Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Risky Business

You have nothing to fear but fear itself ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

Yeah, so I will admit that I am not much of a risk taker.  Of the physical kind, anyways.  While I am happy to test my limits in the gym any day (I'm still feeling those deadlifts I did Sunday in my butt!), I am rather averse to most dangerous activities.  Even as a kid, risk wasn't for me.  After years of gymnastics and trampoline, I quit both when I was told I'd have to take it to the next level in terms of what I was willing to do. To be honest I could never do much more in gymnastics than walk on my hands, but I did get to the point of doing twists and front and back flips in trampoline.  But doing double flips? Nope, I was out of there. And I only down hill skied once, and that was one time too many.

While I am generally not at all an overprotective parent, I do get super nervous about the girls' physical safety.  Just last week I was battling in the playground with Little A because she wanted to do some trick involving sitting on a really high bar and letting go with both hands before flinging herself to the ground.  It didn't make me feel any better that she told me, "Daddy lets me do it!" No surprise though as Adam is far more relaxed about these things.

I love doing family bike rides, but I'm pretty much anxious the whole time.  Big A is pretty cautious but Little A just has no sense of danger.

Well I was pushed way beyond my comfort zone on Monday, Victoria Day, rather accidently, but I am happy to say it turned out great.  Both because none of us got hurt and because it proved that as a family, we're pretty resilient.

We made plans to go to the Evergreen Brickworks with friends.  I suggested we take public transport because I knew it would be a zoo and parking might be hard to find.  But Adam wanted us to try biking there.  It is 'supposed' to be bike-able by taking the Beltline Trail and I've always wanted to bike there, but I didn't think the girls were old enough...Little A is pretty little!  Somehow Adam convinced me as did Google Map directions which told us we could take relatively quiet city streets all the way to the Beltline, and then the trail all the way to the Brickworks. Well, while this may be theoretically true, Google Maps sucks rocks.  It took us to nowhere and we ended up having to ask some dude who told us an alternate route thanks to the GPS on his phone (I forgot my phone at home and Adam's doesn't have a SIM card - I've said it before, we aren't phone people!). 

We eventually found our way there with only about the last 15 minutes of the trip being on any sort of trail.  We figured if we followed the trail on our way home we'd have a much easier trip back.

After meeting up with our friends, gorging on food truck treats and craft beer and letting the kids run wild, we decided to head home.

We had a very enjoyable 15 minute ride until we entered the part of the trail we had not been on on the trip there.  Big mistake! This was not the Beltline, this was deep into the Toronto ravine system!  This gives you an idea of (the flattest, most benign) of what we found ourselves in:

There was a path but I definitely would not call it a trail...and certainly not a bike trail! We ended up in what seemed like an endless hike on steep, rocky, hilly, muddy, slippery and unstable terrain with no idea how to get out.  If you had told me that morning we'd end up there with the girls and all our bikes I would have FREAKED! But I will say that in the moment of crisis (or what feels like a crisis), I am good at pulling it together.  For most of it I walked/carried my bike in the lead, warning everyone when there were areas that were particularly precarious, Big A was behind me walking her bike, and sometimes getting me to lift it over bad areas or big fallen tree trunks, Little A walked behind her, scampering over the rocks and trees, and Adam took up the lead walking/carrying his bike and Little A's.  Thank goodness he's so strong!!
Admittedly, at one point, I was getting discouraged because there seemed to be no end or way out and the path was getting steeper, narrower and muddier (i.e. more dangerous!), but just then we found the exit at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, which meant we finally knew exactly where we were.  Whew!
Riding the last few kilometres on the city streets felt like a cake walk.  The girls were total troopers and except for needing to stop for a water and Cliff Bar break, they just kept going.  We arrived home sweaty, tired and filthy.  After we all showered, the girls started inhaling food like it was going out of style, they had clearly worked up quite the appetite!
So while I wouldn't have willingly gone on this little adventure, I have to say it was great in that we all felt quite the sense of accomplishment at the end and, of course, that's a great experience for the girls to have.  Hopefully it makes up for all my overprotectiveness in the playground!
Happy Hump Day, and here's to taking risks!

Friday, May 20, 2016

14 Years!

Yesterday Adam and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary.  Wow, that's a long time! It doesn't seem like its been that long...let alone 16 years since we met and started dating!!

I consider our marriage one of my biggest achievements, if not the biggest.  Why? Because few people are lucky enough to find an amazing partner - the North American divorce rate is around 40%!  I also found him at a relatively young age, as I was 25 and he 23 (about 18 in woman years) when we met.  Nowadays a lot of folks aren't tying the knot until well into their 30s, at least not the well educated in big cities.  These are the people I usually see in my office struggling with infertility due to age.  Even sadder are the unhappily single people I see. 

