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Friday, August 31, 2012

L - Glutamine

I have tried many alternative remedies and nutritional supplements over the years, including naturopathic, homeopathic, vitamin, mineral, and herbal products.  I have not had any success with them.

That doesn't mean I think they don't have value.  I just haven't found any helpful for addressing my particular needs.  Anything I have tried for anxiety, insomnia, allergies, hormone balance and immunity has not had any beneficial effects and in the end, I have always felt like I had just flushed my money down the toilet.

But I am right now in awe of one supplement: L - Glutamine.  This stuff has CHANGED MY LIFE!

I have long known that it is recommended to aid muscle recovery after strenuous exercise, all the body builders, male and female, take it.  But I stubbornly decided a few years ago that I wasn't going to bother trying anymore supplements (the last thing I tried was oregano oil, but honestly I don't think it really helps prevent or treat colds, it just tastes super nasty). So even though recovery has been an issue for me for the past year, I never considered taking anything for it.

Nevertheless, the situation was getting worse, and I found myself achy almost every day and heating pads, epsom salt baths weren't doing enough to alleviate my pain.  Many athletes swear by ice baths, but I wasn't sure I wanted to put myself through that torture on a regular basis.  I was actually starting to lose motivation to workout because I knew how much it would hurt afterwards.  It was very frustrating and upsetting to me as I have never had this problem before( I refuse to believe it's just AGE causing this, so I will assume it's because I do more intense exercise now, compared to when I was younger and did more volume...). I was begging Adam so frequently for back rubs that he was getting annoyed.   I finally decided it was time to explore taking something to aid my recovery.

A little research told me that taking this amino acid is a safe and effective way to aid muscle recovery from strenous exercise, and I found some at my favorite health food store and discovered that it is not overly expensive.  I bought Now Brand:

Fragment Library: Shared: Product Fragments

I started taking 2000 mg per day, one capsule (1000mg) directly after my morning workouts, and one right before bed. 

So? What happened, you ask?

My. Mind. Is. Blown.

Just 3 days later I felt like a completely new woman.  No more muscle soreness!  I feel like I'm turning 28 in a few weeks, not 38.  Seriously, I feel FANTASTIC!  Best of all, my love of all things fitness has been renewed!! I now may have to start looking at other sports supplements a bit more seriously...stay tuned.

Disclaimer: Check with your doctor first before taking any type of supplement or medication.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Absolutely Perfect Vegan Vanilla Rice Pudding


Tomorrow the girls' daycare is closed for their annual cleaning/prep for the school year day.  Last year I took Big A to The Ex and promised that every year we will try to go on this day.  Unfortunately, now that Little A is also at this daycare, it means I've also got to bring our Little Terror along this year.  To make matters worse, they are predicting temps of 33C for tomorrow, which is typically weather that makes me loathe being outside.  Fortunately, my friend Jenny and her kids are accompanying us, and, thanks to this recipe the girls can fuel up on a delicious, nutritious breakfast before we head down to the mecca of fried foods and bacon-filled creations.

Every time Big A requests rice pudding I make it differently.  And everytime I know I say the latest recipe is better.  But this time I really have it nailed.  This one is the bomb!  No starches to thicken, just chia seeds which also add tons of fibre and nutrition.  Some vanilla/smoothie mix/protein powder pumps up it's staying power as a hearty breakfast (or dessert, if you wish!).  This version is so vanilla-y and creamy, you will love it.

1 cup short grain brown rice, cooked
2+ cups unsweetened vanilla or plain almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1 tbls white chia seeds
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out + pod
2 tsp powdered stevia (or other sweetener), to taste*
2 tbls Vega Vanilla Almondilla smoothie mix (or other vanilla or unflavoured vegan protein powder/smoothie mix)

Bring 2 cups of milk, chia seeds and vanilla bean seeds and pod to a boil in a pot over medium heat.  Turn heat to low, remove vanilla bean pod, and add stevia and protein powder, and whisk everything together.  Turn off heat and fold in cooked rice.  Serve warm or cold.  Keeps refrigerated for up to 5 days.  Pudding will tighten up as it sits in the fridge.  Simply stir in more almond milk before serving to reach desired consistency.

This recipe has been entered in Diet, Dessert & Dogs' Wellness Weekend for this week.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cocoa-Loco Pancakes


These pancakes are so healthy Adam was incredulous when I made them for the girls. "How much spinach did you put in those anyways?" he asked me.  The answer is a lot and the girls didn't notice.  In fact, they scarfed them down in the blink of an eye.

1 cup frozen, chopped spinach, thawed (or 1 cup pureed fresh baby spinach leaves)
2 large ripe bananas, mashed
2 tbls powdered stevia (I finally finished my New Roots stevia in this recipe, so I'll be breaking into my NuNaturals Stevia baking blend soon!) or other sweetener
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbls white chia seeds
1.5 cups whole wheat flour (or spelt, or other whole grain flour)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1.5 tbls baking powder
2+ cups water or unsweetened non-dairy milk

Whisk together spinach, bananas, sweetener, vanilla and chia seeds in a medium bowl.  In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.  Add wet ingredients to bowl with dry ingredients and pour in enough water or milk to make a thick batter.  Ladel onto a hot skillet and cook, flipping once, until golden on both sides.  Makes 12 pancakes.  Serve with syrup, and/or nut butter and/or strawberry or raspberry jam and/or fresh berries.  Freezes well.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Caribbean Rice & Peas (with sausage or vegan option)


This was the perfect way to prepare those spicy jerk chicken sausages I bought, but since I am not likely to drive out to Medium Rare again any time soon to buy more of these pricey babies, I think I may make Dreena Burton's amazing looking recipe for jerk chickpeas in place of the sausage next time.  Whether you choose meat or vegan protein, you will love this delicious dish! 

It may not be traditional to add kale to Caribbean rice & peas, but it certainly boosts the nutrition and is really yummy.

1.5 lbs jerk chicken or other spicy sausage, sliced (or 1 recipe jerk chickeas)*
1 onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
1 large bunch kale, leaves torn into bite sized pieces, tough stems removed
1 can light coconut milk

1.5 cups long grain brown rice, cooked

Saute sausage in a large pan or skillet over medium heat until partially cooked.  Add onion, garlic, thyme, salt and vinegar.  Cook until onion softens.  Add peas and kale (a few handfuls at a time), and pour in coconut milk.  Simmer until peas and kale are cooked, to taste (I like them to still be vibrant green).  Stir in rice and turn heat down to low.  Stir until most of the liquid has been absorbed.  Serves 4-6.

