Sandwich to Salad Week Day 4: The solar powered spinach mushroom salad + *BONUS* The ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ salad

The solar powered spinach mushroom saladThere is no universal perfect salad. It’s one of the hard truths of our existence, that perfection is, ultimately, an individual experience. But what human can deny the exaltation felt when the first rays of sun burst through a cloudy sky? The shared emotional warmth of a sudden sunbeam is as universal as we’ll ever get (besides death and sex – but they’re a little harder to work into a salad). Spinach, even when garnished with an asteroid belt of mushrooms can leave even the most dedicated salad explorer pining for Subway – the horror! But add a yellow centre of sunny corn and sunflower seeds and behold… The 5 day sandwich to salad meal plan revolution bursts back to life. Alleluia anyone?

The solar powered spinach mushroom salad
1/2 can corn niblets
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 boiled egg
4 large white mushrooms
1/3 cup baby carrots
1 large handful spinach
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley

Chop all (larger) ingredients into bite-sized pieces. Top with corn and sunflower seeds. Drizzle with your favourite dressing or what could be your new fave ‘Punny Mustard Vinaigrette’.

The 'everything but the kitchen sink' salad*BONUS* There are moments in life where to push forward, we must throw everything we have into the mix, our skills and talents, our hopes and dreams, our seeds and beans. This salad is one such occasion. As in life, we put it all together and pray it all works out for the best. And when the leap of faith tastes as delicious as this salad, we are reminded, with sweet relief, that our complexities give flavour to our greatest experiences… and our greatest selves.

The ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ salad
1/3 can assorted beans
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
25g sliced ham
2 large white mushrooms
2 small tomatoes
1 seranno pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 small handful spinach
(or lettuce – or heck, both!)
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley

Thinly slice seranno pepper. Chop all (larger) ingredients into bite-sized pieces. Top with beans, seeds, and your favourite dressing.

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fast and easy summer salad recipes 3Day 1: The ham and cheese sandwich salad + Inspiration story
Day 2: The fresh off the ‘cobb’ salad that can’t be ‘beet’ + Punny mustard vinaigrette
Day 3: The ‘too healthy for its own good’ beany bread bonanza salad
Day 4: The solar powered spinach mushroom salad + *BONUS* The ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ salad
Day 5: The happy ham and egg weekend brunch anticipation salad

Sandwich to Salad Week Day 3: The ‘too healthy for its own good’ beany bread bonanza salad

bean and bread saladIndulging in this salad demands a certain smug hubris. Ha! You say as you look around at your coworkers with their sad little muffins and phallic shaped plastic bags marking them as slaves to Subway. You, like that perfectly groomed businessman on the elevator, can claim a well deserved self-righteousness, because halfway through this 5 day meal plan revolution you have found the secret, not to wealth, not to power, but to pleasure without consequence (provided your system can digest beans discreetly). For you have crawled out of the sensory deprivation chamber of so many celebrated celebrity diets of grilled chicken and steamed vegetables. You have created for yourself a flavourful multilayered orgasm of textural ecstasies. Yes Yes YES – so green, so nutrient packed, and so damn good.

The ‘too healthy for its own good’ beany bread bonanza salad
1 small whole wheat dinner roll
1/3 can assorted beans
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 serrano pepper
3 large white mushrooms
1 medium tomato
1 handful spinach
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley

Tear roll into croutons. Thinly slice serrano pepper. Chop all other (large) ingredients into bite-size pieces. Top salad with beans, pumpkin seeds, and drizzle with day two’s ‘Punny Mustard Dressing’.

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fast and easy summer salad recipes 3Day 1: The ham and cheese sandwich salad + Inspiration story
Day 2: The fresh off the ‘cobb’ salad that can’t be ‘beet’ + Punny mustard vinaigrette
Day 3: The ‘too healthy for its own good’ beany bread bonanza salad
Day 4: The solar powered spinach mushroom salad + *BONUS* The ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ salad
Day 5: The happy ham and egg weekend brunch anticipation salad

Sandwich to Salad Week Day 1: The ham and cheese sandwich salad + Inspiration story

ham and cheese sandwich saladSick of Subway? Stop the hunter/gatherer lunch panic and start eating healthy on your own terms and tastes. This transitional salad will ease you into a 5 day meal plan revolution. All you need to get started is a half-decent knife and a cutting board. And Remember, you can always substitute any ingredient/quantity to maximize you palate’s pleasure…

