Chocolate Oat Bites

I like to make my own naughty treats because at least I know that all the ingredients are real and I can adapt them to suit my needs. This recipe is diary and wheat free. You can eliminate the nuts and substitute almond milk for coconut milk to make it nut free. (see my Vegan Seed Bites recipe). This recipe makes about 24 pieces, at around 2×2″. Keep in the fridge.

Ingredients:
  • 4 cups of oats
  • 1 cup of sultanas or raisins
  • 1/2 cup of slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup of hazelnut pieces
  • 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup of almond milk
  • 2 bananas
  • 2 large bars of dark dairy free cooking chocolate (or regular dark cooking chocolate / or carob chocolate)
Instructions:
  • Preheat oven to about 200c/400F.
  • Mash 2 bananas in a mixing bowl.
  • Add oats, all nuts, seeds and fruit to bowl.
  • Melt coconut oil and golden syrup in a pan slowly until both are runny.
  • Poor mixture in bowl along with almond milk and mix thoroughly.
  • Place mixture in a large tin, lined with grease proof paper, or parchment paper.
  • Bake for 25 mins. Oat Bites without the chocolate
  • Let stand to cool for 30 mins.bain-marie
  • Prepare a bain marie. A bain marie is best for melting chocolate as it is easy to accidentally burn chocolate. To do this, boil some water in a saucepan. Put a heat safe bowl, like Pyrex over the top of the boiling water and place the pieces of chocolate into the bowl. It should take just a few minutes for the chocolate to melt completely.
  • Poor the melted chocolate over the cooled oat bites. Allow to chill in fridge for 30 mins, then cut into chunks and serve!Chocolate Oat Bites
  • These bites are really rich. The dark chocolate is very powerful. If you prefer, substitute the dark chocolate with milk chocolate, if you’re okay with dairy. I’ve used Green & Black’s Organic 70% Dark Chocolate to make this treat before, which turned out rather well too.

Vegan, Nut Free Seed Bites

A healthy, filling treat packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber and yumminess!

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups of Oats
  • 2 tbsp Golden Syrup
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup of sultanas
  • 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup of flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup of hemp hearts
  • 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds
Instructions:
  • Mash one banana in a bowl. Add oats, all the seeds and sultanas.
  • Heat golden syrup and coconut oil on low until runny.
  • Poor coconut milk, coconut oil and syrup over oats and seeds.
  • Mix thoroughly.
  • If the mixture seems runny, add more oats.
  • Pack mixture tightly into a baking tin lined with grease proof paper, or parchment paper.
  • Bake at 180c for 30 mins. Let sit for 30 mins before cutting and serving.

Yellow Bean & Watercress Noodle Soup

This is a great, light meal that I often have for breakfast or lunch, sometimes dinner when I’m being lazy. It takes about 5 mins to make and is also pretty cheap to put together. You can easily make it vegan by removing the eggs from the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • Organic Watercress
  • Yellow bean paste (available at most Asian markets)
  • Soy Sauce (for taste only)
  • Sesame Oil
  • Ground Pepper
  • 1-2 free range organic eggs
  • Rice noodles
  • Water

Instructions:

  • Boil at least 1 inch of water in a saucepan. Amount can vary based on how much soup you want, but you need at least enough to cover the noodles.
  • Add between a teaspoon and tablespoon of yellow bean paste, to taste. I like a lot of liquid, so I put about 2 inches of water in the saucepan and a heaping tablespoon of paste.
  • Let the paste dissolve, then add rice noodles. The noodles double in thickness, so don’t over estimate how many you need.
  • Simmer for 1 minute. Then turn down heat until the water is hardly bubbling. Crack eggs straight into the mix and let them poach for 1-2 minutes. If you like your eggs soft, only cook for 1 min and remove from heat before the eggs are fully cooked, as the heat from the soup will continue to cook them for a few minutes, while the soup is too hot to consume.
  • Break up the watercress loosely and place in the bottom of your serving bowl.
  • Carefully pour your noodle and soup mix over the watercress. The heat from the soup will cook the watercress perfectly in the bowl.
  • Add pepper, soy sauce and sesame oil to taste.

