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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Ready, Set, GO!


Well, here we are, summer vacation is officially over. 
Tomorrow we have the beginning of a 4 day weekend starting with a trip to the Toronto Exhibition.  Whoopee!  At least we're meeting up with friends so I will be distracted by how hot and crowded it is...hopefully!

After the Ex, I actually have to see a client, and I see several clients on Saturday.  We also have to fit in a trip to Costco to get ourselves ready for school, and Monday, Labour Day, we will probably hang out with my brother and his family. 

Tuesday its back to the grind for all of us, and I'm just hoping the school year starts smoothly.

Have a lovely long weekend and I'll be back Tuesday.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Mediterranean Cauliflower Rice Salad


I know I complain about the summer heat and humidity a lot.  Okay, constantly.  But there is one thing I'll miss come winter: all the refreshing salads I've been eating!

Occasionally I'll have salad other times of year, but on blistery, snowy winter days, um, I don't think so.

I'm making the most of these scorching temps by getting in all my salad eating.  This one is super yummy and both light and satisfying at the same time. 

I was planning to add feta cheese but found my feta looked more like blue cheese when I opened the container.  Into the compost it went!  Oh well, there is some good fat from the olive oil, and protein from the chickpeas, but feel free to add some feta if you wish.

It is best served just warm/room temperature.

Mediterranean Cauliflower Rice Salad

1 cauliflower, pulsed in food processor into 'rice'
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 small zucchini, diced
1 red onion, diced
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas)
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped


Dressing

1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)

Toss zucchini and onion with garlic and vinegar and roast on foil-lined baking sheet at 400F for about 30 minutes.*

For the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a jar, screw on lid tightly and shake until fully emulsified. 

Place cauliflower, roasted veggies, chickpeas and olives in a pan or skillet over low heat. Add about half the dressing and toss well.  Place in a serving dish and garnish with grape tomatoes.  Serves 1-2 as a main and 4 as a side dish.

*If you don't have time to roast veggies, put them in skillet first, along with an extra tsp olive oil, and saute until softened, then add cauliflower, chickpeas, olives and dressing.

I have shared this recipe with Urban Naturale's Plant-Based Pot-Luck.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Eat Your Water

 List of 21 natural foods (Vegetables and fruits) with high water content.

The forecast for Toronto today and all week is stupid, gross, disgusting hot and humid.  Perfect time to discuss hydration!

Most people know that it is important to drink water, so I am always surprised how many people don't.  A life of sweetened beverages has left some people with a distaste for what is really, the most important nutrient we all need! Water is considered plain and boring, so when faced with water versus pop or juice, most people will pick the latter options.  This is a big mistake because drinking calories is the best way to add extra pounds, and sweetened beverages are associated with chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, etc.

You can, as I am sure you already know, lightly flavour your water with cucumber and lemon slices, or even naturally flavoured, stevia-sweetened water enhancers, but if that doesn't float your boat, fear not, you don't actually have to chug water to get the hydration you need.  Yeah, that's right, turns out the whole 8 glasses of water a day recommendation is bull.  In other good news, caffeine isn't nearly as dehydrating as we once thought, so coffee and tea (leave out the cream and sugar), are actually hydrating.  Alcohol is a diuretic, however, so beer, wine and cocktails are not a good choice.

The best news yet for you water haters out there, is that pretty much all of your hydration needs (but please do sip some water while working out, especially if you do endurance exercise), can be gotten from food.  Yes, you can eat your water!

Some of the foods with the highest water content and lots of health benefits include (source):

  • Cucumbers have the highest water content of any solid food at 97 percent.
  • Iceberg lettuce may not have the highest nutrient rating, but it is 96 percent water.
  • Celery has folate and vitamins A, C, and K and is also 96 percent water.
  • Radishes have high-antioxidant content and also a water content of 95 percent.
  • Tomatoes are high in the antioxidant lycopene and have a water content of 95 percent.
  • Red, yellow, and green peppers all have about 92-93 percent water content.
  • Cauliflower may look pale and devoid of nutrients, but it is actually filled with vitamins and phytonutrients and is 92 percent water.
  • Watermelon can thank the powerful cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene for its red hue and is 92 percent water.
  • Spinach is rich in lutein, potassium, fiber, and folate and is 91 percent water.
  • Berries are all great sources of water, hovering in the high 80th percentile, but strawberries have the highest water content with 91 percent.
  • Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, which means it is great at fighting cancer cells, but it is also 91 percent water.
  • Grapefruit is high in vitamin C and contains 90 percent water.