Don't get me wrong, I don't think I 'earned' Adam, I think I was just really lucky.  After all, a lot of it has to do with luck and chance in terms of meeting a beloved one.  But I do credit us both with growing and maturing together to develop the strong union we have.  We sure have learned a lot over the years.  But thank goodness I did find Adam because I am definitely one of those people who needs a companion...and I doubt many guys would find me an attractive mate due to my relatively boring lifestyle (wake up at crack of dawn, workout like a maniac, eat lots of healthy food, raise children, and go to bed early).  Interested in adventure sports? Clubbing? Bar hopping? Travelling to remote places with large scary insects? No thanks.  Lucky for me, Adam is just like me on all accounts.  If you're wondering how we celebrated our anniversary last night? The answer is we didn't because Adam had to take Big A to swim lessons and I had to stay home with Little A and help her study for her spelling test.  Ha!  But since next year is #15 I think perhaps we'll have to plan a bit better.

Fortunately, we have a long weekend now with few plans, so there will be lots of family time. Have a happy, healthy weekend and wonderful Victoria Day, if you're in Canada!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Vegan Pulled Pork over Cauliflower Mash

Okay, I know for sure I have a winning recipe when its vegan and Adam loves it.  That does not happen often!  As soon as we started eating this meal, he commented several times on how good it was, and wondered if the cauliflower was actually potato.  Ha!

I've been dreaming up this one in my head for a while.  BBQ is one of the big food trends here in Toronto, and being the protein lover I am, its very tempting.  The only problem is...its far from healthy! It doesn't have to be, but its mostly red meat and the sauces are generally full of sugar.  Sure, a lot of them offer pulled chicken or BBQ chicken, but the sauces are still sugary, and they are usually served with white buns and not very healthy side dishes. 
So I reimagined a BBQ meal that is both vegan and low-carb.  Oh, and also sugar-free too!

Real meat provides so much unctuous flavour because of the fat and the carmelization you get when you cook it.  Because I was using a vegan meat substitute (Soy Curls, which are less processed than most), I came up with an uber flavourful sauce to compensate.  By the way, if you didn't want to use Soy Curls, you could try using jackfruit instead.

Vegan Pulled Pork

1 onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 can Zevia gingerale (or beer, or orange or apple juice)
1 540ml jar pineapple chunks, with juice, pureed
1 bag Soy Curls (don't rehydrate them)
1 can tomato paste

Throw everything except tomato paste into a pot or skillet and simmer over medium heat until veggies and Soy Curls are softened and most of the liquid has been absorbed.  Add tomato paste and stir.  Turn heat to low and continue cooking about 10 minutes.  Season, to taste.

Cauliflower Mash

1 large or 2 small heads of cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tbsp. herbed cream cheese or butter (vegan alternatives, or whatever you want)
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh cracked black pepper

Steam cauliflower until soft and then puree, along with remaining ingredients, in food processor.  Spoon onto plates and top with desired amount of pulled pork.

This recipe was shared with Urban Naturale's Plant-Based Pot Luck Party and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Monday, May 16, 2016

No Period. Now What?

No Period. Now What?
I can't tell you how many times I've thought I should write a book.  A cookbook. A novel. A diet book. A book about infertility.  But I know how much work goes into writing a book and I've never really had the guts to really try it.  However, that's just what my friend did and I want to share with you all her hard work!

One of the most amazing things in my life is the incredible network of women I met through my infertility experiences.  Only a handful I have met in person, but Nicola Rinaldi, the first author of this book, is one of them! She has just published, No Period. Now What? We met up in Boston when Adam and I visited a while back.  One of her co-authors, Stephanie Buckley, I met there too!!

Nicola is actually the founder of the online support network I am a part of and she is one seriously impressive woman! She has a PhD and is mom to 3 adorable boys.

The book is on hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA) and may be the only book out there dedicated to this topic.  This refers to the absence of menstrual cycle and is a diagnosis of exclusion.  If no apparent reason is found, it is often the diagnosis, but too few doctors misdiagnose it as 'skinny PCOS' or fail to address lifestyle factors that can cause it.  Essentially, too much exercise and too few calories can cause a woman's menstrual cycle to stop.  For some women, it is only when their activity and diet become too extreme, but for others, they may have a very sensitive endocrine cycle which is interrupted even by slight increases in activity level or decreases in caloric intake.  The bigger problem is, some women cannot seem to restore their cycle even after adjusting their lifestyle and gaining a significant amount of body fat.

