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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bathing Beauty


I hate swimming.  I used to like it as a kid but at some point that all changed.  I hate the smell of chlorine.  I hate walking around on wet, dirty change room floors and pool decks.  I hate having to have another shower in the middle of the day, redo my hair and makeup and reapply sunscreen.  I'm not prissy, I swear.  It's just that I hate doing that stuff enough as it is.  To have to spend 10 minutes AGAIN to blow dry my stupid, unruly curls straight is annoying as all get out...and no, leaving my hair au naturel is not an option.  I hate my curls.  In summer my do untamed becomes a fro.

I also worry about exposure to the sun.  My grandfather died of melanoma and my dermatologist has told me a million times to stay out of the sun.

The problem is, my kids love to be in the water.  Indoor pools, outdoor pools, they love them all.  The only thing that motivates me getting into a pool is the summer heat, that I hate even more than I hate swimming, and wanting to share in the fun with the girls.

More recently, on one of our recent jaunts to the local public pool I realized that I also have a great deal of self-presentation anxiety.  Adam asked why, as one of the women with the best bodies there (in his opinion), I was one of the most covered up.

I know I'm not alone in my angst.  Most women don't love getting into a bathing suit.

For me, it's not because I think I'm fat or have cellulite.  I'm fit, lean and muscular.  But I still have many insecurities.  I have a tattoo I don't like.  I have a weird boyish figure with no waist or hips and a kind of barrel chest, which is strange on a tiny woman.  My boobs have shrunk thanks to years of breast feeding and my belly button is now a funny looking outie thanks to 2 pregnancies.

And there is something else too.  When you wear a bathing suit, you're not wearing much more - and are often wearing much LESS - than you are in your underwear, and frankly, that weirds me out.  People who know me might be surprised because I'm hardly prudish.  I had no problem whipping up my shirt in public anywhere and everywhere to nurse my girls, but somehow this seems entirely different.  The odd thing about bathing suits, unfortunately, is often the more they cover you up, the less flattering they are.

The couple of old bathing suits I have no longer fit properly and because they are all too loose, make me worry I'm going to have a major wardrobe malfunction.  I finally decided it was time to try and remedy this situation.  Last weekend I went bathing suit shopping.  I looked at many but ended up only finding 2 I liked enough to try on.  Fortunately, one of them - an army green Calvin Klein bikini - fit perfectly and is flattering enough.  Although I am determined to let go of my fears and try to rediscover the joy of pools, I did buy a pair of (boys) knee length windsurfing shorts to wear over top...just in case I'm feeling a little shy.

How sad is that?  I'm a 38-year-old woman, mother of 2, psychotherapist, personal trainer and fitness instructor, and I'm still plagued by such silly insecurities.  And I am far more comfortable in my skin now than I was in my 20s.  I wonder when such things will no longer be an issue for me.  In my 40s?  50s?  Sadly, as older folks have warned me, I will probably look back at pictures of myself now and think, "What the heck was I so worried about?"  What am I so worried about?

It wouldn't even cross the girls' minds to worry about such a thing.  They are delightfully unselfconscious as most young kids are.  I hope with everything in me they'll stay this way, but I'm guessing that's next to impossible.  I guess the only thing I can do is suck it up and model the confidence that I want them to always have.  Or at least fake it as best I can!  Just don't expect me to put my head under the water...

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Antipasto Wraps


This is a great weeknight dinner because you can really just grab whatever you have handy in your fridge and pantry and make a quick, terrific meal.

The ingredients listed her are just what I had on hand, but you can really sub in whatever you wish.

If you want to make these an eat-out-of-hand wrap, you can probably make 8 out of this recipe, but if you want a more substantial meal - like I did - where the wraps are stuffed with filling, with more over the top and you have to eat them with a knife and fork, you'll get 4 out of it.

As you can see, I don't care about whether my food looks pretty.  Just yummy and healthy.  You can make your wraps more aesthetically pleasing, if you want.

Antipasto Wraps

1 can chickpeas (or romano beans)
4 small grilled or roasted zucchinis, sliced
2 roasted or grilled red peppers, sliced
1 onion, roasted or grilled, sliced
1 cup kalamata olives (I used garlic stuffed ones!) or any kind of olive, pitted and chopped
1 can tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp dried oregano and/or basil, or some fresh herbs, chiffonaded
Crushed red chili flakes, to taste (optional)

Large whole grain wraps

Throw all ingredients into a skillet or pan over medium heat and stir, occasionally, until warmed through.  Fill wraps and then your mouth with deliciousness.


Other ingredient options: marinated artichokes, sundried tomatoes, cubes of cheese, etc.





Monday, July 29, 2013

A Toronto Day



Good Monday morning!  How was your weekend?  Ours was pretty quiet.  Well except for the usual fits Little A had.  She was as delightful this weekend as she was last week, which is to say, not so much.

Adam described our Saturday as a pretty "Toronto" day.  In the morning I was at the Dufferin Mall, which if you live around here, you know it's the epitome of the 'comeback mall'.  Back when I first moved to Toronto, it was pretty much one of the grossest malls around.  The only reason I ever went there was to shop at the No Frills, discount grocery store, which was great for starving students.  But it's been revitalized and despite the massive Walmart and a few kind of skanky clothing stores, is pretty rad now.  There's a Winners, H&M, Toys r' Us, Gap Outlet, etc.

Anyways, the reason I went, aside from some usual Saturday errands, was to buy the Insanity Asylum!


After a few years of randomly doing 1-2 Insanity DVDs every week as part of my fitness regime, I have decided to take it to the next level and try the sequel.  Admittedly, I'm a bit scared...I think I'm pretty fit, but this workout program is supposed to be killer!!  I'll keep you posted and do a review at some point.

While I cruised the local mall, Adam and the girls had lunch with my in-laws at Steve's.  Later, we took the TTC (the girls love taking public transport!) to Yonge Dundas Square for the Live Green Festival.  Big A and Adam wanted to hear Victoria Duffield play.  Unfortunately, right at the time she started her set, it began to downpour.  We all ended up in the Eaton Centre where we found Adam some new shoes for work.  I do not, however, recommend going there on a Saturday afternoon...it's NUTS!

After the mall, we treated the girls to dinner at Fran's, which is kinda a Toronto institution.  Adam and I ate dinner later (I prefer to eat real food!), so I just sipped some merlot while he had peppermint tea.  With 2 out of 3 of their meals that day eaten in diners, the girls barely got any food with nutritional value that day.  While I whined about this, Adam reminded me that there were probably plenty of days when we did the same as kids.  True, but I'm not sure that makes it any better. 
 
I guess it was a very 'Toronto' day, but probably would have been more so if we'd also gone to the CN Tower and ROM.

