Friday, November 29, 2013

Laugh a Lot

Who needs a therapist when 
sarcasm gets me through 
the day just fine!

Have you heard they now have laugh yoga?  It may sound absurd, but it makes complete sense.  Laughing is incredibly therapeutic and most of us don't do it enough.  Its not new information, but I was reminded of this one day last week when I was feeling particularly stressed out.  I started reading one of those top autocorrect mistake posts like this one.  Because of my silly sense of humour, this kind of shit makes me hysterical.  In no time I was laughing so hard I was crying and I had to put my hand over my mouth so I wouldn't disturb the other therapists in the office working with their clients.  But it felt fantastic.  And I sat there wondering why we don't spend more time laughing.  There are lots of funny things out there! 

Whenever I feel depressed, 
I remember that there are 
millions of microscopic
beings on my skin
who think I am the 

Similarly, it hit me the other day how weird it is all the things we stop doing when we become adults.  Like cartwheels.  Why do we stop doing cartwheels and hanging off monkey bars?  If we just kept doing these things, we'd probably all be a lot fitter and healthier.  I wonder what would happen if we took life a lot less seriously?  Our society is full of people (including myself) who get mired down in expectations and responsibilities.  We feel like we are facing insurmountable obstacles in our lives, when really there is no actual threat.  Most of us are blessed - compared with other living in the world - with fairly safe, stable, comfortable lives, and yet stress is a pervasive and chronic problem that leads to significant mental and physical health issues.

I guess that's why Mindfulness is an increasingly popular buzzword in the wellness world.  Most of us can benefit from practicing gratitude and trying to put things in perspective.  So have a great weekend: turn some cartwheels, dance, and laugh a lot.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Hey Jamie Oliver...WTF??

So Jamie Oliver has apparently partnered with Sobeys, "...On a mission to bring better food to Canadians."

I have to admit, I was pretty surprised when I heard about this, but given his commitment to get folks eating better, I was optimistic that this could mean good things to come.  We have a Sobey's in our neighbourhood and go there quite a bit for various staples (I actually think they are even better than Loblaws for fresh fish and seafood!).

The first evidence of this new partnership was displays of his pasta sauces and pastas and cook wear and serving dishes.  I didn't really pay much attention although I did note that it was a bit weird that all his pastas were made from processed white flour given his commitment to better nutrition.

It was the flyer we got in the newspaper this weekend that really shocked me.  It featured all his new products that are now available at Sobeys stores.  He now has his own line of frozen foods exclusively available at the grocery chain.  Um, isn't he the guy that stresses the importance of fresh, homemade food??  I might be okay with this if the products were actually healthy but they totally are not.  Banoffee cakes?  Gooey brownies?  Creamy seafood pie?  There are also some Jamie Oliver baked goods available and these too are not remotely nutritious...all made with refined flour and sugar.

I don't know man, but this all seems incredibly hypocritical to me.  What do you think?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Jewelled Winter Kale Salad

The fundraiser is over and I am physically and mentally exhausted.  We had an amazing turn out and the bouncy castle and games were a huge hit with the kids.  Believe it or not, I won ALL 3 baking contests!  Mom Who Runs cookie recipe really is the bomb.  There was only one other pie entry to be honest, but hey I'll take 1st place!  I gave the trophies to the second place winners.  The gingerbread houses were sold off at the end.

But seriously, stress is so toxic.  Really its so stupid that we all get worked up over what is really such insignificant stuff.  I'm as guilty of it as the next person.  I constantly need to remind myself to put it all in perspective.  But I'm pleased with how it went and am looking forward to a quiet weekend.  Oh wait, its only Wednesday.  Oh yeah, and our upcoming weekend is like insanely jam-packed.  Sigh!

Moving on to food.

One of the things that is fairly consistent among clients seeking help with weight loss, is that they don't do much cooking and rely far too heavily on restaurant food/prepared foods.  There are studies that have directly linked # meals eaten in restaurants/per week with BMI.  I promise you, no matter how healthy a restaurant dish seems, it is most likely far higher in calories, fat and salt than you can ever imagine.  The Toronto Star often does lab analyses of restaurant meals, and even a very nutritious dish from, say, a raw, vegan restaurant can be almost a days worth of calories (because of the reliance on nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut and other high calorie ingredients).  Of course, most are way way worse because they aren't even nutritious and - in the case of fast food - are basically toxic.

It's always shocked me how many people buy their breakfast and lunch every day.  Not just because of the monetary cost, as well as the cost to your health and waistline, but also because I think you can often make far yummier food at home!

