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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Passover Power Granola


Sorry, but I have to say it every year: DO NOT BUY PACKED PASSOVER FOOD!

While all processed food is basically crap, the stuff they make specifically for Passover is often even worse.  Not only that, but its ridiculously expensive and tastes like shit.

Do yourself a favour and make your own Passover eats.  We only buy the whole wheat matzo and whole wheat matzo meal and that's about it!

If you like cereal or granola for breakfast, I know that it can be hard to just eat matzo.  I don't recommend it anyways, its just empty carbs that will leave you feeling famished and sluggish in a few hours.

This granola is filled with fibre, protein and nutritious seeds and fruits.  Pair it with some Greek yogurt and maybe some fresh fruit and you'll be sailing through your morning with energy and vitality.

Passover Power Granola

1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup apple sauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp pure, uncut stevia powder (or other sweetener, to taste)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

180g bag plain puffed quinoa
2 tbls whole flax seeds
2 tbls hemp seeds
1 tbls chia seeds
1 scoop vanilla hemp protein powder (like this one)

1 cup mixed dried fruit (unsweetened) and pumpkin/sunflower seeds (I used this)

Place oil, apple sauce, vanilla, stevia, cinnamon and salt in small pot and warm over medium heat until oil is completely melted.

Place dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir.  Pour wet ingredients over top and mix well.  Spread evenly on non-stick baking sheet and bake at 350F for 30 minutes, stirring twice.  Let cool and stir in fruits and seeds.  Store in an airtight container.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Passover Charoset


This coming Friday is the first night of Passover...and its Good Friday! We've got a big celebration planned as my parents are coming here and we are all, my brother and his family included, going to my in-laws' for a big sedar.

I am glad its a short week.  It's Monday, but I can't really say we had a relaxing weekend around here.  It was busy.  Good busy, but busy.  And Adam caught a bad cold and lost his voice and has to give a big talk today.  He's pretty down in the dumps.

Our little pre-Passover party on Saturday was a hit though, and my charoset was an even bigger hit!  I am thrilled since (1) I've never bothered to make it before, and (2) I didn't, as usual, use a recipe, I just made up my own.

The photo shows just the tiny amount that was left afterwards, and Adam polished the rest off yesterday. 

Even if you don't celebrate Passover, its a yummy little treat and you don't need to eat it with matzo by any means.  It would actually be awesome with Greek yogurt!

Passover Charoset

4 apples, grated (I used the food processor)
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 tbls lemon juice
2 tbls honey
2 tbls pomegranate molasses
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients, stir together and serve.  Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Is It the Weekend Yet?


Oy.
Stay at home mom at that!

Its been quite the week.
Car accident, work, and the most stressful thing of all?  Organizing what the kids are doing this summer!

I am on the girls' daycare board, and just waiting until the second day of registration left us on the wait list for one week this summer for Big A.  She is also going to Kingston for a week to see my parents and my mom and I are going nuts trying to find a camp for her for that week!  Getting kids into activities and camps these days is a freakin' competitive sport!!

This weekend is not likely to be more relaxed either.  I work tonight and tomorrow and they we have a community pre-Passover party, the girls' spring session activities start up again, then Big A has a birthday party on Sunday and I have my first book club meeting.  All that and I have to start making stuff for Passover.  This year my parents are coming here for the first time ever, and we are all doing a sedar and my in-laws' place. 

For tomorrow's party, I've just made some Charoset...recipe to come!

Have a happy, healthy weekend!!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sweet Potato Chickpea Roti


This delicious curry can be rolled into a roti shell (or whole grain tortilla), or served over rice or quinoa (or cauliflower rice!).  Its so yummy, you may just want to eat it alone.  No matter how you serve it, it is as healthy as it is tasty.  Win win!!

Sweet Potato Chickpea Roti

1 cup lentils, cooked
1 sweet potato, cooked, peeled and mashed

1 tsp coconut oil
1 onion, diced
Fresh ginger, chopped, to taste
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbls garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 can light coconut milk
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups, cooked)
1/2 green cabbage, sliced

Saute onion, ginger, garlic and spices in oil in large skillet or pot over medium heat.  Once onion has softened, add vinegar, coconut milk chickpeas and cabbage.  Simmer until cabbage is cooked.  Stir in cooked lentils and sweet potato and continue cooking over medium low heat until liquid reduces.  Spoon into roti shells or tortillas or serve over rice or quinoa.  Keep refrigerated 4-5 days or freeze.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Close Call #2


I don't know what plan the universe has for me but after being hit by a car while walking a few weeks ago, I was sideswiped while driving our car yesterday!

