Thursday, July 31, 2014

Notuna Salad

I love I super love them.  So the idea of making a mock tuna salad with them is very appealing to me.   No it doesn't taste like tuna, it tastes like chickpeas, but I'm good with that.  I had seriously been craving chickpea salad and then when I saw the one they had at Yamchops, I knew I had to make my own.  Voila! It made a very nice couple of lunches for me, rolled up into whole grain wraps with a cucumber salad on the side.  Delish.

Notuna Salad

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas), smashed with potato masher
2 large or 4 small stalks celery, finely chopped
2 green onions, chopped
2 tbls dill pickles, finely chopped
1/4 cup vegan mayo
1 tsp dried, or 1 tbls fresh, chopped dill
Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients.  Eat.  Refrigerate for up to 4 days.

I have submitted this recipe to Urban Naturale's Pot-Luck Party Link-Up and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Warrier Woman

My amazing friend completed her radiation treatment yesterday.  I had the honour of taking her to the hospital for her 2 final treatments.  That's 3 rounds of chemo down, 25 straight days of radiation, and possibly 3 more rounds of chemo to go.  Yes, that's what she has to get through after they found her stage 2 ovarian cancer last December.

Please don't forget that you can still help me and my team raise money for Princess Margaret Hospital's Weekend to End Women's Cancers.  Please follow this link to donate.  Thank you!!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Therapy Ball Workbook: Book Review

Do you have balls? How big are they?  Are they rough or smooth?  Firm or squishy?

It seems balls are all the rage in fitness, movement and physical therapy these days.  Everything from tiny acupressure balls to ginormous stability balls.

We have quite a few balls in our house alone.  A big stability ball, a medium stability ball, a soccer-ball sized squishy pilates ball, two very small firm pilates balls and one acupressure ball.  Whew!

But hey, balls are awesome.  That's why I was happy to review the Therapy Ball Workbook.

The Therapy Ball Workbook is a detailed guide of what kind of balls to use for what purpose.  Different balls can be used for strengthening, conditioning, and stretching exercises.  Part 1 explains the basics and gives you the information you need to have before you get started on a ball routine.

Part 2 explains how to use the book and then provides you with 7 different routines, based on your goals (core stability, total body workout, muscle release, etc.).

Part 3 gives detailed instructions for each exercise, along with photos of each being performed.

None of the strength or conditioning exercises are new to me, but many of the stretch and active release ones are and I can't wait to try them.  Be aware that while some ball exercises are easy and gentle, some exercises using balls can be extremely advanced.  Like any other new activity, be sure that what you are doing is appropriate for you and your body.

If you have no balls, I highly recommend you get some.  They are incredibly versatile.  You might want to pick up this book too, because it contains a wealth of information about how to get the most from your balls.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Say What? Who is Really an Expert?

Good morning! It may be Monday, it may be rainy, but at least its not too hot and humid!  It was also a great weekend and a very fun party here last night.  I heard from Adam and he and the girls are having a great time at Great Wolf Lodge too.

So, today I want to talk a bit about many so-called celebrity health experts and the claims they make.

I know I talk a lot about the plethora of bogus health information out there.  Sometimes even seemingly credible sources like MDs can spew bogus info (you must have heard by now that Dr. Oz has been lambasted for proclaiming various weight loss supplements as "miracles").

Sometimes facts are skewed because of someone's economic interests (i.e. they have shares in a particular supplement or product).  Sometimes the problem is that a fact is poorly articulated by a person or media.

A good example of this is the column written by Tracy Anderson for Health Magazine.  By the way, I think this magazine sucks.  The only reason I get it is the girls' school has a fundraiser each year where you have to subscribe to a magazine, and I already subscribe to the ones I like.  I didn't know much about this one, but it's pretty much the same as Shape and Self magazines, which is to say, almost all about weight loss with skinny, perfect-looking models with the odd article about how your should really accept yourself as you are.  Yeah, total bogus shit.

No offence to you Americans, but we Canadians have much better magazines aimed at women.  I also got Best Health Canada through the girls' fundraiser, and think its much better.

Anyways, back to Tracy Anderson.  In case you don't know of her, she is a fitness trainer to the stars and entrepreneur who has several studios in the U.S. as well as countless fitness DVDs, etc.  I have heard many good things about her workouts and would like to check one out at some point.  My problem is not with her workouts, per se, but with the health information she shares in this magazine column.

