Pages

Friday, June 28, 2013

One Lous-y Week!


Image Source

The theme of this past week has been looking for the silver lining.

Monday I dropped my heavy, glass Brevel blender after slipping on the kitchen floor.  It fell on my foot, leaving me with a nifty bruise, and smashed sending glass everywhere and cutting both my hand and one of my feet.  I was left cleaning glass and blood off the floor for quite a while.  Sigh!

The good news?  It is so big and heavy, it's been annoying me, and it was leaking.  So now I have an excuse to get a smaller smoothie maker since the only thing I really use it for anyways is making the girls smoothies and me my frozen coffee drinks.  Oh, and it's also good that the glass didn't fly into my eyes or face at least.

Tuesday the daycare called (as you are probably figuring out, calls from your kids' school and daycare are usually bad news) 15 minutes before a client session to tell me Big A has lice.

Now, as awful as this whole experience has been, I will start by acknowledging how grateful I am for a number of things:

1. There have been lice outbreaks at the girls' school/daycare many times and this is our first experience, which I knew was only a matter of time;
2. Adam is not away right now and he has been a godsend with helping out with all of this;
3. Only Big A got it, which is apparently very lucky since often the whole family will end up with it;
4. Immediately after getting off the phone with the daycare, I phoned Lice Squad and due to a last minute cancellation they had, they were able to come immediately to our home, treat Big A, give us everything we needed and tell us everything we needed to do.
5. Big A is such a good sport.  She has been handling the 2x daily comb outs very well.
6. I have the best husband in the world.  Really, he has been such a big help vacuuming the house, doing laundry, staying home from work with Big A so I can go see clients.

I also want to mention that I was so impressed with Lice Squad.  They are fantastic and worth EVERY penny!!  They sent a registered nurse and she was knowledgeable and wonderful with the girls.  The whole thing cost us $170, and honestly I would have paid a lot more.  We were fortunate in that Big A's hair is now relatively short and she was the only one.  The nurse told us that in families where everyone gets it and has long hair, the bill can be as much as $800!

In any case, the crisis state is over and we just have to keep doing the comb out process (she got 2x the chemical treatment - enzymes which are non-toxic) until next Monday at the least.

And how, thank goodness, it's the long weekend.  I hope you have a spectacular, louse-free Canada Day!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Moroccan Spiced Almonds


Once again Adam's stash of almonds he keeps to snack on at work was empty.  After trying to decide which kind to make, I decided to try another new take on them.  These ones turned out great:  Smokey, salty and spicy, they are super yummy!

I made a double recipe this time to keep Adam going for a while, but half it if you want.

Moroccan Spiced Almonds

9 cups almonds (I used one of those big bags from Costco)
1 tbls olive oil
1 tsp ground Harissa spice blend (homemade or purchased)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp sea salt

Toss everything together in a large bowl.  Spread evenly on 2 large baking sheets.  Bake at 350F for 10 minutes, switching each baking sheet from top to bottom rack and vice versa, half way through.  Let cool.  Store in an airtight container.

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

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Caulicumber Maki Rolls (Kid-Friendly Sushi)


 
I posted this recipe a long time ago, but it is always such a hit with the girls that I thought I would post it again.  I've cut down the sweetener and salt in the sushi rice and found the girls don't notice the difference.
 
Caulicumber Maki Rolls

3/4 cup short grain brown rice (or quinoa would probably work too!)
2 cups water
2 tbls unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp granular sweetener (I use stevia powder)
1 cup frozen cauliflower*
1 cucumber cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed, then cut in thirds lengthwise
5-6 sheets of toasted nori (seaweed)

Optional: Sesame seeds for sprinkling, low-sodium soy sauce for dipping, pickled ginger and wasabi (for the grown-ups)

