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Monday, December 3, 2018

5-Ingredient Instant Pot Cookbook: Review


Do you have an Instant Pot? Do you know what an Instant Pot is? If you like cooking, or maybe if you hate cooking but try to find motivation to avoid takeout, you do.

Its a recent (Canadian) invention that has taken the cooking and food prep world by storm. It is a multi-function, small appliance that can pressure cook, saute, steam and more. It is programmable and can cut down dramatically on the time required to prepare all sorts of different dishes.

I do not have one. Why? The reason is that I just don't feel the need at this point in time. I have used the slow cooker we got as a wedding gift once in almost 18 years.  But I have family and friends that are obsessed with it.

For that reason, I agreed to review the 5-Ingredient Instant Pot Cookbook by cookbook author, Marilyn Haugen.


People who like simple recipes and/or are short on time will appreciate the simplicity of these recipes.

The first section of the book provides tips and information about using an Instant Pot. The following section is"Instant Pot Staples" and contains recipes such as broth, and stocks, quinoa, brown rice, marinara sauce and BBQ sauce. I know a lot of people find cooking brown rice daunting because it can take a long time and end up too chewy or too mushy. In the Instant Pot, it takes less than 30 minutes, which is pretty impressive. Though you still have to soak dried beans, you only need to cook them for a few minutes! That's amazing.

Other sections include:


  • Breakfasts
  • Soups, Stews and Chilis
  • Beef and Pork
  • Chicken
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Beans, Grains and Pasta
  • Vegetables and Sides
  • Desserts
Each recipe includes tips and many have variations as well. But only a handful are photographed, so this book isn't great for people who need visuals.

This isn't a healthy cooking book so things I try to avoid like added sugar and refined flours show up in some recipes, but you can probably make substitutions. It also is limited in terms of vegan/vegetarian recipes but is great for anyone who eats a varied diet.

A few standouts are "Almost Rotisserie Chicken", "Maple Rice Pudding" and "Hearty Steel-Cut Oats" which all cook in much less time than conventional recipes.

So do I plan to get an Instant Pot? Nope. But I do recommend this book if you have one. There are 150 recipes that cover the gamut and are all relatively simple and easy to follow. I am going to give my copy of this book to my sister-in-law who has an Instant Pot, and adores it. I know she will love it!




Monday, November 26, 2018

Nature's Touch Frozen Fruit: Product Review

I have written many a post about how important I think it is to use your freezer to maintain a healthy diet and to reduce food waste.

I don't mean buying processed frozen foods. I mean making food in big batches and freezing, freezing leftovers, etc.

The one type of frozen food I buy often is frozen fruit. I buy a few types of frozen veggies too (green beans, peas, Brussels sprouts, etc.) but I buy a ton of frozen fruit. I use it for compotes, salads, and baking, and Adam and the girls use it for smoothies and snacking. It is particularly useful in the summer when a lot of the fruit we eat is not in season, and since frozen fruit (and veggies) is always picked fresh and ripe, its very nutritious (the same is not true for canned produce).

So when Nature's Touch offered to send me samples of their products, I immediately jumped at the chance. They sent 2 of their newest products,

Grapes-To-Go!




and Strawberry-Rhubarb Harvest


The grapes come as 5 individual packages in a bag you can take for snacking. Unfortunately, 3 of the bags had opened and all the grapes were at the bottom of the bag. This feature, in my opinion, is unnecessary, especially now that we are more conscious of trying to reduce single use plastics. Its just as easy to grab a handful and put it in a reusable container to take on the go.

While some kids might love taking these bags for lunch, my weirdo kids don't like grapes. I like them in savoury dishes, so I will use them for that purpose. But in any case, the grapes were firm, sweet and juicy, yummy frozen or thawed.

I love the Strawberry-Rhubarb Harvest mix because its such a great combo and its so hard to find rhubarb in winter.

I used it to make a strawberry rhubarb balsamic salad dressing and tossed it over wilted kale, roasted beets and goat cheese. Delish!

The company sells products in Taiwan, Japan, Australia, US and Canada. Apparently, their head office is in Montreal, QC.

They source their produce from a variety of places but I don't think you can assume its local, if that's something that is a concern to you. Most of their products are organic and they are all non-GMO.

Do I recommend Nature's Touch products? Absolutely! I think its a great idea to keep your freezer stocked with healthy staples, and frozen produce is one of the best.

Disclosure: Nature's Touch sent me product samples to try but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Endure: Book Review


A few years ago I reviewed a book, Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights? written by a high school classmate of Adam, physiologist and journalist, Alex Hutchinson.

I very much liked that book so was eager to read his latest one, Endure: Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance. Adam purchased it and read it first and after raving about how well it is written, gave it to me to read.

This book is all about the factors that affect human physical performance. If you are an endurance athlete of any kind, either professionally or even just recreationally, than you must read this book. Even if you are not, in fact, even if you do no physical activity at all and the closest you get to sports is watching them on TV with beer in hand, you will still enjoy this book.