In one issue, the headline for her column was, "This healthy food could be making you fat."  When you get to her column you find that she is referring to avocado.  She warns people that even though they are healthy, they are high in calories and most people can't limit portion size, so they should just be avoided.  WTF?  Last time I checked, we weren't all laboratory mice.  We do possess executive thinking skills!  This is a ridiculous recommendation to make without qualifying it.  You can gain weight or fail to lose weight if you are eating too many calories from ANY food.  I would only take her advice if you have a weight problem and you regularly find yourself eating large quantities of avocado or guacamole and are completely incapable of controlling your portion size.  For everyone else, eat on...

In another issue, that touts her workout method (high reps of exercises using light weights or body weight), she recommends avoiding heavy weight lifting, or even cardio activities like spinning because they will bulk you up.  Grr, this type of bullshit makes me so mad!!!!  Okay, there may be a SMALL minority of women (and I mean small!) that are able to add muscle mass very quickly and easy, but this is not true for most of us.  We just don't have enough testosterone.  Also, there are various types of heavy lifting, which you can choose depending on your goals.  I am really into lifting heavy right now (achieving muscle failure by 6-8 reps), and I still fit into all my clothes.  The only difference is I find I have to eat MORE just to maintain my weight because muscle mass is more metabolically active tissue than is fat.  And as for cardio activities creating bulk?  That's just hogwash.  Oh, and by the way, it is absolutely impossible for muscle to turn into fat.  So that is a complete myth that if you lift weights and then stop, you'll be bigger simply because the muscle turns into fat.  You might get bigger, but only if you put on additional body fat!

Here's the thing.  Anderson is a fitness professional with a dance background.  I couldn't find any evidence that she has any actual credentials (she may, but I can't find reference to them).  I seriously doubt that even if she is a certified instructor/personal trainer, she doesn't have a university degree that has taught her how to analyze research and scientific data.  So even though she may be considered an 'expert', I would hazard a guess that she is full of misinformation.

Apparently she puts clients on crazy low calorie diets, that alone will make most people shed fat, in the short term.  But also keep in mind that the celebrity clients doing her muscle endurance routines, are not - like most of us - sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day, getting lunch at the food court, and then going out for drinks after work.  I can guarantee that if that is your lifestyle, doing her 100 leg lifts a few times a week, won't make you look like Gwyneth Paltrow.  If, however, like such lithe stars, you have a personal chef who cooks you macrobiotic meals, a personal trainer who puts you through several gruelling workouts every week, and a career that depends on you looking a certain way, then sure, adding in a few of Anderson's workouts to this already extreme lifestyle might be just the thing to give you the lean, toned, rather than butch-y look that most female celebrities covet. 

So, my friends, when you are considering health information, it pays to examine the source.  Do they benefit in some way from the information they are sharing?  Do they have the credentials to know what they are talking about?  Is there information evidence based?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Boo Boos

Oh my, what a week!  Its been good, its been bad and its been ugly.

The good is the girls are still fighting less than they were before and we've had a lot of fun.  The bad is that there have still been a few fights...Monday morning was really bad, but Mondays are always the worst, especially after a great weekend. The ugly was when I was picking up the girls from daycare camp on Tuesday, Big A got on her bike, and within seconds while still on the playground, hit a rock and went over sideways landing on her face.

Wow, there is nothing worse for a parent than watching your child get hurt.  I am not an overprotective parent.  Really, I'm not.  But I do get a bit freaked out about them getting hurt.  I probably tell them to be careful a thousand times a day.  And of the two of them, Big A is usually a heck of a lot more careful than Little A.  This was just a flukey accident because she is an ace bicycle rider.

Fortunately, she was wearing her helmet and didn't hit her head nor knock out her front teeth but she scraped up her elbow and her face.  Basically her chin and the skin above her top lip is totally gashed up and her top lip swelled up huge.  She looks pretty awful.

What's even more disturbing is that the whole thing really affected her.  She refused to ride her bike for a few days and worse, she got very glum and sulky.  I suspect that this girl, who is usually extremely confident, was feeling very embarrassed and self-conscious.  The good news is she is now both ready to get back on her bike and seems to be cheering up now that the swelling has gone down and she has had a few days back at camp and no one has teased her.

