Monday, December 5, 2016

Homemade Quest Bars

If you are feeling a little blue because its Monday, this post might cheer you up. I have a simple way to make your own Quest bars at home!

I love Quest bars as a little treat, but, boy are they expensive! Most protein bars are pricey, actually.

So when I got my first order of Vitafiber, I knew they were the first thing I had to try making.

Vitafiber, by the way, is a sugar-free, natural, low glycemic and lower calorie sweetener made of Isomaltooligosaccharide (IMO).

It is high in fibre and a prebiotic, and is a main ingredient in real Quest bars.

I used the basic recipe for a dozen bars posted by Busy but Healthy but I skipped putting the hot batter into a plastic bag, and I am happy to say it still worked perfectly.

For these Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough bars I used:

Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Quest-Style Bars (based on this recipe)

1.5 cups Vitafiber
3 cups vanilla whey protein powder (use plant-based for vegan bars)
8 tbsp almond flour
1/3 cup stevia-sweetened chocolate chips

Heat Vitafiber in pot on medium until bubbling. Remove from heat and stir in protein powder and almond flour. Mix well until it starts to stick together. Stir in chocolate chips. Dump batter into parchment-lined 9x9 square baking dish. Refrigerate until firm. Remove bars using parchment paper to lift out. Cut into 12 bars.

Keep in air tight container, or refrigerate for firmer bars.

You can make different flavours by using different kinds of protein powder and different mix-ins.

If you add any fresh fruit, bars will have a much shorter shelf life.

I think I might try making chocolate mint ones next!

No one is happier about these homemade bars then the kids. They actually like them MORE than the store bought kind! I don't usually allow them my Quest bars because they are so expensive, but I suspect this means they will be nagging me to make them on a regular basis. No biggie though, because they're so quick and easy to make!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Parenting Pickles

One of the most stressful things about parenting is when kids get sick. First there is the worry that its something serious. Then there is dealing with who cares for them. I can only imagine how challenging it is for people with low income jobs that are not salaried. Having to stay home to care for your child for an extended period of time could be catastrophic!

So I am very grateful that we are comfortable, financially secure, and I have job flexibility because Monday afternoon I had to pick up 2 very sad looking girls from school. Big A barfed and Little A's tummy was hurting because she'd been coughing so hard.

Apparently there are several nasty viruses going around their school and we've managed to get more than one of them. Yeah, we hit the jackpot!

Since I had a work commitment, Adam's mom was nice enough to take Little A to the doctor, just to rule out bronchitis and pneumonia. Fortunately, we got the 'its just a virus' response, which means its not serious, but also there is no treatment. Just lots of fluids, honey, a humidifier and lozenges. But the poor kid is miserable and when her coughing gets really bad, she panics, which only makes it worse.

Nevertheless, the doctor reassured us she isn't contagious and can go to school, so she went back Wednesday. Big A stayed home another day to make sure she had all the barfing out of her system. I was feeling worse than her though, I had a migraine and when I went to refill my Rx at the pharmacy, they informed me I didn't have any more refills. I basically had to just endure the pain until I went to bed that night.

To top things off, on Wednesday Adam had a work trip so I was on my own with the girls. Oy!

Needless to say, this week didn't go as planned.

Today is a PA day for the girls and a reasonably quiet day for me. I am going to Costco this morning, yay! But the weekend is busy as usual. At least we are all on our way back to being healthy. Little A and I just have to get rid of our cough!

Have a healthy, happy weekend :)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dressed by Dresslily

I have a hard time finding clothes that fit me well.

You see, I am not only petite (vertically challenged), but I also have, what is diplomatically called by fashion experts, an 'athletic' body shape. This essentially means I have no shape. No waist. No hips. I am shaped like a toilet paper roll. Since losing 3 bra cup sizes to breast feeding, its even worse!

So I really have to be careful what I wear or it just looks all wrong and/or is very uncomfortable. Since I am so cylindrical, things often ride up, or slide down, etc. It's maddening!

I am on a constant quest for dresses. I love dresses because they can be very comfortable, they are an all-in-one outfit, and they look professional. I don't even mind biking in them. But it is always hard for me to find one that will be flattering and suits my tastes (i.e. no bright colours or huge, loud prints). I also don't like to spend tons on clothes. Oh, and because I am always hot, I refuse to buy any long sleeved dresses. In winter, I find my offices so overheated that I am practically melting, so it doesn't matter the season, it can't have long sleeves! So seriously, its been years of unsuccessful looking.

Until I recently discovered Dresslily!

The selection is almost overwhelming! Its also easy to find what you want because you can search by colour, length, sleeve length, size, etc. They have a wide range of styles from 20-something single clubbers (not my thing!) to professional and conservative.  I was able to find several dresses in the few styles that flatter my figure (or lack there of). And...the prices are insanely good. Like so good, that even though they are in U.S. dollars, they are still a bargain.

Though it took a long time for my order to arrive, the 4 dresses I bought are lovely. The quality is good and the fit amazing. I am thrilled.