That is what I liked best about Endure: Alex manages to make the science interesting and proves himself as a story teller. He weaves in engaging tales about arctic explorers from a century ago, elite athletes from today, as well as his own personal experiences being a competitive runner.

The book has 3 parts:

Part 1: Mind and Muscle (dominate theories)
Part 2: Limits (pain, muscle, oxygen, heat, thirst, fuel)
Part 3: Limit Breakers (brain training, brain stimulation and belief)

If you think you know everything about physical limits, this book will likely prove you wrong. The theory about lactic acid build up that many people in the field still adhere to has been disproved. New research in this area is far more complicated and fascinating. I don't want to give away everything, but lets just say this book provides further evidence that mind and body are one. It is also good for debunking a lot of myths about products and practices that supposedly affect performance.

I also find it fascinating to read about some of these extreme endurance athletes, who run like 100 miles without rest, not sleeping for days. Its totally insane to me but also amazing at the same time.

Usually I reserve bed time reading for fiction as its my zone out/chill out time, but this book was such an easy read and so compelling, I read it before bed and found myself staying awake longer because I didn't want to put it down.

Read this book!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Seabuck Wonders Ultimate Hair, Skin & Nails: Product Review


I have reviewed a number of Seabuck Wonders products over the past few years and am generally very impressed with them. This one is no exception.

Ultimate Hair, Skin & Nails is a combination of Omega-7 from organic sea buckthorn berry oil and sea buckthorn seed oil plus biotin and vitamin E.

As someone with weak fingernails that frequently snag and tear, and hair that has never really recovered from having 2 children (less shiny, drier, cowlicks that never used to exist, and hair loss), I was eager to see if this supplement could make a difference.

Omega-7 is something I have tried before in their other products but I have never taken biotin.

Biotin naturally occurs in small amounts in bananas, eggs and milk. Biotin is an important component of enzymes in the body that break down fats, carbohydrates, and other substances in our body.

You can't really test for low biotin levels, but symptoms of a deficiency include thinning of the hair, red scaly rash around the eyes, nose, and mouth, depression, fatigue, hallucinations, and tingling of the arms and legs.

After a couple weeks of taking 2 softgels a day (the recommended amount) what I noticed is that my hair was not falling out as much. Lucky for me, my hair has not started thinning, so I guess I am growing hair at the same rate I am losing it. Nevertheless, my shedding is gross and annoying. I am regularly finding hairballs all over the house, and strands on my clothes and even in my food (YUCK!). I was suddenly able to brush my hair and flat iron it after my shower in the morning without having to sweep up hair afterwards. Wow!

Unfortunately, a few days after finishing the bottle, my hair started falling out more again. I gotta get me some more!

Apparently it takes up to a year to see any change in brittle nails so I can't speak to its efficacy for that.

So do I recommend this product? Absolutely! But always speak to your doctor or health care provider first before starting a new supplement to see if its appropriate for you.

Disclosure: I was sent this product to review but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Tex-Mex Diabetes Cooking: Book Review


As ya'll probably know, diabetes is a big freakin' problem in North America. Some people develop Type I, which is an autoimmune disease, during childhood, but you can develop this in adulthood too though rare (I have 2 clients who did).

Type II diabetes can be genetic but more often than not it is a lifestyle disease brought on by a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle. While some people will have to eventually go on medication in order to manage it, others may be able to get in under control, or even into remission with lifestyle changes.

The American Diabetes Association recently published Tex Mex Diabetes Cooking, written by author Kelley Cleary Coffeen, PhD. The concept is excellent because North Americans, especially folks south of the border in the US, love their Tex Mex food!

Traditionally, Tex Mex can mean huge portions of rice, flour tortillas, meats, with everything smothered in cheese, guac and sour cream. But really, this cuisine can be lighter and very nutritious that what you find in the typical fast food version. Think lean meats, beans and fish and lots of veggies.

But if you feel that Tex Mex just isn't the same without all the high carb, high calorie goodies, than don't fret, you will still love the recipes in this book.

Coffeen clearly has a 'moderation' approach to nutrition. The book even has a section for cocktails if you can't imagine eating a taco without a Margarita.

First, I like that she starts in her introduction with  a discussion about the importance of drinking water and exercising for people with diabetes. Then, she has a section listing all the essential chili peppers, herbs and spices essential for Tex Mex cooking. Delicious food doesn't need sugar, salt and fat when you have so many other ways to add flavour! This section also includes general tips for cooking Tex Mex food for people with diabetes.

All recipes include prep and cooking times, serving size, choices/exchanges (starch, protein, etc.), and nutritional value per serving. There are only a few photos so don't expect visuals of each recipe.