It was yet another reminder of how things can change in the blink of an eye.

I am, fortunately, not hurt, however, pretty shaken up.  And the car is in bad shape.  Very expensive repairs required and we will be without it for about 2 weeks.  At least insurance will cover it.

It wasn't even the usual impatient, rude Toronto driver who did it (believe me, if you think Canadians are polite, you'll feel differently if you drive in this city!!).  It was a dude from London, Ontario, a guy driving his musical band to a gig.  Unfamiliar with the city, he is apparently not used to driving in Toronto and tried to do a U-Turn without looking and smashed into me.

At the end it really meant nothing more than a wasted bunch of hours dealing with towing companies, police and insurance, so I am trying to focus on being grateful for the fact that I wasn't hurt and I was the only one in the car.

Part of me wants to grab Adam and the girls and hide in our house.  Its not just terrorism and crime that we tend to worry about that is such a threat, but the more everyday things like accidents! 
I know, I know, overprotecting them isn't the answer, but we live in a scary world and it sometimes feels next to impossible to keep our kids safe from every single threat!

You know? In my 20s after getting hit by a car twice in a few weeks, my phone dying and my Ipod exploding (Apple fortunately replaced it), I would have been feeling very sorry for myself.  But now that I'm older and wrinklier...I mean wiser, I realize that I am actually very fortunate.  Its all nothing.  I have all the important things including my amazing family and my health. That's what matters.

Have a great hump day and drive carefully!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

High-Protein Ginger Fig Granola


One of my favorite food blogs is Vegan Richa.  Virtually every recipe she posts is not only nutritious but drool-worthy.  Recently she posted a granola recipe using lentils instead of grains.  OMG, I cannot believe the brilliance!  What a fabulous idea!!

My kids will NOT eat lentils and beans knowingly and getting Big A to eat protein at all is often a challenge, but the kid loves granola.  I could have done an entirely lentil-only granola, but I was afraid that was too risky, so I simply added them along with the other (gluten-free) grains to bump up the protein in this granola.  Oh man, so so so good!

This granola pairs some of my very favorite things: ginger, figs, and warm, sweet spices. It also happens to be gluten-free, sugar-free, and high fibre.  Adding cashews would be awesome, but I kept it nut-free so the girls could take it to school.  If you aren't a fan of figs, substitute with another dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries, cherries or apricots.

High-Protein Ginger Fig Granola

1 cup red lentils
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbls stevia (that measures equal to sugar), or 1/2 tsp pure, uncut powdered stevia

150g package of brown rice, millet or quinoa cakes, unsalted, unflavoured, crumbled
1 cup uncooked millet
6 cups large flake oats (gluten-free, if necessary)

2 cups unsweetened pear or apple sauce
1/3 cup coconut oil
Large piece of fresh ginger, chopped (or grated if you want a less pronounced ginger taste)
1 tsp pure, uncut powdered stevia, or other sweetener, to taste
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp apple pie spice*
1/4 tsp salt

2 cups figs, chopped

Place lentils and 2 cups water in covered pot.  Bring to a boil and then drain and rinse immediately.  Lentils should still be firm.

Remove excess moisture from lentils and then toss with cinnamon and sweetener and bake on parchment-lined baking sheet in the oven at 350F for about 10-15 minutes until crunchy.  Do not burn. Let cool.

Place dry ingredients in a large bowl and toss together.

Pour pear/apple sauce into a pot with oil, sweetener, ginger, vanilla and seasonings.  Stir over medium heat until oil melts. Drizzle over dry ingredients and stir to evenly coat grains.  Spread on 2 baking sheets in an even layer and bake for 30 minutes at 350F, stirring and rotating pans at least once.  Turn off oven but leave granola in the oven for another 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Toss with lentils and figs and store in an airtight container.

*Or pumpkin pie spice.

I have shared this recipe with Urban Naturale's Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Party Blog Hop and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Farewell Target and Why Online Shopping Rocks


In case you haven't heard, Target, which finally came to Canada a few years ago, is now leaving.  Yep, like they will all disappear within the next few weeks.

