Monday, January 16, 2017

Yves Veggie Cuisine: Product Review

Despite most people assuming I am vegetarian or vegan, I am completely omnivorous. That being said, I do minimize my consumption of red meat (like really I only eat it a few times a year), and I do try to make the majority of my meals meatless.

For proteins, I eat chicken/turkey, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, soy...and faux meats. Yes, I love me a good veggie sausage!

Now some health gurus squawk about faux meat because they are processed. Yes, they are. They do tend to be high in sodium, so if that's an issue for you, be warned. But as someone who needs lots of protein (I crave it like no tomorrow!), and wants as much variety as possible while keeping my consumption of animal proteins to reasonable levels, I love the flexibility of using faux meats.

For many years, I have been a consumer of Yves Veggie Cuisine products. If you have tried just a few faux meat products in the past and not been impressed, keep in mind that there is a lot of variety and they range from barfy to fantastic, so keep experimenting.

Among my favorite faux meats, several of Yves make the list, including their pepperoni, salami, and jumbo dogs. I actually prefer them to the real thing, though I would never at this point in my life eat cured/processed meats anyways. Colon cancer? No thanks!

I also like using Yves products when cooking for my carnivore husband. He seems to much prefer faux meat to beans, and it can often be helpful for me in certain recipes, because he observes the Kosher practice of not combining milk and meat. I don't use a lot of vegan cheese products because, unlike faux meats, they tend to be very low in protein. I need my protein!

Yves has a huge line of products, and they keep adding more. They generously sent me one of their original products, the Ground Round (which now comes in several flavours): well as one of their newer products, their falafel:

I love me some falafel, but lately I haven't been bothering to make homemade. I like their version, and love that they don't add any cheap fillers, like white flour!!

Adam likes their falafel and veggie dogs too, and eats their salami several times a week in his work lunch. He also likes their new line of 'balls' like Kale and Quinoa, and Sweet Potato and Chia, though he finds them less filling due to their lower protein content. We were also sent the Kale and Quinoa balls, and Adam found that when you bake them until crispy, they are really good.

Big A, who adores hot dogs, will happily eat their veggie dogs, and she is crazy about their corn dogs. This is very helpful for me because it is very seldom I can find a meat hot dog that doesn't have nitrites in it. Nitrites = colon cancer!!

The ground round can be used to replace ground meat in just about any recipe. I will share a recipe I came up with soon. I hadn't bought the Ground Round in a while, but I was reminded how good it is, I will definitely have to do so more often!

So do I recommend Yves? Absolutely! I don't enjoy all the products equally, but I love my favorites, and they help keep this family eating green, and avoiding scary nitrites!!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Blu-Toque: Product Review

Its a chilly one today, though, only compared to early this week when we were having unseasonably mild weather. If you live in a cold climate, you will love this new product.

Though I have a blog...and 2 websites, you can probably guess by the lack of prettiness around here, that I am not much of a tech expert.

At age 7 and 10, the girls are already miles ahead of their parents over here, when it comes to social media and digital gadgets.

One of the things that I have never been a user of is Bluetooth. I don't even know what it is except that it allows you to do things wirelessly...right?

Anyways, I was recently sent a Blu-Toque to try out with Bluetooth technology. Its essentially a winter hat, which comes in a variety of styles, and includes the following features:

Pair with iPhone, Android device, or tablet in seconds.
Listen to music and take phone calls with built-in mic.
Great style and warmth for winter weather.
Stereo sound with left and right speakers.
Bluetooth 4.0 gives you the best sound quality.
Machine washable; just remove Bluetooth module and wash with laundry.
60 hours standby, 6 hours play time, 2 hours charging.
Color-coordinated control panel allows switching songs and answering calls.
One size fits most.
Since I can barely use my old smartphone, I turned it over to Big A, aged 10, when it arrived. She immediately loved the idea, and it took her about 5 minutes to set up. She took my iPod and downloaded all the music playlists in seconds. Then stuck it on my head. Cool!

I guess I could use it to liven up my commute too and from work in the winter, and should I ever get the courage to run outside in the cold weather, it would be perfect for that too.

Connecting my phone to it would also be great when I am on the go, since even if my phone is just in my purse or back pack, I can never find it when it rings.

So do I recommend the Blu-Toque? Well, not if you live in a tropical climate. But if you live anywhere requiring a winter hat, then absolutely. I assume 99.9% of you are gadget/phone users to a much greater degree than I am, so you will probably love it!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Glistening with Glycerin


The biggest organ in our body.

