07 May

Mustard Sole with Lentils

I’ve made lots of recipes from the Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook since my friend bought it for me last summer like Ginger Biscuits and Classic Custard Creams and Saxe-Cobourg Soup.

Everything has been awesome, truly. I find that quite impressive from a cookbook loosely based off a television show which I figured would be more of a novelty than a kitchen staple.

It’s likely because the recipes all have liberal amounts of fat in them, particularly in the form of cream and butter. You can’t go wrong with butter.

This recipe follows that same theme. The “mustard sauce” would be more aptly named “mustard butter” and the original recipe called for the fish filets to be fried in 1/4 cup of butter.

I’ve been incorporating more fat into my diet to support hormone function, muscle growth, and ease sugar cravings, so I certainly don’t fear the butter. Plus it adds cholesterol to this dish which helps to increase testosterone production (so I can get jacked, natch).

When I originally saw the recipe in the book (titled Daisy’s Mustard Salmon with Lentils since the original recipe used salmon instead of the sole that I used here) I didn’t think it sounded too appetizing but I like lentils, I like fish, and I like mustard so I thought I’d give it a shot.

I was pleasantly surprised. The whole thing manages to taste both decadent and light (it makes sense when you eat it, trust me). I modified by baking the fish instead of frying (it saves time and butter) and the dish still managed to be fantastic.

I’ve made it a few times since and it’s probably one of my favourite dishes right now, so I had to share it with you. If you try it, let me know what you think!

Mustard Sole with Lentils from Downton Abbey Cookbook  - SamanthaMenzies.com

Mustard Sole with Lentils

Mustard Sauce

1/4 c unsalted butter, softened
2 T chopped chives
1 T Dijon mustard
2 t fresh lemon juice
1 t sugar
2 t kosher salt
1 t ground black pepper


1 c green lentils
2 large carrots
2 c water
2 c vegetable broth
2 t fresh lemon juice


6 filets of sole
1 t salt
1/2 t ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400*F. Place the sole in a casserole dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside while the oven preheats and you prepare your lentils and mustard sauce.

To make the lentils: In a heavy saucepan over high heat, bring lentils, carrots, water, and broth to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 25-30minutes or until the lentils are tender. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand for 5-7 minutes. Drain the lentils and reserve 1 cup of liquid.

While the lentils are cooking and the oven is preheating, make the mustard sauce. In a small bowl thoroughly mix together the mustard sauce ingredients and set aside. (A mini food processor also works well here to get the butter a little more whipped)

Dot each seasoned sole filet with a bit of the mustard sauce and place in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting the tines of a fork into the thickest part of the fish then remove and place the tines on your bottom lip. If it feels just barely warm to the touch, the fish is done.

Mix the remaining mustard mixture into the lentils along with the reserved cooking liquid until the butter is thoroughly melted in.

To serve: place the lentils in a shallow bowl and top with a filet of sole.

Mustard Sole with Lentils from Downton Abbey Cookbook - SamanthaMenzies.com

29 Apr

5/3/1 Cycle 16 and 17

Cycle 15 of 5/3/1 was empowering. Energizing. Exciting.

Read more about how it works here: 5/3/1 for Women and 5/3/1 How To

When I calculated my loads for cycle 16 I knew it was going to be too much of a struggle for me to reach them, given that I barely made my lifts in cycle 15. So I repeated cycle 15 instead of progressing which was smart.

Cycle 16 Main Lifts

Deadlift: 265lb for 2 reps

Push Press: 135lb for 1 rep

Squats: 250lb for 2 reps

Bench Press: 165lb for 1 rep

Aside from an extra rep in deadlifts I didn’t make any progress. I should have taken that into consideration when I looked at what I was supposed to lift in cycle 17. Okay, I did, but I ignored it and tried to push on which was not smart.

Here I am now in the middle of my third week of cycle 17 (that’s my one rep max week so I haven’t even finished the cycle) and coming off a deadlift day shitty enough to bum me out. I missed a 275lb lift and then out of stress or confusion or weakness I missed a 265lb lift too.

It’s funny that a mere 8 weeks ago I was ecstatic with the amount of weight I could lift and now that same amount feels like failure. I know full well that it takes a lot of time to build strength (it took me years to get to a body weight bench press, remember?) but there’s always that hint of disappointment when my progress stagnates.

I guess for cycle 18 I’m going to take a step back, er, maybe two. I need to build up my strength and lightening up on the amount of weight I lift is a good way to do it. Mentally I’ll need to develop a  more yogic approach with appreciation for what my body can do right now rather than disappointment with what it can’t.

