Saturday, July 30, 2011

Escape from Alcatraz

The girls are growing up, there is no doubt.

Big A, at 5, seems to have finally developed an interest in the opposite sex. At least pictures of them in a book anyways.

The book on reproduction we bought her last year gets circulated through the pile of before bed readings. We've read it a few times lately and she always wants to read the same page: the penis page.

Last time I rebelled because I despise reading the same things over and over, even reading about how penises work. And I like penises just as much as the next heterosexual woman! "No not that page again," I told her, "I'm sick of that page, why do we always have to read that page?" She smiled, "I like penises...they're interesting." We'll I can't disagree really.

Little A moved into a "big girl" bed last weekend and we gave away her crib. Incidently, the folks who were first to ask for it when I posted it "available for free" on Craigslist drove up in a Mercedes to pick it up. Huh? I think next time we'll donate it directly to a women's shelter or something.

I was worried that my little mischievous imp would find trouble with her new freedom. Apparently I had reason to worry. Unlike Big A, who took months to figure out she could get in and out of her bed herself, Little A understood this right off the bat. She also figured out a day or two later how to open her door, which made for some challenging bed times. Hey, who wants to sleep, when you can play??

So Adam and I thought we had her beat when we installed the child-proofer door handle thingy. Ha! She figured out that thing in about 2 seconds flat! What now, do we put her in a straight jacket? Handcuff her to the bedpost? You know I'm kidding of course! But putting lock on the OUTSIDE of her door may be something to think about...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Vegan, Gluten-Free, Double Chocolate Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches for One (or Two)

It is Adam's birthday this weekend so I wanted to make him a little treat. And little is the key word.

Adam lives a very disciplined life. He works harder than anyone I know, is a terrific dad and husband, works out almost every day and tries to eat a healthy diet.

Unfortunately for him, sticking to a healthy diet is sometimes a chore. Unlike me, he does not get excited about broccoli, kale, chickpeas or brown rice.

Nope, his favorite foods are: meat(ANY), chocolate, ice cream, cookies and cake.

But he rarely indulges.

Every year on Father's Day he gets a Blizzard from Dairy Queen and every year on his birthday, his parents buy him one of those gigantic cookies from Mrs. Field's covered in icing. I look the other way while he and the girls gorge on all that white flour, sugar and saturated fat.

So knowing that he has the cookie coming, Adam said I could bake him a treat, but it had to be "mini" so that he doesn't pig out TOO much this weekend.

I wanted to make him something dairy-free so he wouldn't have to worry about remembering to take his Lactaid pills and I felt like experimenting with vegan/gluten-free ingredients. Lately I am starting to feel as if this is the only "politically correct" way to cook/bake as to not exclude anyone from the fun.

This makes enough for one hungry/chocolate craving person or two more disciplined people.

These may be vegan and gluten-free, but you won't believe how decadent, fudgy and rich they taste!

Heaping 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (dairy-free for vegan)
2 tsp instant espresso powder + 2 tbls boiling water
1/4 cup + 2 tbls apple sauce
2 tbls sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup coconut flour
2 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt

1 pint Coconut Bliss Dark Chocolate ice cream

Dissolve espresso powder in water and set aside. Place chocolate chips in microwave safe bowl and microwave for 45-55 seconds, stirring at least once midway. Stir until smooth. Add espresso liquid and stir. Chocolate may seize (become lumpy), but if you keep stirring it will smooth out. Add apple sauce, sugar and vanilla. In small bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add to wet ingredients and mix until combined. Scrape batter into one greased mini loaf pan or divide between 2 greased muffin tins. Bake at 350F for about 25 minutes. Let cool COMPLETELY in pan before removing.

If you used a mini loaf pan, cut the loaf in half and then cut the two halfs in half again lengthwise. Take a scoop of Coconut bliss and place it on one brownie bottom quarter, sandwich with a top quarter. Do same with remaining two quarters. If using muffin tins, slice your two brownie muffins in half lengthwise, top bottom halves with a scoop of Coconut Bliss and then place top half over ice cream. Enjoy!


Do you ever feel helpless?

I will admit I have serious control issues, when I do not feel in control of something I become extremely anxious. If I also feel helpless I become terrified.

That's kind of how I've been feeling about school/my future lately.

Aside from completing my practicum, I also need to write a Master Case Presentation (i.e. case study/mini-thesis) in order to graduate. It is due 2 weeks after I complete my practicum.

I put off thinking about my MCP altogether until a few weeks ago. I was actually pleased with myself for procrastinating. You see, last year when I did the cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), one of the things I worked on with the psychologist was the obsessive tendencies I had developed with my school work. I had gotten myself to the point where I experienced extreme anxiety unless ALL my work was completed. This meant that I was forcing myself to work further and further ahead until I had finished assignments due weeks or months later. So being able to procrastinate on this is actually a sign of progress for me.

Unfortunately, events of this week now have me filled with anxiety and doubt.

You see, I am actually sort of at a disadvantage for doing the MCP because of the nature of my placements. You need to pick a client for your case study that you have seen 5+ times so you have enough material. But at the fertility clinic, we mostly see clients once - since it is mandatory that anyone doing IVF or any third party treatments (sperm donation, egg donation or surrogacy). This means I likely have to do a multiple case study, using a series of clients that have a similar issue that is of interest to me.

At my other placement, as of yet, I have not had a client present with a problem that is of interest to me or is really well-suited for the MCP.

I decided I wanted to investigate the link between trauma and infertility. I have been overwhelmed by the number of patients we have seen who have some sort of trauma in their past that interferred with their childbearing through one of many avenues: inability to have emotional or sexual intimacy, lack of confidence in parenting, etc.

I spent the past 2 weeks doing extensive research and literature reviews for this project. Then, however, I found out that one of the requirements for the MCP is that you were the sole counsellor for the clients you choose. Unfortunately, most of the work I have done at the fertility clinic has been co-counselling with my supervisor. I am doing more and more solo sessions, however, only a fraction of these include cases where trauma was involved. My original idea is not going to work and all that research I did was for nought.

At the other clinic I have a new client with a history of serious trauma who would be perfect to use but she has cancelled the last 2 appointments we had set up, so I am not confident she will stick with it for enough sessions to make her an appropriate choice.

So now I'm stuck. I can't really do any more work on my MCP until I figure out what I am going to do and time is TICKING AWAY.

I have already been worrying about how things are going to play out once I graduate and this is only heightening my anxiety.

I am a very independent, self-reliant person and I have been since I was very young. I have worked hard to reach my goals and have always been resourceful in terms of finding ways to support myself financially. Yet each time I am at a transition point in my life such as this one, I become terrified of failure and start feeling utterly helpless and hopeless. Like the only way I will succeed is if someone swoops down to save me or if there is a miracle involved.