Skin problems, even if not life threatening, can be uncomfortable, unpleasant, and/or can cause serious mental suffering due to shame and self-consciousness.

I lucked out with having relatively dry skin as a kid, I never had much acne. Unfortunately, dry skin becomes more problematic as you get older, at least from an aesthetic perspective: it looks sallow,  dull and shows lines! Even worse, is when, like me, your skin is super sensitive. Ugh!

Finding facial products and cosmetics are tough for me because I need stuff geared towards dry skin, but according to the dermatologist, because my skin is so sensitive, I need to avoid anything heavy, or containing oils. Hmm, great!

Experts say a basic moisturizer is the last thing you should spend a lot of money on, because just coconut oil will do as good a job. Having finally used up the $400 worth of Arbonne products I was swindled into buying 2 years ago, I decided this winter I would try coconut oil. Honestly, I consider the worst part of every morning, the point after I get out of the shower, before I've put on my moisturizer, when my skin feels super tight and dry. I hate that feeling! I figured, coconut oil, if anything, would grease me up good. But I kept hearing my dermatologist's voice in the back of my head telling me to stick with oil-free products. I did start to worry it might not be the best choice for me.

One day as I was grabbing something from the cupboard under the bathroom sink, I spied the bottle of vegetable glycerin I bought a few months ago at the health food store. It is an ingredient in a lot of the recipes from the Compassionate Chick's Guide to DIY Beauty, so I wanted to have some on hand for when the girls and I got busy making stuff. But I figured, if its a good, all natural moisturizer on its own, why don't I try it as is?

So I tried it, and I love it! It moisturizes and protects my skin in the harsh winter weather, but isn't heavy or greasy. It absorbs quickly, so I can put on my makeup immediately afterwards. I haven't experienced any of the usual irritation and redness I get around my eyes in the winter from the cold and wind. My skin feels less tight after the shower and, in general, just less dry.

Yay, finally I found the perfect, non-toxic, inexpensive solution for dewy, gorgeous, glowing skin! Okay, I exaggerate, I am not sure I ever look dewy but my skin definitely looks a lot better than before!!!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Buddha's Diet:The Ancient Art of Losing Weight Without Losing Your Mind (Book Review)

Yeek, not only is it Monday. Its the kids' first day back at school. It's January, and its grey and cold. I suspect a lot of people had a hard time getting going this morning.

Despite the dreariness of this time of year, its when everyone has vowed to turn over a new leaf and adopt better habits or give up bad ones. Losing weight, of course, is always at the top of the list.

Losing weight is hard. Very hard. But not impossible.

Want to know the secret?

Find a strategy that works for YOU. Keep trying different ones until you do. The ones that work best for most people are not radical or extremely strict.

So, if you are looking for another weight loss strategy to try, and are sick of eliminating entire food groups, or only drinking liquids, you may want to try Buddha's Diet.

Don't worry, it doesn't involve committing yourself to a new religion, but it does rely on the philosophies of Buddha and most of it makes a lot of sense.

The book, Buddha's Diet: the Ancient Art of Losing Weight without Losing Your Mind, is written by Tara Cottrell and Dan Zigmond, two people I'd never heard of.  But here are their bios:

TARA COTTRELL is a writer, digital strategist, and mom. She consults and writes for lifestyle and wellness brands in Silicon Valley and is a well-being advocate for at-risk and foster youth. She is currently the web content manager at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. When she’s not working, writing, or parenting, she’s shoe shopping. She lives in Menlo Park, CA.

DAN ZIGMOND is a writer, data scientist, and Zen priest. He advises startups and venture capital firms about data and health. He is a contributing editor at Tricycle, the largest Buddhist magazine in North America, and teaches at Jikoji Zen Center, a small Buddhist temple in the Santa Cruz mountains. In May 2015, he was named one of “20 Business Geniuses You Need to Know” by Wired Magazine, as he frequently reminds his kids. He lives in Menlo Park, too.

Two rather eclectic individuals! Neither are doctors, however Zigmond is a data scientist, and Cottrell a health writer, so I see how their various skills come together in this book.

So what the heck is Buddha's Diet?

Essentially its a form of intermittent fasting,  which, as I have discussed before, actually has some sound science supporting its efficacy for weight loss and maintenance. Unlike the 5:2 Diet, however, its not eating sensibly 5 days a week and ultra low calorie 2 days a week, or some variation of that, instead, its limiting your eating to a window of hours during the day. They suggest the ideal is 9 hours, but, frankly, I suspect that would be very difficult for most people. Between 12 and 10 is probably more realistic, depending on your lifestyle.

