Lentil Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie feat. Dijon Mashed Potatoes

We’re starting to get some lasting snow and ice on the ground. That means it’s time to start cooking up what I like to call hibernation food—warm, hearty dishes to fend off the cold and build up a sturdy winter bod! (Any excuse to feast during this time of year right?)

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This shepherd’s pie is a great starting point for comfort food and a generally swell vegetarian option. It can work with adding any spare vegetables you’ve got around in your fridge if you sautee them into the filling.

The real MVP here is the creamy warmth of the dijon mashed potatoes. The tang of the mustard cuts the earthy quality of the mushroom lentil filling with contrast and a buttery mouthfeel.

…I’m going to stop writing like Martha Stewart now and let you at this recipe.

Lentil Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie feat. Dijon Mashed Potatoes
Serves 4-6
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For the Potatoes
4-5 medium yukon gold potatoes
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Milk (non-dairy OR dairy is fine)
Sea salt
Butter (optional)

For the Filling
2 c. brown lentils, cooked
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 package (227g) brown or white mushrooms, sliced
2 medium carrots, diced
2-3 celery stalks, diced
1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)

2-3 tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
1/3 c. red wine (optional)
1 c. vegetable stock (optional)
1 tbsp. arrowroot flour or cornstarch (optional)

1. Prepare the potatoes by quartering them and putting them in a large pot. Cover with water, salt generously. Bring to a rolling boil over medium heat and cook until fork tender. Drain the water and mash the potatoes vigorously. Stir in mustard and splash with milk, mixing to a thick, desired consistency. Add butter and salt to taste. Set aside.

2. In a large pan, sautée the garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until golden and fragrant. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes until slightly translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until brown and slightly shrunken, stirring occasionally.

3. When the mushrooms are cooked, add the celery and carrots, stirring until slightly softened. Now it’s time to add the lentils! If using the canned variety, drain and rinse them before adding, stirring to ensure everything is evenly mixed.

4. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Now add the soy sauce and red wine to the lentil mixture, stirring until it has evaporated. Add your peas and stir through, fresh or frozen. Taste the mixture to check your seasonings.

5. Optional step: if you want a thicker consistency for your filling, whisk 1 tbsp. arrowroot flour or cornstarch into 1 c. vegetable stock. Pour into the pan, turning up the heat to simmer and activate. (If using arrowroot, whisk quickly!)

6. Pour the lentil mixture and spread evenly into a deep, square ovenproof dish— roughly 10 x 10. Cover the mixture with the dijon mash, spreading evenly. Bake in the oven until the potatoes are browned on top–about 20 minutes.

7. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes to let the ingredients “settle.” Serve and enjoy!

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Not-Cake Berry Smoothie

The other day I was listening to a health podcast that claimed something tasted “exactly like a chocolate milkshake.” I wondered about the last time the dude speaking had actually HAD a chocolate milkshake, and how objective you could actually be about the taste of a milkshake if you hadn’t had one in a week, or a month, or a year.

And then two weekends ago, post-run, I whipped up this dreamy, creamy smoothie and thought on first sip, “this tastes JUST LIKE CAKE!!!” …I haven’t had cake in awhile.

I can guarantee you that this smoothie does not taste like cake, BUT it is delicious, packed with antioxidants, protein, and healthy fats to keep you satisfied. The optional greens powder adds a little kick of vitamins and minerals that might otherwise be missed by the lack of spinach. Spinach cake ain’t much fun, people. I’ll stick to smoothies.

Not-Cake Berry Smoothie
Serves 1
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1 c. coconut milk
1/2 frozen banana
1/3-1/2 c. plain kefir
1 c. frozen mixed berries
1/2 – 1 full scoop berry protein powder (I use Vega One. Vanilla protein also works!)
Extra coconut milk or water, to thin out as needed
1 scoop greens powder (optional)

1. Put coconut milk, frozen banana, and kefir into your blender, and blend until smooth.

2. Add berries, protein powder, and any add-ins you might want to the mixture. (I used greens powder and a little ashwagandha!)

3. Blend, pausing to scrape down the sides of the blender with a rubber spatula if needed. Process until entirely smooth, adding more liquid until texture is to your liking.

4. Pour into a glass (or drink from your blender, nobody’s judgin’)! Drink up, and then go find yourself some real cake.

How to Run in Cold Weather (Because Treadmills Make You Want to Cry)

Between the temperature change, the ice, the snow, and the option to just stay inside, keeping up a running routine through the winter months can be a challenge.

Some might say the sane alternative is to hit the treadmill, but unless it’s -30 C and polar bears have risen in revenge for climate change to rule the earth, I would rather an outdoor run with precaution over a mind-numbing, long indoor one.

Whether you’re looking to survive a whole winter running outdoors, or just curious about trying cold weather running for the first time, here are some of the best tips I’ve gathered through experience to brave the elements and run happy all season long!

