Monthly Archives: November 2012

Are you looking for a new Yoga Mat?

image of tpe yoga mats

Are you in the market for a new yoga mat? I needed a new one last year and did some research on some of the typical materials used to produce yoga mats. I found some better and worse choices out on the marketplace.
For around $15 you can get a PVC yoga mat, but this is probably your worst choice in terms of both your health and the environment. The ‘plastic’ or ‘chemical’ smell released from your new yoga mat is due to the off-gassing of chemicals from the vinyl product. Toxic chemical off-gassing from PVC products are said to contribute to respiratory irritation, damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidneys, nausea, headaches and loss of coordination. Phthalates, a group of chemicals which are endocrine disruptors, are added to the PVC to make it soft and flexible. Also, over time, it breaks down, releasing dioxin, which is very toxic. To add insult to injury, after you throw it out, it sits in the landfill for about 500 years. Do you really want your yoga mat choice to make such an impact on the environment?
The other choices out on the market are latex, also called rubber, which is a natural material harvested from rubber trees. This is a great choice, environmentally speaking. However, if you have a latex allergy, as I do, then it’s not a good personal choice. There is also a smell associated with rubber mats that can take a while to dissipate, and they are the most expensive mats on the marketplace as well. Rubber mats are available at sporting goods stores, such as Mountain Equipment Co-Op or Lululemon.
TPE or thermoplastic elastomer is a good option for a couple of reasons. It breaks down in the landfill after you’re done with it, doesn’t smell at all after about a week, is nice and “grippy” which is great for any type of ashtanga or vinyasa yoga, and is almost as inexpensive as the PVC mats.
This was the choice that I went with about a year ago, and I am very pleased with it. I paid $20 at Winners (a TJX store like TJMaxx in the States or TKMaxx in England). It has performed extremely well over the last year, with no signs of degradation. I do, however, always use a yoga towel on top of it, which I find much more hygienic as I can easily wash the towel whereas the mat itself is tricky to wash and dry. If you do wash your mat, make sure NOT to dry it in the sun, as this will cause some degradation to start.
So do yourself and the environment a favour and choose a yoga mat which degrades in the landfill.

 

image of pvc mats

PVC mats at Winners – nearly the same price, but a lot harder on the environment.

 

image of yoga towel

yoga towel

 

Do Yourself a Favour and Meditate!

Woman sitting on beach, prayingFor the last year or so a good night’s sleep has been an impossible dream, literally. I don’t know if it’s hormones or what, but I know I’m not alone, as many of the people I speak with are also having a hard time right now. I have no trouble getting to sleep, but staying asleep past 3 am seems to be the problem. I wake up and then I cannot get my mind to stop whirling and thinking about stuff I have to do the next day. Unfortunately, then when I do get up I’m so sleepy I can’t even remember what it was I was fretting about at night time!
It was getting to the point that a couple of weeks ago, I even told my husband I was ready to get a prescription for a sleeping pill. Well, he looked at me as if I had sprouted a second head, as I truly am not and never have been a pill-popper.
At the same time, I was doing some research on Sahaja Yoga meditation for this post, and stumbled upon a Deepak Chopra free audio meditation series called “Creating Abundance”. I can’t believe it has made such a difference in such a short time. I am currently on Day 13 of this 21-day meditation challenge.


I had always considered meditation as something that would be incredibly difficult for me to achieve and I just couldn’t imagine myself sitting completely motionless and silent for hours at a time – that’s just not me. Well, I was completely wrong about that. It’s so easy and intuitive that anybody can do it.
The reality is that this particular program literally takes only about 15 minutes of your time every day. I like to do it first thing in the morning as the sun comes up. It is a truly lovely program, and of course Deepak’s voice is so hypnotic. At first I couldn’t sit still for even the 15 minutes – I was fidgety and didn’t think it would “work”, but after a week I found I was able to get into a “thoughtless awareness” state fairly quickly where I was able to ignore the traffic and household noises and just stay in the “zone”.
The complete, unexpected benefit is that I have been able to sleep the whole night through. Yeah!!!
Even if you have absolutely no trouble sleeping – do yourself a favour and jump on over to Deepak Chopra’s website by clicking on the picture above and sign up for this free program. Don’t worry that you are a couple of weeks behind at this point. I did not start it on the first day, so I’m 5 days behind, but the daily meditations are posted for 10 days each, so I will finish the program well before the tapes disappear (although of course I was worried about being behind at first, so I tried doing two in one day before realizing that that’s neither helpful nor part of the program). The point is to get started as soon as you can. You don’t need any type of equipment and you don’t need to sit twisted as a pretzel. If you have headphones it makes it easier to ignore outside sounds, but you really don’t need them either.
I still cannot believe that 15 minutes, start to finish, can bring such clarity of thought and purpose to me that lasts for most of the day, and I’m so happy I found this program when I did and can share it with you.
The meditation practice I was researching originally, Sahaja Yoga practice, is also a great meditation practice, with a lot of online resources as well as free classes to attend. This is a kundalini yoga practice, where you meditate on the chakras (points in your body corresponding to nerve and energy line congruence). I hope that my 21-day meditation challenge will allow me to explore this other type of meditation as well.
Whichever you choose – do yourself a favour and meditate!

