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The Importance of Rest

The Importance of Rest

Hi everyone!

You may have noticed I’ve been absent on my blog in the past couple of weeks. I decided to take a bit of a break from blogging and social media. I’m trying to work out how I can create a healthy and balanced relationship with them instead of feeling compelled to constantly distract myself or obligated to post new content all the time. I never want to feel more connected to people online at the expense of feeling disconnected from people in real life. More importantly, I needed to rest. In recent years, I’ve committed myself to prioritizing self-care, something I’ve struggled with in the past. So, a disconnect was needed in order to reconnect to myself. During my time off I wrote this piece I’ve called The Importance of Rest. It’s just as much a reminder to myself as it is something I’d like to share with others who may need a little reminding of the value of rest. I’m still enjoying blogging, sharing recipes, and writing articles, as well as mindfully approaching my social media presence – but only doing it when it’s coming from a place of inspiration as opposed to obligation – something that is a direct result of me taking time to rest, enjoy life, and flow rather than forcing it. Wishing you a restful evening!

-Brooke xo

 

The Importance of Rest

I am not separate from you. I am that part within you that is craving rest, that is telling you to slow down, that wants you to take time out for yourself, for deep healing. I am the part of you that knows this, that longs for this, and I am here to encourage you to listen. Listen to your body’s messages and allow yourself time to rest.

 

How often do we rest for resting’s sake? We cannot avoid resting because we believe other things have more significance in our lives. We don’t just rest to become more productive or focused in our work, or rest in order to work more. It is not just a means to an end. It is a vital end in itself and to our lives. So rest unapologetically. Rest without purpose.

 

Do not be suspicious of rest. Do not be distrustful of rest. Rest is something as natural as eating and drinking. If we are hungry we eat, if we are thirsty we drink, if we are itchy we scratch, if we are cold we put on a sweater. But if we are tired, do we generally take the time to fully rest and restore? Or do we instead drink a cup or three of coffee or an energy drink to keep up with the frantic pace? Do we put ourselves down for being lazy or unmotivated? Do we distract ourselves on social media, getting caught up in the comparison trap that everyone else seems to be able to do a million different things without stopping? Do we keep pushing and pushing until we eventually collapse from injury, illness, or sheer exhaustion?

 

We are radically out of balance if we do not value true rest. We have more disease in physical and mental health than ever before. We are stuck on the hamster wheel of “doing.” We are too distracted and busy to notice our own erosion. We ignore our body’s signals and deny its pleas to slow down and rest.

 

We must start realizing the danger of our addiction to busyness. We must start counterbalancing the activity and stimulus by being comfortable in stillness and silence. This time is needed in order to heal, to take care of ourselves, and to bring balance to our mental thoughts and emotions – the inner world.

 

We must create healthier habits in our lives and deliberately carve out time for dedicated, deliberate rest. We must challenge and eliminate the beliefs that keep us from allowing ourselves real rest when we need it. Your self worth is more than just how productive you are. Your worth is in simply existing.

 

Whole Grain Wheat Sandwich Bread

Whole Grain Wheat Sandwich Bread

“There is no smell in the world of food to equal the perfume of baking bread and few greater pleasures in eating than sitting down with a slice of freshly baked bread, good butter, and a cup of tea or coffee.” – James Beard, Beard on Bread

 

There is nothing that makes me quite as happy as baking bread. It will forever be my favourite thing to make and to eat. Homemade bread with butter and a little honey would be my last meal, my desert island food, my one thing I could eat without ever tiring of. I made this recipe last Sunday and we have already eaten our way through both loaves – what can I say, we adore homemade bread in my house!