Place rice and water in covered pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium low and continue cooking until all the water has been absorbed (depending on the type you use, you may want to overcook it a tad bit so it gets 'sticky'). Remove from heat and let cool (I made rice day before so it was ready for us to go in the morning). Meanwhile, warm vinegar over low heat and dissolve salt and sweetener into it. Steam or microwave cauliflower until soft and then process well in food processor. Once rice is cooled, add vinegar mixture and cauliflower and stir well. Turn rice into a flat dish lined with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To make maki, take a sheet of nori, shiny side down and place on a bamboo rolling mat. Spread rice onto 2/3 of the nori and place a cucumber spear into centre of rice mixture. Start from rice-covered end and roll nori, using mat, around rice and cucumber. Once you reach uncovered nori, dab the seaweed with water and then roll tightly, making sure nori is secured/sticking so rolls stay together. Refrigerate for about an hour. Take sharp knife and run under cold water. Slice rolls into rounds. Serve with soy sauce and garnishes as desired. Keeps in refigerator for up to 4 days. Makes about 30-36 maki (depending on how much rice you use/how big you make them).

*You can use fresh cauliflower but it doesn't get as soft and has a stronger taste so it might be more detectable in the rice.

This recipe has been entered into Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Steamwhistle Pilsner: Product Review

Steam Whistle - Do One Thing Really, Really Well

I was generously send a pack of Steam Whistle Pilsner to try recently. For those of you who love delivery services, you'll be happy to know you can now have Steam Whistle delivered to your door through Grocery Gateway.

GroceryGateway.com







Here is a little bit about the Steam Whistle Brewery and their beer:

Our focus is on making one beer - a Premium Pilsner that Canadians can be proud of.
We believe that world-class results require focus and dedication, so we developed a distinctive recipe for our single brand based on Europe's renowned brewing standards yet is brewed fresh locally at our independent, Canadian Brewery.

We use traditional brewing techniques and only four natural ingredients including spring water, malted barley, hops and yeast - all GMO-free. There is a fifth ingredient in every refreshing bottle, and that is the passion of our dedicated Brewmaster and staff.

I adore beer in the summer. Although I try to keep my alcohol consumption to a minimum, I have to say there is absolutely nothing more refreshing on a hot day than a cold beer.

Even though Steam Whistle is locally made, I had never tried it before.  I brought it to a little dinner party we had with friends this past weekend.  Adam and I and our friends Holly and Graham all tried it (the other couple present weren't beer drinkers).

Now, I should say upfront, that Adam isn't a light beer fan - he prefers ambers, reds and darks, and Holly isn't a big beer drinker in general. 

We rated it on the following factors: taste, after taste, aroma and carbonation and scored it on each out of a possible 5.  Here are the results:

Taste - 3.25
After taste - 2.75
Aroma - 2.75
Carbonation - 4

Comments: "Just tastes like standard beer."  "Light...too light."  "Bland"  "Not bad."

We all agreed it wasn't outstanding, but was clean and refreshing.  It also made a good pairing with the Thai food we'd ordered and we felt it would also go well with other types of spicy/strong flavoured cuisines like Indian.

If you like pilsner, than this is a good choice because it's locally made, all-natural, craft beer.  If you can't be bothered to drive to the beer store, just go online and place an order through Grocery Gateway.

Thank you to the Steam Whistle Brewery and Grocery Gateway for the beverages!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Quinoa Edamame Salad with Sesame Miso Dressing


It's the first Monday of the summer and the summer weather has hit with a vengeance.  But considering what's going on in Alberta right now, it doesn't seem fair to complain about the heat and humidity.  My thoughts are with everyone out west who is affected by the flooding!

It was the girls' daycare's Annual General Meeting last week and it is always a potluck event.  I pulled this together in a jiffy and I have to say so myself: It was fabulous!  But don't just take my word for it, I got a ton of compliments and requests for the recipe and every last scrap got gobbled up.
 
Salad

1.5 cups quinoa
2 cups shelled edamame
1 340g bag rainbow or broccoli slaw
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped

Dressing

1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce/tamari/coconut aminos
2 tbls tahini
2 tbls light miso paste
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbls finely grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine quinoa with 3 cups water, cover and bring to a boil.  Turn heat down to medium low.  Once water is at the same level as the quinoa, add the edamame and return lid leaving edamame to steam.  Once water is fully absorbed and quinoa is cooked, remove from heat. and uncover letting everything cool slightly.