Its really not that hard, as eating for only 10 hours, for example, could be eating breakfast at 8am, and then not eating after 6pm. For most of the time you are sleeping so it makes no difference. Probably where it has the most impact is on eliminating nighttime eating, which is when most people pack in too many and the wrong kind, of calories. Think about it, if you are going to succumb to emotional eating or binging on chips, ice cream or cookies, its far more likely to be at 10pm than 10am!

What does this have to do with Buddha? Well apparently he forbade nighttime eating. The book actually includes a lot of info on Buddha, whom I previously didn't know anything about. That alone, I found very interesting!

Fortunately, Buddha's Diet isn't just about meal timing, its also about one's approach to food and eating.

The authors recommend regular weigh-ins, to keep you on track, they avoid drinking alcohol (apparently Buddha was very against drinking!) or other liquid calories, they recommend regular exercise, both for health and the fact that it helps keep lost weight from returning. They also stress the importance of sufficient sleep, and caution readers to avoid using food for comfort or distraction. All of this is good advice.

Being Buddha's  Diet, they, of course, also discuss the importance of eating mindfully, and getting in touch with one's physiological hunger, and learning to distinguish it from the external cues that often drive us to eat. Gratitude is also a component of this diet, as is empathy and kindness, which must be practiced, not only toward others, but towards oneself and one's body.

You may be wondering, what do you eat on Buddha's Diet? Well, whatever you want, however, the author's emphasize that you will have the best results if you eat healthy, whole foods rather than processed foods and sugar. Isn't that what I am always telling you people??

I love that they address the fact that while its fine to celebrate with food and the occasional indulgence, most of us have turned this into a daily affair. Instead of cake and ice cream once a year on our birthday, we now have it every time we have a rough day as a reward just for making it through. Not good! They also discuss emotional eating, which is important, because using food as a distraction, comfort or to numb oneself is a very common problem.

I was surprised how much I liked this book. It is not at all preachy, and written in a very light-hearted tone that was easy to read. I love that they address the societal pressures to look a certain way and emphasize focusing on health, instead. I appreciate that they have done real research for this book, based on peer-reviewed research (not just personal anecdotes like some of the crap I've read lately). All their sources are listed in the end notes.

Do I recommend this book? Yes, absolutely! But if a 9 hour eating window isn't realistic for you, anywhere between 10-12 may work, just play around with it. If you are really lost in terms of what to eat, consult a dietitian for some guidance.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Neal Brothers Potato Chips: Product Review

Potato chips rank up there as one of the most addictive foods out there. Not only do most people love them, but they will also admit they have trouble controlling how much they eat of them.

Of course, this isn't a good thing health-wise! Chips are pretty calorie dense and light on nutrition. But if potato chips are your favorite guilty pleasure (and for a lot of folks they are!), then at least choose the best ones possible. For my weight-loss clients who say they can't imagine living without potato chips, I tell them to not even try. Find a way to incorporate your favorite foods into your weight-loss plan. So maybe you have a handful of chips with your lunch every day, or a small cup of ice cream after dinner. It doesn't work to swear off your favorite foods altogether, and I find once people are given license to eat them regularly, the power the food has over them diminishes, and they naturally start eating them less often or in smaller quantities.

So, back to chips.

Neal Brothers is a local, Canadian company that is known for its high quality products and integrity. They have a huge line of products including pretzels, tortilla chips, salsas, sauces and popcorn, many of them organic, gluten-free, vegan, nut-free and kosher. They generously sent us two of their new kettle chip flavours to try: Spicy Ketchup Srirachup and Montreal Steak Spice.

Now, personally, I am not a salty snack eater, So I turned over these goodies to my family and friends for feedback.

The chips were all certainly fresh and crispy, but flavour-wise, the clear winner were the Srirachup ones. They are super spicy, but not too much so, if you can take the heat. Even Big A liked the flavour, though they were too spicy for her overall (most kids will probably agree).

The Steak Spice ones got a luke-warm response. They are spicy from black pepper (perhaps overly so, according to my brother and Adam), but the dominant flavour according to most folks was rather dill-pickle-ish.

They have a bunch of other flavours of kettle chips and the kids have already said they want to try the Sweet and Smokey Barbecue, Salt and Vinegar, and Pink Salt varieties.

Just remember folks, chips are a treat! If you are one of those people who can't limit yourself around chips, I suggest you share with your loved ones, or buy only one small bag at a time!