And the negative self-talk starts:

"I can't start my own practice, how am I ever going to get clients?"

"If I don't start my own practice, I am going to have to get a job. But every counselling job I see requires more years of experience and/or different areas of expertise."

"The only jobs I'm qualified for are still research jobs, I'm going to have to go back to doing research and being miserable."

"I will now be the official biggest loser on the planet: I will have a BA, two Masters degrees and a PhD and I STILL can't find myself a fulfilling career!"

"If only I had made different choices early on (gone to med school, majored in psychology in my undergrad and done a PhD in clinical psychology, etc.), I would have a well-established, lucrative career now and could better support my family."

Someone, help me please!

Now add to this wallowing my anxiety over even completing my degree because of this whole mess with my MCP and you have one pathetic bag of anxiety (that would be me, of course).

But I don't really expect to win a lottery or receive a call from someone with an offer for the perfect job. I know I've got to pull myself up by my boot straps (sandal straps, actually), and make this happen.

So I have put aside work on my MCP again (since as Adam reminded me, I have no choice anyways. Period.), and instead have turned my attention to my new love (actually an old love that has been reignited): art. More on that later!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Canadian Television

Lets be honest, Canadian television used to suck. When I was a kid there was Polkadot Door on TVO and Beach Combers on CBC, and even back then I hated these shows.

Things got better in the 80s with Degrassi Junior High and the Anne of Green Gables series, but generally speaking, there was very little of interest.

Rick Mercer and the rest of the crew were always good for a laugh on This Hour Has 22 Minutes (I will ALWAYS love the "Talking to Americans" segments!). But let's face it, Canadian political spoofs are never going to have mass appeal.

Ironically, we used to flagellate ourselves for not supporting Canadian television and preferring American/Hollywood productions, but even so, we still couldn't bring ourselves to watch much of our own pathetic programming.

Oh how things have changed my friends!

Adam and I marvel these days about how many of our favorite shows are Canadian. If you haven't already, I highly recommend you check out:

*Being Erica
*Combat Hospital
*Rookie Blue

Canada has always produced quality actors, singers, musicians, comedians, and writers. Now I truly believe we are producing stellar television too! Go Canada!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Coffee Culture

Coffee consumption in North America is not just a habit, it has become an integral part of our culture.

According to the Canadian government, 14 billion cups of coffee are consumed in Canada every year and coffee is the most popular hot beverage and the number-one foodservice beverage in the country.

Until recently, most of us considered coffee consumption to be a vice. But recent studies are demonstrating that coffee itself is actually a nutrition superstar and is associated with a host of health benefits including a decreased risk of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, stroke, Type II diabetes, and prostate cancer.

It is not coffee that is unhealthy, it's what we add to it and some of the associated rituals that are really the problem.

Those tempting blended drinks at cafes and coffee chains take what is a virtually fat and calorie free beverage on it's own and load it up full of fat, sugar and calories. These drinks usually range from 150 cals (for a skinny, smaller version) to upwards of 500 calories and should really be considered a snack or full meal, rather than a beverage.

And if you feel the need to pair your coffee with a commercially-made muffin, donut, scone or cookie, you are likely adding another 300-500 cals to your coffee break and consuming close to half your daily recommended energy intake containing little more than refined flour, sugar and saturated fat.

People who make a habit of smoking a cigarette with their coffee, well, obviously this is not a smart move! 'Nuff said.

But even the Canadian "double double" tradition (i.e. two sugars and two creams) is not the best way to consume coffee. Particularly if you have multiple coffees every day. The fat and calories from this add up real quick. And don't forget, liquid calories do little to satiate hunger.

If you think you need to buy your coffee from a cafe or coffee shop every day in order to get a good cup, you are wrong, and spending way too much money!

You can make a great cup of coffee or espresso at home if you use a great coffee, fresh water and a good quality coffee maker.

DO NOT underestimate the importance of a good coffee maker. Case in point: On Sunday I grabbed the caraffe from my P.C. coffee maker and proceeded to slip on the kitchen floor, falling and shattering the caraffe, and cutting my hand and toe on the broken glass. Yes I am a clutsy numbskull!

So I dug up the old coffee maker I had that I used to keep at my office in my last office job. Yesterday morning when my coffee was ready, I noticed the usual delectable aroma was not present in the kitchen. I poured my mug full and took a sip and almost PUKED. Same coffee, same water as usual, but different coffee maker.

I thought maybe it was because the coffee maker needed a cleaning, but even after multiple cleanings with vinegar and then plain, fresh water, this coffee maker produces a vile product. I have called President's Choice to see if I can get a new caraffe, but if not, I am buying a whole new machine because this one SUCKS.

The lesson is: You may have to experiment with coffee makers (no, don't go buy 4 different coffee makers, but go to a store where they know their stuff and ask the experts for advice or check out product reviews online to find a good one), water (tap vs filtered, etc.) and brands of coffee before you find a combo that works for you, but it is so worth it. Much more convenient and cost-efficient than always having to go out!

Here are af few tips for getting the most (and the least in terms of fat and calories!) from your coffee habit.

*Drink drip coffee or espresso black and unsweetened or with low-fat milk (1% or skim) and a healthy sugar alternative(Splenda, Xylitol, stevia, etc.)
*Skip blended drinks made with whipped cream,chocolate and sugar syrups
*Avoid coffee "creamer" which is essentially sugar, corn syrup and trans fats
*If you don't consume dairy but can't drink your coffee black, try non-dairy milks (soy, rice, almond, hemp, coconut, etc.) that are unsweetened
*When out at cafes, if you must pair your coffee with a sweet at break time, at least choose a lower calorie and fat option like biscotti (preferably not dipped in chocolate or other high-fat coating) instead of cookies, cake, scones or muffins.
*If you are sensitive to caffeine, choose a decaf option (still has health benefits!) that is swiss-water processed instead of decaffeinated using harsh chemicals.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Rasta Pasta

The inspiration for this dish came from the jerk seasoned turkey sausage I found at Costco last week.

A restaurant in Toronto used to sell a dish by this name, but I never tried it. When I did a Google search for "Rasta pasta" a mish mash of recipes came up which had only one thing in common: there was an element of Caribbean flavour in them.

So here is my take on it.

1 lb whole grain short pasta (I used rigatoni, but rotini or penne will work too)
1 lb turkey sausage, cut on the bias into thin slices (any kind will do, but try to avoid Italian sausage because the seasoning won't go with the other flavours)
1 large bunch kale, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large chunk fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 tsp cider vinegar
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp allspice
Caribbean scotch bonnet hot sauce (or any other hot sauce), to taste (optional)
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 can light coconut milk

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Meanwhile, whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce in large bowl. Saute sausage over medium heat in a large skillet. When almost fully cooked, add kale and cook until tender. Pour in sauce and turn heat down to low. Simmer sauce until pasta is ready. Drain the pasta and add to skillet, tossing until fully coated with sauce. Sprinkle with green onions and serve.