For the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients in a large serving bowl.  Season to taste (remember miso and soy are high in sodium).  Add quinoa and edamame, along with slaw and onions and toss well.  Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. 

This recipe has been shared with Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday and Diet, Dessert & Dogs' Wellness Weekend.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Somersets Shaving Products: Review

Somersets Original Shaving Gel
Somersets is a British company founded in 1991 that makes all-natural shaving products for men.  They are now available to the rest of the world online through www.drugstore.com and www.somersetsusa.com. Recently, they sent me a generous box with samples of many of their products.


Being an XX, and a relatively hairless one at that, I handed over the products to my favorite XY (Adam) to try. 

The products contain essential oils and are gentle on skin and the environment.  The are designed to protect the skin, reduce razor bumps and are soap-free so they don't dry out skin.

Adam's feedback was the following:

"The Pre-Shave Face Scrub really feels like it's getting rid of all the crap."

"I really like this stuff.  It makes my skin feel good, it seems to smell pretty good...but it doesn't make my skin any better (i.e. reduce razor bumps/blemishes)...but doesn't make it any worse either.  The only thing I don't like is that the shave gel doesn't lather up so it's hard to see where you've already shaved."

Happy Friday, I hope you have a smooth, razor-bump-free weekend!

Come On Get Happy


It's almost Friday.  Does that make you happy? Or are you feeling bummed because it's only Thursday?  Are you a glass half full, or a glass half empty type of person?

According to an article in Psychology Today recently, the things that differentiate happy people from those of us who are gloomy, are not what you might think.

To summarize:

1. They take risks and push themselves beyond their comfort zone.
2. They are less analytical and detail-oriented.
3. They are buoyed, not threatened, by others' good fortune.
4. They don't deny or run away from negative emotions when they emerge.
5. They balance striving with pleasure.
6. They don't obsess about being happy.

Interestingly, the authors of the article point out that happiness is just one aspect of a well-lived life.  Others include: occasional sadness, sense of purpose, playfulness, psychological flexibility, autonomy, mastery and a sense of belonging.

Do you consider yourself to be happy?

Do any of these things describe you?  If not, can you see yourself successfully working on one of these areas?

I am getting much better at taking risks, I am too analytical, but sometimes not detail-oriented enough (I'm too busy being task-oriented and trying to get too many things done at the same time!), I am usually happy for other people's good fortune, although there are exceptions (oops!), I am extremely in touch with my negative emotions (ha!), I think I am pretty good at balancing striving with pleasure, although I need to work on completely relaxing (even when I'm doing things for pleasure, there is still usually lots of organizing and planning and analysing going on in my head), and I probably worry too much about being happy.  Given what an amazing blessed life I have, I am probably not as happy as I should be, because I worry too much.  I'm working on that!

"Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory." - Albert Schweitzer

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"THE COOKIE" Healthified (Sort Of)

 

 

When I met Adam he had this weird addiction: these strange looking pastries his grandfather would buy him from Haymishs' Bakery which he called "The Cookie".

They looked like a big shortbread cookie with some sort of fruity filling.  The whole thing was weird because Adam usually doesn't go for anything that doesn't involve chocolate.  I couldn't figure out the appeal since I hate shortbread and just kind of figured that's what they were.

Then I tried one.

F#$%!

I was addicted.

They are like these gigantic rugelach with a rich vanilla cookie, topped with sugar, and a filling of jam and raisins, only instead of being rolled crescents, it's the two layers of cookie dough folded over with the fruity stuff in between.  Believe me, the description doesn't do them justice.  In spite of all the white flour and sugar, I started gobbling them down as fast as Adam. 

Since they are from a Kosher bakery, however, I knew that sugar and white flour weren't the only evils lurking in those treats.  They certainly weren't making them with lard, and I suspected they weren't using butter either.  One day when I was in the neighbourhood, I popped in and asked.  Just as I feared, they used SHORTENING (aka trans fat)!

