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Friday, July 31, 2015

The Long Weekend Birthday Boy

long weekend hi5
 
Adam's birthday is tomorrow, and this means there are 5 weeks in which I am only 1, rather than 2, years older than him.  Since he makes fun of me non-stop for being older than him, I have to cherish these weeks each year.

Today is bananas work-wise, and the weekend is equally busy so I'm short on time to write a post.  I just popped in to say, have a wonderful 3 days and I'll catch up with ya'll on Tuesday.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Super Fudgy Energy Bites


Looking for a healthy, satisfying, vegan, gluten-free, sweet and tasty snack...that's portable and simple to make? Oh, and doesn't require you to turn on the oven? Got it!

These were a hit with the whole family so I will definitely be making them again.  I have recently discovered how amazing flax eggs work as a binder in unbaked recipes.  They avoid the need to add oil or liquid sweeteners while adding a ton of fibre and nutrition.  These are best made in a high speed blender.  You can make them in a food processor but you won't be able to get the nuts perfectly smooth.

Super Fudgy Energy Bites

4 cups shelled raw walnuts
1 cup soft prunes (soak in water, if they aren't soft)
4 flax eggs (4 tbsp. + 12 tbsp. hot water)
1/2 cup vegan chocolate protein powder
1/2 cup raw cacao powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup stevia baking blend (that measures equivalent to sugar)
2 droppers full of chocolate stevia liquid (optional)

Place nuts in blender and blend until very finely chopped and nuts are starting to release their oils.  Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.  Roll into balls and place on wax or parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Refrigerate until firm.  Keep energy bites in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Place

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Healthy On-the-Go Snacks

HEALTHY SNACKS
 
One of the reasons North Americans eat so poorly is all the on-the-go eating we do.  In other cultures, there tends to be less of this, with more of an emphasis on sit-down, family meals.  The problem with on-the-go eating is that it tends to encourage consumption of convenience foods and interferes with mindful eating, often resulting in the ingestion of too many calories and too little nutrition.

Unfortunately, because of our lifestyles, sometimes eating on-the-go cannot be avoided.  But it doesn't have to be health risk if you do it right.

First, let me suggest what not to do. Do not go down the snack food aisle! Yes, you heard me: avoid snack foods!  This would include anything processed anyways, so things like cookies, granola bars/snack bars, chips, crackers, pretzels, etc.  It doesn't matter if they are organic, gluten-free, low-fat, etc.  They are generally void of nutritional value and just empty calories.  In addition, they are generally high-carb, low protein, which gives you a temporary energy boost, followed by a drop in blood sugar, which then causes a dip in energy and leaves you hungry again fairly soon.  Most people need no more than 2 snacks a day, if they are eating 3 square meals.  So even though snacking is definitely part of a good nutrition plan, this does not mean you can graze all day long.  A 'snack' should generally, be 200 calories or less, depending on your personal energy needs.

The ideal snacks are those from whole foods, that contain protein and fibre.  Fresh fruit and veggies are the best, of course, especially paired with some protein.   But there are other good options too.

Here are some of my favorite portable snacks:

Savoury:
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Hummus or bean dip + raw veggies
  • Seaweed snacks
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Air-popped popcorn
  • Cheese
  • Boiled edamame
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Kale chips
  • Nitrite-free jerky

Sweet:
  • Unsweetened dried fruits
  • Freeze-dried fruits
  • Home-made muffins or protein bars
  • Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with berries
  • Rice cakes with nut butter
  • Fruit compotes/poached fruit with yogurt
  • Fruit-based protein smoothies
Essentially, the simpler the better.  Avoid buying stuff in a box or bag with 1,000 ingredients.  Balance out carbs with protein, fibre and some healthy fats to keep your blood sugar stable, your appetite under control and your energy going all day.

This recipe was inspired by Nuts.com where you can buy lots of healthy snacks in bulk and have them delivered to your door!

Disclosure: Nuts.com asked me to write a post about healthy snacking but I received no compensation for this post and all opinions on this blog are my own.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Italian Roasted Zucchini


I often fixate on a particular fruit or veggie and just suddenly can't get enough.  Right now I am obsessed with zucchini.  Perhaps this is because it is so fresh and plentiful right now, there is always locally grown zuccs at the market these days. 