Amazing Sweet Potato lentil Dal

Turmeric, the spice responsible for the yellow colour in curry powder, is a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant aphoto of turmericnd has been used for thousands of years in the Ayurvedic tradition. A richly coloured yellow powder commonly found in grocery stores, it is made from grinding a dried root similar in look to ginger. It is really easy to incorporate it into your everyday cooking – in soups, stews, spaghetti sauce and even baking as it is not spicy at all, but has a wonderful rich flavour.

 

 

Sweet Potato Dal

This is a very versatile and easy recipe. It makes a hot dip to go with naan bread, a cold sandwich spread, and an “instant” lentil soup when mixed 2 to 1 with chicken stock.

2 T. olive oil
1 small onion or 1/2 a large one, diced
1 c. dried red lentils
1 1/2 t. turmeric powder
1/2 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 c. boiling water
1 bouillon cube
1 bay leaf
pepper
(if you want sp
icy, add 1/4 t. cayenne pepper with turmeric)

dal ingredients in the pot

 

fry onion in olive oil until getting lightly browned
Add rest of ingredients, lower heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes or until everything is soft.

Remove bay leaf, whip lightly with a fork

amazing sweet potato lentil dal, served with naan


Serve with naan breads or crackers

 

Beautiful Skin starts with natural exfoliation

picture of the author's Mother

Janina Wodecki 1930-2007

If you ever knew my Mother, you would have been astonished by how smooth and wrinkle-free her facial skin was, right into her 70’s. I’m sure part of that was her personality shining through as she was ever calm and did not like to show too much expression on her face (part of her English upbringing, I guess). Another part of it was that her skin was so super-senstitive that she really could not use any products on it. She washed her face with cold water and used vaseline (horrors!) as a winter moisturizer. A secret she shared with me in how she kept her skin looking so fresh was her particular method of natural skin exfoliation.

All you need is pure glycerine soap, such as Pears soap (from England, but available in many grocery stores). Basically all you have to do is: about once a week in the winter and 2 or 3 times a week in the summer, whilst showering, lather your face up well with the Pears soap. Leave it on your skin for one minute and then rinse off. When you’re done showering, using your fingers, massage your face in a circular motion, around and around your nose and cheeks, your forehead and skin, and all those yucky dead skin cells will roll right off and can be easily rinsed away. When you get out of the shower, make sure you put on a moisturizer right away, such as my favourite – a drop of organic jojoba oil which does my whole face and neck. Voila – reveal your fresh new skin.
Exfoliation of skin is very important as it gets off those old, grimy skin cells which are actually bonded to the skin layer below. While body exfoliation is not really a problem, because our clothes, towels and bedsheets naturally exfoliate us all day long, facial exfoliation usually has to be done mechanically either with a granular or chemical exfoliant, both of which are way too harsh for sensitive skins, or using the glycerine soap method, which, technically, is a chemical method, it’s very mild. The glycerine soap works by actually dissolving the bond between the old, dead skin cells and the fresh new ones below.
Who knew?