I reported back to Adam - who was already worried about how they might be affecting his cholesterol levels - and he finally asked his grandfather to stop buying them for us.  And so it was, our addiction came to an end.

Since then (that was about 6 years ago), I've periodically thought about making a healthier version, but have felt a tad intimidated about doing so.  I've never even made rugelach, and being a favorite of Adam's I knew there would be high expectations.

Recently I was inspired.  I can't really say these are now HEALTHY given that you do have to use a fair bit of butter and cream cheese for the dough.  But I've removed all the sugar and used whole grain flour.  But the best part, is that even Adam was really impressed with them.  Although he did say, "They don't taste exactly like THE COOKIE...it's filled with crap and crap tastes good."  I disagree.  I think crap usually just tastes like crap (perhaps THE COOKIE is one exception) and these taste awesome!

If you aren't a dried fruit fan, you can use chocolate chips instead.

THE HEALTHIFIED COOKIE

Pastry

1/2 cup butter, softened
250g light cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 cup erythritol, xylitol or stevia baking blend + extra for sprinkling on top
1 tsp vanilla extract
Liquid stevia, to taste (optional)
2 cups whole grain kamut flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Filling

1/2 cup no-sugar added jam or spread (apricot or raspberry)
1 cup raisins
10-12 dried figs, diced or chopped dried apricots (optional)
1 tsp cinnamon

Cream together wet ingredients in a food processor.  Add flour, soda and salt and pulse, just until dough forms.  Scrape onto a large piece of parchment paper and roll out into a large rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut in half.  Sprinkle dough with cinnamon and then spread jam over top.  Evenly distribute dried fruit over top. 



Use parchment paper to fold one half over the other.  Then carefully lift parchment paper to lift the whole thing onto a baking sheet.  Sprinkle top with sugar-substitute and cut into squares.  Bake at 375F for about 30 minutes until bottom pastry is cooked through and the top is golden.  Let cool and then run knife along cut lines and separate into squares.  Keep in an air tight container for up to 1 week or freeze.  But don't worry, they won't last long!!



Honestly, who needs Haymish's Heart Stoppers?  These are fantastic, I am so pleased with how they turned out and will definitely be making them again.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Pina Colada Granola (Vegan, Sugar-Free &Gluten-Free)



If it isn't feeling like summer yet where you live (frankly I'm happy, I'm dreading the extreme heat and humidity), this granola is sure to get you feeling like you're in the tropics.  Who says you can't have a cocktail for breakfast?  Okay, it's not a great idea...but this granola at least tastes like one!  That's a sure way to getting the day off to a good start, right?

Super crispy, crunchy, and flavourful, this one's a definite winner!

Pina Colada Granola

2/3 cup coconut oil, melted
2-3 ripe bananas
1 tbls lemon juice
1 tsp pure coconut extract
1/2 tsp sea salt
Coconut or plain liquid stevia, 2 droppers full or to taste

1 kg large flake, gluten-free oats
1 cup uncooked millet
1 cup unsweetened, finely shredded coconut
1 tbls chia seeds

1 cup unsweetened, freeze dried pineapple, crumbled
1 cup unsweetened banana chips, crumbled

Place bananas in blender or food processor with lemon juice, extract, stevia and salt.  Puree until very smooth.  Pour into a large bowl and whisk together with coconut oil.  Stir in oats, millet, coconut and chia seeds.  Spread evenly on 2 large baking sheets.  Bake at 325F for 30 minutes, stirring and rotating pans every 10 minutes, until golden.  Let cool.  Stir in pineapple and banana chips.  Keep in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks. 

Big A thought it was so yummy, she insisted I take a shot of her enjoying it on top of her yogurt!



 
This recipe has been added to Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday and Diet, Dessert & Dogs' Wellness Weekend.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Random Act of Kindness...for Me!

Blood Signal - Appel aux donneurs

Good Monday morning!  I hope all you father's had a nice Father's Day.

