Friday, October 24, 2014

Be Grateful for Each Day

This has been quite a week!  Adam was away in Ottawa since Sunday and is only getting back tonight. 

In case you didn't hear, there was a soldier killed in Ottawa, near Parliament Hill, right where Adam was having his meetings!  Luckily he's just fine and sent us a message almost immediately to reassure everyone he was okay.  Unfortunately, the soldier's family now have to deal with his loss.  Such a senseless crime, regardless of whether it was politically motivated or not, an innocent life was lost.

It certainly put into perspective the minor challenges I faced being alone with the girls this week.  There were good times and bad (each of them had to be put into their rooms because of major screaming fits Monday evening), but overall this annual trip Adam takes is becoming much less traumatic for me as the girls get older.

But I am still very glad he's back tonight!    I am also very frustrated by the girls' sense of entitlement and lack of gratitude.  There is a constant demand for 'more' and I know this is something a lot of parents struggle with.  Maybe they aren't old enough yet to 'get' it, but I really wish I could figure out a way for them to understand just how fortunate they are.

Discover The Power Of Gratitude To Unleash Unlimited Abundance And Happiness In Your Life
We have a packed weekend that will be busy but fun and I'm looking forward to it.

Have a happy, healthy weekend and eat your vegetables!!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Peanut Butter Chocolate Baked Oatmeal

Who says peanut butter and chocolate can't be for breakfast?  Not my kids, that's for sure.  No surprise, but these were an instant hit with them.  Again, I am loving oatmeal squares as a quick, healthy breakfast and they are loving them too.  Its a total win-win!

I made these with quick cooking steel cut oats.  No, that is not an oxymoron.  I found them at Costco...Bobs Red Mill Organic Quick Cooking Steel Cut Oats!
Quick Cooking Steel Cut Oats

These make a hardy baked oatmeal that is sure to satisfy all your chocolate cravings and power you through your morning.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Baked Oatmeal

2 cups quick cooking steel cut oats (gluten-free, if necessary)
4 tbls flax meal
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup stevia, xylitol or erythritol (or 1/2 cup coconut sugar)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips (preferably stevia-sweetened)

Place oats and flax meal in a large bowl  Pour 2 cups boiling water over top and let sit for 20 minutes or until all water has been absorbed.  Let cool to prevent chocolate chips from melting.  Stir in all remaining ingredients.  Scrape batter into greased 9x12 pan and bake for about 22-25 minutes or until centre is firm.  Let cool and then cut into squares.  Makes 24 squares.  Keep refrigerated up to 1 week or freeze.

I have brought this dish to Urban Naturale's Plant Based Pot Luck Link Up and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Powered by...Licorice?

Back in my addicted-to-sugar days, I ate a lot of licorice.  Not the red kind.  That's just gross candy, its got nothing to do with licorice!  No, I'm talking the real stuff.  Black. Soft.  Oh, and sweet...not the weird European, salty kind.  That stuff is just nasty!

While indulging my sweet tooth, I don't think I ever wondered what licorice actually is.  I knew it was a botanical thing, but not much beyond that.