When people tell me they don't like to cook or don't know how, I tell them it is a critical life skill and one worth learning.  I explain to them that being organized and prepared is key.  If you don't arm yourself with healthy food at all times, you're in trouble, because we live in a culture where we are always surrounded with easily accessible, highly palatable (thanks to sugar, fat and salt) food options that make it too easy to over consume calories, and the worst kind of calories, at that.

Cooking fresh food at home doesn't have to be time consuming, it's also a great creative outlet.  Think about it, if you rely on prepared food all the time, you are constrained by the imagination of other people (as well as their desire to make a profit), if you make it home, you have the freedom to explore your own unique tastes and preferences. Sky's the limit!

This is my new favorite lunch.  It is sweet, savoury and comforting.  Thanks to the sweet potato and hemp seeds it is also extremely satisfying.  It's full of super foods, but I just think it tastes super.  And when I brought it to work, there were many folks commenting on how amazing it looks.  The colours alone are beautiful, but the taste is out of this world!

Jewelled Winter Kale Salad

1 head kale, washed, dried and finely chopped
1 large sweet potato, roasted, diced (I keep skin on, but you can discard skin, if desired)
2 tbls hulled hemp seeds
2 tbls pomegranate seeds

Place all the salad ingredients in a large bowl.

Warm Blueberry Balsamic Dressing

1 red onion, diced
600g bag frozen blueberries
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbls maple syrup
1 tsp konjac powder or 1 tsp xantham gum

Place onion, blueberries and cider vinegar in pot or sauce pan over medium/high heat.  Bring to boil and then simmer over med/low.  Add balsamic and maple syrup and simmer until onion and blueberries are soft.  Remove from heat and stir in thickener.  Pour desired amount over salad (I used about half).

This recipe has been shared with Wellness Weekend and No Croutons Required recipe Link-Ups.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

D Day

Tonight is the daycare fundraiser.  I have had butterflies since I woke up yesterday morning.  But now I'm freaking out about something else: One of the board members, and a good friend of mine, was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery yesterday!  Nothing like something like that to put things into perspective!  So what the fuck if the whole thing bombs tonight???  I just hope she's going to be okay.  But it does mean that she and her wife will not be able to come to the fundraiser.  Sheesh, if they didn't want to come, there are easier ways to get out of it.  Ha ha!

Anyways, I have had lots of great people helping me so I think just maybe we will be able to pull it off.

And in the midst of it all, I was able to bake stuff for the contests.  Along with the gingerbread house, I made these cookies. 


I used Mom Who Runs' favorite recipe and just swapped out white flour for whole spelt and brown sugar for coconut sugar.  I went out and bought white sugar just for this recipe...not sure what I'll do with the rest, I'm thinking maybe homemade facial scrub?

I also made these pumpkin pies.

I just used the recipe on the can of pumpkin (and again swapped out brown sugar for coconut sugar).  For the crust, I made a standard graham cracker one, but threw in some chopped, crystallized ginger to dress it up a bit. 

Off to get started on my to-do list for today!  Have a great chilly Tuesday.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Home Sweet Home

Wow, the weekend went fast.  Too fast.  And now it's the day before the fundraiser and I feel like there are still a million things to do.  On the bright side, it's gotten super cold here so the fact that I took the day off work and am stuck at home can easily be appreciated with some hot tea and cosy slippers.

At least I got some of the baking done.  Worried that no one else would step up, I signed myself up for all 3 baking contests.  Today the pies get made.  Yesterday I finished the cookies and last week I put the finishing touches on the gingerbread house. 

Since all these things were for OTHER people to eat (although my kids are begging to try all of it), I put no thought into the health factor.  That being said, I couldn't resist using spelt flour in the cookies, instead of white, and coconut sugar instead of brown sugar.  Whether those swap outs will make me lose the contest or not I don't know.  In any case, it's all for fundraising purposes and fun, of course.

Okay, off to start knocking things off my to-do list.  Have a great Monday!

Friday, November 22, 2013

And the Countdown is On...

Its been another nutty week.  Adam was away in Tampa at a conference for a few days, work was busy, I had to shuttle the girls to their various activities, and I've also been trying to make sure that everything is going smoothly in preparation for the daycare fundraiser I am organizing next Tuesday.  This week we started selling tickets and thankfully, they've been selling really well.  This thing might be a success after all!