I apologize for the lack of post Friday.  It was a busy day and I somehow forgot that morning.  Later on when I realized I'd forgotten, I was side-tracked by a call from the daycare: Little A puked everywhere.  Ugh!  Needless to say, Adam and I had to quickly rearrange all our weekend plans.  The good news is - and I'm not kidding - it's like she puked out all of the whininess and grumpiness that has been practically a constant with her for the past few months.  Literally, from the time I picked her up from daycare on Friday, until the end of the weekend (aside from a few whiny episodes yesterday), she was the happy, sweet, funny, delightful child that I feel like she hasn't been in a very long time.

Anyways, I'll spare you the details of Little A's barfing episode and instead talk about blood.  Ha!

I've written many times about becoming a regular blood donor.  I think it is such an easy and important way to give back and help others in need.  Unfortunately, I may have to give it up.  I've been refused the past 3 tries, first because of my hemoglobin, when it was determined that I was anemic.  Now that I'm on iron pills that's been fixed, however, my low blood pressure has been the issue the last 2 times.  This is very frustrating since I have always had low blood pressure, plus it's pretty common to have low blood pressure when you are really fit.  I have had my blood pressure taken during medical exams several times over the past year, and no one has ever expressed concern.  Yesterday, however, the nurse at the blood donor clinic almost fainted when she took my blood pressure.  "Oh my, this is REALLY low!" she exclaimed.  "Are you feeling okay?  You're not dizzy? Tired?" I reassured her a million times that I felt just fine thank you.  But since the cut off is 90/55 and I was 77/45, she could not permit me to donate.  Sigh!  I know rules are rules, but it's annoying that I am trying to do something good for others and cannot.  At least I am on the bone marrow donor registry.  I am hoping that at some point I am a match for someone.

So, folks, I ask that if you can, please donate some blood for me!  It's easy, it's free AND they provide you with complimentary drinks and snacks afterwards (no healthy ones unfortunately...).

If you live in Canada, you can find your nearest blood donor clinic here

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Apricot Coconut Curried Mung Beans, Cauliflower and Rice


I have recently developed a love affair with mung beans.  I got them at House of Spice last time we were in Kensington Market.  They are one of the few legumes I hadn't tried cooking with at home yet.

Like lentils, they cook up pretty quick.  Just soak them overnight and then cook them up for about 40 minutes and they are ready to go.  Like all legumes, they are a super healthy, high fibre form of protein.  Combined with all of these sweet and savoury flavours, they are absolutely fabulous.  This dish was a hit, even with Adam!

Apricot Coconut Curried Mung Beans, Cauliflower and Rice

1 cup dried mung beans, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
1.5 cups brown basmati rice
1 large cauliflower, cut into florets
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp garam masala
Onion, diced
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Sauce

1 cup light coconut milk
1/2 cup no-sugar apricot (or mango) jam or spread (or you could soak and puree unsweetened, dried apricots or mango)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbls fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tbls garam masala
1/2 tsp salt
Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional, only if you want a bit of heat)

Toss cauliflower and onion with oil, garlic and garam masala.  Arrange on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast at 350F for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place mung beans and rice in a large pot with 3 cups of water. Cover and bring to a boil and then turn heat down to medium-low.  Simmer about 40 minutes until all the water has been absorbed.

Whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.

Toss together cooked rice and beans, cauliflower, onion and sauce.  Stir in fresh cilantro.  Serves 4 as a main, 6-8 as a side.

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

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Easy Garnish Spiral Cutter



















I have been dying to get a spiral slicer for ages.  Not because I want to start eating a raw diet.  Goodness no, that'll never happen!  But because I had a sneaking suspicion the girls would love spiral cut veggies.  And when the girls like veggies, I am very happy.

Unfortunately, the spiral slicers I see everywhere were pretty expensive, and since my suspicions about the girls preferences are sometimes wrong, I wasn't too keen on making the investment before I was certain it would be a hit.  Then I saw one for sale for like $10 on one of those group deal sites.  I purchased it immediately.

It's called a garnish cutter, so I guess it's not quite meant to be the same thing - or as sturdy - as the expensive ones, but I figured it was perfect to experiment with. 

