Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook: Book Review

Looking to get healthy in 2014?  Well your mother was right: You gotta eat your greens!

Lucky for me, I'm the Queen of Greens.  I absolutely love veggies, especially leafy green ones.  So I was thrilled to receive a review copy of The Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook.

Whether you are a leafy green newbie, or you think you're an expert like I did, I guarantee you will learn a lot from this book.  It has sections on 67 different varieties, a whole heck of a lot I'd never even heard of before, and 250 recipes.

The recipes range from classic to innovative and author, Susan Sampson, provides a wealth of information on nutrition, taste, storage, prep and equivalents/substitutions.  All recipes are vegetarian and/or vegan or have vegan variations.

Recipes include salads, side dishes, pastas, stir-fries, beverages, condiments and dressings. 

Some of my favorites include:

  • Ethiopian Collard Stew
  • Sesame Shungiku Salad
  • Chinatown Takeout Curry
  • Roasted Beet Salad With Candied Walnuts
  • Whole Wheat Pasta With Kale and Chickpeas
  • Napa Cabbage Slaw
...and there are many, many more.

There are photos of each variety of greens, but not of the recipes, however, most of the recipes are quite straightforward.  Even though the ingredient lists are sometimes long, it's mostly stuff you'll have in your fridge and cupboard, except maybe some of the spices for the ethnic dishes.  But most of them can pretty readily be found in generic grocery stores now.  There is a full index of recipes at the back and a huge list of greens-related online resources.

So why don't you go add this unique, information-filled cookbook to your collection?  I'm sure you're probably sick of the quinoa, gluten-free and paleo books you picked up last year anyways!

Okay, I gotta go make a dish (involving kale) for our pot-luck dinner tonight.  We're not going to be staying late though, we are going to have tons to do tomorrow to prepare for our New Year's Day party we are hosting.

Have a safe, fun, happy and healthy New Year celebration tonight!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Got Away From It All

ice storm toronto

Hello!  I hope you had a nice holiday.  If you live in the Toronto area, you might not have, unfortunately.  There was an ice storm just as we were leaving for Florida on December 22nd, and when we got there we heard power got knocked out for most of the city.  Our neighbours emailed us and said we were fine, thankfully, but many of our friends were not so lucky.

We got back from Florida and saw a ton of broken trees as we drove home from the airport.  When we stopped to pick up some groceries, most of the stores had empty shelves because they'd all just recently gotten their power back.  It was surreal.

Apparently our power was only out for 3 hours, but Adam's parents' was out for many days, so this past weekend, Adam had to go over there and empty their fridge and freezer (they are still in Florida).

Man, we feel so lucky.  We were enjoying warm weather, swimming and shopping while the rest of the city was in complete chaos.  Apparently ice melter/salt is nowhere to be found anywhere.

Our vacation wasn't perfect, however.  Both Adam and I got a stomach bug (likely caught from Little A) as soon as we got to Florida.  No barfing, thankfully, but lots coming out the other end.  Then, just as we were feeling better, I came down with the bad cold my little nephew brought with him.  So now I'm getting over that.  Nevertheless, we both feel quite refreshed, since we ended up just sleeping a whole heck of a lot.   A few nights we both slept more than 10 hours, which is normal for Adam on vacation, but definitely not for me!  Feeling so crappy also meant we had few indulgences...we just weren't in the mood, and oddly enough, despite my queasiness, fruit and veggies were going down just fine, so I was able to eat healthy.  I just didn't have my usual appetite (which, Adam always tells me, means that I ate like a 'normal' person, and not 4x a normal person).

The girls had a fabulous time playing with their cousins and swimming.  I managed to be well enough to make 2 trips to the outlet mall.  Hee hee!  I scored with a sweatshirt from Under Armour, 2 sweaters from Banana Republic, a pair of pants from Guess and 2 pairs of shoes from Nine West. 

I have to say, now that they are 4.5 and 7.5, the girls are much easier to travel with.  The only melt downs happened upon landing during both plane rides because Little A gets ear pain.  I sympathize because I have always had problems with my ears on planes.

I am basically off work until Friday (I have a full day on Friday though!), so I plan to enjoy my time off...although I will be busy for the next few days preparing for our party on New Years Day.  Have a lovely Monday.  If you live around here, bundle up, it's supposed to be a freezing one.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Break Time!