 

I went through a period where I adhered to a gluten-free diet because I thought that was what my body needed to heal from certain digestive and hormonal health issues. I had a few close people in my life who also needed to avoid gluten (due to Celiac disease and IBS) so I wanted to be able to cook for them and enjoy food together. Around the same time, I also completed a Culinary Nutrition training program that was completely gluten-free and dairy-free, so I avoided both gluten and dairy products for the duration of the program. Although these were interesting times for me to explore eating other types of grains, develop my skills in gluten-free baking, and learn about nutrition, I’ve realized that my life will never be quite as joyful or complete if it doesn’t include bread. And I don’t care what anyone tries to convince you of: there is no good gluten-free bread! Luckily, by tuning into my own body instead of following the dizzying array of books, articles, studies, nutritionists and trends out there in the nutrition world, I’ve come to find that my body can tolerate gluten. If I eat bread, pastries, pasta, and other gluten-containing foods with the same moderation and non-judgment I eat all other foods with, my body digests it just fine and I feel great. If there ever comes a day where my body tells me otherwise, I will respect that and make the food choices that help me to feel my best. For now, I will enjoy my homemade bread slathered thickly with butter and love every minute of satisfaction it brings into my life. Life is too short to stress out about food, especially when our body gives us no good reason to! I think the most dangerous thing we can do for our health is trust what works for someone else over our own bodies’ wisdom. I did it for many years in my attempt to find health in my body, and I’ve stressed and worried myself all the way into poor health trying to abide by someone else’s food rules. At this point in my life, the enjoyment and freedom that being able to eat everything without restriction gives me is much more valuable to my health than any of the perceived health benefits of being gluten-free. I’d rather live until 85 enjoying every minute of my life and being able to try every food I encounter, instead of living to 105 in fear of the “bad” things that will happen to me if I veer away from subsisting on a short list of “healthy” foods. Just remember, your body is the only one of its kind in the world, and you only have to do what feels good in your body. Although something may have been the key to perfect health for someone else, it may not be for you.

 

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight… [Breadmaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells… there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.” ― M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

 

I resonate with M.F.K. Fisher’s quote so much because the whole process of breadmaking is truly like a meditation to me – it is such a soothing transformation. The simplest, humblest ingredients of flour, water, yeast, and salt, combined with the effort and energy of kneading, and the quiet patience of proofing, result in something so fragrant, delicious, and comforting. It is something that requires time, energy, and attention, so much more so than many other foods. I like to believe this is why we love it so much and it is a staple food in nearly every culture around the world. You can really experience food as an act of devotion and care when you enjoy a homemade bread.

 

I’ve taught a few breadmaking workshops in the past, and they have always been my favourite cooking classes to teach. Something about bread just connects us. I find that it is also a food that many people are intimidated by, and feel as though they need to have a certain level of skill to master. I always love watching the pride and satisfaction as people who have never made bread before pull their first homemade loaves out of the oven. Breadmaking is truly for everyone, and I promise that it is much easier than I think many people realize. The more you work with yeast and dough, the more intuitive a process it will become. You will become accustomed to the look and feel of the dough as you move through each stage, knowing when it is “right” and when something is off. You will learn the nuances and temperament of your home oven, which can vary quite dramatically from home to home, so you know when to leave your bread in for a little longer to bake perfectly, or when to take it out a little earlier than a recipe may call for. Don’t be afraid! Just give it a try, and if it doesn’t turn out then just keep trying… or come over to my house on a Sunday and join me in making some bread together.

 

I’d like to take a moment to talk about flour, because all grains are not created equal! In fact, much of the wheat flour we are consuming nowadays is so far from the actual wheat grain that humans have eaten for thousands of years, thanks to modern, industrial agriculture which prioritizes high yield, low cost crops over nutrition and variety every time. It’s not enough to just buy “whole wheat” flour or whole wheat bread and assume that you are getting the benefits and nutrients of the whole grain. In Canada, whole wheat flour is simply the same as white flour with some of the bran added back in after processing. It goes through the same high level of processing as white flour, and just gets a little bit of fiber added back in. These flours are also usually enriched afterwards with the vitamins and minerals that are destroyed during processing, which sounds nice but does little to actually enhance the nutrition of the flour that we consume. It’s like smashing a crystal vase and then duct taping it back together – sure all the pieces might be there, but it is so far from the original and once it’s been broken, you can never return it to its former wholeness. What you should look for in grain products is “whole grain,” which means that the entire grain was milled and used to create the flour, leaving all the nutrients intact and available to nourish your body. Stone milled grains are preferable, as that protects the delicate nutrients and volatile oils from being destroyed during the grinding process. Most whole grains have a short shelf-life because when you have a living, highly nutritious food, it should spoil! The fatty acids will begin to oxidize once the grains have been milled, so you should always try to buy whole grain flours as close to the milling date as possible, and store them in the freezer to help prolong their shelf life. I would be hesitant to buy any whole grain products that have been sitting on store shelves for months and months, as they are probably rancid.