I started with cucumbers.  You have to cut everything into a fairly specific cylindrical shape and mount it on the spiky base.  Then you can choose from one of 2 cuts (one is more 'spaghetti' and one is more 'fettuccini' like).  Then you start to twist the 2 parts together.  It takes some elbow grease and hand/arm strength, but it did a fabulous job of the cucumber. 

Cucumber 'Fettuccini':                                  













Cucumber 'Spaghetti':


 
 
 
 
 


The girls adored eating the 'curls'.  But since they already love cucumber, I wanted to see if it would increase the appeal of something they are not as fond of.  I bought a big carrot, since they both blow hot and cold with carrots.  I didn't initially cut the carrots into perfect sized pieces, and the thinner end of the carrot didn't work well altogether, so I ended up with quite a bit that got wasted.  The pieces that did work, however, didn't stay stuck on the base very well and I had to remount them a few times.  It took significant strength to do the twisting with the carrot and the curls weren't as good as the cucumber ones.  Both blades turned it into like carrot coin spirals.  Nevertheless, the girls were delighted and munched the carrot curls enthusiastically.

 

 Unfortunately, I don't know what to try next since everything has to be a fairly particular shape. I suggested zucchini, and the girls - who don't eat zucchini - groaned.

Overall, I think if you want an inexpensive spiral cutter and will use it mostly for cucumber and zucchini, it's pretty good.  Otherwise, it probably is worth investing in a real one.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Jerk Chicken (or Vegan) Enchiladas


I know, I know, Jerk Chicken Enchiladas?  But hey, this is Multi Culti Toronto and, hey, there are Korean tacos being sold everywhere these days!

I was trying to look for a dinner for our belated 11th anniversary celebration a few weeks ago and things involving (1) meat, (2) tomato sauce, (3) spice, and (4) something bread-y, are generally more of a hit with Adam than say, bean and grain-based dishes.  So my strange mind came up with this recipe.  While it may be strange, it is definitely delicious and for sure something I'll be making again!!

We're such losers though.  We talked about going to a movie, out for drinks, or ordering in, but right after we dropped the girls off at my in-laws' for a sleepover, we went home, opened a nice bottle of wine, made this for dinner and were in bed by 9:30pm.  But relaxing at home, just the two of us, is one of our favorite things to do, and Adam did have to catch a 5am flight to Vancouver the next morning.  Hey, we're cheap dates!

Jerk Chicken Enchiladas

1 lb ground chicken (or 350g block of tempeh, crumbled)
1 can pineapple tidbits with juice, or 1 whole pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into bite sized pieces
2 tbls finely chopped fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
Jerk paste, to taste*
1/4 cup coconut flour

1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
1 large onion, thinly cut
1 head kale, torn into pieces
2 cloves garlic
Caribbean 'green seasoning' or other hot sauce, to taste (optional)
1 can tomato paste
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch of ground allspice

Simmer ground chicken (or tempeh) with pineapple, ginger, garlic and spice paste.  Once chicken is cooked through, add coconut flour and continue to cook over low heat until most of the liquid has been absorbed.



Meanwhile, sauté peppers, onion, garlic, hot sauce and seasonings with vinegar in a large skillet.  Allow peppers and onion to soften and sweeten up.  Add kale.  Once kale has wilted, stir in tomato paste.


Assemble your enchiladas by spreading desired amount of chicken mixture onto whole grain tortillas and topping with veggies and some cheese (such as Pepper Jack), if desired.  Place enchiladas side by side on a parchment-lined baking sheet and top with more veggies and cheese (if using cheese).  Bake at 425F until cheese melts.  Makes 6 large enchiladas.

*Most jerk pastes are quite spicy.  One tbls of mine made these super spicy.   You can either use less, or make your own if you don't want the heat.

This recipe was submitted to Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Book Review: Paleo Fitness

Who-hoooo! The book, "Paleo Fitness," is now available for pre-order!

Here is an example of why you should never judge a book by its cover.  Or it's title, actually.

When I was asked to review Paleo Fitness, I agreed, but mostly because I thought it sounded absurd, and couldn't imagine what it was going to be about.  After all, I have a hard enough time swallowing the philosophy behind the Paleo Diet.  Sorry, but giving up whole grains and legumes and eating copious amounts of animal protein, just doesn't seem like a good idea to me.

