Vegetable and Barley Soup



Once you have your stock made; any soup is an option. I have a few soups listed under Recipes or there are a few hundred million listed online to choose from.

By the way, while I’m here, I’ve discovered something about Pinterest. Pinterest is incredibly wonderful for some things but not good for food. From time to time, I’ve found something interesting on Pinterest that I want to make and it never works out. I realize that’s because people are pinning things to try; they aren’t tried and tested recipes. Maybe I’m a bit late to the game but I thought I’d share my “duh” moment with you. is a great site that is way more reliable. As is and

A vegetable and barley soup is a hearty meal that will boost your immune system and keep you satiated. It has beans in it, making it a complete protein; you can add in some whole grain bread to soak up the bowl. Add a little butter and you have a delicious meal.

Vegetable and Barley Soup

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
4 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery with leaves, diced (reserve leaves separately)
3 bay leaves
½ tsp dried thyme
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
28oz can plum tomatoes, with juice
¾ cup pot barley
3 cups thinly sliced kale or spinach (optional)
19oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Dash hot sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper(to taste)


Heat oil in heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring constantly, until vegetables are soft and golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Add bay leaves, thyme, stock, tomatoes with juices and barley. Stir, breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

If using, stir in kale or spinach and simmer for a further 10 minutes, or until leaves have wilted. Stir in beans, celery leaves, hot sauce and seasoning.

Discard bay leaves and thin soup if necessary with more stock or water. Raise heat to high and cook for about 2 minutes or until beans are warmed through.

Recipe adapted from The Toronto Star


Happy March 1st!


It’s finally here. March is finally here. Just one more week until we “spring forward”. Now there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Although this is welcome news, we still have a long way to go and getting through the Spring we need to ensure that our immune system is up to scratch to protect from those Springtime bugs that come up with the flowers as the temperature rises.

The best way to improve the the immune system is to eat whole foods and avoid processed foods. Garlic, onions, mushrooms, ginger and honey are all fabulous. As well, some spices such as oregano, cinnamon, cloves and turmeric.

How to incorporate as many of these as possible is to make a soup, perfect for this time of year. Using your own stock is even better and will fix up any sniffles over the next few weeks.

Start a day earlier by roasting a chicken. A whole lot easier than it sounds. In a baking dish, drizzle the bottom with olive oil and place the chicken on top. In the cavity, put in some salt, pepper, lemon quarters and whole garlic cloves. On the outside, rub some salt, pepper and extra-virgin olive oil under the skin and on top of the skin. Cover with foil and place in a preheated oven (350ºF) for 1 hour. Remove foil and cook for a further 15 minutes until the chicken is browned and the juices run clear.

Save all the bones from the roast chicken. If you are not making the stock right away, save the bones in the fridge. When you are ready, place the bones in a pot and add in a carrot, roughly chopped onion, garlic cloves, salt and pepper and whole sprigs of parsley. Cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for one hour. Cool and strain into a jar and keep in the fridge.

This is the best stock you can use for soup, a guaranteed flavourful soup full of immune boosting nutrients.

Top up your immunity further by taking a good quality probiotic in the morning, a drop of vitamin D (1000IU) and a teaspoon of pharmaceutical grade fish oil.

Then. Get Ready for Spring!

A Different Detox


My friend Christina Crook wrote a book recently. Called The Joy Of Missing Out (or #jomo in today’s world), it’s how to detox from technology overload and how to use technology as it was originally designed for; as a tool.

Aside from being biased, and I’m very proud of her accomplishing this, it’s a fabulous book. She talks from the heart, about personal experience and doesn’t pretend she’s above it all. The addictive nature of technology is something we all struggle with, much like our compulsion with choosing less than nutritious foods; either because they are convenient or because they are tasty. We know better. So why is so hard to break these habits?

There are so many reasons to break away from technology that I think everyone will find something they resonate with in this book. Mine was in Chapter 12, where Christina talks about the effect our constant surfing has on our children. While I am careful with my eating habits in front of my children – because I know how quickly they can pick up my bad habits, I’m not as good with my phone. Yes, I surf Facebook in front of them. Sometimes while they are playing, sometimes when they are watching TV and sometimes – and this is bad – when they are eating. When I spend so much time going on about the importance of conversation and eating together.

Christina talks about the internet being a tool. She herself lived without it for 31 days and during that time, I remember being with a mutual friend and neighbour one day. We, for some reason that escapes me now, needed to get in touch with Christina. My friend went to pick up her phone to text her, put it down again and sighed as she realized she couldn’t get through the usual way. We are so used to it! It’s quick and easy but there is no actual contact. How many times have you received a message and you have no idea what the person is really trying to say? Words don’t have expression and it’s impossible to read a person simply from a text message. Are they angry? Are they joking? What are they really trying to say? You wouldn’t get this with a telephone conversation.
What Christina really conveys about her journey through 31 days tech-free is that it’s pretty much unsustainable in today’s world to be without the internet. Filing a story she wrote to being included in social events were all bigger hurdles. Never mind the day-to-day things we take for granted; such as looking up a phone number or business or even checking the weather. Everything is online. I take my hat off to her; I couldn’t do it.

