Happy Friday

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My lazy weekend has begun really early, today, I’m going to be resting under my tartan blanket with a hot water bottle and a Friends marathon on Netflix. (Yeah, I am cranky when I have cold and flu.)

Because I haven’t been up to making all the recipes I would have been this week, I thought I would share what I have been doing. I have drank my weight in herbal tea (which is quite the achievement, I’m no baby unicorn), my lovely hubby has done his best to get me to eat his flu busting paste (I would rather do shots of turmeric and ginger, what does that tell you?) and I bought a load of magazines yesterday which I can’t wait to read, yes, yet again I have ditched the growing pile of books on my “to-read-list”.

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I have also kept up my daily work-outs and doing my best to eat well. Lying on the couch all day just makes me feel worse (I would like to point out, that to me, resting and festering are worlds apart), so doing some gentle exercise really helps me when feeling poorly. (As does writing in brackets it seems.)

If you are missing my usual antics, you can read my article on New Year beauty picks over at We Heart Living or you could check me out on Instagram. (Hint, hint, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.)

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Hope you all have an amazing weekend! Can you believe we are half way into January all ready?

(Ps. If my lovely editors are reading this and wondering when I plan on submitting any of the articles I’m supposed to be writing, your guess is as good as mine.)

Glow Again

Here is the second day of recipes! A lentil soup for you to try as well as my favourite on-the-go snack mix! If you are still cynical, just try a couple of them, they are yummy enough to be enjoyed just for the heck of it too!

Day Two: Eating in a way that enriches the body, will enrich your mind and soul too. Today, you’ll find more beautifying foods that I love to indulge in like pomegranate and pumpkin seeds, detoxifying foods like pear and broccoli and healing food such as buckwheat and spices.

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Breakfast – Pomegranate Overnight Oats

Another simple, delicious and nutritious recipe that can be put together the night before and heated up in the morning for a lovely breakfast. Pomegranate is the most incredible fruit, I ate so much of this during my wedding. I throw it into salads, on top of hummus or pop handfuls of it whenever in my reach.

(Serves 2)

1 cup gluten free oats
2tsp chia seeds
2 cups of nut milk (I used cashew)
A splash of vanilla essence
A pinch or two of cinnamon
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
2tsp coconut sugar (optional)
Some shredded coconut (optional)
Some flaked almonds (optional)

Mix oats, chia seeds, nut milk, vanilla essence, cinnamon and divide equally in two bowls, cover and put in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, warm the oats gently in a sauce pan for a few minutes and top with pomegranate. Transfer to a serving dish, if using also top with the coconut sugar, shredded coconut, almonds and serve.

Midmorning – Pick-Me Up Smoothie

This was one of the first recipes I created for We Heart Living. It’s still one of my favourite smoothies. Nutrient dense, it fills you up and gives you a really healthy kick for the day. Avocados (the beauty fruit) are high in protein and packed with vitamins, pears have pectin in them, which help to remove toxins from the body, spinach helps to boost immunity and coconut water adds incredible hydration to this smoothie. Try to have wheatgrass everyday, the numerous potent benefits of wheatgrass are incredible so it is well worth making it part of your daily diet. Adding orange juice delivers a hit of vitamin C but also cuts through the richness of this green juice with some citric deliciousness.

(Serves 2)

2 big handfuls of baby spinach
500ml coconut water (chilled)
1 small ripe avocado, chopped
1 small ripe pear, chopped
3 heaped tsp Naturya wheatgrass powder
120ml smooth not from concentrate orange juice (optional)

Blend the spinach with coconut water first on high. Add the avocado and pear, pulse to blend. Add the wheatgrass, pulse to blend again. If using, add the orange juice and give it one final blend.

Lunch – Green Lentil Soup

This too was one of my earlier recipes for We Heart Living, but I love going back to it for a chilled out lunch during the week or at the weekend. Here, I have modified it a little from the original recipe.

(Serves 4)

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
½tsp each of ground cumin, ground coriander, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, cayenne pepper & turmeric
1½ cups green lentils washed, soaked and rinsed
3 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 tin of coconut milk

To serve: a squeeze of lemon and freshly ground black pepper

Gently heat the coconut oil in a large pan on a medium to low heat, add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add a tablespoon of stock and then add garlic and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add another tablespoon of stock and then add all the healing spices and sauté for another 5 minutes.