My favorite way to make it is roasted.  I don't use oil because I actually prefer it without. I find oil gives it a spongy texture.  This is a super simple recipe that just lets my favorite cooking method bring out the natural sweetness of this awesome veg.

I use Rustic Tuscan seasoning from Costco, but you can use regular Italian seasoning plus a pinch of sea salt in its place.  Or, sub it your own favorite seasoning blend.  Nowadays you can even find ones specifically for roasted veggies.

Italian Roasted Zucchini

4 zucchini, cut into rounds
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp Rustic Tuscan (or other) seasoning blend

Toss zucchini with vinegar, garlic and seasoning and spread on foil or parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes.

One more complaint about the weather...it is going to be over 30 Celsius all week, feeling like at least 40 Celsius with the humidity! That's 104 F for you Americans.

I have submitted this recipe to Urban Naturale's Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Party Blog Hop.

Monday, July 27, 2015

More Discoveries

teen running.jpg
 
Here are a few more discoveries I've had recently.  We certainly do continue learning throughout our lives, don't we?

First, I discovered that refinishing a dining room table and 6 chairs is way beyond the limits of my patience.  I'll do DIY stuff, essentially to save money, but I don't really enjoy most of these tasks.  So when the guy at the hardware store told me what a big job I was taking on, I quickly changed my plan.  With all the sanding to remove the stain and finish already on the set, and they re-staining, refinishing and sanding between coats, he estimated it was a 1 month job.  I trust him because he would have made money off all the supplies I was about to buy.  So, um, no thanks.  I was thinking 2-3 days.  Perhaps we will, in fact, just buy a new set.

Second, apparently age 9 is the new 13.  Big A is definitely pre-pubescent with that impending blossoming right around the corner.  Her sleeping habits are a dead giveaway.  Its harder and harder to drag her out of bed in the morning.  Gone are the days when this former early bird would get up before 6am.  This morning I tried 3 times to get her up and it was way past 9am when I was finally able to rouse her.  Then she was grumpy and quickly reverted to asking like a 2-year-old when I told her we didn't have time for her to sit and eat a second bowl of cereal.  With a bag of cereal in her hand, I dragged her out the door.  I dread September when I actually need to get the girls to school before 9am!

I also discovered that sometimes you can find some very valuable information on the Internet.  For example, after we pulled a load of laundry out of the drying this weekend and found a whole bunch of our (Adam's and mine) clothes covered in greasy, pink lipstick stains because Little A left some tinted chapstick in her pocket, I discovered that if you soak the stains in rubbing alcohol or hairspray, they will actually come out.  The one caveat is that the extent to which this works depends on the fabric (Adam's cotton shorts turned out much better than did my white Handful bra).

Finally, I discovered this morning that the weather all week is going to be super hot and humid.  That pisses me off.  I don't care if that's normal for this time of year.  It still pisses me off.  I'll be staying close to A/C, but you have a great Monday!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Discoveries

 
Its been a quiet week work-wise.  A lot of clients are away and a lot of my referring doctors are on holiday.  But its still been a fruitful week in other ways.

Most importantly, I have been feeling better than ever.  For months I've been struggling with daytime sleepiness and fatigue.  I thought it was my thyroid a few months ago when after a routine check, my doctor said it was, indeed, low and I needed to bump up my thyroid meds.  Unfortunately, when we re-tested a month later, my levels were perfect but the fatigue was still there.   Next, I wondered if it could be my iron levels, but my annual physical results all came back normal.  Finally, I reluctantly concluded that perhaps it was just part of being 40.  Recently, however, the fatigue has completely evaporated and I am back to my old young, energetic self.  WTF? I realized that my energy bounced back a few days after stopping my antihistamines!  In never occurred to me that it could be the culprit as it is supposedly non-drowsy and I've been on it for a few years, since my last allergist put me on it.  Maybe its a coincidence, but who cares, once again I am an energizer bunny (that was my nickname at the first gym where I taught fitness classes because I kept going and going and going...).