If you are looking for some new outfits for the holiday season, you might want to check them out!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Hold On to Your Marbles with these Diet Tips

Good morning and welcome to a new week! I am certainly hoping this one is better than the last one. Unfortunately, we are still without a working oven, but I've been able to do quite a lot in our toaster oven including roasting veggies, baking cakes and cookies. I am feeling better but still not 100% but poor little A is still suffering from this cold and has a wet, hacking cough. Anyways...

Let's talk about brain health today.

Taking care of your body is not just about increasing longevity, its about improving and maintaining quality of life.

A good example is dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Some individuals do experience early onset, but most cases happen to to the elderly. If you are thinking that you need not worry about cognitive decline, because, after all, eventually you won't even be aware you are in it, then just think about the devastation that these diseases will cause your loved ones.

If you are thinking that its just an inevitable part of aging, you are wrong. There is increasing evidence that lifestyle plays a big part in our risk of Alzheimer's. Remember, only a very small proportion of cases are genetically related. Moreover, according to a recent article published in Psychology Today, prevention should begin early in life.

The BAD diet (Basic American Diet), high in red meat, fried foods and refined carbohydrates is BAD for your brain. So if you are on a low carb diet, for goodness sakes, get your protein from fish, poultry and eggs, not red meat!

Research has found that just 6 months on a diet that is rich in fresh veggies, fatty fish, and low in carbs can attenuate memory decline, speed up mental processing, and boost executive function.

The key nutrients for brain health are vitamin B12, D, Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, mono- and polyunsaturated fats, carotenoids, vitamins A and C, and fiber. But the benefits only come from getting these from food, not from supplements.

Conversely, saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium are bad for your brain. So if you are chowing down on bacon because we no longer have strong evidence these things are associated with heart disease, here's a reason to continue to limit consumption!

So, what's a healthy brain diet? Surprise, its similar to a diet that's good for every other part of your body too:

  • Leafy greens
  • Cruciferous veggies
  • Yellow/orange veggies
  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts)
  • Berries
  • Legumes and beans
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fatty fish
What may surprise you is that WHEN you eat is also important. This is when supporters of intermittent fasting get to act smug! Fasting for 12 hours is very beneficial for your brain! If this sounds impossible or extreme, remember, this can include the 8 hours your are sleeping and be as simple as quitting eating before 8pm and not having breakfast before 8am,

Of course, physical activity is also extremely important for brain health so don't forget to move!

Friday, November 25, 2016


Hello and Happy Friyay! Happy Black Friyay, in fact! Even here in Canada, though we don't celebrate Thanksgiving in November, we do celebrate the retail craziness of Black Friday.

While I've been offline I've been super busy.

When I say busy, I am not even referring to being sick, to Little A getting sick, to still having no working oven, or to the power outage we experienced Wednesday morning. Whew!

Nope, I am referring to the intensive professional training program I was doing...and only part 1 of 2!!

Adding to my repertoire of therapeutic modalities I offer, I am training as an EMDR therapist. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Ever heard of it?

Here is some info:

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of treatment primarily used for PTSD, or other anxiety-related disorders. The theory is that trauma or other experiences that overwhelm normal coping mechanisms cause pathology when they are inadequately processed by the brain and stored as an isolated memory network.

 EMDR can reduce or eliminate the long-lasting effects of distressing memories (or negative cognitions) by engaging the brain's natural adaptive information processing mechanisms, thereby relieving present symptoms. The therapy uses an eight-phase approach that includes having the patient recall distressing images while receiving one of several types of bilateral sensory input, such as side to side eye movements, auditory beeps or hand pulses.

According to Francine Shapiro, who developed EMDR, the official definition of EMDR is:

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences.  Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal.  EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma.  When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound.  If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain.  Once the block is removed, healing resumes.  EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes.  The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health.  If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering.  Once the block is removed, healing resumes.  Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR therapy training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes (Source: EMDR Institute, Inc.).

In other words, when disturbing information gets stored in the nervous system, it causes chronic pain, distress or dysfunction, EMDR helps people reprocess the information in a way that eliminates the suffering. It is not hypnosis, it does not involve the client losing awareness or consciousness, and it does not eliminate the actual memory. It simply removes the physical/emotional charge or stimulus that accompanies the memory.

It is used primarily for PTSD, but also for generalized anxiety, grief and loss, phobias, and dysfunctional negative cognitions (I am worthless, I am stupid, I am powerless, I am in danger, etc.).

I first encountered EMDR when doing the practicuum for my counselling degree. I did 2 and one was in a fertility clinic, with my mentor, who has been doing EMDR for years. I'd never heard of it before and frankly, I was skeptical. But only until she had me sit in on a session.

We were working with an infertility patient who, after several years of unsuccessful treatments, was using an acquaintance as a gestational carrier. It was a rare situation where we did not feel the fit was ideal, as our interview with this acquaintance suggested she was offering to carry the pregnancy for self-serving reasons, which might be harmful to the patient. We then found out our client was not opting to use a G.C. due to medical reasons. In other words, she had no medical evidence that she couldn't carry a pregnancy if she were to become pregnant. More work with her revealed that she had been raped years earlier and lasting trauma from the rape made her feel her body was damaged and that's why she was unable to carry a baby. She agreed to try EMDR to address the trauma from the rape, and I have to tell you that what I witnessed in that session was nothing short of a miracle. She literally made peace with the experience in one session! An experience she had never told anyone except her husband about before this time and caused her enormous suffering. 