Nicola did a ton of research on HA and at this point is probably the world expert (no joke!).  I have ordered my copy through (which fortunately ships it to Canada), and I can't wait until it arrives, I know the book is going to be fantastic. 

Now what am I going to write a book about?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Ligol Apples

Ligol apple
I know, I have a bit of an apple addiction. I hoard them, I eat tons of them, I adore them, they are ranked up there as one of my favorite foods.

Not all apples mind you, I am discriminating.  You can definitely keep Macintosh, Granny Smith (except I loved them during both my pregnancies), and red and yellow Delicious apples to yourself.

But nothing gets me more excited than discovering something produced by Mother Nature that I haven't yet particular new varieties of apple.  So despite being very disappointment that the market where I regularly get my beloved Mutsus was out of them, I was intrigued by a basket of a variety I'd never seen or heard of before: Ligols?

Definitely not locally grown, these had stickers saying they are the product of the E.U. European apples? That's unusual.  Normally our apples are either Canadian or from the U.S.  Well, I had to try these, of course. I did a little research and discovered, for the most part, they are grown in Poland.

So what's the verdict? They're yummy! They actually remind me of Asian Pears a bit.  Not nearly as good as Mutsu apples, but nothing compares to them.  Definitely not as good as Honeycrisp or good Fujis either, but pretty good. 

Have you tried a Ligol?  Makes me wonder how many other varieties of yummy apples are out there that I haven't tried!

After some gorgeous weather here, its pouring rain this Friday morning and its supposed to continue all weekend.  We're looking forward to taking it easy with no real plans besides all the girls' usual activities, and the clients I have to see tomorrow.  Have a wonderful weekend and remember: An apple a day keeps the doctor away!  I wonder if that still applies if its in the form of hard cider...

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Reading Railroad

I have been so busy trying to keep up with the book review requests I've been getting, I haven't been able to share with you all the amazing books I've been reading during my sacred book time (in bed every night before going to sleep!). But believe me, I'm still reading every night, and over the past few months I have read a slew of fantastic books.  Unfortunately, the list has gotten so long I just don't have time to you catch up.

But fear not, I have two fantastic books to recommend, which just happen to be the last few I finished.

The first is Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan (I also recently read The Children Act by him which is also good).  I thought I would hate this book because it involved spy stuff and MI5.  I am not generally drawn to that kind of thing, but boy am I glad that didn't stop me from reading this one! I am not actually going to tell you much except that I adored it, and the ending had the best twist ever!!

The other one isn't actually a novel, its a historical book based on the Chicago World Fair and a serial killer (with a sordid connection to Toronto, as a matter of fact!).  Fear not though, you don't have to be a history buff to appreciate this one, its one heck of a story!  The author, Erik Larson, did an impressive job with his research, I just found it incredibly fascinating.  I remember seeing stuff about the Chicago Fair when Adam and I visited the Chicago History Museum, but I didn't pay much attention, I was more interested in reading about the great fire, at the time.  I had never heard of this serial killer, H.H. Holmes. I now want to read everything he has written!!

There you go, there are 2 gems I recommend...go read them, now!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Breakfast of Champions

So did you have a Mother's Day Brunch yesterday?  We didn't, because as Big A once told people when she was about 3, "We don't celebrate brunch in our home." Like it was some religious thing, ha ha!

In reality, I think Adam and I look at like, "Why would we eat only 2 meals in a day, when we can have 3?"

If I had to identify one thing in common most of my clients with food or weight issues have, its not eating enough quality food at breakfast.  They either don't eat at all, or they don't eat enough, or they just eat some sort of high carb item like a bagel.  The result is that at some point later in the day their body retaliates for failing to fuel it properly and they get cravings, mood and energy dips and/or extreme hunger and inevitably end up indulging in high calorie, low nutrition foods like chips, candy baked goods or chocolate.  It then becomes a vicious cycle as they end up full of shame and guilt, and wake up the next morning without much appetite, which steers them away from eating a good breakfast, and, hence, the pattern continues.

I know some people just don't feel like eating when they wake up, and that isn't a problem.  Despite what some people say that you must eat within an hour of waking, research doesn't support that.  If you have to wait a bit, they do so.  Bring your breakfast to work and eat when you get there if you must.  The problem is, too many people get caught up in the belief that skipping a meal will ultimately help them lose weight, but as you can see from the troubling pattern that often develops from that, you'll see it usually does just the opposite.  If you have to wait until 10am to eat, fine.  Then eat lunch at 2-3pm, and dinner at 7pm (the theory that eating after 7pm with make you gain weight is also BS).  This style of eating is often purposefully adopted by individuals practicing intermittent fasting.  Just don't binge on ice cream at 11pm!!