Speaking of teaching fitness, I also realized that its just like riding a bicycle!  I get class sub requests all the time.  I never take them because most don't work with my schedule (either early mornings when I am with the girls or evenings when I am either working or picking up the girls).  As time has gone on, I have also felt less confident teaching class formats I haven't taught in a while.  I used to teach pretty much everything, and the only reason I have stuck it out with only spinning is that it takes less prep time.  Things like boot camp or step require you to be constantly coming up with new ideas, and even though that was never a big challenge for, I just didn't want to pressure.  Anyways, when a request came in Wednesday 7am for a 10:30am class, I realized I was available.  It was for a cardio, sculpt, core and stretch combo class.  Even though I had nothing prepared, I reminded myself that I could just pick out exercises that I do myself all the time and could probably wing it pretty well.  Besides, it was for folks 55+ so I wouldn't have to go all-out.  Well, it turned out great! Admittedly, even though I tried to keep the intensity down, they whined a bit about the class being really challenging.  Nevertheless, some of them thanked me afterwards for shaking up their usual routine.  I think I'm going to try to sub more often! After all, making a few extra bucks is always a welcome thing!

I have also decided to tackle refinishing our dining room table and chairs.  They used to belong to Adam's parents and they are pretty old and not looking their best (mostly due to the wear and tear of 2 messy kids!).  I discovered that the process is pretty straightforward (based on the info I found online) so I'm going to the big hardware store down the street and stocking up on supplies today.  Tomorrow I am going to get started.  Another recent discovery of mine is that I'm not as useless as I thought I was.  A few weeks ago I single-handedly re-landscaped our front yard to replace the horrible mess made by the landscaper we hired a few years ago.  It looks pretty good, if I do say so myself! I also repainted a few walls after our handyman removed the baby gates we had on the stairs (yeah, we left them on a bit too long), and mended a whole in the drywall Adam and I made when moving the stairmaster out of our house. 

I also discovered a fitness DVD I have had that I previously overlooked.  I was flipping through my case of UFC FIT DVDs and realized there was one at the back - Shark Attack - that I hadn't tried.  See I don't follow the program they give you, I just work all my various DVDs into my routine.  I like to change it up as much as possible, so finding something completely new was exciting.  Realizing I love this workout was even better! OF all the workouts in the UFC FIT program, I think this one is the most MMA inspired, and it is so much fun.  I did it twice this week!

So here's to new discoveries!

Its a busy weekend.  Tomorrow I have one client to see and the girls have swimming.  Sunday I teach my spin class and then we are driving out of town to some friends' place for a BBQ.  Have a healthy, happy one!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Cocoa Peanut Butter Protein Bars


As promised here is the recipe for these kid-friendly treats.  The girls absolutely loved these...between them and Adam they devoured the whole pan in about 2 days!  Although they're also great for adults looking for a healthy snack, I love making stuff like this for my girls since getting protein into Big A is so often a challenge.  For young children you can cut them into smaller squares, if you wish.

The base has a strong banana flavour, so if you want the chocolate flavour to come through more, definitely use chocolate protein powder and/or add a few teaspoons of cocoa powder.

Cocoa Peanut Butter Protein Bars

Bars
1/4 cup ground flax meal
1/2 cup hot water
1/4 cup shelled hemp seeds
1/4 cup powdered peanut butter (like this one)
2 scoops chocolate or vanilla protein powder (whatever one you like)
1 large, ripe banana
1 325g box cocoa rice crisp cereal (like this one), approx. 6 1/4 cups

For the bars, whisk together flax and hot water and set aside until it thickens.  Add to food processor along with hemp seeds, powdered peanut butter, protein powder and banana.  Puree until smooth.  Add cereal, 2 cups at a time and pulse until blended in.  For final 2 cups, pulse a few times, but leave some of the cereal whole.

Spread batter evenly into greased 9x9 square pan (or 8x8 for thicker bars).  Bake at 375F for about 16-18 minutes.  Let cool.  Use a knife to release from sides of pan and turn upside down onto a flat surface.  Spread frosting over top and refrigerate until frosting has set.  Cut into bars, makes 20 bars.  Keep refrigerated for up to 5 days or freeze.

Frosting
2 heaping tbsp. coconut oil, melted
2 tbsp. powdered peanut butter
1 scoop vanilla or chocolate protein powder

For the frosting, whisk together ingredients and then spread evenly over top of baked bars.

I have submitted this recipe to Urban Naturale's Plant-Based Pot-Luck Party and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.