Yesterday I taught my spin class in the morning and the girls had their swim lessons and then they both had play dates in the afternoon.  Adam even got a little nap in.  And now, here we are, back to Monday again. 

The weather is supposed to be in the mid 20s this week, so at least it won't be sweltering and, more importantly, one of my oldest, best friends, Emily, is going to be here visiting from Vancouver.  I can't wait to see her!  Oh, and Thursday is Adam's birthday!!

Enjoy your Monday...the last one in July!

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Full Moon or Demons?



Not that she's ever an easy child, but this week Little A has really been pushing me to the brink. I wonder if we need an exorcist?

Forgive me if we are Facebook friends in which case you would have seen me post this on Tuesday, but for those of you who are not, here is a summary of how the morning went down:

@#*% that made my 4-year-old cry this morning:
1. She didn't like the clothes I picked for her because she (now) doesn't like purple.
2. She forgot to tell daddy something before he left the house.
3. She spilled her milk.
4. Her feet got wet from the spilled milk.
5. She wanted daddy.
6. When I applied her sunblock it made her feel itchy.
7. She wanted daddy.
8. The apple juice freezies the kids ...
begged to eat on the way to daycare were too cold.
9. She wanted daddy.
10. The freezie melted before she could eat it all and it was my fault.
11. She wanted daddy.
12. She wanted to hold may hand but I was walking too quickly.
13. She wanted daddy.
14. I held her hand too tightly.
15. She wanted daddy.

Now she's at daycare. And. I. Need. A. Stiff. Drink.

That evening when we talked about what a tough morning it had been and I asked her if she was going to behave better the next day she smiled and said to me, "I don't know, I might be a little grumpy."

I'm not kidding.

Another charming moment happened on Wednesday.  I let everyone try my sugar-free milk chocolate chunks a few days ago and ever since, Little A has been asking for more.  I told her no, I was saving them to bake with (and try not to get in the habit of letting the girls have treats every single time they ask).  So on Wednesday, which was the third day in a row she asked and I said no, she then stomped her foot and said, "I'm getting really annoyed.  I keep asking for some and you keep not giving me any!"

Is it any wonder that she made up a story on the way home from daycare the other day about a mommy who was really pissed off.  Hey, I have no idea where she learned that language!

I won't even bore you with all her bedtime antics that have me stark raving mad each evening.  I've been needing regular time outs to keep from having a tantrum myself.

Honestly, it's a good thing I work as an infertility counsellor.  It reminds me how lucky I am to have these girls.  Unfortunately, no matter how much you want your children and how hard you worked to get them, it's still challenging to be a parent.

Nevertheless, it's Friday and we have a family weekend ahead.  Yiperoo!  We're taking the girls to the Live Green Toronto Festival, which we've taken them to before and has been a hit.  Live music, healthy and eco living vendors, food, and usually a pretty cool swag bag.  If you're in the GTA, check it out!  Have a great tantrum-free weekend.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Adzuki Beans With Creamy Sesame Sauce


I have a confession: I usually cook with canned beans.  There.  I said it.  It's not even laziness so much as my preference for really soft, creamy beans and my assumption that it is practically impossible to get such a consistency when cooking them from a dried state.  This all comes from one or two experiences in my 20s where I cooked and cooked dried beans and they just never seemed to soften. I've recently learned that you can get nice soft, creamy beans when cooking with dried, at least with certain kinds of beans.

Admittedly, I only bought dried adzuki beans because it's tough to find them canned.  But I am so glad I did.  I cooked them up this past weekend into this delicious dish and they were soft, creamy and fabulous.  Of course, if you prefer your beans firmer, with more bite, than you just have to cook them for less time.

I don't know what it is, but the combo of rice, beans and a creamy, tahini-based sauce just makes me swoon.  Honestly, if I had to pick a savoury dish to take with me on a desert island, this would be it.  The type of beans, veggies and seasonings in the sauce wouldn't even matter. 

Since I was using adzuki beans here, I went in favour of Japanese flavours.  If you can't find pickled shitaki mushrooms, feel free to use fresh or dried and reconstituted ones instead.

Adzuki Beans With Creamy Sesame Sauce

1 cup dried adzuki beans, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed and then cooked in 3 cups water until desired tenderness is reached

2 tbls rice vinegar
1 bunch broccoli, cut into florets
2 sweet bell peppers (red, yellow or orange), sliced
1 jar pickled shitaki mushrooms, drained (or 2 cups fresh or 1 cup dried, soaked until softened)
1 bunch green onions, sliced

Sauce

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh ginger
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbls cooking sherry
2 tbls rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy/tamari/coconut aminos
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp Japanese 7-spice blend or cayenne/crushed red chili flakes, to taste (optional)

Cooked brown rice

Combine all the ingredients for sauce in a medium sized bowl and whisk together until smooth.  Place broccoli, peppers and mushrooms, along with vinegar in a large skillet or pan and stir fry until tender.  Add cooked beans and sauce and simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Stir in green onions.  Ladle over brown rice.  Makes 4-6 servings.

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

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sugar-Free & Vegan Milk Chocolate


I've gotten myself used to dark chocolate, but I still do have a thing for the milk stuff.  When we were in New York and I nabbed a few bars of Coco Polo, it was the milk with almonds that had me swooning.  It's the creaminess of it I think.  By the way, Coco Polo is now being carried in Canada by Low Carb Canada!!  But cheap it is not.

I tried to make my own version by adding creamed coconut to Chocolate Covered Katie's 3 Ingredient Chocolate Bar recipe, but it had to be refrigerated to stay firm, so it never quite got to the consistency I wanted.  It also didn't really taste like milk chocolate.  So I decided to take another kick at the can using a different approach.

These are not just sugar-free and vegan, they are DEVINE!  I cut them into chunks to use in baking, but you can cut it into bars for eating too.  I am so making this recipe again!!

FYI - I didn't bother to temper it, so it isn't shiny and smooth like it would be if you did.  Personally, I don't care about that, as long as it tastes good.

Sugar-Free & Vegan Milk Chocolate

1 lb unsweetened chocolate
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 cup erythritol (or xylitol)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Liquid stevia, to taste (optional)

Melt chocolate over a double boiler (or heat safe bowl set over simmering water).  Meanwhile, pour milk into a saucepan over medium heat.  Add sweeteners and vanilla.  Heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently (doesn't have to come to a full boil).  Remove chocolate from heat and stir in milk mixture.  Quickly (it starts to harden quickly!!) pour onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread out to desired thinness.  Refrigerate until firm and cut into desired shapes and sizes. 