Leek & Potato Soup

This is a vegan recipe that you can adapt for vegetarians by adding dairy, and for meat eaters, by adding bacon off cuts. I’ll include notes in the description for these options, but the basic recipe is diary and meat free. This batch will serve about 6-8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium onions
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 3 large leaks
  • 4 large potatoes
  • 2 tbsps Coconut Oil
  • Salt
  • Finely ground white pepper
  • Water
  • (A splash of milk or cream, and 1/4 lbs butter for added vegetarian option.)
  • (1/2 lb of bacon off cuts for meat eaters.)
  • Bread for croutons

Instructions:

Sweating Leeks and Onions
Sweating Leeks and Onions
  • Heat coconut oil in large pot. Chop garlic and onions finely and sweat in oil for a couple of minutes.
  • If you are adding meat, chop it finely and add it to the mix now. Brown gently before moving to the next step.
  • Chop leeks finely and add to onions and garlic. Sweat leeks until they start to go soft.
  • Add boiling water to the mixture, covering all the ingredients in the pot.
  • Add salt and pepper.
  • Bring to the boil, then add finely chopped potatoes to the mix.
  • Bring to a boil again, then reduce heat and partially cover with a lid. Allow to simmer for about an hour. Stir occasionally. Make sure to add more water if it seems like the liquid is evaporating. I may add up to 4 pints of water while I’m cooking. Add less for a thicker soup.
  • You can cook this for more time if want. I like to leave it on low and cook it for a couple of hours usually. I go away and do other things while it is cooking. You can cook it in a slow cooker if you like too.
  • Your soup is now ready. For non vegans, you can now add a dash of dairy to the soup to make it creamier. Just pop in the extra dairy to taste and stir on low heat.
  • I prefer a chunky soup, but if you prefer a smooth soup, simply blend the soup now before serving.
  • Chop bread in to tiny cubes and gently shallow fry in oil to make croutons.

To Soy or Not to Soy?

That is the question!

And the answer continues to remain controversial. There is a wealth of conflicting information online regarding this subject.

As a cancer survivor, British asian, fitness professional and someone who does not consume animal meat or poultry, the subject of soy in food continues to come up. So let me break it down into as short a piece as I can to give you a general sense of it all in plain English from my perspective.

The Good:

Some studies promote its health benefits with statements like:  Soy’s anti-estrogen properties prevent breast cancer, its fiber content can lower colorectal cancer, and in various stages of prostate cancer soy lowered PSA levels. Here’s one such study: MDAndersonorg

Other pluses for soy include its low fat content and high protein content, making it an efficient nutrient, especially in a vegetarian diet.

Many western articles point to asians having lower occurrences of certain types of cancer, reasoning that asians eat a high amount of soy. They use statistics to prove that the two facts are related. Here’s a WebMD article detailing an example of this theory.

Books like the China Study link an asian diet heavy in soy with health benefits.

The Bad:

Some studies show that soy consumption switches on cancer-forming genes, increasing the rate of cancer cell growth; like this one on breastcancer.org

Others provide studies linking soy to miscarriages, hormonal disruptions, infertility, loss of libido and erectile dysfunction; like this one from Dr. Mercola.

Some studies claim too much soy causes dementia and other brain issues, as well as hair loss.

The Middle Ground:

What’s clear is that the jury is out. This information sounds all too familiar: Wine is good for you, then it’s bad. Fat causes heart attacks, so we must eat nothing but carbs. Oh wait, oops, carbs are bad, now fat is back in fashion! Heard this before?

There are easy guidelines to follow here that can also be mirrored when deciding on your fat, sugar, carbs or alcohol consumption too. The rules are quite simple. In fact, there’s really only one:

DON’T EAT TOO MUCH OF IT!

I knew a middle aged woman in Oklahoma some years ago who was overweight and tried every fad diet possible to lose a few pounds. The only thing she didn’t try was sensible portions and moderation. She ended up doing crazy things like downing an entire bottle of olive oil because she read it was “good for your heart”. True story. Not long after this, she had a heart attack.