Things are not going as smoothly at home.  The girls won't stop fighting with each other.  It's constant.  They can't even look at each other without starting to bicker.  We've tried all the things the experts suggest and nothing seems to work.

One of the things we are auctioning off at the fundraiser next week is a $250 gift certificate for the services of parenting expert, Nanny Robina...I am thinking that I have to win that thing and get help with these kids!!

So there isn't going to be much relaxation this weekend.  I have to work Saturday, and Sunday a few other moms are coming over to help me get some of the baskets ready for our silent auction for the fundraiser.  I've also taken Monday and Tuesday off of work to make sure I have time to handle any last minute emergencies that come up.  Since I'm self-employed, this basically means giving up my personal income for 2 days.   Oh man, I can't tell you how relieved I will be when the whole thing is over!  I like feeling like I'm helping a good cause and making a difference, but this has been a bit too overwhelming.

Have a happy, healthy weekend!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Poop in Peace

Recticare Box
Okay, I've really been falling behind in getting out some posts I've been working on, butt I really thought I should squeeze this one out.

For some reason, people really don't like talking about anything to do with their butts.  Butt, what's going on down there can be an indicator of your overall health.

Most of us know that if you have blood in your stool, you should get it checked out.  We also know that we should start getting screened for colon cancer at some point (depending on family history/personal risk factors).

There can also be issues with discomfort while pooping from either hemorrhoids or fissures.  This is no joke man, I can tell you from personal experience.  After both my girls were born, I developed serious fissures that made it feel like I was passing razer blades out of my butt anytime I had to poop.  I thought this was weird since I had 2 C-sections, but my OB said it's not uncommon due to the constipation caused by the hormones and surgeries.  I know for women who have natural births, hemorrhoids often develop, especially after a prolonged labour. 

In my case, I had to take stool softeners for about 4 months after both girls were born, and the OB had to prescribe a cortisone treatment.  But it took a few weeks to work and in the short term didn't help with the pain. 

So when I was asked to write a post about RectiCare, I agreed because I don't mind talking poop.  Bathroom humour is my favorite kind of humour after all!  I was sent the cream, but since my butt is currently fine, I really can't try it out.  What I can tell you, is that unlike the other products on the market meant to heal, which only offer longer term relief, this product contains Lidocaine, a local anesthetic that can provide immediate relief from pain, burning and itching.  It also includes finger cots so, um, you don't need to get your hands dirty.  I can tell you now, I would have really appreciated this product when I was experiencing painful pooping!

So, if you are suffering every time you sit on the can, you might want to give it a try.

Disclaimer:  I was sent a complimentary tube of Recticare but all opinions on this blog are my own. 

Oh, and if anyone lives in the Toronto area and wants the free sample, it's unopened and I am happy to give it to you!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pineapple Chocolate Chili

Oh yeah, that's no typo...Pineapple Chocolate Chili.  Wait!  Before I lose you, seriously this is SO GOOD!  I mean think about it.  There is chocolate in a mole sauce and if I said I'd made, say, chicken in mole sauce with a side of pineapple salsa, you'd probably think "Yummers!"  Well this is yummers too, I promise.

The idea came to me because my mom bought this spicy chili chocolate bar and gave it to Adam because she found it too spicy.  Adam tried it and even HE found it too spicy so he suggested I cook with it.  I thought it would dress up what would otherwise be a pretty standard vegetarian chili and it worked magically, elevating it to out of this world.  The pineapple adds a lot of sweetness, the chocolate more of a complexity to the overall flavour.  A bit of cider vinegar, smoked paprika, cumin seed and chili powder round it out.  Adding additional cayenne pepper to boost the heat factor is optional. 

By the way, this is the chocolate that is so freakin' spicy:

I used a mix of sprouted beans and canned to get both some chewy and creamy textures, but you can use all canned if you prefer.  I left the veggies large because I like it that way, but feel free to dice everything down small if you prefer.  This makes a large amount so its great for a crowd or to have for several meals in a row.  Or just freeze for a future time.  You can serve it on its own, or over rice or another grain, or stuffed into a burrito.  It's very versatile!

Pineapple Chocolate Chili

1 cup sprouted bean mix
2 cups water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2-3  cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cumin seed (or ground cumin)
Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
1 onion, sliced or diced
1 red onion, sliced or diced
2 red bell peppers, sliced or diced
2 green bell peppers, sliced or diced
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 jar pineapple chunks with juice (or 1 whole, ripe pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into chunks)
1 can tomato paste
About 50g dark, spicy chili chocolate, melted

Place sprouted beans and water in deep skillet or pot.  Bring to a boil and then turn heat down to low and simmer for about 20 minutes until liquid is reduced.  Add vinegar, spices, garlic, onions, peppers,  and pineapple and simmer until veggies are soft.  Add tomato paste and melted chocolate and continue cooking for at least another 10 minutes.  Keep on low heat until ready to serve.