Despite the fact that I am a worrier, particularly about things like accidents, in the moment I stay pretty level-headed.  Admittedly, its usually after where I start to drive myself nuts with the what ifs.  Unfortunately, you can only do your best to keep your children safe and locking them up in a padded cell isn't really an option.

Speaking of injuries, my torn ab muscle is better.  I am surprised how quickly it healed given how painful it was last week.  Good though, 'cause now I can go back to doing my usual workouts.

Anyways, this weekend should be great.  Today the fertility clinic is taking staff to a waterfront hotel for a little poolside party.  Should be fun!

I work tomorrow and then Adam is taking the girls to Great Wolf Lodge for a little getaway while I am hosting a party for some girlfriends.  I have been preparing some yummy eats for it so hopefully I will have some great recipes to share.

Have a happy, healthy weekend and stay safe!!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Chilled Curried Carrot Soup (Vegan & Gluten-Free)

This soup is so amazing, and also amazingly simple to make.  Really it is good hot and cold so you can make this recipe any time of year.  I made it spicy, since we like our food hot, but go ahead and make it mild if you prefer.

Chilled Curried Carrot Soup (Vegan & Gluten-Free)

1 lb carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 tsp olive oil
1 + 1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 chunk fresh ginger, peeled
900 ml vegetable stock

Toss carrots, onion and garlic with oil, 1 tsp curry powder and salt.  Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast at 400F for about 40 minutes.  Let cool.

Place veggies into food processor or blender with additional curry powder, ginger and stock.  Puree until smooth.  Season to taste.  Keep refrigerated up to 4 days or freeze.

This recipe has been submitted to Urban Naturale's Plant-Based Pot Luck Link-Up and this week's Gluten-Free Friday.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

DrVita Product Review

You may have heard the news that vitamins do not prevent chronic illness?  Oh yeah, big headlines recently.  But then you've probably been told you should be taking a million supplements by either your doctor, naturopath or another health care provider.  Are you confused?

It is confusing.  Ultimately, there isn't strong evidence that taking a multivitamin can prevent chronic illness, but that doesn't mean you should throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Most people can and should be taking vitamin D, and many can benefit from fish oil or other omega 3 supplement.  Women of childbearing age should be taking folic acid.  Things like CoQ10 can be helpful for fertility and heart health.

So what about multis?

I'll be honest, I take one.  This is despite the lack of evidence that they are useful.  This is weird as usually my decisions are all evidence-based.  But for some reason, I can't give it up as a bit of insurance.  It just makes me feel better knowing I'm covering my bases...even though I eat a crazy nutritious diet and really probably don't need to take a multi.  To make it even, I take it every other day.  Or, if its one you take several times per day, like DrVita's Six Daily Advanced Multi-Vitamin, I  take just 2 rather than 6 capsules daily.

Anyways, here is what I like about this multi from DrVita: the capsules are easy to swallow and have no aftertaste.  They are free of artificial colours and flavours.  What I don't like is that it has a whole lots of unnecessary ingredients that are not present in large enough quantities to probably do much.  That being said, all the extra goodies in them do have health benefits, but I suspect only in much larger quantities, and keep in mind vitamins that throw in extra herbs, etc., are usually a lot more expensive.  Also keep in mind that herbs can interact with other supplements and medications, so it is best to check with your doctor first before taking any.  Most health experts will tell you that price is not always an indicator of vitamin quality.  If you do want to take a multi, I would check out the website for the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, or contact them for advice.  I was not able to find any third party reviews about the quality of DrVita multis so while I can say they are easy to take and I liked being able to control my dosage, I can't tell you much beyond that.

I think the question of whether or not to take a multi should be determined by your budget, your health status, your diet and your lifestyle.

Disclosure: I was sent a complimentary bottle of DrVita vitamins, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Do you take a multi?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Vanilla Blueberry Cake Muffins

These are cake in name alone.  They are actually low-fat, whole grain and sugar-free...of course.

Did you know that most muffins in chain coffee shops have more sugar, fat and calories than donuts??  They are honestly a really bad choice for a breakfast or snack.  Eat, sugar crash, binge, repeat.