Ham and cheese sandwich salad:
1 small whole wheat dinner roll
2 slices (unprocessed!) cheddar cheese
50g sliced ham
1/2 avocado
1 red bell pepper
1 serrano pepper
1 handful spinach (or lettuce)
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley

Tear the roll into croutons. Slice the serrano thinly. Chop all other ingredients into bite-sized pieces. Top with your favourite dressing, or hang tight for day two’s ‘Punny Mustard Vinaigrette’. Then read the inspiration story below…

modern neanderthal man and woman“If I ever have to eat another Subway sandwich I swear I’m going to bite somebody’s ears off!” Shouts the Mike Tyson throwback standing beside his wife in the doorway of my Blank Canvas Living Creative Counselling office. His Ferragamo loafers and her Gucci pumps belie the couple’s apparent regression, not to childhood, but back a good 50 000 years.

“I know Subway can get tedious,” I say, as diplomatically as possible, “and it’s got way more salt than you’d think. And I know every sandwich pretty much smells the same and tastes the same… but you’d have to eat a hell of a lot of ears to keep you full till supper.”

“Humph,” grunts the prehistoric wife. “There just aren’t a lot of other options downtown when you’re trying to eat healthy.”

I invite them to sit down, and leave their weapons by the door. “Ok, so your hunter/gatherer approach means you’re stalking a territory of what.. maybe a 300m radius? You’re letting the environment control your meal planning. Take charge! Go together to a smaller, but far more lucrative hunting ground – The Grocery Store! Once or twice a week, go forage to your hearts’ content. If you like the same sorts of things in bed – you’re married aren’t you! – you must enjoy similar flavours in a salad. And change it around – personalize your combos. Spice things up with some spontaneous veggie variety.”

“But then what?” Asks the Ferragamo-ed pre-neolithic man. “We never have any time in the mornings.”

“Who does? All you need is a fridge and a tap – any office kitchen will do. Buy a half-decent knife and a cheap cutting board, and keep one of the fridge drawers stockpiled with ingredients. Then take those same 10 minutes to chop up your salad. You can put together a different recipe every time, depending on what mood you’re in. I’ll email you a recipe every day this week to get you started. Now gather your furs, pick up your spears, and go back to work!”

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fast and easy summer salad recipes 3Day 1: The ham and cheese sandwich salad + Inspiration story
Day 2: The fresh off the ‘cobb’ salad that can’t be ‘beet’ + Punny mustard vinaigrette
Day 3: The ‘too healthy for its own good’ beany bread bonanza salad
Day 4: The solar powered spinach mushroom salad + *BONUS* The ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ salad
Day 5: The happy ham and egg weekend brunch anticipation salad

‘Shrunken head’ man-rescue breakfast oatmeal

healthy oatmeal breakfast recipesAs a follow-up to the ‘I want sex tonight’ steak sandwich, this testosterone boosting oatmeal breakfast recipe will give you the stamina and extended appetite satisfaction to take on whatever – and whoever! – the day throws your way. Freud’s head shrinking was on point about one thing… it always comes back to sex! (Nutrients that increase testosterone listed in brackets)

2 servings (approx 1 cup) oatmeal (avenacosides, arginine)
1 sliced banana (potassium, B vitamins, bromelain)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (leucine, magnesium, omega-6, zinc)
breakfast oatmeal ingredients1/4 cup raisins (magnesium, boron)
1/4 dried cranberries
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups water
milk (vitamin D, calcium)
honey (chrysin)

Prepare oatmeal according to package (stovetop method and large flake oats recommended, but microwave and quick oats are fine). Halfway through cooking time add cinnamon, sliced banana, pumpkin seeds, raisins, and cranberries. Continue cooking until oats are tender and dried fruit ‘shrunken heads’ are plump, juicy, and engorged. Top with honey and milk as desired. Gorge yourself. Then read the inspiration story below…shrunken head man
I lead the waiting oddity of a man down the hall to the office I used with my first Blank Canvas Living creative counselling client, the fire-breathing redhead, but he won’t follow me through its green glass door.

“No offense, Miss,” he says, with a strange mixture of natural shyness and forced (or trained) instant intimacy, “but I’m sick of little rooms and getting my head shrunk. I already start too many mornings with my psychoanalyst. I just want you to give me another recipe like that sandwich. My wife’s been making it for me twice a week for the last month, and I was thinking maybe we could add a Saturday bonus to the repertoire?”