What I will try to do, however, is one of her suggestions. Take myself off Facebook for a week. That’s is really my biggest time waster. I’ve already deleted the app from my phone along with a bunch of others that I can’t even remember loading in the first place and I resolve not to put it back. I’ll keep others I love such as Instagram and Twitter that are designed for phones and I won’t access on my laptop. I need to keep Gmail on my phone because as a stay at home mum I need the flexibility to work elsewhere. From the book, Christina has helped me identify my weaknesses and taught me how to use these devices as tools and I believe what I’m doing will work.

Yesterday, as I was close to the end of the book, I left my phone and laptop upstairs and I went downstairs to the basement to play with my younger daughter. Normally, I would keep my phone within earshot and as soon as it dinged, I would reach for it. No matter what my daughter was doing. Always one eye out; she rarely has my absolute full attention. Yesterday, she did. And we had a great time. Puzzles were the game of choice and it’s amazing how her mood changed when I concentrated fully on her. Later, when I needed to do something for myself, I felt no guilt about her playing alone and she went along with that happily. It was a good day.

So here I go; embarking on a healthier way to use the devices I have without switching them off altogether. First off, a week without Facebook to break the habit of checking it way more than I really need leaves me time for other things.

And since March is Nutrition Month, I will use that time to bring you new recipes; something I’ve been neglecting. And of course, more puzzles with my 3 year old. Because she’s way cooler than Facebook.

Home is where the heart is

I recently saw Paddington at the theatre with my 2 children (great movie by the way). If you don’t know the story, it’s the tale of a bear who moves from darkest Peru to London, England. There is a line in the movie that I found absolutely wonderful. Paddington is explaining to somebody that his body made the journey to London but it’s taking his heart a little longer to get there.

Oh my gosh, how many times have we been there? Travel, particularly at the speed we move today, can transport us to the other side of the world in a day but how long before we actually feel comfortable there? The most obvious symptom of this is jet lag where our time clock needs to adjust to the new time zone. But what about our hearts?  Can we measure how long it takes for them to catch up?

It’s not just physical travel, it can be a change within our own environment as well. A job loss, a divorce or death are massive changes that are hard on the heart. But even a small change, such as a familiar sanctuary closing, can take a while to get used to as well.

So we look to being mindful to help our hearts while they work to catch up to us. Paying close attention to the immediate environment or people you are surrounded by. Stopping and feeling the earth or noticing new smells or sights will help the body adjust. While this process is going on, be kind to yourself. Just because your body can get there quickly, doesn’t mean your heart can. A great observation from a small loveable bear. Thank you Paddington!

Remaining Calm During a Hectic Time

In perfect tandem to my previous post, I came across an article in Yoga Journal about how to stay grounded (aka sane) during the upcoming holiday season. Their ideas, not always including yoga, are effective and quick and make a whole bunch of sense. I want to share them with you:

1. Breathe. The most important for sure. When you are feeling overwhelmed, stop and just breathe. At least 10 breaths. The world is not going to end during the time it takes to do this. It’s the fastest reset you can do.


2. Establish an intention for each day when you wake. A common undertaking during a yoga practice, you don’t have to be in downward dog to do this. Take a minute to steady the breath and set your intention for the day. Visualize the kind of day you want to have. Not everything will cooperate but your mind will work towards your goal without you even realizing it.

3. Smile. I love this one.

4. Alert, yoga pose! Maybe not appropriate in Costco but certainly at home or in the office, it just takes a minute. Forward bends are calming poses and can help lower your systolic blood pressure reading. Stand with your feet together and hands in a prayer position at your chest. Raise your hands straight above your head and fold forward reaching towards the floor. The closer you are to the floor, the more grounded you will feel. Stay for a few breaths.

forward bend

5. Music. Putting on your favourite music doesn’t require any time but can help calm you and lighten your mood as you work.

6. Brew a tea. The English love to “have a cuppa” when life gets stressful. Make it caffeine free for best effect.


7. Take a few minutes to walk outside when things get tough. Use all your senses to ground yourself; the sounds outside, the feel of the earth beneath you, the feel of the air across your face, the sights you see. Allow your shoulders to relax as you walk and your face to soften.