Alternatively, you could serve this dish over rice or add diced sweet potatoes for a Caribbean style stew.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Live Clean

I have been committed to living a healthy life through nutrition and fitness for over 20 years now.

It took me a lot longer to pay attention to what I was cleaning the house with and what I was putting ON my body as opposed to IN it.

When I got pregnant with Big A I started reading about the toxins in a lot of commercial cleaning products and switched to the all-natural, eco-friendly stuff. When I became pregnant with Little A, I switched to all-natural, eco-friendly personal care products.

I am all for being environmentally friendly for the good of the planet, but to be honest, what really motivates me to make these types of changes is concern for my family's health.

You may remember I mentioned giving up my favorite perfume a while back because it apparently is full of nasty chemicals. I switched to the "Red Tea" scent made my Roots, which is supposed to be somewhat "natural". This was only after a number of trial and errors. I first found a woman in B.C. who makes her own 100% organic, all-natural perfumes. I ordered 4 different scent testers to see which one I might like. The answer: NONE. They ALL smelled like a Christmas tree to me.

This has been my problem with a lot of all-natural personal care products in the past. You pay twice as much but the product doesn't always perform well. The all-natural hairspray I used throughout my pregnancy with Little A was useless. I don't think I had a decent hair day the entire time!

Now I have no problem shelling out the big bucks for my girls. They are still small, after all, and it takes them a lot longer to work their way through a bottle of shampoo. So from the beginning, I have ALWAYS purchased natural care products for them.

But for myself, I often bristle at the idea of spending so much. Cosmetics and hair products are not things I have ever felt comfortable spending a lot on.

Nevertheless, when I had my hair cut last winter at The Curl Embassadors, the woman berated me for all the things I am doing wrong caring for my hair. Washing with shampoo every day, using drug store shampoos with sulphates, etc. was apparently drying out my hair. Still I didn't cave to her pressure to buy their expensive products.

When I mentioned this to my friend Megan, however - who also has curly hair and has been to that salon before, she told me about a line of all-natural products called Live Clean and said that they are reasonably priced.

So I got thinking, if these products are better for me, better for the environment AND better for my hair, maybe it's worth a try. I went out and purchased the Argan Oil shampoo, conditioner and conditioning mask - the whole line is available at most major drugstores and even Walmart, and are often on sale!

Since then I have been ONLY shampooing my hair 3x a week, and just conditioning on the other days. On my condition only days I use the conditioning mask.

I am really pleased with the results! My hair is definitely not as dry as it used to be and has a lot more shine. I've even avoided frizz in this insane heat and humidity.

My only complaint is with the conditioning mask, I am not entirely happy with the texture of my hair after I use it. So when it's finished I am going to try the Fresh Water Intensive leave-in conditioner.

Here is the scoop on these products (Live Clean is a Canadian Company, by the way!!):

Natural, plant based ingredients
Made with up to 98% Plant Ingredients*/Petroleum Free
Live Clean uses plant sourced, renewable, sustainable ingredients and non-petrochemical based ingredients.
Petroleum is a non-renewable, non-sustainable resource.
*Shampoo/Soaps/Stylers and Body Wash 98% plant based. Conditioner 96% plant based.

No harsh, unnecessary chemicals
Live Clean products deliver a luxurious experience while avoiding many of the commonly used chemicals that are damaging to the environment and our well-being.
SLS/Sulfate Free/DEA Free
SLS refers to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate. These sulfates are high foaming surfactants derived from petro-chemical ingredients used as the primary cleanser in 95% of personal care products. SLS is a primary irritant in personal care products.
DEA = Diethanolamine used in personal care products for rich lather and viscosity building.
DEA is severly irritating and corrosive.
Live Clean products use a palm and coconut derived surfactant that natural and renewable.
Live Clean formulas are mild, safe and gentle, and provide a rich foaming lather.
Paraben/Phthalate/Phosphate Free
Parabens = synthetic, harsh preservatives used for extending product shelf life and have been linked to sensitivity and irritation issues.
Phthalates = synthetic fragrance compounds used to make the scent last longer in personal care products. There are some studies that suggest that phthalates are not considered safe.
Phosphates = additives that contribute to algae bloom in our streams and lakes which negatively impacts aquatic life. Live Clean products do not use any harsh preservatives or unnecessary additives.

Pure Vegan / Cruelty Free
Live Clean products are animal friendly.
Pure Vegan – Live Clean products use no animal ingredients.
Cruelty Free - No animals are directly or indirectly tested or harmed.

Enriched with Certified Organic Botanical Extracts
Certified organic botanicals = extracts from plants that have been grown and processed according to certain guidelines for a sustainable system of agriculture and independently certified by a third party accreditation agency.
Live Clean formulas are enriched with certified organic botanicals such as Rosemary, Chamomile, White Tea, Lavender and Eucalyptus.

Biodegradable Ingredients / Recyclable Package / Local Sourcing
Live Clean works to reduce its ecological footprint wherever possible using the most recyclable materials available, local sourcing and biodegradable ingredients.

**PLEASE NOTE: I am not being paid by the company to endorse their products. However, should the company OR any other company with high quality, ethical products want to pay me to endorse their products, I am totally for sale ;)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Optimist or Pessimist?

I could bitch for hours about the disgusting heat wave we are having in Canada right now, but after seeing and hearing about what folks in Somalia are facing right now because of drought, it just doesn't seem right.

What a peverse world we live in, huh? Here in North America we face a growing obesity epidemic because of our over consumption of calories and our insufficient energy expenditure. Half a world away millions of people are facing starvation.

Of course, this is a global problem that goes beyond individual life choices. It involves politics, economics and culture

Will things ever change for the better? I am not sure. How do you feel?

Are you generally an optimist or a pessimist?

I am probably more often a pessimist, which is typical of somone like me who tends to be an anxious worrier.

Like many anxious folks, I tend to hold common dysfunctional beliefs about my worry like: preparing for the worst possible outcome will (1) prevent it from actually happening, and (2) it will protect me from pain and disappointment if it does happen.

Really, our thoughts are not this powerful. If they were, we could just think positively and only positive things would happen to us, right?

We discuss this stuff in our therapy sessions at the fertility clinic a lot. Couples facing infertility often cope differently, with men being more hopeful, and women being more cautious and pessimistic. The women try to prepare themselves for the worst by expecting the worst, but then they worry that their worry and negative thinking will actually negatively affect the outcome of their fertility treatments and/or pregnancy.

But research shows this not to be the case. No matter how negatively you think, this does not lessen the pain of failure and loss. Nor does negative thinking affect outcomes of fertility treatments or pregnancy.