As it turns out, this yummy (in my opinion, anyways, I know there are lots of haters out there) plant has a whole heck of a lot of health benefits.  Not in candy form, unfortunately, but in its natural form.
Licorice root is an anti-inflammatory.  It is often used to treat stomach ulcers, heartburn and chronic gastritis.   It is also used to treat a sore through, coughs, and both bacterial and viral infections.  Some people use licorice for sore throat, bronchitis, cough, and infections caused by bacteria or viruses.  Licorice also controls cortisol production and helps to regulate the body's stress response.
I discovered all this recently when I was telling the naturopath at work about how my blood pressure is too low for me to donate blood.  She said she often works with athletes with crazy low blood pressure and recommends they take licorice.  Not just because it can elevate blood pressure a bit and control cortisol, but also for its anti-inflammatory properties.  She said it really, "puts the wind in your sails." I was completely intrigued since I wake up in the morning very fuzzy and light headed.  She told me to get the concentrated syrup, which she had at the office (this brand), and use 1/4 tsp made into tea each morning.  I love the taste, so why the heck not?
You know I'm always skeptical of remedies if there isn't evidence they work, but she was so enthusiastic about its efficacy, I immediately went out to buy some.  Unfortunately, I went to 5 different health food stores, including Whole Foods, and none of them even had heard of the syrup.  They all sold the tea and tinctures but no syrup.
Finally, I found it on Amazon.  Good ol’ Amazon!
Well, I have to tell you, I did just as the naturopath said and boy did the stuff ever put wind in my sails.  I felt like I had a whole lot more oomph for my spinning class Sunday morning.  Not in a jittery, anxious way like caffeine makes you feel, just in a, I-could-climb-a-mountain good way.  And it tastes awesome…at least if, like me, you love the taste of black licorice!
Who needs pre-workout drinks or creatine powders, this stuff is power in the bottle. 

Please do not take licorice before speaking with a health professional.  It is not appropriate for everyone.  Licorice interacts with many prescription medicines and should not be taken while pregnant. Talk to your healthcare provider if you plan to start using licorice.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Squash it! Sweet Roasted (Delicata or Kabocha) Squash

I fell off the orange veggie wagon for a while.  For some odd reason, during my child bearing years I lost my taste for squash and sweet potatoes just like I lost my taste for pink fish.  Weird huh?  I was into red meat and white potatoes.  Did my body need stuff in those things?  Who knows?? 

Fortunately, I am back to my normal self and have now lost my taste for red meat again...white potatoes I no longer crave, but squash and sweet potatoes?  Oh yeah baby!!

I've mostly been gorging on sweet potatoes, but I have also recently been demolishing mass quantities of squash. 
When I was a kid, my mom made squash a lot, but usually only Butternut and Acorn.  Always mashed with a bit of butter and cinnamon.  I loved it.  But now there are so many more varieties widely available.  I've heard so much about Delicata and Kabocha, both extra sweet varieties with skin you can eat, but didn't often see them around. 
This autumn, however, they're everywhere!  I've been making both and loving them.  They are denser and drier than the squash of my youth, so mashing isn't really what you want to do with them.  Instead, I toss them with a bit of coconut oil and cinnamon, and a pinch of salt and stevia and roast them.  So so so so good!  So good!!

I like Delicata more than Kabocha because: (1) Its even sweeter and not as dry as Kabocha and a little lighter, and (2) Its a heck of a lot easier to cut.  Although, cut a Kabocha squash and you can really skip your upper body workout at the gym that day!

This isn't really a recipe, since I don't measure anything, but basically, take squash, wash, cut, discard seeds (or season and roast them separately!), toss with oil or butter, cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice and whatever else you desire (pinch of salt, cayenne for a kick, etc.), and roast for 30-40 minutes until golden and tender.  Open mouth. Insert.

This post has been submitted to Urban Naturale's Healthy, Happy Green Party Blog Hop.

Monday, October 20, 2014

What If...Lightening Strikes?

Anxiety....humor? This use to be a big problem for me. Learn to shut it off!

Its Monday.  For some people, this means 5 days of stress and anxiety.  Others may feel this way 7 days a week.

I have openly discussed my struggle with anxiety.  I has been there since I was a child.  Its been better at some points and worse at others, but it will probably always be an area of vulnerability.

I am certainly not alone.  So many of my counselling clients describe themselves as 'worriers'.  Worry and anxiety lay along a continuum.  Some anxiety, believe it or not, is a good thing.  It is a motivator.  It encourages us to be vigilant.  But too much wreaks havoc on your mind and body.  It can cause panic attacks, chronic insomnia and even generalized anxiety disorder.  I have had the insomnia and I've had the generalized anxiety disorder.  It ain't fun.

