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Island Dreams Menu

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Island Dreams Menu I may not be able to travel anywhere right now but I can dream about it.  And I have.  Perhaps because of the extreme cold snaps Toronto’s been having, I’ve been dreaming of the tropics.  Or possibly it’s because it feels like forever since I’ve ambled along a sandy beach caressed by warm, salty ocean breezes.

Like dreams, food can also magically transport us to other places.  In this spirit, I have created my Island Dreams Menu.  I invite you to turn up the tunes (reggae? calypso? salsa? soca?) and the heat.  Not just the heat in your home but spicy heat.

I’ve kept the recipes fairly mild as not everyone is a chili-head like I am.  But if you are, now’s the time to shake it up with your favourite hot sauce.  I have several.  My brother added to my collection by giving me this one as a stocking stuffer: the mango and habanero-based  Hotel Oscar Tango Sauce.  Get it?  HOT sauce.  Hotel Oscar Tango spells out HOT in the phonetic alphabet.  As airline pilots use the phonetic alphabet extensively, it seemed ideal for this menu inspired by virtual travel.  Especially as it is locally made here in Toronto by Damien.  As Damien’s website says, “Blandness is cold, cold, treachery.  Step out of the cold forever with Damien.”

I started the menu off with a mocktail for those of you joining me in forgoing alcohol this month.  Even if you didn’t Ring in the New Year with Dry January, it is never too late to take a trip down sobriety lane and enjoy the benefits of taking a break from alcohol.

I hope my Island Dreams Menu takes you to a warm, happy and healthy place!  Sign up here to receive the recipes.

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Ring in the New Year with Dry January

Classic Virgin SangriaThis may seem oxymoronic on what is traditionally a heavy drinking day but one of the best ways to ring in a happy and healthy new year is to stop drinking alcohol, or certainly to drink less.  Personally, I find it easier to not drink at all than to stop at one.  So, to use an apt holiday metaphor, I advocate quitting cold turkey* with Dry January.

We are most successful at making change where we can objectively measure improvement.  Declaring “I will drink less this year” will, in all likelihood, achieve nothing.  But if you give yourself an explicit goal and commit to tracking your alcohol consumption to see how you stack up, you will vastly improve your odds of success.  This is where Dry January comes in.

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Festive Feast For Four

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Festive Feast for FourI am a believer in the 80% rule.  As in, eat healthily 80% of the time and you may indulge a bit the other 20%.  Another 80% rule to keep in mind over the holidays is the Japanese principle of hara hachi bu, which roughly translates to eating until you are 80% full.

One indulgent meal is unlikely to have a lasting effect on weight or fat mass.  While you may notice an extra pound or two on the scale the next morning, this is typically due to water retention as a result of a higher than usual intake of carbohydrate and sodium-rich foods.  And it will resolve itself within the next day or so.  Unless, of course, you continue to eat carbohydrate and sodium-rich meals.

Which is what we often do during the holidays.  Sometimes this is due to the “what-the-hell-effect” (i.e., I’ve already blown my healthy eating pattern out of the water so why stop now?).  But often it’s because we have copious quantities of food left over which we feel we must consume as quickly as possible.

One way to avoid this is to send leftovers home with your guests.  Another is to simply make less food in the first place.  The pandemic has meant smaller gatherings for many of us.  So this month I’ve offered up a Festive Feast for Four.  Not only is cooking a turkey breast simpler and faster than a whole bird, it means far fewer leftovers.

I hope you enjoy this flurry of festive foods, flavours and colours!

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Dishing It Up for the Holidays

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Dishing It Up for the HolidaysFor me, Christmas and clementines are inextricably linked.  The holidays in my family have always been heralded by the arrival of a crateful of clementines.  Although my mom made fantastic Yule logs, mince tarts and pies, my holiday treat of choice was a clementine with a few favourites from the splendid array of cookies she baked in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  My perfect plate included a chocolate yum yum, pecan puff, rum ball and a shortbread wreath.

While my mom passed away years ago, my happy memories of her and our Christmases cooking together remain.  As do the clementines.  But I’ve never mastered her cookies.  So these days I’m more likely to pair my clementines with super dark chocolate from Giddy Yo Yo and a few walnuts.  Clementines are great dipped in chocolate too, like this.  And I might add a Mabel’s shortbread (or two).

My darling clementine

But my darling clementines aren’t just for dessert any more.  I love to adorn a winter cheese board with them!  They are a classic with roast meats like duck, chicken or pork and work beautifully in tagines.  My traditional Christmas Eve tourtière wouldn’t be the same without the spinach, clementine and toasted almond salad I serve with it.  And the thick slices of Pulla Bread we enjoy Christmas morning (as a nod to my Finnish heritage), simply buttered and accompanied by a few clementines, starts the day in a festive way.  The mimosa helps too, though this year I might sip on this Clementine Fizz.  😉  Come the holidays, I’m always grateful for a crateful of clementines.  Read on for 41 more ideas of what you might do with yours.

Happy holidays!