It's time for a little R&R around here, and for me, that includes a blogging break.  Given that Little A has been sick this week and we are expecting a huge snow storm this weekend, I'm a bit skeptical that everything is going to go as planned.  But isn't that how life works?

But I'll be back on December 30th.  No matter where you are or what you are celebrating, have a great week!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Original Protein Shot: Product Review


We were recently sent some samples of Pro Balance Inc.'s The Original Protein Shot to try.  I am definitely not deficient in protein intake, I love my protein.  I also don't like drinking my food (I don't even like juice or smoothies), so I passed these along to Adam who is a bigger user of protein supplements than I am.

He was very excited over the flavour with caffeine because he saw it as a nice alternative to cola or tea (he is not a coffee drinker), and he said that all of them tasted fine.  Adam found that the shots were not filling, which is no surprise because research consistently shows that liquids, on their own, are not satiating like solid foods are. 

But he didn't really understand the purpose of them, particularly those without caffeine because, "Protein is tasty, so why would I want to consume my protein in this form?  I guess it's convenient."

His reasoning is that he would rather eat real food forms of protein, or even a smoothie made with protein powder because they taste better and fill you up.  In terms of portability, yes I would say they are convenient, but a small bag of almonds can give you a little protein boost too and is just as portable...and much cheaper.

We decided that the shots are probably good for folks who are really struggling to get enough protein and calories and this can give them a little boost.  Maybe?  I guess they are also good for people who love drinking their food.  That just doesn't include me.

Disclaimer: We were sent the products on a complimentary basis but all the opinions on this blog are our own.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sugar-Free Peppermint Bark

Big A made this recipe (using regular sugar sweetened chocolate) at school with a friend's mom and has been asking to make it with me ever since.  Of course, I wanted to healthify it a bit so I removed the sugar and sweetened with stevia instead. 

If you want them to be 100% sugar free, you'll have to skip the crushed candy cane on top, unless you can find sugar-free ones.   Another option is just sprinkling cocoa nibs on top to provide some crunch.  Or maybe you could take unsweetened coconut and mix it with some liquid stevia and peppermint extract before lightly toasting it instead.

Sugar-Free Peppermint Bark

350g unsweetened chocolate
2 tbls coconut butter or coconut oil
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 dropper full of peppermint stevia (or to taste)
1 dropper full of plain stevia (or to taste)
1 candy cane, crushed (optional)

Melt chocolate and butter/oil over simmering water.  Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients except candy and pour onto parchment covered baking sheet.  Sprinkle top with candy, if desired.  Place in the fridge or freezer until hard and then break into pieces.   Store in air-tight container.

This recipe has been submitted to Gluten-Free Friday and Wellness Weekend for this final weekend before the 2013 winter holidays!!!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mexican Chocolate Plantain Bread

I am still fascinated by the whole plantain instead of flour baked good thing.  It's so cool.  Not to mention simple.  It takes so few ingredients to bake with plantain, it couldn't be easier.

1 large plantain
1/2 cup egg whites
2 tbls cocoa powder
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt

Puree plantain in food processor.  Add remaining ingredients and blend until mixed.  Pour into 2 parchment-lined mini loaf tins (or some muffin tins) and bake at 325 for 30-40 minutes.  Let cool completely before removing from parchment.  2 mini loaves.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Every Cloud, Raindrop, Snowflake and Heatwave Has a Silver Lining

It's Friday!  So I thought I'd finish the week off with a little rant about the weather.  Seriously is it too much to ask to live in a climate that isn't at one extreme or the other more than 300 freakin' days of the year?

Our summers are blisteringly hot and humid.  Our winters are ass-kicking cold.  Both suck big time.

The problem is that while I have always hated the heat, as I've gotten older, I've gotten less and less tolerant of the cold.  I feel like I am turning into a big wimp.  I just can't bring myself to bike in the cold anymore and instead force myself to endure the misery of riding the subway.

On Tuesday, I tried to get on the subway on my way home from work just before 5pm.  Ha!  What a total nightmare!!  I stood on the subway platform for 30 minutes while train after train stopped in the station but was too packed to pick up any more riders.  Eventually, I went back up to the ticket agent and asked for my money back so I could leave.  Apparently they don't do that.  I stormed off and went back up to street level and just started walking in the freezing cold.  Even the street cars going by were too full to pick up more riders.  I walked about 7 blocks and finally PAID AGAIN and caught a northbound street car with space, went up to the east west line, took a subway west to our stop and another bus north to our street.  All in all, what should have taken no longer than 30 minutes, took me 90 minutes.  I vowed to ride my bike Wednesday.

