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Monday, September 30, 2013

Victor-y-ia!

Good morning! I made it through the trials and tribulations of airline travel this weekend.  The trip there was pretty stressful for me...making all my connections was a little too close for comfort given that I like to have some buffer time.

The conference was great, and Victoria, is indeed, beautiful!  The waterfront is the gem of the city for obvious reasons, and what struck me the most is how lush it is: the emerald green grass everywhere looks and feels like velvet.  Oh, and the redwood trees...amazing!  The huge one in front of the parliament buildings is spectacular. 

Unfortunately, it POURED all day Saturday.  I really didn't do much of anything because literally a few minutes outside and, even with an umbrella, I got soaked.  I went through all of my socks and had to actually stop in a store and buy more!  Even then, I think my feet were wet all day.

But the hotel was awesome and I treated myself well.  On Friday, I was so tired and hungry after the conference, I ordered pizza from this place:


Eat in l Take Out l Delivery

It was so awesome!  Lots of vegan options too.

After getting so darn wet and soggy, I also indulged in a massage at the Spa Magnolia.  Okay, if you ever go to Victoria, you seriously have to pay this place a visit.  It was exquisite!!  This is the gorgeous lounge you can relax in before and after your treatments:

photo8
I also had a lovely encounter on the plane on the way home which I'll share later.  I hope one day I can bring the family and we can visit Victoria in better weather.  There are lots of museums and sites I didn't get to see.  But I am grateful I had the chance to go and I even feel rejuvenated having slept a lot, and well, the whole trip. 

Have a happy Monday!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Flying Solo


Image source

Tomorrow I leave for the CFAS conference in Victoria.  I am both excited and nervous.  Excited because it's always a good conference, and I have never been to lovely Victoria, and nervous because I hate flying.  This trip will really test my limits with flying too.  First there is the 6 hour flight between Toronto and Vancouver, and this is about the maximum duration for a flight I can withstand, and then there is a short flight between Vancouver and Victoria, which, I am assuming, will be on a very small plane vulnerable to turbulence.  Because I am mildly claustrophobic, hate turbulence and get motion sickness (and occasionally experience severe ear pain and temporary hearing loss), flying is never pleasant for me.

I am just trying to focus on how nice it will be once I get there...except that the weather report is calling for rain for the entire trip.  Sigh.

The conference hotel is way too expensive for me, so a friend recommended this one.  It looks beautiful, and as a bonus, it's suites, which means I can prepare some meals in my room and save even more money.  You can bet I'll be scoping out the Saturday farmer's market there to see what awesome local produce I can try!!

I am also someone who needs a very consistent bedtime routine and the time change over such a short trip will very likely mess me up.  Oh well, we have to make sacrifices for things we want sometimes.

The girls couldn't be more excited about me going away.  It's usually Adam who goes away and the idea of having daddy all to themselves for the whole weekend just thrills them.

I'm offline tomorrow, so have a healthy weekend and I'll be back next week.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Green (Tea) Your Life

I'm assuming you've heard something by now about the health benefits of green tea?

If not, let me fill you in: It's chock-full of anti-oxidants and there is evidence that it is anti-carcinogenic (can prevent cancer), can lower cholesterol, decrease the risk of Alzheimer's disease, and even aid with fat loss.  In short, it's a health and nutritional superstar.

But not everyone likes the taste.  To be honest, it's not my favorite tea, especially plain varieties.  But I am not a big tea drinker.  Not because I don't like it, but I'm not fond of iced tea and I cannot drink hot tea unless it's well below freezing.  I am already too hot blooded and it just makes me sweat.

A few months ago, however, I decided I needed to get more green tea into my diet.  I had heard of one health expert who puts a green tea bag into his coffee every morning.  Clever but not for me.  I decided to add it to my breakfast oatmeal instead.

Wait, before you turn up your nose, let me explain.  I buy the spiced Chai varieties, like this one (admittedly there may be greater health benefits in the caffeinated varieties):


I take a few teaspoons of chia seeds and a teabag and fill up a bowl with boiling water and let the tea steep and the chia seeds soak.  Then I use this as the cooking liquid for my oats, along with ground cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla stevia and a pinch of salt.  Yummy!

Of course, if you too don't love green tea, there are other ways to get it in your diet.  There are green tea supplements but they are crazy expensive.  You can also bake with it, make puddings, ice cream, use iced green tea as a base for smoothies, use it as a marinade for tofu or meat...really you just have to use your imagination.  But I love that I have found a way to consume it everyday that I also enjoy.

Drink up!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

DVD Review: Rodney Yee's Power Yoga Collection



So, I was really disappointed in this DVD.

Ironically, even after trying all these new yoga routines, my favorite is still my Flow Yoga: Strength and Flexibility DVD.  I'll explain why a little later.



I had heard such good things about Rodney Yee and the reviews of this DVD were stellar.  My experience with power yoga is that it is a fairly fast-paced, asthanga-based practice, so I expected these routines to be fairly challenging, which is what I was looking for, since originally I had planned to start doing yoga first thing in the morning.