As with everything, too much of something is bad. But with soy, this statement rings even more profoundly. In an attempt to give us westerners a miracle low fat, non-meat protein substitute that’s easy to produce, the soy industry has given us a soy mutant monster. Soy protein isolate is a component of soy, literally isolated and multiplied to hulk like levels.

Enthusiastic believers in the asian diet ignore the fact that asians also eat a lot of meats, vegetables, fungi, legumes, fruits……. The point really is to look at the amounts and the ratios. They aren’t knocking back pints of soy milk like it’s going out of fashion.

Additionally, if that soy isn’t organic it may be genetically modified for hardiness to be sprayed with Round Up. This means it has probably also been sprayed with said toxic chemicals you’d never want to set foot near, much less consume.

Even if it’s organic, if it isn’t fermented, it contains high levels of phytic acid, an anti-nutrient that leaches vital nutrients from your body, and blocks the uptake of others. Dr. Mercola’s article details this well, but you can find this information in many forms if you google it. Here’s an article from foodforbreastcancer.com that suggests eliminating soy protein isolate from your diet if you are fighting breast cancer.

SoybeansWith all the back and forth, what is one supposed to believe? Conclusive findings don’t appear to be anywhere near in sight. So for myself, I choose to logic my way around the situation. Here is my deductive reasoning:

  • Soy clearly doesn’t actually cure cancer. If it did, we’d all be miraculously cured by now. So there’s no need to start consuming it heavily for its proclaimed health benefits, when I can get my protein from many sources, even if I’m a vegan.
  • Asians traditionally don’t eat unfermented soy products without also consuming some form of seafood or seaweed, which neutralized the phytic acid in the soy, making it safe to eat. So probably eating soy protein isolates and other unfermented soy products doesn’t mimic the Asian miracle diet anyway.
  • If numerous studies tell you something causes cancer, perhaps it is worth listening to that information and investigating it before jumping under the bus and regretting it later.

I choose to eat organic soy and fermented soy products in moderation.  I avoid any foods containing soy protein isolates like the plague; like soy milk and soy burgers. I don’t go near soy beans aka Edamame either. This crop was originally used in between usable crop seasons on fallow land to re-nourish the soil and wasn’t consumed in its bean form. Asians knew it to be poisonous to consume as is. Hence, they developed a way to ferment the bean and make it edible. Here’s an article that I quickly googled referencing this at authorityNutrition.com. Edemame is not fermented! It doesn’t make the cut!

Here is a list of soy based products I personally deem safe:

  • Organic Tofu – but I try to make sure I consume some form of seaweed or seafood along with it. It doesn’t have to be much. And I don’t eat it very often, perhaps once a month as my source of protein. I happen to LOVE tofu, so it’s hard not to eat too much of it to be honest!
  • Organic Miso – fermented soy paste soup, sometimes with seaweed and tofu.
  • Organic Tempeh – Health food stores have a lot of Tempeh burgers/patties to choose from, in various flavors.
  • Organic Soy Sauce – a fermented sauce.
  • Natto is also a fermented soy product that makes the cut, but I don’t personally like it.

Moderation, moderation, moderation!

Be sensible, read articles, make your own decisions based on more than one source.

Vipassana – 3 Day Course

Photo of Dhamma Sukhakari entrance
The front of Dhamma Sukhakari, Saxmundham, UK

Last month my partner and I took the 3 Day Vipassana residential meditation course for Old Students at Dhamma Sukhakari, in Saxmundham, Suffolk, UK. The course is a refresher or sorts for students that have already taken the 10 Day residential course.

Dhamma Sukhakari means ”Giving the happiness of Dhamma”, and the atmosphere of the center and it’s helpers definitely reflected that spirit. Everyone was really friendly, helpful and respectful during induction and course end. Of course, as with all Vipassana courses, we practiced in complete silence for the entirety of the course once the bell was sounded.