Now, I should add that it is not always the case that breakthroughs like this happen in a single session, but even for the most severe PTSD, results occur usually in less than a year.

Since then, when I have clients with severe trauma or phobias, I have been referring them to my mentor for EMDR. They almost always contact me afterwards and tell me it was 'miraculous'. Now, I am so excited that I can work with my clients doing EMDR myself!

I wish this weekend was quiet, but I work both tomorrow and Sunday, and there are lots of errands to do. At least I am feeling better. Aside from a very runny nose, I've kicked this cold and I have my voice back. Thank goodness. I like to talk!

Have a happy and healthy weekend.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Temporary Radio Silence

Hello and happy Friday!

I am glad its the end of the week, it felt like a tough one. I came down with a cold which has left me with a headache and tons of mucus. I get sick so much less often than I used to that when I do catch something, I feel even more frustrated. But obviously expecting to never get sick isn't realistic!

On top of that, its been a crazy busy week between work and the girls' and their activities and our related commitments (last night was parent-teacher night at their school).

To make matters even more complicated, our brand new oven died. I know, like WTF? Our research suggests that it needs its electronic panel replaced AND that this is a common problem with this model. Unfortunately, the company we bought it from is offering servicing, not a replacement. If this becomes an ongoing problem with this oven, I am going to lose my shit.

Oh and if you think that's bad, last night our downstairs toilet overflowed. Oh yes it did! We had to call the plumber for an emergency visit. So $250 later (took him 5 minutes to fix it) and a very long and disgusting cleaning process and that mess is thankfully over.

On the bright side,  I have never been more proud of my kids. Their teachers spoke so highly of them both. They are both very strong in math, as well as most other areas, but more importantly, they are good people. Wow, somehow we seem to be doing something right!

This weekend isn't going to be any slower. Tonight I am going to a friend's party. Not my usual Friday night plan (usually I work late and then go to bed early). But I am sure it will be fun.

Tomorrow I have to work. A lot.

Sunday I start the first part of an intensive professional training program. I promise I will tell you all about it when its done!

I have not managed to write any blog posts ahead of time, so this will be the last you hear from me until next Friday, so have a wonderful week and we'll catch up then.

Stay happy and healthy friends!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Low Calorie Creamy Caesar Dressing

Good morning and happy Wednesday! Its rainy here but I'm not letting that make me feel gloomy. Its pretty amazing how gorgeous and mild this fall has been. Like I rode my bike to work on Monday and didn't even need gloves. In fact, I was sweating by the time I got there! I am still enjoying salads and have not needed to transition to entirely hot foods yet. I am sure that time is coming, it always does here in Toronto! As my brother says, where else does the temperature range from +30 Celsius to -30 Celsius on a regular basis??

Speaking of salad, I have a great recipe for you today.

I know fat is all the rage right now, and while long gone are the days where any health experts recommend a fat-free diet, the researchers I trust agree that fat should still be eaten sparingly.  Why? no matter how healthy the fat you eat, it is extremely calorically dense and most North Americans don't burn enough calories to justify eating much of it.  Sorry, there is no evidence that you can eat even the most 'miraculous' oil in unlimited amounts without packing on weight!

Also, despite what many high fat diet proponents preach, the research I have read indicates that protein and fibre help you feel full, not fat.  Certainly I have found that to be the case for me.  If I dress a green salad with a fat free dressing or a high fat dressing, there is no difference in how long it will keep me full (not long unless there is a big fat serving of protein in it!).  Besides, I prefer to get my fats from food (nuts, nut butters, fish, avocado, cheese, etc.) instead of from oils.  I just find that solid food always makes me feel more satisfied than liquids, including oils (which are often highly processed, by the way!). They also tend to add more flavour.  The only oil I use for flavour is toasted sesame oil, which, because it is so potent, has to be used in small quantities anyways.

So I generally prefer to make oil-free dressings and then add a healthy fat to my salad like nuts or avocado, or as my protein.  Caesar dressings are usually calorie bombs full of olive oil.  This one is super low in calories but also really flavourful.  When I make Caesar salad, I skip the croutons - I hate them - and often add some extra veggies in like grape tomatoes and cucumbers.  You can add a few tbsp. of parmesan cheese into the dressing, but I just sprinkle it on top before serving.

You can veganize this recipe by using non-dairy yogurt and umeboshi plum paste in lieu of the anchovy paste.

Low Calorie Creamy Caesar Dressing

1 cup low-fat or fat-free yogurt
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. anchovy paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste

Whisk together yogurt, mustard, anchovy paste and garlic.  Add vinegar, lemon juice and whisk again until smooth.  Season to taste.  If you find it too thick for your liking, thin out with a few extra tbsp. of vinegar.  Keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.

I have shared this recipe with Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.