This recipe has been shared with Gluten-Free Friday and Wellness Weekend.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Never Too Thin or Too Warm

For the past few winters I have been wearing the same coat.  I like how it looks well enough, but it really isn't sufficiently warm.  I always ended up layering on sweaters and vests underneath and even then would end up cold on really bitter days.  After all, weather permitting, I often ride my bike to work and when it is really freezing and/or windy, it's not pleasant. 

So I finally decided I should invest in a good coat for winter.  But I also wanted it to look good.  Frankly, I am tired of huge, puffy coats  that make my look like a weeble. I did some research and finally decided on a North Face coat, which I purchased from Sporting Life online.  Supposedly water and windproof, but also pretty streamlined, I loved the way it looked.

When the small, light box arrived, I was dismayed.  I unpacked the tightly folded up jacket and thought I had made a huge mistake: There was no way such a thin coat could be warm enough for winter!  But I decided to give it a try anyways.  Well knock me down and pick me up again!  It's far warmer than I ever imagined such a light, thin coat could be!  I love it.  I still suspect an extra layer might be needed on really cold days, but the fact that it's so wind and waterproof makes a huge difference. 

The bad news is, lately I've been having bad reactions to all my winter hats.  I am allergic to wool and sometimes I am okay with it near my skin for short periods of time, but right now I get itchy after only a few seconds.  Good excuse to buy a new hat I suppose.

I think the next thing I need to do is go to MEC and get some super duper mittens for super duper cold days when I am on my bike.  Then I'll be all set!

Monday, November 18, 2013

My Big Fat Book Review: The Greek Yogurt Cookbook

The Greek Yogurt Cookbook: Includes Over 125 Delicious, Nutritious Greek Yogurt Recipes

Food is subject to fads much like fashion.  Certain things go in and out of style.  Gluten-free food is very popular right now, but if one more person asks me to review a gluten-free cookbook, I'll scream.  Quinoa too.  Been there, done that.  I really am only interested in things that are new and different.

One of the hottest food trends right now is Greek Yogurt.  The appeal is obvious.  Even low-fat versions are thick, rich and creamy and it contains significantly more protein than regular yogurt, which means it is generally more satisfying.  When I was asked to review The Greek Yogurt Cookbook by Lauren Kelly, I was pleased to FINALLY see a cookbook offering something new and different.

Admittedly we don't by Greek yogurt very often, mostly because it's really expensive.  Actually, it's super simple to make yourself, I've done it before...and come to think of it, I should really do it more often!  All you do is take some yogurt of choice (gelatin-free), and strain it through cheese cloth overnight.  If you don't eat dairy, you could probably do this with coconut, soy or almond based yogurts too!

The book contains over 125 recipes divided into 9 chapters ranging from smoothies to main courses to pastas to desserts.

A detailed introduction explains the health benefits of Greek Yogurt, a guide to how to choose one, and a substitution chart if you want to swap out other ingredients in your recipe for Greek yogurt.

The recipes are really nice, and mostly pretty healthy.  Most use whole grains, although some use white flour.  I would recommend using a whole grain flour, of course (whole wheat pastry or kamut flour work well as substitutes for refined flour).  Kelly also seems to favour turbinado and brown sugar as sweeteners, which are just refined sugars, so I would use coconut sugar instead.

I am not a smoothie person, I don't like drinking my food, but her smoothie recipes are surprisingly interesting and original.  My favorite recipes are in the salad chapter.  The Curried Chicken Salad, White Bean Salad, and Grilled Pear Salad with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette sound amazing!  Many recipes are vegetarian, and if you use a non-dairy yogurt, they can be vegan.

There are only a handful of photos, so if you need to see what you are making, this might not be for you.

Overall, if you are a Greek yogurt lover and generally healthy eater looking to expand uses for this super food in your kitchen, than you may want to grab a copy of this book.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mood Swings

Mom, I'm sorry for all
the things I did when I 
was a kid. Will you 
please take off the 
curse that my kids 
will be 10x's worse 
than me? PLEASE....
I'm Sorry!

Holy cow have we been having major mood swings in this house...and there isn't even anyone close to hitting puberty yet!