Stir in the lentils and cover in spices. Pour in the remaining stock and add the bay leaf, bring to a boil then cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add coconut milk and bring to the boil once again, then cover and simmer for another 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf and use a blender or a hand-held blender to blend mixture, leaving it a little chunky. Serve with a fresh squeeze of lemon and black pepper.

Snack – Super Pick’n’Mix

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I love a snack, especially after ballet or working out, or while watching Masterchef and The Voice. I really enjoy brown rice cakes topped with avocado or hummus, date balls and Nakd Bars but there is nothing quite like a pick’n’mix! You can even try making your own using the ratio below.

(Serves 1)

2tbsp pecans
1tbsp pumpkin seeds
1tbsp cacao nibs
1tbsp goji berries
1tbsp toasted coconut

Toss the lot together and munch away!

Dinner: Buckwheat Noodles with Tamari, Green Chillies & Ginger

I’ve shared this recipe on the blog before, but it’s such a wonderful gluten free vegan option, it would be remiss not to include it on this eating plan. I’ve noticed my lazy Sunday recipes are fabulous during the week because they come together so easily and quickly!

(Serves 2-3)

King Soba Buckwheat Noodles
1tbsp Coconut oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1tbsp grated ginger
2 small green chillies (we love spice so kept the seeds, but you don’t have to)
3 spring onions sliced (including the green part)
2 cups steamed broccoli florets
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1tbsp tamari (you can add a little more if you like)
1/4tsp smoked paprika
1/4tsp cayenne

Cook the noodles according to packet instructions.

Melt the oil in a wok on a medium heat and sauté ginger, garlic and chillies until they start to sizzle. Then add the spring onions, mushrooms and broccoli. Stir-fry while the noodles cook.

Once the noodles are done, drain and rinse in cold water and then throw them into the wok. Add the tamari, paprika and cayenne. Mix everything well and stir-fry for a few more minutes. Serve immediately.

All I Want For Christmas

A few weeks ago, Oscar, a new innovative health insurance company more human than the others, wrote a lovely email, asking me to reflect on my past year and think about what I am most grateful for this year. Given everything that has happened over the course of 2014, only one thing really sprang to mind and that was the importance of health and wellbeing.

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Last year, on Christmas Day, we had my Ubtan, a traditional event that takes place a few days prior to a desi wedding. My Grandma had recently died of cancer a few weeks earlier and all I wanted that day was for her to be with us. It can be hard looking back at those pictures knowing that such a big part of our lives had recently departed. It was sudden and unexpected, although it was bittersweet, the wedding helped us all to get through that loss, heal together and we have some beautiful memories of those painful days.

What does anyone want for Christmas? Having thought about it a lot recently, in the end I decided it was the health and happiness of my loved ones. What good would everything at Christmas be without that?

Putting up decorations, what fun is that if there aren’t happy, healthy people to do it with you? All the food we prepare, would it taste as wonderful if we weren’t enjoying it over the laughter of family members who feel well? How much would it suck if there were no smiling rosy-cheeked friends to huddle with on a cold day at the Christmas market?

Hunting down roasted chestnuts, braving the weather for gifts, ice skating, building snowmen, holiday lights, stocking fillers, ugly Christmas sweaters, an abundance of socks wrapped up under the tree, mince pies, festive films, an endless list of activities that would not bring half as much joy without the health and happiness of our loved ones.

This year I am grateful to my husband, family and friends for putting up with my adventures in food and life. For coming along to yoga, for supporting me in my health choices by bringing celery sticks with dips to girly nights, being the guinea pigs to my experiments in the kitchen, for getting me hot chocolate without milk, for encouraging my writing, sharing my food and recipes and for embracing all my quirks.

The greatest antidote to all ailments, the thing that keeps me smiling and feeling well, is the health and happiness of my family and friends, because without them, none of this would mean anything.

“First position please”

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We had our last ballet class of the the year over the weekend and while looking forward to some weeks off, I am also excited for next term, in the New Year. The barre is my happy place.

My first attempt at ballet was a disaster. I ended up at a clueless downtown Toronto dance studio where the quality of teaching was so poor I’d be at my chiropractor in agony every week. Then I discovered Ballet Espressivo and so much has changed since then.

Having always epitomized a ballet dancer with grace, elegance, beauty and an incredible physique, the dancer’s body is something I have always been in awe of. It’s movement to music and life is something I have coveted and even dared to dream about but never quite had.

