This time of year is when I really feel like I deserve a treat. With the cold wind blowing during my walks with Ella this week I must have burned extra calories.
Sweets offer us a boost in energy. Numerous ingredients gives a combination of flavours and benefits. A decadent dessert is comfort food on steroids. Therefore, making Millionaire Shortbread is completely justified. What is Millionaire Shortbread, you ask? Let me tell you…
Martin and I discovered this wonderful dessert in Scotland a few years back. We were there in March and it was bone-chilling damp cold (I don’t know how kilts can keep anyone warm in that kind of weather!)
We ducked into a cozy cafe in Edinburgh after having visited the Surgeon’s Hall Museums at the Royal College of Surgeons.
(It might sound creepy, but this place is well worth the visit if you are in Edinburgh, full of interesting exhibits and amazing facts. ) Amidst the aromas of black tea and coffee in the cafe we spied a row of squares among the usual pastries, layered and elegant. Once I saw the name I knew we had to sample one.
I can’t find any information on where the name Millionaire Shortbread comes from – it must be just because the layering of shortbread, caramel and chocolate all in one bite makes you feel like you’ve struck it rich.
I didn’t get the recipe from the cafe, and the ones I found needed tweaking so I added my own Scottish-Canadian twist. They aren’t hard to make, all they take is a bit of patience as the layers set. While you wait I recommend thinking of with whom you will share them, as they are addictive and one really is sufficient.
Once you have settled in with your hot beverage and squares of decadence, you might want to continue the Scottish theme. There are many topics of discussion – one of my favourites is the Outlander series of books, written by Diana Gabaldon – which have now also become a TV series. (If you’ve been in a hole and haven’t heard of Outlander, these stories tell the tale of the love between a post-war nurse and the Highlander she meets when she tumbles through time to the 18th century. Their love stands not only the test of time but also numerous historical events.) What better way to while away an afternoon with a friend than to muse on possible alternate lives and love that transcends all obstacles?
By now you are probably thinking I’ve gone overboard, but that’s because you haven’t tasted Millionaire Shortbread. Just go make some. Then you’ll know what I mean.
I want to preface this list by saying that I am NOT an expert in fitness or healthy living. I am not a trainer, and not even very coordinated when it comes to organized workouts. (I was the one in the back of the aerobics class who was always up when everyone else was down.) I tell you this because I want you to know that ANYONE CAN DO THIS. It is worth the effort, and you will feel better.
The biggest step is in choosing to make a change. Yesterday I shared my good fortune and cause for inspiration in my column, Good Genes, Vanity and the occasional Cream Puff. A girlfriend of mine was much more elegant when she said,
‘Take care of your body. It’s where you live.’
Any way you put it, the secret is to just get up and get going. Maybe you don’t “work out” like I do, but get interested in something and move! Use your muscles, use your mind, and most importantly, use your heart. Be inspired, and share your passion. Compliments and encouragement I have had from others has been my biggest motivation. My husband has been my rock, and he spurs me on. Your comment might be what inspires another person.
You do need to be accountable to yourself. Find a reason to want to keep going, not an excuse to stop.
If you do choose some kind of physical exercise as a part of your life, here is what has helped me:
- Start small – set yourself up for success. Don’t begin with something like “Insanity” unless you’re already in good shape. Don’t feel like you have to keep up with anyone else in class. This is about the long haul – if you kill yourself now, you’ll never get to see the results.
- Find a workout you enjoy, even when it’s tough. If you go to a class and you don’t like how the instructor talks, pick a different class. Not everyone likes to be barked at, but some find it motivating to do boot camp. Find your groove.
- Include energy snacks like smoothies around workout time. Women especially can be bad for having enough fuel in their bodies. Let me tell you from experience, you don’t help your diet or your fitness by working out on empty. Get used to having some kind of snack half an hour before your workout, and something afterwards too. You will perform better and improve faster. These are smart calories.
- It’s okay to look silly. Especially when you first start, you have to learn the routine. Remember, the instructor you see at the gym or on the DVD has been doing this for a while. You will look better soon.
- Use a mirror to help get the moves right. (go back to tip #1 if this stresses you out). Listen to what the instructor says and think about which muscles are working, how they say you should feel (e.g. abs tight, triceps pushing, etc.) You will see your improvements as you get better.