Nevertheless, this may be different in other areas of life, such as how we perform or success at a given task. In fact, there is an abundance of literature that shows that self-efficacy beliefs (beliefs in one's ability to accomplish a given task) are significantly related to health behaviour change.

For example, if you embark on a quest to lose weight, quit smoking or start exercising, but do not actually have a lot of confidence to reach the goal, you are much less likely to reach the goal. If, however, you begin this quest with confidence that you will be successful, you are significantly more likely to actually be successful.

I am trying to keep all of this research in mind right about now. I have started worrying about what I am going to do when I finish school. Here are my what-ifs:

What if I try to start my own counselling practice and can't get any clients?

What if, because I can't get any clients I have to look for a counselling job but I can't get one because I have so little experience?

What if so much time goes by that I have not had an income that I have to settle by taking another research job?

What if I end up being stuck back in the research industry and the past two year (time and financial) investment was all for nothing?

What if I am miserable in this research job but end up stuck there for the rest of my working life?

What underlies all of these worries is my lack of confidence/pessimism about my ability to go out on my own and build my own counselling practice. But I am trying to reign in my fears and insecurities since torturing myself will not lessen the suffering I will experience should the worst case scenario actually occur, nor is it likely to help my chances of actually reaching my goal. So please excuse me while I go get a drink of water...and fill it up half full. As I gulp it down, I will keep repeating this mantra: I CAN DO IT!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Vegetarian Pate

This recipe has been bouncing around in my head for a few weeks now but I only had time to finally make it yesterday.

One word: Y-U-M!

Not only delicious, but super healthy and a cinch to make. Seriously, give it a try.

1 cup red lentils, rinsed
3 cups water

1 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely minced (can be done in food processor)
2 tbls sherry vinegar
2-4 cloves garlic, to taste (minced)
1 carrot, finely grated or minced (can be done in food processor)
2 portobello mushroom caps, finely diced
2 tbls tomato paste
2 tbls worcestershire sauce (use vegetarian if you want this recipe to be vegetarian/vegan)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp thyme
Pinch of allspice (optional)
Fresh ground pepper, taste

Place lentils and water in sauce pan. Bring to boil, and then turn heat down to medium low and simmer, uncovered, until all the water is absorbed (about 45 minutes). You want them to be thick, soft and mushy. Turn off heat.

Meanwhile, pour oil into large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and vinegar and cook until liquid is absorbed (onions have a lot of juice!). Turn heat down to about medium and add carrot and mushrooms. Cook until veggies are tender and then add the remaining ingredients. Turn heat down to low and cook a bit longer until mixture has thickened. Stir in lentils and turn off heat. Refrigerate until firm. Serve with crusty whole grain bread or crackers.

Makes about 4 cups.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Green Monster

Sorry, this isn't a recipe for spinach smoothies.

I'm talking about envy, the kind of green monster that rears it's ugly head for all of us from time to time.

Just for the record, it is different than jealousy. Jealousy involves fear of losing something you have (a boyfriend, etc.) while envy is about wanting what someone else has.

I admit I have been feeling envy lately. It's never a good feeling, in fact, it's downright sucky and invokes feelings of shame and embarrassment. After all, it's one of the deadly sins, right?

My life is pretty good. Great, actually. I have almost everything I have ever wanted. I am healthy and fit, I have a wonderful husband, two beautiful daughters, supportive friends and family, a lovely home, a car and...almost a career I love (I just gotta graduate, establish myself as a therapist and actually start MAKING MONEY from my counselling!).

Still, every now and again something triggers envy for me and it's rarely logical or rational. I always wanted 2 kids. I always hoped I'd have 2 girls. So I got exactly what I wanted. I'm done childbearing, my family is complete.

But after going through what I went through to get this family, I sometimes feel envious and resentful when I hear about friends or acquiantances who have never had a miscarriage and effortlessly become pregnant the minute they decide they want another child. I feel like they sail through life (or at least the childbearing/pregnancy aspect of life) with an innocence and naivete that anyone who has ever lost a pregnancy or experienced infertility will never have.

Because of my miscarriage, my two pregnancies were tense and anxiety filled. I rented a dopplar during both and would check for the babies' heart beats anytime I felt nervous, which was often. I would cry before every ultrasound, expecting the worst.

Do I want others to go experience this pain? No, not at all.

While thinking about it all this week I realized that envy is not usually about the other person you are envying at all. It is about oneself.

For me, envy comes from self-hatred and insecurity. When I had a miscarriage I thought it was a sign of my failings, of my inferiority to others. I was defective. Women often have this reaction to miscarriage.

Whenever I see another woman side-step this experience, it makes me wonder again, "Why me, is there really something wrong with me?"

The funny thing is, it is not like I ever think of another woman who has had a miscarriage as being "defective" or "less-than". I only seem to apply this reasoning to myself.

I know from the cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) I did last year that I hold a lot of negative self-beliefs. I have worked through a lot of them, but as the psychologist I worked with reminded me, I have been thinking this way my whole life, so it is very difficult to change such long-established patterns.

I had an interesting revelation in yoga this week too. Having negative memories of power/ashtanga yoga from when I did it in my 20s, I have avoided it until this year. I have now rediscovered power yoga and I LOVE IT.

I remember it being too difficult and competitive. I would go with hopes of finding some inner peace and leave feeling frustrated, defeated and filled with self-loathing.

Now I love every minute. Why, I wondered, does it feel so different now?

Then it struck me: I have much more inner peace now, before I even enter the room.

Back then I would come to class having already punished my body by teaching 3 back-to-back spinning classes and having not eaten enough. I would try to push my body through the gruelling routine while negatively evaluating every bump and bulge on my body in the mirror and comparing myself to every other woman in the room (finding them all thinner, prettier and more adept at turning themselves into pretzels).

Now I come to power yoga full of energy, well nourished and focused on nothing else except enjoying the hour. I don't look at myself in the mirror and I don't pay attention to anyone else in the room. I accept my body's limitations and feel grateful for what it can do.

I have my good and bad days, of course. I will still compare myself to others, as we all sometimes do, and see myself coming up wanting. But I have also made great strides over the past decade. I was such a mess in my 20s and I am so much happier now in my 30s. Research shows that women do usually get happier as they age and I believe it.

Maybe by the time I am in my 50s I will have overcome all of this self-loathing and insecurity. Or not. But I'm still okay. No, I'm better than okay. I'm great!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Small Victories

Is life with kids EVER easy? I think not.

But sometimes there are small victories and special moments.

Little A is officially weaned. She's still not thrilled about it and will occasionally ask for "mommy milk", but she will accept some pumped milk or bovine milk in a cup instead of nursing.

Of course she still loves the mammaries. In Costco last week, she was faking a dirty diaper (we were too stupid to actually check) and claiming that sitting in the shopping cart was hurting her butt, so I was carrying her around the store. She took this opportunity to reach down my tank top, grab my breasts and exclaim loudly, "Mommies boobies!"