Amateur dance is something most people find themselves doing throughout life. My first introduction to dance was in an expressive class at high school where I couldn’t touch my toes in a stretch and was made to feel quite inadequate by a teacher for my size and shape.

While her remarks didn’t deter me from dancing and choreographing Bollywood routines in the privacy of my room, it did rattle my confidence and restrain me from asking to attend dance lessons.

Years later, I became a cheerleader at university, after losing a bet with the boys and found myself enjoying it. Dancing in a group of girls was so much fun and I loved our coaches and even went on to become cheerleader of the year. Finally inspired by Shakira, I took to belly dancing.

Yet the videos on YouTube of ballet dancers taunted an unrequited dream, their ethereal moves impressed upon me an art form I craved to explore but never had the courage to try. Then earlier this year, I finally watched Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan and Natalie Portman’s stunning performance stole my heart.

I started to research ballet and came to learn that as well as being a beautiful art form, that the study of it could help me to strengthen my weak and aching lower back. What I needed more than anything was the internal and infinite strength of the core and this was enough to push me to finally pursue ballet.

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If there is one thing I have come to appreciate more than anything in this wonderful practice, it is a teacher who values her students and puts their wellbeing at the top of her list. That is why the hours spent at Ballet Espressivo under the instruction of Donna Greenberg, a teacher who believes in the deeper connection between art and wellness, have been the most enriching experience to my health this past year.

“When you come to class and do barre, it isn’t an escape. It’s not therapy but it is development and that development can help you through the hardest times in your life, because one has made a commitment to themselves.”

Greenberg’s style of teaching has been a progressive experience. It stems from having met a mentor early in her training, who, although strict, understood and encouraged a holistic sensibility towards learning dance and movement, one that Greenberg felt, she had a natural inclination toward. Greenberg has expanded upon that over the years in her own artistic journey.

What I find most inspiring, is her holistic approach to teaching. Greenberg gets student to work hard and try their absolute best by encouraging them to be mindful. In other forms of exercise and movement, my brain often wonders, when doing ballet, for that full hour or so I am totally focused.

You work hard; she doesn’t treat you with any less reverence than she would a professional. Just because we aren’t going to be prima ballerinas, doesn’t mean we don’t deserve the same respect or quality of education.

Greenberg believes strongly in adult education because there are many people who didn’t have the support or means to do it as a child and that is why she offers classes to adults specifically. There are up to three evening classes everyday, at a variety of levels as well as strengthening floor barre and a modern dance class (which is my favourite).

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If there is one thing Greenberg wants students to take away from her classes it is a love for ballet and the confidence to pursue dreams and goals. Not everyone is supposed to be a professional, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn the art form.

“The beauty of ballet and dancing is that you get to express yourself, build strength and learn a discipline that helps to develop a higher sense of yourself, a better sense. Even if that is unattainable, it doesn’t matter because the benefits are there for you.”

Amongst the benefits of doing ballet, beyond the more obvious ones like, being toned and stronger, are a responsive body, improved balance and co-ordination. You can also have greater extension of limbs, more connection to how you move in general and in particular, much better posture. Greenberg feels that people with good posture look younger and more vital and I totally agree. I aspire to people who know how to carry themselves and are comfortable in their own skin.

Posture is our greatest weapon against ailments as we age. Sitting is said to be the new smoking. Learning how to use our muscles efficiently and hold ourselves correctly while we sit protects the spine (the key to our central nervous system) and can protect us from so many things later in life.

So I haven’t just learned to dance; I have also learned how to heal and not just physically but emotionally. Greenberg is an intuitive teacher and understands her students in a different capacity and you don’t get away with much in class. She sees your shoulders hiking up before they even do, an elbow dropping before you even realise it’s fallen.

Beyond that, Greenberg recognizes when we are afraid of old wounds and pushes us gently towards them, through dance, we learn to accept the parts of our bodies and selves that we don’t always want and find a way to connect to them once again. Really all we are doing is trying to mobilise our limbs and work with scar tissue, but it always feels like we doing so much more that that, going deep into those places that have suffered the hands of time.

A dancer’s body is not always about being the perfect size. It is about being strong and having a connection, knowing how to use your body efficiently not just for dancing but to move and breathe throughout your life.

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That in actual fact, a dancer’s body, is a beautiful thing to behold, because what it gives you is optimum health, wellness and awareness and it is seriously good fun, especially with Greenberg. If you are looking for something to enrich your mind, body and soul in 2015, seriously consider ballet.