Then I woke up Wednesday morning, heard the weather report and got out my subway tokens.  Um, minus 12 C with the wind chill?  No thanks.  Fortunately, all my trips were not right in the heart of rush hour but the damn transit system isn't cheap and it takes forever.  My bike is free and so much faster, but my resistance to the cold seems to be declining.

It's funny because I used to laugh when my dad would say his parents (who lived in Los Angeles for the latter part of their lives) didn't want to come to Canada to visit in the winter.  It just seemed so silly to me that they'd let the weather affect them so much.  Man, they were probably in their 60s at the time...I'm just 39 and already feel like an old fart when it comes to the cold.  Except I hate the heat too.  I guess I'm just a big whiner really. 

Of course, since we don't plan to leave Toronto anytime soon, I have decided I have to just learn to accept the crap weather here.  I am trying to let go of my guilt and annoyance of relying on public transit instead of my bike and just accept that too.  Most Canadians don't bike in the winter, so why do I feel I have to?

Since the winter starts to bug me more after the holidays, I have decided to start a little gratitude exercise come January 1st.  Every day in January I will blog about something I am grateful for.  I am also thinking I will finally buy an LED mood lamp so that come February/March when I am so sick of the cold, grey weather that I feel like hiding under the bed all day, I don't fall into my usual late winter slump.

So have yourself a great cold weekend (or a not so cold weekend, if you are so lucky). 

Almost Time to Relax

Good Monday Morning!  How was your weekend?  Ours was lovely thanks.  I worked Friday night and Saturday and then we had a birthday party on Saturday afternoon.  I also had one client I had to fit in on Sunday.  Fortunately, work is a bit less busy this week.  Not good from a financial perspective, but good from a giving me time to get other things that I've been putting off kind of way.

Last week I didn't manage to fit in a single yoga session and I thought I was okay, but by Friday I felt like the tin man.  I was so excited to have some time today to get back to my practice before seeing clients but, now I'm not sure that will happen as Little A woke up last night with the stomach flu.  Ain't that always how it works?  I just hope if this bug is going to rip through our house, it does it before the holidays.

It's almost time for our annual trip to Florida.  We stay at my in-laws time share at the Vistana Resort.  We are all super excited.  This year Adam's bro and his family are again coming from Vancouver (they didn't make it last year because its so far and their youngest child was still so little).  So there will be eight adults and six children.  Lots of craziness and fun!

I have no agendas this year...not even a trip to Target...okay wait, that's not true, I do want to get to the amazing outlet mall we usually hit up.  Aside from that, I am just looking forward to relaxing.  I am also hoping to maybe fit in a few strength training workouts if I can.  Sometimes I'm good about getting in my workouts on these vacations and sometimes I barely even walk for the whole trip. 

Eating healthfully down there, I find, is a bit trickier.  The nearest grocery store is Publix, and I find they (or maybe U.S. grocery stores in general) don't carry as many healthy products as the ones around here.  I'm just talking about things like a basic pasta sauce that doesn't have added sugar!  We do usually hit the nearby Whole Foods as well, but the prices are insane and its hard to justify buying super expensive stuff when we are only there for 5 days and not likely to finish a lot of it.  Ah well, I do my best to keep us on track nutrition-wise, but it is a holiday after all.  I guess we'll see what happens.

Adam and I are counting down the seconds until the holidays arrive.  We're both feeling pretty burned out.  I have no clients booked between this Friday and January 3rd and I am really looking forward to the time off.

Do you have to work between Christmas and New Years? Are you going anywhere this holiday season?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pur Gum: Product Review

Adam and the girls are avid gum chewers.  Me? Not so much.  I only like cinnamon flavour, and I only chew it on occasion if I can't brush my teeth and have just eaten something potentially odorous, I have a dry mouth, or am nauseous.

The rule in the house is sugar-free only, but the conventional brands all contain a host of undesirable chemicals.

Fortunately, a number of companies have started making sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol.  Xylitol is an all natural sugar alcohol.  It is less likely to cause intestinal discomfort than other sugar alcohols like maltitol, mannitol and sorbitol.  It has about 1/3 fewer calories than regular sugar, and chewing gum sweetened with xylitol has some health benefits including decreasing risk of ear infections and tooth decay.  Personally, I like erythritol even better because unlike the other sugar alcohols, it is calorie-free (and also does not usually cause intestinal distress).