Recipe sections include:

  • Bites and Starters
  • Salsas and More
  • Tortillas and Breads
  • Breakfast Favorites
  • Soups and Stews
  • Tostadas, Tacos, Tamales, Burritos, Enchiladas, and More
  • Savory Sides
  • Little Sweets

I am eager to try a number of the salsa and sauce recipes. Aside from the Mexican White Sauce, which uses mayo, most are light and healthy and sound super flavourful and delicious. Roasted Pineapple Salsa...OMG!!

Many recipes do have sour cream, avocados, and cheese, but use either reduced fat versions and/or lower quantities, so you will not feel deprived.

The homemade tortillas use whole wheat flour or part whole wheat (I would use ALL whole wheat and ditch the white altogether), or corn flour, which is a whole grain. The rice recipes offer the choice of brown or while. Go with brown!

There is a lot of variety in this recipe collection and definitely numerous dishes that will appeal to just about anyone.

Do I recommend this book? Absolutely. If you love Tex Mex food, and even if you do not have diabetes, but want to eat better, this book is a good bet.

Disclosure: I was sent this book to review but all opinions on this blog are my own.




Monday, October 29, 2018

Amazing 2 Ingredient Pizza Crust


I love making pizza. I mix it up in terms of what type of crust I make. Sometimes a traditional yeast crust, sometimes a base of cauliflower, sometimes gluten free...but always healthy, of course.

But lately, life is so busy I haven't made it very often because it tends to be pretty time consuming. This is one reason I adore this recipe. It is not only healthy and super delicious, it is also pretty quick and easy.

All you do is mix equal parts self-rising flour (I make my own whole grain version) with plain Greek yogurt. If you are vegan or need dairy-free, I am sure you could make it with a coconut milk Greek yogurt. You could probably also use gluten-free flour if necessary. I used organic, whole grain spelt for these ones.

Self-rising flour

1 cup flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

For the pizzas pictured above (equivalent to 2 extra larges, one regular, one thick crust), I used 5 cups each self-rising flour and Greek yogurt.

2 Ingredient Pizza Crust

Mix together flour and yogurt in a large bowl and use hands to press into a ball. Divide into desired number of portions and press out onto greased baking sheets. Bake naked in oven at 400F for about 20 minutes (less if making thin crust), then top with sauce, cheese and toppings, and then return to oven for another 10 minutes.


As you can see, on the pizza above, I used nutritional yeast instead of cheese. It was my first time trying this on pizza, and I absolutely loved it!!

I think my go-to from now on is this crust recipe, and using nutritional yeast.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Blendtec vs Vitamix

If you are at all into cooking and/or nutrition, than you likely own a high speed blender.

There are now numerous companies making them, but the two most popular brands are Blendtec and Vitamix.

About 6 years ago, Adam bought me a Blendtec for my birthday. I asked for it specifically, over a Vitamix, based on reviews I had read. The deciding factor for me at the time, was that many people suggested the Blendtec was easier to clean.

After having owned many food processors and blenders that suck to clean, this was very appealing for me.

Despite the Blentec's motor dying much sooner than I think it should have, overall we were pretty happy with it. It was used multiple times daily. I used it to crush ice and make coffee frappes, make batters for baked goods, sauces, purees, etc., and Adam and the girls used it primarily for making smoothies.

That being said, I didn't love cleaning it...but I probably won't love cleaning anything ever, to be honest. Food would get caught under the blade, and unlike our food processor, the blade wasn't removable. But it was not sharp, so I could often reach in and push food that was stuck with my bare fingers.

One thing I was very disappointed about was its ability to make nut butter. I had high hopes but after a few totally failed tries, I gave up.

The Blendtec had preprogrammed settings, like Ice Crush, Batters, Smoothies, etc. Sometimes they worked great for their intended purpose, other times, another setting would actually work better.

The Blendtec was also LOUD. Like really F#$*ing LOUD!

So a few months ago when it died, I decided to switch camps and try a Vitamix.  We got the Vitamix Explorian E310 Blender, which Adam got a good deal on at Canadian Tire.



At first it took us all a bit of time to get used to it. It has no preprogrammed settings, so when I turn it on, I forget I have to turn it off, because the Blentec settings had timers and would go off automatically.

It is just as easy (or not easy) as the Blendtec to clean, however, the blades are super sharp, so you definitely cannot stick your hand in to clean it out.

Like all high power blenders, it is loud, but I don't think its as loud as the Blendtec, which is a welcome change.

I tried nut butter and the first time was a total disaster. A second attempt led me to realize you just can't more than about a 1/2 cup of nuts in at a time. Given its large size, I find this very annoying. I had 4 cups of almonds and it was extremely time consuming and messy to do so many individual batches. I am going to stick to store bought nut and seed butters for now.

The Vitamix we got does have a pulse button, along with the continuous power button, and a speed control. But we tend to just blast the shit out of everything on the highest speed.

Overall, I think I do prefer the Vitamix. That being said, it remains to be seen if it lasts longer than the Blendtec!