light I noticed a woman standing right next to me watching Netflix on her phone while walking. When the crosswalk sign was on, instead of running off I decided to slow down and observe her. She did not take her eyes off that screen even while she was in the middle of this huge intersection crossing the road.

I digress slightly from the main point but while it’s amazing to have everything available all the time in our digital lives, it’s important we not be addicted to it. Of course, all of this tech revolution has improved our lives too. Ultimately it’s up to us how we use anything in our lives – to improve ours and others’ lives or to make it worse.

In the spirit of making things better, giving our eyes and minds some rest there is an app I highly recommend – available in most countries and on most OS types.

It’s an app called InSight Timer

insight

  • It’s an app for meditation – guided and silent.
  • It has a community feature and there are thousands of people around the globe using it
  • It has some really neat features such as location based stats on who is meditating along with you.
  • You can set daily reminders for meditation
  • You can set the time you want to meditate for, starting bell, ending bell, interval bell etc..
  • Best of all, it is FREE!!!!!! FREE!!!!

Click on the title or the image to visit their website.

Give it a try, if you don’t like it don’t use it but you’ll never know if you don’t try. Happy Friday y’all!

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Thanksgiving Tuesday


Last week I was chatting with someone who’d lost his phone and was distraught. I felt bad for him and tried to comfort him. I said “Things could be worse. You’ve only lost a material object, you are safe and healthy. Look on the bright side.” To this he told me “Well, but things could be better.” I was in a mindset of trying to help him feel better and so in that moment I stored what he said in my mental filing cabinet for reviewing later. Later when I thought about my conversation with him and what all he had said it made me wonder how often we take things we have for granted and not take a moment to be grateful for what we have. I have been guilty of this more in the past than now because I today I have awareness. Perhaps we need to step outside of ourselves and think from a different perspective and then look at our lives.

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How often do we take people – close and distant, things – important or not so important for granted? Maybe we take our family for granted the most? When was the last time you told a family member or a close friend that you’re grateful for their presence in your life?

When was the last time you were grateful for where you are in life, for what you have, for what you do? I often take myself for granted. Slowly but steadily I am learning to be grateful for myself – my body and my mind.

gratitude1

Let today be the day, you thank at least one person either in-person, or over the phone or via email/text or even through vibrations that the universe will carry for you to them.

Let’s play a little game. Take a notepad and a pen(cil) or notepad on your phone or computer and write down:

  • A person you’re thankful for
  • A place you’re thankful for
  • A food you’re thankful for
  • A thing you’re thankful for
  • An animal you’re thankful for
  • Anything else that comes to mind besides these you’re thankful for
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Money Hacks Monday


The cost of living in most big cities is increasing exponentially, to that add taxes and the fact that wages don’t increase in proportion – aye-aye-aye!  We all want to live the good life but for many of us, it’s often beyond our means. Last night as I was emptying my grocery bags, I had a thought about how small things can help us save more and waste less. What I am about to share is not how to make a million dollars from ten, but small hacks that save you good money in the long run.