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

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Go Bio Chocolate Pudding Mix

The girls have been nagging me to make jello again, but I won't buy the conventional crap at the grocery store and the past few times I've been to the health food store I forgot.  Fortunately, this week I finally got around to it and was very pleased to see that this time they had cherry flavour.  I love this brand: no sugar (you add your own sweetener so I use stevia) and no artificial colours or flavours!!
Organic Cherry Jelly, 19g/0.7oz pouch

I also noticed they have pudding mix so I purchased the chocolate to give it a try.
Organic Chocolate Pudding, 50g/1.8oz pouch

Like the jello you add your own sweetener, so I used stevia again, and you use whatever milk you want (I used almond).  You just bring the milk to a boil and mix the package with some additional cold milk and then whisk it into the hot milk.  Unfortunately, it clumped up immediately.  It was actually a total lumpy mess.  I don't know if I did something wrong, but I did follow the instructions on the package.  In order to salvage it, I let it cool down and then scooped it into my Big Boss Blender along with another 1/4 cup of almond milk.  This successfully smoothed it out, however, I still found it too stiff.  I think next time I would add even more milk...or make some homemade instead.  The girls liked it but I definitely was disappointed with this product compared with their jelly powder, so I don't think I'll buy it again.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Circus Sucks and Other Things I Learned This Weekend



Image source

Okay, so as I always tell my clients, mistakes are learning experiences.  Really.  It's clichéd but true.  So what I learned this weekend is that circuses suck.  At least the one we attended did.  Big time.  The girls liked it okay, particularly Big A who was thrilled by the acrobats who performed.

So, the first sign that it might not have been a great idea was when I mentioned it to my mom.  I asked her if they'd ever taken me to a circus.  She couldn't remember, however, she COULD remember being horrified when her parents took her as a child because of the treatment of the animals.  Ugh!  Sometimes I can be naïve.  I just assume that these days animal mistreatment is so strictly prohibited that these types of large organizations could never get away with it.  All I had to do was think about the Marine Land scandal!  Sure enough, when we parked the car and walked over to the big tent, there were 3 women holding signs about boycotting circuses because of animal cruelty.  Oh man!

The next problem was that the big tent, pitched in what was essentially the parking lot of a suburban mall, had no fans or air conditioning.  Hello?  It's summer, like WTF???  Of course, it quickly became apparent why they don't bother trying to make it more comfortable.  As people began melting in the sweltering heat, they had numerous staff walking through the stands selling snow cones, soft drinks, $3 bottles of water, along with the usual popcorn and cotton candy.  It didn't take long for the girls to become really sweaty so Adam stood up and grabbed 2 cherry snow cones for them and 2 massive Diet Pepsis for us - not something I would ever normally drink, but at that moment I would have guzzled down elk urine if it was on ice.  As it turns out, I didn't really drink it anyways, instead, I scooped out the ice and rubbed it all over my body.  Yes, it was that hot!

The first few minutes were lame-o while they introduced a bunch of VIPs from the Shriners, who all gave little speeches.  No one listened and it was incredibly boring.  Then they had a tiger act that was okay...I paid close attention to make sure the whips never touched the animals.  Oy!

Fortunately, the rest of the acts, aside from horses galloping around the ring for a bit, were human, and they actually were quite entertaining.  But it was hard to see anything because of the sweat pouring down my face.  All the ice from my drink melted really fast.

The girls then decided they were starving.  So another $10 later, each girl was happily munching on a box of popcorn (at least the proceeds supposedly go towards a good cause).  Ninety minutes in there was an intermission.  Little A wanted to go home - exhausted as it was already 5:30pm, and although Big A wanted to stay, Adam and I decided it was a good idea to hit the road - we figured if we waiting until the end, we'd be fighting the crowds.  Oh man if felt good to get into the car and turn on the air!!

On the way home I tried to get a discussion going about the treatment of animals in circuses but Little a was too wiped out to do anything except sit in her car seat and Big A thought the animals enjoy performing.  Maybe I'm expecting critical thinking skills a bit more advanced than a typical 7-year-old's...

I learned a few other things on Saturday: With kids, simplicity is often best.  After all the crap the girls ate at the circus, I wanted to make them a nutritious dinner.  Scrambled egg and cheese wraps were on the menu but the only veggie in the fridge was a box of organic baby spinach.  Could I hide it in their wraps?  Would they eat creamed spinach?  Salad? Sautéed garlic spinach?  For each idea I came up with, all I could picture was Big A making faces and Little A shrieking with horror.  Finally, I decided to just bring the box to the table and ask them if they wanted to munch on some 'lettuce'.  "That's baby spinach mommy" Big A said, reading the box.  In the end, Little A was happy to just eat some straight out of the box, plain, while Big A dipped her spinach leaves in salad dressing.  Awesome!

One other thing I learned is that goat cheese is great in salads! 

Actually, I learned this in December but confirmed it Saturday night.  When we were at Pearson airport on our way to Florida at Christmas, I was rushing to find something to bring on the plane for lunch.  One of the airport restaurants had a spinach salad with goat cheese, berries and almonds and it looked good so I grabbed it.  It was good.  Really good!  I think I was turned off goat cheese in the 1990s because it was so trendy, it was in everything.  I don't like it on pizza or in a sandwich, but I'm diggin' it in a salad.

This was my salad bowl on Saturday:


Baby spinach, fresh berries, red onion and goat cheese with a mixed berry and balsamic vinaigrette.

Adam had his salad with chicken instead of cheese, of course.

Probably would have been a healthier dinner if I hadn't also made us (baked) French fries, and if we hadn't polished off all of them.  Oh well, we really enjoyed our meal!

So there you have it, those are the healthy life lessons I learned this weekend.  How about you, what did you learn?



Friday, July 19, 2013

Mighty Mouse Pasta Sauce


TGIF!  And a hot, steamy Friday it is.  It's going to feel like one big, smoggy sauna in Toronto today.  Lovely.  And the day started off beautifully with a 4:30am wake up for me because Little A had a pee accident in her bed.  Super lovely. 

Anyways...

If you're a parent then you know how frustrating it is to feed kids.  One day they can't get enough of a particular food, the next they won't touch it.  For a few years, Little A couldn't get enough of my Kiddie Alfredo pasta.  I am not exaggerating when I say she would ask for it for at least 2 out of 3 meals a day.  Then one day I put a bowl of it in front of her and she threw it across the table and screamed that she would not eat it, it was disgusting.  In fact, she wouldn't eat any noodles or pasta for a few months. 

This was tough for Big A who started really liking pasta.  After years of refusing to eat any tomato-based pasta dishes, she sampled a few I made for Adam and I and decided she liked them.  It still took a few tries to come up with something that satisfied my nutritional requirements and was acceptable to her.  This is the winner!  The best part is how easy it is...and the fact that it has veggies hidden in it.  It's not that she doesn't eat veggies knowingly, actually she's pretty good about that now.  But when it's already in the sauce, I don't have to worry about making a separate vegetable dish to serve on the side, which is nice on a busy week night.  Also, Little A isn't as good at eating veggies, and although she whines when I make this, she ends up gobbling down a bowl anyways. 