I thought these sausages had the perfect amount of heat and were moist and flavourful, albeit a wee bit salty.  I think I am inspired to try making a jerk-spiced version of my veggie meat!

*If you're in a hurry, I am sure you could simply drain and rinse a can of chickpeas and add it in and this would still be delicious.  But perhaps add a 1/4 tsp ground allspice, and crushed red chili flakes, to taste to bump up the flavour.

Monday, August 27, 2012

"Smarter for Life" Bars (Sugar, Nut, & Gluten-Free + Vegan Option)



Happy Monday morning!  It is cloudy and rainstorms are predicted for today, but that's cool with me, assuming it gets rid of the extreme heat and humidity we've had for the past few days.  We had a lovely weekend, inspite of the icky weather, and the fact that Little A may have a bladder infection (still waiting for the lab results) and Big A has strep throat (meds made her feel better pretty quick).  Saturday afternoon we needed an inside activity to occupy the girls so I got them to help me make these bars.

For the past few years Adam has been buying the Smart for Life Bars from Costco. 



Given his cholesterol issues, they're better than a lot of other similar options that are high in saturated fat, but they are still not great.  They use soy protein isolate and are really high in sugar.  Unfortunately, it's Little A who has really fallen in love with them.  She ADORES them, and she is super picky.  She is almost as likely to turn up her nose at a piece of cake or candy as she is a leafy green vegetable.

In any case, I am definitely not thrilled about her eating these, so Adam is going to keep them at his office from now on.  But Little A is not much of a breakfast eater, so when I tell her she cannot have one of these, than she often isn't interested in eating breakfast at all.  So my task here was to make some MUCH healthier version that she would like, and also a nut-free version so they are school/daycare friendly.  I opted to use oats instead of a ready-made rice crisp cereal like the originals, so they are more chewy than crispy, but I am very pleased to say that she loves these and I feel much better about her eating them than the original bars!

"Smarter for Life" Bars

4 cups large flake oats (gluten-free if necessary), pulsed in food processor to chop, or ground into flour, if desired (or 4 cups brown rice crisp cereal)*
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 banana, mashed
1 tbls white chia seeds
40g scoop sugar-free vanilla protein powder (whey, hemp, pea, rice, etc.)**
1/4 cup skim milk powder or coconut milk powder
A few drops vanilla stevia liquid, to taste (optional)

3 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 tbls coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup xylitol, stevia baking blend or other sweetener (or to taste)

Melt oil in small pot over medium heat.  Add banana and chia seeds and turn heat down to low and stir for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients.  Add oats/oat flour and press firmly into 9x9 square pan lined with parchment paper.  Refrigerate.  In a small pot over medium heat, melt chocolate with oil.  Add in remaining ingredients and remove from heat.  Spread evenly over oat mixture and refrigerate until firm.  Remove from pan and cut into bars or squares.  Keep in an air tight container in the refrigerator.

*When you keep the oats whole (as I did), the bars will be a bit crumbly if you don't really firmly press them into the pan.  Breaking up the oats or making them into flour first will make them less crumbly.

**You can use an unsweetened, unflavoured protein powder, but then you may have to add more stevia.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Second Time Around


Image source

There are 4 people in our household.  Three of them are being terrorized by the other one.  The smallest one.

Little A is just being a complete nightmare.  Grumpy, surly, unreasonable, irrational and unpredictable.  After several weeks of eating marble cheese like it's going out of style, I put a few pieces on her dinner plate the other night and she shrieked, "I don't like this!" and flung it across the kitchen.  Virtually every night she kicks up a huge fuss about going to bed with ongoing requests for us to come back into her room and hysteria if we don't comply.  She has refused to swim for the last 2 weeks at swim lessons, and she throws tantrums like every 2 minutes.  Why?  Oh believe me, she'll find a reason!  Remember the peeing doll she begged for?  Well, she is now asking for the jewelry box craft activity we'd initially been looking for.  She told me she's now done with the doll, and I can give it away.  Maybe she'd like to go with it?  Her daycare teacher told me this week that she is 'frighteningly clever, with manipulation skills far beyond what a 3-year-old should have).  Oy vey!

Her irruptions into screaming, whining or crying are so frequent, I recently realized that I've started developing anxiety issues again.  You know how when you are a parent the sound of your child crying/screaming/whining can put you into that automatic fight-or-flight response?  Well I feel that way virtually every second she is around.  Not good for my physical or mental health.  I'm working on developing better coping skills so I don't end up in a straight-jacket soon.  Time outs have never worked with either of our children.  But they work for me.

Other things are helping me get through this too.  Like remembering what a difficult time I used to have with Big A, who is now - for the most part - delightful and cooperative.  Just 2 years ago it was Big A waking up in a rotten mood and starting every day with tantrums while Little A was my ray of sunshine.  Now it's completely reversed.  Big A is happy and charming from the minute she gets out of bed, while Little A trudges down the stairs with a dark expression and stormy mood.  At least I know this will eventually come to an end.  In addition, when Big A was at her worst, we didn't even get along during her better moments.  We really just didn't get along period.  In the infrequent and fleeting moments when Little A is in a good mood these days, she is her absolutely adorable TRUE self.    Just her smile, alone, is enough to melt me like chocolate on a hot day.

I am also much better about not letting myself get sucked into trying to negotiate with her, the way I used to with Big A.  Yesterday morning she wanted to eat the brownie she got from my in-laws yesterday, for breakfast.  When I refused, she lay on the floor and screamed.  I simply ignored her and went about my business getting dressed and ready.  She eventually gave up on the brownie.  Of course, she did have about 12 more trantrums about various things before we left the house, but at least she gave up on the brownie and ate a whole-wheat bagel and cream cheese instead.

I survived the tryanny of Big A and she is now a lovely, bright, sweet girl who we are very proud of.  I know we'll survive this too and eventually Little A will put this behind her and return to her delicious sweet self.  Until then, I just have to keep reminding myself that this is a temporary stage...and that it is not okay to drink wine at 8am!!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Warm Curried Rice and Chickpea Salad


This dish only uses half of the chutney recipe, but the leftovers keep in the fridge 1-2 weeks or can be frozen.