So I have no problem letting the girls chew xylitol sweetened candies and gum.  Therefore, I was thrilled when Pur sent us a generous selection of their products to try.

The girls don't like straight-up mint gum very much, but they both really loved the Pomegranate Mint flavour.  Adam and I both thought it was a little hard to chew at the beginning (in general, Adam only likes stick gum and Pur is the Chicklet-type) but that the flavours are good.  Unfortunately, I found that the flavour disappeared within seconds.  But neither of the girls mentioned this and they seemed quite satisfied with it.

Overall, I would use it for a quick breath freshener in a pinch, but you may not like it if you are the type of person who wants to chew for a long time.

Dentists do sometimes recommend chewing sugar-free gum for people who are prone to tooth decay.  If your children fall into this group but you have not wanted to give them aspartame-sweetened gum, Pur may be the perfect option for you.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Candy Dump Squares: Get Rid of Holiday Temptations by Giving

Making the gingerbread house for the daycare fundraiser was so much fun!  Unfortunately, it left me with a whole lot of candy crap hanging around the house.  Nothing I'm tempted by, but the girls kept asking me over and over what we were going to do with all this left over candy so I knew I had better get it out of the house.

Since we were also having a bake sale at the fundraiser, I decided to take everything I wanted to get rid of (and out of the girls' clutches) and make one big sugary treat that could be sold off to help us raise more money.  I've become jaded about trying to use healthy things for fundraising.  It just doesn't work.  People only seem motivated by crap.  If I sound bitter, I am.  As a society, I feel like we may be past the point of no return.  North Americans are going to eat themselves to death with all the bacon, sugar and whatever other garbage they gorge on.  Sorry, okay, my rant is over.

Now, should you want to avoid being one of those North Americans destined for lifestyle-related health problems, then candy dump squares are a great way to get rid of all the temptations that may appear in your house over the holidays.  You know, all the chocolate and baked goods people bring around as hostess gifts, etc.  You can also through in savoury things like salted or plain nuts, seeds, pretzels and/or crackers.  You can also add dried fruit if you want.  Since the base is gluten-free and vegan, you can make these to suit most people, based on what goodies you mix in.

The other great thing about this, is it turns things you don't need into a little gift for someone else.  Let them decide what they want to do with these nutritional monstrosities.  The folks at the fundraiser devoured these, so apparently they were pretty yummy.

Candy Dump Squares

2 cups dark or semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 tbls coconut milk, warmed
2 cups candy (I used what I had: soft peppermint candies and marshmallows)
3 cups cookies/biscuits, crackers and/or pretzels (I used the left over graham crackers and tea biscuits), broken up a bit

Melt chocolate and oil together over simmering water.  Stir in hot milk.  Mix in candy and cookies, etc.  Scrape into a parchment-lined 9x9 square baking dish.  Freeze for 15 minutes until firm.  Remove from dish and cut into squares with a sharp knife.  Keep in airtight container for up to 3 weeks.  Makes 20 squares.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Afghan Rice Pilaf

I don't really eat red meat anymore.  In case you haven't heard my story, I gave it up originally in 1998 after my mother's breast cancer diagnosis.  It was on the list of foods/substances that came up as carcinogenic when I started exhaustively researching the link between nutrition and health.

Then when I got pregnant with Big A I had insatiable cravings and red meat was back on the table.  This continued, to some extent, between pregnancies, and then during my pregnancy with Little A as well.  But since then, those cravings have completely dissipated.  I would be happy if I never eat it again. 

But the same cannot be said of Adam.  Nevertheless, because of his cholesterol issues that he inherited from his dad, he is supposed to avoid saturated fat as much as possible.  So when I found ground bison at the grocery store, I decided I'd treat him.  It is extremely lean for a red meat and very low in saturated fat.  Besides, I still seem to have low iron, so I figured it can't hurt me either. 

The last time I had red meat was back in April, when Adam and I went to the Afghan restaurant in New York.  Unfortunately, it was a big disappointment compared to the last time we had their food.  The lamb I got was tough and stringy and relatively tasteless.  While I bemoaned the situation, Adam suggested I just try cooking a similar dish myself.  So I did!  Of course, I put my own stamp on it, like I always do.  First off, I used the ground bison.  I also incorporated a lot more veggies into it than is customary.  Usually the rice is simply garnished with fried onions, raisins and shredded carrot.  I added parsnips and cauliflower too.  I also subbed figs in for raisins because I felt like it.