I really didn't find any of these routines to be challenging at all!  Here is what I thought of the 3 routines:

1.Yoga Burn is actually so slow paced it made me feel like it was a yoga-tae chi hybrid.  Definitely requires focus to keep your movements so slow, but I found this routine much better suited for someone looking for a meditative, spiritual practice than someone looking for something at all athletic.

2. Total Body Power Yoga was a fairly basic, intermediate level practice at best and was just okay...again, fell way below my expectations.  Way too much forward bending for me...my hamstrings felt overstretched at the end.

3.  Yoga Conditioning for Athletes was the one I was most excited to try.  Again, somewhat disappointing.  I was totally weirded out by the first part being done seated on a chair...that's a first for me in yoga!  But in the end it was pretty neat.  The chair is used as a prop with some pretty basic lower body stretches.  We don't have an appropriate chair, but I was able to use our futon in our rec room for it just fine.  Again, I wouldn't call this a super advanced routine, but it is a decent stretch.  This one too, focused on too much forward bending and groin stretching for my liking.

Honestly, nothing I have found out there yet compares to my Flow Yoga DVD.  It is an awesome value because it has so many customizable routines, and I the teacher provides a lot of detailed instruction about breathing, positioning and where to put your weight, which is really important in any yoga class, but even more so for those of us practicing at home without the benefit of a live instructor to correct our postures and technique. It's the ideal pace for me, and perfectly balanced between being physically challenging and restorative.  I always feel both physically and psychologically refreshed afterwards. The setting is serene and the end of the cool down segment has a nice meditation.  I also love that you can pick and choose between so many different routines which focus on different things.  The general practice and hip routines are my favorites.  The only thing that isn't fabulous is the background music, but its relatively benign.   I'll use my new DVDs here and there to get some more variety, but I highly recommend the Flow Yoga DVD, it rocks!



Monday, September 23, 2013

Ripple Effect: Second Skin Cream Review

 

Well hello Monday morning!  Despite Adam being in Halifax for a conference and lots of rain, it was a pretty good weekend.  Friday my mother-in-law made a birthday dinner for me.  Here's a pic of Big A and I.


Saturday Big A had a morning playdate, so Little A and I went to the mall.  We got her a Halloween costume (not the monarch butterfly one I wanted her to get, but a pink and green fairy get-up), had sushi and then all of us went to my brother's place to give my niece her birthday gifts, and see my parents who were visiting.

Saturday night, my in-laws generously took the girls for a sleepover and I got lots of house stuff done.  Sunday morning I taught my spinning class while they were in Hebrew School, then I took the girls out for lunch before dropping them off for their monthly yoga camp.  Adam, thankfully came home Sunday evening.

The only real challenge was refereeing the girls, who are fighting non-stop lately.  I have now told them that if they fight and bicker, they lose ALL television and electronics privileges for the entire day.  So far its working.

My excitement on Saturday night was having a mama racoon and her 4 babies scratching at my back door (they opened the screen but couldn't get through the glass door, thankfully).  I think they were hoping to get out of the rain!




So remember at the beginning of the summer I was sent some thigh smoothing cream to try?  I initially wrote the stuff off as a total crock, but was actually able to dig up a wee bit of scientific evidence supporting it's efficacy so I decided to give it a try.  I just finished the tube a full 2 and a bit months later.

I am sure you are dying to know the results, huh?

Well, I can't really comment on weather it improves the look of cellulite as I don't really have any.  Don't worry, let me reassure you that I have plenty of other imperfections!  But the cream is also supposed to "reduce thigh volume".  I've never had those stick-like super model thighs nor that gap between my thighs some women have.  They're muscular, for sure, but if I had to be nit picky, I'd say I'd be more than happy to have slimmer inner thighs. 

As directed, I used the cream 2x a day...at least whenever I remembered...and massaged it in.  The directions, however, did not specify exactly how much to use nor how long to massage it in no how long it usually takes to see results. But nothing about this experiment is at all scientific.

Anyways.  So comparing measurements, there seems to be perhaps a millimetre decrease in the circumference of the widest part of my thighs.  This could very well be measurement error, of course, but here you have it.

Will I buy this product?  Not a chance.  Do I recommend it?  I guess if you are doing everything you can do to minimize fat and cellulite in the thigh area through a healthy diet, adequate water consumption and regular exercise and you are still feeling very dissatisfied with the appearance of your thighs, AND you have $60 to spend every few months on this stuff, then go ahead.  Personally, I think most women could use that money for much more important things.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Gooey Chocolate Chip Squares (Gluten-free, Vegan + Refined Sugar-Free)


Ah it's been quite a crazy last few weeks.  Adam and I both have been very busy with work and the girls have been settling into school.  Little A has surprised us by transitioning very easily into kindergarten and a new daycare room.  Big A, unfortunately, is underwhelmed by school academically right now.  She was a grade 1 in a 1/2 split last year but is now a grade 2 in a 1/2 split and she is bored out of her mind.  It's early, so we're hoping things will improve, but Adam and I are quite concerned. 