Apricot-mango chutney

8 apricots, diced
1 large, ripe mango, diced
1 onion, minced
1 chunk fresh ginger, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp salt
Crushed red chili flakes, to taste (optional)
Sweeten to taste, if desired (xylitol, stevia, Splenda, agave, coconut sugar, and honey will all work here)
2 tbls coconut flour or 1 tbls chia seeds
1/2 cup raisins
Optional: Chopped dried apricots

For ease, mince onion, garlic and ginger in your food processor.  Throw all ingredients except raisins (unless you want them to be really soft and squishy), into a large flat bottomed pot set over medium heat.  Bring to boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes, until everything has cooked down and chutney has thickened.  Remove from heat, add dried fruit and refrigerate until set.


Warm Curried Rice and Chickpea Salad

1.5 cups brown basmati rice

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 bag cole slaw or rainbow mix salad
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp garam masala
Juice of half a lemon

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2  tsp curry powder
2 tbls cider vinegar
2 cups plain, low-fat yogurt (dairy, soy or coconut milk yogurts are all perfect here)
1/2 recipe of apricot-mango chutney

Place brown basmati rice and 3 cups rice in large pot and cook until rice is tender and water is absorbed (about 40 minutes).

Toss cauliflower and salad mix with garlic, spices and lemon juice.  Place on foil-lined baking sheet and roast at 350F for 30 minutes.  Whisk together 1/2 of chutney recipe and the yogurt.  Place chickpeas, curry powder and vinegar in skillet or large pot, over medium heat.  After 2-3 minutes, add in roasted veggies and yogurt/chutney dressing.  Turn off heat.  Stir in basmati rice.  Serves 4 as a main, 6-8 as a side. 

I have entered this recipe into Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday for this week.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Vegan Deli Salad


I am always looking for healthy new recipes to liven up lunch time.  So to get some new ideas, I was cruising through the Diet, Dessert & Dogs website.  Ricki has such amazing, creative recipes that all sound scrumptious.  I found her chickpea-based mock tuna salad and was very excited to try it.  I love chickpeas, I love tuna, so no matter what, I knew I'd like it.

I did intend to follow the recipe, but then altered it based on what I had in the house, and to taste.  This salad doesn't taste anything like tuna, but it is really yummy.  I used finely minced cabbage instead of celery because we didn't have any, and I don't really love celery.  The cabbage lightens it up and adds some nice crunch.  If you still want this to be tangy, but don't want it to be too lemony, sub 2 tbls cider vinegar for the lemon juice.

1 can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and mashed
4 tbls low-fat vegan mayo or other mayo-type dressing (or Greek yogurt)
1 cup finely grated/minced green cabbage
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbls nutritional yeast
1 tsp tamari
2 tbls arame dried seaweed (optional)
2 tbls pickle relish
2 green onions, thinly sliced

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Serve with crackers or spread on a bagel, bread or wrap...or just shovel into your mouth!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

CAN FIT PRO Conference 2012

I've been attending the CAN FIT PRO conference since 1998 and it's only now that I feel like I've found a way to truly enjoy the experience.  First off, I pick sessions based not only on subject matter or content, but on presenter.  The presenter makes all the difference!

I also now make sure not to physically overdo things.  This year I refrained from participating in the workout part of all the cardio sessions I did and on Friday, when it was stinking hot, I took the subway to the convention centre instead of forcing myself to do the 6km bike ride. 

I also bought much less at the Trade Show.  I've learned that not all the 'deals' being offered are so wonderful, so impulse buying is not always a good idea.  In fact, I bought no clothes and no music.  After all, I only teach once a week now and the rest of the time work out in my home, so I have much less need for cute spandex outfits.  In addition, I make my own CDs for my spinning classes, so I don't need to purchase any premade mixes.

The only thing I actually bought for myself is another Mindy Mylrea DVD, All Out Cardio.  I've already tried out a few segments of it, and it's pretty good, although I am not convinced anything out there compares to Insanity.

But the trade show was chock full of new products and free samples, so I thought I'd provide a review of some of the best new fitness trends, equipment and supplements I found there.

Nutrition
biPro whey protein powder




This whey protein powder is unflavoured and unsweetened and lactose-free.  It can be used for cooking and baking.


 Sacha inchi seed oil, available as an oil or in pill form, is a great vegetarian source of omega 3 fats, much better than flax.

featured-product

The composition of this oil is as follows:
48.8% alpha linolenic acid (ala: omega-3 essential fatty acid)
36.6.% linoleic acid (la: omega-6 essential fatty acid)
9.2% oleic (oa: omega-9 fatty acid)
5.4% saturated fatty acid

Health benefits include:
  • boost good cholesterol and reduce bad cholesterol
  • prevent heart disease, hypertension and diabetes
  • reduce inflammation resulting from arthiritis
  • improve brain function including memory capacity
  • alleviate depression and mood swings
  • stengthen immunity
  • benefits nervous system
  • improve vision
  • promote natural fat loss
Although I have not tried it, the salesmen told me it tastes fantastic and can be used in salads, dressings, sauces, marinades, etc.

Synergy caffeine strips are sugar-free, calorie-free strips that dissolve on your tongue.  They come in cinnamon and mint flavours, and also freshen breath. 


What I like about these, is that they give you the option of a little energy boost or added alertness without making you have to pee like crazy, like energy drinks or coffee.  Perfect when you are on a long car trip.  Apparently they are already available in many stores across Canada.  I tried them during the conference (Saturday I left the house without having enough coffee) and they work!

Pure Naturals protein bars:

Peanut Raisin Crunch
At the end of the trade show, vendors were giving away 2 boxes of these babies for $5.  I snatched them up for Adam.  These bars have 200 calories, 7 grams of protein and 5 grams of fibre so they are a better alternative to the chocolate protein bars he usually eats, which are really high in saturated fat.  The only thing I don't love about these bars is their 9g of sugar.

At first I thought Vitamints was a silly idea: vitamins that are sugar-free mints.  But I realized they are ideal for anyone who has difficulty swallowing big pills and wants to avoid sugar-filled chewable or gummy vitamins.

Active





Fitness Trends and Equipment

What's hot in the fitness world right now?  Zumba, Crossfit, yoga and functional/sport-specific training.  I finally feel like the fitness industry is in a good place, because there is now something for everyone.  Whether you prefer dance, athletic training, mind-body activities, or plyometrics, you will something that suits your interests, goals and skill level.