Dishing It Up for the Holidays

  • Be grateful for a crateful of clementines
  • Fall in love with veggies for the holidays
  • How to De-Seed a Pomegranate
  • 7 Healthy Eating Habits for the Holidays
  • The 2021 Well Holiday Gift Guide from The New York Times

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Slowvember Slow Food Menu

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Slowvember Slow Food MenuMy last blog post, Go With the Slow, discussed how it is natural to crave not only more food but more calorically dense food as the outside temperature drops. This is because your body requires more energy just to keep its core temperature where it should be. And it wants to prepare itself for winter by adding a little protective, insulating fat. The traditional winter diet for those of us living in Northern climates is rich with starchy root vegetables, proteins and fats for these reasons but also because things like leafy greens simply were not available at this time of year.

I favour local, seasonal eating as much as possible. The food is fresher. After all, it hasn’t had to travel crazy distances to get to our table. I like to support our local farmers and food businesses. I advocate home-cooked food too.

These concepts are all embraced within the Slow Food movement, first created in Italy in 1986 to promote alternatives to fast food. So I designed my Slowvember Slow Food Menu to encourage you to Go With the Slow and embrace these Slow Food concepts.

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Go With the Slow

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Go With the SlowI’ve been feeling rather slow these days. It seems to happen every year around this time. I generally dismiss it as a mild case of the “winter blues”, as I’m more of a summer person. But I’ve noticed my energy level is not as high as usual and I’ve been feeling hungrier than I normally do.

Rather than trying to fight it and plod on, however, I’ve decided to “go with the slow”. Because that is exactly what we are intended to do as we transition through fall and winter. And it has to do with our circadian and seasonal rhythms.

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Gourds & Goblins Menu

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Gourds & Goblins MenuMy Gourds & Goblins Menu is a Jekyll & Hyde character.

The Jekyll version is served pretty much as described in the recipes. It’s a heaping harvest helping of carbo-comfort foods featuring a gaggle of gourds (namely pumpkin, butternut squash and zucchini).

But with some sleight of hand and the spooky styling suggestions at blog-bottom, you can turn it ins-Hyde-out into a fiendish feast for your ghoul-friends! It’s double, double the fun without too much toil or trouble.

Served either way, my Gourds & Goblins Menu is devilishly good at disguising veggies.

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Dishing It Up: It’s Never Too Late…to Learn Something New

Nonna Mia It's Never Too Late...to Learn Something New Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail

In my recent blog post, It’s Never Too Late…to Exercise, I put a spotlight on the amazing feats (and feet) of several female masters runners.  My hope was that their stories would inspire my readers to take steps (literally) to improve their physical fitness, no matter what their age.  After all, along with proper nutrition, exercising your body is vital for optimal health.

But so is exercising your mind.  And “research shows that acquiring additional skills can be a terrific way to keep an aging brain in shape” (quotation from the final story: Think You’re Too Old to Learn New Tricks?).  So this month’s edition of Dishing It Up features another group of inspirational people who have challenged themselves and learned new skills later in life.  My goal is to show, once again, that is it never too late…to learn something new.

It’s Never Too Late…to Learn Something New

  • Raffaella Tulipano, 82, Italian Cooking Sensation “Nonna Mia” (pictured above)
  • Natalie Levant, 89, Comedian
  • Giuseppe Paternò, 97, Graduate
  • Georgina Harwood, 100, Centenarian Skydiver and Shark Diver
  • Think You’re Too Old to Learn New Tricks?

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Betteraves Beets Menu

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail Betteraves Beets MenuThis month’s menu, Betteraves Beets, is both a play on words and a nod to my pal in Paris who told me he was motivated to start running by my previous post, It’s Never Too Late…to Exercise.  Betteraves is French for beets and, as the “s” is silent, it sounds un petit peu like “better ‘ave” (yes, I’m stretching it a wee bit).  And if you are a runner, or doing any exercise really, then you’d better have your beets.  See below for more on why.

This is not a menu so much as a selection of recipes to showcase ways you can beet-ify your meals.  I’m often too lazy to cook beets so I usually eat them raw in salads, shaved very thinly or julienned as in the Apple, Beet & Carrot Slaw.  But if you take the time to roast your beets, you will be well rewarded when you taste the Beet & Lentil Salad or the Kale, Salmon & Beet Salad.

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It’s Never Too Late…to Exercise

Toronto Holistic Nutritionist Laurie McPhail It's Never Too Late to ExerciseSometimes I have to think hard to come up with topics for my blog posts.  Other times they come to me organically, through a confluence of events.  In this case, it was a movie, a comment from a friend, two books and my birthday bucket list item that led me to this one:  It’s Never Too Late…to Exercise.

The movie was Edie.  The comment from a friend was “I’m too old to start running”.  The books were The Happy Runner and Older, Faster, Stronger.  And my birthday bucket list item: run the Scotia Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon Virtual Race to fundraise for the Sunnybrook Foundation.  So, with that as my preamble, let’s delve into how these morphed into this post on why it’s never too late…to exercise.


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