Despite being high in fibre, and protein, these babies are sweet, moist, tender and delicious.  The kids even said I shouldn't call them muffins because they taste more like cake.  So go ahead, have one for breakfast...have another for a snack!

Vanilla Blueberry Cake Muffins

2 cups unsweetened apple sauce
1 cup stevia granulated baking blend or 4 tbls uncut, pure stevia powder
2 eggs
1 cup milk+1 tbls cider vinegar or lemon juice, stirred together
2 tbls canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

2.5 cups whole grain kamut or spelt flour
1 scoop stevia-sweetened vanilla protein powder (28g)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Whisk together wet ingredients in a large bowl.  Stir together dry ingredients in a medium bowl and then add to wet.  Mix just until combined.  Stir in blueberries.  Divide batter into greased muffin tins.  Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool before removing from pan.  Makes 18 muffins.  Keep in air tight container for 3-4 days or freeze.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Big on Bloor

Toronto has a zillion summertime festivals across the city.  Although we have been to quite a few, for some reason this was the first time we got to the one in our own 'hood. 

Yesterday we took the girls to the Big on Bloor Festival and we literally had a ball!

Yes, those are the girls pretending to be hamsters!  It may have cost us $20 for the two of them to have a turn in these things, but it was worth every penny.  They had a blast.

They also volunteered to hold this snake...I was pretty amazed...I don't think I would have done it!

The girls also got free chocolate, freezies and popcorn and we bought them hand made turkey sausages and barbequed corn on the cob for their dinner.  Not the healthiest, but they had so much fun.  I actually think this was the best neighbourhood festival we've been to ever!

Normally I am not at all inspired by the arts and crafts at these events, but there was one vendor selling the most adorable handmade clothes.  I was smitten and liked so many different dresses there, I almost walked away without anything because I couldn't decide.  But Adam insisted I get one (okay, I won't argue).  I absolutely love the one I got and it is dressy enough for work but super comfortable.  Yippee!!

It did rain for a bit (which is why they look wet), but it cleared up pretty quick.  And, frankly, I was thrilled that it wasn't super hot and sunny.  This week is supposed to be!

What did you do this weekend?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Boy oh boy, its been quite the week!  I had 2 bad sinus headaches, which sucked, but overall, this summer has been the best ever for my allergies, which is weird, since most people say its a particularly BAD year for allergies.  I also had a dentist appointment and my dentist told me I have another cracked tooth and may someday need another root canal.  Ugh!  I know it comes from all my grinding and teeth clenching.  I carry all my stress in my jaw, it's so bad.  I am actually surprised all my teeth haven't shattered.

I also managed to tear an abdominal muscle.  Oh yeah, I do things like that!  If you don't think you need your core for absolutely everything, try getting an abdominal injury.  I have had to totally rejig my workouts.  It f#@&* hurts!

The girls have been fighting a bit more, but not nearly as much as they had been.  I am wondering if we are FINALLY in that temporary sweet spot I've heard about that happens after toddlerhood and before the teenage years.  Oh, who am I kidding, they'll probably be driving me totally nuts again tomorrow.

One thing I love as a parent, is witnessing my children's cognitive and intellectual growth and seeing how they observe the world around them.  Little A has been asking me really big questions lately, like:

"Why did all the cavemen die?" - I had to try and explain evolution

"Who was the first person on the planet?" - Had to explain evolution further, and talk about the creation versus scientific explanation

"Is God air?" - I told her that we don't know, that we can't even know for sure that there is a God, but that different people believe different things

"Can you decide how many babies you want?" - I said that some people can but some can't.  Some get exactly what they want and some get more then they want (through multiples or oops babies), or fewer than they want (due to opportunity or infertility/medical issues).

"How are things made?" She meant EVERYTHING. So I explained that living things grow and develop, are reproduced, while objects are often made by people (we talked about how our kitchen table was made from cutting down the tree, to the finished product).  We talked about where all our food comes from.

I love when she asks these types of things but man, do I ever feel like I am giving her insufficient explanations.  There is clearly so much going on in her head right now!!

Big A also asked a funny question, she said, "Mommy how will I get big boobies like you, like will my nipples fall off and then I'll grow big ones?"  Ha ha!  I had to explain that boobies are not like baby teeth.  Speaking of which, she visited Big A again this week for another lost tooth.