 

There are so many people nowadays who are going gluten-free because of a whole host of health problems that are being attributed to the protein in wheat and other grains called gluten. It’s unfortunate that gluten is being demonized for nearly every health problem under the sun, when really it is just the canary in the coalmine that is the industrial agricultural system. The wheat we are eating today is very very different from the wheat our grandparents grew up eating. “Modern wheat,” as it’s called (as opposed to heirloom wheat) was only introduced as a crop in the 1960s. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that we are only now seeing rapidly increasing amounts of people with digestive health issues and gluten sensitivities. We have not been eating the wheat that Mother Nature intended, and we are the generation that is now suffering the consequences. Sure, modern agriculture with its high yields and low costs may be “feeding the world,” but is it really nourishing the world?

 

The whole grain whole wheat flour I used is from Gold Forest Grains, an organic farm in Central Alberta that has an incredible selection of organic heirloom and ancient grains. I order bags of their whole grain flours and oats through The Organic Box, but if you live in Edmonton you can also find them at The Old Strathcona Farmers Market, as well as a few other locations listed on their website! Their flours are so special because they are made from heirloom grain varieties. These are the grains that have not been genetically modified to resist high levels of pesticide, herbicides and droughts to result in higher yield crops. These are the grains that haven’t been genetically altered to create dwarf crops that are easy to harvest, but are nearly void of nutrients because their roots are so close to the surface of the soil. Gold Forest Grains slowly stone mills the entire grain, which contains all the bran (the fiber) and the germ (all the nutrients and essential oils). This makes for an incredibly nutritious flour that hasn’t had all the power of the grain stripped away or damaged during processing on steel mills. Their flours do not contain any additives, preservatives, pesticides, bleaching, or dough conditioning agents, like most of the commercial flours on the market – it is just the purely wholesome, heirloom grain that people have been farming and eating for centuries before the introduction of modern wheat varieties and industrial agriculture.

 

I highly recommend making this bread recipe using a whole grain, heirloom wheat, if you have them available to you. Check out your local farmer’s market or health food store, or order through The Organic Box, to find some! There is so much about heirloom grains and the whole gluten-free epidemic that I would love to just write for days on… but I will leave it here for now so you can go start this bread recipe. If you’d like to read more on modern wheat, whole grains, and how these impact our health, check out these articles:

https://www.grainstorm.com/pages/modern-wheat

https://authoritynutrition.com/modern-wheat-health-nightmare/

If you’d like to get excited to bake bread, then watch the “Air” episode of Michael Pollan’s Netflix docu-series, Cooked.. it’s magic.

Whole Grain Wheat Sandwich Bread

Servings 2 loaves
Author Brooke McMillan

Ingredients

  • 3 cups lukewarm water (not hot otherwise you will kill the yeast!)
  • 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon Himalayan sea salt
  • 3 cups whole grain wheat flour
  • 3 cups organic all-purpose flour
  • extra whole grain wheat flour, for dusting the countertop and the bread loaves

Instructions

  1. In a large 5 quart bowl or lidded food container, mix together the water, yeast, and salt.

  2. Mix in the whole grain wheat flour with a large wooden spoon, then stir in the all-purpose flour. Use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour so that there are no dry patches remaining. The dough will be a bit sticky. There is no need to knead it for this recipe!

  3. Cover the bowl or container with a clean kitchen towel or a loose lid and allow the dough to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses, about 2 hours.

  4. Cover and refrigerate the dough for 24 hours or up to 14 days. The slow, cold rise will give you an incredible flavour and texture. It is worth the wait!