“So you’re married to the redhead, eh?” My memory of her abusive attitude is still painfully fresh. “Happy to hear the sandwich is working.” I wink and invite him to sit with me on the tiled hallway floor. He looks confused, but sits down obligingly with his back to the door. I’m not surprised. He’d have to be used to taking orders by now, especially from women.

“She told me it’s her prescription,” he says, “but to be honest, it’s been so long since she did anything nice for me that she could serve me Kraft Dinner and I’d be just as pumped. I’ve been feeling like shit for so long and all my psychoanalyst ever wants to talk about is how I got messed up as a kid when my father took off. But I gotta tell you, that sandwich makes me feel so much better than all that talking ever does… better about everything.”

Maybe it’s the unreality of the scene, but I can’t resist plunging straight in: “Look, I’m going to go out on a limb here. This isn’t hard science or anything, and this might come off a bit harsh, but we really do tend to marry our parents. I know I did. If your mom was anything like your… um… ‘passionate’ wife, not many men could handle it. And to blame your dad for the fact you’ve gone and got yourself stuck in the exact same situation doesn’t make any sense. Now you’re some raisin headed depressive spending a fortune just to give all your power away to the past. You say you start your mornings getting your head shrunk? I bet you don’t even have breakfast and give yourself half a chance at a decent day.”

He doesn’t say anything. Nothing. The dead air is suffocating. Why the hell did I go on like that?? I hardly have any training and now I’m digging my fingers into some poor guy’s brain like I’m some sort of oracle of marital wisdom!!? All he wanted was a f&**king weekend sex recipe. Shit.

“You know,” he says… finally (I take a deep breath and brace for the worst), “I think you might be right.”

“About the breakfast thing?”

“About everything.”

This is too easy. He’s either faking insight just to humour me, or his malleability is inherent and would make psychoanalysis that much more dangerous to his particular brain.

“Do you have kids with your wife?” I ask. He nods. “Ok, this is what you’re going to do. You’re going to take three weeks off therapy and I’m going to give you a breakfast recipe to maximize your man-strength. And you’re going to spend that therapy time doing high intensity excercise. This is your official prescription. You’ve got to be at your best to take on that woman of yours – in life and in bed! You’re not going to be your dad and cop-out. You’re going to get your testosterone up, your brain healthy, and you’re going to show your family what it means to be a f*&king man!”

He nods. Hope, yes, I can see a glimmer of it deep in the wrinkled sockets of his sunken eyes. And as I watch, his shriveled head begins to swell.

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The ‘I want sex tonight’ steak sandwich

steak sandwichThis sensory loaded sandwich is more than food porn come to life, every bite subliminally suggests what’s on the menu for dessert. And this meaty, two-hander recipe is no one night stand! Mushrooms (vitamin D), olive oil (monounsaturated fat), cauliflower (indole-3-carbinol), and beef (zinc) are all foods known to increase testosterone levels in men. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes a sandwich is so much more.

To make two sexy steak sandwiches…
1 baguette
1 large hefty steak
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 red bell peppers
2 large jalapeno peppers
olive oil
Note:  no garlic or onions for obvious reasons

Cheese and cauliflower white sauce…
2 tbs butter
2 tbs flour
1 cup milk
1 cup cauliflower (steamed and puréed)
1 cup of your favourite white cheese (grated)

Prepare classic white sauce – stir in cauliflower and cheese. Roast and peel peppers to add colour, heat, and a fleshy, oh-so-slippery, subliminally suggestive mouth feel. Sauté mushrooms in olive oil for rich earthy taste/texture. Grill (leaving a hint of pink in the middle) and slice steak. Divide baguette and spread wide open to receive layering of deliciousness. Slather indulgently with cheese and cauliflower white sauce. Devour, and be devoured. Then read the inspiration story below…

sexy steak sandwich

“Got a man?” My question catches the fuming redhead off guard.

“If you can call him that – and do you know what shit he pulled just…”

Pandora’s box is opening right in front of me – I jam the lid down with what I say next: “Wait, just wait, hear me out. We can sit here and you can unload all over me and maybe you’ll feel better, but I sure won’t. Or, you can shut up and we can get at the truth. When we stripped down just now, I couldn’t help noticing your bra and panties, pink lace – hot stuff. And there’s only one reason why a woman with such sexy underwear would be so absurdly angry and frustrated – you were gnawing on a chair leg when I walked in for goodness sakes! Obviously, you’re not getting laid.”

