Meditation: Achieving Peace Within Yourself

Why do people meditate? Do people enjoy ‘sitting and doing nothing for an indefinite amount of time’? What benefit does meditating give me? These are all questions we’ve all come across or have had ourselves. They’re all great questions. My goal is to provide you the information so you can make the decision; to meditate or not to meditate – that is the question.

People meditate for different reasons; some to calm their anxiety, some are searching for peace or happiness and some are just plain curious. Whichever reason it is that is motivating you to try it, I’ll tell you this: you won’t regret it. 

I once read that they asked Buddha “How shall we meditate?” Buddha replied, “Whatsoever you do, do it with awareness; this is meditation. Walking, walk attentively, as if walking is everything; eating, eat with awareness, as if eating is everything; rising, rise with awareness; sitting, sit with awareness. All your actions become conscious, your mind does not travel beyond this moment, it remains in the moment, settles in the moment – this is meditation.”

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Becoming a mindful person can be the best thing you do for yourself. Can you imagine life without wondering what you’ll be doing tomorrow, next week, where your next vacation will be or what holiday is coming up? Can you imagine just enjoying what you’re doing right now? Whether you’re on your commute to/from work, reading a book, spending time with your loved ones, at work, at the grocery store… can you imagine just being there? Without thoughts rushing in and out of your mind. Because after all, what does having all those thoughts in your mind do for you? They’re certainly not helpful thoughts if they have nothing to do with what you’re doing right now.

According to Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, due to “evidence that meditation had been associated with decreased stress, decreased depression, anxiety, pain and insomnia, and an increased quality of life” she decided to do brain scans and discover which parts of the brain get activated when people practiced meditation. What she discovered was that the brain actually changed after eight weeks of meditation practice.

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If you’re looking for motivation to start or feel like it will be too difficult; I’ve found a really simple guided meditation video that could help you! Meditation is not supposed to be just sitting in a room staring at the wall for 30 minutes; that sounds awful! A good way to look at it is a training of the mind. You are literally training your mind to enjoy the now, the moment, the present, to be aware and conscious. Just as we train for marathons by walking one kilometer today, two the next week, etc. or how we train ourselves to eat healthier by trying new ingredients, swapping ingredients, or changing a recipe.

As Buddha said, being aware and conscious is meditation. If you don’t feel comfortable sitting cross-legged (like the illustration shows) don’t, if you would prefer to have your hands on your lap, do so… It’s all about being comfortable and enjoying it. A lot of people think that they cannot think of anything during meditation – which can be extremely difficult given that we have such busy lives and we’re used to multi-tasking. This is not true. There are different ways of doing meditation, and doing the one that suits you will be the best one! I’ve read that one way to meditate is by actually thinking of a problem, giving it a shape, color, description (in your mind) and seeing it disappear. Other people simply will focus on the breath; in and out, 1 and two, and that will be enough. There is also no time limit; you may meditate for 10 minutes daily, 2 minutes, 17 minutes, it’s up to you. The point is to do it, which will help us become better at it.

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Just remember, we’re looking for awareness and consciousness, not perfection! And just in case you need a little bit more motivation, here’s a list with more benefits of meditation!

Happy meditating! 🙂

Deliciously Simple Salad

This is an out-of-the-blue creation due to a huge salad craving I had yesterday. I wanted to create a salad I was excited about! I’ve had many salads during my life and most have not been that exciting; some tasty, some bland, some OK, but nothing that truly had everything I enjoy. This salad has all of the elements I enjoy, which are; fruit, cheese, plenty of greens and most importantly it’s easy to make!

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Ingredients: 

  1. 1 cup red oak lettuce 
  2. 1 cup green coral
  3. 2 cups of spinach 
  4. 1/2 butternut squash cut into 1 inch (2 cm) cubes 
  5. 2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses 
  6. 3 tablespoons of goats curd or more to taste (can also use goats cheese)
  7. 1/2 a pink lady apple thinly sliced 
  8. 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  9. 1/8 of a tablespoon of salt and pepper each or more to taste 

For the dressing, I wanted something simple and tasty; bear with me because I know it is not your typical dressing – just believe me when I say it’s delicious!