Mighty Mouse Pasta Sauce

1 jar bottled 4 cheese tomato pasta sauce (your favorite brand, just make sure it doesn't contain sugar or other crap)
2 cups fresh or frozen cauliflower, steamed until very soft and then put into the food processor until very finely chopped
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
Optional (if your kids are 'adventurous': fresh minced garlic, fresh or dried herbs, etc.

Whole grain pasta

Combine all ingredients for the sauce in a saucepan over medium low heat until hot.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add desired amount to cooked pasta and serve.  Extra sauce can be frozen for future use.

Have a great weekend.  Stay cool and healthy, I'll be back on Monday.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Eco Nuts for Eco Nuts: Product Review

So many reasons to love Eco Nuts for site

Are you into finding the best eco-friendly, non-toxic products to use in your home?

If so, you will definitely want to read on.  A company called Eco Nuts recently sent me their laundry soap to try. 

Eco Nuts actually look like nuts but are actually berries.

Example of a Soap Nut

Here is the info provided by the company:

Eco Nuts®  Soap Nuts are a berry that grows in the Himalayas that naturally produces a soap.  The soap is called saponin, a natural cleaner that works as a surfactant, breaking the surface tension of the water to penetrate the fibers of your clothing, lifting stains from the fabric and leaving dirt suspended in the water that is rinsed away.
 
Eco Nuts are gentle on both clothes and skin, making them ideal for those with sensitive skin, eczema, allergies and psoriasis. Because they are so mild, they are perfect for baby clothes and cloth diapers. All-Natural Eco Nuts are also great for septic and grey water systems. But don’t expect these shells to foam up like commercial soaps, which have artificial foaming agents. Foam simply does not represent cleaning power.
 
Eco Nuts are wild-harvested, meaning they are gathered from wild trees grown without any kind of chemicals, fertilizers, or pesticides. The saponin actually tastes bad to insects so no pesticides are needed, and the trees naturally love poor uncultivated soil. They are organically grown by mother earth and certified USDA Organic by Oregon Tilth. Our soap nuts are both de-seeded and sterilized  -the only soap nuts on the market that are both!

I have to admit, I was skeptical:  They don't look like any soap I've ever seen before!  And although they claim to kill odors, due to all the working out and sweating we do around here, we produce some pretty smelly laundry!

Like most eco-friendly products, they are much pricier than their conventional counterparts: $4.50 gets you enough for 10 loads.    But in my experience, paying a premium never seems to bother real eco nuts.  The company also sells a range of other eco-friendly, non-toxic laundry products.

So I've been using them for about 2 weeks.  To be honest, I don't really get how they work as they don't produce suds or really much of anything at all.  I haven't noticed much of a difference compared to our regular eco detergent but the idea of using them long-term with our really stinky workout wear makes me nervous.  So I think I'll keep them for our 'lightly soiled' laundry but maybe stick with something a big more heavy duty for our really yucky stuff. 

Real eco nuts will love Eco Nuts, so if you are a green machine, then you may want to pick some up.  If you have severe skin allergies or sensitivities, these may also be a great option for you.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Big Boss Blender


So you may recall me mentioning a few weeks ago that I slipped on our kitchen floor and dropped our Breville Blender (pictured below), which then smashed and cut me.  It was lovely.

Image for BREVILLE BBL550XL 5-speed blender from SHOP.CA
 That day, Groupon happened to have a deal on a Big Boss Blender.  Sometimes I'm impulsive I guess, so I snapped one up without knowing anything about it.  Yes, I would love a Vitamix, but I don't have $500 burning a whole in my pocket at the moment.

Fortunately, I've been pretty pleased with my Big Boss so far.  I thought it would only be able to handle smoothie kinds of things, but it actually does a lot more than that.  The instruction booklet claims it also grinds coffee beans and spices.  This was exciting for me because my coffee grinder has become a spice grinder since it cannot be immersed in water, and therefore likely retains the oils from the spices and may unpleasantly flavour my coffee.  The Big Boss blade and multiple cups can be fully immersed in water and even dish washed so its a safer bet for using for both purposes.  Just to test it, I dumped in all the little leftover nubs from my fresh nutmeg that are too small to grate with my microplane - unless I want to lose my fingertips.  It worked quite well, although didn't do as fine a job as my coffee grinder. 

The girls love that I can make a customized smoothie for each of them and that the blender bowl becomes their very own cup to drink out of.  They especially love the sports lids which allow them to drink without dumping on themselves.

I tried to make Chocolate Covered Katie's healthy ice cream recipe in it, but for that it was an epic failure.  The soaked cashews just gummed it up and I had to dump it into our food processor, which then did a fine job.

The biggest drawback, however, is that the cups are relatively small so you either have to stick with making small recipes or make things in multiple batches, which can be a real pain.  Overall though, for such an inexpensive product, I'm pretty pleased.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"Classic" Buttermilk Blueberry Muffins


Big A has a playdate with her friend Z tomorrow.  Z's mom runs a home daycare so there are always a few kids there and lots of fun activities.  Big A absolutely loves spending the day with them.  But I always feel guilty because I know Big A can easily eat them out of house and home, and I feel like she is getting a full day of daycare (even if it really is a playdate) for free!  So I whipped these up for her to bring along for the whole gang to snack on.

I am not sure about the tastes of the other kids, but knowing that Z is pretty picky, I stuck with a fairly straightforward muffin.  I guess the only thing that makes these a little updated is that I used whole grain flour and coconut sugar instead of the white stuff.    Sorry, you'll never catch me cooking or baking with the white stuff (unless you count potatoes and cauliflower)!

"Classic" Buttermilk Blueberry Muffins

2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk  (or 1 cup milk + 1 tbls cider vinegar)
1 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup canola or other light oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups whole wheat/spelt/kamut or other whole grain flour
2  tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

2.5 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Whisk together wet ingredients in a large bowl.  Combine dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl and then dump into wet ingredients, along with blueberries.  Stir, just until mixed.  Divide batter between 12 greased muffin cups.

Bake at 375F for 18-20 minutes.  Makes 12 muffins.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Kid-Friendly Maple Roasted Salmon (or Trout)

Good Monday!

How was your weekend?  Ours was really quiet.  Saturday Adam and his parents took the girls to Centreville while I spent the morning cleaning up our back yard.  I think I did more gardening than I've ever done in my whole life this weekend!  I'm pretty proud of myself.  Then we had our neighbours over in the afternoon for drinks and a playdate for the kiddies.  Yesterday the girls had their swim lessons at the JCC while I taught my spinning class and then we went to Christie Pits pool in the afternoon.  It was just too freakin' hot to do much but be in the water.