Find out more: http://balletespressivo.com

– Photos by Zeeshan Safdar

Snow White

Last year was my first winter in Toronto, my skin just wasn’t prepared for the harsh weather and I learnt the hard way. This year I was on top of my game, these products will make sure my skin stays hydrated, moisturised and glowing. It is all about trial and error, I really make sure products work for my skin before investing in them and I would suggest you do the same, find things that suit you. One of the reasons I love Sephora is because you can try before you buy. It’s going to be cold one, so gearing up does not just mean boots and warm coats, treat your skin with the same love. Here are some of my tricks.

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Cleansing & Exfoliating

With all that wind blowing around, I need a deep clean. I love Purity by philosophy, because it doesn’t dry out my skin. I will also exfoliate a few times a week, I use St. Ives Apricot Facial Scrub, because it’s a family classic and a beauty steal. It’s also great as a body exfoliator.

Hydrating & Moisturising

Heating dries out your skin like crazy, that’s why I love to use serums and hydrating infusions in conjunction with a moisturiser. My skin tends to be a little wary of most moisturisers, but Ren’s Vita Mineral Daily Supplement leaves it feeling velvety. Estée Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair, is a top-selling cult beauty product and I will tell you why I bought it.

When I was at Sephora, the girl showed me just how well it retains hydration by applying it on my arm and then spritzing the area with mist. We did this for a few serums, whilst most of the serums retained the water, it turned into droplets, not covering the entire surface, leaving tiny bits exposed. That didn’t happen to the area with the Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair, needless to say I bought it there and then and have been really happy with it. I’ve struggled with dehydration lines on my forehead, they are now gone.

The La Mer Hydrating Infusion is a steal for some drops of that potent Miracle Broth when you consider the rest of the luxury line. I don’t want a strong serum for the day, so this infusion works wonders for me and lasts ages.

Treatments

I got into the GLAMGLOW range last year when I was getting married. I use all their masks, but their ThirstyMud is so yummy and it leaves my skin feeling nourished and looking dewy. You can smother it all over your face a couple of times a week before you go to sleep and let it work its magic or sometimes while I am watching my favourite Netflix show, I like to cut holes for my eyes and breathing passages in some cling film and lay it over my face while the mask seeps in.

Winter can sometimes leave my skin looking grey and dull, I recently got a sample of Ren’s 1 Minute Facial from Sephora and love it. It brightens up my skin, so it’s great for a night out when my face needs a glowing boost.

Also I don’t leave the house without my Carmex or my First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream, it does what it says, hydrates, calms and smoothes, both are handbag friendly so it’s worth carrying them around in the winter. Don’t forget to use an SPF.

For skin as fresh as snow, it’s also about what you eat, some glowing recipes are coming soon, but in a nutshell, I find I crave warmer meals in the winter, a vibrant and heart salad just won’t cut it. I love roasting beets, onions and sweet potatoes to have alongside a warm lentil salad. Green juices go hand in hand with summer but on cold mornings I want some hot relief, perk up your morning cup of hot water and lemon with some healing cayenne and honey. Gluten free oats and quinoa flakes, with steaming hot nut milks, avocado, coconut oil, berries and super foods like maca, spirulina and wheatgrass can bring good health too. Okay, so it’s not a green juice but it’s also full of nutrients, hits the spot and leaves you feeling ready for the day.

Model Road Trip

The writer behind, Model Journey, shares her thoughts on “quirky” and other things

Lexa Schevchenko’s beautiful eyes and smile stay with you and she carries a dress effortlessly, with an ethereal sort of quality. A model with a decade of experience, she writes a blog sharing her work and travel experiences, beauty and skincare tips. Model Journey, really is something. You get to go on a vibrant trip into the world of modelling with stunning pictures and cool collaborations as Shevchenko’s voice leads the way. You might discover anything from a snack, to a thought or two on lust, love and marriage, or a memoir from a visit to a school in Sri Lanka. Model Journey isn’t the typical “behind the scenes” peak, it is a lot more spirited than that.

In one piece Shevchenko’s discusses how she was once told that she would lose a client if she didn’t put on weight, the exact opposite of what we’ve come to expect from the modelling industry. Shevchenko’s response was inspiring, “I’m healthy, I eat healthy and I like it, I work out once in a while or take long walks when I can. And I have always been this way…I do not diet…I had put myself on a cake and carbs diet for the past few days. But, I figured, I should just stay the way my body and I feel good. Because, if that’s what they tell people who force themselves to become skinnier in a harmful way, to love their body and stay healthy, I want that for myself too. And I can’t help it if my ‘healthy’ doesn’t match someone else’s idea of a perfect size.”