Wednesday morning Little A woke up in quite a state.  I haven't seen her in such a snit in a very long time.  Basically everyone and everything made her furious and she wailed almost non-stop from the moment she got up until I dropped her at school.  Of course, her teachers reported that she had a great day after I left.  Not sure what was up with that, but when I asked, she simply said, "I was grumpy."  Yeah, well I was left with PTSD after that kid!

Likewise, last night, Big A, who was otherwise behaving great yesterday, had a massive tantrum right after Adam left with his dad to see a concert.  It was like she was 4 again, I couldn't believe it.  Of course, when one kid is having a melt down and getting into trouble, the other kid is sweet as pie...and enjoying every minute of the other's downfall.  I'm telling you, I think having 2 kids relatively close together in age of the same gender is trouble.  Last night as Big A screamed and pounded the floor in the hall while I tried to read Little A her bedtime stories (I won't bore you with the details, but due to rudeness, I took away Big A's TV privileges for the night, which led her to start claiming that her life isn't fair, because Little A always gets her way - which is so not true!), Little A commented, "Mommy I think she is having a big better go deal with it."

My brother and I - and this is confirmed by my parents - really weren't competitive with each other.  Don't get me wrong, we hated each other and fought a lot, but not like my girls.  My brother just thought I was a pest and beat the crap out of me whenever possible.  I half worshipped/half hated my brother.  But being different genders and 4 years apart, we were mostly into different stuff.  We hardly ever played together (I remember Monopoly and Clue games and occasional games in the back yard), and really just spent most of our time doing our own stuff.

I know the girls love each other and are very protective of each other, but their is so much jealousy, it's nuts.  If you threw one of them into a bathtub full of hairy spiders, the other would shout and complain, "Hey, not fair, why does she get to go in first?"

Ah well, its just part of life and part of parenting.  I am very pleased with myself because I somehow managed to not go ballistic on either of them during these rather unpleasant moments.  By the time I picked up Little A on Wednesday, she was in a delightful mood.  Half an hour after I banished Big A to her room last night, she came out in a completely opposite mood, apologized and gave me a hug like nothing had even happened.

I am so glad it's Friday, but things are still nuts.  I work for most of tomorrow and I am going to be super stressed until November 26th because I am furiously trying to organize the annual fundraiser for the girls' daycare - I have a million errands to run this weekend in preparation for the event too - on top of seeing my clients and taking care of the girls...oh, and Adam is going to Tampa for a few days next week for work.  Fabulous!

Have a healthy happy weekend and embrace  the chaos...I'm going to try to!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cinnamon Raisin Protein Bread

Among the foods I love the most, cinnamon definitely ranks up there.  It can transform the ordinary into extraordinary, if you ask me.  One of my favorite things to do is roast or simmer fresh fruit with cinnamon.  It ends up tasting like candy.  Even the girls have a weakness for apples, plums and peaches prepared this way.  Of course, cinnamon is also awesome in oatmeal, French toast and baked goods. 

Cinnamon raisin bread is a favorite in this house.  Unfortunately, it is really darn hard to find a healthy version at the grocery store.  Most have refined flour in them and they all seem to be full of sugar.  So here is my version.  Not only is it sweet, moist and aromatic (the whole house smelled heavenly after I baked up this bread!), but it also happens to be gluten-free and sugar-free.  You can eat it plain, like you would a quick bread, or you can slather it (toasted or untoasted) with nut butter, jam, honey or your other favorite topping.  The protein and fibre in this bread will help keep you satisfied and avoiding any sugar crashes. too.

The girls went absolutely cuckoo over this bread and were already complaining about how I only made 1 loaf after their first bite.  They said it tasted like cake.  If you want a less sweet bread, use unflavoured protein powder.

Cinnamon Raisin Protein Bread

2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup plain yogurt
2 scoops vanilla protein powder (stevia sweetened)
2 tbls stevia baking blend
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup coconut flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins

Whisk together wet ingredients in a large bowl.  Add dry ingredients and stir until combined.  Let sit 5 minutes.   Scrape batter into a parchment paper-lined loaf pan.  Sprinkle top with additional cinnamon, if desired.  Bake at 375F for 40 minutes.  Cover top with foil if it begins to brown too quickly before the end of the baking time.  Let cool and remove from pan.  Keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze.

This recipe has been submitted to this week's Gluten-Free Friday.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Smell Yourself Thin? Spray Thin Product Review

As I write this review I feel like I'm going to barf.  Why?  Because of the revolting stench of Spray Thin's 'savoury' spray.