We also have a lot of extracurriculars going on: Little started Hebrew school and Fitkids at the JCC, both are resuming swim lessons soon, and Big A is starting her Broadway Babes classes.  Big A also joined the Cross Country team, which we are thrilled about, however, this means I have to get us to the school by 8:15am 3 times a week and this has made the morning chaos even more chaotic.  Now that tv is banned in the mornings, the girls are glued to the Ipads/Ipod and after the fiasco we had Wednesday morning, we have now banned all electronics in the morning.

Packing lunches for both girls is also rather unpleasant, although it's going a bit better than expected.  For some reason, Little A only wants a hard boiled egg for her lunch, but I'm fine with that.  She is also good about eating whatever else is in her lunch, as long as its agreed upon ahead of time.

I've vowed to bake a healthy lunchbox treat for them on as regular a basis as I can manage.  The princess cookies are gone, so these are the current treat.

They are inspired by something made by my highschool cafeteria.  I was lucky enough to attend the beautiful KCVI .  Like most schools, the caf (as we called it), left much to be desired, with just a few exceptions: the chewy oatmeal raisin cookies the size of my head that I was partial to, and the chocolate chip squares, which were a favorite among most of my friends.  Even back then I was more of a sucker for the oatmeal-raisin-cinnamon type of treat, but my girls are, like their dad, chocoholics all the way.  So I made these yummers that are without doubt a whole lot healthier than KCVI's version.  In fact, while they taste decadent, they are actually packed with nutrition.

I used these beans, because they were the only small can of beans I had, but I recommend using chickpeas, because they taste less 'beany' and will give you a lighter coloured product.

Aduki Beans, Organic, BPA free lined can

I knew this recipe was a winner when I got home from work last evening and the first thing Little A said when I came in the door was, "Mama, you know those treats you put in our lunch boxes?  Can I have another one for dessert after dinner tonight?!?!"

Gooey Chocolate Chip Squares

1 small can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup oats (gluten-free, if necessary)
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 cup dates soaked in 1 cup boiling water
2 tbls lucuma powder (optional)
2 tbls sprouted chia seed powder (or golden flax meal)
1 dropper full of English Toffee or Vanilla stevia liquid
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup + 2 tbls chocolate chips (preferably sugar-free)

In a food processor, blend beans, oats, sugar, dates and soaking liquid until there are no chunks of bean or date.  Add remaining ingredients, except chips, and blend for about 15-20 seconds.  Stir in 1/2 cup chips.  Scrape batter into a greased 9x12 pan.  Sprinkle top with remaining 2 tbls of chips.  Bake at 350F for 30 minutes.  Let cool completely.  Cut into squares.  Keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.  Makes 24 squares.

Have a fabulous weekend! 

I have submitted this recipe to this week's Wellness Weekend and Gluten-Free Friday for October 4th.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mediterranean Pizza

 
Another dinner I treated myself to in honour of my birthday last weekend was this thing of beauty.  It turned out awesome, partly because I found some spelt pizza dough at Whole Foods that produced a perfect crisp, chewy crust.  These dough balls are also smaller than the ones I usually buy so I was able to roll the pizzas thinner and I didn't get the food coma/hangover the next day that I sometimes get when I make pizza (which might also have something to do with how much of it I eat!).  In addition, I used less cheese than usual and realized I didn't miss it a bit thanks to the fabulous, flavourful toppings.  Adam loved this pizza too so I think I'll definitely be making it again.

Other tasty additions, should you desire, would be artichokes, feta cheese and/or red onion.

Enough (whole grain) dough to make 2 large pizzas (use whatever homemade recipe or store bought dough you like)

Mediterranean Pizza

Sauce

1 can tomato paste
1 cup water
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
Crushed red chili flakes, to taste (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Toppings

1 300g box frozen, chopped spinach, thawed or 1 lb fresh baby spinach, chopped.
1 cup good quality black olives (kalamata or sundried are best)
1/2 cup julienned sundried tomatoes
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp dried oregano

200g shredded low fat mozzarella or non-dairy cheese of choice

Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a small sauce pan.  Simmer for a few minutes over low heat until thickened.  Remove from heat.

Saute topping ingredients in a skillet over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Spray your pizza pans (if using) with non-stick spray and sprinkle with cornmeal.  Roll out your dough to desired shape, size and thickness.  Spread sauce over entire surface of the dough, sprinkle with cheese and then divide toppings and make an even layer on top of cheese.  If using regular pizza pans (not a pizza stone), bake in oven at 500F for about 25 minutes, rotating pizzas from top to bottom racks half way through.  Makes 2 large pizzas.  Refrigerate leftovers for up to 4 days or freeze.
 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sweet Potato Chickpea Roti

 


I didn't get around to making myself a cake for my birthday this year, or any sort of sweet treat for that matter.  I think it's because it was a Wednesday and it's been super busy around here, or maybe because I just haven't really been in the mood.  But when I started to think about what I was in the mood for, one of the things that jumped into my head was sweet potato chickpea roti.

 I never said I have a normal head!