The course felt very different to the 10 day course. For starters, everyone there had experience with Vipassana, knew the rules and already had some modicum of discipline in meditating in stillness. Talking to fellow meditators before the course begun, it was very interesting to hear how Vipassana had changed their lives or helped them in ways they couldn’t have imagined. People of all ages and walks of life, each with their own stories and backgrounds, many from other countries, all gathered to practice this simple but powerful meditation technique. It was a wonderful experience to meet them and be inspired by their stories.

For me, my intention was to top up my basic practice and confirm its direction, to make sure I was staying on track. Being forced to spend 3 days doing nothing but meditating to revisit the experiences I had while on the 10 day course were part of my goal in signing up. I actually wanted to do another 10 day course, but with precious little time to spare, another 10 day course in less than a year seemed overzealous at best. So we opted for the 3 day.

If you aren’t familiar with Vipassana and the 10 Day course, I wrote three posts detailing everything about the experience. Here are links to check them out:

Vipassana Meditation – Part One: How the course benefited me.

Vipassana Meditation – Part Two: Rules for Faith & Practice.

Vipassana Meditation – Part Three: The course at SCVC & my experience there.

The structure of the 3 day course, including the schedule, the rules and the food were all maintained from the 10 day course. It seems the organizers of this group that practice around the teachings of S. N. Goenka are very coordinated and go to great pains to make sure the experience is consistent from center to center. Even the kneeling mats were the same.

Men's Bunks at Dhamma Sukhakari
Bunks in the men’s quarters.

The major differences for me at this center were in the size of the premises. In Twentynine Palms USA, there was space for long nature walks and our own bedrooms with private bathrooms. This made working in silence much more easy to do. There was much more sense of isolation, with minimal chance of contact during group meditation and dining hours. In Saxmundham, UK however, the quarters were tight, with 4 bunks per room, only 2 toilets, and 2 showers for 18 girls on the female side.

Bathroom at Dhamma Sukhakari
Ladies bathroom

Trying to remain isolated without eye contact, physical touch or speech really was quite hard, especially with the British inclination to apologize to everyone, each time you so much as cross someone’s path. I heard numerous accidental “Sorry”s muttered under the breath during these crowded times.

Even separating males and females was impossible to do in this center, as is the practice at Vipassana centers. Our quarters were separated by a single door inside, which was sufficient, but by a thin hedge on one side of the garden, and an awkwardly positioned trailer on the other. On the first day, a male wandered on to the wrong side of the garden and saw me in my bedroom, thankfully clothed. Needless to say, this was distracting, though not intentional. It took a day or so for everyone to get used to where the undefined boundaries really were, to avoid each other.

Male helpers would walk through the girls’ quarters frequently through necessity. The layout of this center doesn’t allow for multiple separate entrances to the kitchen. I didn’t find this distracting however. It was noticeable, especially with the male meditators on the 10 day course, that by day 10 many of them were gawking at the girls. But on this very short course of experienced meditators, the atmosphere was much more focused.

Backyard at Dhamma Sukhakari
Back yard walking area.

Walking in the garden was especially awkward, as it wasn’t really big enough for more than a couple of people to move around in without getting in each other’s way. It was cold in January, so this wasn’t much of a problem, with most girls staying indoors wrapped up in blankets.

I feel like as an Old Student (as one is automatically called once completing the 10 day course), the challenges of the center were chances to use the skills I had learned. I do feel like this center would have been too challenging for me as a New Student, and this is perhaps why this center is more focused on 3 Day courses. I felt a sense of claustrophobia and no sense of privacy. I spent much of my down time from meditation observing these feelings as sankaras.

The constant distraction made it feel difficult for me to get back to the level of focus I had attained on the 10 day course, and by day 2, this was bothering me. I was also having a hard time with the heat. The heaters in the center were all cranked up full blast, and sleeping in the top bunk, with up facing heat fans blowing on you, isn’t a pleasant experience, even when it is cold outside. I’m usually someone who runs cold, and had expected to be chilly on this course, bringing only warm clothes to sleep and meditate in, given the weather and British tendency to only use the least amount of energy possible to take the edge off. By the middle of the first night, I was burning up, sweating and having trouble sleeping.