In all honesty, when they asked if I wanted to try it, my plan was to use Adam as my guinea pig because he always complains about being hungry all day at work.  He often snacks so much he can barely eat dinner.  Unfortunately, I forgot that he doesn't have a very good sense of smell (he thinks its from breaking his nose during rugby as a kid).

So I decided I'd give it a try.  The Globe and Mail nutrition expert recently wrote about these products and concluded that there are far better ways to control your food intake.  After my experience I have to agree! There are a few studies showing that certain scents seem to make people eat less.

They come in 2 scents: sweet (strawberry) and savoury (cheese).  I sprayed a bit of the sweet on my oatmeal one morning.  Can't say it had any effect at all.  I don't really like fruity oatmeal, so I found it weird to be eating strawberry smelling oatmeal, even if the spray has no taste.  The cheese one simply smells so bad I won't put it near my food.  It smells like dirty gym socks. I think it's a bad idea too because cheese isn't a savoury food that works with every savoury dish.  Italian or Mexican food maybe, but certainly not Indian, Thai, Chinese or Japanese!  Ugh!  I guess if you feel utterly nauseous you'll eat less so maybe that's the key. 

In any case, I don't recommend this product, particularly since each small spray is $30!!  It's far cheaper to keep a pair of sweaty gym socks in your kitchen and take a whiff before each meal.

Disclaimer: Spray Thin supplied me with the products but all the opinions on this blog are my own.

Disclaimer: The company provided me with the products at no charge but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Monday Monday...I Wonder What the Mayor Will Do This Week?

Hey man, how was your weekend?  Ours was pretty good.  Went by too quickly though.  I am pleased to say that as of today, I still have straight hair!  I can't believe how much easier and faster it is to do my hair now.  Yay!

You have to be living under a rock to not have heard about the antics of our total moron of a mayor.  If you are flabbergasted that such a man could get into office, believe me, many Torontonians feel the same.

On some level it makes sense though, if you know some of the political, economic and demographic history of the city.  Adam gave me a book called, Some Great Idea to read, written by a Toronto journalist, Edward Keenan.  If you are interested in Toronto politics, I highly recommended, it's fascinating.

Crazy busy week so I gotta get moving.  In fact, I apologize for this, but things are so busy, I may only post a few times a week for the next few weeks.  In any case, have a fabulous Monday.

Friday, November 8, 2013

On the Straight and Narrow

So I did something purely for vanity yesterday: I got a Keratin hair straightening treatment! 

After my failed attempt several months ago to embrace my curls (it's just never going to happen folks!), I resigned myself to spending every morning blow drying my hair as straight as possible.  Unfortunately, for some reason, my hair holds water like a kid holds candy, and if my hair has any moisture left in it, it just curls up again.  This means that it takes a long time to dry it.  I have to towel dry it very well and then let it air dry for about an hour (no joke!  I usually walk the girls to school with wet hair THEN come home and blow it dry) before I attempt to blow it dry (which takes at least another 5-10 minutes depending on how damp it still is).  Then, of course, I have to apply like 6 different oils, conditioners and potions.  If there is any humidity in the air, I have to put on a hat when I go out initially until the straightness is 'set'.  Pain in the arse!

So when one of those group coupon thingies came out with an offer of a Keratin treatment valued at $600 for $99, I jumped.  I bought it months ago, actually, but the treatment takes about 2 hours, and with my busy work and parenting schedule, I just haven't been able to fit it in.

Actually, now that I said all that, I guess it wasn't purely for was for convenience of vanity...

And the result?

Please excuse the horrible photo...I can't take selfies, but at least you can see: it's pretty darn straight!  But the proof is in the pudding.  I am not allowed to wash it for 2 days...lovely since I work out every day...don't think I'll be getting much love from Adam this weekend!  But it made it through my workout and shower this morning (I pinned it up to keep it as dry as possible).

I'm actually pretty excited to finally live life like a straight-haired person.  But just for extra insurance, I also purchased a flat iron.  I had a bad experience with one years ago, but I think I just wasn't very skilled with the thing.  I guess we'll find out if I can pull it off now.

The girls love my new look and both want their hair straightened now (Little A's is pretty straight but Big A's is wavy and curly in humid weather).  Therein lies the problem with all of this: How do I undertake things like this while trying to promote self-acceptance in them?  I'll have to mull this all over this weekend...