I might be a weirdo (or so my family tells me all the time) but sometimes I do come up with some pretty stellar recipes and this one is definitely a winner.  Sweet, tangy, savoury and - if you want - spicy.  Even my meat-and-potato-loving husband loved this dish.  And really, what is there not to love??

If you don't want roti, you can serve this as a curry as is or over a grain such as brown rice, quinoa or millet.

Sweet Potato Chickpea Roti

2 large sweet potatoes, roasted and peeled
1 onion, diced
1/2 head of green cabbage, chopped
2 tbls fresh ginger, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Caribbean hot sauce, to taste (optional)
1 tbls mild or spicy curry powder
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cup green peas (fresh or frozen)
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas)
1 can coconut light coconut milk

Whole grainor gluten-free wraps, tortillas or roti skins

Saute onion, cabbage, ginger, garlic and spices in the vinegar until veggies have softened.  Add peas, chickpeas and coconut milk and stir in sweet potato.  Let simmer until sweet potato melts into the sauce.  Stuff desired amount of curry into tortilla or roti skin and fold.  Leftovers can be refrigerated for 3-4 days or frozen.



P.S. I know the roti in the top photo are not folded in the authentic way...I do this intentionally so I can stuff as much filling in as possible...and then add more on top.  But feel free to be a little more judicious with your portions ;)       

This recipe has been entered in Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday for this week and Wellness Weekend for the first weekend of October.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Cranberry Peach Crumble Pie (Refined sugar-free)


Saturday Adam and I were both feeling crappy and grumpy.  Adam because he was fasting for Yom Kippur, me because Little A woke me in the middle of the night...she had to pee, but she can do that on her own, so not sure what the deal was...then she made me put her back into her bed and when I did, she began screaming.  About what, I have no idea, I wasn't fully conscious.  But the interrupted sleep made me feel tired and headachy.  Grrr!

Unfortunately, I had promised Little A we would make a pie.  Why?  Because she asked and I try to be a good mom.  I actually hate pie.  I've never understood the appeal.  The fillings can be good, but the unhealthiest, yuckiest part - the crust, is also the hardest-to-make part.  I don't love making pastry and I don't even own a proper pie plate.  But she asked.  Why she asked, I frankly have no idea, although I think it's because Big A's daycare class made mini apple pies with the leftover apples and honey I gave her to share with everyone.  She's become the go-to kid in the daycare to share the Jewish traditions at each major holiday.

So make a pie we did, however, we made a peach one because I had a 1 lb bag of frozen peaches in the freezer to use up.

Given my lack of enthusiasm about pie, I didn't spend a whole lot of time researching pastry recipes.  Instead, I found a supposedly no-fail recipe online and modified it.  It kind of failed.  It turned out tasty enough, but it was crumbly, so after I rolled it out, it totally fell to pieces as I tried to transfer it to the pan.  I ended up having to press the dough into the springform pan (which I had to use instead of a real pie plate) as you would a crumb crust.  But it worked well enough and tasted great.  In any case, I'm sharing the recipe I used, but feel free to sub your own favorite pastry recipe.

Despite my lack of appreciation of pie, the other 3 members of this family happily gobbled up this baby in record time.

Cranberry Peach Crumble Pie (Refined sugar-free)

Pastry

3 cups whole grain kamut flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup cold Earth Balance
5 tbls ice water
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp cider vinegar
2 tbls xylitol

Filling

1 lb frozen peach slices (or 2 lb fresh peaches, washed, peeled, pitted and sliced)
1/4 cup dried cranberries (preferably juice sweetened)
2 tbls coconut sugar
2 tbls arrowroot starch
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Crumble Topping

2 cups large flake oats
2 tbls whole grain kamut flour
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/3 cup coconut oil or Earth Balance, softened

Cut together flour, Earth Balance, and salt until it resembles small peas.  Combine the egg, water and vinegar and gradually add to flour mixture.  Stir just until moistened and a soft dough forms. Divide into 2 disks.  Wrap and freeze 1 of the disks, and refrigerate the other one until ready to use.  Roll out to desired thinness on parchment paper and then transfer to pie plate and press into bottom and up the sides. 

Toss filling ingredients together in a large bowl and fill pastry shell. 

Use a fork (or your hands) and combine topping ingredients until ingredients are well combined.  Sprinkle evenly over pie filling, right to edges of the crust.

Bake at 375F for 45 minutes.  Cover top with foil if it is browning to quickly and bake for another 10 minutes.  Let cool and serve.  Keep covered in air tight container in the fridge for 5-6 days or freeze.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Bob Harper's Yoga for the Warrior: DVD Review



Good morning!  If the thought of starting another work/school week has your blood pressure skyrocketing, perhaps you need a bit of yoga in your life?

I recently treated myself to a few new yoga DVDs.  The first one I will review for you is Bob Harper's Yoga for the Warrior.

I abhor The Biggest Loser, but I've heard so many good things about Harper's DVDs, that I decided to give it a try.  And, hey, I'm a warrior, so I figured this DVD would be perfect for me. Of course I cringe when I see yoga called a 'weight-loss workout', but I tried to keep an open mind.