Personally, I have to have a good breakfast every day, but probably anyone like myself that does early morning workouts is the same.  I do my workouts on an empty stomach, so afterwards, I'm ready to eat (following my coffee, which I have first).

For many, many years, breakfast for me has been oatmeal, which I love.  The only exception was during my 2 pregnancies when just the thought of it made me projectile vomit.  Pregnancy hormones do weird things!! 

But as my workouts have become more strength based, my craving (need) for protein has surpassed my love of carbs.  I started finding that no matter how much oatmeal I ate, and what I added to it (protein powder, egg whites, chia or flax seeds, etc.), it doesn't keep me full long.  This is problematic with my job because as a psychotherapist, I can't just pull out a snack during a session, and if I have several back-to-back sessions, I don't even have a chance to shove a single thing in my mouth for a few hours.  So its really important I have something that keeps me going for a while.

For this reason I've started switching it up at breakfast time to see what works best.  For months I just whipped up a batch of my high protein chocolate mousse.  Its very filling, but come winter, I was craving something a bit warmer.  Another winner is a couple of fried egg sandwiches.  I just take 2 flat buns and top them with cheese and fried eggs.  Yum! 

Using bananas and sweet potatoes to make grain-free pancakes, served with fruit and nutbutter is another favorite, but I don't always have time for this.

These are banana pancakes made with egg whites, cottage cheese and konjac powder:

These sweet potato pancakes also had vanilla protein powder, egg whites and konjac powder (topped with peanut butter and cinnamon!)

I also love omelets because they provide a great hit of protein and they are so versatile and a great way to get veggies into your breakfast, either right in them, or on the side.  The sundried tomato, herbed cream cheese variety is awesome!

Here is my latest favorite:

Yogurt I flavour myself, swirled with homemade fruit compote, or konjac powder jam.  In this case, lemon yogurt and raw konjac blueberry jam (recipes below).  Oh, and a side of chicken sausages.  Man, this kept me going for hours and is so yummy!!  It also gets me eating a few superfoods I don't eat tons of: fruit and yogurt.  I usually eat only apples, and rarely just eat yogurt on its own, despite its benefits.

Honestly, another mistake I see among my clients with disordered eating or obesity, is that they are fearful of trying new things, or give up making positive changes too quickly.  They will try eating something new (or eating something at all!), and decide it didn't work for them (didn't enjoy it, made them feel bloated, etc.) and immediately go back to their old habit.  I urge them to keep trying new things.  Experimentation is something most health-conscious people are always doing with their cooking and with their diets: looking for new healthy foods to try, new flavour combinations, seeing how different foods and meals affect how we look and feel.  Just because you try broccoli and hate it, don't assume you hate all green veggies.  Or just because you don't like steamed broccoli, don't assume you won't like it cooked a different way.  Keep an open mind and always be open to trying new things!

This week I am going to experiment with breakfast salads.  Yes, seriously! If there are any keepers, I'll let you know.

Okay, now for the recipes...

Lemon yogurt is a personal favorite, but only a few brands make it and all are either full of sugar or artificial sweeteners and tons of additives.  Making it yourself is simple and delicious, and I urge you try it.  If you don't like lemon, there are so many other options.  Its easy to find pure flavour extracts in vanilla, maple, almond, orange, and many more!!  You can leave it entirely unsweetened, or add some no-sugar sweetener of choice.  If you aren't concerned with calories and sweeteners that affect your blood sugar, use maple syrup or honey. Coconut sap will give you a lower glycemic index.  For lower cal options, xylitol, erythritol, monk fruit or stevia are good choices.

 Homemade Lemon-flavoured Yogurt

750ml container plain, unsweetened yogurt (dairy or non-dairy)
1-2 tsp pure lemon extract (or other flavour) (don't add lemon juice because it will curdle the yogurt!)
2 droppers full of lemon stevia liquid (optional)
1/2 tsp pure stevia powder (or other sweetener, to taste)

Mix yogurt with the other ingredients.  Keeps in fridge up to 1 week.

Raw No-Sugar Blueberry Jam

600ml frozen blueberries, thawed
1/4 cup water
Sweetener, to taste (optional)
2 tsp konjac powder

Toss ingredients well and refrigerate overnight.  Keeps for up to 5 days.

I have submitted these recipes to Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday Linkup.