  1. One person’s junk is another’s treasure – With apps/websites such as Craigslist, Poshmark and Offer Up selling stuff from the comfort of your home that you don’t use anymore has become easier than ever. I moved into a tiny apartment and realized I had way too much stuff, most of which I barely or never used. So I started posting those things up for sale. I purged, became lighter, more free and also made some cash.
  2. Karma bucks – For stuff you cannot sell but is in great condition, DONATE it! Go to your local shelter or GoodWill store and donate those items. You not only earn good karma, you can also get a tax deduction at the time of filing your taxes.
  3. Cook more at home – When I decided to commit myself as a life long vegan middle of last year, I realized eating out wasn’t as convenient anymore. So I started looking up vegan recipes that were easy to make and multiple recipes that involved common ingredients (less wasting or rotting in the fridge… we’ve all been there, eh?) I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed it and saved a few $$
  4. Shop bulk – These days you’ll usually find me in the bulk section isles of a grocery store when I am out buying groceries. Shopping in the bulk section is great in so many ways
    • It is usually cheaper than packaged food
    • You only buy as much as you need thereby not over-buying or over-paying
    • Less wastage
    • Less packaging/plastic involved
    • Pride and glow of being a money-savvy, deal-savvy person and also a better citizen of the Earth
  5. Cash or go home – A friend once told me about how she would budget. She would withdraw ‘x’ amount of dollars from the ATM on the 1st of every month – that would be her allowance she could choose to spend on going out, cab rides, dinner, drinks whatever she pleased. However, once the cash ran out for the month that was it, no more spending until the next month
  6. Starbucks is over-rated – When I say Starbucks, I mean all the chain or fancy coffee shops such as Peet’s, Philz, or whatever your local famous coffee shop is that charges you an arm and a leg for coffee. Indulging occasionally is fine, I do it, we all do! But on a daily basis, try and get your caffeine fix at home before you head out. What I do is buy coffee from the bulk section, buy and grind as much as I need and use my simple French Press that I had bought for $20 and it makes the best coffee! Well, I love it! ^_^ OR if you are a tea drinker, hopefully it’s not so much of an issue for you but the same applies
  7. I am no wealth investment guru, but we all have a few of those friends or family members who can advise us what we can do with all the money we save (and/or make) from the tips listed above.

Hope you find these tips helpful. If you have some tips to share please comment and let me and other readers know! Hope you save some moolah today! ($_$)

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The Breath


The other night I was working out at my neighborhood studio and the instructor said “Take a deep breath in and on your way up, breathe it out making a “Hssssshhhhh” sound. Following his instructions I started focusing on my breath and aligning my breath with my movement. However, before I knew it, my mind wandered away to a few different points in my past which have had a very profound effect on me in ways more than one.

In chronological order:

  1. It was the first month of my then new job, ~4 years ago and I was on a technical discussion with my engineering director. I started the call by asking him “How are you doing this morning?” to which he replied “I am doing great, I woke up this morning.” I chuckled a little and thought to myself, ‘Wow!! I’ve never heard that before.’ and went on to tell him “That’s a great way to start one’s day.” After the call it got me thinking about how we take our breath for granted. It could end at any time, yet we do not appreciate every morning that we wake up with that thought of gratitude, the thought of being thankful for being alive, alive to take another breath and yet another after that. Instead, here we are thinking about the day, work, material things, etc… My life hasn’t quite been the same since and I have him to thank!
  2. My mum and I were practicing Yoga together one morning and she observed that I was having some difficulty with flexibility and holding postures that morning. She asked me to go back to downward dog position and told me to close my eyes. Then she said the following, “Focus on your breath and as you’re trying to elongate your spine breathe oxygen into every little space you can, the little gaps between your vertebra and your joints, feel the breath as it flows through your body.” This has helped me so much, not just in my practice but also generally when I feel anxious, I try to breathe in oxygen to every part of my body and it helps me calm down.
  3. This past thanksgiving I attended my very first Vipassana meditation course (that deserves its own post). It was intense/brutal/life-changing for me. Amongst the few gems I took away from this course, one was – “Only the breath is real.” Goenka ji, in one of his discourses, said “Only the breath is real, everything else is a creation of our imagination.” That got me thinking once again about the profound truth behind that sentence. Of course, only the breath is real, everything else is a projection of our thoughts. The world we see is our perception, created from our thoughts, opinions, ideas and imagination.

Thanks to my meditation practice, I caught myself (my mind) wandering and brought back my awareness to my breath and my movement and fixed myself to the present moment and I came back to it now to share it with you all.

Personally, these incidents have been very eye-opening for me in so many ways and they apply not just in my daily life but have helped me evolve so much more. I’d love to hear your thoughts, feel free to share in the comments below.