Dressing ingredients:

  1. 1/2 cup of pomegranate juice (try to make it 100% pomegranate with no sugar added – it’s not needed 🙂 )
  2. 2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses
  3. 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
  4. 1/2 tablespoon of honey
  5. Pinch of sea salt and pepper or more to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 225C. Toss butternut squash with olive oil and add pepper. Place butternut squash on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes flip butternut squash and bake for another 10 minutes. Once done, add sea salt to taste.
  • In a medium to large bowl add red oak lettuce, green coral, spinach, apple slices and pomegranate molasses; make sure to mix well.
  • Add butternut squash to salad once done baking and then add the goats curd (or cheese).
  • For dressing: Mix ingredients well; pomegranate juice with pomegranate molasses, red wine vinegar and sea salt and pepper.
  • Side note on the dressing: some people really like their dressings to have a type of oil; please feel free to add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.

Tip: I also tried blood orange juice instead of pomegranate juice – and it tasted great too!

Tip 2: You may easily add chicken to this dish if you would like to make it for any carnivores you know.

Enjoy! And don’t be afraid of experimenting; I truly just made this out of a desire to satisfy a craving and it turned out fantastic (in my humble opinion).

Movies for Foodies

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The Lunchbox (2013) 

If you enjoy Indian food – this is the movie for you! I believe this is one of Bollywood’s best films. It combines tasty food with romance, friendship and the never ending surprises life brings. It makes for a great movie to share with your family, friends, loved ones, or to enjoy all by yourself.

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Chef (2014) 

Comedy, drama and social media are what best describe this movie in my mind. If you’re like me; you will laugh, you will enjoy the story and you will be reminded about how truly amazing social media can be. You will be captivated by the story and the possibility of a dream coming true.

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I believe Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (1971) continues to be one of the best children’s classics out there. The story provides a lovely look into a child’s dream which takes him somewhere he never imagined. The beauty about the movie is that it can also be enjoyed by adults who like adventure and have a sweet tooth!

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Julie and Julia (2009)

This charming story takes us back in time through Julia Child’s journey with cooking and back to modern times with a fellow food blogger who aspires to be like Julia. It has romance, drama, life’s ups and downs, and most importantly – food! 

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Eat, Pray, Love (2010)

Finding yourself can be difficult; that’s why traveling, learning, exploring, and eating make an appearance in this lovely film. Sometimes in order to learn to let go, you have to first find out why. I believe this movie demonstrates this perfectly.

I hope that you enjoy them!

PS. I know I didn’t go into much detail; that was on purpose, I didn’t want to ruin the movies for anyone who had not watched them before.

Food vs. Guilt

Guilt. The dictionary’s definition says guilt is: a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined. What I find interesting from the definition is that the guilt can be ‘real or imagined.’

A lot of times we treat ourselves worse than anyone else in the world for doing something as normal as eating pizza, having Chinese take-out, having chips as a snack, drinking soda or having a cheat meal of any kind. We rationalize the bad treatment by telling ourselves that what we’re saying will ‘motivate’ or ‘encourage’ us to do better next time. But it doesn’t. So we do it again…another trip to guilt-town where the main attractions are feeling awful about what we ate, counting the calories we shouldn’t have consumed, calling ourselves bad names (because we deserve it, in our mind), amongst other things.

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This behavior creates almost a never ending trend of ‘every time I eat XYZ I will feel guilty’ which won’t help the situation but will only demotivate me or leave me feeling awful. What we need to understand is that there is no “bad” and “good” food; there is just food. Once you take away the bad and good from food, the villain and hero can disappear because there isn’t a battle anymore. If you take away the “bad” connotation from the slice of chocolate cake and truly enjoy it, savor it and satisfy the craving, you won’t feel guilty.

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You can tell yourself with a smile, I enjoyed that treat! And that’s it.  

I’m not proposing it becomes a lifestyle for you to eat poorly on a daily basis, just for you to remember that it’s perfectly OK to have a treat and enjoy each and every bite. In the long-run, you will be grateful and happier with yourself if you stop the guilt trend and end the food battle. Remembering that we CAN have that slice of cake if we want, will a lot of times take the craving away. You have probably heard the saying “We all want what we can’t have” well I believe it’s true in the food department. We tend to crave what we “cannot” have – this is why taking the labels good and bad away can help immensely. This doesn’t mean you will stop being healthy and eating nutritious food, it just means that you’ve changed the way you look at things.

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If you’re having a trip to guilt-town because of what you ate…ask yourself, would you treat a sibling the way you’re treating yourself? Would you talk to a friend, a loved one, the way you’re speaking to yourself? Sure, it’s OK to admit that having 27 chocolate chip cookies was a bit too much, but does that deserve the guilt that you feel? The remorse? Is that going to change the situation? I know the answer; and the answers are no, you would not speak to a loved one the way you speak to yourself, and no, you do not deserve the guilt and remorse over 27 chocolate chip cookies. You are allowed to have those treats and you are allowed to continue loving yourself. You do not become less amazing because of the food you ate.