Speaking of which, it's going to be 30 celcius and humid all week.  My least favorite weather.  I'll try not to complain to much, but holy cow, even first thing this morning it's oppressive and unpleasant.  Yuck!

So, shall we talk food now?

From the time I got pregnant with Big A until about 2 years ago, I went from adoring fish to just eating it from time-to-time.  After not eating red meat for 9 years, I started craving it during that pregnancy, and again, didn't stop until a few years ago. 

Fortunately - since fish is far healthier than red meat - my red meat cravings have completely gone away and my love of fish has come back with a vengeance.  Particularly pink fish.


Perhaps because the girls love anything pink, they are also big fans, which makes me very, very happy.  It makes me feel good when they eat omega-3 filled salmon or trout.  But don't get me wrong, it's not like they'll eat it no matter what.  No green bits or spice can be present.

This recipe, however, is a sure crowd pleaser.  And its so darn fast and simple, it makes a great week night dinner.

Kid-Friendly Maple Roasted Salmon

Per 1lb of fish fillets:

1.5 tsp pure maple syrup
1.5 tsp olive oil
Sea salt (like Herbamare), to taste

Place fish on a baking sheet lined with foil, and sprayed with non-stick spray.  Mix together syrup and oil.  Drizzle over salmon and use a brush to spread evenly over fish.  Sprinkle with salt.  Roast in the oven at 425F for 8-12 minutes (depending on thickness of fish, etc.).

Oh, if your kids are as fussy as mine, be sure that there are no little bones in your fillets.  If my kids find even one, it's game over!!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Caribbean Curried Rice and Beans (Gluten-Free & Vegan)


We usually think of curry as being part of Indian cuisine, but there are lots of other cuisines that have curries that play a prominent role: Thai, Chinese, Cambodian, Vietnamese, various African cuisines, and Caribbean.  I like them all.

This is a really yummy, satisfying comfort-food type meal.  If it doesn't seem like a typical summer dish, well come on, it's always hot in the Caribbean!

It is also incredibly cost-efficient: the main ingredients (rice, beans and cabbage) are inexpensive and this makes a massive amount.  If you aren't feeding a crowd, leftovers can easily be frozen.

Caribbean Curried Rice and Beans (Gluten-Free & Vegan)

1.5 cups brown rice

1 onion, diced
1 head cabbage, thinly sliced
3 tbls fresh ginger, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 can black eyed peas, or 1.5 cooked black eyed peas (or sub chickpeas or pigeon peas)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 can light coconut milk
1 tbls Madras (yellow) curry powder)
Caribbean (scotch bonnet) or other hot sauce, to taste
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp ground allspice

Cook rice according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, combine all ingredients in a large skillet or pan and simmer until onion and cabbage are softened.  Stir in cooked rice and let it absorb all the liquid.  Remove from heat.  Serves 4-6.

I hope you have a lovely weekend.  Its supposed to be beautiful in the Toronto area: sunny and not too hot or humid.  Hallelujah!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

No Fuss Lunchbox Fudge (Vegan + Nut Free & Refined Sugar-Free)


I've intentionally been stingy with the girls this week in terms of what's been going in their lunches for bicycle camp.  I feel like they are ALWAYS getting too much crap.  Even when I do my best to limit it at home, via birthday parties, daycare and school events, play dates and relatives, they are constantly being given food I would prefer they didn't eat.  It drives me nuts, but I feel like unless I become (like I'm not one already, ha!) an uber obsessive mother that doesn't let her children ever eat what all the other children are eating, that I'm virtually powerless. 

Little A loves her sweets for sure, but it's still Big A we worry about most.  She just doesn't have a healthy relationship with food.  She always wants to eat.  When other children decline offers for food, she will always accept, even if she's just eaten (unless the only thing being offered is veggies, that is).  I think I was kinda the same as a kid though, I always had a bigger appetite than most of my friends, so I wonder if its maybe a genetic thing.  Besides, Adam and I are ridiculously big eaters (people routinely gawk at how much food little ol' me packs away), so I guess it shouldn't be a surprise.  In addition, like Adam and I, Big A is extremely physically active.

I guess what's more concerning is that she is constantly nagging us for 'treats', which we try to remind her are 'treats' because we are not meant to have them often.  But I swear, nothing makes this kid happier than junk: hot dogs, ice cream, cookies, chips, candy.  She loves it all!  So I try to counteract all the crap these kids eat with better options at home. 

Surprisingly, there have been few complaints about the apple sauce and organic raisin boxes which have been their lunchbox 'treats' this week.  Nevertheless, I decided they deserved a real treat.  Big A's cycling has improved significantly and the camp had Little A off her training wheels the first day.  They are both having a fantastic time, are busy and active all day and come home exhausted, exhilarated and starving. 

So I whipped up this fudge for a little dessert treat and it was a huge hit.  It's simple: you just melt all the ingredients together!  It is also a perfect treat to include in lunch boxes because it is allergy-friendly

No Fuss Lunchbox Fudge

225g unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup unsweetened sunflower seed, soy or pea butter
85g block of creamed coconut
1 cup coconut sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Melt all the ingredients together in a pot set over medium/low heat.  Don't worry if it's grainy.  When everything is melted together, remove from heat and pour into a parchment-lined 8x8 square pan.  Refrigerate several hours until firm.  Keep refrigerated.  Makes 20 pieces.

See, I'm not such an ogre, I let these kids have treats, just treats done right, that's all!

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Gluten-Free Banana Protein Muffins


Happy hump day!  Things in Toronto are just starting to get back to normal but they are calling for thunderstorms again today.  Oy, what craziness!!

Like a typical Canadian, I'll go from complaining about the weather to talking about food.

Last time we were at Costco, I picked up a jug of Complete Green protein powder.  As much as I love my Vega Almondilla, because it contains nuts, the girls cannot take anything I make with it to school or daycare.  So this plant-based protein powder seemed like a great alternative.

Big A still doesn't consistently eat the food I pack her for lunch and often what I find left over (aside from the veggies!), is the protein.  Yogurt she will generally eat, but cheese is sometimes left untouched and a sandwich often comes back to me with the filling and crusts remaining.  So I decided to make some high protein muffins she could take that would satisfy her ever present sweet  tooth and give her some long-lasting energy.  These fit the bill perfectly and were a hit with Little A too!  Good thing because when she starts JK in September, I'll be packing a lunch every day for her too.  Ugh!