I did 2 sessions with the TRX Rip Trainer and I'm in love.  I definitely want to get one of these!  Adam groaned, but they don't take up much space and are only $189.  I won't buy one right away, I'll have to butter him up a bit first.

TRX Rip Trainer Basic Kit
The Rip Trainer is all about producing and resisting rotation.  It is an extremely versatile piece of equipment that can be part of training programs for a wide variety of activities including hockey, paddling, golf, or simply the sport of life.  It can be used by individuals of all ability levels, it's truly a remarkable piece of equipment.

Octane Lateral X machine.

OCTANE LATERAL-X

Conference attendees were encouraged to give this new piece of equipment a try.  I was happy to oblige.  They salesman described it as a stepper with the ability to encorporate lateral movement. 



I found it much more like an elliptical - and I hate ellipticals - but it's a nice option for elliptical lovers, and I know there are lots of you out there, who want to add some variation to your workout and target your muscles in new ways.  If you have $7,000 burning a whole in your pocket, you can have one of your very own!



I attended two sessions with Julz Arney this year - one for spinning and one for the Bosu Ball.  I loved her last year and she was just as good this year.  What's so amazing is the breadth of her talent.  She comes from a dance background, but also teaches and trains spinning and Bosu, AND has apparently just taken up competitive running.  Pretty impressive!


I also did an amazing spinning session with Jay Blahnik, a fitness celebrity who has been a name in the industry for a long time.  In spite of his fame, he comes across as pretty down-to-earth and approachable.  He did a great session on building community in fitness classes.


Now, how can I smooth-talk Adam into letting me buy a Rip trainer???




Monday, August 20, 2012

Spicy Chili Almonds


Holy cow, it was an exhausting weekend!  It was the Can Fit Pro conference - which I'll write about later this week - and Little A was really challenging.  Adam and I had scheduled a much anticipated date for Saturday night and the girls were supposed to sleep over at my in-laws.  But Little A refused.  No amount of bribery or cajoling could convince her.  She did go to bed that evening without the usual song-and-dance, and she did sleep until 7:15am Sunday morning (I don't think she's slept past 6:30am in many, many weeks) and she even woke up in a good mood.  But that lasted for about an hour.  By the time I left the house to go teach my spinning class at the JCC, she was in full tantrum mode.  On top of all that, for some reason I've been having really crappy sleeps for the past week, so even though Little A slept in yesterday, I woke up at 5am and couldn't go back to sleep on my one sleep-in day of the week.  Blech!

If like me you feel that your weekend wasn't as restful as you would have liked, check out the inspirational story of Annaleise Carr, the 14 year old who swam across Lake Ontario and raised over $60,000 $100,000 for a camp for children with cancer.  Amazing athletic feat on top of being an amazing act of charity.

Anyways...on to food.

While satisfying my fondness for legumes, grains and leafy greens, lately I've been trying to make a bigger effort to appeal to Adam's tastes.  I've been preparing more pizza and meat dishes, as well as some of his favorite treats like garlic bread and sweet potato fries.

Although Adam has been enjoying this, he got a scare this week that has him begging me for beans.  Ha ha!  His cholesterol has gone up some dramatically in one year that his doctor sent him a letter to be careful and get it rechecked in a few months.  Now, Adam is quite certain that the change is due to the many months he spent last winter and spring travelling for work.  Spending 10 hours a day sitting in archives, he craves physical and mental pick-me-ups, which usually include chocolate and massive bakery chocolate chip cookies.  Also, the cafeteria at the National Archives in Ottawa sells a limited array of meals and most of them tend to be less-than-healthy.  Nevertheless, he's pissed.  And I can understand why.  He lives a healthy lifestyle, much healthier than most North Americans, but he's still plagued by a genetic propensity to high cholesterol.

So we reviewed his current diet to see what we could change:

Breakfast = oatmeal + whey protein (good)
Lunch = 1 hummus or pbj sandwich on whole wheat (good) + 1 turkey sandwich on whole wheat (not so good), 2 apples, 1 banana, baby carrots (all good)
Snacks = 2 chocolate protein or granola bars (not so good)
Dinner = whatever I make him (usually good)

We agreed he would cut back on the deli meat sandwiches and swap out at least one of his daily bars for some nuts.  Nuts are a great food for lowering cholesterol.  But I know my hub, and he does not love plain nuts.  I get that.  I love spicy, salty nuts too!  So I whipped these up for him to keep at work and munch on when he's hungry.  A serving is about 25 almonds, which may not look like a huge amount, but the protein, fibre and good fats are very satisfying and will take you through to your next meal.

Spicy Chili Almonds

4 cups plain almonds
1-2 tbls organic canola oil (start with one tbls and only add more as needed to coat nuts)
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste (optional)

Whisk spices into oil in medium bowl.  Add nuts to bowl and toss until well coated.  Lay nuts in a single layer on baking sheet and put in the oven at 275F for about 10 minutes (do not let them burn!).  Remove from oven and let cool.  Store in an airtight container.

This recipe has been entered in Diet, Dessert & Dogs' Wellness Weekend for this week.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Spoiled Sports

It's not been an easy week. 

I've been feeling a bit crappy since last weekend.  I caught the bug that seems to be going around right now, and on-and-off for the past week I've had a sore throat, headache and upset stomach.  I've also had a few bad night sleeps, which hasn't happened in a while.  Sick and tired is not a good combo and generally makes me a big grump.

On top of all that, Little A may have caught the bug too.  Sunday we suspected she was coming down with something but Monday she seemed fine.  Until swimming lessons Monday night.  She refused to get into the pool, claiming to have a sore tummy.  But since she's been reluctant about lessons from the start this session due to being assigned a 'boy' teacher, Adam thought she was faking.  Nevertheless, she insisted on going right to bed when we got home, sans dinner, bath or stories. 

So we kept her home on Tuesday.  Ironically, she appeared 100% the whole day.  Good appetite, full of energy - perhaps even more than usual! - and in a great mood.  She was absolutely thrilled to have a 'home day with mommy'.

We dropped off Big A at daycare and then stopped in at Fiesta Farms to pick up a few things.  Then we headed home.  I ate breakfast and then we drove to the Dufferin Mall.  Big A and I had just finished a decorate-your-own jewelry box kit:
Decorate-Your-Own Wooden Heart Box
Little A had been asking for one, so I thought this would make a nice 'sick-day' activity for us.  But when we got to the mall (after I bought her a strawberry smoothie), she saw a Baby Alive Better Now and HAD to have it!