Say goodbye to guilt. End the food battle, today.

Nicecream… because you deserve to feel like a kid!

This is by far the easiest and tastiest dish (can we call nicecream a dish?) I have ever made. It truly takes me back to summer time when all you think about is something cold, refreshing, something tasty… ICE CREAM!

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As adults we know that eating too much ice cream is not good for us (too much sugar can cause diabetes and obesity, amongst other illnesses, yikes!). So, what to do during a hot summer day? Or hey, if it’s winter and you want your ice-cream fix, I don’t blame you. I’ve been there myself. Nicecream is the answer. 

Nicecream I believe has come to save the day… it should truly come with its own superhero cape.  

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Ingredients: 

  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 1-2 tablespoons of your favorite nut butter (I typically use almond!)
  • Splash of almond (or coconut) milk
  • For flavor you have many options – which is wonderful. The most common ones are: 1 tablespoon of cacao powder, 1 tablespoon of coconut sugar (or sweetener of your choice), or a handful of berries (I added a handful of blueberries!)

THAT IS IT! 

Instructions: 

  1. Blend together, serve & then enjoy!

Quick tip: Remember to peel your bananas before freezing them as this will make the process much easier. 

For the toppings you can seriously go wild! I’ve seen some nicecreams with almond flakes, chopped walnuts, goji berries, cacao nibs, ALL kinds of fruits or more nut butter. You can truly pick your favorite toppings and add them to your lovely and healthy treat! 

Try and give some nicecream to your children or nephews and nieces, you’ll see that they’ll love it. Now you have your healthy and tasty treat for both summer and winter!

 

Veggie Bowl of Sunshine

It has been such a lovely weekend; with warm weather, life planning, tons of cooking and inspiring thoughts. I’ve been researching the link between willpower and food and I cannot wait to share my thoughts on the matter and give you some helpful tips! We’ve all been there, feeling like you “can’t resist” that cupcake (or anything tasty) only to feel bad about it afterwards. I hope to bring some light to your life with my research!

Now back to the veggie bowl! I thought of this dish because I wanted to increase my vegetable intake. I could just live off of avocados, toast and sweet potatoes (to be honest!). Given that this is (sadly) not an option, I looked for healthy recipes for a veggie dish that would inspire me. Being a Mexican food-lover I thought why not give this veggie dish a Mexican twist? I don’t want just veggies… let’s add a salsa! And let’s have guacamole on the side…why not? And this, is how it all started.

Ingredients for veggie bowl: 

  • 1 yellow onion – peeled & chopped to your preference (some people like their onion coarsely chopped & others enjoy it more minced)
  • 3/4 cup of zucchini – chopped
  • 3/4 cup of mushrooms – chopped
  • 1 large red or yellow pepper – chopped
  • 2 cups of black beans (you may use kidney or pinto, it’s all about making it your own!)
  • 2 cups of corn kernels
  • Handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves
  • 1/2 – 3/4 of shredded Monterey cheese (you may substitute for a different type of cheese or nutritional yeast if vegan)
  • Spices: 1 teaspoon of cilantro powder, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of chipotle powder.

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Ingredients for the salsa: 

  • 1 large tomato or 2 medium ones – chopped
  • 1/3 of a cup of red onion – chopped
  • 3 tablespoons of coriander (cilantro) – chopped
  • 1/2 lemon – use the juice of the 1/2
  • 1 jalapeño – finely chopped (remove seeds if you want to reduce spicy level or if serving to kids)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper (your preference)
  • Instructions for the salsa: add tomato, onion, coriander and jalapeño to a bowl. Mix together until combined, now add lemon juice. I recommend adding the salt and pepper after you’ve tried the salsa. You’ll realize that sometimes, you don’t need it.

Ingredients for guacamole: 

  • 1 avocado – smashed
  • 1/2 lemon – use the juice of the 1/2
  • 2 tablespoons of coriander (cilantro) – chopped
  • 1/2 of a tomato – chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper (your preference)
  • The instructions for the guac are this: smash the avocado as much as you like (again some people like their guac’ chunky and others don’t so go wild here!), add the tomato, coriander and lemon juice and mix gently until combined. That’s it. No fuss.

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Time for instructions!