So I am humbled to say that I absolutely loved this book!

I assumed it would pretty much be a CrossFit type workout guide, since the CrossFit community seems to have wholeheartedly embraced the Paleo Diet thing.  But I was totally wrong.

There is a whole section on the Paleo Diet and even a 2 week meal plan and recipes, but the rest of the book is devoted to exercise.  Overall, I have no major problem with the meal plan except I think there is too much red meat, and I could never survive the whole grain/legume-free thing.

There is a section which introduces the reader to the concept of fitness and different kinds of movement as well as a guide to goal setting.  The philosophy behind Paleo Fitness is that exercise should be versatile and functional.  This isn't necessarily a unique perspective, but what is unique is the method. 

Edwards prescribes a 6-day/week plan that includes a mix of low intensity walking, high intensity interval training, 'play' and circuits.  None of the workouts are more than 45 minutes long, which is good for people short on time.  There are Level I, II and III workout schedules that are each 4 weeks long.

The book provides pictures and detailed descriptions of each exercise.  It is the exercises themselves that make this program so unique.  Some are the usual suspects including squats, lunges, pushups and triceps dips, etc.  But Edwards puts some creative spins on even these moves with unusual variations and introduces some exercises that I'd never seen before, most of them based on mimicking animal movements.  I love the idea of challenging my body in new ways, and can't wait to incorporate some of these into my own workout!

The best part is that - aside from a pull-up bar (which you can get for your home and easily hang in a door frame or head to the monkey bars are the nearest playground), you don't need any equipment or even much floor space.  In addition, there are exercises that utilize another person as weight/resistance and the emphasis of the entire program is on FUN.  I think this is an ideal family-friendly fitness program because you can get the kids doing it too and I think they'd love it, particularly because of the reference to animals.

I like that Edwards emphasizes that exercise should be performed for health, rather than appearance-related reasons, which I completely agree with, however, he also recommends taking photos of yourself to document your progress, which seems like a contradiction to me.  I would focus on health indicators (blood pressure, blood sugar, etc.) and how you feel instead.

Overall, I think this is an excellent book and would recommend it for anyone looking to get fit without the need for a gym or expensive equipment.  It's flexible, well-rounded and creative.



Friday, June 7, 2013

Thank Goodness It's Friday!

Devon you are now the official winner of the SpaFinder Gift Card.  Please email me at erica@healthcounsellingtoronto.com and I will send it to you!!

It's rainy and yucky today, but at least it's the kind of temperature I like: 19C, so I'm not complaining...except for what it does to my hair!

Anyways, Adam is back after being away all week in Victoria, B.C. so I'm over the moon.  We've got a busy weekend ahead, how about you?

Sunday we are going to the Annex Festival on Bloor, an event our whole family always enjoys.  Check it out if you can!!

And now I leave you with a song that is currently a favorite with everyone in our family, by a Canadian group called Walk Off The Earth that hails from Burlington (not far from Toronto).  Love it!!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Middle Eastern Quinoa, Chickpea and Roasted Veggie Salad


This makes a great hot weather meal because you serve it just warm or at room temperature.  Hearty enough to make on it's own, or it can be a side dish.  This recipe makes a lot so it's perfect to serve at a gathering.

Salad

1.5 cups quinoa

2 bell peppers (red, yellow or orange), cut into pieces
4 small zucchini, cut into bite sized pieces
Red onion, thinly cut
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp sumac
1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas)

Dressing

1 cup plain yogurt (dairy or non-dairy)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbls cider vinegar
2 tbls honey or other sweetener
1 tbls Za'atar spice blend
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp sea salt

Toss veggies with vinegar and seasonings.  Place on foil or parchment lined baking sheet(s) and roast at 350F for 35-40 minutes. 

Cook quinoa according to package instructions and set aside.