Its Friday and my brain is fried.  Unfortunately, I work tomorrow, but then am going out to celebrate a friend's 40th birthday...depending on how wild and crazy things get, Sunday will probably be quiet.

Have a fabulous weekend!!

Speaking of boobies, Little A also made us laugh when we discovered that she calls the two little buttons on her chest, "Nibbles."  She really thought that's what they were called!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sweet Debbie's Organic Treats: Book Review

I am not vegetarian, I am not vegan. If I had to label how I eat I would call myself a healthitarian.  I do eat meat, just mostly poultry and fish, and I do it dairy and eggs.  I also eat gluten. I don't have any food allergies.  But I mostly eat plants.  I do believe plant-based foods are healthiest...and I love them!

It irks me though, when people confuse some of these other labels (vegan, gluten-free, etc.) as meaning healthy.  There is a shitload of vegan and gluten-free food out there these days that is just total crap.

For this reason, I hesitated to agree to review Sweet Debbie's Organic Treats: Allergy-Free & Vegan Recipes.  After all, a cupcake made with vegetable shortening instead of butter and white rice flour instead of white wheat flour, is no healthier, and healthier is what's important to me.

But boy am I glad I went for it! This cookbook is the BOMB!

Author, Debbie Adler, is the owner of Sweet Debbie's Organic Cupcakes bakery in Los Angeles.  I tell you, I wish we had one of her stores here in Toronto!  Yes, we have a number of vegan bakeries here, but they sell stuff no healthier than the usual bakeries.  Sure, no eggs or dairy, but lots of refined flours, sugar and saturated fats, thank you very much, and no thank you.

In contrast, Debbie's recipes are right up my alley!  Instead of using white rice flour, like many gluten-free bakers, she uses a blend of nutritious sorghum, millet, teff, quinoa and tapioca flours.  Her oils of choice are grapeseed and coconut, and she uses stevia, erythritol, and coconut nectar for sweeteners.  She even has a recipe for making your own sugar-free chocolate chips!! Oh yeah, this woman gets how to make stuff not only free of animal products and gluten...but also full of nutrition.

There are muffins, brownies, cookies, cupcakes, bars, donuts and breads.  They all look so good, I can't wait to try making some.  I just have to find time to get to the health food store so I can create her flour blend and pick up some coconut nectar.  But don't worry, if you can't find any of these ingredients where you live, you can for sure buy them online.

She is incredibly creative, using shitake mushrooms to make faux-bacon for her Caramel Glazed Fakin' Bacon Brownies.  Her Lemon Parsnipannies use, yes parsnips.  I am definitely going to have to try making Debbie's Blondies with Roots, and luscious looking Vivid Vanilla Cupcakes.

If you are on a restricted diet, or just looking for healthy baked good recipes, this book is a great place to start!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Smokey Bake-un Almonds

What's a little sweet, salty, smoky, spicy and addictive?  Nope, not bacon!  These bacon-seasoned almonds.  Perfect if you love the flavour but are looking for something that won't take years off your life (yes, I think most health experts would agree one of the most unhealthy things you can eat is cured and processed meats).

These are for Adam to have at work, but they are so yummy, that after I made them, I thought of hiding them and hoarding them to myself.  Fortunately, I'm a nicer wife than that...

You gotta bake these!!

Smokey Bake-Un Almonds

2 lbs almonds
2 tbls olive oil
2 tbls low-sodium soy sauce/tamari/coconut aminos
2 tbls Worcestershire (regular or vegan)
2 tbls coconut sugar
1/2 tsp paprika
A few drops liquid smoke
Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Toss almonds with all other ingredients until well coated.  Spread evenly on non-stick baking sheet.  Bake at 350F for 12 minutes.  Make sure they don't burn.  Let cool and store in an air-tight container.

I have added this recipe to Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday and Urban Naturale's Party Blog Hop link-ups.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Yamchops: Toronto's First Vegetarian "Butcher" Shop!

YamChops owners at the counter
When I heard about Yamchops a few months ago, I was super excited.  I couldn't wait for it to open.  A place in downtown Toronto selling all vegetarian foods, including, house-made veggie-meat alternatives made with all natural ingredients?!?  I was very excited when I finally got there a few weeks ago.