  1. Preheat oven to 190C or 375F.
  2. Sauté onion, mushroom and zucchini with some olive oil.
  3. Once onion is translucent, add black beans, red pepper and corn kernels to skillet.
  4. Mix spices, cumin, cilantro powder and chipotle powder in a separate bowl.
  5. Add spices to skillet, stir and mix gently to coat all ingredients.
  6. Once ingredients have been thoroughly mixed with the spices, transfer them to an oven-proof bowl or casserole.
  7. Add salsa on top of the bowl carefully spreading it (a spoon or fork is helpful here).
  8. Finally, add the shredded cheese.
  9. Place casserole or bowl into the oven (uncovered) for 30 – 40 minutes or until the cheese is melted and/or bubbling.
  10. After it’s done, let it cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Tip: Take me up on not adding sea salt & freshly ground pepper until after you had a taste. With dishes like this one that come with spices, salsa and cheese, you truly may not need it. 

Tip 2: If you’re feeling adventurous or like having tacos, use this recipe! All you need is literally the corn tortillas and voila! You have veggie tacos and even guacamole to accompany them. 

This is a great dish to make for your family, friends or colleagues. During a potluck you can take this dish! (no need to make the guacamole if you don’t want do) I added it because I could eat guacamole with every dish! And to be honest, it tastes delicious with it too! 

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Enjoy!

Sweet potato fries…a taste of heaven!

This has been a unique week; I am not only exploring and getting to know Australia’s rural side, I’m starting a new career (this beautiful project we call Yummy Habits!), I’m cooking more than ever before, I’m traveling from city to city every 5-7 days and dealing with surprises from time to time (having no cooking supplies, no stove/oven, a mini fridge that freezes your food, etc), and I’m also battling the traveling temptations that happen to all of us (you know, when the hunger strikes and you’re in a place you don’t know, with no mobile reception and only the equivalent of a seven-eleven to choose your food from). Regardless of the little obstacles that we may encounter sometimes, it’s always good to remember things aren’t as bad as they seem!

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I’ve also had some lovely and exciting adventures exploring; like this one.

As they say, it’s the simple things in life that can bring the most bliss sometimes. I am now in a stereotypical house; with a full kitchen, oven, fridge, blender, stovetop, microwave, toaster…and I feel like I arrived to heaven. It’s truly the little things.

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And now, back to those simple pleasures in life…sweet potato fries! They have easily become my favorite snack because they’re so easy to make and so delicious (who doesn’t like that?). I’ve been cooking them all week, multiple times per day; experimenting with different cuts, times, temperatures and spices. I read an infinite amount of recipes trying to find the perfect one but as we all know, perfection varies from person to person. I sometimes like my sweet potato fries very spicy! Would that be perfect for you? Maybe, maybe not. I want you to create your own version of perfect, hopefully with my guidance and support! 

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This recipe is the result of a lot of sweet potato fries making people happy and I hope they do the same for you!

  • Quick tip: Portion-wise, I’d recommend 1-2 sweet potatoes per person depending on how hungry they are.
  • Quick tip 2: Don’t add sea salt until the sweet potato fries are done, this will prevent the salt from potentially drying the fries.image3-1

Ingredients:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of Olive oil (you may use canola, grapeseed or melted coconut oil if you’d prefer)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground chili, cayenne pepper, paprika (it’s up to you! Any of these will do the trick to add some spiciness!)
  • 1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder 
  • 1/2 tablespoon of cumin

Instructions:

*Preheat oven to 450F or 230C (technically its 232.2 but that’s tough to set on some ovens so 230C can do).

*Wash, peel and cut your sweet potatoes. You may also leave the skin on for some added crunch.

*Cut them approximately 1/4 inch thick (this is very important!) it makes a significant difference how big/small they are – if too big they won’t fully cook, if too small they will burn.

*Combine: pepper, your choice of spiciness (chili, cayenne, paprika), garlic powder and cumin. (here you may notice I didn’t mention the salt – that’s important!). 

*Place cut sweet potatoes in a bowl and add the olive oil; sprinkle it all around and use your hands to get it all over the sweet potatoes.

*Add combination of spices (remember, not the salt!) to the sweet potatoes and use your hands again to get it all over them.

*Place sweet potato fries in a non-stick baking sheet for best results. Don’t overcrowd them, place them about 1/2 a centimeter apart.

*Leave them alone to bake for 10 minutes, then take them out and rotate them carefully (don’t burn yourself, I’ve done it too many times due to excitement).

*Place them in the oven for another 10 minutes.

*Take out and add sea salt now!

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Enjoy!