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Monday, November 20, 2017

Gluten-Free Comfort Food: Book Review


As you must know, gluten-free is all the rage now. While only a small percentage of the population have Celiac disease, or even a gluten sensitivity, it seems everyone is jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon because they think its going to help them lose weight, gain energy, cure their bloating/rashes/brain fog/infertility/headaches/stupidity...

Despite the ridiculous gluten-free trend, avoiding gluten is no joke for people who ACTUALLY need to avoid it. One thing that makes those folks despair, is the idea of having to give up their favorite comfort foods. If you are looking for gluten-free versions of your favorite recipes, 100 Classic Gluten-Free Comfort Food Recipes might be of interest.

Written by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt, both home economists and experienced bakers, the book provides gluten-free recipes for classics such as oven-fried chicken, stuffing, gravy, lasagna, mac & cheese, waffles, various types of breads and buns, muffins, cookies, brownies and donuts.

What I like best about the book is the into chapter that explains what whole grains are. As you know, one of my biggest beefs (or tofus, if you're vegan), is that people often think things are inherently healthy if they are gluten-free, and this is definitely not true. Especially if grains containing gluten are replaced with refined gluten-free flours like white rice flour. They include a list of gluten-free grains and starches that can be used for cooking and baking. But they forget to mention konjac!

There are chapters for:


  • Soups and salads
  • Entrees and sides
  • Yeast breads
  • Yeast-free muffins and biscuits
  • Cakes
  • Pies and pastry
  • Puddings and other sweets


There are a lot of lovely, colour photos of the recipes and many helpful tips and variations to suit your taste.

I love that the recipes use whole grains, but there is a lot of sugar in the sweets, though that can easily be replaced by a healthier sweetener.

My one criticism is that for anyone who knows how to cook, a lot of the recipes are kind of superfluous given the vast availability of gluten-free foods. Like, it shouldn't take a rocket scientist (or home economist) to figure out that you can replace regular noodles with gluten-free noodles in lasagna, or you can use a gluten-free flour to thicken your gravy, instead of regular flour. But it does provide a good reference for what type of gluten-free flours work best for each recipe. I would say this is a perfect book for someone who is a relative newbie cook, and is looking for gluten-free recipes.

Do I recommend this book? For those with limited cooking and baking experience who want to learn how to cook and bake gluten-free, yes, this will be just what you're looking for!

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

Monday, November 13, 2017

Seabuck Wonders Organic Himalayan Sea Buckthorn Berry Oil: Product Review


Most people these days seem to have jumped on the omega 3 fatty acid bandwagon whether its making a point to eat lots of fatty fish, omega 3 rich seeds, or simply taking a supplement.

But have you heard of omega 7?

Its another essential fatty acid lacking in the Standard American Diet (SAD). Fear not, its now easy to get, from a vegan source no less, in sea buckthorn oil! I've told you all about sea buckthorn before, when I reviewed products from Seabuck Wonders. Well, now I have more to share about the benefits of this amazing plant.

Like other fatty acids, the omega 7 from sea buckthorn oil is an unsaturated fatty acid with a myriad of health benefits. It promotes cardiovascular health, like other fatty acids, and sea buckthorn is also cytoprotective, anti-stress, immunomodulatory, hepatoprotective, radioprotective, anti-atherogenic, anti-tumor, and anti-microbial.

Furthermore, one study found that sea buckthorn oil taken orally can help with dry eye...good news for me, a chronic dry eye sufferer! Its also good as a topical treatment for skin. Another study found it improves the symptoms of dermatitis (hello sensitive skin sufferer here!). For more info on benefits see here.

Seabuck Wonders recently sent me their Organic Himalayan Sea Buckthorn Berry Oil tincture to try. While it can be ingested, I was more interested in its topical uses.

My skin is dry, and sensitive and consequently prone to dullness and redness. I decided to try the Sea Buckthorn Berry Oil before bed one night in place of a moisturizer. I love the consistency. It is light and not at all greasy. Beware the colour though! The oil naturally has a bright orange colour, and I do find it turns my skin orange! If you want the Donald Trump look, you may not mind this, but for me, I will stick to using it before bed (just beware of staining if you have light coloured sheets). I love that unlike most skin care products, the active ingredients are not diluted with all sorts of fillers. Its done a great job of helping to heal the irritation I developed around my left eye (which waters a lot to compensate for dryness). My very sensitive skin has also not reacted to it, despite its potency. Yay!