 Baby Alive Better Now Baby - Caucasian Colors may vary

She was being such a sweetie pie, I couldn't resist, especially since she agreed to give away 2 toys we already have in exchange for this one.  I had fantasies of her entertaining herself with this new doll for hours and having it inspire her to go to med school one day (and become some sort of specialist doctor who makes buckets of money and can support her aging parents in a life of luxury...).

By this time, she'd gotten Sha Sha ginger cookies from Fiesta Farms, a popsicle at home, a smoothie, and a doll.  I picked up a new dress for Big A's Barbies so that things weren't entirely unfair.   Yet Little A exclaimed, "I got more things than Big A!", "Yes, I said, you've been really spoiled today."  "Yes, so I really happy!" she grinned at me.  I know, I know, I'm a sucker!

I was actually enjoying the day with her.  Until about 2pm.  She'd woken up at 5:30am and refused to nap, so as she became more tired, she became impossibly grumpy.  Oh, and my hopes for the doll were crushed pretty quick.  The band aids that come with her didn't stick well on the doll, so this just frustrated and angered Little A and we had to throw them away.  The medicine spoon doesn't actually produce medicine, so she lost interest in it quickly.  The sippy cup was the only thing she cared about, but she was more interested in drinking from it herself rather than giving it to the doll.  She also insisted on ripping the diaper off her immediately AND THEN feeding her the sippy cup, which made the doll 'pee' all over the house.  Once that happened, she lost interest in the doll altogether and only wanted to watch tv.  I did manage to drag her away from the television to make banana muffins, of which she ate 3 as soon as they were cooled.  Her tummy appeared to be better.

I, however, felt like a disaster Tuesday night.  So while Adam bathed the girls, I sat in a hot epsom salt bath for 20 minutes.  So Wednesday it was back to daycare for Little A and I took a mental health day.  Wednesday evening though, set me back again.  I picked up the girls so I could take Big A to skating and the two of them fought in the car the whole way there and the whole way home.  I was so discombobulated from the screaming and crying, that I smashed our tail-light pulling into the garage (okay, and admittedly, parking in narrow spaces is not my forte).

Yesterday Big A had a playdate with a friend which meant Little A was going to daycare by herself.  This made for a challenging morning.  Little A wanted plain applesauce at breakfast, but we only had apple strawberry.  This - combined with the fact that she wanted to go with Big A on her playdate - was enough to have her in a state of hysteria.  I had to drive them to daycare so I could take the car into the shop to be fixed and I had to literally throw Little A over my shoulder and wrestle her into her car seat.  She shrieked the entire ride to the daycare. 

Several hundred dollars later, the car is as good as new and it's finally Friday.  It's the Can Fit Pro conference this weekend, so inspite of waking up with another headache and upset stomach, I'm trying to muster up the energy to survive it.  Perhaps a little retail therapy in the trade show will energize me.  Don't worry Adam, I promise not to spend too much ;)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sesame Garlic Asparagus


This is a simple and delicious way to dress up asparagus.

2 lb asparagus, tough ends trimmed
2 tbls soy/tamari/aminos
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
Sesame seeds (optional)

Place asparagus in a single layer on foil lined baking sheet.  Whisk together soy, garlic, mustard, and oil.  Drizzle over asparagus.  Roast at 400F for abou 15 minutes (or grill until tender).  Garnish with sesame seeds, if desired.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Peach-Apricot Barbecue Sauce


If you grill a lot in the summer, you probably go through a lot of bbq sauce.  It's so easy to make your own, and so much healthier than using the sugar-filled store bought kind, there's no excuse not to try it. I used our food processor to mince and chop everything and it came together super fast.  This one uses some of the in-season fruit to naturally sweeten it up.  Adding additional sweetener is optional.  I left it a bit chunky, but feel to make a smoother sauce if you prefer.

Peach-Apricot Barbecue Sauce

Half a red onion, minced
2 shallots, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 ripe peaches, finely chopped
3/4 lb fresh apricots, finely chopped
1/2 cup cider vinegar
Optional: 2 tbls - 1/4 cup sweetener, to taste (honey, maple syrup, agave, coconut sugar, xylitol, Splenda, will all work)
1 tbls chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste (optional, for some heat)
1/4 tsp smoked paprika (or few drops liquid smoke)
Pinch ground cinnamon
Pinch ground allspice
680ml (24oz) jar passata (strained tomatoes)

Place everything except tomatoes in a large pot set over medium heat.  Cook down onions and fruit for about 10 minutes.  Turn heat down to low and add tomatoes.  Simmer for another 10 minutes.  Keep refridgerated for up to 3 weeks or freeze for future use.  Makes about 7 cups.

This recipe has been entered into Diet, Dessert & Dogs' Wellness Weekend.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Nutrition Action Healthletter Summer Issue

Centre For Science in the Public Interest

In this summer's issue of the Nutrition Action Healthletter, Michael F. Jacobson, Executive Director of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, discusses the importance of teaching our children to cook (something I've been saying for a while). Not Kraft Dinner, but real food.  Personally, I think focusing on our kids is key because the current generation of adults are too far gone. 

Call me a pessimist, but from everything I read and see, most people who have adopted unhealthy eating practices such as grabbing most of their meals from restaurants, and/or consuming processed foods are unwilling to change.  I really hope we can make some policy changes to our education and food manufacturing systems that will enable the next generation to develop healthier behaviours.

This issue also has a large article on diabetes and heart disease (metabolic syndrome).  Here are some of the factors that can help you decrease your risk of metabolic syndrome:

* If you are a woman, keep your waist below 35 inches, 40 inches if you are a man.
* If you are at risk for metabolic syndrome, get your triglycerides tested.
* Keep your proportion of carbs to 65% or less of your total caloric intake.
* Avoid consuming products with added sugars (table sugar, glucose-fructose, etc).
* Avoid eating too many calories relative to your energy needs, regardless of how 'healthy' those calories are.
* If you are losing weight, avoid losing more than 2 lbs a week.
* Exercise regularly.
* Eat fatty fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, trout, tuna and halibut.  Or take fish oil pills.  Or, if you are vegetarian/vegan, eat sea vegetables full of omega-3 fats.