I tend to get insomnia anyway and am a very light sleeper. My bunk mates were heavy sleepers who snored, but would wake up numerous times throughout the night to pee, then fall right back asleep. This led to me being woken up constantly through the night, taking a long time to fall asleep again, only to be woken at 4am with the morning bell. I was very grumpy.

By Saturday lunch time I was sleep deprived and overheated. Every time I closed my eyes, I would fall asleep. Every time I tried to sleep, I would be woken up. Every time I opened the window to get some relief from the hot air trapped in my top bunk, a girl from the bottom bunk would close it. I was frustrated and exhausted. Unable to express in any form of communication how hot it was on the top bunk, made it impossible to make her understand that my situation was unlivable. I had however noticed that the girl on the other top bunk was similarly hot, as she too would open the window every time it was closed. Knowing that I wasn’t the only one suffering did help, but didn’t fix the situation.

During morning meditation on Saturday, I had to leave the meditation hall to remove clothes, as I felt like I was going to pass out. By this time, I was very disappointed and frustrated that my experience wasn’t going as planned. Vipassana rules include not being allowed to wear revealing clothes, including sleeveless tops, vests, shorts, leggings etc. I felt trapped in the heat, and this created its own additional heat in the form of anger and frustration. By lunch time, I seriously considered packing up and leaving. I sat alone outside in the freezing cold for over an hour contemplating my situation and cooling off my body temperature.

While sitting there, I realized that this experience was part of a sankhara I needed to address. I had started to become angry and had started deflecting that anger on to the girl on the bottom bunk, blaming her for my situation. It wasn’t her fault. She didn’t know what it was like on the top bunk, and we couldn’t talk to each other. It also wasn’t anyone else’s fault that I have a problem sleeping and wake up at the smallest whisper or movement. So I sat there in my anger trying to understand it and let it pass. S. N. Goenka often talks about anicca – pronounced “Aniture”, the concept of everything changing constantly. Each moment, each feeling, each experience passes and is replaced by another. We crave the good sensations and try to avoid the bad ones. When things don’t go our way, we get sad, angry, remorseful, fearful. I focused on this philosophy and sat there feeling my body cool down in the freezing air.

It was then that I realized that I was experiencing the same exact sankhara I had visited during my 10 day course. I had been uncomfortable and frustrated, and deflected that anger on to the girl sitting in front of me. On that occasion, it took me 4 days to realize everything I was experiencing was of my own design. It was a real revelation for me, and practicing Vipassana has allowed me to understand and break this habit without internalizing my anger in an unhealthy way. However, it is a lifelong habit and a hard sankara to dissolve. So once again, here I was, surfacing the sankhara again. To my credit, I didn’t get anywhere near as mad as I did on the 10 Day course, and I recognized my frustrations and anger for what they were within hours. That’s a massive improvement by my math!

S. N. Goenka
S. N. Goenka

Of course, as we sat down on Saturday night for S. N. Goenka’s evening discourse, things became very clear. He talked about expectations during Vispassana. He explained that chasing the feelings you achieve during deep meditation take away from the goal and impact of the meditation, and that to do that means that you aren’t practicing Vipassana. To have expectations is to misunderstand Vipassana and leads to incorrect practice and frustration.

The technique of Vipassana is to observe one’s sensation with equanimity. To acknowledge the sensation, understand that it isn’t permanent, and observe it going away. Not to crave the sensation. Not to avoid it. Just observe it.

By observing and understanding every sensation and treating each with equanimity, you can break the cycle of blindly reacting to the sensation. A situation that causes both yourself and others to suffer by your actions.

Goenka explained that if you spent the entire course observing your inability to focus, found nothing but blockages and couldn’t manage to even observe any anapana* meditation, yet alone a sequence of Vipassana meditation, as long as you observed these facts with equanimity, you had successfully practiced Vipassana. If you observed these failures and reacted negativity to them, but then noticed this and observed the sensations, you had practiced Vipassana and perhaps even uncovered a sankhara. However, if you considered your experience a failure because you hadn’t achieved the clarity of mind you once had in a previous course, you had missed the entire point of Vipassana.