  5. When you are ready to bake, remove the dough from the fridge and dust the top of the dough with whole wheat flour. Divide the dough in half and work with one piece at a time. Dust the piece with a bit more flour and quickly shape the loaf by stretching the top off the dough around to the bottom of the dough ball while rotating it (that is an awkward way to explain it, but basically you are just gathering all the dough towards the bottom of a ball to form a tight ball of dough).

  6. Drop the formed loaf into a 9x5" loaf pan that has been greased very well with butter or oil. The loaf should fill the pan about halfway full at this point. Repeat this shaping process with the remaining half of the dough if you'd like to bake both loaves at once, or you can return the remaining half of the dough to the fridge to use in the next two weeks.

  7. Allow the dough to rest for 2-3 hours in a warm place, until the top of the loaf just come over the top of the loaf pan. Dust the top of the loaf with whole wheat flour and slash the top of the loaf with a serrated knife. This gives the loaf room to expand in the oven as it bakes, plus it looks pretty.

  8. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the loaf in the centre of the oven for 60-75 minutes, until the top is deeply browned, the loaf feels firm, and it sounds hollow when you tap the bottom of the loaf. You can also take the internal temperature of the bread with a kitchen thermometer. It is done when it reaches 190°F.

  9. Allow the loaf to cool completely before slicing. This is important to allow the steam inside of the loaf to finish cooking it all the way through, and to ensure your loaf slices easily without tearing. However, I completely understand the irresistible nature of fresh bread warm from the oven. Why do you think this recipe makes two loaves? Tear into one hot and fresh from the oven, and save the other to cool and slice up later.

Recipe Notes

*This no-knead dough recipe method was adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François.

Maple Dijon Glazed Salmon

Maple Dijon Glazed Salmon

I made this recipe with my grade 9 Foods class this week and it was a huge hit! Many of my students had never tried salmon before, and I was so happy that all twenty-nine of them agreed to try it. There is magic in letting kids cook their own food – I swear! Whenever I am faced with picky kids who turn up their noses at the mere mention of a new or “different” food, I always bust out one of my signature catch phrases: “You don’t have to like it but you do have to try it.” You’d be surprised by how many times this scenario ended up in a student actually loving the food that they tried. And if a student tells me they’ve “tried” whatever the food is before, I always ask them: “But have you tried this exact recipe? How do you know you won’t like it until you try?” For me, it’s not about wanting them to love every single food they eat, because that’s just not realistic, it’s about teaching them to at least give something a chance before they write it off altogether, and also giving different preparation methods a chance before they never eat a certain food again. I think it’s a philosophy that can be transferred into many different areas of life beyond the kitchen… how often do we let fear of something new or different, or a negative past experience, hold us back from what could potentially be a source of joy or growth?

 

This recipe is so simple it barely even needs a recipe. Salmon is such a great weeknight meal when you want something quick and delicious with minimal effort. It’s also a great go-to when you are entertaining and want to keep things simple but still serve a nice meal. Salmon works so well with many different flavour profiles, and it doesn’t take much to end up with a delicious meal. Not to mention salmon is such an incredible source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are so beneficial for brain, heart, and hormonal health. It’s a perfect lunch for growing teenagers and who are trying to focus at school (or growing adults who need to focus at work)!

 

I’m proud to say that all but two students licked their plates clean of their salmon, and that this recipe successfully converted some salmon sceptics into salmon lovers. It’s a little sweet, a little tangy, and best of all, ready in less than 20 minutes! I hope you make it (maybe with your own kids)! And if you’re not a fan of salmon…. have you tried this exact recipe before?

 

Maple Dijon Glazed Salmon


Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 17 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Brooke McMillan

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 4 teaspoons grainy Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
  • 2 lbs. wild salmon fillet

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F with a rack placed in the middle of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. In a small bowl, combine the maple syrup, mustard, and salt. 

  3. Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel. Place the salmon on the baking sheet, skin-side down. Spoon the maple glaze over the fish and spread evenly.

  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the salmon flakes easily with a fork. Enjoy!