Other interesting tidbits:

* A major study found that coffee drinkers are less likely to die of heart disease, respiratory disease, strokes, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and various infections, compared with non-coffee drinkers.  This applies to both decaf and regular coffee drinkers.

*A U.S. study found that when people eat at restaurants, they eat almost 300 more calories than if they eat the meal at home.  Learn to cook.  Eat at home.  Make meals from whole foods.

* A meta-analysis by he U.S. Cancer Institute found that breast and colorectal cancer patients are less likely to die if they exercise.

So what can you do?  Assuming you are in the small minority of North Americans willing to make healthy changes to your lifestyle, here are some hints:

Eat fish and/or sea veggies.
Enjoy your coffee...with skim or non-dairy milk and without sugar (lots of alternative sweeteners out there!).
Exercise, exercise, exercise.
Eat at home and cook meals from scratch.
Teach your kids to cook/lobby schools governments to make cooking a fundamental part of the school curriculum.

If you would like a subscription to the Healthletter, visit www.cspinet.org/canada/ for the Canadian edition, and https://www.cspinet.org/nah/index.htm for the American one. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Palak Paneer Pizza


Although Indian cuisine is one of my favorites, I'd never had Palak Paneer before.  In fact, I'd never tried Paneer, a pressed cottage cheese commonly used in certain parts of India.  Finding it in Kensington Market inspired me to give this dish a try.  While planning the meal, however, I decided to make it into a pizza dish, instead of eating it in the typical way I eat curry: with brown basmati rice.

Knowing that Adam will only eat cheese on pizza, and only eat pizza made with mozzerella, I decided to make it only for me, and made him a plain pizza with mozz and veggie pepperoni.

While the curry itself turned out great, and the flavour was great on pizza crust, I can't say I was overly impressed with paneer, which I found very bland, and, of course, doesn't really melt, which doesn't exactly make it the best choice for pizza.  I think next time I will use mozzerella instead.  If you want to do a vegan version, cube up some firm tofu or use your favorite vegan cheese alternative.

Palak Paneer Pizza

1/2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 chunk fresh ginger, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tbls garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
1/4 cup cider vinegar or 2 tbls lemon juice
1 400g package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed (or large box chopped, fresh baby spinach)
1 cup strained tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
200g paneer or mozzerella, grated

1 whole grain pizza dough

Pour oil into a large skillet or pan and add onion, ginger, garlic and spices.  Next, add vinegar cook over medium heat until liquid evaporates.  Add spinach and strained tomatoes.  Simmer for about 15 minutes and season to taste.

Lightly grease pizza pan and then sprinkle with cornmeal.  Spread out dough to edges or to desired thinness.  Sprinkle with cumin seeds.  Spread spinach mixture over entire crust.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Bake at 450F until crust is baked through (took about 25 minutes in our oven!).  Leftovers keep in the fridge for 4-5 days or can be frozen.

Friday, August 10, 2012

On Thin Ice

When we decided to put the girls into skating lessons this summer, they were both initially very excited.  No one complained about having to wear a helmut (not something we had to do as kids), particularly Little A, who got a pink helmut, and both of them were thrilled with their girlie skates.



These are the ones we got for Big A.  She thinks they look like high heels, which apparently is such a novelty, I think if we let her, she'd wear them all the time. 

Big A immediately loved skating and is enthusiastic to learn.  I think it helps that there are often young figure skaters practicing before our lesson and Big A is just as enchanted with the 'skin colour tights' and 'twirly skirts' they get to wear, as well as their agility and gracefulness.

It's a different story with Little A.  She began equally enthusiastic, perhaps a little nervous, but buoyed by her pink princess skates.



By the end of the first lesson, the teacher had gotten her to be able to stay standing for 30 seconds, but that was enough for her.  She has made it abundantly clear, and in no uncertain terms, is she ever getting back on the ice.  Adam and I don't usually allow the kids to quit things, but she is young to be on skates, and I still have bad memories of our attempt to put her into gymnastics which we abandoned after too many temper trantrums and screaming fits that forced us to give up.  This is one stubborn, strong-willed kid!

So Big A is going solo now, which isn't such a bad thing as she will probably benefit more from lessons at this point anyways.  But I'm not overly impressed by the skating club.  The teacher forgot to tell us lessons were cancelled this week.  So on Wednesday I picked up the girls early from daycare, had to deal with a miserable Little A, who initially didn't even want to come with us to the rink even though I promised she didn't have to go on the ice, drove all the way, and discovered - after already getting Big A changed and into her skates -little kids playing hockey on the rink.  None of the teachers from the skating club were anywhere to be found.  After I sent her teacher an email, I got an "Oops, sorry" and was also informed that even though we spent a small fortune on these lessons and Little A will now not be attending anymore, we can't get much of a refund.  It also irks me that the teachers show little concern for starting the 30 minute classes on time, but, of course, are always punctual about ending them on time.  Me thinks if we do more lessons (which Big A wants), we will try another skating club!

Unforuntately, my fantasies about skating being a family activity for us this winter are clearly not going to materialize.  In fact, Little A suggested she could stay home with daddy, while Big A and I go skating.  Hmm, Big A and I having a mommy-daughter activity we do together?  Actually, that could be a very good thing.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fitness Deals in the Burbs


I am the first to admit I am an urban princess.  There is nowhere in the world I'd rather be than Manhattan.  I don't like the country and I'm not a big fan of suburbs.  I like walkable communities with lots of character, diversity and activity.  Cookie-cutter housing developments, strip malls and sidewalk free areas are not for me.  This is why we live in downtown Toronto.  No, we have no backyard to speak of, just a big deck, a paved area, and a little garden (with red currents and raspberries!), yes our house is small, but it is so worth it to live so centrally, with access to so many amazing urban resources.

That being said, I'm not sure Toronto actually has suburbs.  Most of the areas I think of as suburbs of Toronto: Mississauga, Richmond Hill, Thornhill, Vaughan, etc., are actually cities in their own right.  Yet Torontoneighbourhoods.net also lists these areas, and others, as being Toronto suburbs so perhaps even though they are all entirely seperate municipalities (except maybe Thornhill), they are still considered suburbs?  I don't know, but I do know that most of the areas I've mentioned look and feel like suburbs. Nevertheless, unlike the suburbs that typify middle America, I am willing to concede that there is a lot more diversity and charm in many of the communities in the Greater Toronto Area.  In fact, places like Mississauga and Brampton have quickly growing ethnic communities as more and more immigrants settle in these areas.  You are now just as likely to get awsome Chinese or Indian food outside the city as you are inside.