Apparently they tried to use the U.S. business model here and it just didn't work because, well, we Canadians are unique.  Partly, we love online shopping and Target didn't offer us this option.  Its true, at least in this house.  Internet shopping has become so simple, and in a big city like Toronto where getting anywhere can be mayhem, and what your looking for in the stores could be sold out, it just saves so much time and energy.

Nevertheless, now that Target has got the last of its stuff on 40% off or more sales, we packed the kids in the car on Saturday and heading to the nearest one to check it out.  The deals were indeed very good, so we all brought some things to take home.  The girls got sandals for summer that they adore (so much so that they are refusing to take them off) and some clothes they picked out (which are not my taste but I bit my tongue).  I am thrilled with some new weight lifting gloves, a make up brush, two pairs of leggings, and a beautiful leather belt, and Adam found a bunch of stuff for himself too.

I guess from now on I will have to seek out Targets in the U.S. whenever we visit...the ones here were never as good anyways.  Now if only we could get Trader Joes here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

By the way, I must have angered the Device Gods with my rant about technology because, I kid you not, last week both my phone and my Ipod died!

For what its worth, we did get stuck in bad traffic trying to get to Target, and on Saturday when I took the girls with me to the Apple Store at Yorkdale Mall, half the subway was closed down (For maintenance maybe?) which resulted in us having to take 2 extra buses to get there and back.  See?  Online shopping is much better!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Anticipation

Don't forget to floss!

Good morning, its International Day of Happiness AND the first day of spring!

As you shed all the layers of clothes from winter, perhaps you should also consider shedding the weight of tasks you've been putting off?

Are you a procrastinator?  Some people put everything they don't enjoy off until the last minute.  Others do everything immediately to get it off their back.  Most of us procrastinate only in some areas, like everyday stuff, getting out the door, cleaning the house, or filing taxes, or big stuff like ending relationships, quitting smoking or...dental work.

We are, after all, naturally hedonistic creatures that seek out pleasure and try to avoid pain, but with most things our anticipation of negative events is often worse than the actual event.  This is something I discuss a lot with clients with fears about leaving a relationship, starting fertility treatment, getting rid of clutter they have been hoarding, etc.  What is most frightening is the uncertainty involved in future events. But uncertainty is an inevitable part of life for all of us.

I've realized that as an adult, I am someone who does put certain things off.  Most recently it was dental work.  I've had a cracked tooth my dentist wanted to fix for ages.  Her office booked the procedure and I cancelled it 4 times.  I hate dental work on the best of days - I find it intensely uncomfortable to have my mouth yanked open wide for a long period of time - but last time I had a cracked tooth I ended up having to have a root canal in the end.  That process was miserable.  The root canal itself wasn't the worst of it.  Sitting in my dentist's chair for several hours after it so she could make the moulds for the crown was awful, and then the period of time between that and getting the crown when I had to wear a temporary one (which fell out and caused me all sorts of pain) was completely yucky.

we get an A for effort

I finally bit the bullet and went in yesterday.  At first I tried to convince her just to clean my teeth because the crack hasn't been causing me too much pain, but she insisted we deal with it.  Eventually I gave in.  The good news was that it wasn't as bad as the other one and she feels drilling and filling the tooth will do...at least for now. 

Actually, when I finally gave in to my fate, I closed my eyes and decided to just try and relax.  I actually got very relaxed and actually started to feel sleepy.  About half way through my dentist stopped and asked me if I was meditating.  I almost laughed because...I realized I was...unintentionally.  I was definitely thinking about stuff, as always, my mind was going as fast as always, but just like mindfulness practitioners suggest, I was just letting them float away like clouds, observing them, but not reacting to them.

I can't say getting a massive needle in my gums was pleasant, nor was the drilling, which creates a nauseating burned flesh smell, nor was the filling of the tooth nor all the adjustments she then had to make to my bite to align my jaw properly.  The pain after the freezing wore off wasn't delightful either.  But you know what? I survived.  The worst case scenario didn't happen.  And I don't have to live with the dread that was hanging over me anymore!