  • Did you notice anything? Yep, they're all fruits and veggies.  So drop the slurpee and grab some fresh produce.  Just another reason (to add to the 6 million others) to eat your veggies!!

    Monday, August 31, 2015

    Back to School Jitters


    Its the last week of summer here before school starts, and there is a lot of anxiety in this house.  Not from the kids though, from me!

    Big A now has the sleep habits of a teen, and its tough to drag her out of bed before 9am.  Mornings with the girls have always been challenging, but now even more so.  School begins before 9am so Big A will have to start setting her alarm and waking up a lot earlier.  Unfortunately, no matter what time she wakes up, she never moves quickly. 

    Little A, too, often goofs off and doesn't get her butt in gear, even after I've asked her to get ready a half dozen times.  They often have me losing my shit, particularly if I have a morning client or other commitment.  Getting them out the door in the morning often feels like running through quick sand.

    Fortunately, both girls are motivated by food.  So the new rule is that they don't get breakfast before absolutely everything is ready - they are dressed, lunches and bags packed, etc.

    I am dreading school starting for several other reasons too.  First off, Little A doesn't like school, so she may kick up a fuss and resist leaving in the mornings.  Second, school lunches.  Hate em.  There is a chance the school will be starting a hot lunch program and my fingers are crossed this goes through.  It would be a blessing!  Third, the girls have a lot of activities.  Fortunately, most (gymnastics, swimming, Hebrew school, Big A's Triple Threat theatre, dance and singing classes) are all on the weekends, but Mondays when they both have Girl Guides and Sparks, at different locations at different times, its going to be super tricky.  Adam and I both often work late so its going to be a juggling act.  And then there are the additional school activities Big A always wants to do (i.e. absolutely every team and club).  Now before you accuse us of over scheduling our kids, keep in mind the demand to do these activities comes from them.  Big A, in particular, loves to be involved in everything.

    Oy, my blood pressure is rising just thinking about it all!

    Friday, as per our annual tradition, we are taking the girls to the Toronto Ex.  I hate it, but they love it.  I am going to hate it even more this year since the weather forecast for that day is ridiculously hot and humid.  Fuck!

    Well, have a lovely Monday, and if you're also in Canada, enjoy the last week of summer 2015!

    Friday, August 28, 2015

    The Reality of Reality TV


    I have admitted my addiction to HGTV home design shows before so you may be surprised to hear that since moving into our home almost 10 years ago, we've done almost no cosmetic work on the interior of the house.

    Our home is cosy and comfortable.  Its a 1,300 square feet semi, with 600 square feet of finished basement space.  It works well for us...but it could work better.  Because of the insane cost of real estate in Toronto, its doubtful we will ever move, so utilizing every inch of space efficiently is important, especially because adding an addition really isn't an option. 

    Built in 1998, some elements of the house are now starting to look dated...like the kitchen.  We've actually done a lot of work, but its mostly been functional/eco-friendly changes (new windows and doors, more efficient toilets, tankless hot water heater, etc.).

    While it would be nice to have a more updated kitchen (I don't want to be those people who do nothing to their homes for 50 years until as blue haired folks shuffling around, we live in a place that looks like a museum!), our biggest concern is increasing the functionality of the home. 

    The first owners put a wet bar in the basement, in what is Adam's study.  We don't use it, its a waste of space.  The basement carpet is old and gross, and since our gym is down there, Adam and I would like cushioned flooring appropriate for working out.  His study also doesn't have a proper door or wall (we don't know what the former owners were thinking!), and we would love to make it a 'real' room so it could also double as a guest bedroom).

     In the large kitchen, there is a whole empty wall which could have built ins to provide us with more storage.  Built ins in the living/dining room would also give us more storage and allow us to get rid of some of the bulkier furniture pieces.  Since I gave up on refinishing the old dining table we inherited, some new furniture is required too.

    I am always trolling the HGTV website for opportunities to get a reno or makeover.  Its not that I want to be on television, its just that you are guaranteed the work will get done quickly, since it has to for the filming of the show, you are guaranteed to get great results, since its televised and they don't want mistakes publicized, and most of them will kick in additional funds to the project on top of what you put in.

    So recently I discovered a new show, that I'd not seen, called The Expandables, which seemed like the perfect fit for us.  The show is all about creating more space/efficiency for people who cannot increase square footage.  I sent in an application almost immediately.