(* S. N. Goenka guiding a mini anapana meditation)

The point of Vipassana is to notice sensations, understand that they are not permanent, observe them, understand anicca and thus remain equanimous towards the sensations. In doing this, you can break the cycle of misery caused from craving or averting sensations, and become happier and more present.

Some days you will have amazing clarity, alertness and feel a sense of progress with your meditation. Other days you will feel sluggish, blocked and will be unable to focus. Other days you will roller-coaster between clarity and fogginess. None of it matters. Each time you observe the sensations you are feeling, you are practicing Vipassana, and you have been successful.

We are the sum of our parts and to ignore or avoid part of yourself, whilst focusing and craving on other parts of yourself is to create imbalance and unhealthy dependence on something; akin to a junkie trying to get a fix. Vipassana in my mind teaches me to recognize this pattern of craving and aversion and catch myself reacting to it in order to retrain my bad habits. When I say bad habits, I’m talking about negative thoughts, knee jerk reactions, anger, fears and sadness, but also attachments to love, happiness, exhilaration and other enjoyable sensations. Coveting the good sensations only leads to disappointment and upset. Equanimity enables you to walk day to day experiencing the present moment for what it is, whether it is happy, sad, good or bad.

Being present is the purpose of many types of meditation. However with Vipassana, I have found that presence is more attainable and more of a practical goal, less of a philosophy or mystical state of being.

For me Vipassana makes perfect sense. It allows me to develop as a human being and takes the mystery out of being present, having successful meditation sessions and what that really means. I highly recommend giving Vipassana a shot if you’ve never tried it. It is a big commitment to take 10 days of your life to dedicate to this. But I assure you that for everyone I’ve met who practices it, the benefits far outweigh that of any vacation, spa membership, yoga retreat, therapy or drug. If you can manage it, it will change your life for the better.

As for the Dhamma Sukharkari center in Saxmundham, I would take this course again, this time with no expectations. The center has everything you need. It is clean, well stocked and despite being in the center of a residential neighborhood, is surprisingly quiet. The center is a challenge for sure, but overcoming those challenges makes for a great experience in learning about oneself. I definitely got what I needed out of the course, and I expect if I do it again, new and different experiences await me.

Aside:

If you have an experience with Vipassana, I’d love to read your comments here. If you want to learn more, I’d be happy to try and answer your basic questions or refer you to the proper resources to guide you further. (Since I am not trained to school the practice and am still in the early stages of my own journey, I can’t answer questions that don’t relate to my personal experience, and wouldn’t want to misguide anyone by attempting to teach this practice.) 

For more information, check out the Vipassana website where there is constantly updated information on courses, educational materials and ways to contribute to the centers. Vipassana centers are 100% funded on donations. Even the staff donate their time. Vipassana courses are free, including board and food. You are encouraged to donate time in service to help others, but it isn’t mandatory. You can also give by signing up for amazonSmile, where amazon donates to a charity of your choice based on purchases you make. You can also donate services if you are in a profession needed to maintain, promote or manage the centers. Donations are not accepted from anyone who has not taken the course.

 

Vegan Asian Noodle Soup

This is a fusion recipe inspired by my love of Singapore Rice Noodles, Pho, Miso and stir fried veggies. Add egg if you aren’t Vegan, and meat if you aren’t Vegetarian at all. Substitute the rice noodles for Ramen if you like too. Play with the soup stock based on your tastes. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • Singapore Rice Noodles (fresh or dried)
  • 1 onion
  • Sprouting broccoli
  • Fried tofu
  • Miso stock or vegetarian soup stock
  • Soy Sauce
  • Ground Pepper
  • Water
  • Sesame Oil
  • Chili Sauce (optional)

Instructions:

Boil noodles for 1-2 minutes. They really don’t need long. So don’t walk away from them. Add Miso/vegetable stock to the water to taste.

Stir fry the chopped onion in oil, adding in broccoli and tofu. Splash with soy sauce and a little water to avoid burning without adding too much oil.