The DVD has a 60 minute yoga routine and a 15 minute core workout.  It's a decent non-traditional yoga workout that is kind of a fusion of hatha, ashtanga and flow.  As for being a weight-loss workout?  Ha!  Honestly, I would say this is an intermediate yoga DVD at best.  You do have to know what you are doing because he doesn't give a ton of detailed direction in terms of breathing or positioning, but I didn't find it strenuous at all.  Despite what the cover says, I didn't sweat much and I wore my heart rate monitor just to see and I didn't get into my target heart rate zone even for a minute.  Perhaps for someone less conditioned than I this would be more of a workout, but it's still yoga.  After a few weeks, even a less fit person would probably need more of a challenge.

I like the routine, so I'll still keep it in rotation but I remain steadfast in my belief that yoga is NOT a cardio workout and it is not a very efficient activity for weight loss purposes.  Do it for overall mind-body health and wellness as it is intended!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Holiday Honey Cake


Today is the first time the weather has actually felt autumn-like and while others are whining about the cooler temps, I'm dancing with joy.  The start of my favorite season!!

Okay, I know Rosh Hashana is over, and, in fact, Yom Kippur starts tonight.  But this deliciousness doesn't have to be eaten ONLY on Rosh Hashana, or Yom Kippur, for that matter.  If you ask me, it's a great treat any time of year!

I may love a lot of healthy foods; I'd rank oatmeal, chickpeas and brown rice up there as some of my all-time favorites, but I like some pretty sweet things too.  I have a weakness for honey and maple syrup, in particular.  So the traditional Rosh Hashana honey cake has always been something I've enjoyed.

Now everyone's family seems to have their own recipe with a particular thing that makes it unique: apples, raisins, nuts, orange peel, coffee, etc.  But I kept it pretty simple this year as I was making it for a holiday get-together this past Sunday with friends, and I wanted it to appeal to as many folks as possible...and still make it as healthy as I could without anyone noticing.  It turned out fabulously delicious, if I do say so myself!  Of course, you could take this recipe and dress it up with all your must-have mix-ins. 

Honey Cake

28 oz jar apple sauce
2 eggs
1 cup honey
1 cup coconut sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2.5 cups whole grain spelt, kamut or whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground allspice

Glaze

2 tbls coconut butter
1/3 cup honey

Whisk together apple sauce, eggs, honey, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl.  Sift together dry ingredients and gently fold into wet.  Scrape batter into a greased bundt pan and bake at 375F for 55 minutes.  Cover with foil after the first 25 minutes to prevent over-browning.  Let cool completely and then remove from pan.

For the glaze, melt butter and honey together over medium heat.  Drizzle over cake.  Keep in airtight container for 3-4 days.  Freezes well.

Week one of my new strength-based fitness routine has gone great.  I feel awesome, and once again, I wake up every morning excited for my workouts and feeling energized for the rest of the day.  Good thing too, because with the holiday this weekend and various social commitments and errands we have to do, this weekend is going to be jam-packed.  Have a good one!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Roasted Jicama Chips (Oil-Free)


It's weird, but a few weeks ago was the first time I have ever found jicama in Toronto.  I know it must be available all the time, but I could never find it.  I swear, I have checked a million markets and grocery stores and never seen it.

So I was super excited when I found they had it at Fiesta Farms.  Unfortunately, there was only one left and it was gigantic.  Like I mean, crazy, ridiculously huge.  I took up to the cashier and asked her to weigh it.  It was almost 8 lbs and $14!  I decided that was a little insane and left empty handed and very disappointed.

A few days later, I was in Loblaws and spied some.  No wonder I never noticed them before, there was no signage and the few that were there were buried under some squash and root veggies.  I grabbed 2 small ones and danced happily up to the cash to pay.  Finally! 

For the uninitiated, jicama is a Mexican turnip that can be eaten either raw or cooked.  It is low in calories, but high in fibre, vitamins and minerals. 

I have had jicama raw in salads, but have been wanting to try it roasted.  So roast it I did!  I made it as one of the side dishes I brought  to my in-laws on Labour Day for my father-in-law's birthday dinner.  It has a very mild flavour so you can really season it any way you want.  I used my homemade creole seasoning.  Absolutely delish, and a great accompaniment to our bbq dinner.

Roasted jicama chips

1 lb roasted jicama, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp creole seasoning (or whatever seasonings you prefer)

Toss sliced jicama with vinegar and seasoning.  Arrange on a single layer on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Roast at 350F for 25-30 minutes.

I have shared this recipe with this week's Wellness Weekend on Diet, Dessert & Dogs.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me!


So.  Today is my birthday.  My last birthday before I turn the big 4-0.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that age has become...well, a 'concern'.

It's silly really because I am much happier and more fulfilled than I was in my 20s and the early part of my 30s for sure.  Maybe just as stressed...but definitely more content.

One of the most important things I have learned as I have grown older is the infinite amount of things I still have to learn. 

As Socates said, "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."