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Sleep In
Because the sun doesn’t come up until later during the winter months, the temperature doesn’t either. If you’re dealing with some serious cold, or even just temps beyond your comfort level, try trading in your early morning run for a mid-day jaunt when it’s warmed up, even slightly. You might have to get creative and go running on your lunch hour, but it will be worth it! Don’t forget the sunscreen!

Dress For Warm(er) Weather
Stay comfy by avoiding under AND over-dressing. The general rule of thumb is that running makes you feel it’s about 10 C (or 20 F) warmer than it actually is outside. So if you’re running in 0 C weather, you want to dress like you’re running in 10 C. This will help keep you comfortable once you really get going!

Warm Up Inside
Get your muscles warm before you head outside with some dynamic stretches to get your heart rate up and your blood flowing. Warming up indoors means you’re ready to go as soon as you get outdoors. That means less time in the cold between you, a Netflix marathon, and your unicorn onesie.
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Layer Up, Layer Often
Running gear can be pricy as heck, so layering can use the gear you’ve already got to full advantage. My personal tactic for layering is 2-2-3, working from the bottom up, with the layer closest to the body always being technical fabric.

• Two pairs of socks: sports socks underneath, thicker wool pair on top.
• Two pairs of leggings: thermal (if you have them) underneath, and a second cotton pair on top.
• Three (or four) shirts: technical fabric long-sleeve, cotton long sleeve, and sweater or jacket. When it’s REALLY cold, I’ll add another shirt because I like to imagine I’m a really fancy cake, and stay warm. I’d rather be over-baked than under, if you catch my drift.

Mind Your Headspace
Cold air can be a shock to your lungs, making running harder. Consider getting a cowl or a scarf you don’t mind getting sweaty to cover your nose and mouth. A hat or hood will help your ears stay warm and keep you from losing heat on the top of your head, while a headband will protect your ears, allowing some heat to escape on milder winter days. Choose your headgear wisely! Sunglasses will keep the wind from making your eyes tear up, but if you breathe on them, they will fog like nobody’s business, so be ready for that!

Say “Cleats!”
I’ve got one pair of running shoes, and I generally use them all seasons. In the winter, with snow and ice, I use pull-on traction aids to help keep myself safe from falls or slips that could cause injury.  Find these in your local running store or online! (There are also shoes made just for running in winter, but I this is a more budget-friendly option.)

Be Smart
There might genuinely be some days when it’s too cold or too icy to go running. The best thing to do is recognize these days, and use them for rest, treadmill runs (ugh), or cross training.

So there you have it, a way to stay warm, keep moving, and prepare for the coming of our polar bear overlords. (Wait, what?)

Thoughts On: Half Marathon Madness and Sadness

So, I ran a half marathon. It might be the hardest, best thing I’ve ever done.

Words are never going to capture this, and I’m hesitant to even TRY, but here. HERE. Have some nouns and verbs while I try and scrape my life off of the bottom of my running shoes.

Training: every step I took, I was gunning towards the future finish line, towards a better version of myself—and getting closer to who I was in the process. A long run offers a look at your human core more than any other activity I know. You see who you are, and imagine who you might be when it’s all over. I poured myself into those twelve weeks. I was up and dedicated. I ran in the morning before the sun came up, in the blinding heat and the rain. I was nervous, but I was ready.

Race day: hot for October. Myself and about 12,000 other runners ran through the heat, through the doubt. Some people came in costume, so I can officially say I’ve been running with Batman and I passed the Flash. I had one mantra, over and over: I bet on myself. I bet on myself. I bet on myself.

I chugged over the sticky pavement of the gel station, and pushed past the intense rib cramp when I guzzled too much water in the last mile. I went a little crazy during the last kilometre—a talking to myself, shuffling in agony kinda crazy… But all the pain went away for the big finish.

I heard my family call my name from the sidelines, and I took out my headphones and I finished the race the way I had finished all my training runs—speeding straight for home.

All the pain of the furthest, no-walk, no-break distance I had gone in my life burned away, I felt… happy. It’s the kind of happiness you remember for the rest of your forever, so mingled with raw intensity and shock and exhaustion.  That happiness was three months of hard work paid off. That happiness was me, alive! Me, accomplished!

Every step that propelled me forward over the last 100 metres signalled the end of one dream, the final pulse of one goal; with each step after, I felt the steady beat of a new beginning, the fresh heartbeat of a future challenge. I grinned, cried, gasping so much a volunteer asked me if I was alright. A female runner to my left doubled over and vomited.

Now it’s over. To be HONEST, those two post-race recovery weeks were a little wobbly and frustrating. In the wake of this huge accomplishment, I’m trying to figure out the next goal. Do I want to be faster? Run further? Keep it up? Post-race blues are trying to set in. At least with winter looming I know I can keep myself warm with all I’ve done, and begin the search for the path forward, whether it’s a race or just a quick 3K around the neighbourhood…

That, and I’ve always got a wicked race medal to remind me I’m a lot tougher than I feel.