    The next day I received a phone call that they wanted to 'audition' us for the show.  I was absolutely thrilled for about 2 minutes in to the conversation.  Then I realized what the reality of reality television is...

    We had named a budget that they said on their website was the minimum, even though it was actually well beyond what we'd initially ended up spending.  The guy quickly told me they now believe that's not enough and asked how much more we had to spend.  Although he didn't name a number, based on his nonplussed reaction to my initial suggestion, I suspect they were looking for double our original budget at least.  Seriously? 

    The other problem was that they'd done a bunch of basements for the series already, so they only wanted to do our kitchen.  I explained that we did want stuff done to the kitchen, but it didn't necessarily need to be dramatic, and he explained that for 'before' and 'after' shots on television, actually, it does.

    The final problem was he told me we needed to make a decision immediately.  WTF?

    While discussing it with Adam, I realized the whole thing was a terrible idea.  They wanted us to go way, way over budget, but only to make improvements to the kitchen.  We wouldn't get any work done at all on the basement.  The 'reality' is, that - and he even said this - this had nothing to do with what we really wanted or needed, but was all about creating good television.  Who needs it?  I bailed.

    Instead, we are going with my sister-in-law's best friend who is a designer who works with a different HGTV show.  She has said she and her construction team can do all the improvements we want for WAY LESS THAN OUR ORIGINAL BUDGET.  Expandables, who needs 'em!

    There is nothing real about reality television!

    Have a happy, healthy weekend!

    Thursday, August 27, 2015

    Take Magnesium and Potassium...With a Grain of Salt?


    One of the many recent media warnings that has caused confusion about nutrition and health, is the issue of salt intake.  We've always known its not great to overdo it, but then the alarm sounded and we were told that North Americans were eating way way more than is safe, and that we can blame this on many of our chronic health issues.

    Then we heard that salt isn't actually that bad.

    So which is it???

    Well, from everything I've read, its the high consumption of salt and low consumption of potassium and magnesium. 

    This should come as no surprise since the vast majority of our sodium intake comes through processed foods, not from the salt shaker.  Essentially, those folks with the highest sodium intake are probably eating the most processed foods, and the least amount of fresh fruits and veggies and whole foods, where you find potassium and magnesium.


    You see, potassium lowers blood pressure and magnesium lowers risk of Type 2 diabetes.  So the situation is a bit more complex than we initially realized.  It may be easier and more beneficial to actually increase your consumption of foods with magnesium and potassium...and hopefully then you'll have less space in your diet for high sodium processed foods!

    But don't just grab a bottle of potassium and magnesium pills from the drug store.  You want to be getting these important nutrients from whole foods.  So where do you find them?  The following charts can get you started...

    World's Healthiest Foods rich in
    magnesium
    FoodCalsDRI/DV


     Pumpkin Seeds18048%


     Spinach4139%


     Swiss Chard3538%


     Soybeans29837%


     Sesame Seeds20632%


     Quinoa22230%


     Black Beans22730%


     Cashews22129%




     Navy Beans25524%


    World's Healthiest Foods rich in
    potassium
    FoodCalsDRI/DV


     Beet Greens3937%


     Lima Beans21627%


     Swiss Chard3527%


     Sweet Potato18027%


     Potatoes16126%


     Soybeans29825%


     Spinach4124%


     Avocado24021%


     Pinto Beans24521%


     Lentils23021%

    Wednesday, August 26, 2015

    Turning Off Breast Cancer & Healing Smoothies: Book Reviews


    When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998, I freaked out.  I thought it was an inevitable early death sentence for both her and I.  Even before then, cancer was always something I feared.  When I heard the news, it was like my almost phobia was being realized.  I experienced extreme anxiety, as well as anger and resentment.  "Why my mother?" "Why me?" I kept wondering.  Feeling a complete loss of control, I decided to research causes and risk factors to see if there was anything my mom could do to increase her chance of survival and what I could do to reduce my chances of getting breast cancer.  Unfortunately, what I found was that so many things had been linked with breast cancer (some which are definite correlates, others which are urban legends), that I ended up hysterical, feeling like the entire world was toxic and basically breast cancer was almost an inevitability for me, and, actually, for almost every woman on the planet.  I made a number of significant lifestyle changes (cut down on alcohol consumption, eliminated red meat) and started trying to eat things that were supposedly good for prevention.  I was obsessed, and stressed, and miserable.  One day while I tried to gag down a smoothie (remember, I hate smoothies!) full of gritty flax seeds, disgusting greens powder, and a host of other stuff, I realized I'd gone too far.  My efforts to extend my life were taking out all the joy of my life.  I knew I had to find balance.  I still try to limit alcohol and rarely eat red meat, but I have made a conscious effort not to think about it too much.  I eat and extremely healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, sleep well, have never smoked, and exercise a lot.  Those are the most important things you can do in terms of preventing disease and premature death, and I can do all those things while loving every minute and mouthful I take in.

