Friday, July 3, 2015

Peel the Onion

Hello, and happy Friday!

Warning: I am about to go on one of my rants, so if you want to, click away from this page and come back another day.  If you enjoy my pontifications, well here you go:

You know that saying, "We eat with our eyes"? Well its bullshit.

North Americans eat far too much of this:

...and far too little of this:

fresh, whoe organic raw food

Now you tell me, which one is nicer to look at?  Even if you love fried food and hate fruits and veggies, you can't tell me the fried food is more attractive! Well, I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I have never been one to be that concerned with food presentation.  Obviously!  Even the plates I picture on the blog here are generally gussied up more than the ones that are not.  I just heap the food on the plate and eat.  Yet I still consider myself a foodie.  I love to cook, I know all about various cooking techniques (if there were a culinary-focused Jeopardy I would win!) and I have knowledge of a wide variety of cuisines.  Our house is full of a thousand herbs and spices, various baking ingredients, condiments, grains, etc.  But whether or not the finished product looks beautiful to me - if it is just for me - matters not at all.

To me, when a restaurant is very focused on food presentation, what that means to me is I AM GOING GO LEAVE HUNGRY!


Really, one of the many reasons we don't eat out much is that often the more you pay, the less you get.  And sometimes the quality of so-called upscale places does not justify the 'quality over quantity' argument, especially when I can cook most things at home cheaper and more to my taste anyways.

Eating with our eyes is often why so much food in our world goes to waste.  We are so fixated on how food looks, we throw away perfectly good food we deem ugly.  Fortunately, Canadian grocery stores are going to start selling 'ugly' food at a discount rather than throwing it away.  Halleluyah, its about time!!

As I've always said on this blog, I am not too concerned with food presentation.  Just taste and nutrition.  If there are any pretty looking plates on this blog, you can be guaranteed I staged it that way for your benefit.  But there aren't many anyways.

In any case, it isn't just esthetics that drive our food choices, its culture, psychology, physiology, socioeconomic status and a host of other things.

But my beef is not just with this fixation on pretty food.  We are obsessed with visuals.  We need to see everything, judgements are made based on how things look. The most important thing on dating websites, of course, are people's photos.  Most people look very different from their photos anyways, but also, a photo tells you almost nothing about a person, including whether or not you will have chemisty!  Unless you are a totally superficial arse, it is the entire person, not just their appearance, that determines attraction.  The explosion of Instagram puzzles me completely.  I never was on it until my business consultant told me every food business need a presence there.  I wish this wasn't the case.  I am a terrible photographer and I hate taking pictures of food.  If I describe an ooey gooey chocolate chip blondie, do you really need to see it to imagine how yummy it is?  Its not only food on there either, people post everything.  I get the pictures of people's kids and families, which allows you to easily share them with other loved ones, but some of the stuff on Instagram (ahem, a billion selfies), to me, just shows what a completely narcissistic, bunch of navel gazers we've become.

How to take the perfect selfie - Do's and Don'ts!. #Photography #Images #SelfPhotography
I was horrified to hear from one of my 20-something clients that it is now de rigeur to follow someone you are dating or 'hooking up with' on Instagram.  Even Facebook has too much written content!  Why have a conversation with anyone when you can just post photos of yourself?  The irony is, all the 20-somethings in my practice despise this stuff too, but feel no choice since this is just 'what you do'.  In fact, texting and all the social media crap seems to have replaced phone calls or even face-to-face contact within the dating world.  Don't get me wrong, people can connect through social media and find epic romance, but too often those playing the game see it as just that.  The people they meet online are 'disposable'. You can 'hook up' with them and then never speak to them again, since your only connection to them was online.  Its so messed up I thank goodness I found Adam long before all this shit came on to the scene!

We have seemingly become a society with no attention span.  Everything has to be a picture, diagram or 40 characters or less.  This trend started even before all this explosion of social media.  When I returned to the research industry in 2007 after Big A was born, already written reports were passe. All anyone wanted was everything summarized onto a single Powerpoint Slide.  No one has time to read long reports everyone would say.  Really? So this is where a world of high tech gadgets that supposedly do everything for us and take out food has gotten us?  If people don't have the time its usually because they are wasting it looking at pictures!