Courtesy of Lexa Schevchenko, fashion story for Stylebop.com shot by Ulrich Knoblauch.

Courtesy of Lexa Schevchenko, fashion story for Stylebop.com shot by Ulrich Knoblauch.

What are you up to at the moment?

Same old, working, traveling a bit, writing a blog and exploring!

Do you have any go-to wellness tips you can suggest?

Drink plenty of water. A good tip is squeeze half a lemon and have it with a bit of hot water (less than half a glass) every morning. It’s also always handy to have vitamin C in the house, like Airborne and Emergen-C, and have a few throughout the day whenever you feel like you are tired or getting a cold.

What are your favourite products and beauty rituals?

I love Estée Lauder Night Repair serums. But sometimes my skin tends to get very sensitive and I switch to more gentle products. Recently, I purchased an Aesop toner and face cream and have been happy with this organic line.

The most important thing in modelling is to learn to deal with rejection and keep your self-worth.

 What book have you read that every girl and woman should read?

I don’t believe there’s The Book but The Bible. I think it’s great to read small excerpts from it every now and again, many answers lie there.

What gives you confidence?

I would call it serenity rather than confidence. In times of stress, I remind myself that everything is in God’s hands at the end of the day and I only can do my best.

What makes you happy on a bad day?

Little things, like a favourite sweet treat, something funny on TV, and of course the most important is talking to my family and friends.

Some of Schevchenko’s beauty rituals. Photo courtesy of Lexa Schevchenko, fashion story for Stylebop.com shot by Ulrich Knoblauch.

Some of Schevchenko’s beauty rituals. Photo courtesy of Lexa Schevchenko, fashion story for Stylebop.com shot by Ulrich Knoblauch.

How do you keep going and glowing like a pro?

Funny and flattering the way you put it! It’s life, you’ve got to keep going and doing your best!

How do you relax when you aren’t working?

My favorite thing is spending time with my friends. I love having a girly talk over a cup of coffee, getting nails done with girlfriends and of course, shopping! A good read is always relaxing too.

Finally, what are your thoughts on the word quirky?

I guess cute and funny in an unusual way.

You can read more from Schevchenko here.

To your good health

Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, fall is really here and my friends and I are off to a beautiful cottage in Golden Lakes for campfires, scary movies, a cheeky s’more and an epic brunch on Monday. If there is anyway to make a s’more healthy, I am not sure it has been discovered and nor do I want to, something’s are perhaps best enjoyed completely adulterated (some good quality chocolate and gluten-free crackers could be a good tweak).

As I try to fathom what I have gotten myself into by offering to cook a Thanksgiving meal for the first time in my life, (it can’t be any different to Christmas dinner right?) I am grateful that there is no turkey to deal with. Before you start imagining a tofu shaped bird (an interesting idea), let me just tell you no such thing will be happening, a recipe or two will be up soon enough.

As well being really excited about this weekend, in this post I have to do a shout out to all of you, as about a year ago, I completely changed the direction of this blog as I changed the direction of my life when my late grandma was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Looking for a way to help her I sought the advice of everyone I could think of.

My husband’s beautiful aunt told me to encourage her to eat a more alkaline based diet. Although my grandma’s cancer was too far gone to be reversed, for the first time I learnt what being healthy truly meant. Having suffered from an autoimmune disorder myself since 2008, taking medicine for it everyday never sat well with me and I was always looking for a different way to treat myself.

I came across a lifestyle called Honestly Healthy and it all just made sense. I decided to adapt a more plant-based diet, cutting down meat, dairy, wheat, salt and sugar from my lifestyle. I started drinking lemon and water, green juicing in the morning and sharing my recipes and experiences here. The change in my condition has been remarkable, I feel much healthier and stronger. Your likes and love, are a real incentive to keep sharing and writing, so thank you.

Although my grandma has moved on, I feel, even in her departure from this world she left me with a gift. I started researching all of this for her but it ended up changing my life and helping me with my illness. So this year, I hope all of you will join me in giving thanks for our health, the health of our loved ones and this wonderful community we are so blessed to be a part of. Keep spreading the good food vibes and love.

Happy Thanksgiving xo
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Courtesy: Nausheen Dadabhoy