Rice Cooker Cabbage Rolls

Really Simple Rice Cooker Cabbage Rolls using leftover Clamato
I really hate finicky recipes requiring lots of dexterity and hours of labour and boiling and baking – like making cabbage rolls or perogies, so I came up with this really simple rice cooker version of cabbage rolls that taste like you’ve been cooking all day. I made these in my huge 16 cup rice cooker that has a soup setting on it, however there is no reason you could not make a smaller quantity in a smaller rice cooker. Just know that the volume will expand quite a bit during cooking so don’t overfill your rice cooker. It’s also a great way to use up 1/2 bottles or jars of sauerkraut, tomatoes, Clamato, Tomato juice or Spaghetti sauce.
This recipe makes about 28 variously sized cabbage rolls and feeds 6 to 8 generously.
Time: Preparation: 30 minutes, Cooking: 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Ingredients:
1/2 of a (1l) jar of sauerkraut, rinsed in a colander and drained
1 small cabbage
1 small onion, finely diced
1 lb extra lean ground pork, chicken or turkey
1 egg
1 cup white rice, uncooked
1 t. salt
1/2 t. freshly ground pepper
1/2 of a (796 ml) can of tomatoes (whole, diced or crushed)
1/2 of a small (945ml) bottle of Clamato or Tomato juice or 1 cup leftover spaghetti sauce thinned with water to make 2 cups or 1 can of cream of tomato soup and one can water.
1 T. Brown sugar (optional, but my fabulous cook Mother-In-Law always used it)
Method:
Cut about 1/3 of the core out of the bottom of the cabbage with a paring knife. Don’t worry about getting the whole thing out as it’s just a start.
Microwave it (whole) in a microwave-safe lidded casserole for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, put rinsed sauerkraut in bottom of rice cooker bowl
In a large bowl, mix meat, egg, rice, onion, salt and pepper until well mixed.
When the cabbage is finished microwaving, put it into the same colander and immerse into cold water so that you can handle it without burning your hands.
After it has cooled a bit, start pulling off the leaves, one by one. They do not have to be perfect cabbage leaves, as holes and tears in them will not matter. Reserve the mini leaves at the centre.
Put 1 T. of meat mixture into the small leaves and 2 T. of the meat mixture into the large leaves. It will seem like not enough stuffing, but the rice will really expand so it’s actually plenty.
After all the meat is distributed, roll up the leaves quite loosely. It really doesn’t matter if they are pretty or not, just roll them as best you can and layer them in the rice cooker on top of the sauerkraut. You should end up with about 3 layers or so. Put any of the leftover mini leaves right on top.
Use a blender or hand blender to liquefy the tomatoes, if using whole ones. Mix the pureed tomatoes with the Clamato juice (or alternatives) and pour all over the rolled cabbage leaves in the rice cooker.You should have quite a bit of liquid, coming half way up the top layer of rolls. If you don’t have enough liquid, add a bit of water to the rice cooker.
Plug in the rice cooker – I like to put mine near a window which has been opened a crack because the rice cooker will produce quite a bit of steam.
Set it on the soup setting for 60 minutes.
After 60 minutes, re-set it to the soup setting for a further 40 minutes
Check for doneness by inserting a knife tip. The finished cabbage rolls should be very tender.
Enjoy with a green salad and perhaps a roasted beet salad.

A vegetarian version can easily be made by substituting 1 cup of rinsed quinoa for the rice and 1 1/2 cups of mixed chopped mushrooms, including some soaked and chopped dry ones if you have them.

Picture of ingredients for rice cooker cabbage rolls

What you will need to make rice cooker cabbage rolls

 

picture of whole cabbage with core partially removed

remove part of the cabbage core

 

picture of rinsed sauerkraut

rinse the sauerkraut in a colander

 

picture of sauerkraut in bottom of rice cooker

place rinsed sauerkraut in bottom of rice cooker

 

picture of microwaved cabbage

after microwaving the cabbage leaves will be easy to pull off

 

picture of separated cabbage leaves

separate all the leaves, reserving the tiny ones at the centre

 

picture of rice cooker cabbage roll stuffing ingredients

mix the meat, uncooked rice, egg, onion, salt and pepper

 

picture of Clamato and pureed tomatoes

puree your tinned tomatoes and add Clamato or other tomatoey substance

 

picture of rolled cabbage leaves

place a tablespoon or two of the stuffing mixture into each leaf and roll loosely. You don’t have to be neat or precise

 

picture of liquid on top of rolled cabbage leaves

pour the clamato mixture over the cabbage rolls in the rice cooker

 

picture of rice cooker cabbage rolls

your delicious rice cooker cabbage rolls will be tender and tasty after 1 hour and 40 minutes on the “soup” setting of your rice cooker.