Serve noodles and stirfry in a large bowl. Add more soy sauce, pepper and chili sauce to taste.

Tips:

Buy fried tofu in an Asian fresh market. If you can’t get hold of it, you can use regular tofu from the grocery store. It has a different flavor and texture, but still makes a wonderful soup.

If you aren’t likely to use a lot of Miso stock for all your cooking needs, a way to cheaply and quickly make a batch of this soup without wasting money, is to use a cup-of-soup single serving packet instead. Here’s an Organic Miso Soup in a cup from Tesco, UK.

D.I.Y Pilates Equipment Hacks

I have spent a fortune over the years on Pilates classes even though I have been a certified Pilates instructor for years. Why? The equipment. Home gym style reformers just don’t have the smooth running glide of a clunky home gym version, and space is always an issue with a reformer in your home. Let’s not mention that a decent reformer can run thousands of dollars.

I recently developed a hip injury from sitting in Lotus too much meditating of all things. I have ended up receiving a lot of Physical Therapy for this issue to get back to full health. Pilates reformer as well as Wall Unit / Springboard work became a major factor in my rehabilitation. Quick shout out to Maile Bay at Excel Physical Therapy in San Pedro, CA for her amazing top level diagnosis and treatment regiment btw. I highly recommend this clinic!

Since regular Pilates classes didn’t allow me to focus on my therapy exercises, I decided to make my own Wall Unit at my father’s house, where I’m living for part of the year. It cost me under 100 GBP total for everything I needed to make this unit. DIY Wall Pilates System

My Wall Unit works just like any other Springboard, with a series of eyelets spaced evenly in pairs, roughly a foot apart, spanning about 6 ft. I have tubes and springs attached to it. I also created a spring bar for core work. I did this with materials I bought from the local hardware store and amazon.

Here’s how I did it:

71klkg-jtbl-_sl1300_

  1. I bought two 2×4 planks of wood from the hardware store. Sanded and white washed them. Then attached eyelets in regular intervals on each, making sure to match the levels on both sides. Here’s the link to the eyelets I bought on amazon.co.uk
  2. I drilled holes in the external weight bearing wall in my bedroom, and attached the two planks of wood, using heavy duty, weight bearing bolts, glued and screwed into the wall. (You can look up the recommended weight allowances for Wall Pilates equipment from various equipment instructional websites, if you aren’t sure of the weight needed.)51gjqyqzm4l
  3. I bought Carabiner Snap Hooks for attaching tubing to wall eyelets also from amazon.co.uk, but you can get these in a hardware store too, or climbing store.
  4. I bought a cheap exercise Resistance bands kit with removable handles online. There are dozens of kits to choose from, but this kit has a great little selection of handles, different resistance levels and plenty of quick release attachments which came in handy. resistance tube kit
  5. 31nsrg8mablThis item was my biggest expense at 46.79 GBP for two springs and I picked carefully. Replacement Pilates bed springs don’t really have a cheaper counterpart you can replace with. I chose to buy 2 medium level resistance springs to use for for all-purpose exercises. I can always buy more if I want, but I haven’t need to. The link above may be out of stock, but you get the idea.

I bought a thick wooden dowel from the hardware store. You can use a broom handle, or anything about that size. I cut the dowel to about 2.5ft to fit my space, and attached an eyelet on each end to fasten carabiners. Wooden dowel attachmentOne dowel will make two. These can be used at the bottom of the wall unit for holding feet or hands in place while doing ab work for example. Or can be used as a spring trapeze attachment. Put a spring on each side and attach the springs to the wall unit using more carabiners. Spring arm attachment

At less than 100 GBP, my DIY unit may not have all the bells and whistles of commercial versions, but it does the job and you can pick and choose what equipment you spend your money on, based on your needs. Just to compare, here are some commercial Wall Units and pricing. :

This Spring Wall unit from Merrithew costs $550.00

This wall unit from www.pilates.com costs $1395.00 online.