If you don't eat meat, you can easily veganize this recipe by using vegetable broth and chickpeas instead of meat.

Afghan Rice Pilaf

1  tsp coconut oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp coconut sugar
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
1 lb ground lamb, beef or bison (or 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
1 litre beef stock (or veggie stock)
Pinch of saffron
1.5 cups water
1.5 cups brown basmati rice
12 figs, chopped (or 1/2 cup raisins)

Roasted vegetables

1 cauliflower, cut into florets
1 lb parsnips cut into sticks
1 lb carrots, cut into sticks
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbls cider vinegar

For the roasted veggies, toss all ingredients together in a large bowl and then spread on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets.  Roast at 425F for 30 minutes.

For the pilaf, sauté onions in oil in a deep skillet until softened.  Add sugar and continue to cook until caramelized.  Remove from skillet.  Brown meat and then add stock and saffron. Simmer for about 5 minutes and then remove meat.  Add water and rice and simmer until liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked.  Stir in figs (or raisins) and meat.  Combine with roasted veggies, caramelized onions, and serve.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Chewy Cocoa Cranberry Plantain Cookies

Wow, it's Monday again!  We had a great weekend, but it went by way too quickly.  And we woke up to a blanket of snow everywhere.  It looks pretty now, but in a few hours it will just be a big slushy mess I'm sure.  I think this is a take the subway and leave my bike at home day.  Anyways...

After the success of the plantain bread, I decided to try making something a little fancier.  These were my latest lunch box treats I baked for the girls.  They love them!  And I love that they have no oil or sugar in them and are super quick and easy to make.  Since they have oats in them, they aren't for cavemen, but they are gluten-free if you can't have gluten.

Chewy Cocoa Cranberry Plantain Cookies

1 semi-ripe or ripe plantain
2 eggs (or flax eggs*)
1/4 cup powdered stevia or coconut sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups oats (gluten-free, if necessary)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries (juice sweetened, if possible)

Puree plantain in food processor.  Add eggs, sweetener, vanilla and cocoa and puree again until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients, except cranberries, and pulse until combined.  Stir in cranberries by hand.

Drop large spoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake at 350F for 10 minutes.  Let cool completely before removing from pan.  Makes 20 cookies.  Keep in air tight container for up to a week or freeze.

*I think flax eggs will work, but I didn't try them this way.
This recipe was submitted to Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Good versus Bad

It is kind of interesting to me, that today, December 6th, 2013, we are commemorating the Ecole Polytechnique massacre of 1989, as well as the life and death of Nelson Mandela.

It is so easy to become fixated on all the bad in the world, and in our own lives and sometimes seems much more difficult to see the good.  But there is good.  And beauty. And love.  You just have to look a little harder to find it sometimes.

The massacre is, of course, one of many horrors in human history, but Nelson Mandela and the legacy he has left is proof of just what a huge difference on person can make.

There are psychological theorists who believe that the cause of much human suffering is a lack of engagement and sense of meaning in our lives.  I do feel I see evidence of this in my practice as a counsellor.  What most people seem to need and want is a sense of purpose and belonging.  Of course, this is what changed my own path in life.  I spent years absolutely miserable in jobs that had no intrinsic value for me.  Now, I am doing work that I am passionate about.  Nothing makes me happier than feeling like I am helping others and making some sort of significant difference.  And this too has been shown to be linked with positive psychological outcomes for people.  It is difficult to feel bad when doing something good.

So go find some good this weekend, or, even better, do some good for someone else.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bust Out of Your Fitness Rut with the Asylum Workout Program

I have been meaning to review the Asylum Workout program I got for my birthday this past year, but since right around the same time I switched to doing a less cardio/more strength based routine, I didn't get around to trying them all until now.  I've been squeezing one in for the last few weeks on Saturdays, which is my DVD day.

The set includes:

  • Athletic Performance Assessment
  • Speed & Agility
  • Vertical Plyo & Relief
  • Strength
  • Game Day & Overtime
  • Back To Core

  • Okay, this program is definitely more intense than Insanity, and likely one of the toughest fitness DVD workouts out there.  I do not recommend trying it if you have a serious musculoskeletal injury or vulnerability, or are not already highly conditioned.  That being said, some of it is adaptable but even if you choose the easiest variations, they certainly are not easy.  There is lots and lots of jumping (plyometrics, skipping, etc) so if that's not for you, than this system is definitely not for you.