- Don’t be afraid to take a break – just don’t give up. The instructors might not be drinking water or stopping, but they do this for a living. When they tell you to drink, do so. If you feel like you need to catch your breath or relax your muscles, that’s okay. Take a short break and then get back in there!
- Find someone to encourage you during your workout. Maybe this is a buddy who is with you, or it might be a virtual helper. I have my hubbie who sometimes is there working out and cheering me on when I get tired. I also have a picture of my dad on the wall; he was my first coach, and seeing his face when I feel “blah” always helps me. I know music or motivational talks help others. Find your shot of adrenaline and keep it handy.
- You will feel sore, even 2 days after a workout – it means your muscles are getting stronger. (see #10 below for help, and #6. ) The first time I did the “Insanity” program with Shaun T, it took me 90 days and not 60 – and the first 2 weeks I had to pull myself up the stairs using the railing. But I made it. That was 3 years ago.
- Eat and drink properly. Drinking at least 2 litres of water is one of the best healthy habits you can have. Eating as much natural food as you can is another. Eat to enjoy the food, to fuel your soul. It will thank you. (remember, this includes the occasional cream puff!)
- Vary your workout, and take days off. You might really like a certain DVD or class at the gym, but your muscles need to be confused to really improve. Changing exercises helps you work all the muscles and not just certain ones. (I have 20 different workouts I rotate through.) Days off also help your muscles recover enough so you can push harder without injury. *This is where you might want a trainer to help you out, especially if you work out on your own.
I hope this helps. I’d love to hear your comments, whether you are new to this or you have secrets you want to share. For me being healthy is just as much about being in shape as it is eating good food. I want to live long enough to enjoy all those meals on my bucket list. I want to share those memories with loved ones. I want to pass along my passion to young people so they can live happy and healthy lives.
The last part of this puzzle is our body image. Especially for women, this is an ongoing battle that continues to frustrate many. I can’t say that I love where our society is at in representing the female form; I thought we would be better about appreciating individuals by now. It seems to me if we can be happy and healthy in our own skin, then that shape is our ideal form. We are not all meant to be “skinny bitches”, if you’ll pardon the term.
I’d like to close on positive thoughts: Get some exercise to feel good. Eat good food. Love yourself. Share all those good things with others. It’s what I call the good life. We all deserve it.
I am one of the lucky ones. This week we had the day for lovers. It is the worst if you’re single and wishing you weren’t. You are reminded everywhere that you should be with someone. But I believe togetherness comes in many forms, and love takes many shapes. I am happy having my soulmate by my side but that is my life, and not what everyone wants. Happiness does not come from another, it comes from within. Sharing it is just part of the fun.
That said, I will admit I am a sucker for romance.i love rose petals on the bed and kisses and dinner by candlelight. I even consider it a sign that expressions of like-minded people are linked to food: “two peas in a pod”, “like bread and butter, salt & pepper”, etc. And I love spontaneous moments that make me feel connected.
We had one of those moments on a touring day during our vacation. We spent the day traveling the island of Cozumel in a rented jeep. My man upgraded to the jeep, intending it to be reminiscent of a movie scene from “The Thomas Crown Affair”, with Pierce Brianna and Renée Rousseau. It’s a very romantic and sexy movie, full of elegant scenes with the couple. After only a few kilometres on the road it became more like “Romancing the Stone”, with Kurt Douglas and Kathleen Turner. More adventure than elegance, requiring more humour than grace. But we laughed and took pictures to document the story, and headed to a secluded beach anyway, despite the clunks and bangs in the vehicle.
We were repaid for our perseverance on the beach while admiring the treasures washed ashore (and not focusing on the garbage – that topic is for another post). Each of us picked up a piece of a conch shell, still retaining some of its satiny pink lustre. As we stopped to show each other our finds, we realized a certain symmetry… sure enough, they fit together!
Now that we are home, the memories of this day will be added to our collection of stories we tell others, and each other, over the years. We will laugh at the humour in the jeep “upgrade”, and wistfully remember all the spectacular photos forever lost when his phone went in the waves as he took a shot of me in the water. It wasn’t a perfect day, but it will be a very special memory.