Personally, I find I get little out of seeing pictures online (or eating food arranged into a tower with a bow on top).  I still value the written word.  Give me books, and if I am online, give me Wikipedia (I am still addicted to it!).  And as for people, lets talk rather than exchanging selfies.  Lets meet for coffee and confess our deepest secrets. At the very least, email me, don't send me some weird text code because I won't know what the heck you are saying anyways!

Have a lovely weekend folks.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Grain-Free Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins

One reason I have always loved baking is its always a science experiment.  I almost never use other people's recipes because I prefer to make up my own, but believe me, I have definitely had my fair share of fails!

I am currently obsessed with baking with plantains.  It is so amazing to me that you can just puree this starchy fruit and use it in place of flours.  Like who knew? 

I had one that got super ripe, and since they sweeten as they ripen I thought it would be a good one to use to make something for the sweet teeth that live in this house...that would be Adam and the girls!
I had never thrown in coconut milk powder but wanted to give these little muffins some added richness.  This was certainly an experiment gone right, as everyone loved them! 

Along with being delicious, they are also gluten-free, sugar-free, low-calorie, and vegan.  How about them plantains?

Grain-Free Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins

1 large, ripe plantain, peeled and cut into quarters
2 flax eggs (2 tbsp. ground flax + 6 tbsp. hot water)
1 cup stevia for baking (or less, according to taste; you can also use xylitol)
1/2 cup coconut milk powder (or skim milk powder if not vegan)
1 scoop vanilla stevia-sweetened protein powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips, preferably stevia-sweetened

Puree everything in blender or food processor until completely smooth and creamy.  Stir in chocolate chips by hand.  Pour into parchment muffin cup lined mini muffin tin and bake at 350F for 18-20 minutes.  Let cool and eat.  Keep refrigerated for up to a week or freeze.  Makes 16 mini muffins.

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

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Happy Canada Day!



This week Hump Day is a holiday in Canada...its the country's 148th birthday!

Aside from the fact that I have to go into the clinic to see a client this morning, we are having a very Canadian day.  Actually, a very Toronto day.

Adam is taking the girls to the CN Tower as per Little A's request.  I am disappointed to not be able to join them because aside from one occasion (a bad date) when I went there years ago, I haven't been to the tower, and never to the top observation deck.

In the afternoon, we are checking out festivities on Queen's Park, something we haven't done before.  Although its cloudy right now, the forecast is for warm (but not too hot!) weather and sunshine.

Have a good day eh?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Warm Spinach Salad with Sauteed Mushrooms, Red Onion and Blue Cheese

This salad rocks.  It is so yummy and flavourful, yet incredibly healthy too!  Spinach is, of course, a nutrition superstar, as are mushrooms, and you only need a little bit of blue cheese because it packs so much punch.  I've already made this salad a bunch of times and its a favorite.  Maybe not the most 'summery' salad, but so good, I'm happy to eat it all year round.

Organic baby spinach

2 lbs mushrooms, sliced
1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce (regular or vegan)
1 can tomato paste
Salt & pepper, to taste

Crumbled blue cheese (about 2 tbsp. per serving)

Saute onions, mushrooms and garlic with vinegars and Worcestershire sauce for 3-4 minutes.  Turn heat down to medium low and allow mushrooms to cook down.  Add tomato paste and season to taste.  If too thick, add water as desired.  Spoon desired amount of spinach and top with crumbled blue cheese.

Makes 2-4 servings.

I have submitted this recipe to the July 2015 No Croutons Required.

Monday, June 29, 2015


Boy the past few days have been a real mixed bag! 
Of course, I have to mention that FINALLY same-sex marriage has been legalized across the U.S.!  Its about freakin' time!

It also happens to be pride week in Toronto, and unfortunately, along with all the rainbow flags came torrential rain on the day of the big parade this weekend.  In fact, it poured all weekend.  There were a whole lot of very disappointed folks!

For me, however, the weather was okay.  The antibiotics have me feeling pretty lousy so having to stay in and not do very much was a good thing.  I bailed on my book club but did push myself to do everything else.  Its just this sort of blech feeling which sometimes worsens to full-blown nausea.  I am not surprised, I often get this way from antibiotics.