It was not a search for great ethnic food, however, that brought me out to Mississauga this week, but rather, a need for fitness equipment.  We used to have a Fitness Source on Yonge st, but now the remaining stores are all in the burbs.  The company is going out of business - apparently Canadian Tire bought the chain and then decided to close all of them ?!? - so they are having massive sales.  One of the clips for our strength training equipment broke, and we lost the stability ball valve for our pump, so I decided to make the drive to their south Mississauga location.  They didn't have the clip (they told me to try Lowe's), but, man can you get some good deals there right now!

I got New Balance runners, normally $140, for $40!
I got 2-8lb dumbells (we already have 3s, 5s, 10s, 12s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 30s, 40s, and a single 50) for $14.00!
I got Adiva pilates balls for $5.99!
I got weight lifting gloves for Adam for $12!
They gave me the pump valve for free!

The deals are seriously insane.  Insanity DVD set for $69.99, treadmills, crosstrainers, bikes, for 50% off or more, yoga mats for $9.99...pretty much everything I saw was at least 40% off.

On the way home, I stopped into Medium Rare, a gourmet butcher and food shop I'd read about.  Hey, not like I get out that way too often!  I'd heard they have pretty amazing, all-natural, products including a wide variety of sausages.  Like most gourmet food stores, the prices were a little shocking, so I just got some jerk chicken sausages for Adam and I (4 were $14!).

I also stopped at a Nutrition House on the Kingsway - which is in Etobicoke, which is now considered part of Toronto proper - and picked up some of the Joseph's Lavash I like, that doesn't seem to be available downtown...and a Bulk Barn across the street to get some baking supplies.

I may not have gotten what I originally went for, but I have to say, my jaunt to Mississauga - with a stop in Etobicoke - was quite successful.  The stack of receipts is not going to thrill Adam...nor the mud splattered all over our car from driving through some road construction...hee hee, sorry honey!

So if you want any sort of fitness equipment - big or small - head to a Fitness Source location ASAP, as I believe they will all close by September.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Peanut Curry Kelp Noodles


I've been in kelp noodle withdrawal the last bunch of months.  The Korean grocery store that carries them for less than $2/bag has been out of stock, and I refuse to spend the $5-6 or more everywhere else seems to charge.  After all, I can easily eat a whole bag in one sitting!

So I was delighted to find them back on the shelf a few weeks ago and was fortunate to snatch up the last bag.  Unfortunately, I've been back twice since and they don't have them again. 

I love, love, love them.  Like shirataki noodles, they are very low in carbs and calories, and gluten-free, however, they don't have a funny smell like shirataki noodles do when you first open the bag, and they do absorb liquid so you have more leeway in terms of how to sauce them.

This recipe is quick and easy and crazy delicious.  I added in mixed seafood at the end, but you can omit that if you want these to be vegan.

Peanut Curry Kelp Noodles

1 340g bag kelp noodles, rinsed and snipped with scissors
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 340g bag rainbow slaw (or veggies of choice)
340g bag frozen mixed seafood, thawed (optional)

Sauce

1/4 cup natural peanut butter
2 tbls rice vinegar
1 tbls soy sauce/tamari/aminos
1 tbls agave
2 tsp curry powder (mild or hot)
1/4 tsp Chinese five spice powder

Whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce.   If its too thick, add a bit of water or additional vinegar to thin it out.

Place noodles in a large skillet, pan or wok with onions and vinegar until noodles soften.  Then add veggies and seafood, if using and continue to cook until veggies soften and seafood is cooked through.  Stir in sauce and continue cooking for a minute or two.  Serves 1-2.

Man this was good, but now I'm out of kelp noodles again.  For all you Torontonians buying up all my cheap kelp noodles:  Leave some for me, will ya???

I have entered this recipe into Diet, Dessert, & Dogs Wellness Weekend.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Maple Spice Protein Glaze


It was Adam's birthday last week so, like every year, he insisted his parents buy him his "Birthday Cookie" (a gigantic chocolate chip cookie from Mrs Fields covered in fluorescent blue and white icing).  So I decided to make a treat for myself: A batch of my pumpkin sticky rolls.  Lately when I make them I've been experimenting with glazes and icings.  I like it super sweet, but don't want to be giddy on sugar afterwards, so I came up with this recipe this time around.  I was very pleased with it!  It could also be used as a topping for fresh or baked fruit, oatmeal, pancakes, waffles or French toast.  Just make sure you use a good tasting protein powder.

I have to say, this was probably the best long weekend we've had yet this summer.  The girls got along pretty well and we had a lot of fun.  Friday we went to my in-laws for Adam's birthday dinner.  Saturday my friend Emily, visiting from Vancouver, came by, Sunday we took the girls to see Brave, and they were very brave themselves.  I was very worried it would be too scary - in fact a little boy sitting behind us was hysterical for much of the movie, but they were both troopers and incredibly well behaved.  It's the first movie they've lasted through in its entirety without getting bored, running around the theatre or wanting to leave.  Adam and I enjoyed it too.  Aside from all the males being portrayed as buffoons, and the females being skinny and beautiful - except for the ugly witch, of course, it was a fun, modern fairy tale.

Yesterday we saw my brother and sister-in-law's new house for the first time and the kids all had a lovely time playing together in the park across the street.  We also took the girls to see the circus and sport exhibits at the Ontario Science Centre.  I have to tell you, I was appalled by some people's behaviour there.  Whoever said Canadians are polite, hasn't been to the Science Centre lately!  We had 3 seperate incidents of ADULTS butting in front of our children, or aiding their children to butt in front of our children to try out various interactive parts of the exhibits, leading one of the girls to burst into tears.  WTF?    Must be tourists because we Canadians couldn't possibly be so rude, right???

Maple Spice Protein Glaze

1/4 cup maple syrup
40g scoop sugar-free vanilla protein powder (your favorite kind)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Whisk ingredients together and pour over...whatever you like!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Peach Crumble Bottom Pie (Gluten-free & Vegan)


Still going crazy with the spectacular peaches this summer.  This pie is easy to make and fabulous on it's own or topped with yogurt or ice cream!  This is rustic and un-fussy, since peeling the peaches isn't called for.  But if you object to that sort of thing, by all means, peel away!  Personally, I like the fruit to maintain its integrity.