Our deal as soulmates is we focus on us as a team. When one is down, the other one pulls us back up. The phone went in the water and I didn’t say anything, I just handed mine over and said, “let’s just take more pictures”. If I ever feel not quite up to par, he is there to cheer me on and remind me how special I am. (If I get really down he might even scold me about beating myself up.) That’s what special people do.
Your person might be a friend, or relative, or mentor… if you don’t have one, it doesn’t hurt to ask people you know if they will give more. I have discovered that most of us want to, but we are afraid to offend.
As we move past Valentine’s Day and look towards the coming spring, how about we all try to be someone’s cherry on their sundae – even just for a moment? The world could use a bit more love. There is no such thing as too many smiling people, too many happy hearts.
Apparently it’s “Blue Monday” today – the day you are most likely to be depressed due to it being the dead of winter. Well I for one am not going to just roll over and give up. Thankfully, if I felt that bad I know I have friends I could contact. (If you don’t think you have anyone, reach out to a professional – there is a hand if you have the courage to ask!)
So, taking the positive route, I’m just having a moment today to let my imagination work. A moment to think on my good work of late, and what else I’d like to do – or need to get done. I encourage everyone to do the same.
Funny, I just remembered it’s Martin Luther King Day, because I thought of one of his quotes:
A new calendar year begins, and we all get a chance to be pundits. Since food is my topic of choice, I thought I might as well weigh in, so here are my top 3 picks for trends, and some gratuitous commentary on what I have read from other sources. Feel free to add your two cents below, please!
Food Trend Predictions for 2016
- HYBRID DRINKS – it’s not enough that bartenders have created shrubs, syrups and other concoctions to come up with weird and wonderful cocktails… now we have to combine what we already have! Have you heard of “boffee”, or nitro coffee? I wondered at first if that was just a redneck version of a wine spritzer, but no, apparently it’s a real drink: iced coffee served “on tap” using nitrogen to create bubbles, just like a draught beer. Coconut water, Red Bull and all kinds of superfoods are being added to cocktails; just think, you can get drunk and prepare for your hangover at the same time!
- CLASSY SNACKS – crackers and cheese just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore, folks. You need ethnic dips, ancient grain chips, popcorn with exotic oil & seasoning… or at least use goat cheese drizzled with honey on those gluten-free crackers. Serving snacks is an art as well; if you haven’t invested in funky small plates, then you’d better visit Pinterest soon for a cool idea using something you can find in your pantry and “up-cycle” with a bit of burlap and a hot glue gun 🙂
- COOKING WITH GARBAGE – If you have been in a hole and not listening to the outraged food geeks in our part of the world, you won’t know that we suddenly realized our penchant for having every kind of food available year round and it all being perfect and unique has meant we are wasting an obscene amount of food. Chefs have now made it cool to use the stuff our moms used to regularly transform from the back of the fridge to the table. Dan Barber from Blue Hill in New York served “Dog Food” on his menu last summer during his themed period of working with food otherwise not used – it was ground meat using the cuts the butcher couldn’t sell.
If you aren’t already trying out these new concepts, then here’s your chance to jump on the bandwagon. After all, you don’t want to be the last person in the lunchroom still eating a tuna sandwich, do you?
One trend whose demise I’d like to support is the use of the word foodie. Adam Sach’s recent editorial in Saveur is right on the money:
Maybe we can just focus on the pleasures of eating, cooking and drinking and leave the labels where they belong – on modified corn and the side of wine bottles.
As much as there are chefs innovating with new foods, new fusion and new science, there are also restaurant brands that are working hard to be everything for everybody. McDonalds has coffee now, and menu items which can be custom made (including lettuce wraps instead of buns). Forgive me for sounding snobbish, but I don’t think that improves anything. Do you really go to McDonalds for a healthy meal? That’s like going to Robuchon for take-out, or cheap chicken wings. As consumers we should encourage businesses to be unique, to do what they do best – not to be like every other place in town. Laziness doesn’t benefit anyone in the food chain.
I don’t want to sound preachy, but I do believe wholeheartedly in the importance of good food and the time to enjoy it properly. And when we want to enjoy junk food we should make that an authentic experience as well. No labels, no obligations. Life is too short.