Nope, I am not vegetarian.  I call myself a healthitarian actually.  I like healthy food and plant foods are healthy.  Mostly, that is.  I do like a lot of faux-meat products, but many of them are highly processed and made from poor quality ingredients, so a place that makes their own from natural ingredients is very awesome, in my book.

They sell a variety of veggie burgers and sausages, and some other faux meat dishes like Mongolian beef and pulled pork.  They also sell mock tuna salad made from chickpeas as well as coconut bacon.  Yum!

I was also thrilled to find that they have their own line of condiments, made from natural ingredients.  I got a roasted pineapple chutney and a mango tamarind chutney...neither have any added sugar!  I used the mango tamarind chutney in a basmati rice and salmon dish I made last night and it was delish.  I decided to purchase all 3 varieties of their sausage (apple sage, Italian and Chipotle).  They're pretty good...nicely seasoned and hold together well, but pretty pricey.  I haven't made my own veggie meats in a while and think I'll get back on that bandwagon soon.  I make a pretty mean veggie burger!

So if you are looking for some yummy, healthy prepared foods, check them out.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Slither in to Reptilia

I have to say, for me, this has been an amazing summer...we have not had nearly as many insanely hot, humid days as usual.  Although the weekend was hot and humid, all this week it is supposed to be in the low 20s, which is perfect.  All you people who love blazing hot weather...well, I just don't get you!

I don't know if its the gorgeous weather or what, but there are some weird things going on in our house lately.  First, Little A has been eating like a sumo wrestler.  Like seriously, how does a skinny 5 year old eat so much???  It's quite unbelievable.  But then again, people say that about the way I eat, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

The other odd thing going on around here is that the girls are getting along really well.  Like hugging and kissing and telling each other they love each other.  That's not normal!  Usually, its non-stop screaming and fighting between the two of them.  Not sure what's going on, but I hope it continues.

So how was your weekend?  Ours was great!

While I was working Saturday, Adam took the girls to Toronto Island with his family and they all had an amazing time at Centre Island.

Yesterday our plans with friends got cancelled last minute, so we decided to take the girls to Reptilia, a reptile zoo in Vaughan, just north of the city.  I have to tell you, it was pretty awesome!  They have a wide variety of scaly, slithering, snapping creatures of various sizes.  At regular intervals throughout the day, they feed the animals and make a show of it.  I did find watching them feeding dead rats to ferocious alligators and a massive snapping turtle a bit gross!  They also have shows where staff bring out a bunch of creatures for you to see up close and touch.  We got to see a scorpion, a big snake and some sort of huge lizard thing.  The girls bravely touched the snake.

I was most impressed with the staff, who were extremely knowledgeable.  During the show, the woman told us so much information about each animal, it was amazing and extremely interesting.

Enjoy your Monday!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Camp Craze

Well, the girls finished up their session of Pedalheads camp for the year, and as per usual, they had a fantastic time.  This camp is genius I tell you.  Not only do they train your kids to be ace cyclists, and how to clean and maintain their bikes, but the kids absolutely love it.  I mean LOVE IT.

They come home completely exhausted, filthy, and starving.  At the beginning of the week this led to some grumpiness at the end of the day, but as the week ends they seem to have adapted to the physical demands of cycling camp.  Or, as Adam pointed out, perhaps the less hot, humid weather the past few days have made all the outdoor activity a bit less taxing for them.  Still starving and worn out but also more blissful than bitchy, thank goodness.  The other night teeny, tiny Little A ate more for dinner than probably a sumo wrestler normally does!

Its been a bit tough getting back to life after my grandmother's funeral.  The whole thing still seems surreal to me.  But work is really busy right now, which is good, it forces me to just get up and keep going.

This weekend I work most of Saturday and then have friends dropping by Sunday.  While I work Saturday Adam and his folks are taking the girls to Centre Island and they both have swim lessons on Sunday.

Have a happy, healthy weekend!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Gingerbread Granola

To me, there is no better smell or taste than gingerbread.  Heaven!  So why didn't I come up with this granola recipe sooner??  The smell as it bakes is amazing.  It would be the perfect thing to make right before showing your house if you are trying to sell it :)

I know gingerbread isn't your typical summer flavour, but I'll take it anytime.