No that was not the special moment I was thinking of...

I was worried that once I weaned her, our regular cuddle sessions would cease. But she is still affectionate and absolutely adorable...when she isn't having a terrible 2 tantrum.

The new "treat" system has completely transformed Big A! It is working even better than I had hoped. This week she chose a lollipop, a peppermint patty (Adam is addicted), and a Clif Bar for Kids as her 3 treats. Each morning she would come down and take a lick of the lollipop, a bite of the patty and a bite of the bar.

Giving her this control to chose and eat a few treats at her leisure means she has stopped constantly asking us for treats AND has gone back to eating many of the healthier foods she had strayed from lately. Instead of gravitating towards sugary carbs like cereal, granola bars, etc., her breakfasts this week included cheese omelet, fruit, cheese strings, whole wheat bagels with cream cheese, homemade (no sugar) brown rice pudding, etc. At dinner time, she no longer asks for dessert.

Food has become much less of an issue, which was my goal. In fact, I was very impressed yesterday when she decided she had had enough of the lollipop and the Clif Bar and threw them away before they were finished!

Next goal is getting the girls to like spicy food. Little A has a bigger tolerance than Big A, who still finds even kids toothpaste "spicy".

Adam and I can't live without hot, spicy food! By the way, the theory that eating hot food while you are pregnant will aclimatize your kids to spicy food is HOGWASH!

Buttermilk Blueberry Lemon Muffins

Who doesn't love blueberry muffins? And right now the markets are full of inexpensive, fresh blueberries.

Unfortunately, most commercially-made blueberry muffins available at coffee shops, cafes and grocery stores are full of empty calories from sugar, fat and refined flours.

These are deliciously moist, full of flavour and packed with nutrition and fibre.

Using finely grated zucchini, which you won't taste at all, keeps them moist and low in calories. The kamut flour and golden ground flax seeds produces a light-coloured batter that ALMOST looks like you have used white flour. If you are worried that green flecks from the zucchini will turn off picky eaters, try substituting yellow summer squash, also in season now, instead. These muffins are also very low in fat (no oil needed!)and sugar free if you choose to use Splenda or stevia.

4 small zucchini or yellow summer squash, finely grated (or just throw in food procesor until very finely chopped)
2 large eggs or 4 egg whites
1 cup sugar/Splenda/stevia (the kind that measures equally with sugar)
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
2 tsp pure lemon extract (not artificial)
3 cups buttermilk (or 3 cups skim milk - 3 tbls milk + 3 tbls cider vinegar)

4 cups organic kamut flour
2 cups oat flour (just throw oats into food processor to make your own)
1/2 cup golden flax meal (or regular flax meal)
2 tbls chia seeds (optional)
1.5 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Stir together dry ingredients and set aside. If using buttermilk substitute, make it now and set aside. Whisk together wet ingredients (except buttermilk) in a large bowl. Whisk in buttermilk. Dump dry ingredients and blueberries into bowl with buttermilk mixture and stir, just until combined. Batter will be thick. Spoon into greased muffin tins and bake at 375F for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.* Makes 18-24 muffins.

*Chef Michael Smith tells the story of the chef who trained him who used to say, "The muffins are done when they're done." Baking times are always approximate because it depends on how big you make your muffins, the type of muffin tins you use, and your oven. So use the toothpick test and monitor the muffins throughout the baking process.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Don't Sweat It

If you are an exerciser or simply someone who "perspires" a lot (I am both!), than you may be familiar with this problem: STINKY CLOTHES!

Both Adam and I notice that very quickly even brand new workout clothes can get pretty ripe. Adam actually goes through is workout shirts and throws them out on a regular basis.

But frequently tossing out all your exercise clothes is not very "green" nor is it feasible if you are on a budget. Workout gear is EXPENSIVE! Not only that, but I find it hard to find stuff that is flattering on my body shape (i.e. short with no hips or waist + big boobs).

I don't buy Lululemon anymore because it is too damn expensive and I have had bad luck with it (holes, shrinkage, colours fading, etc.). I LOVE the La Senza Spirit line of active wear, but it has been discontinued (boo hoo). Joe Fresh and Costco actually have some great and very affordable stuff, but they rarely have my size.

Sooo, I decided to try and "fix" some of my favorite stuff. Why not, they LOOK perfectly fine, they just smelled BAD. The solution, however, is simple.

After each workout, I take my clothes, place them in a big bucket I have in the laundry room, and soak them in baking soda and white vinegar until I wash them in the washing machine. If I do this after each wear, NO SMELL!

Hmm, I'm thinking we should start soaking Little A's Diaper Genie...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Drink at Your Own Risk

Believe me folks, as a mother of two young kids, I understand what a pleasure (i.e. NECESSITY!) a little tipple here and there can be.

While I may occasionally crave a glass of red wine in the colder months to take the edge off of a busy life with two strong willed little ones, it's the summer when I really crave a drink. Is there anything better than a cold beer or glass of white wine at a friend's barbecue or on a restaurant patio?

Unfortunately, I have watched too many people make a few drinks a regular or even daily part of their routine without realizing the associated health risks.

Sorry to burst your bubble folks, but even if you choose red wine to imbibe, don't fool yourself into thinking you are doing your body good. Yes, it can be protective against cardiovascular disease, but alcohol consumption - even moderate consumption - increases cancer risk. Why assume that risk when there are other ways to lower cardiovascular disease risk that are ALSO PROTECTIVE AGAINST CANCER? Like exercise!

Here is the report from CTV's Dr. Marla Shapiro:

Alcohol's link to cancer a lot stronger than many think

In Canada, in 2010, some 173,800 Canadians were diagnosed with cancer and more than 76,000 died from it. Alcohol is among the top 3 leading risk factors for death from cancer worldwide.

And yet Canadians as a whole are unaware that alcohol can lead to cancer.

In a survey conducted in 2008 which asked Canadians about their awareness of risk factors for cancer, only 33% of us thought drinking alcohol was linked to an increased risk of cancer. Canadians were more likely to associate alcohol with diabetes or heart disease.

Evidence linking alcohol to cancer has been present since the 1990s. A review by the World Cancer Research Fund found good evidence that alcohol increases the risk of cancer of the esophagus, mouth, throat, breast and colon. In addition it increases the risk of liver cancer.

Research does support the concept of a dose-response relationship between alcohol and cancer, meaning the more alcohol one drinks, the higher the risk of cancer. In addition, the WCRF does not identify a safe level of alcohol consumption. Studies have shown that women who average 12 g of alcohol a day – the equivalent of about one drink – had a 10% increase risk of breast cancer.

The percentage of Canadians who exceed the low risk is increasing steadily in Canada. The rising trend is seen in all age groups and as income increases so does alcohol consumption.