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Letting Go Of Negative Energy


Bottling emotions and negative energy is never a good thing, but that’s all I knew for the longest time because I couldn’t voice my feelings. Some of you may relate to this and may be well aware of the effects bottling emotions  has on one’s physical, mental and emotional state. I just didn’t know how to channel those emotions or negative energy and it kept imploding. My healing journey began when I hit rock bottom. I realized the only way I could break free of this negative cycle and get out of this downward spiral was by healing, healing myself by accepting and loving who I was. I started meditating, exercising regularly and reflecting. Along my self-healing journey I learned not only how to channel negative emotions and energy but also to effectively and lovingly assert myself and communicate with loved ones at home and at work. Easier said than done! How exactly does one channel that negativity and prevent damage to their mental, emotional and physical well-being? It definitely took me a lot of practice, in fact it is an on-going process. Here are some techniques I find extremely useful:

  1. Deep, slow breaths or meditation  – this is a great way to prevent further damage to yourself, the other person and/or the situation. When you take a few deep breaths, it calms your nervous system down a bit and you’re able to think more rationally therefore preventing a rash, impulsive reaction. It prevents the system from getting in to a state of stress/panic which results in the body releasing cortisol. Taking time to cool off helps getting to a better more thought out perspective about the situation or person than reacting on an impulse thereby continuing to engage in the negativity. Meditation is a great way to bring our attention back on what’s real, what’s important.

10370894_10153332590228343_9150046986754423399_n2. Remove yourself physically/take a time-out, if possible from the environment/situation for the time being (or permanently) so that you can think clearly and be at peace with yourself, the other person and/or the situation.

3. Go for a walk/run,exercise, be outside, surround yourself with nature, breathe fresh air – walking or exercising releases endorphins; Endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body. Or may be even practice something creative such as painting or dancing or singing or listening to music, I find music very therapeutic.

src: http://www.thehinzadventures.com/4. Gratitude – I cannot stress enough on the benefits of being thankful for the people and things we have in life. When we take a moment to thank the universe for everything we have and everything we are in life, it not only puts a positive spin on our lives, but also reminds us to appreciate what we have and not take anything for granted. Have you ever thought of how many of us take our breath for granted? I used to, until I started giving thanks for the things I have in my life.

IMG_92015. BFF – Be around Friends and/or Family. Friends and family can be a great support system and their presence can also have a very positive effect on us. Surround yourself with positive, kind and happy people.

6. Attitude – We must always remember that our attitude in any given moment greatly impacts how we feel in that moment and in future moments. There are a lot of people out there who are fighting bigger battles than you or I and are having to deal with worse situations than we can imagine, when we think that our problems are the worst we should take a step outside of ourselves and take a look around, do a little reality check. We know life is not always tulips and dark chocolate… sometimes it’s about leaky roofs and lost friendships. You put a piece of tape on the roof, it still leaks, you seal the roof, it still leaks, you don’t give up, you come up with new ways to solve the problem… in some situations, you don’t give up, you fall, you get up and you try again. But in some situations, you have to let go. After decades of friendship, if one day a friend decides to end it all without giving you a reason or explanation, you reach out and try to understand why and probably also attempt to fix it, but relationships are like a car, all the wheels have to be moving in the same direction for the car to move, it requires constant steering to keep it on track. When all the elements are not in sync and not working with each other but in fact against each other, the car won’t move even though a lot of effort will be spent and that can be draining. Sometimes, you have to let it go and make peace with what happened.

7. Open and Positive Communication – After having taken the time to really think about things objectively and rationally, it may even help talking with the other person (if there is another person in the equation) about the things that bother you. However, it should come from a loving place and free of accusations. It should be about how you feel, this way the other person will not feel attacked and will not get defensive. There are a lot of resources online on how to communicate in arguments, fights etc..