I believe that really acknowledging this and experiencing this reality has made me more open to taking risks and, well, wiser.  While this seemed frustrating and overwhelming to me as a kid when I first heard this quote, I now see it as exciting.  Every day - even routine days - are an adventure.

I realized yesterday that probably for the first time in my life, I am truly exactly where I want to be.  In my early 20s I spent a lot of time in dead end relationships and a career track that made me miserable.  Much of my late 20s and 30s was in school lacking direction, stuck in the same dreaded career path, and dealing with miscarriage/infertility. 

When I started this blog, I was already blessed with my wonderful husband and children, but had given up my former career path to go back to school YET AGAIN for my 3rd graduate degree to become an infertility counsellor.  It was exciting but scary and somewhat frustrating to be starting over at square one.

The past year since I started my practice has definitely been challenging.  I am not a natural born entrepreneur and I have an even harder time getting into a 'selling/marketing' mentality when I work in a helping profession.  The two seem at odds with one another.  I also don't deal with financial uncertainty very well and there is lots of this when you are self-employed. 

But things with my business have gradually developed and flourished and it struck me recently that I've been so busy with my new career, I haven't been able to fully appreciate just how great things are.  For a long time I never thought I would be able to say I was someone who loves what they do and can be successful at it.  And now here I am!

I have worked hard, but I also owe a lot of people thanks.  All the doctors who refer to me, all the mentors who have given me valuable advise, and, of course, my family (especially Adam) who has supported me 100% in this even though it involved giving up a good salary, going back to school AGAIN for 2 years, and making much less money than I used to make, with no guarantees of how much I will make ever again.  Lucky for me I have a husband who believes my happiness is a priority.

So as much as I hate the added aches and pains (and wrinkles between my eye brows) that come with aging, I have to say that with age has come some degree of spiritual enlightenment, which I think will only continue as I get older and wiser, as well as the attainment of most of my life dreams.  As I have gotten older I have gotten luckier and luckier.

So on my final birthday I am celebrating in my 30s, I express thanks and gratitude.

Oh, and by the way, I still don't have a single grey hair.  Ha!



I'll save you all my diatribe about the horrendous hot, humid weather we're having right now and instead focus on the positive and say that I am grateful it is supposed to end by tomorrow>

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Maple Roasted Root Vegetables

 
I have been suffering through this terrible cold that Adam was generous enough to share with me.  It really flattened me.  I developed laryngitis, which is always really convenient when you work as a therapist.  But that was nothing compared to the really really really sore throat I had for the first day.  That sucked.  The congestion isn't much fun either.  Fortunately I finally feel significantly better this week but I am still really congested.

Anyways, this cold is my excuse for not getting this Rosh Hashana recipe up until today.  Adam and my mother-in-law were particularly complimentary about this dish, but then we all tend to love root veggies.  Really, how can you not love them, when you roast them, they practically taste like candy! I am particularly fond of parsnips and should really make them more often.

Oh well, better late than never.  This dish doesn't just have to be for Rosh Hashana, of course, frankly I think it's good any day.

1 lb baby carrots
2 lbs parsnips, washed, peeled and cut into same size as carrots
2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into sticks about the same size as carrots and parsnips
1 tsp pure maple extract (or 1 tbls honey or dark maple syrup)
1 tsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Grating fresh nutmeg

Toss veggies with other ingredients and spread in single layer on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets.   Roast in the oven for 40 minutes at 425F, rotating baking sheets, top to bottom rack, halfway through.  Keep refrigerated for up to 4 days or freeze.
 
 
This recipe was submitted to Diet, Dessert & Dogs' Wellness Weekend.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Hanging Up My Crown



Hello Monday!  How did you start your week?  I started mine the same as I always do: with a workout.  In fact, that's pretty much how I start every day.

I firmly believe we need to move our bodies in some way every day.  For me, it has to be first thing in the morning or I feel weird and fuzzy-headed...although after a few vodka drinks and a dance party this past Saturday night, I still felt a bit fuzzy headed after my spinning class Sunday morning.  Funny thing...

While my love of fitness never waivers, recently I've begun experimenting and changing things up a bit.

Although I may never become a Crossfitter, I like a lot of things about this grassroots fitness movement. For one, it fosters community.  A supportive social network is key to adhering to an exercise routine.  Second, it focuses on strength and fitness rather than physique.  Even for women, the mantra that defines it is, "Strong is the new skinny."  I love that!

I think it is really important for women to be physically strong.  It's good for personal safety.  It's useful for everyday living (picking up children, pushing a stroller, hauling groceries, moving around furniture, etc.).  It's great for confidence and self-esteem.  It's really empowering to be strong.

I didn't come to it in my fitness journey right away.  Like many women, particularly back in the 80s and 90s, I was a typical cardio queen.  Aside from whatever strength training I did in my fitness classes I taught, I didn't spend much time in the weight room.

Around the time I met Adam (in 2000), I was ready to change that.  Adam, who had been lifting weights since he was 13 years old, gave me my first strength training program.  The rest is history.  I fell in love, fully embraced strength training, and two years later got my personal training certification. 

I took up yoga a few years before that in 1998 and have always loved it, however, I have always prioritized cardio over my yoga practice so I haven't been consistent with it.