Saving the Last Kilometre

Two weeks from now, I’ll (hopefully) have finished my first ever half marathon. This morning, I set out for the last ambitious long training run before the big event. Since it’s Thanksgiving weekend, I was in the place I started running: my hometown. I mapped my route through farm country and wrote all the turns on my arm to avoid needing GPS to remember the route, or how far I had to go on each long stretch.

It was a challenging run. Training in the big city means having breaks at red lights everywhere. Out in the country, there were no red lights to rest my legs, and more big hills than I’ve ever taken on.

I was in some pain coming up on the 11th kilometre. I was pushing harder than I’ve pushed myself, and was already thinking about being home, even with another 8km ahead. That’s when the universe spoke: I ran by a church and the sign outside caught my attention.
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“Life isn’t a race—find joy in the journey!”

I’m not religious, but I think of myself as somewhat spiritual. I can find subtext in everything, but this went above and beyond subliminal messages and into the category of “weird cosmic signal” and “breathtaking coincidence.” So I breathed deeper. I started up running again, and tried to enjoy the feeling of my lungs being full and the sight of changing leaves… even as the hills kept coming.  I still got to enjoy that my legs were WORKING and I was out there!

At the end I nudged myself just a little further along to a full 20km. That means there’s only one kilometre left, and I’m keeping it for race day. Some people run the race distance BEFORE the race to make sure they can finish. I get it, and always, always, to each their own. Still, I’m listening to my instincts and the universe, and holding onto it, running on a little cosmic fate.

You might say I’m saving that last 1000 metres for a special occasion.

Thoughts On: Running and Digging Yourself Up

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Running sucks.

*Running can suck—a universal fact for runners of all abilities. If you’re taking on your first block or your 100th marathon, we can all agree that our sport doesn’t always love us back. The thing is, hard runs are some of the most beneficial.

When the going gets tough, every step can dredge up the things you push down, thoughts you might not have if your mind is chock-full of every day life. Sometimes, lacing up and heading out carries the runner closer to a bigger truth about themselves.

It’s dramatic to say, but sometimes… running feels a little bit like destiny. I can feel the changes this half marathon training is raising in me. I’m finding facets of myself I’ve never seen before—grit, drive, a sense of my place. When I move forward with purpose, sometimes it feels like the steps themselves are my purpose.

Most of us won’t break records or claim gold on the world’s stage for our hobbies, but running gives—and we take—our victories. We unearth these deeper, buried parts of ourselves, every time we do something we once believed soul-deep impossible. We hold up these truths and the accomplishments that come with them as our gold and silver and bronze.

So, reminder: your willpower is precious and your work has value. You are more than your surface. Digging down isn’t easy,  but every step you surge forward, and every run you leave behind doesn’t make you stronger—it just shows you a strength you had buried all along.

Refreshing Lime Cucumber Smoothie

They cancelled the full Montreal marathon this weekend because of our current heat wave—but people still got to run the half!  Since Sundays are my long run days, I also got my badonk outside to power around the city in the hot weather, which meant seeing some of the runners in action. Watching all of the different participants supporting each other and wearing their numbers got me pretty excited about my own impending doom half marathon on October 22nd. (Week 9 of training officially begins on Monday!)

It was a tough run. The humidity made everything twice as hard. I poured about half of the water I was carrying straight down my back, and the last couple of kilometres were uphill. BUT, when it was over and done, and I forced myself to stretch—it was time for a recovery smoothie!

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This smoothie is a green dream! It’s on the lighter side in terms of taste and texture—there’s a time and a place for your double chocolate peanut butter mayhem, but for me, it’s not after hustling my butt around in 30 degree weather for two hours. The lime juice makes it refreshing, and the cucumber is re-hydrating. There’s also protein powder and banana to replenish your carb stores and help aid muscle recovery! Good stuff all around!

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You could even swap half the milk for coconut water and refill those electrolytes, and add more ice to up the chill factor. Side note: I ran Saturday and Sunday this weekend and made this smoothie after BOTH because I liked it so much. GET BLENDING!

Refreshing Lime Cucumber Smoothie
Serves 1
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1 c. almond milk
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1/2 frozen banana
1/2 c. cucumber, diced
1/2 c. spinach
2 tbsp. lime juice
1 pinch sea salt

Optional: greens powder, 1 tbsp. maca powder, other add-ins of your choice!

1. Measure out almond milk, frozen banana, cucumber, and spinach into blender and run until smooth.

2. Add in the protein powder, lime juice, sea salt, and any of your other add-ins! (I used maca powder and a greens powder to stay on colour theme.)  Also add ice here if you feel like it!

3. Blend until smooth, pour into a glass, and enjoy!