Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Learning to workout like a ballerina

Many of you know that I teach a strength and resistance training class called Gravity. If you have ever been up late at night watching infomercials you have seen Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley hawking a Total Gym System, its kinda like that but way better! I currently teach at Union Studio at Bathurst and Wellington here in Toronto. Another class on offer there is Union Barre. It is the kind of workout that a dancer would do to stay in such amazing shape. I had the pleasure of being involved while Heather Ogden, principal dancer for the National Ballet of Canada, and Christie Ness (a former ballerina herself), GM of Union Studio were developing the class. It is a super fun and challenging workout that promotes flexibility, stability, posture and strength. And a great butt. That's what I think of every time I take a class, 'this is great for my butt since I spend so much time in the kitchen sampling my recipes'.

Honestly I did feel a little bit like a large whale the first time I did the cardio sequence in the class, but quickly got over myself when I realized that everyone probably feels like this the first couple of classes. Regular people (ie: non-dancers) do not have the innate fluid movement that dancers do but, with perseverance we can forget what we look like and continue the workout for the good of our butts.  Check out for all your barre needs. And if you combine Christie's barre classes with my gravity classes it's the quickest way to get fantastically fit results. Pop in anytime to try a class, I teach Mondays @ 7am & 8am, Tuesdays @ 6:45pm, Wednesdays @ 1pm and 5:45pm.  There are other Gravity and Barre classes daily.

There will also be a Master Class with Heather at Union on December 2nd at 4:00pm. New choreography will be revealed as Heather leads you through a 60 minute workout and Q&A stretch after the hard work! You can also enter to win 2 tickets to see her in action in The Nutcracker and a pair of signed pointe shoes.

Heather Ogden - Principal Dancer National Ballet of Canada

A lot of our clients come to the gym after work and low on energy after a long day of sitting at their desks. So I have come up a gluten-free-dairy-free-low-sugar-high-energy-cookie inspired by my friend DeeDee a jewellery designer and Pilates instructor, check out her classes here          . 

Eat half before a workout and half after, the perfect combo of protein, carbs, salty, sweet and all around energy bursting goodness, but freeze the rest or you'll be doing double barre classes!

BBB Union Barre Energy Cookie

1 cup Almond Butter
2 eggs
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tbsp Ground flaxseeds
¾ cup Coconut Sugar
½ tsp Baking soda
¼ tsp Sea Salt
½ cup Dairy Free Dark Chocolate Chips
½ cup Quinoa Flakes

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients into a large bowl. Use a fork to really mash it up. Drop by the teaspoon onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 10-15 minutes. Let cool for a couple of minutes on the cookie sheet and then transfer to cooling rack or counter top. Makes approximately 15 cookies, depending how big you make ‘em!

Enjoy your workout, until next time

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Learning to use Pumpkin 2 ways

Ok, technically there are 3 ways, the jack-o-lantern being the first and most famous, thanks to Halloween. Then my new favorite, baking, of course! And finally, through google-vetting I have also discovered the healing properties of pumpkin, especially for Bailey the Dog.   The real life vet is very expensive for "things are pretty runny down there and I don't know what to do".  But google-vet has all kinds of free advice.  The best is a tablespoon of pureed pumpkin with her food once or twice a day until things become solid again. The fibre helps everything bind together again. And it works like a charm: happy dog, happy Tricia.  Note: this will be the last time I speak of my dog's issues here on the blog, not guaranteeing anything for real life conversations. But if you do have a dog give it a try, it really works and they LOVE it!  I have also used canned pumpkin in the past which works just as well, just make sure the only ingredient is pumpkin and not all the fillers for pie.

Speaking of pie. I did make a pumpkin pie. But it wasnt pretty enough to photograph, but certainly good enough to eat, which we did and thank goodness we have neighbours who wanted to enjoy it as well! I will give a pie a try as soon as I perfect my pastry making skills.  So I found these Pumpkin Muffins, adapted them to suit my taste and got my hands dirty. They turned out amazingly, and the aforementioned fibre works well for us humans too.  Not too sweet, soft and fluffy, but nicely filling and a perfect vehicle for nut butter and a knob of Grandma Hedy's Jam. If you don't have any jam in your fridge from your Grandma, any tartly sweet jam like raspberry or black currant by anyone's Grandma will do.