Gluten-Free Banana Protein Muffins

3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
2 cups milk or water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup stevia powder or xylitol or erythritol
1 scoop stevia-sweetened vanilla protein powder (30g)
1 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
2 tbls ground chia seeds
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Whisk together wet ingredients.  Add dry and mix until combined.  Divide batter into parchment muffin cup-lined muffin tin.  Bake at 375 for about 25-30 minutes.  Makes 16 muffins.  Keep refrigerated for up to 5 days or freeze.

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

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Lucky Ducks


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Did you hear about the storm we had here in Toronto last night?  It caused massive flooding and a widespread power outage affecting almost a million people!  Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen anything like it.  Actually I know it.  We got more than an average month of rain in just a few hours.


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But while thousands of people in this city were stranded for hours in their offices, in their cars, in buses, subways and trains, or trying to cope with a loss of power at home, we sat cosy and dry in our house, with the lights on and not a drop of water seeping inside.

I can't believe how lucky we are.  It scares me really.  Our life is already so blessed and when I look around at the seeming endless tragedies that occur around the world, I wonder what I did to deserve this?

Right now my heart goes out to those trying to piece their lives back in Alberta, the folks affected by the plane crash in San Francisco, the Quebec town flattened by an explosion, those affected by the flooding in this city, and that's just scratching the surface of tragic events recently in North America!

This bridge is right around the corner from our house!!


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Leave it to Canadians to break out the canoes!!


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My thoughts are with people here and every where else in this crazy world who are not as fortunate as we are.  I hope we all wake up to a better day tomorrow.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Moving Target

Good Monday!  Today is a big day in our house: It's Little A's first time at summer camp!  Big A loved Pedelheads bicycle camp so much last year that we've enrolled both girls for the week this time.  We're hoping (although it may be premature) that Little A can get off her training wheels as quickly as Big A did last year at this camp.  This means I will also be packing Little A a lunch for the first time, which I suppose is good practice for when she starts kindergarten in the fall.  But I'm anticipating some issues, after all, when Little A is not happy with even the tiniest detail of absolutely everything, you can guarantee there will be much whining, screaming and complaining!

We had a great weekend despite the hot, humid weather.  Saturday we took the girls to the Kidstown water park in Scarborough.  Adam wasn't impressed because he felt there were too many kids running wild without close enough parental supervision (in particular, a bunch of kids kept intercepting Big A's patient attempt to have a turn on a few play things until she was in tears).  Nevertheless, I thought it was pretty awesome and the girls had a great time.  It's FREE and there are lots of ways for kids and their caregivers to stay cool. 

Our one mistake was not bringing a lock or leaving our valuables in the car.  Adam and I had to trade off sitting with our stuff while the other took the girls into the water area. 

Personally, I think its a great way to have some inexpensive fun.  Parking is free, entrance is free, and you can bring a picnic lunch.

I've been patiently waiting for the Target to open near us, but I couldn't stand it anymore.  So eager to check out a Canadian store, I insisted we check out one in the east end on our way home.  As has been reported in the news, we didn't think it was as good as the ones in the U.S.  The best deals, I think, are to be had on clothing, but even then, they weren't as good as the ones you find down south.  But I did find a Hello Kitty back pack and runners for Little A for school in September, and a cute summer dress for me, so it was still pretty successful.

Yesterday was a treat:  Adam's cousin took the girls to a movie and out for dinner so we got the latter part of the day to ourselves.  It was a lovely indulgence, which allowed me to do some writing, baking and yoga.

Off to work now.  Have a lovely day!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fat Chance



I am pretty lucky.  As a health and wellness blogger, I get sent lots of great products to review.  Sometimes though, I get asked to review some crazy stuff, which I feel doesn't jive with my values and beliefs.  In most of these cases I decline the offers. 

Recently, I almost automatically deleted one for a cellulite cream called Second Skin Therapeutics' Thermo Active Contouring Cream.  Such a product generally would not be on my acceptable list of items to review.  Why? Because I think they are a big bunch of BS. 

But something in the info they sent caught my eye: The product is endorsed by celebrity trainer Stephanie Joanne (pictured in the centre in the photo above).  Joanne is the trainer for CityLine host, Tracy Moore, who seems like a very down-to-earth, no-nonsense individual.  Joanne herself usually provides fairly accurate, reasonable fitness and health info when she is on the show.  I figured she wouldn't put her reputation on the line for a totally crappy product and perhaps, since I've never actually researched these types of products I have something to learn.

I received a 6 oz tube of the cream, which comes with the following promises:

  • REDUCES SIZE OF SKIN FAT DEPOSITS
  • REDUCES THIGH VOLUME
  • IMPROVES SKIN FIRMNESS AND APPEARANCE

  • What's in this magic cream?

    Medicinal Ingredients: Chinese thorowax (Bupleurum falcatum, Root) 0.21 % Mate (Ilex paraguariensis, Leaf) 0.9 % Coenzyme A 0.03 % d-Glaucine 0.0025 %

    Non-Medicinal Ingredients: Aqua, Glycerin, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Alcohol Denat., Dimethicone, Ethoxydiglycol, Butylene Glycol, Coffea Arabica (Coffee) Seed Extract, Menthol, Coleus Forskohlii Root Extract, Paullinia Cupana Seed Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Capsicum Annuum Extract, Caffeine, PEG-8, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, PEG-60 Almond Glycerides, Coco-Glucoside, Cetyl Hydroxyethylcellulose, Caprylyl Glycol, Carbomer, Propylene Glycol, Alcohol, Sodium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin.

    Where is the proof that it works?  This is the 'clinical data' provided by the company:

    UNISLIM™ Is a highly original action mechanism inspired by the work of Nobel prize winner, Professor Goldstein (1990). The methodology of the efficacy tests is also a reflection of that work:
    • UNISLIM™, containing titrated quantities of cafestol, caffeine and theobromine, inhibits lipid storage in adipocytes by blocking LDL and VLDL receptor synthesis.Those receptors enable endocytosis of fats by adipocytes. This action and its demonstration using the RT-PCR method are important innovations in cosmetology.
    • UNISLIM™ also stimulates lipolysis (+170%) by inhibiting phosphodiesterase. This action is mediated by more conventional active substances (caffeine and theobromine).
    • The two complementary activities are based on the combination of green coffee extract and Yerba mate extract, which constitute UNISLIM™.