In this week's issue of the CMAJ is an analysis revisiting guidelines for sensible drinking. The article points out that guidelines for sensible drinking are typically based on the short term effects of consuming alcohol such as the social and psychological problems but often disregard the known dose response relationship between alcohol and cancer risk.

In 1984, the British Health Education Council, according to this review, described sensible drinking as 18 standard drinks per week for men and 9 standard drinks per week for women. In 1987, those limits were raised to 21 and 14 drinks per week.

Studies have shown that ethanol and its metabolite acetaldehyde are carcinogenic. They also increase the permeability of other carcinogens such as tobacco. It also interferes with the metabolism of folate which can also lead to an increaser risk of colorectal cancer. Alcohol is also known to modify sex hormones which influences the development of breast cancer.

Given that there is no safe level for risk of cancer, there is no safe limit of exposure that can be recommended. This advice is often reflected against the suggestion that there is a beneficial effect of moderate alcohol consumption in preventing cardiovascular disease. The WHO however in reviews of studies have stated "there is no merit in promoting alcohol consumption as a preventive strategy."

Our guidelines in Canada, written in 1997, state that low risk starts at zero drinks for the lowest level of risk for alcohol-related problems Levels above 0, with up to 2 drinks per day and totalling 9 drinks per week for women and 14 drinks per week for men are considered so-called "low risk" and not NO risk.

It must be remembered that these kinds of guidelines do not apply to those who have a family history of cancer. In 2011, we expect that new guidelines will be released here in Canada.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Attitude is Everything

Last week's summer cold seems to have morphed into something worse. Although I felt better on Saturday, yesterday I felt worse and this morning I felt like I had been hit by a truck. The sore/scratchy throat has become massively swollen glands and a bad headache, which fortunately have abated how thanks to the handful of painkillers I swallowed (very bad!).

Then Adam suggested I could have mono, and now I'm totally freaked out. I had mono in 11th grade and it was awful. I was house bound for 2 weeks and then not myself (i.e. totally lethargic) for 3 months. Oh well, I'll cross my fingers and hope for the best.

When I have posted in the past about my concerns regarding Big A's eating, some of you have given me suggestions indicating that the problem may be I am too restrictive with her.

While I can certainly see how you might feel this is the case, it really is not. In fact, I think I am probably too permissive, and I believe even Adam would agree. Big A eats a LOT of junk. But it's not really what she is eating that worries me so much. It's actually her attitude towards food that has become so problematic.

On her wonderful blog "Raise Healthy Eaters", Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD, talks about how the ideal is to have your children develop a very flexible attitude towards food where if there is junk food around, they may grab a handful when they walk by one time and ignore it the next. They might choose a cookie one day and an apple the day after.

This is pretty much how Little A is. For example, when we went to the Strawberry Festival on Canada Day, I bought each of the girls a MASSIVE lollipop for the car ride home (my mother-in-law and Adam were actually horrified...see I am NOT too restrictive!). Big A refused to touch the grilled cheese on whole wheat and fresh strawberries we bought each of the girls for lunch, and instead, ate the entire lollipop, even though we kept telling her we could put it aside for another day. Little A got bored of it even before we got home and we threw it away.

Honestly, Big A has become OBSESSED with junk. If there is any candy, cookies, cake, etc. available, she won't touch anything else offered to her. But even worse, things got to the point where she wanted junk ALL THE TIME, she was always asking for treats, dessert, etc. and when we offered fruit, yogurt, cheese or other healthier options that she used to eat, she would whine and sometimes even have tantrums about it. And this is on top of her meals already being full of sugar (i.e. for breakfast she'll have an almond butter and honey sandwich followed by a few bowls of Oatmeal Crisp cereal and THEN be begging for a Clif Bar for kids and for additional sweets for the rest of the day).

Now, I will readily admit that both Adam and I probably do make too big a deal out of all this, and that probably makes it even worse. It got to the point a few weeks ago where I was ready to simply give up and let her eat whatever she wants, whenever she wants in hopes that eventually the novelty would wear off.

But then I remembered a strategy I read about in Today's Parent a few months ago. One mother said she allowed her child a certain number of treats every week, and her child could choose what, when and how they are consumed. I decided this was at least worth a try.

We started this technique last week and so far SO GOOD! She has decided that she will eat a few bites of her chosen treats first thing in the morning before breakfast, leaving just enough that they last her the whole week. Interestingly, this has made her far more willing to make healthy choices the rest of the day.

Now this is not the full extent of her junk eating, because I can't really restrict the treats she gets at school, friends' houses, and from her grandparents and great grand-parents. But it's an improvement. I guess knowing she gets to have a treat every morning, and as much or as little as she wants, gives her enough sense of control that the rest of the day is not a constant battle with us about food.

I have also realized I have to "fail-proof" our environment. This means that once we run out of the "Clif Bars for Kids", Kashi granola bars, fruit-sweetened gummies, etc., I am not going to buy them anymore. They were never supposed to be a regular habit, but I have become far too dependent on them as bribery for my kids. Something I KNOW is very bad in the long-term. And while I am careful to buy things that are "whole grain" and have no trans fat, etc. this stuff is still pretty much JUNK.

My concern with Big A is not that she will keel over from scurvy or become obese. Overall, she probably doesn't eat much better or worse than most (upper middle class) kids, but I AM concerned that her obsession/mindset will lead to a lifetime of disordered eating. Unfortunately, I feel like up until now, the harder I try to avoid this, the worse I am making the situation. Hopefully the new system will continue to work and eventually, food will become a non-issue altogether.

At least I know I am doing something right: I NEVER talk about weight, fat, appearance, etc. and neither does she.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cold Cucumber and Glass Noodle Salad

It's another scorcher today. Fortunately, my cold has abated, but I'm still miserably hot and sweaty.

So I decided I HAD to have something COLD and refreshing for lunch. This turned out beautifully. If you want to add a protein and make it a complete meal, try edamame, tofu, or canned tuna or salmon, drained.

1 lb bag tofu-free Shiritake noodles (yam starch), rinsed, snipped and dried, or 250g glass noodles or rice noodles, prepared according to package directions.
1 English cucumber, cut lengthwise and then thinly sliced

1 hunk fresh ginger, peeled
2 cloves garlic
4 tbls rice vinegar
2 tbls fish sauce or light soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 handful fresh cilantro/coriander
Hot crushed chili flakes, to taste

To make dressing, throw everything into blender or food processor and process (won't be completely smooth). Pour over noodles and cucumber in a medium bowl (and protein, if using) and toss to combine. Let sit a few minutes to absorb flavours. Glass noodles will absorb the liquid from the dressing, but shiritake noodles will not. Serves 4 as side dish, or 1-2 as a main.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer Colds

Summer sucks.

I know you probably don't hear that very often.

Most people love summer.