The Great Yoga Wall website offers modular systems that you can order all kinds of parts to customize your set up. But it is costly. If you can afford it, it looks like great quality equipment and definitely worthy for professional set ups.

My design allows me to use one spring or band on its own for stability exercises and two together for symmetrical work. I also have a neck traction device from my Chiropractor that can be hung from this unit whenever I need to use it, and its a great place to store my yoga hammock when not in use. So it’s very handy. Here’s a video with some exercises you can do on a Springboard. If you google pilates wall workouts or Pilates Springboard workout, you’ll find more.

Here’s some other DIY Pilates hacks to get a professional reformer experience in your own home:

81j50c49anl-_sx522_Try using wash clothes on a wood or tiled floor or gliding discs to mimic a reformer. There are lots of great youtube workouts available to give you ideas. Here’s a couple to get you started: Wash cloth Workout by FitWasted and Home Full Body Toning Wash Rag/Glider Workout with More Than Mrs.

There are dozens of options for Exercise Gliders on Amazon.co.uk, like this one. The same discs are available in US on amazon.com for $14.99 with Prime shipping. Check for the double sided ones – smooth plastic on one side for gliding on carpet, and fabric on the other, for gliding on hard floors.

If you really want a reformer, but just can’t afford one and/or don’t have the space, a Total Gym is the closest, best piece of equipment to give you a similar experience….and not just because Chuck Norris said so! Using it flat, it can mimic non-resistance reformer exercises, and inclining it progressively will give you more resistance. Of course, it can’t do everything, but it gets pretty good results, can be bought new cheaply and/or probably even cheaper second-hand. And it packs away under your bed or against a wall very nicely. Here’s a couple of links for some on amazon, but I’d shop around…there are many models and prices:

Cristopeit Sport TE1 Exerciser, a cheap version of a Total Gym. Available on amazon.co.uk

Total Gym available on amazon.com for $321.32 & free shipping

Broccoli Parmesan Potato Cakes

This is one of my favorite leftovers recipes. In this case, left over steamed broccoli and mash potatoes from a holiday dinner.

Ingredients:

  • Potato
  • Parmesan Cheese grated
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Broccoli
  • Eggs
  • Ghee

Instructions:

Make sure your leftover mashed potatoes are stiff. If they are too creamy, your cakes will not stay together. You can add bread crumbs, or bread to the mix to make it more stiff if necessary. You can also try other healthier filler options, like oat bran flakes also.

Mash the steamed broccoli into the mashed potatoes. Season with salt and pepper, add Parmesan cheese to taste and bind with an egg. Add more egg if you have a large amount or if the mixture seems too dry to bind.

Form into patties. Make them quite thin so they cook through easily and more crust forms, which always makes it more tasty. Saute on medium heat with ghee, flip until brown on both sides. Serve.

Fish Curry

I went camping this weekend and couldn’t find any fresh fish or vegan sources of protein, so had to settle for frozen fish at a local convenience store. Frozen fish isn’t my favorite because it doesn’t defrost well. It is often rubbery or mushy. So I usually avoid it.

Here’s what Rick did with the frozen cod we bought to make it taste fantastic!

Ingredients:

  • 3x frozen cod fillets – defrosted.
  • 3x zucchinis
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1/2 lb of cherry tomotoes
  • One onion
  • Coconut Oil
  • 1 tspn Turmeric
  • 1 tspn Garlic Powder
  • 1 tspn Ginger Powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tspn Red Chilli Powder
  • 1 tspn Cumin
  • 1+ cup of water

Instructions to cook:

Part cooked Curry
Part cooked Curry

Heat coconut oil in a pan and combine the spices as the pan heats.

Add diced onion and sweat through. Dice tomatoes and add to mix. Simmer for 5 mins before added sliced zucchinis. Cook 5 mins adding about a cup of water to the mix.

Add defrosted fish and simmer for 20 mins. The recipe is the same if you use fresh fish, and tastes even better btw. Use any white fish for this recipe: Tilapia, Hoki, Cod, Haddock, Red Snapper are all good.

Serve over Jasmine, Brown, Black or Red Rice. Enjoy!