I still love my cardio.  The only problem is, as I head toward 39 (my birthday is in less than 2 weeks!!), my body is changing.  No matter what I do for cardio, I feel incredibly tight after.  The foam roller has become a necessity.  For the first time in my life, when I wake up on my cardio days, I don't feel like doing it.  It must be age because Adam also is feeling a lot more wear and tear from his workouts and, as he frequently reminds me, he's 2 years younger than I am.  He's even got the girls teasing me about my age!

I have been trying to fit in a few yoga sessions every week, but work has been so busy, it has been next to impossible lately.  So I have decided to try something completely different. My initial plan was to give up 3 of my cardio workouts every week and replace them with yoga.  If, like me, you are a cardio queen (or king), than you know what a big deal this is.  It's a total change of pace...literally!

I thought my mind and body need yoga more than the cardio right now.  I was really curious to see what would happen.  Will this help me manage stress better?  Will I have less muscle tightness?  Will my performance improve on the days that I do cardio or strength training? Will I become completely zen, find nirvana? Or would I go bonkers? I had fantasies of floating around in a state of bliss and finally being able to tie my body up into a pretzel.

So last week I replaced 3 of my cardio workouts with yoga.  To my surprise, all this yoga turned out not to be a good fit for me.  First off, I had TOO MUCH energy all day, so much so, that my mojo was still running high at 10pm and I had difficulty sleeping.  Also, I remembered why I moved away from yoga for a long time and moved to the foam roller: my hamstrings are sensitive to too much deep stretching and all the forward bends left my hamstrings tender for the rest of the day, and not in a good way!

I guess the positives were that since I had a bad cold last week, I gave my body the rest it probably needed.  Also, I purchased a few new yoga DVDs and I like them, so I will add them to my roster for the days I am lucky enough to fit in a practice (I'll try again for 1-2 times per week).  Oh well, I never really liked Lululemon anyways.

So am I going back to my cardio workouts?  Nope.  New plan: After figuring out that strength training is both what I enjoy, what makes me feel best and what fits my priorities the most, I am going to go to a split training schedule.  Right now I've been doing a total body strength training routine 3x week.  Now I am going to do arms and legs 3x week and back, chest and shoulders 2x week.  To get a bit of cardio in, I'll do some skipping or plyo exercises on my arm/leg days (the days that used to be my cardio days).  So here is what my old routine looked like:

Mon - Cardio + abs
Tues - Strength training (full body)
Wed - Cardio + abs
Thurs - Strength training (full body)
Fri - Cardio + abs
Sat - DVD (Insanity, etc.)
Sun - Strength training (full body) + teach spin class

Here is what my new routine looks like:

Mon - Core
Tues - Chest, back and shoulders
Wed - Arms and legs
Thurs - Chest, back and shoulders
Fri - Arms and legs
Sat - DVD (Insanity, etc.)
Sun - Strength training (full body) + teach spin class

So far so good but this morning was only day 1, so I'll keep you posted on how it goes.  Oh, and as promised, I will eventually get around to posting a review of my Asylum DVDs.  I also have some new yoga DVDs to review.

This morning I dug out my Jillian Michaels Six Pack Abs DVD.  I had so much fun!  And that, my friends, is the most important thing here. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Snap Pea & Grape Tomato Pesto Salad


Well, we made it through the first week of school here.  So far, so good.  It's gone relatively smoothly, but I'm still glad the weekend is here.  I thought I'd share another recipe with you today.

This dish is a creation I made for my father-in-law's birthday bbq last weekend.  Most of the time I would make my own pesto, but we had a busy weekend, so I picked up a container of Sunflower Kitchen's basil pesto.  It's gluten-free, nut-free and vegan (I can't bring something with dairy to Adam's parents' house if we are eating a meal with meat).  Mixed with just a bit of white wine vinegar, it made the perfect dressing for this yummy salad.



Snap Pea & Grape Tomato Pesto Salad

1 lb snap peas, trimmed and cut
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
2 tbls homemade or store bought basil pesto
2 tbls white wine vinegar

Whisk together pesto and white wine vinegar in a serving bowl.  Add veggies and toss. 

I have shared this recipe with Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Speedy Pineapple, Roasted Veggie & Black Bean Chili


Shana Tova!  Happy New Year to everyone celebrating Rosh Hashana today!  We are attending the new shul we joined today for the first time and we're all excited.  For me, it's just exciting to be part of a community.

It's finally starting to cool down a wee bit, and I couldn't be happier.  Soon - hopefully - it will feel more like autumn, my favorite season, than summer.  And with the cooler temps comes lots of my favorite comfort foods.  One of my favorites is chili.  This is a new spin on a vegetarian chili I recently came up with and its a winner.  It's also super quick to make.

I left everything chunky because I like it that way, but you can go the more traditional route and dice everything up in small pieces.  It's delicious on its own, but I love it best served over brown rice or quinoa.