I HATE IT. I must have a different metabolism from most people because I hate heat. Not just sun heat but saunas, whirlpools, fireplaces, etc. It just doesn't feel pleasant to me. I'd much rather be cold and be able to snuggle into a sweater, blanket or cup of tea.

Yes, in my opinion there is little to enjoy about summer. Particularly heat, humidity and summer colds!

I haven't had a cold in many months, which is honestly a first for me since I had the girls. I never used to get sick until I had kids but the little germ bags started bringing home every existing bug.

Being sick sucks anytime of year, but for some reason, it is even worse in the summer. It just feels wrong to be congested, sneezy and headachy when the bright sun is beating down. Even when I'm not, I feel warm and feverish. Ya know?

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night with a searing sore throat. Then I basically slept terribly for the rest of the night. Organic oregano oil got rid of my sore throat but today I have an awful headache, stuffed nose and I am exhausted. Blech!

Hopefully sitting on a shaded patio with the family tonight (my parents are visiting and my brother and his family are joining us) at a new restaurant ( for gourmet sausages and beer will cure what "ales" me. Ha ha! Okay, maybe there are a few benefits of summer...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tuna Melt

In spite of it's simplicity, there is something so comforting and satisfying about a tuna melt. It makes a perfect lunch or dinner and is quick and easy.

This version is a bit gussied up, but still quick and easy and it tastes fantastic!! Mixing the cheese right into the tuna makes it even better than melting it over top (IMHO!).

1 can water packed tuna, drained
2 tbls fat free Miracle Whip/Veganaise/Mayo, etc.
2 garlic dill pickles, finely diced
About 3-4 pepperoncini (Italian pickled peppers), either spicy or sweet
60g aged cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes (or your favorite cheese)
1 tbls fresh lemon zest
1/2 tsp dried dill
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

1 large whole grain flat bun

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mound onto two halves of the flat bun and put in oven or toaster oven at 350F until cheese melts. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Some people find it harder to stick to a healthy eating plan in the winter because they crave high calorie comfort foods when it's cold.

I have the opposite problem. When it is disgustingly hot and humid (as it is EVERY summer in Toronto), I crave COLD LIQUID BUBBLES!! The obvious choices are beer and soda, of course.

But I try to minimize my alcohol consumption as much as possible. PLEASE don't fool yourself into thinking alcohol is healthy. Yes, it can lower your chances of heart disease, but it can significantly INCREASE YOUR RISK OF VARIOUS CANCERS!! There are many more healthy ways to maintain heart health that do not come with that risk attached.

And soda, well don't even get me started! I readily admit that I sometimes give in to my cravings with the occasional diet ginger ale or diet Dr. Pepper. But I actually don't like the taste of most other conventional soft drinks. Also, they contain a host of heinous chemicals (i.e. caramel colour, phosphoric acid, brominated vegetable oil, etc.).

Most of the time I can quell my craving with club soda spiked with fresh lemon slices. But sometimes, mid-morning, my mouth is dry and my energy dips (particularly when I am stuck sitting inside at one of the counselling clinics for hours on end) and I want BUBBLES WITH SOME KICK (i.e. caffeine).

Zevia, a brand of all-natural, sugar-free sodas I love, are very expensive ($1.50/can) so not a viable option for us right now.

I recently fell in love with Monster Zero, a sugar-free energy drink, but it too is hardly health food, and talk about expensive: try $3-$4/can!!!

I don't really like regular iced coffee or tea, and I love the palate-cleansing effect of effervescence, so my wheels got turning and I came up with this recipe.

Yum! The rich crema of the espresso allowed me to drink this black, something I NEVER do with regular coffee or tea. It is also easy and inexpensive to make at home. You can, of course, add milk to this and sweeten, to your taste.

You can also freeze espresso in ice cube trays and use them as the ice cubes in this drink. Or take the espresso ice cubes and throw in the blender, with or without milk, to make a granita style treat.

4 tsp (or to taste) good quality instant espresso powder
1 cup boiling water
1 cup cold club soda, seltzer, etc.
Sweetener, to taste (I used 2 packs Splenda)
Ice cubes
Milk, to taste (optional)

Spoon espresso powder and sweetener into a large heat-safe cup and pour boiling water, stiring until dissolved. Let cool. Pour into tall glass over ice cubes and add club soda. Serve black or add milk, to taste.

Monday, July 4, 2011

What is Healthy Eating Anyways?

Even as a trained health researcher with extensive experience interpreting statistical data, I sometimes feel completely overwhelmed by the nutrition information out there.

In some ways what constitutes "healthy" eating is simple, in other ways it is so incredibly complicated.

When I was a kid, everyone knew that eating fruits and vegetables was a healthy habit. Period.

Now, we agonize over whether said fruits and veggies are too high in sugar, grown locally and/or are organic. Even when my kids are eating fresh produce, I feel pangs of guilt when it isn't organic. And it often isn't. Why? Because organic food is SO EXPENSIVE. We buy as much organic as we can, but we are living on only one income right now so it simply isn't feasible to buy ONLY organic foods. I do make more of an effort to buy organic for the kids, but still, they are eating nowhere near all organic.

I also often question eating meat as a healthy choice. I avoided red meat for 7 years, from the time my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, until I was pregnant with Big A and had overwhelming red meat cravings. Following my pregnancy I continued eating it about 1-2 times a month, but lately I have cut down even more and really rarely eat it.

I also try to avoid eating any processed meats with sodium nitrites - processed meats are linked with a substantially greater increased risk of cancer!

As an alternative to processed meats, I indulge in soy-versions, which don't carry the same risks, but are still a processed food and are generally very high in sodium. So what I used to think was a healthy choice, now seems like an indulgence. Sure, there are organic, all natural meats available, but once again, they are currently way out of our price range. Sigh!

After losing my taste for fish during my pregnancy with Big A, and losing it even more during my subsequent pregnancy with Little A, I have developed my love for it again. Of course now choosing fish as a protein source is not good enough. We have to avoid farmed salmon, full of PCBs and dioxins, tunas high in mercury, as well as endangered species.

And what about dairy? Recent studies have found a link between high fat dairy products and risk of premature death. At least in Canada we don't have to worry about growth hormones in our milk supply, but don't even get me started on the insane cost of organic dairy products!!

Gluten? It seems the newest trend is gluten-free foods. While this is wonderful for celiacs and those with gluten sensitivities, it is not necessary to avoid gluten if you do not fall into one of those categories. In addition, many gluten-free foods are filled with unhealthy added sugars and processed flours (like white rice flour). So don't think gluten-free = healthy.

While I admire vegans, I don't think I could live on a vegan diet without feeling too restricted. Not to mention that my meat-loving husband would probably leave me!