    LIPOCARE™
    Is a synergistic complex designed to accelerate lipid release from storage sites, combat cellulitis and firm the skin. LIPOCARE™ consists of:
    1. Bupleurum chinensis extract
    2. caffeine
    3. biotechnological coenzyme A (CoA)
    and acts via 3 different pathways on lipolysis:
    1. increase in cyclic AMP formation through activation of proteins G
    2. maintenance of the cAMP pool by inhibition of phosphodiesterase
    3. activation and transport of fatty acids towards the mitochondria for combustion generating ATP.
    The in vitro studies have enabled the action mechanism to be elucidated:
    • coenzyme A eliminates the fatty acids formed during lipolysis: transformation of stored lipids to energy (ATP) was demonstrated. The ATP synthesis rate increased by 95% relative to the controls.
    LIPOCARE™ stimulates the natural process of elimination of fat.
    • In vivo, the combined effect of the three pathways leading to the release of lipids and the decrease of cellulitis.
    The ballistometry study highlighted the firming effect of LIPOCARE™: A profilometry study by image analysis demonstrated the significant decrease of the orange peel aspect: Skin becomes firmer and smoother and the superficial fat deposits (orange-peel skin) become less apparent, to firm and sculpture the body.

    From what info I could dig up, this Dr. Goldstein's research actually relates to cholesterol and treatments for diabetes.  I couldn't find anything on "Unislim", but "Lipocare" appears to be a common element of cellulite creams.

    Digging deeper into the peer-reviewed data, I found two studies demonstrating significant efficacy of these types of products.

    Neither the tube nor the info the company sent tells you how long you have to use it before you see benefits, so I've decided I'll use up the tube and at that point do a before and after comparison.

    What they are very specific about, is how you have to massage the product into your thighs using an upward motion, which makes me wonder if I'm not just going to be smooshing fat from my thighs up into my ass.  In any case, I am still rather skeptical.  In addition, I firmly believe (no pun intended), that the best way to decrease body fat deposits are through a healthy lifestyle and if you are living as healthy a life as you can and still have lumps and bumps, well so be it.  Most of us can't have supermodel bodies.

    Anyways.  I'm going to give this a go and once I finish the tube I'll let you know what the results are.  If I have thinner thighs, that won't be such a bad thing!

    I hope you have a fabulous weekend!


    Thursday, July 4, 2013

    The Low-GI Slow Cooker: Book Review

    Low GI Slow Cooker: Delicious and Easy Dishes Made Healthy with the Glycemic Index

    There are few cookbooks that I am truly excited about.  This was an exception for two reasons: One eating low-GI foods are generally healthy and the kinds of foods I eat anyways, and two, because Adam and I got a slow-cooker for our wedding 11 years ago and I have been wanting to try it out, but for some reason I've had a slow-cooker phobia.  I think it's the idea of an electrical appliance being plugged in for hours, potentially when you are either sleeping or not home.  I just used to envision the house burning down or, at the very least, the food getting burnt to a crisp.  I know, it's totally irrational!  So our slow-cooker is essentially brand-new (albeit over a decade old!) and I am a slow-cooker virgin.  I decided being sent this book to review was the impetus I needed to finally use a slow-cooker.

    The book gives a bit of background about the glycemic index (GI).  What I like is it is not a diet plan.  I think most diets are ridiculous and generally unrealistic for most people to follow long-term.  The glycemic index is more like a nutrition tool that can help you understand which types of carbohydrates to consume more often and which to consume less frequently.

    The GI is a 0-100 scale that ranks carbohydrates based on how quickly they raise blood sugar and insulin levels.  Low GI foods have been shown to positively affect health and weight control by keeping blood sugar steady and helping to control appetite.

    The book also explains glycemic load (GL), or a food's GI multiplied by the net carbs in a serving, divided by 100 (GL - (GI x Net Carbs)/100) which some experts believe is a more important measure of food than GI, because the GI of a food is affected by what you eat with it (i.e. protein slows the rate at which blood sugars and insulin respond to carbs).

    If you want a general overview of dietary recommendations related to GI, the authors suggest:

    • Eat lots of vegetables and fruits
    • Choose whole grain cereals like barley, oats and millet
    • Choose whole grain breads
    • Eat potatoes and rice less often
    • Avoid processed carbohydrates
    The recipe chapters cover a wide range of dishes and meal types and are divided into the following:

    1. Breakfast
    2. Soup
    3. Fish and Poultry
    4. Red Meat and Pork
    5. Vegetarian
    6. Desserts
    The book also has appendices that provide the GI score of many foods, grocery shopping tips, conversions and online and offline resources.

    The book is small with a stiff spine, so you will need one of those cookbook holders if you want it to stay open on the counter so you can refer to it while you cook.  There are also no pictures.  But, flipping through it, I'm quite pleased.  The recipes sound great and use mostly ingredients I prefer to use.  For example, the only sweetener used is coconut sugar (no white sugar), and oat flour and coconut flour (no white flour!) are frequently used.  Many, if not most of the recipes are also gluten-free.

    I decide to go with a simple recipe for my first slow-cooker attempt.  The Herb Roasted Chicken sounds great.  Just onion, garlic, lemon, herbs and spices.  No oil or butter, etc. 

    Not only have I never used a slow cooker, I've never roasted a whole chicken.  I know, weird for a Jewish omnivore!

    The only thing I was confused about was that our slow cooker instruction booklet said to add water when roasting a chicken, however, this isn't mentioned in the cookbook.  But when our neighbours came over to show off their beautiful new baby, they mentioned the importance of adding water so the meat doesn't dry out.  So before we left for the beach, I quickly lifted the lid and poured in about a cup of water.

    So on Canada Day, I got everything going at about 10:30am.  It looked something like this:


     

    When we got home around 6pm, it looked something like this:

     
    As promised in the cookbook, the dark meat was fall-off-the-bone tender.  But the breasts were a little dry.  Clearly I should have gone with closer to 6 rather than 8 hours, but I guess like many things you have to learn with some trial and error.  I also loaded up the herbs because I love fresh herbs, but it turned out not to be popular with the kids or even Adam: add rosemary to the list of things that I'll have to enjoy on my own!  Okay lesson learned.  Next time I'll skip the rosemary and cook it for less time.
     
    There were lots of tender onions and juices at the bottom with which to make a gravy and I was impressed with how easily I was able to clean the slow cooker's Corningwear baking dish which comes out of the base.
     
    I will definitely be using our slow cooker again and now that I am more confident it won't burn down our house, I'll be experimenting with all sorts of things.  But before I start ad-libbing, I'm going to try some more of the great recipes in The Low-GI Slow Cooker book.

    Some of the book's other recipes that sound good:

    French Toast Casserole (uses Ezekiel bread!)
    Spicy Almond Chicken
    Lamb and Olive Tagine
    Vegetarian Green Curry
    Curried Red Lentils
    Garlicky Brussels Sprouts
    Dairy Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Custard
    Pear and Ginger Compote

    Wow, as you can see, there are a lot of great recipes in there and most are super healthy.
     
    If you love your slow cooker and are looking for healthy meal ideas, I highly recommend this book.
    