For less decadent snacks from Neal Brothers, try their organic popcorn, we often buy it and its always a hit!!

Have a happy, healthy weekend!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Rich Red Vegan Chili

I know chili can be very controversial. Some people abhor beans in their chili. Some insist it must be spicy. Some like ground meat, some prefer chopped.

Personally, I think chili should be thick, and some styles I have seen are thin and soupy, and look like ground meat in broth more than anything else. Ick!

Nope, I like a good hearty chili, with either ground chicken or turkey, or vegan, but ALWAYS with beans, and a thick, rich sauce. That's exactly what this chili is and it is so good!

I made it when friends came over for dinner because the wife doesn't eat meat. It is also mild because she can't eat spicy food, but you can add as much heat as you wish. It is so incredibly easy to make, which is an added bonus.

I departed from tradition and did not do a mirepoix, skipping the celery and carrots, and instead just using sweet red and orange bell peppers and onion. I also used both sprouted bean mix and canned beans. The sprouted beans have a more toothsome consistency while the canned beans are more creamy. If you can't find sprouted bean mix, just add 2 more cans of beans of your choosing. There is also no broth in this chili, just diced canned tomatoes, passata (ground tomatoes) and water.

Rich Red Vegan Chili

1 tsp avocado oil
1 large onion, diced
2 red peppers, diced
2 orange peppers, diced
2 cups sprouted bean mix
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 tbsp chili powder (mild or spicy)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp salt, or to taste
2 cans red kidney beans
1 can chopped tomatoes, with juice
1 jar passata
A few handfuls fresh cilantro, chopped

In a large pot, saute onion and peppers in oil. After a few minutes, add bean mix, vinegar, and spices. Once liquid cooks down, add everything except cilantro. After adding passata, fill passata jar with water and add that to the pot. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, or until ready to serve. Add cilantro right before serving. Keep leftovers refrigerated for up to 5 days or freeze.

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

Monday, January 2, 2017

iFLY and you should too!

Good morning and welcome to 2017. How did you do with your healthy habits over the holidays? I did okay food-wise, but definitely indulged a bit too much in the fermented beverage department...and I don't mean kombucha! I also kind of wimped out on workouts while we were in Florida. I didn't go the the gym at all, but did manage to at least do some core workouts and Essentrics. I think physically and mentally I needed a bit of a break, and I definitely took one, getting more sleep than usual too!

So, how did you spend New Year's Day?

We went to iFLY for indoor skydiving!

I have to admit, I woke up yesterday, with a food and drink hangover, and started to regret booking this adventure for us. Even by 3pm when we left the house to go, I was feeling pretty rotten and wondered if the whole thing wasn't a big mistake. But no way I was going to cancel, the girls were so excited, and I love how fearless they are!

So off we went.

After we got there, signed in, and signed the waivers, we were told to go upstairs, relax and watch others having their turns, until our instructor called our names. At this point I really started to get nervous, not because it looked dangerous or scary, but because I realized that when you do it, you have an audience. Ugh, this brought back all the anxiety of being an uncoordinated kid at a school with very competitive athletics programs. Immediately, I worried I was going to make a big fool out of myself.

Technique is important for this, but I was relieved to discover that I had 3 advantages over others with this: (1) I am short (the really tall dude in our group, who also probably lacked core strength was a total disaster); (2) I am strong; and (3) I have good kinesthetic awareness (i.e. I have a good sense of what my body is doing in space...only due to 20+ years of fitness training!).

Our instructor had us watch a 5 minute instructional video and explained the basic technique. Then we suited up and waited until our turn in the wind tunnel.  Then it was go time. At this point I really started to wonder if I was going to regret it!! Adam went first, and probably because he has the strongest abs on the planet, he was a rock star at it. I was next and did just fine, much better than I thought I would do! The girls also did well, especially Little A. Neither of the girls were scared at all, though Little A and I declined the instructor's offer to do the Fly to the top of the tunnel option (for an extra $10), but both Adam and Big A did!!

The girls had a blast and I am really proud of all of us for, not only trying something really fun, but also doing so well at it (the instructor only offers you the fly to the top option, if your level of skill is good enough, and we all were good enough!).

I definitely recommend iFLY if you are looking for a unique experience. Kids as young as 4 can do it. Its just not appropriate if you are pregnant, over 230lbs, or have back/neck/shoulder injuries.  Also, its darn expensive, so not something you will likely be able to do on a regular basis.

Quite possibly the best thing about it for me was that I finally found something where being short is an advantage!

Happy 2017, have a great day!