Posted in Health, Mind and Soul | Tagged | 1 Comment

Vegan Chili – Wholesome and balanced (protein, carbs and fiber)


Two months ago, on a regular work day as I was busy doing my work things – solving problems, prepping for meetings, making prezos and replying to emails, I read a slightly unusual email, by “unusual” I mean the subject line had nothing to do with techie things, it said — Chili Cook-off in two weeks– I quickly glanced through it and went back to doing my work, however, a few seconds later, I couldn’t help coming back to the email. I thought to myself “Hmmmm, I do enjoy a good chili, but I’ve never ever made one myself, if I participate, this will be a great way to make my first ever vegan chili”. As I pondered over the decision for a little longer, I realized that more than anything I was really excited about cooking for my colleagues and I became aware of something I’ve always enjoyed and something that has always motivated me to cook — it’s to feed near and dear ones. That’s it, I didn’t care about winning, I was really excited to try out a chili recipe (I’ll admit I was extremely confident that it would turn out great mostly because I knew chili isn’t the most complicated recipe to experiment with and because I knew I was cooking to feed others — a lot of love and joy would go in the making of that chili. :)) Anyway, long story short, I won the people’s choice award! woohoo! In fact some folks came to me and told me that they enjoyed my vegan chili way more than some of the meat chilis they tried that day.

This recipe feeds about 6 to 8 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp organic virgin coconut oil (feel free to sub this with your choice of oil, I used this for its health benefits over some other commercially available cooking oils
  • 1 medium sized onion – diced. (I used a yellow onion)
  • 2 medium (not too fat) carrots – diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bell pepper – diced
  • 1 medium sized zucchini – diced
  • 2 medium sized stalks of celery – diced
  • salt to taste
  • crushed black pepper to taste (optional)
  • a dash/pinch of turmeric powder (optional)
  • 2 tsp of ground cumin (I used toasted ground cumin but either is fine)
  • Extra firm tofu or soy protein or any vegan protein you may choose to add (optional)
  • 2 serrano or thai chillies (optional)
  • 2 15Oz cans of light or dark kidney beans or black beans (I used dark red kidney beans and black beans)
  • 1 28Oz can chopped tomatoes (I used fire roasted tomatoes to add that extra oomph! ;))
  • Chopped cilantro or spring onions or chives for garnish (optional)
  • 1.5 cups of water
  • If not making vegan version, feel free to use shredded cheese or sour cream or greek yogurt (healthier option to sour cream) for garnish
  • slice of vegan bread such as sourdough type to go with the chili (optional)

Method:

One of the many benefits of making a vegan chili (in addition to saving animals, saving environment, healthier option) is that unlike the meat version vegan chili does NOT require slow cooking for hours in a crockpot. It is very easy to make, you can easily refrigerate/freeze it and makes for a wholesome meal

  • Dice all the veggies and set aside
  • Coat the bottom of the pot with oil. Heat the pot over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers, then add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic, green chillies (if you went with that option) and season with salt and pepper (I usually do not add all the required salt and pepper at once, I introduce it gradually). Cook until the onions are soft.
  • Drain the beans in the colander or strainer and rinse. Set aside.
  • When the onions are soft, add the remaining vegetables to the pot and season again with salt and pepper. Add cumin, turmeric and chili powder. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are just starting to get tender (approximately 10 minutes).
  • Add the tomatoes and their juices to the pot, along with the rinsed beans.
  • Crumble the tofu (or soy protein or any other vegan protein you may choose to use – but in that case follow the cooking directions stated on the package) and add it to the pot.
  • Keep stirring
  • Finally, add water and bring everything to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and cover the pot. Gently simmer until the veggies are soft and the flavors have fused together and you can smell the delicious aroma of your hearty chili (about 10 minutes). Taste the chili and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
  • Voila! Your vegan chili is ready to be shared with loved ones. Garnish it before you serve it.

Let me know if you try it out and also how it turns out if you follow this exact recipe.

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