This would be fantastic with crystalized ginger in it but I wanted to avoid the sugar, so I used 2 packs of these snacks instead:

Ginger Spice
Look at the ingredients!

Ginger Spice

I just diced them up and threw them in.  And lots of raisins too, because I love raisins.  But you could use dried apricots instead.

Gingerbread Granola

1 lb large flake oats
6 cups puffed millet cereal
1/4 cup uncooked millet

1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup stevia baking blend or 2 tbls uncut powdered stevia
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 tbls blackstrap molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbls grated fresh ginger
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt

Optional: 2 packs Matt's Munchies Ginger Spice snacks, diced and 1 cup raisins

Mix oats and millet in a large bowl and set aside.  Whisk together all other ingredients in a small pot over medium heat until it starts to bubble.  Pour over oat mixture and stir until evenly coated.  Spread half on large non-stick baking sheet and bake at 350F for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  Repeat with second half of mixture.  Let cool.  Mix in fruit and/or nuts.  Store in air-tight container for up to 3 months.

I have entered this recipe into Urban Naturale's Blog Hop Recipe Link-Up and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

This Corn is Amaizing! Amaize Sweet Corn Product Review

Recently I was asked if I would review Amaize Sweet Corn, a rare breed of corn now available in Loblaws stores in Toronto and exclusive stores in several cities across the U.S.  It is grown in Idaho and is entirely non-GMO.

Corn on the cob is popular in our house, the girls and Adam are always happy to see it on the dinner table.  Corn on the cob, brings back fond summer memories for me of backyard barbeques and visiting my grandparents at their summer home in the Berkshire mountains.

We decided to try it out one night recently when Adam was out at a concert.  Originally, I gave the girls each an ear and put the other two on my own plate.  The girls dug in first and finished theirs before I had started mine.  They then both began to object to the fact that I had two.  Being the great mom that I am, I cut one of mine in half and gave them each another half, which they quickly devoured before I had finished mine.

The girls were disappointed that we were only sent 4 ears!  Amaize is definitely a fine tasting corn.  It is crisp, and super sweet.   Admittedly, I could have eaten a few more ears myself.

So if you live in the Toronto area, get to Loblaws and get yourself some of this Amaize-ing corn!

Disclosure: I was provided with 4 ears of corn by the company, but all the opinions on this blog are my own (and those of my peeps).

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

I Am the Luckiest Woman

Say hello to my little friend...

Okay Adam may not love vegan food nor giving me back rubs, but he is still a pretty awesome husband.  He decided I should have a high speed blender ASAP.  Now granted, my $30 Big Boss has been on its way to dying for a while (blade got loose so liquid would leak out bottom into the motor (not good!), but these things are an investment!  That being said, I've been using it pretty much daily since getting it.  The girls want smoothies, I want coffee frappes and I've been pureeing fruits and veggies and even making baked goods in it.  Oh my, it totally rocks!  I have also been using it, whenever possible, instead of my Kitchen Aid food processor because it is so much easier to clean...which is a huge added bonus, in my mind.

So the weekend in New York was bittersweet.  It was nice to see family I haven't seen in a long time, but it also made me sad as usually my grandmother would be there when I would see these cousins.  Ironically, the last few years since dementia struck and she was moved to the nursing home, I would just feel like she had no quality of life and it seemed so incredibly tragic for a woman who was, up until that point, so active and vibrant.  Yet since she passed away, I can only remember her as she used to be, which makes me miss her terribly.

The 3 things that everyone at the funeral agreed about that made my Grandma Ruth so incredibly special were:
1. Incredibly smart and intellectually gifted.  She had a college degree, which is unusual for a woman of her generation and she aspired to have a career, but it never happened because of family responsibilities.
2. She was very giving.  She gave up her career aspirations when her younger sister had a stroke in her 30s and cared for her and her 2 sons (their father was already dead).  She then took care of both her parents when they became ill.  Also, many cousins reported that she was their biggest confidant in the family, and they would always go to her with their problems and concerns.
3. She was breathtakingly beautiful.

New York City will never be the same for me either.  NYC was my grandmother and my grandmother was NYC. She knew the city so well.  Until she got sick she walked the city as much as she could and took full advantage of all the cultural activities it has to offer.

I know she was in her 90s, but she was someone that, somehow, you always figured would be there.  Everyone at the funeral said this too...