8. Use some essentials oils to help you wind down at the end of the day in order to get a good nights sleep. Lavender is a wonderful calming oil and great for inducing sleep. To go one step further, Yoga Journal suggests this routine:
Add 2 drops each of lavender, chamomile, and rose essential oil to 2 oz. organic almond oil. Blend together and sprinkle a drops into your palms. Massage your face and neck gently with upward strokes. Pinch lightly along the eyebrow, and then press down along the ridge under your eye. Finish with circular full-facial strokes before placing the palms over your closed eyes, and inhaling deeply for a few seconds.

essential oils

Feel better?

Article adapted from Yoga Journal’s “7 Ways to Keep Your Calm”

A Silent Weekend


This past weekend, I did something I haven’t done in the 6.5 years my eldest daughter has been around. I spent 3 days completely alone. No husband, no children – actually not even my cat, who passed away in September was around to keep my company. What bliss! I could be utterly selfish and answer only to myself for the entire weekend.

I turned down social events and didn’t pick up the phone once. I attended yoga classes, ate out and couldn’t resist a visit to Toronto’s One of a Kind Show but it was all on my own terms.

Except for a number of short exchanges, it was totally silent. Now a true silent weekend would involve turning off all communication and entertainment devices. Television, radio, computers, iPhones etc. In essence you meditate and direct your thoughts and your breath. I’ve never tried this but given the opportunity I absolutely would. My meditation consisted of yoga classes I took throughout the weekend and I focused on being in the present moment with everything I did. I painted the bathroom. Without rushing, I made few mistakes and the end result is much better than it would be had my family been around. I took my time walking around the Show without any pressure to visit any particular vendors or purchase anything I didn’t want 100%. In fact, the longest conversation I had all weekend was with an aromatherapy vendor who makes creams and salves to restore chapped hands. This vendor travels throughout Canada selling her wares but makes them right in my own neighbourhood. If I had a weekend of only one conversation, I couldn’t have chosen a more apt one.

In recent weeks, I have “not been in a good place” to use a term commonly used and understood. I have spent too much time focusing on the needs of my family and house and not enough on my needs. And when my needs get neglected for too long, everybody suffers.

Before the craziness of Christmas loomed, I needed to reset and incorporate some downtime. Downtime differs from person to person – some thrive on company, some restore better on their own. I’m in the latter group. I love to research and write about new foods or trends that appear. And I love my yoga, which hasn’t as much a part of my life recently and it’s apparent in my physical and mental self. I’ve since pledged to make it a priority to schedule time to get to the studio at least 3 times a week.

So I ask you? What do you need? How will you achieve this? Focus on it now, be mindful of yourself so you don’t burn yourself out over the course of the next month.


Prepping for Christmas

4 weeks less one day till the big day. How will those 4 weeks unfold for you? Throwing up your hands, saying “screw it”, I’ll deal with in January? Or can you take a healthier view and try to offset the damage beforehand?

Time speeds up as we get older and I’m starting to feel really old these days as I swear it was just summer. A summer full of social engagements and alcohol. I never seemed to completely recover before the holiday season looms. With this in mind, the only way we can manage a long term healthy diet and body, is to take it day by day and eat (and drink!) mindfully throughout the year.

There is probably a good 2 weeks left before the social events really start to kick in. It’s a great opportunity to do a simple detox to flush toxic build up that has been lingering. Not only will this refresh your body physically, it will adjust your mindset as you “feel” healthier and less likely to overindulge over the holidays.

Here are a few things you can do in the next couple of weeks:

1. Increase your water intake. Start the day with a glass of water with lemon for a gentle flush.
2. Take a probiotic in the morning.
3. Limit your caffeine intake to 1 caffeinated coffee per day. Replace caffeinated drinks with green tea, even if it caffeinated, it’s way less.
4. Clear your kitchen of chocolate, candy, cookies and cakes. There’s going to be enough temptation without adding to it in your own home.
5. Ensure you get at least 2 servings of fruit a day and 5 servings of vegetables, especially green ones. See yesterday’s post for tips on how to “winterize” your salads.
6. Pack your lunch.
7. Get outside every day, at least 15 minutes and add in an hour long walk a few times. Make it priority and take anybody you need to with you. If you have a regular exercise schedule, include workouts on your calendar so they don’t take a backseat.
8. Limit your alcohol intake. Especially on days when you don’t have anything going on. Your liver will thank you come January.
9. Get enough sleep. Don’t burn yourself before the season has even begun, you won’t enjoy any of it, particularly if you make yourself susceptible to picking up a big. Make sure your to-do list doesn’t get bigger than hours available.
10. Meditate for 10 minutes every day if you are a regular practitioner. If not, check in with yourself a few times a day to focus on what is happening in your mind and your body. It will keep you centred and keep your racing mind (and to-do list) in check.

Using the time now to prep yourself, ensures you really get to enjoy the Holiday Season without hindering your mind or physical health.