Well I hope you have a happy, healthy weekend.  I have to work Saturday morning.  Little A has a birthday party and then both girls have Hebrew school Sunday morning and yoga camp Sunday afternoon.  So it's going to be a busy one for us. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Pumpkin Oatmeal Waffles (Gluten-Free)

This was one of the recipes I used the pumpkin butter in...mmm, these are AMAZING!!  Just keep in mind they are delicate, so remove them carefully from you waffle maker (and make sure you've oiled/sprayed your waffle maker well beforehand).

Pumpkin Oatmeal Waffles

2 cups oat flour (gluten-free if necessary)
1 cup large flake oats (gluten-free in necessary)
2 tbls stevia baking blend or powdered stevia
2 tbls baking powder
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups pumpkin butter
10 egg whites (or flax eggs)
1.5 cups water

Whisk all ingredients together and then let sit for 15 minutes.  Make according to directions on your waffles maker.  This recipe made 5 large round waffles, but it depends on the size and shape of your waffle maker.  Extras can be frozen.

This recipe has been shared with Gluten-Free Friday and Wellness Weekend.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pumpkin Butter

The girls had us buy them massive pumpkins for their Jack-o-lanterns this year.  I felt we couldn't just toss them out, so after Halloween was over, I chopped up as much as I could (before arm fatigue set in) and cooked it down into pumpkin butter.  Oh my, this stuff is so good!  I think I'll be doing this every year!

This stuff can be used as a topping for pancakes or waffles, as an ingredient in baked goods, smoothies, oatmeal, or just spread onto bread.  Already I've made pumpkin cranberry chocolate chip muffins and pumpkin oatmeal spice waffles with it.  So freakin' yummy!

If you don't have so much pumpkin, just half the recipe or reduce as needed.

Pumpkin Butter

16 cups peeled, cubed pumpkin
2 tbls lemon juice
1 cup water
2 droppers stevia (vanilla or plain)
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt

Place ingredients in a large pot and cover with lid.  Cook over med/med-low heat until pumpkin is falling apart.  Mash big pieces with back of spoon and turn heat down to low.  Use immersion blender and blend until smooth.  Keep refrigerated for up to a week or freeze.

This recipe was submitted to Diet, Dessert & Dogs' Wellness Wee

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Vegan Pulled "Pork" & Beans


I have been dying to dry jackfruit since I learned you could simulate pulled meat with it.  A fruit that simulates pulled meat?  Um yes please!

Unfortunately, most of the time when I was able to find it in cans, it was either in syrup or ridiculously expensive.  Then I finally found it for a really good price at...Shoppers Drug Mart of all places!  So I snatched up 2 cans to try.

Jackfruit is cultivated in parts of Asia and Africa.  The flesh is a good source of vitamin C, and the seeds are a good source of protein.  When you get it in cans, there are only a few seeds, so I decided to add beans to this dish to bump up the protein content.  I was a little nervous about how it would does have a weird texture for a fruit, after all, but I was pleasantly surprised: I really like it!  It doesn't have a strong taste, so you could really flavour it anyway you want.

I served this in whole grain wraps with melted cheese (you can use non-dairy options), but you could make it into a sandwich, serve on top of rice or another grain, or just eat it on its own.  This recipe makes a lot but you can keep leftovers in the fridge for 3-4 days or freeze for future use.

Vegan Pulled "Pork" & Beans

1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
4 green bell peppers, sliced
2 red bell peppers, sliced
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbls vegan Worcestershire sauce
Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 cans jackfruit in brine, drained, rinsed and chopped
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups cooked beans)
1 can tomato paste

Saute onions garlic, peppers and seasoning in the oil in a large skillet.  When vegetables begin to soften, add cider vinegar, jackfruit and beans.  Simmer over medium heat until vegetables have started to stew down.  Add tomato paste, turn heat to low and continue simmering 10-15 minutes. 

This recipe has been submitted to Diet, Dessert & Dogs' Wellness Weekend.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fudgy Sweet Potato Brownies

Good Monday morning!  How was your weekend?  Ours was fun.  Costco.  Loblaws.  Swim lessons.  Baking.  Hebrew School.  A birthday party.  Playdates.  And now we're back to Monday again.