    So I was a bit nervous to review nutritionist, Daniella Chace's book Turning Off Breast Cancer. Would this book just re-ignite my fears and create anxiety? Well, the short answer is yes. But after taking a deep breath, I was able to reflect on a lot of what's in the book and take it with a grain of salt.  Her general recommendations are sound: eat unprocessed foods, sleep enough, exercise, maintain a healthy weight, limit alcohol, don't smoke, etc...geez, sounds a lot like what I already do!  Some of her advice, however, is a little far reaching. 

    Chace has a huge reference section in the back, so she has clearly researched a lot, and used mostly credible, peer reviewed data, but she makes the leap, that many health experts caution against: since an isolated micronutrient kills cancer cells in a laboratory petrie dish, we can assume that taking supplements will prevent or treat cancer in the human body. 

    Some things are a bit ridiculous, like insisting on a vegan diet.  She talks a lot about the growth hormones in dairy, but we don't add them to dairy in Canada, so if you are here, you need not worry about that.  Also, while I agree that there is some pretty compelling evidence about the risks of saturated fat and red meat related to cancer, I don't see why moderate amounts of eggs, poultry and fish are not allowed.

    More frightening is the discussion of environmental toxins.  The link between many of these compounds and cancer is still unknown, and often avoidance is difficult or even impossible, which will just create a great deal of anxiety for people.  I'm not saying don't avoid this stuff if you can, but I also don't think people should drive themselves crazy and feel like they have to live inside a bubble.  It also pisses me off that she recommends chelation therapy to remove heavy toxins from your body, since this practice is discredited by most doctors, and can, in fact, be very dangerous.

    Now, I do strongly believe that we can influence our personal health through our own action, and this has been backed up by the recent discovery of epigenetics, which Chace discusses.

    Epigenetics is how lifestyle (nutrition, exposure to toxins, etc.) and experience can affect gene expression (infographic is from her website:



    But we also know that cancer, and even breast cancer, is many different diseases (she discusses the different types and customizes her recommendations accordingly), and often times they occur randomly, and seemingly just due to 'bad luck'. To believe otherwise just becomes a blame-the-victim exercise.

    Also, like so many health experts, Chace's perspective is very elitest.  Health is determined to a very large degree, based on socioeconomic status.  Disadvantaged groups usually have poorer health and poorer health care.  Her recommendations assume you have lots of resources for fresh, organic food, expensive supplements and alternative treatments.

    In her accompanying book, Healing Smoothies, Chace provides a zillion recipes for smoothies, based on her cancer prevention and recovery principles.


    What I like is that there is no added sweetener in any of these (although if you are used to sweet smoothies you may have to add some...like xylitol or stevia), and she suggests using frozen cubes of green tea instead of plain ice cubes, which I think is very clever.  What I don't like is that they all sound a bit too similar...even the 'protein smoothies' use just 2 tbsp. of protein powder, which is the same as all the other smoothies.  But I will admit my biases, that, as I mentioned, I hate smoothies (I prefer to chew my food), and that I rarely use recipes for anything, and certainly don't feel like I need them for smoothies.  But I know most people feel differently. 

    I do think smoothies are probably a great option for people going through cancer treatment who may be experiencing nausea and have a loss of appetite.  In fact, my good friend who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year is a big fan of smoothies so I am going to give her this recipe book because I think she'll love it.

    So do I recommend this book? I do think people who are healing from breast cancer or at risk may benefit from this book. But just make sure you remember that eating certain foods and taking certain supplements are no guarantee.  I think making higher level lifestyle changes like I mentioned before are more important (quit smoking, exercise, limit alcohol, etc.). Also, be sure to speak with your physician first before taking any supplements, even natural ones!

    Disclosure: The publisher sent me these books, but all opinions on this blog are my own.