Nevertheless, I an ecstatic that my girls will grow up in a world with more acceptance of diversity.  While there is still a long way to go, major strides have been made since I was born in the 70s, that's for sure.

So happy proud of who you are and who you love!

Friday, June 26, 2015

School's Out for Summer

Oh my, its been quite a week!

Tuesday I had to take Little A to the dentist to get some fillings (insert mom guilt here).  At her last check-up they found spots on her 2 molars that are just coming in. "Its not my fault," she told me, "I'm not the one who brushes my teeth!"  So true.

I was a wee bit concerned because when Big A was 4 she had 4 cavities (but at least they were in her baby teeth) and she howled through the whole procedure, the laughing gas did nothing.  But Little A was a total trouper.  She didn't make a single peep, she lay still and the whole thing was over super quickly.  When they stood her up she was in a big of a laughing-gas trance, so they gave her a juice box to stop her from getting too woozy.  Man, though, was she in the best mood.  I gotta get me some of that laughing gas!

This week I also developed gruesome infection in my right middle finger.  How, you ask?  I have no idea. But I will admit I have a bad habit of chewing on the skin around my fingers.  In fact, I do that so much that when my finger started hurting, I thought nothing of it.  Until it was so bad that if I even bumped it, I went to the moon.  Oh boy, this was serious!  I know enough to soak it in hot water and apply antibiotic ointment.  Unfortunately, our ointment expired in 2012.  Typical! So it wasn't until Wednesday when I was able to pick some up.  By Wednesday night though, my glands had swollen to the point where it hurt to swallow or talk.  Thursday I got in to see my doctor and she confirmed we have to treat this aggressively and put me on a course of powerful antibiotics.  She also warned that if it got worse, not better, I have to take myself to the ER ASAP.  HOLY SHIT!

By last night though, I was feeling much better so I am confident the antiobiotics will be enough. This morning I feel even better, although my finger is still very tender and looks incredibly gruesome.

On the positive side of things this week, Little A graduated from kindergarten and Big A finished grade 3.  I can't believe how fast they are growing up!

We have another crazy busy weekend with social events and I have clients both Saturday and Sunday, however, its nice to know that starting Monday, we will be on a more laid-back summer schedule for a bit.  I think we all need it!

 Have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Lifeway Kefir: Product Review

New Lifeway Kefir now available in Canada (PRNewsFoto/Lifeway Foods, Inc.)

Lets talk kefir.  And I am not referring to the Sutherland variety.  Ha ha! I'm talking about the super nutritious probiotic dairy food. More specifically, it is a fermented milk that is low in lactose and high in beneficial bacteria which may include Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, Lactobacillus helveticus, Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens, Lactococcus lactis, and Leuconostoc species.  Probiotics promote healthy digestion and immune function.

Lifeway Kefir is a family run company from Chicago that has brought their products to Canada.  They generously sent me their original and peach varieties to try.  Their kefir are described as a tart and tangy cultured milk smoothie that is high in protein, calcium and vitamin D. Thanks to our exclusive blend of kefir cultures, each cup of kefir contains 12 live and active cultures and 7 to 10 billion beneficial probiotic strains.

Lifeway Kefir is extremely creamy but just slightly higher in calories than skim milk (120 calories per cup instead of 90).  The peach has added cane sugar, which I don't love, but the girls - particularly - Big A, really enjoyed it and the whole jug was gone in 48 hours.  The plain variety, is very strong tasting and, in my opinion, best suited for cooking, salad dressings, marinades, etc.  I froze it in cubes and attempted to make the family strawberry vanilla softserve, but they found the tang a bit overwhelming.  It definitely is an acquired taste so if you don't love it the first time you try it, try it again or try using it in a different way. 

If you like the taste of kefir and don't like overly sweet things, you may like this recipe, otherwise I would stick to using it for savoury recipes.

Strawberry Vanilla Kefir Softserve

Plain Lifeway Kefir, frozen in ice cube trays
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 dropper full of vanilla stevia liquid
1/2 cup baking stevia
1 tsp konjac powder

Drop about 8 kefir cubes along with strawberries, protein powder, vanilla, and stevia into high powered blender.  Use ice cream setting.  Add milk, as needed to get desired consistency.  Serve immediately.