Because I love my work, I don't dread Mondays, but boy do I dislike certain things about weekdays.  I hate making the girls' lunches.  It's just another thing to get done every day.  What's even more annoying is how much food comes back uneaten, even if it's food they requested.  This is particularly true of Big A.  I have to say, I am pleasantly surprised by Little A, I thought the whole lunch thing would be even tougher with her, but actually, it's Big A who is more of a challenge.  Little A generally eats most of her food, and if she doesn't finish, she eats the healthy stuff first and leaves her treat over (often eating it when I come to pick her up at the end of the day or even saving it for the next day).  She also doesn't constantly nag me to put crap in her lunch box like Big A does.  If Big A asks one more time for one of those revolting Lunchables thingies, I'll lose it!   She claims there is a kid at school who gets one every day. Not to be judgemental, but OY!  I tried to explain to her that that may be fine for him, but we do not eat that type of thing in our house.  Is there even actual food in those?

Big A is also more prone to losing her reusable containers and making messes...which is particularly surprising since Little A is known as our little Pig Pen.    Big A will do things like eat a container of yogurt, which I pack in a resealable container, and then not bother to put the lid back on it, and when I open the lunch bag, yogurt is smeared everywhere and, frankly, it makes me want to throw up.

Nevertheless, I have kept up my promise of baking some sort of healthy treat for them to take (if Big A leaves over her food in lieu of eating the treat, as she often does, she doesn't get a treat the next day) every day.

These brownies are the latest experiment and they turned out great: Sweet, moist and super fudgy.  In fact, the girls love them so much, both of them have been nagging me to give them more (I limit them to 2 per day).  But the best part is Big A is motivated to eat the other parts of her lunch to ensure she'll get more of these chocolately treats the next day.  Yahoo!

I am not kidding when I say the first thing I would do if I won the lottery is hire a housekeeper to make lunches and do all the other domestic stuff I hate.  Then I'd hire my own personal massage therapist/yoga instructor who would be on call 24/7.

Fudgy Sweet Potato Brownies

1 large sweet potato, roasted and peeled (about 2 cups)
2 flax eggs (2 tbls flax + 6 tbls hot water
1/2 cup stevia baking blend, xylitol, erythritol or coconut sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup whole grain spelt or kamut flour (or a gluten-free blend)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup chocolate chip (sugar-free if possible)

Whisk together sweet potato, flax eggs, sweetener, oil and vanilla.  Add remaining ingredients and stir just until combined (batter will be very thick).  Scrape into greased 9x9 square pan.  Bake at 350F for about 18 minutes.  Let cool completely.  Cut into squares.  Makes 25 brownies.  Keep refrigerated or freeze.

This recipe has been shared with Diet, Dessert & Dogs' Wellness Weekend.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Risky Business

So how was your Halloween?

Mine was much less scary than expected, thank goodness.

I am really proud of myself though, because I really pushed the limits of my comfort zone.  You may recall that a few months ago I drove to New York State on my own, and this was a huge accomplishment for me, having only become a driver in my 30s, and having never done a highway trip solo before. 

Well, yesterday, I went to visit my parents in Kingston (my dad just got out of the hospital after having a hip replacement surgery), and, yup, drove there all by myself!  This trip, although familiar, is almost twice the distance of the New York trip.  In addition, it was horrible weather yesterday.  So much so, that my mom called in the morning to tell me she was worried about me making the drive.  But I had made the decision to do it.  My parents needed me, and I was tired of letting this fear limit me.  I'd done most of the drive before (Adam and I usually share the driving), but never without Adam in the car to give me moral support.  Nevertheless, I did it, and it wasn't nearly as tough as I expected.  Admittedly, it was rather frightening in the torrential rain on the way there, but I persevered.  The hardest thing, to my surprise, was staying awake.  I don't know if it was the rain, the monotony, or what, but both there and back I had trouble keeping my eyes open.  On the way back, I had to stop at a service station and do some jumping jacks and stretches to wake myself up.  This actually helped keep me alert for the rest of the trip.  And, ironically, when I got home last evening (just around the time they were getting back from trick-or-treating with Adam (my mother-in-law graciously hung out at our place and gave out candy for us last night), I didn't feel tired or fatigued at all.  Weird!

I am constantly talking to clients about taking risks...not in the jumping out of airplanes kind of way necessarily, but in the pushing beyond your comfort zone kind of way.  As I said to one client recently, "How often do we regret taking a risk, even if we are not successful?  Far more often we regret not having taken an opportunity."  This is definitely true for me in this case.  I got to see my parents, I got to see their new condo, and I overcame a fear that was holding me back.  Now, I have opened up all sorts of doors for myself because I now know I can drive lengthy distances on my own.  I feel stronger and more independent.  Yay for me!

So, the scariest thing about yesterday ended up being how much candy these two monkeys ate!

Have a great weekend.