If you want to take it orally, you could probably add it to a smoothie or something. Seabuck Wonders also sells a supplement is softgel format, specifically for hair, skin and nails, that combines the berry oil with biotin.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely! Most of us need to get more essential fatty acids, and sea buckthorn berry oil is one of the few sources of omega 7. Its also a vegan source of fatty acids for those who avoid animal products.

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

Monday, November 6, 2017

Confadent Oral Technology: Product Review


A few years ago when the girls' daycare announced there was going to be sugar-free gum day as a treat, I came in to pick them up, and caught a few moms lecturing the teachers on the dangers of artificial sweeteners and demanding that gum with sugar be allowed.

Oh boy did I have to bite my tongue!

While I can understand wanting to avoid aspartame, or whatever, there are lots of other sweeteners available that are better than sugar.

One of them is xylitol, a natural sweetener (for those of you who find 'natural'  to be a meaningful descriptor). It has slightly fewer calories than sugar and rather than causing tooth decay (one of sugars' many negative health consequences), it is actually protective of teeth.

Xylitol is available granulated and can be used in place of sugar in cooking and baking. It is also an active ingredient in many dental care products such as pastes and rinses.

You can also find xylitol in gums, like this new product, Confadent Oral Technology, which sent us several packs to sample.

The whole family gave them a try so we can share our feedback with you.

Adam, who is a ritual gum chewer, said he found he needed to chew several at a time because they are small, and he prefers gum in stick form. The girls liked the flavour, but found it did not last very long.

Overall, its great if used for its intended purpose:
"help prevent plaque and gingivitis, whiten teeth, and freshen your breath"

If however, you are looking for something merely for chewing pleasure, than you may be disappointed. But, frankly, I find that the case with most gum. After a few minutes of chewing I always have to spit it out or it starts to make me feel nauseous.

There is no doubt in my mind that we should all be avoiding gum with sugar. Oral health has now been determined to influence our risk for all sorts of serious chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer. Its not just a matter of having clean teeth!

So do I recommend this product? If you find yourself forgetting to brush your teeth regularly or having less than stellar check-ups at the dentist, or worrying about bad breath after meals, than stashing packs of these in your car and bag are a smart thing. Chewing for just a few minutes while the flavour lasts should be enough to get the protective benefits of the active ingredients anyways.

Disclosure: The company sent us the gum to review but all opinions on this blog are our own.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Mushroom Bacon


I have to tell you, I am so over coconut bacon. As I have been very open about in the past, unlike many folks in the wellness world, I don't believe coconuts perform miracles. The oil is heavy and greasy. With coconut bacon, its the texture. I once threw a bunch into something I made for Adam and I and he told me it was like eating paper. I have to admit, he's right! I will stick with coconut milk thanks, and everyone else can eat all the bacon and oil.

Anyways, I've seen people use various veggies to make bacon substitutes and decided I wanted to try making one with mushrooms since I not only love them, but they are naturally meaty. I have to tell you, I am completely smitten. I threw these into a pasta dish, but I am already fantasizing about using them in omelettes, salads or just shoveling them into my pie whole as fast as possible. They are ridiculously good. And super easy to make too. The only thing is, you need to get dried mushrooms. Fresh has too much moisture in it. I can get big packs of shitake mushrooms dried at my Korean market for $5. If you can't find them, order them online.

4 cups dried shitake mushrooms
1/4 cup boiling water
4 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (or vegan and/or gluten-free substitute such as tamari or coconut aminos)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp pure maple extract + stevia, to taste (or 2 tbsp pure maple syrup)

Crumble dried mushrooms into bowl. Add all remaining ingredients and stir well. Let sit until mushrooms have absorbed all the liquid. Bake at 350F on parchment lined baking sheet for about 15 minutes or so, but make sure mushrooms don't burn. Keep refrigerated up to a week.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Spibelt: Product Review

Good morning and welcome to a new week! If you are a fitness fanatic, or are just constantly on the move, or even an avid traveler, keep reading...

Where has a SPIbelt been my whole life??

Who doesn't hate having to find a place to stash keys, phone, etc. when running outside. Personally, I have been stuffing my phone in my bra when I run the past few years, which isn't comfortable and I always worry I will destroy it with sweat.

I do have a fanny pack thingy from when I did the 8 hour cancer charity walk a few years ago, but its huge and bulky, designed to carry 2 water bottles and a lot of other stuff.

So I was more than happy to test a SPIbelt out when offered the chance. Its very small, light and sleek and adjusts to fit snugly and comfortably. It looks tiny but the stretchy material can accomodate a phone and other stuff very easily.

Even if you are not a runner, its a great option for walking, hiking, cycling, and travelling. I am going to take it with me for sure to Israel.

Get out there, get active, no excuses!!