BBB Nutty Pumpkin Muffins
Inspired by and adapted from Anna Olson’s Tender Pumpkin Muffins

cooks note: I took a small pie pumpkin, cut it in half, took out the innards and roasted it in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes and then pureed it in my food processor. Fresh, yummy pumpkin puree to use as you wish.

1 cup Spelt Flour
2/3 all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp all spice
½ tsp cinnamon
1 ½ cups Pumpkin Puree (canned Pure Pumpkin works well too)
2/3 cup coconut sugar
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 egg whites
3 tbsp vegetable oil (or olive, sunflower, dealer's choice)
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional, I like the crunch)
1/2 cup raisins (optional, I felt like a little extra sweet)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a 12-cup muffin tin with large paper liners.
2.  Stir the spelt flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.
3.  In a separate bowl, whisk the pumpkin, brown sugar, buttermilk, egg whites and vegetable oil.
4.  Pour the liquids into the dry mixture and stir just until blended.  Add the walnuts and raisins. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a tester inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.  Cool the muffins for 20 minutes before removing from the tin.
5. Top your muffin with a dollop of nut butter and jam for a perfectly healthy fall snack!

*The muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen.  Do not refrigerate.

Enjoy until next time

Friday, 12 October 2012

Learning to be Patient

We survived it. The contractor survived it. The dog and the marriage survived it. A 10+ week kitchen renovation, the original quote stated a 5 week timeline, so yeah, right on schedule. Early on in the project I read an article where the writer said she hated when people complained about their renovations during dinner parties. I vowed to never become that person: 'It's taking sooo long, it's sooo messy, I miss my sink!'  It did take a very long time, it was messy and I missed my sink most of all. But why complain? I chose to do this. I chose to turn my home into a construction zone for the summer and we had the means to do it. Bailey the Dog made the most of it. Every morning when Michel and Vilma arrived Bailey would spend at least 10 minutes saying hello and getting all of her toys out to show them, in case they forgot what they looked like from the previous day. I made the most of learning to be patient. A very hard task, but alas, a lesson worth learning. Around the start of the project I started a free 21 day meditation challenge run by the Chopra Centre. They email a guided meditation everyday for 21 days. Easy. Sort of. I would forget a day here and there, but I learned, slowly, to not worry about it and hop back on when I could. I learned that by incorporating even a few moments of stillness before the craziness of the day began set me up for a good day. By good I mean calm and able to make a decision without crying in the middle of the night. I was still learning after all.

Through this project, I realized that my husband is one very patient man, probably the most patient person I know. At the beginning I remember saying, 'When this is done, when Michel leaves for good I want it all done! I want the window and door replaced in the kitchen. I want all the baseboards completely finished. When he walks out that door on the last day 5 weeks from now (ha!) I dont want to see him again!' Now not because I didn't like him, I like him very much, but that's how I had envisioned this project going, wrapped up in a tidy bow. All clean and ready to make the perfect dinner which then gets photographed for House and Home magazine and Lynda Reeves and Suzanne Dimma would be my new best friends. The husband set me straight: 'It doesn't work like that. It'll be done when it's done. Patience, babe, patience' Hmmm. I tried my best to work with that and continued to work at meditating everyday. Sleep came a little bit easier and the job continued until it was finished. The new window and door are coming in a few weeks and Michel is returning to do some stuff that couldn't get finished for many reasons that were beyond everyone's control. And there it is, the magic word: control. Letting go, trusting in our decisions and trusting the people by your side. Having Patience.

Here are the pics and a recipe that requires no patience at all, whip it up and enjoy guilt free!

Peachy Crispy Crumble: Baking Brains and Braun style
Inspired by: Peach Pecan Crisp featured on CBC's Steven and Chris