I also have to get back on track with my diet. If you recall my nutritionist/friend Sarah gave me a dietary outline to follow so I would have energy to weightlift and so I could put on mass. Aside from the calorie count I’ve been mostly neglecting the meal plan for the last two weeks and that could have very well  be contributing to my poor performance. When I was following her plan to a T was when I had my best lifts so there’s definitely something to it.

18 Apr

Tea and Cookies

Happy Good Friday! Cheers to a good long weekend.

I started my Good Friday out with breakfast and a delicious cuppa. I had put in an order for some teas from my sister who picks them up for me from Adagio Teas when she’s in Naperville IL. I asked for this Cream Tea on a whim and it’s phenomenal.

I tried it with sugar and cream (which I usually prefer to leave out of my tea) and it’s like dessert in a cup. I suspect it won’t last me as long as I thought it would.

Cream TeaCream Tea

She also picked up some Earl Grey Moonlight black tea and Jasmine Yin Hao green tea for me too. I think I have been crowding out daily tea with increased coffee consumption but frankly I’ve been missing a good cup of tea, yaknowwhatImean?

Vicki also came back with some surprises for me. Knowing full well that I’m a Scandiphile, she took advantage of a Swedish shop to buy me some really cool baking related gifts. I got pearl sugar (which I have been forgoing in all of my Great Scandinavian Baking Book recipes), a Dala horse cookie cutter, and a claddagh cookie stamp.


I tried the cookie stamp twice. The first time, with a rye cookie recipe, it didn’t worked all that great. The stamp just faded into the cookie after it baked leaving me unimpressed with the little reward for the amount of effort I put in.

Today I tried it with a very crumbly shortbread made with lots of flour (recipe here), pressing balls of the dough tightly into the stamp. After baking, I was happy to see that the stamp held up.

Cookie stamp - this cookie was the best oneThis cookie turned out the prettiest

. . . but some of them cracked and looked sorta crappy (which defeats the purpose of stamping them to begin with, I suppose).


Oh well, they’re certain to be tasty with my cream tea.


15 Apr

New Fridge!

We got a new fridge.

To be honest, I’m not all that excited about it despite my exclamatory blog post title.

I thought our old fridge was fine, but then again that’s coming from the person who didn’t have the responsibility of chipping out chunks of ice from the bottom of the freezer on a regular basis so the thing wouldn’t leak. That was Matt’s job. . .

. . . and also my in-laws’ job when they watched our house while we were on vacation. No wonder they were more excited to hear the news about our fridge purchase than they were to hear about our engagement.

It’s white because I can’t be bothered with stainless steel, and because all of our other appliances are circa 1993 (read: also white).

And yes, that is my Sesame Street lunch pail from 1989 crowning the fridge. You know you’re jealous.

New FridgeNew Fridge

06 Apr

Links for a Sunday Morning

Women’s Wages Are Rising: Why Are So Many Families Getting Poorer? – The Atlantic

One reason that lower-income families are losing economic ground is that gains in women’s income have been offset by declines in marriage among the poor and working class . . . single-parent families are much less likely to reap the benefits of increases in income that have accrued to today’s working women.

Measles Outbreak Shows Importance of Education – The Globe and Mail

We are rapidly approaching the point where, statistically, a child is going to die of the measles in Canada. That is unconscionable in the 21st century. We shouldn’t wait until that happens to be outraged.

The Northwestern Decision: An Explainer – Grantland

The “But they’re getting an education!” line is just some noble-sounding B.S. A kid who cleans dorm bathrooms for spending money can get an education and still get paid. College athletes who make huge profits for their schools should be able to get an education and still get paid, too.

Four Things Millenials Hate About You – The Globe and Mail

For millennials, there is no separation between work and fun, they’re simply two sides of the same coin, so everything carries equal weight. And that means playing shinny hockey on Wednesday night is right up there with getting a promotion.

Your Running Rorschach Test – Outside

Loop Runners are opportunists and gluttons, They’re the buffet lovers of the running world, always sampling and never settling on just one flavor.

Your Coffee Pods’ Dirty Secret – Mother Jones

By making each pod so individualized, and so easy to dispose of, you must also exponentially increase the packaging—packaging that ultimately ends up in landfills. (And that’s to say nothing of the plastic and metal brewing systems, which if broken, aren’t that easy to recycle either.)