Most of my clients have the same experience; when they finally do what they have been putting off, they realize it wasn't so bad, or even if it was, they are more resilient than they gave themselves credit for and not only survived the event, but feel a sense of relief and sometimes joy that it is done.  We humans are pretty amazing creatures.  We can endure a lot.

So make a list of everything you have been putting off due to fear and tackle each thing ASAP.  I promise you'll feel better!

Another Dental Joke

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Spring into Better Health


.


Most people think of January 1st as the time to try and make a change to their lifestyle, whether it’s giving up smoking or losing weight. But that may not always be the best time to try and give up a bad habit or adopt a good one.  If you live in a northern climate then its likely cold and dreary, which can bring down both your mood and your motivation.
Making a healthy lifestyle change is a great idea any time of year, but some people may find spring a particularly good time to do so.  Days are getting longer, there is more sunshine and temperatures are more hospitable.  Spring is all about change, growth and renewal, which is perfect inspiration for making a commitment to get healthier.

Often after a long, harsh winter we feel like we are experiencing a reawakening as we enter spring, savouring the better weather.  Use your craving for fresh air and the outdoors to your advantage and boost your daily physical activity.  Whether you simply start walking instead or driving to your destinations, or add in some purposeful, structured exercise like a walk, jog or bicycle ride, both your mind and your body will benefit greatly.
Spring is also the perfect time to overhaul your diet.  With the warmer weather, you may stop craving heavy comfort food and begin gravitating towards fresh, lighter fare.  Exchange the meat, cheese and other rich food for more fruits and vegetables, and healthier proteins such as eggs, fish, poultry, beans and legumes.  Visit some farmers markets and discover all the wonderful in-season produce that is available.  Try to broaden your horizons and buy something new each time you go.  Ask sellers for advice on the best way to prepare it.  Nowadays, even your neighbourhood supermarket should have an abundance of fruits and veggies for you to try.

Make sleep a priority.  If there is one thing that can derail your health as much as physical inactivity and/or a poor diet, its lack of sleep.  Commit to a proper sleep schedule by going to bed and waking around the same time every day.  Avoid using stimulants like caffeine close to bedtime and limit your use of electronics at night.  If stress is affecting your ability to sleep, adopt some healthy coping strategies such as meditation, yoga, regular exercise, and/or get help managing your worries by speaking with a counsellor or therapist.  If you are self-medicating with alcohol and drugs, which can negatively affect the quality of your sleep, get support to develop more functional ways of coping.
Are there toxic relationships in your life making you unwell?  Perhaps now is a good time to shed the weight and start anew.  Many people continue dysfunctional relationships with partners, friends and/or family members out of fear.  But a toxic relationship can significant damage to your health and well-being.  Sometimes we must preserve our sanity and well-being my cutting out of our lives individuals who are doing us more harm than good.

As you shed layers of clothes for the warmer weather and emerge from winter lethargy many of us experience, you may discover you are in the perfect mindset for making positive changes.  Whether it’s a tiny change, or a massive overhaul of your life, it all adds up to better health and a sunnier outlook.

This post was inspired by the American Recall Center (http://www.recallcenter.com/), an organization devoted to provide up-to-date health information, focused on patiently safety. As you know, I am all about accurate health info, there is so much BS floating around out there!  I did not receive any compensation for the post and all opinions are my own.

 

 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What I Ate Wednesday...almost spring!?!

Its What I Ate Wednesday from Peas and Crayons! What I am eating lately is a lot of the recipes I am creating for my business

On this day konjac powder was used in almost everything from my usual oatmeal breakfast bowl...


To this delicious vegan hot and sour soup, served with roasted kabocha squash.


 

 

Snacks were a handful of Babybell cheeses and a few massive Pazazz apples (my last ones...).


Dinner was my absolute favorite konjac recipe of spicy sesame noodles (made with calamari this time).


These recipes are all on my new website.  What are you eating?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Kabocha Kake


As I enjoyed some roasted kabocha squash last week, it hit me that since its drier than other types of squash, and a bit more starchy, it might be possible to bake grain-free goodies much like what you can do with plantains.  I happen to like the taste of kabocha better and I find them crazy filling because you eat the skin, which is full of good-for-you fibre.

This weekend I gave it a try and it worked superbly! Because you include the skin you kind of need a high speed blender, unless your food processor is powerful enough, because you want it completely pureed.