10-12 small peaches, washed, pitted and sliced
2 tbls lemon juice
2 tbls arrowroot or cornstarch
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup blanched almond meal
1/4 cup coconut oil, softened
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups large flake oats (gluten-free, if necessary)

Toss peaches with juice, starch, sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

Place ingredients for crust, except for oats in food processor and process until well combined.  Add oats and pulse a few times.  Firmly press dough into the sides and bottom of 9-inch round springform pan.  Fill with peaches and bake at 350F for 40 minutes.  Let cool before removing sides of pan.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Vegan "Tuna" Sushi Rolls

Often picking up sushi rolls seems like the healthiest choice when you are getting take-out or prepared foods from the grocery store, unfortunately, there is often a lot of hidden salt, sugar and fat lurking in those rolls.  From the white rice, to the sugar and salt used to season it, or the mayo-based sauces, these rolls are not always so virtuous.

It's really easy to make your own and to customize them based on your diet and taste.

I've opted to make these without rice, but you can add brown rice, or even quinoa if you want to bulk them up a bit*.  I do recommend that you throw in rice or quinoa if you are not going to eat them right away as it will help keep the nori from getting soggy.  As is, they are best eaten immediately.  Aside from being yummy, these rolls are high in protein, and packed with nutrition and fibre.  I've seasoned the avocado spread with some soy and wasabi, so these don't really need to be dunked, which also keeps the sodium to a minimum.

This recipe was inspired by the JFC black yam cakes I started seeing in the local Korean grocery store that I frequent.
House Black Shirataki Yam Cake 10.5 oz

I buy shirataki noodles there all the time, but couldn't figure out what I'd do with the cakes.  While picking up all the other ingredients to make sushi, it suddenly dawned on me that I could add it in.  The black version (seaweed is added to give it the colour) actually looks and has a similar consistency to sushi-grade tuna.  But like shirataki noodles, it is completely flavourless.  You can omit this, of course, and stick with just the other ingredients, or add lightly steamed asparagus spears, or other veg, but I like the dimension that it adds to these rolls!

10 sheets toasted nori

1 ripe avocado
1 cup cooked, cooled edamame
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tbls soy sauce/tamari/aminos
1/4 tsp wasabi powder, or to taste

Dark romaine lettuce leaves, membranes removed
1 English cucumber, cut in half lengthwise, seeds scooped out, cut lengthwise into spears
1  10.5oz package yam cake, cut lengthwise into thin strips

Place avocado, edamame and seasonings in a food processor, and puree until smooth.  Put sheet of nori on sushi rolling mat.  Place lettuce down on nori and spread with avocado mixture (if avocado mixture comes into contact with nori, it will make it soggy!).  Lay down strips of cucumber and yam cake.  Roll up, wetting edge of nori to seal roll.  Place finished rolls in fridge for about 10 minutes.  Remove and slice (about 5 pieces per roll) with a very sharp knife.  Makes 50 sushi rolls.  Keep refrigerated for 1 day.

Excuse the photo...these ones were the only ones left when I remembered to take a pic, and they were from the first roll I made where I put the avocado mixture directly onto the nori, so they got soggy.  I still ate them...all!



*For each cup of cooked short-grain brown rice or quinoa, dissolve about 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tbls granulated sweetener (sugar, xylitol, Splenda, etc.) to 2 tbls unseasoned rice vinegar in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir into rice or quinoa and let cool before spreading onto nori.

This recipe has been entered into Diet, Dessert &Dogs' Wellness Weekend.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Genie Bra

Warning: This post may not be of interest to you if you are male...unless you wear bras or are a pervert.

These pictures are not of me, by the way!



Due to my pregnancies and breast feeding with the girls, my chest size has changed dramatically, multiple times over the past few years.  Thus, I now have a drawer FULL of bras in a variety of shapes and sizes, none of which fit properly.

I've known for a long time I need to replace them, but have been putting it off.  Why?  MONEY!  I have a small band size and a big cup size and I simply can't find my size in standard department stores.  I unequivocally have to go to a high-end specialty bra store where each bra is at least $80.  Since I need a bunch, the idea of replacing my brazier wardrobe made me sick because it was going to cost me a fortune.

So while I generally ignore infomercials, one caught my attention recently: the Genie Bra.  The promise is that they will fit any size like a glove and be super comfy.  Probably because of the heat and humidity this summer, my bras have been driving me absolutely nuts lately - making me itchy, pricky and digging in all the wrong places, so just minutes later I found myself ordering the Special TV Offer online.  Hey 6 bras for $59.99 can't be beat, and since they offer a money-back guarantee, I decided it was worth a try. 

Only a few days later the bras were delivered to my door.  I got two packs of 3, each with one white, one black and one nude bra.  One pack is the 'classic' style, and one is the 'lace'.

And so, you ask?  They ARE super comfy and look great!  My only problem is that they have thick straps, so I am going to have to keep a few of my old, poorly fitting bras to wear with thin strapped garments, but overall, I have to say I'm pretty impressed...especially as someone who does not have a standard bra size and often has a great deal of difficulty finding things that are comfortable.

I've seen the Genie Bra in stores, but it does retail for almost $30, so this Special TV Offer (which is also available online) is really a good deal.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Meatball Curry

Make this vegan by subbing chickpeas for the meatballs, but if you're a carnivore like my husband is, you'll like this...



Meatball Curry

1 lb ground chicken or turkey
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbls minced fresh ginger
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch cayenne, to taste (optional)

1 onion, minced
2 tbls fresh ginger, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 tbls garam masala
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
1/4 cup cider vinegar (or juice of  1 lemon)
1 can light coconut milk
1 cup frozen or fresh green peas
A few handfuls fresh cilantro, chopped

Place all the ingredients for the meatballs in a bowl and mix by hand.  Roll into small balls and place in a large skillet or pot over medium heat.  Brown on both sides.  Add onion, garlic, ginger, tomatoes and seasonings to skillet, along with vinegar or lemon juice.  Cook until liquid is absorbed.  Pour in coconut milk and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add peas and continue cooking until tender.  Stir in cilantro just before serving.  Serve over a bed of brown basmati rice.  Makes 4-6 servings.  Leftovers can be frozen.