Whisk together yogurt with all other dressing ingredients.  Combine quinoa, chickpeas and veggies in a large bowl.  Toss with dressing.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Sunflower: If you don't claim your SpaFinder gift card by tomorrow, I will offer it to another reader.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Berry Healthy Superfood Muffins


Breakfast in our house always involves heavy-duty negotiations.  The girls...particularly Big A, crave nothing but carbs.  Big A, if we let her, would just sit and eat nothing but bread and honey, Little A only wants toast and butter (although you have to call it 'butter and toast' or she gets mad).  It takes some cajoling to get anything else (i.e. protein, fruit, etc.) into them.

That's why I love making muffins.  Unlike commercially-made muffins, that are little more than cake and usually full of sugar, harmful fats and refined flours, when you make them yourself, you can fill them with good stuff.

These ones have protein, fruit, veg, good fats and lots of fibre.  But most importantly, no negotiating is necessary to get the girls to eat them: they gobbled them down so fast I'm going to have to make more very soon!

1 cup fresh or frozen cauliflower (or squash), steamed until very soft
2 ripe bananas
1 cup plain yogurt (dairy or non-dairy)
1/4 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)
1/2 cup stevia baking blend/granulated or other sugar alternative
2 flax eggs
2 tbls white chia seeds
1 scoop (23g) Vega Almondilla powder or other vanilla protein powder (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups organic sprouted spelt flour (or other whole grain flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2  tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups fresh or frozen berries (mix of blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, cherry, cranberry, etc.)

Puree veggies and bananas in food processor until smooth.  Add in yogurt, milk, flax eggs, chia seeds, protein powder and vanilla.  Puree for a few seconds.  Add dry ingredients and berries and pulse, just until mixed.  Scoop into greased muffin tin and bake at 350F for about 26 minutes.  Let cool completely before removing from pan.  Makes 14-16 muffins.  Keep frozen and defrost overnight or microwave for a quick breakfast.

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

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

IAMS SO GOOD Dog Concert Ticket Giveaway

Are you an animal lover?  Do you live in the Greater Toronto Area?  If so, how would you like free tickets to the IAMS SO GOOD Dog Concert this Saturday, June 8th?



To win, just leave me a comment telling me about your pet (or a pet you used to have) and why you love him or her.  I have 8 tickets to give away!!

Here are the details:

Saturday, June 8 at Echo Beach in Toronto from 4-8 p.m.

This will be the first concert of its kind in Canada - an event for the whole family - including your pup! 

A live, 45 piece orchestra will play classical canine-inspired music  including hits like “Hound Dog,” “Bella Notte” from the film “Lady and the Tramp,” “Cruella de Vil” from “101 Dalmatians,” “(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?” and “Who Let the Dogs Out?".

Monday, June 3, 2013

Cran-Apple Granola (Vegan & Gluten-Free)

First off, the winner of the SpaFinder giftcard is Sunflower!  Please email me at erica@healthcounsellingtoronto.com so I can send you the prize!!
 
Now on to our featured blog post...
 
 
 


I am on the girls' daycare board.  Like most daycares around here, we have to rely more and more on donations.  Each Wednesday in May, we've been putting out a table in the building and selling water bottles with the daycare logo, a cookbook with the daycare cook's recipes, and advertising our new affiliation with Donate Naturally.

Last week it was my turn to (wo)man the table, so I decided to add to the healthy living theme by making some homemade granola to sell along side the other items.  It sold out licked-split!

Cran-Apple Granola

1 kg large flake oats (gluten-free, if necessary)
170g bag puffed brown rice
2 cups dried apples, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup apple sauce
1/2 cup agave syrup (or maple syrup or honey)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

Place oats and puffed rice in a large bowl.  In another bowl, whisk together oil, apple sauce, syrup, cinnamon and salt.  Pour over dry ingredients and mix until evenly coated.  Spread 1/3 of mixture on a large baking sheet.  Bake at 350F for about 18 minutes until golden, stirring 2-3 times while baking.  Let cool and then remove from pan.  Repeat with next 2 batches.  Stir in apples, cranberries and sunflower seeds.  Store in an airtight container for up to 2 months.  Makes 16 cups.

This recipe has been submitted to Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.