Part of what often fuels anxiety is the fear of uncertainty.  Few people cope well with it.  We all feel better when we feel we are in control and know what to expect.  The problem is, in reality, we never are truly in control or can anticipate the future.  Ever.

Those who struggle the most are those that catastrophize (Guilty as charged!  But I'm much better about this now and can stop when I start going down this path).   For example, many of my infertility clients will become consumed by anxiety and depression before they even start treatment because they start imagining the worst case scenario.  Women seem to do this more than men.

Often we tell ourselves that if we imagine the worst, either it will be less likely to actually happen, and/or we will be more prepared if it does happen.  Neither are really true.  We end up spending a great deal of time suffering needlessly.

Although I don't meditate, in the strict sense of the word, I try to practice what I consider the most useful tenets of the Mindfulness tradition, which is to try and make peace with uncertainty and to not stop striving for what we want to change, but to accept that things are not as we want them right now.

Stay in the present.  Don't write a story that hasn't happened yet.  As my favorite fridge magnet says,

                                      Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday

Remember, most things turn out okay.  And when they don't, crisis is an opportunity. Have a lovely start to the week.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Glass Half Full, Toronto Runeth Over

toronto flood

Good morning and happy Friday!

Wow, if I look at the glass half empty, I will tell you we had a crazy-ass, massive thunderstorm last night.  I got caught in it on my bike on the way home from work and (waaaaaaaaaaaaaa!) I think my new (and favorite) leather boots were completely destroyed.  It was the heaviest rain I have ever been in on my bike ever.  By the time I got to our street, there was flooding everywhere.  The water at one point was up to my knees.  I think my bike is probably in rough shape too.

The glass half full perspective would be at least I didn't get hit my lightening.  Really!  There was a whole lot of it and I was kind of getting worried.  Riding your bike is not what you want to be doing in a Thunderstorm.

Well, hopefully my boots and bike survive but if they don't, I will try to be positive and focus on the fact that they're just things and I made it home unscathed.  It truly was quite a storm!

Fortunately, the weather this weekend is supposed to be okay.  We have no set plans, just the usual stuff. I work tonight and tomorrow and the girls have gymnastics, swimming, and Hebrew school. I promised them we'd go pumpkin shopping for Halloween and they want to try and go to Snakes and Lattes again.  This time we'll be sure to sign up 2 hours ahead of time!

Have a happy, healthy, weekend!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cactus Pineapple Chili

It's chili season!  As soon as it gets chilly, is there anything more comforting?  Okay, forget the fact that it almost feels like summer this week...

I am always trying to come up with variations on they say, variety is the spice of life!  It took me a bit of thinking with this one but one meandering down the aisles of Fiesta Farms and it struck me like lightening.  Aha!

Cactus, you say?  Yes, absolutely!  Now, I used the jarred kind, but maybe you could use fresh, if you can find it.  Don't worry, they aren't prickly, and the taste is quite mild.

Serve this alone, or over brown rice, quinoa or millet, or stuff into a tortilla.

Cactus Pineapple Chili

1 tsp avocado oil or olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1 jalapeno pepper, diced (optional)
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 zucchini, diced
1 cauliflower, cut into small florets*
1 yellow plantain, diced
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 lb ground turkey or chicken (or crumbled tempeh)
1 jar cactus, drained
2 cups tomatillo 'green' salsa
2 cups pineapple chunks, with juice (if from a jar) or 1 fresh pineapple, cut into chunks
1 can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed**
Juice of 1 lime
1 can tomato paste

Saute veggies and spices in oil in a large pot over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.  Add vinegar, meat or tempeh, cactus and tomatillo sauce and stir until meat is cooked through.  Add pineapple, beans, tomato paste and lime juice and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until ready to eat.  Keep leftovers in the fridge for 3-4 days or freeze. 

*I roasted cauliflower ahead of time to maximize flavour, but throw in to chili raw if you like.
**If making this vegan you can skip tempeh to replace meat and just add an additional can of beans.

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