She grunts, nods slowly, and grunts again. My mind is racing; the idea is taking on a distinct shape… and flavour. Talking won’t fix anything here. Telling her that ‘when you do nice things for people they tend to do nice things for you’ would probably earn me a punch in the face. I’m just thankful her arms are still tied behind her back! I can let her in on a basic human logic, that ‘if you act like a psycho black hole of negativity people most likely won’t be jumping up and down to have sex with you’, but her level of bitchiness is most likely genetically encoded.

I’ve got it! A way to get that woman some lovin’ without destroying my soul in the process. It’s subversive, sure, but show me a psychological intervention that isn’t. She’ll be doing something caring and personal for her man (under the guise of subliminal science) and strengthening him to deal with her insanity at the same time. Perfect.

“Ok.” I say, with renewed authority. “We’re going to change back into our own clothes, and then I’m going to do some field testing. There will be an envelope with the results waiting for you in the Blank Canvas lobby tomorrow morning. Follow the ‘recipe’ for success inside – exactly – and you will get action tomorrow night. I guarantee it.”

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Secret to how to REALLY start doing things differently

I once witnessed a car accident while driving with my sister-in-law. At impact, the red minivan two cars ahead of us lifted up and spiraled like a football into the ditch. Mercifully, there were only minor injuries. After attending with water (and chocolate) until the paramedics arrived, we were asked to write witness statements. Upon reading each other’s, my sister-in-law and I were surprised to find that what we’d paid attention to was wildly different. Our attentions can be inherent to our coded personalities, cultural, or based on personal experience. But here’s the secret: retraining your attentions will give you incredible freedom of action.

Now let’s go to the grocery store. If you noted and evaluated every single one of the tens of thousands of products sold at your average grocery store… well, quite simply, your brain would shut down. In reality, we each walk into a markedly different store, depending on our tastes and habits. Like those big green signs on the highway, our attentions allow the rest of the landscape to blur into the background. A few weeks ago, I was standing in the salad dressing aisle with a bottle of Miracle Whip in my hand – not only Easy Squeeze, but on sale too! See that fellow on my shoulder in the illustration above? That’s Mitch – my insatiable human itch. When you give something an identity (Mitch’s origins will be explained in an upcoming post), you give yourself the freedom to open a dialogue. NOTE: This isn’t any sort of talking-to-yourself or actually seeing the little guy weirdness, just a fun philosophical allegory, like Nietzsche’s Zarathustra or Virgil’s guides in Dante’s Inferno (although I don’t suppose either of those two examples could be called particularly ‘fun’).

When you can dialogue with your primal human drives, habits, and interpretations (dare I say subconscious), you can begin to challenge your reflexive attentions, thoughts, and actions. In this case, choice of salad dressing. Don’t let a touch of natural, biological anxiety hold you back from trying something new. Our neurotransmitters are calibrated to keep our patterns stable in this so often unstable world… just push through (practice makes it easier). I’ve always thought about trying to make my own dressing, so told Mitch to shove off, and through the subsequent catecholamine haze, went hunting for apple cider vinegar, canola oil, and a good novelty mustard.

This shift in attentions began to change my experience of the store. New products came into focus, new flavour combinations, textures, and possibilities for combination. I was essentially shopping a different store, not literally, but a new menu for selection had opened up on familiar shelves. In lieu of an allegory brush off, you can also try this…

Practical Exercise For Retraining Attentions: Next time you’re in the grocery store, arbitrarily pick a 2′ by 2′ area of shelving. For every product within that square, imagine being served a sample at a dinner party. How does it taste? Smell? Look? What is it being served with? What are people talking about while eating? Build a story around it. Then pick one of these products (one you’ve never picked before) and have the balls, yes I said it, balls, to put it in your cart. You can stop here, or if you’ve really got kahoonas, build a dish around this product and see how your story plays out when you serve it to your family.

Multi-tasking mushroom soup + casserole recipe = A threeway even monogamists can enjoy!