    So the reviews I read before I bought it said it requires more space than Insanity because of the ladder and skip rope.  I wasn't too concerned because when I move our arm chair out of the rec room where our TV is, there is sufficient space for me to do most things.  Unfortunately, it isn't quite big enough to make this program easy for me.  I can't skip with the ladder on the floor or it gets caught in it, so I have to fling the ladder onto the couch until I need it again.  This means I am always falling behind in the workout because I have to set up the ladder and then get rid of it between each exercise transition.  Also, even though we have a chin up bar (Shaun T gives you options if you don't), the door frame we can use it on is on the other side of the basement where you can't see the TV, so it doesn't really work for me.  The other problem I have is that - being pretty uncoordinated, I have trouble doing some of the moves.  I have come to love skipping, but no matter how hard I try, I cannot do a split squat with a skip rope.  Of course, than I get really frustrated and angry and don't enjoy the workout.  If you have done a lot of team/organized sports and are already familiar with a lot of these training drills, than you'll be fine.  It's not like it's complicated dance routines or anything.

    My favorite workout is the Vertical Plyo followed by Speed and Agility.  I found the Game Day/Overtime workout frustrating (I am too uncoordinated for a number of the drills).  Relief is a pretty vanilla stretch routine which is good if you hate yoga and just want straight up stretches to restore length to your muscles.   Back to Core is a pretty good workout focusing mostly on back (not much abs), and Strength is a good routine, but not one I'll use as I prefer to do my own strength training.

    Overall, it is pretty killer.  If you are already really fit and looking to kick it up a notch, you will probably love this.  I do recommend you make sure you have enough space for all the equipment, so you aren't constantly rearranging things between drills, like I have to do.

    Oh, and Shaun T is still doing static stretching at the beginning of his workouts.  Will someone please tell Beach Body this is contraindicated??  I guess the upside is these stretch segments are about half the length (3 minutes) of the ones in Insanity.

    I think I will probably continue to use my favorite ones now and again to mix it up in my own routine.  The more variety I throw into my workouts the happier I am.

    Wednesday, December 4, 2013

    Plaintain Bread


    Sorry if I offend anyone, but the whole 'Paleo' diet movement really irritates me.  It's based on faulty reasoning and pseudo science.  That being said, I get it that it may be a very enjoyable and effective way for some people to lose weight and/or improve their immediate health.  The problem is, I think long-term health may not be maximized.  Why?  Because research links consumption of animal protein (which is a big part of the paleo diet) with chronic illness.  Beans and WHOLE grains, on the other hand are associated with lower risk of chronic illness.

    Frankly, I think its just replaced the Atkins, and no doubt is at least an improvement on that, since it focuses on unprocessed foods and natural, uncured meats, but still.  I don't believe its a magic bullet for all our health whoas.

    Anyways, I do think some great culinary ideas have come out of the Paleo movement.  One is the use of the plantain in baking.  I love plantains so when I started seeing recipes that use it in place of flour in baked goods, I was blown away.  The scientist in me was totally mesmerized by the notion that this fruit could stand in for flour.  I had to see for myself.

    I started with a plain bread, because it seemed so simple.  Just a few ingredients really and the results are fabulous!  This totally blows my mind.  It really creates something with a taste and texture like something that contains flour!  Very cool.  I've now been experimenting with some other recipes, which will come soon, so stay tuned.

    Plantain Bread

    1 large, semi-ripe plantain
    1/2 cup egg whites
    1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    2 droppers full of stevia liquid, or to taste (optional)
    Pinch of cinnamon
    Pinch of salt

    Puree plantain in food processor.  Add remaining ingredients.  Blend for another few seconds.  Pour into parchment-lined muffin or mini-loaf tins. Bake at 325F for about 30 minutes.  Let cool completely and then remove from parchment.  Eat within 48 hours or freeze for future use.  Makes 2 mini loaves or 6 muffins.

    I like these cut in half, lightly toasted or warmed and then smeared in chocolate almond butter (1 tbls almond butter + 1/2 tsp cocoa powder + dark chocolate stevia liquid).  Mmm!!