SPIbelts are affordable, and come in a ton of different colours, models, and sizes, including ones that can accommodate water bottles, and one with a waterproof pouch.

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


Monday, October 16, 2017

The Edgy Veg: Book Review


Extremism is in. Whether its political views or diets, everyone is polarized these days.

When it comes to food trends, people seem to be either going over-the-top decadent (the latest in Toronto is Asian ice cream and desserts...like this:


...or to the opposite end of the spectrum, such as raw, vegan food like this:


If I have to pick a side, you know where I am going! The latter, of course!!

But there is another diet trend in Toronto, which, I guess is sort of the happy medium: vegan comfort food.

Now, personally, I have little interest in this because I find it tends to mean vegan junk food, and junk food is junk food in my book. It may be better for animals and the planet, but its not better for the body.

Nevertheless, there is clearly a market for it, and I suppose its a good way to get carnivores who have previously given no thought to what they consume an accessible way of becoming more conscious of what they eat, if only for ethical reasons (though I don't get why people would care about the health of animals and the earth, but not of their own body).

The Edgy Veg is a cookbook by fellow Torontonians, and bloggers, Candice Hutchings, and her husband, James Aita, which claims to contain "138 carnivore approved vegan recipes." I would say it definitely can be described as catering to people looking for vegan comfort food.


Now that I think about it, the polar opposite of this might be Paleo since that tends to be a very health conscious, high meat diet (assuming you believe eating large amounts of animal protein, especially red meat is healthy...which I don't).

Anyways, there is a lot to like about this book. It begins with a section on how to prepare to start cooking the recipes, with lists of kitchen tools, pantry staples,  and vegan substitutions. Then there is a chapter on the 'basics', such as pizza dough, seitan, vegan mozzarella, several types of veggie bacon, dairy-free sour cream, and a bunch of sauces. These items turn up as ingredients in a number of the recipes later on. I love that these base items, such as seitan and vegan mozzarella are relatively simple, since making them homemade might seem intimidating (at least to me!).

There are lovely photos of almost all the recipes and tips under the "Hack it" section at the bottom of the pages. Many of the recipes sound amazing and I plan to try such as the mushroom bacon, Eat the Rainbow slaw, Buffalo Cauliflower Wings 7 ways, What the Pho, and Garlicky Green Beans to Keep the Vampires Away.

The recipes span many different cuisines, and cover most of the food that's trendy (at least in Toronto) such as pho, ramen, Chinese/Thai/Indian, and fusions of many of them. Their are chapters for brunch, soup, salads, munchies, mains, sides, beverages, and desserts.

My one criticism is that many recipes use white flour and white sugar. Even organic versions of refined flour and sugar are absolutely void of nutrition and spike blood sugar levels. Nevertheless, you can substitute whole grain flours and healthier sweeteners in most of these recipes easily.

Also, be aware that substitutions for animal proteins are sometimes made with non-proteins (i.e. buffalo cauliflower, carrot lox). So be aware that you will likely have to add a protein somewhere else in your meal.

Do I recommend this cookbook? Absolutely! The recipes are approachable and appealing to even picky, closed-minded carnivores. Its perfect for people scared to eat vegan because they perceive it to be nothing but sprouts and seeds. Good job by my fellow Torontonians!!

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

2017 Fall Favorites

Here are some things I've been loving lately...

Soyganic smoked tofu! The siracha is spicy and delicious, but I also love the black pepper garlic. I've been throwing them into stir fries like crazy. The plain smoked makes for a delicious sandwich. Honestly, you can't do better for an affordable, healthy and yummy source of protein.


Oh and this marinated tofu from Vegetarian  Gourmet is good too. I have only tried the Greek gyro variety so far, but really liked it and would gladly try the other flavours.




My electric Oster spiralizer!! I got if for Mother's Day, but didn't use it a ton over the summer as I don't spiralize for salads much, but do like to make veggie noodles for hot dishes. I know I am going to be using it a lot over the winter and I made a yummy vegan zoodle dish last weekend that Adam and I both enjoyed.

Is it obvious that I derive a huge amount of pleasure from cooking and eating??

I am also loving this hair conditioning treatment from Pantene. My hair is ridiculously dry so I am always looking for good moisturizing products, however, I have to avoid things that are too oily or heavy, because my hair is fine too. This stuff does a really good job of smoothing down my frizz, though I don't find the effect lasts after you shampoo the next time.

We have had more summery than fall-like weather so far, which has sucked for me because my favorite time of year when the air cools and the leaves change. Fortunately, today is the first day when the forecast is for actual autumn weather. Happy hump day!!