1 tbsp unsalted butter 
2 tbsp coconut sugar
1 cup pecan pieces, chopped
2/3 cup spelt flour
2/3 cup coconut sugar
2/3 cup rolled oats 
1/2 cup unsalted butter, soft
pinch salt
3-4 fresh or thawed peaches, sliced - enough to make a nice, healthy layer on the bottom of the pan (you can also use drained canned fruit and it works just as well! Use 2 14oz. cans if going this route)
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in 8 X 8-inch baking dish by putting the butter in the baking dish and into the warming oven for a few minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons coconut sugar. Set aside.
2. To make crumble topping, in a large bowl, mix pecan pieces, spelt flour, the remaining coconut sugar, rolled oats, soft butter, and salt until no dry flour is left. Mixture will be crumbly.
3. Slice peaches and spread them out in baking dish over melted butter and coconut sugar combo. Do not stir. Sprinkle vanilla over peaches. Sprinkle crumble mixture evenly over peaches. 
4. Bake about 25 minutes, until crumble is lightly browned and fruit juices are bubbly. Makes 1 Peachy Crispy Crumble 

be patient until next time

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Learning to love the mailman

I used to dread getting the mail. Specifically I hated the bills that arrived. I would bring them into the house and let them pile up in neat little piles around my desk. I was never really good with money in my teens and twenties, not many people are I suppose at that age. I remember getting a Bay card with a $500 limit in my second year of University. I went crazy! I loved it, I could buy expensive cosmetics, I cleaned out the MAC counter that fall. I could buy scarves, and earrings and undies! All in one place, no cash needed! That Christmas everyone got a fabulous gift courtesy of the Bay's credit department. The bill arrived in January. My mom opened it, of course, and so began my credit shame. If you use your credit card you need to pay for it at some point. Somehow that simple fact didn't register when I received the shiny new card in the mail. Around the same time I also got a Visa card from my bank, I was a student, so it was obvious to the bank that I needed more credit. Instead of using it for textbooks, I took friends out for lunch or skipped class altogether to head downtown and shop with my equally credit savvy friend Carmody. We would come to class wearing the spoils of our trip to the Gap, thinking we were totally the shit in our new corduroys, turtlenecks and stripey scarves.  Really we were just credit card crazed students with a cash flow problem.

Now, it never got really crazy, like thousands of dollars spent at the Gap and no way to pay for it. But it did get bad, especially when the mail came. Could I grab it before my mom? Did she know? Of course she knew, because where do you think I picked up my nasty little shopping problem?  I inherited it. Shopping was a release for both of us, it was fun, it was something to do. Growing up in Saskatoon the local mall was only open late on Thursdays so we off we went and we both got new outfits! Ta da! Thursdays were awesome as a kid. And I wanted to have that feeling all the time.  But my CC debt had found me. I negotiated with my mom to help me pay it off and I would pay her back interest free. The shame of having to ask for this kind of favor was enough to curb the crazy, for a time.

But I still had this thing where I couldn't look at my bills, and I would never look at my bank balance as the little receipt was spewed out of the machine. For years this went on and the anxiety followed me when I moved to Toronto. I no longer carried a (huge) balance on my CC, I only made the minimum payment every month and then spent that, an endless cycle. I was still randomly shopping for fun, H&M had just opened in TO at this time! But, slowly, through a profitable job in a bar and some TV work I was able to pay that off, on my own. That was the beginning of my love for the mailman. Once my CC was finally paid off I decided to grow up financially, and stop shopping for fun.  I learned the fine art of Window Shopping. I started to open my bills and instead of despairing that I actually had to pay for my cell phone and internet every month I started to be grateful for those bills. I read somewhere that "A bill is an acknowledgement of our ability to pay". I was able to pay and if I didn't have the cash I didn't need the sweater, scarf, or lunch out. But I also had to realize that more money would always come in. A good friend was able to teach me this principle: money is just energy, it comes, it goes, be grateful and there will always be enough. He also taught me a great way to budget my money in order to see the surplus each month and then SAVE that surplus. It changed my life. Message me if you would like me to share it with you, its easy and being able to see how much you have in one place is a liberating feeling.  It also really drove home that fact that if I didn't have the money to pay for it at the time I didn't need it. Saving became the new spending.

So, I love my mailman/mailperson now. They bring me the bills which I know I have the ability to pay, and they also bring me my hard earned cheques. If I am ever feeling short I have a look at my bank balance and take a moment of gratitude: money comes, money goes and there will always be enough.

A good friend of mine writes a really great blog about Money and Artists and how we handle our cash flow. Marcia of the Cardinal's Nest uses the same money managing system I do. The teacher of this system is referred to as Skinny Jeans in her blog, he's a master money dude.

Happy saving, until next time