I love eggs, cheese and honey, and from all the research I have reviewed I don't see many health benefits of a vegan diet beyond what you get from a Mediterranean-style diet, that is based primarily on fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts seeds, fish and health fats, with minimal amounts of meat, eggs and dairy. Being a vegan for ethical reasons, of course, is a different story. I admire people who feel strongly enough about the treatment of animals to go the distance, but I am not that committed.

Overall, a Mediterranean-style diet is pretty much how I eat. A few meals a week include eggs and poultry, but my diet is heavily based on fruits and veggies, legumes, healthy fats and legumes. Most of the dairy I eat is low fat and I try to be conscious of my sugar and salt intake.

Is my diet perfect? Not even close. I adore melting fat-free processed cheese slices on my sandwiches, I often use bottled salad dressings (love Newman's Own Low Fat Sesame Ginger!), I eat processed soy meat alternatives and a few times a week I indulge in IsoFlex protein bars after a workout, which are really glorified candy bars. But my diet is relatively good and I continue to try and improve it by making small changes over time.

Vegan Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

I rarely use an existing recipe when I cook, but Angela Lidon's recipe for vegan butternut squash mac and cheese, from her Oh She Glows blog caught my attention:

I love cheese but Adam despises it (aside from on pizza which is his favorite food...if that makes any sense to YOU, please let me know!). So I decided this was a good compromise and was curious to see if it would satisfy both Adam's and my taste buds. Of course, I didn't tell him it was SUPPOSED to mimic cheese, I called it butternut squash sauce, instead. He liked it!

While I enjoyed it, I found it a bit too sweet for my liking, so I remade it last night using roasted cauliflower. I liked it even more! Neither recipe really tastes like cheese to me, but it is rich, satisfying and yummy anyways!

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 head cauliflower, chopped
3/4 cup raw cashews
2 cups non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened + unflavoured soy milk), or more to thin out
3-4 garlic cloves
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
8 tbsp Nutritional yeast (provides the cheesy consistency)
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp or a bit more of dried Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp turmeric, optional (gives the orangey colour)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp Paprika + more to season
Your pasta of choice (I used 1 lb organic kamut penne) + mix-ins

Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet. In a bowl, toss chopped cauliflower with some olive oil (~1 tsp), 2 cloves garlic, minced, salt and pepper. Add to baking sheet and roast in oven for 30-40 minutes.

Place the cashews into food processor and process until a fine crumb forms similar to corn meal. Now add in the rest of the cheese sauce ingredients and process until smooth. Once cauliflower is done, add to food processor and process. Sauce will be VERY thick and you may have to add more milk (I ended up adding a total of about 4 cups, plus some pasta cooking water!).

Once pasta is cooked, add the pasta back into the cooking pot, stir in desired amount of cheeze sauce on top. Stir well. Add in any desired mix-ins like spinach, sundried tomatoes, peas or broccoli (last night I added garlic sauteed kale and it was delish!). Stir over low heat until everything is heated through and serve. Makes 4 hearty servings. Store any leftover sauce in the fridge and use within a few days or freeze.

Hey, whether you are carnivorous, omnivorous, vegetarian or vegan, you can't go wrong, nutrition-wise, with a steaming, comforting bowl of whole grains, veggies protein and healthy fats!

So what is healthy eating?

I actually think it is pretty simple. And I think Michael Pollan really did sum it up best: "Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much."

In other words:

*Avoid processed foods as often as possible (i.e. eat foods in their natural state).

*Limit your consumption of animal products and eat lots of fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and legumes. While it is certain that organic farming is better for the environment, there is little evidence, to date, that eating organic produces better health outcomes for people. So if you can't afford organic, don't fret too much, most of the research linking fruit and veggie consumption to decreased risk of chronic illness is based on consumption of non-organic products.

*Regardless of what you are eating, eat an appropriate amount of calories to maintain a healthy body weight. Even if you are eating only vegan, organic and locally produced foods, eating too many calories for your energy needs will lead to weight gain which will increase your risk of health problems.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Thai Tamarind Chicken

Tamarind is actually a fruit. It's the main ingredient in authentic Pad Thai sauce. It's quite tart, but is perfect for Thai dishes, which balance tart, sweet, salty and spicy flavours. You can usually find it in ethnic food shops and health food stores.

You can adjust the flavour to taste, by adding more sugar or heat, depending on your preference.

1 tsp peanut or canola oil
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
1 tbls corn starch
1 onion, thinly sliced

3-4 cloves garlic
large knob of fresh ginger, cut into 3-4 pieces
1/2 cup tamarind concentrate (puree)
1/4 cup ketchup or 2 tbls tomato paste + 1 tbls brown sugar
4 tbls rice vinegar
2 tbls fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
A few handfuls fresh coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped

Combine all ingredients for sauce in food processor or blender and Toss chicken with corn starch. Heat wok or skillet and stir fry chicken and onion in oil. When chicken is no longer pink, add sauce and cook a few more minutes. Add green onions and coriander just before serving. Serve over brown jasmine rice.

Crushed hot chili flakes, to taste

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Canada Day!

I hope all you fellow Canadians have been having a good time celebrating the nation's birthday today!

We had a lovely day. It started with Big A getting up at 5:45am!! Then we had breakfast and drove to Downey's farm, the place we went last fall for their Pumpkin Fest.

Today they had a Canada Day Strawberry Festival. We met my in-laws, sister-in-law and niece there. They had a pancake breakfast, strawberry picking, a petting zoo, mini golf, a dog show, music, etc., etc. It was a beautiful day if you like the heat...which I don't, so I had to sneak off to find shade a few times.

Everyone had a great time except Little A. She hasn't pooped since Wednesday and is miserably uncomfortable. She became hysterical on the way home from daycare yesterday because she said her tummy hurt. But even a dose of lactulose last night hasn't unclogged her pipes yet. So she was sulky and stayed in the stroller the entire time we were at the farm. After her nap she was in a better mood but still no poop in sight. Of course this makes us nervous because we know a big explosion is imminent...

This afternoon we hung around the house, watching tennis on t.v., listening to Elmo songs on Youtube and watching the girls dance. Then we bathed the girls (Pig Pen was characteristically sticky and dirty) and Adam took them to his grandparents' for dinner.

With the house to myself, I then did my phone counselling (I'm still the phone pal for the senior I started working with 18 months ago!), did some prep work in the kitchen for our meals this weekend (2 new recipes I'll post soon if they turn out!), and pulled weeds in our front lawn (which means we now have nothing left but a small patch of dirt since our front lawn is almost entirely weeds). Now I've got to finish in some research for a paper on egg freezing that S.D. (my supervisor from the fertility clinic) and I hope to publish in an academic journal.

Just out of curiousity, how do you feel about women being allowed to freeze their eggs for future fertility usage (for non-medical reasons - i.e. they want to further their careers or haven't yet found the right partner and are concerned about their biological clock)?