Speedy Pineapple, Roasted Veggie & Black Bean Chili

1 tsp olive oil
4 zucchini, cut into strips or diced
4 bell peppers, cut into strips or diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin

1 540ml jar pineapple chunks in juice (or 1 peeled, cored pineapple, cut into chunks)
1 red onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup cider vinegar
Jalapeno pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups cooked beans)
1/2 cup of your favorite homemade or store bought salsa
1 can tomato paste

Toss veggies with oil and spices.  Place on foil-lined baking sheets and roast at 350F for 30 minutes.

Saute onion and garlic in vinegar, along with pineapple and juice.  When onion is soft and much of the liquid is absorbed, add remaining ingredients and turn heat down to medium low.  Stir in roasted veggies and simmer everything together for about 20 minutes.  Serve over rice, quinoa or millet.  Serves 4-6 as a main.  Leftovers can be frozen.

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

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Cranberry Chocolate Chunk Princess Cookies (Gluten-free, Sugar-free & Vegan)


Today is Little A's first official day of school!  I think I'm more nervous than she is.  Unfortunately, it hasn't exactly been a smooth morning so far: the girls have been fighting like crazy.  Fortunately, they've been fed and their lunches have been made.  This week they include a little treat: these cute cookies.

This past Friday night, Big A slept over at my in-laws, so I figured I would have a blessedly easy Saturday morning: One kid, no fights to break up, and perhaps a little extra time to myself since Little A tends to sleep later than her sister.  Ha!

Little A ended up waking up at 5:15am and told me she wanted to bake cookies. I agreed, but said she needed to get a bit more sleep.  Come 6:20am she was up for good.  Sigh!

So make cookies we did.  Since she started kindergarten this week, I thought it appropriate to make the girls a healthy treat they could have in their lunch boxes.  Both girls love chocolate, of course, but Little A also adores dried cranberries.  She can eat vast quantities, and we often need to put on the breaks before she eats so many her colon explodes.  So she was very excited about this flavour combo.  She also insisted on topping them with pink sprinkles and in a rare show of agreeability to such things, I acquiesced.  I don't know where this kid gets her whole pink princess infatuation.  I was never into that stuff and frankly it offends my feminist sensibilities.  Oh well, although her first choice for what she wants to be when she grows up is a queen, her back up plan is to be a dentist.  I'm cool with that.

Cranberry Chocolate Chunk Princess Cookies (Gluten-free, Sugar-free & Vegan)

3/4 cup coconut oil, softened
2 flax eggs (2 tbls ground flax + 6 tbls hot water)
1/2 cup stevia baking blend or coconut sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups large flake oats (gluten-free, if necessary)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
100g sugar-free, vegan chocolate, chopped (or 1/2 cup chopped chocolate bar or chocolate chips of choice)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (preferably juice-sweetened)
Optional: Pink sprinkles (see below)*

Throw oil, eggs, sweetener, cocoa, and vanilla in food processor and pulse until smooth.  Add dry ingredients and pulse until cookie dough comes together.  Add chocolate and pulse to break up big chunks. Stir in cranberries.  Roll into balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Flatten slightly and top with sprinkles, if using.

Bake at 350F for 12 minutes.  Let cool completely before removing from pan.  Store in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.  Makes 20 cookies.


*You can either buy naturally coloured sprinkles (available at most health food stores), or make your own by tossing 1/4 cup xylitol or erythritol with a drop or 2 of natural food colouring (available online or at Whole Foods in the U.S.).  

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

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Crafty Dinner: Instant Vegan Mac & Cheez



And a new school year begins...

Today is Big A's first day of grade 2!  Little A doesn't start kindergarten until tomorrow.  Although I am proud and excited to have them both in school, like most parents I am dreading having to pack their lunches.  Doing it for 1 kid was bad enough, 2 might just give me a nervous breakdown.

Yesterday I asked Big A what she wanted for her first lunch and she said pasta.  Now she's asked for hot lunches before (spaghetti, pasta, soup, etc.) and doesn't have a great track record.  Most of it usually comes home untouched.  So I wasn't wild about the idea of spending a whole lot of time whipping something up that was most likely to end up in the garbage.  The result is this recipe, which isn't really a recipe, because its so darn fast and easy, but the result is a pretty healthy dish that both of the girls love. 

If your kids like the taste of nutritional yeast, like mine do, then they will enjoy this.  If they are more adventurous, you can add more seasonings and spices such as paprika, garlic, mustard, etc.  If they don't abhor eating green things, you can even throw in some vegetables!  Really this is so simple, you'll never go back to the boxed kind.

Crafty Dinner: Instant Vegan Mac & Cheez

1/4 lb whole grain or gluten-free pasta
1/2 cup vegan margarine or butter substitute
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
Seasonings, to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.  Stir in remaining ingredients until sauce is smooth.  Keep leftovers refrigerated for 3-4 days.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Happy Labour Day



I can't believe summer is over!  It's the start of a very exciting new year:  Big A starts grade 2 tomorrow, Little A starts kindergarten on Wednesday, and Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year begins on Thursday!!

We're still enjoying the long weekend, I'll be back tomorrow so stay tuned. Have a happy Labour Day!