Why let one man, one woman, or one flavour profile hold you back in your quest for sensory bliss. We monogamists have the secret… adding a dash of this, a dash of that, changing it up to make every night a new recipe for…

Night One – Comforting Soup
3 cans condensed mushroom soup
3-4 cups sliced mushrooms (or one large package)
1 bunch celery (chopped)
1 bunch parsley (chopped)
8 green onions (chopped with whites separated)
2 tbsp butter/oil
1 tps dried thyme (or to taste)
salt/pepper to taste
grated cheddar (to garnish)

In your largest soup pot, sauté mushrooms, onion whites, and celery in butter until just softened. Add canned soup and water (+ extra 1/2 can water). Add thyme/salt/pepper to taste. Add 1/3 parsley and 1/3 onion greens. Simmer 5 min+ to combine flavours… serve with garnishes.

Night Two – Surprising Stir-Up
leftover mushroom soup
1 large can corn niblets
3 cups fusilli pasta
retained garnishes

Prepare pasta according to package (al dente). Add drained + rinsed corn to reheated soup. Stir in pasta… serve with garnishes. Note: you may have to alter the pasta proportion depending on how much soup is left over.

Night Three – Personal Casserole
leftover mushroom stir-up
retained garnishes

Heat leftover stir-up on stovetop (pasta will have expanded to absorb soup liquid). Divide into oven safe bowls and top with hefty amount of cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbling. Garnish and serve.

In fierce anticipation of meat

Office lunch scheduled for today… at a steakhouse I can’t possibly afford. Except once this past summer, by myself, in full surrender to the experience – each bite a betrayal of my budget. The madness of it pushing the moment as far as my senses could stretch it – a complete indulgence. While others around me were simply, unceremoniously, having dinner.

Meat. There’s something dangerously primal about an animal giving its life, not just for my sustenance, but for my pleasure. I know the resource costs, the methane, the suspicious hormone side-effects, but I don’t care. Nothing about humanity is efficient, no matter what we’d like to believe. There is no underlying nobility. I confess, albeit blushingly, that it gives me a wicked thrill to think that somewhere out there a creature is plodding out its existence solely in service of my most selfish, base desires. An entire life lived for that first blissful bite…

And for the occasion, I’m in full carnivore uniform: knee high Harley Davidson boots, primal cleavage, and you can be darn sure I skipped breakfast… (which I’m sure you can already tell!) Update to follow…

Update: Fully sated, I now feel the prerequisite amount of guilt. I have sacrificed a living being to satisfy a primordial need for fleshy, sacrificial consumption. But darn it, the steak, a New York Strip, was – not to blaspheme – divine. I hang my head as one driven by the baser laws, and I wish I also felt the prerequisite amount of shame. But alas, if I am a fool, I am one of the grand old fools, and I live in the torment of my weakness. I am human. I hunger. And I eat.

A ‘Slim my Viking’ Recipe: Anthony Bourdain – ing with quick & easy summer salad rolls

Standing in the grocery store, one body among many, all of us searching for some semblance of satisfaction, the paralysis of routine takes hold. Thousands of products, but my brain sees only the dozens it has seen before. No. Not today, not with 5 days of weekday repetition looming on the other side of this Sunday afternoon: wake up, go to work, come home, do the bastard dishes, make supper, watch TV, go to bed. No.

Facing an entire wall of salad dressings, I make a choice for change. I turn around. The opposite aisle wall is a mecca of Bourdain – ian possibilities. Anthony Bourdain (sketched at right), a man I’ve followed around the world, from arrogant naiveté to arrogant wisdom. On some strange level, I love that man; as a prophet of hope and novelty, of freedom and humanity. But my heart is held by another, my Viking…

Rice paper! I can do this. Heck, I’ve seen it on TV. Suddenly, I’m on a flavour raid – bean sprouts, red pepper, chilies… designing my own recipe and pillaging (I think we all can do without the raping) for a whole new flavour profile. And if the Viking isn’t sated, I buy his favourite bread with spinach dip to fill the void. The grocery store is instantly transformed from tedium to adventure, my brain and senses fully engaged in the exploration.

Half an hour later in my kitchen, with eyes watering and mouth on fire from testing the heat of a serrano pepper, I’m draining chilled vermicelli using a mesh splatter guard (see photo for vegetable prep). To my awe and amazement, the rice paper holds, and my improvised summer salad roll recipe proves to be quick and easy (see assembly instructions below – my apologies for the white plate!), healthy, and delicious – even to my Viking! Next time you’re lost in the grocery store, why not escape your own routine and go Anthony Bourdain – ing…

Note: Store bought peanut satay sauce shown in photo. But you can also jazz up your dipping by mixing together 2-3 parts soy sauce, 1 part peanut satay sauce, 1-2 drops sesame oil, and a few drops of Sriracha hot sauce.