    Wednesday, July 3, 2013

    Beach Bums


    Image Source

    Our Canada Day trip to Woodbine Beach was a smashing success.  The girls had the time of their lives and it was a joy to see them so happy.  Big A asked if we could come back every warm day.  Ha, I wish!  She also took a massive face plant in the sand, getting sand covering her entire wet body including her face and in her mouth, but was in such a state of bliss that she laughed with the rest of us (her usual reaction to such a thing would have been tears and claims that she'd broken every bone in her body).

    I also had fun, with the best part for me being that it wasn't too hot (25C) and a bit overcast.  Admittedly, it did mean the water was chilly, but that didn't stop the girls!  I happily got to stay covered up in a sweatshirt and yoga pants over my bathing suit, so with my hat, sunglasses and copious amounts of sunblock I didn't worry about exposure. 

    Honestly, it's been many years (11 actually) since I've been to a beach, the last time being when Adam and I went to St. Lucia Le Sport for our honeymoon.  I forgot just how divine it is to walk barefoot through sand and sit and watch the waves.  I can see why people pay a gazillion dollars to live in the area!  I had fantasies while we were there of one day living within walking distance and waking up at dawn to do yoga on the sand right by the water or go for a run on the boardwalk.  Won't be happening any time soon, but maybe one day...

    If you are in the GTA or visit the Toronto area in the warmer months, I highly recommend a visit.  It's not hard to get to, and it can be - if you plan well - a very inexpensive excursion.

    Here are a few tips for making your Woodbine Beach visit a success:

    1. Pee in the lake or wear diapers - Okay I'm kidding.  Do they even make swim diapers for adults? But seriously, the line ups for the women's bathroom is nuts.  Little A and I ended up sneaking into the men's bathroom because both of us were about to pee our pants. 

    2. Bring shade - On a really blazing hot day you can probably burn real quick since there is no shade near the water.  Bring an umbrella or something.  Coating yourself with sunblock and wearing a hat and sun glasses goes without saying.  Come on, don't get yourself some skin cancer!

    3. Take public transport or park far away - We made the mistake of bringing the car.  You can take the TTC to the beach fairly easily.  There were no parking spots near the beach at all so Adam had to park north near Queen St about a 20 minute walk away.  It was free street parking (beach parking will cost you $20), but far enough that Little A, who was exhausted at the end of our visit, whined the whole way back.  You could also ride your bike there, and, in fact, if Adam and I ever try to go back just the 2 of us, maybe we'll do that!

    4. Bring snacks or meals - There is tons of food for sale, but most of it is the usual crap (pizza, hot dogs, ice cream, etc.).  There was some yummy looking chicken souvlaki, however, the prices of everything were rather inflated.

    5. If you are bringing kids, bring sand toys - Big A insisted she didn't want to bring any, but in the end, she was the one who spent most of the time using the pail and shovel Little A brought once she discovered all the fun and interesting things to do with them.

    Big A and I took a long walk down the beach together and collected some stones we thought were pretty.



    We will definitely be going back again!!

    Tuesday, July 2, 2013

    Chinese Stir Fried Green Beans

    Adam and I used to frequently go to a restaurant in China Town that we adored.  Unfortunately we never manage to get there anymore.  I don't know if there is much the girls would eat and frankly, we just don't go out for dinner much.



    One of our favorite dishes was their stir-fried green beans.  They were crazy good.  Any time we went there we ordered them and any friends we brought along always agreed with us that they were special.  Vegetables they may have been, but they were without doubt not the healthiest: oily, salty and, admittedly very delicious.  I remade them here trying to keep the fat and salt content down...at least compared to the restaurant version.  Given how simple and easy these are to make, and, of course, how delicious, you gotta try these.

    Chinese Stir Fried Green Beans

    1 lb fresh or frozen green beans
    2 tbls low sodium soy sauce/tamari/coconut aminos
    1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
    2-3 cloves garlic, minced
    Crushed red chilis, to taste
    Additional salt, to taste

    Whisk together soy, oil and seasonings.  Add beans and sauce to a hot skillet or wok and stir fry until beans are tender crisp.

    Monday, July 1, 2013

    Hot Weather Fun

    SummerBucketList

    If you read this blog even occasionally than chances are you know I hate the summer.  Yes, HATE it.  I can't stand hot weather and just want to hide in the a/c and drink beer which doesn't jive well with my love of healthy living.  I like being out and being active but when the thermometer goes above 20C I start getting grumpy.

    In any case, now that I have kids I feel an obligation to participate in summer.  After all, while they don't love the heat much themselves, they are more than happy to put up with it if there is water, rides or fun activities involved.  And I don't want to deprive them of fun.

    The good news is that the Toronto area has tons to do.  We already visited Wild Water Kingdom this year, which is now a favorite of ours.  Even I can tolerate that place on a hot day since there are endless ways to cool down.  But it's really pricey.  So I was thrilled when I recently read about a water park called Kids Town in Scarborough, run by the city and virtually free.  We are definitely going to check it out this summer!

    I really wanted to get the girls to the Family Pride events, which were held this past weekend, but it never happened because we had too many things going on already (my nephew's birthday party on Saturday, cleaning up around the house, a fun playdate at Christie Pits on Saturday).  So that's on the list for next year for sure.

    Ribfest was also held this weekend, but we skipped it.  Sorry, all I remember from last year was how freakin' hot it was and how there was NO SHADE OR SHELTER.  I tried to be a good sport but I was miserable.

    Adam is taking a day off a week for part of the summer so he's already taken Little A to Wonderland (he is taking Big A in a few weeks) and both girls to Waves Water Park in Niagara Falls (which is year round so also good for any weather).

    We are planning to take the girls to Woodbine Beach today but we'll have to see what the weather has in store.  It is such a beautiful beach and I recently realized I have only been there once in all the years I've lived in Toronto and we've never taken the girls.  In fact, they have not yet been to a beach!  When we go to Florida we're always in Orlando where there are no beaches.  Q107 Radio is also having a big Canada Day celebration there today, which sounds like fun, so hopefully we can go later today.  The hot weather is much more tolerable for me if I'm around water, but even then I don't like to be out too long because I get anxious being in the sun for too long (even with a hat, sunglasses and sunblock on). 

    I also found a discount for Shriner's Circus tickets so Adam and I are  taking the girls in a few weeks.  I can't remember the last time I went to a circus and this would also be a first for the girls.  Bonus for me is that it's under a tent, and, therefore, I am hoping, not too hot.

    As per our annual ritual, we are also taking the girls to the Ex at the end of August.  They love it so much, they talk about it the entire year.  This year, however, I get a treat.  Normally I take them myself because Adam has to work, but this time Adam has booked the day off well in advance so we can all go.  Hurray!

    Whatever you are doing and where ever you are, I hope all you Canadians are having a fabulous Canada Day!!