    This recipe was shared with Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

    Tuesday, December 3, 2013

    Seabuck Wonders: Product Review

    Recently Seabuck Wonders generously sent me some of their Omega-7 pills and body lotion to try out.

    Although I had heard of Sea-Buckthorn before, I really wasn't sure what it is.  Apparently it's a fruit, but one that contains high levels of omega-7, an unsaturated fatty acid.  In fact, it is one of the only rich sources of omega-7, along with macadamia nut oil.

    Sea-Buckthorn isn't supposedly very tasty as a fresh fruit, but it is extremely high in antioxidents.  There are not yet many human studies linking it to health outcomes, but studies on mice have demonstrated anti-carcinogenic and anti-obesogenic properties.

    The lotion couldn't have come at a better time.  As the summer heat quickly gave way to the cold, dry late autumn weather, my skin seemed to get itchy and scaly almost overnight.  Usually I use a heavy moisturizer in winter, like a body butter, so I wasn't sure this light, grease-less lotion would do the trick, but it's amazing.  It has a delicate orange scent (and bright orange colour) thanks to natural orange oil, and it is vegan, non-GMO, paraben-free and wheat and gluten-free.  I've been putting it on every morning after my shower and it keeps my skin feeling soft and supple all day.

    They also sent me their Omega-7 Complete soft gels.  It is recommended to take 2-4 per day.  I've been taking them in place of my fish oil soft gels, and I have to say that they have a much nicer smell and aftertaste.  No fish burps!

    Sea Buckthorn Oil Blend - Omega-7 Complete
    My one comment about them is that, although they are kosher, non-GMO and gluten-free, they have gelatin, so I guess they aren't vegan.   They claim that Omega-7 is good for dry eyes, a problem I suffer from chronically, so I am excited to see if this helps.  I'll keep you posted!

    Seabuck Wonders also sells other beauty products and supplements which are currently available in stores across the U.S.  Canadians can buy them directly from the company online.

    Disclaimer: Seabuck Wonders provided me with their products free-of-charge but all opinions on this blog are my own.

    Monday, December 2, 2013

    Citrus Sanity Saver

     I only drink vegetable juice.
Vodka is made from
potatoes so that counts.
    Good Monday morning!  How are you feeling today?  I feel great, thank you very much.  I was looking forward to this weekend for a long time.  Partly because it was packed full of fun events, but also because I knew it would be my first opportunity to really relax after all the build up to the fundraiser last week.

    Part of relaxing meant having a drink or two.  I have said many times, alcohol should be considered a treat, not a regular part of ones daily routine.  Too many of us have convinced ourselves, thanks to flawed research and inaccurate reporting in the media, that alcohol consumption is healthy.  As a counsellor, I also see it being misused by people all too often as a coping strategy.  Alcohol, along with food, drugs, etc, are frequently used to self-medicate, and are considered to be avoidant coping strategies, by us folks who work in the mental health field.  This means, they temporarily help us cope with unpleasant feelings or events by pushing them away or numbing us to the emotions.  The problem is, they don't help us actively deal with the issue at hand and can often create other difficulties for us.

    Along with the social costs of drinking too much, alcohol consumption is also associated with a host of cancers as well as liver problems.  It is also high in empty calories and inhibits the body's ability to burn fat.  Not much good there I tell you. If you are going to imbibe, try to stick with wine, beer or clear spirits.  Stay away from high calorie drinks that include sugar syrups, liqueurs, cream, juice, etc.

    I try to minimize my alcohol intake as much as possible because of its links with cancer, but I do occasionally kick back with a drink or two for a treat.  And that is exactly what I did this past weekend.

    Usually I stick with wine but I was in the mood for something a little more hydrating.  This drink is refreshing and tasty without any sugar in it to fuel a furious hangover the next day.  Just make sure you don't over do it, as too much alcohol of any type is really not advisable. 

    If you want a less sweet drink, skip the stevia. 

    Citrus Sanity Saver

    2 packets Pure Orange
    1 dropper full of lemon stevia liquid (or regular stevia liquid)
    Slice of fresh lemon or orange
    1 ounce of citrus flavoured vodka
    1 can (350ml) club soda, or seltzer

    Stir all ingredients together in a big glass and drink.

    Disclaimer:  Alcohol consumption increases the risk of many chronic illnesses including cancer, and is associated with risky sexual behaviour and stupidity.  Consume with caution.