I guess all I can do is be grateful to have had her in my life as long as I did!

Okay, so here I am, back to life in Toronto.  At least I can drown my sorrows in cooking and baking healthy food, one of my favorite past times. 

Between the Blendtec and our Sodastream, I am in food heaven right now.  What are you cooking with these days?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Friday and happy 4th of July to all my U.S. readers!

I am relieved to say that aside from the passing of my grandma last Sunday, its been a pretty uneventful week.  Except, perhaps, for Little A trying to sneak out of the house this morning without underpants on again.  Not sure what's up with that little monkey.

Tuesday we had a wonderful time at our neighbours celebrating Canada Day with a barbecue.  Today and yesterday the weather has been my idea of perfect.  Sunny and not too hot (i.e. about 20 Celsius).  Love it! Unfortunately, its supposed to be getting super hot again tomorrow, just as I leave for New York.  This likely means New York will be super hot too...if not hotter.  Lovely.  I hope I am not melting at the funeral...

I still feel like her passing hasn't fully hit me yet, so I am anticipating some sort of emotional outpouring at some point soon.  But I am really glad there will be family with me to mark this occasion.

I have to go write a paper now before going to the office to see clients.  So have a lovely weekend and I'll be back with a post next Tuesday.  Be happy and healthy!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Chocolate Chip Red Velvet Muffins (Gluten-Free & Sugar-Free)

Adam always complains that I make all sorts of tasty looking treats but won't let him touch them, because they are for the girls' lunch boxes.  So I made these just for him.

This is another recipe that makes me feel very sly because they taste so sinful (even Adam said they HAD to be loaded with calories), but are really pretty healthy.  They even contain beets...a lot of beets...a veggie that is not one of Adam's favorites.  Ha!

Open your mind and you open the possibility of great tasting super healthy food.

Chocolate Chip Red Velvet Muffins (Gluten-Free & Sugar-Free)

4 cups beet puree (about 3 lb beets, roasted and peeled)
4 eggs
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup buttermilk (or milk + 1 tbls cider vinegar)
1 cup stevia baking blend (or xylitol, erythritol or coconut sugar)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup coconut flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup sugar-free chocolate chips

Blend wet ingredients in food processor until smooth.  Pulse in dry ingredients.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Scrape batter into parchment muffin cup liners in a 12 cup muffin tin.  Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.  Cover top of muffins with loosely with foil and bake for another 25 minutes, or until they are cooked in the centre.  Let cool and remove from pan.  Makes one dozen muffins.

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

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Loss of A Very Special Woman

This picture was taken of myself, with my mom, my grandmother Ruth, and Big A, when Big A was just 2 months old (so 8 years ago!).  On Sunday morning we lost GG Ruth.  Even though, given her age (95), we knew this day would be coming soon, it was still a shock.  I think there is a part of everyone who knew her that somehow she would always be around.  She was certainly a force to be reckoned with!

Even though she hasn't been herself for the past few years, she still charmed everyone she met.  Each time I came to visit, the staff from the nursing home would pop in to her room to tell me just how much they adored her.  Her quick wit, strength and intelligence were still evident even to those who didn't know her beforehand.

When I got the news, it felt the same way it did when my grandpa Joe died, and I was just 13 at the time.  Like a punch in the gut.  My grandma never really got over his death, by the way. There was some serious love between those two.  Ironically, in the last few years after dementia set in, one of her delusions was that he was still alive but had run off with another woman.

Of course, my mind still keeps going back to the last time I saw her this past spring.  As per usual, she slept most of the time I was there, except the last day, when she was lucid and alert for a whole hour.  I will forever cherish those last moments with her.  My brother, who was in NYC on Sunday when she passed away, was really lucky to get 3 good hours with her a few days before.  My parents are in Europe, on their way home today, so the funeral is next Sunday.  I have already booked my flights and hotel.  This trip to NYC is going to be a difficult one.  But I am comforted by the fact that many of my wonderful cousins are taking the time to fly in for the funeral.  She was special to everyone!

Although I feel very sad, I know she had a good and long life, and that we were all very blessed to have had her in ours.  I am also glad that she got to meet my children.

Here's to G.G. Ruth, a very special and amazing person, loved and admired by many.  She will be dearly missed.