36 Delightful Facts About Canada – Buzzfeed

Canada is the most educated country in the world. . . There is a strategic maple syrup reserve. . . In Saskatchewan, a hoodie is called a “bunnyhug.”

03 Apr

Things I learned from 30 Days of Backbends

I recently took part in #BackbendMadness2014 which was a social media challenge to find someone willing to take photos of your for 31 consecutive days. Errrr, I mean, a challenge to try a new backbend every day.

As with any challenge, I learned a few things along the way.

Check out all my pictures from Backbend Madness 2014 on my facebook page and twitter.

My sanskrit usage sub-par.

I’m okay with that though because most people I know don’t speak in sanskrit, don’t care that there’s a difference between utthita trikonasana and utthita parsvakonasana, and would rather you just tell them what to do in real words.

Even if I did know all the asana nomenclature, would be futile because. . .

All the poses have the same names anyway.

All of the poses below are named “pigeon” and not one is the pigeon pose I’m used to performing.

Pigeon, Pigeon, Pigeon, and Pigeon

Nobody wants to take my picture

. . . or, mostly just my husband.
In fear of his lengthy sighs and eye rolls and “what are you doing this for anyway?” comments, I took as many self-timer pictures as I could, resulting in a lot of garbage shots.

On the bright side, the more that I screwed up the pictures the more loose my muscles became and the easier the poses got.


Some days you just shouldn’t do a backbend

Trying to follow up one hour of snow-shoveling with a deep backbend is impossible or, at the very least, a bad idea.

You can’t love them all

This pose (called setu bandasana, if you care about sanskrit at all) is pure hell and I’m not even in the full expression of the pose. That would involve my hands crossed over my chest rather than propping up my upper body like they are here.
I hope to never have to do this again. But that just means that I definitely am going to do it again. It’s like yoga masochism.

setu bandasana

Sometimes simplicity hits the spot

Cresent lunge hits the spot in my body every. single. time. It’s nothing impressive but it stretched my front body in just the right way.

Crescent Lunge

I have no idea what my body looks like in a pose

Even with a mirror hard to see yourself from all angles in most poses so most of the time I was surprised by what I saw when I eagerly collected my camera to preview the picture.
Really? I thought my legs were much straighter! or
I swear I can get my feet closer to my head than that.

Sometimes reality bites.

Not even close

Sometimes, not so much.

Handstand Splits!

I still don’t advocate practicing in front of a mirror all the time, but getting a picture of yourself in a pose can give you a different perspective. If you can manage to find someone wiling to take your picture.

People like pictures of crazy poses

A handstand gets more ‘likes’ than child’s pose, hands down (& legs up!)

But I’d rather be in child’s pose any day. EVERY day.

Check out all my pictures from Backbend Madness 2014 on my facebook page and twitter.

01 Apr

Three Things

I bought a second Game of Thrones t-shirt. This time with the Targaryen sigil to go with my Stark sigil tee, and just in time for the premiere of the new season.
You can never have enough nerdy t-shirts.

Targaryen T-shirt

And speaking of fantasy. . . I just finished reading The Golem and the Jinni and thought it was AMAZING. It’s about a genie and a woman made of clay in New York at the turn of the 20th century. Sounds a bit odd, and it is at first, but I was drawn in right away. The author did a good job defining the details which is so essential to making a fantasy novel great.

The Golem and the Jinni

And speaking of fiction. . . I am SHER locked, ie. totally hooked on the BBC show Sherlock right now. Has anyone else watched this? It’s easy to get hooked because the show is so well done. The plots are intriguing, the deduction scenes are damn near genius, and sometimes it’s even funny. It will be definitely filling the British Television void left by Downton Abbey and The Paradise for the next little while.


30 Mar

Links for a Sunday Morning

The Overprotected Kid – The Atlantic

It’s hard to absorb how much childhood norms have shifted in just one generation. Actions that would have been considered paranoid in the ’70s—walking third-graders to school, forbidding your kid to play ball in the street, going down the slide with your child in your lap—are now routine. In fact, they are the markers of good, responsible parenting.

Mirror Mirror – RadioLab

How mirrors (and the reversed images they reflect) lie to us.

The Toxins that Threaten our Brains – The Atlantic

Leading scientists recently identified a dozen chemicals as being responsible for widespread behavioral and cognitive problems. But the scope of the chemical dangers in our environment is likely even greater.

Industrial civilisation headed for ‘irreversible collapse’? – The Guardian

Elite wealth monopolies mean that they are buffered from the most “detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners”, allowing them to “continue ‘business as usual’ despite the impending catastrophe.”

Why Beyonce is Wrong this Time – The Globe and Mail

Rather than saying, “My daughter is bossy,” [parents] should say, “My daughter has executive leadership skills.” The implication being that these two things are not only interchangeable, but that one defines the other. As anyone who has dealt with a dictatorial five-year-old knows, this is not generally the case.

ANALYSIS: The Ukraine crisis through the whimsy of international law – CBC News

That’s diplomacy. Hypocritical declarations and acts are woven into its essence. What’s remarkable is the unspoken pact among the Western news media to report it all so uncritically.

Body-Image Pressure Increasingly Affects Boys – The Atlantic

Movies and magazines increasingly display bare-chested men with impossibly chiseled physiques and six-pack abs. “The media has become more of an equal opportunity discriminator. Men’s bodies are not good enough anymore either.”

Yoga Poses in Israel – NY Times

Students, taught in single-sex classes, are encouraged to come as they are, even in day clothes or long skirts, if necessary.

Neurobiology of Grace Under Pressure – Psychology Today

All of the physical symptoms of performance anxiety—racing heart, sweaty palms, dry mouth, upset stomach, shakiness—are the result of your vagus nerve disengaging. Luckily, you have the power to harness your vagus nerve and keep it engaged to create grace under pressure.

What Your Activity Tracker Sees and Doesn’t See – NY Times

The accelerometer measures only motion, not exertion — no matter how hard you’re straining yourself or how heavy the deadlift is.

21 Mar

International Day of Happiness

Today was the UN’s International Day of Happiness. A day for remembering that happiness is not about accumulation of wealth and goods but about the day to day experiences of community, security, nature, and the simple pleasures of life.

The UN launched a big social media campaign to raise awareness to make happiness a global priority and to reframe economic growth in a way that is inclusive of citizens’ happiness and well-being.

I was all over it on my yoga facebook and twitter pages, posting pictures of things that make me happy to remind me of all the great things that are going on in the world (counteracting stories like this and this).


My dad My husband, and travelling with my husband My husband, and travelling with my husband DSCF4295 Happiness Day

14 Mar

5/3/1 Cycle 15 Recap


So, uh, yeah. I know I said this at the beginning of my last 5/3/1 recap, but cycle of 5/3/1 was indeed UNREAL folks.

Read more about how it works here: 5/3/1 for Women

The last time that I had recapped with you at cycle 11 I took a step back in my training programme and repeated cycle 11 because I wasn’t quite prepared for the targets that I was supposed to reach.

Sometimes you have to cut back to make progress, and progress I did indeed make.

Not only did I break all of my Personal Records last week but I had this especially exciting news. . .

I bench pressed my body weight!

Finally! I’ve had this goal for 2 years now though have been making the most effort on it in the last 14 months or so.

165lbs wasn’t actually part of my calculated lifts for this cycle, but when I pressed up 160lbs for 3 reps (mostly on my own, but with a bit of the husband’s help on rep 3), Matt encouraged me to try 165lb, my body weight.

I was so ecstatic when I pressed the weight up all by myself.

Goal, achieved. Boys working out beside me, jealous. Even my dad was impressed (and he is, by nature, not an easy man to be genuinely impressed).

My bench press goal was so exciting it overshadowed all the other loads that I hit last week, and they were pretty impressive in themselves.

Main Lifts

Again, I can’t even believe these numbers are real.

Deadlift: 265lb for 1 reps

Push Press: 135lb for 1 rep – finally put up 45′s on the bar!

Squats: 250lb for 2 reps

Bench Press: 165lb for 1 rep – did I mention, that’s my body weight?

I haven’t calculated my loads for cycle 16 yet so I’m nervous about what I’ll see, but I’m also very excited too.


I mentioned last week that my friend, a holistic nutritionist in training, gave me a diet to follow to help me gain muscle. I had initially gained a pound right away but I lost it again so I’m back at where I started.

I’ve averaged 2500 cal per day with a 36% fat, 44% carb, 20% protein mix.

Aside from not having put on weight yet, I have been feeling much more stable (emotionally) and I my sugar cravings have been reduced which I attribute (I think) to having more fat in my diet. Or it could be more muscle too. Or it could be just eating more in general and not withholding food only to binge on sweets later. Not sure yet. I only know it’s working so I’ll keep it up.

I intend to keep tracking my macros and following her recommendations because 1) I’m her guinea pig and want to give her accurate results, and 2) I’m liking it so far.

Will check back in with progress as I squeeze in time. Things have been hectic lately :-P