These make a great breakfast, meal on the go, or snack.  They're good plain, but also yummy with butter, nut butter or other topping of your choosing. Unlike baked goods made from plantain, which I find a bit dry and bland, these are very moist and flavourful.  To me, they taste kind of like a pumpkin spice pudding cake.  Yum!

Kabocha Kake

1 small kabocha squash
1/2 cup egg whites
1 scoop stevia sweetened vanilla protein powder
1 tsp pure, uncut stevia, or sweetener of choice (1/4 cup granular stevia, or 1/2 cup xylitol or erythritol)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda

Poke squash with knife and then place in microwave whole.  Microwave for about 12 minutes, or until soft.  Let cool.

Cut squash in half and remove seeds and stem.  Place in blender with egg whites and puree until smooth.  Scrape down sides and add remaining ingredients.  Blend again until smooth and creamy.  Pour batter into 2 greased and parchment-lined mini loaf pans (or one big loaf pan) and bake at 350F for about 40 minutes or until centre is set.  Cover with foil after first 20 minutes so top does not over-brown.  Keep in air tight container for 3-4 days or freeze.  Makes 1 large or 2 smaller loaves.

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

Monday, March 16, 2015

Technoferance

Tickled #17 - Cell Phone Humor

If you are a regular reader than you know how I feel about the current state of our always 'connected' culture: I hate it and I think our society is going to HELL-IN-A-HANDBAG.  I think its creating a population of narcissistic, zoned out, self-centered desensitized automatons.

I am well aware that I am in the minority here.  Most people I know have wholeheartedly embraced this obsession with texting/phoning/surfing/downloading every minute of every day.  I think it is FUCKING RIDICULOUS and DANGEROUS! The biggest problem on our roads now is not impaired driving, but distracted driving.

My reluctance to jump on this train has definitely put me out of sync with much of the world, but I don't really care...its one ride I don't want to be on.  I do what I have to (i.e. since I now run a health food business, I have been told I HAVE NO CHOICE but to be on Instagram and Pinterest), but to be honest, I don't understand the point of this stuff.

What I hate the most is how smart phones are breaking down human interaction and relationships.  I have seen this for a while among couples in my counselling practice.  For some, checking texts/emails/playing games/etc. is an addiction and it can interfere not only with intimacy but with work and other obligations.  This is a real problem!

Well, according to some research discussed in April's issue of Psychology Today, there is now data suggesting this is significant problem.  Smartphone use is gaining on sex, money and kids as one of the top issues couples fight about most.  Loved ones of heavy users report lower overall sense of well-being.  It undermines self-esteem, and can induce anger and anxiety.  Not a surprise to me.  It certainly makes me angry when  I am trying to engage with someone and they get distracted by their damn device.  Its so rude, narcissistic and obnoxious it makes me want to scream!

To be honest, I worry about our kids the most.  They are growing up with this behaviour as the norm.  I can't imagine how this is affecting them.  A few weeks ago I was waiting for Big A to finish her dance class.  Beside me, another parent was texting.  When the kids began to stream out of the classroom, I greeted Big A and asked about class while she put her boots and coat on.  That other parent? She continued texting, not even acknowledging her daughter for a good 3-4 minutes.  Finally when she finished the exchange, she looked up and began talking to her kid.  Like WTF? 

people-depend-on-cell-phones-to-much-22

Actually, I get very depressed when I am at the dance school and I watch the teens there interacting...or not really interacting with each other.  By the age of 12, most kids these days already seem addicted to playing games and texting.  Oh, and don't even get me started on "Selfies!" Its no surprise to me that number of selfies posted on line correlates with a persons' score on tests of narcissism.  Everything about the whole selfie thing makes me absolutely cringe.

Well, sorry if I am starting to rant, but, hey, this is my blog and I'll rant if I want to.  I wish I could actually write an article about this and publish it in an actual newspaper, but no one reads things written on paper anymore.  Speaking of which, I really don't get how people read novels on a device.  A kindle type thing is bad enough, but now people are downloading books onto their phones.  Maybe my astonishment reflects my poor eye sight and the fact that that would just be incredibly challenging for me.  I will also admit, while I'm at it, that one of the many reasons I hate texting is that I have unusually fat thumbs which make it difficult for me to push the correct button.  No joke!  I am a tiny woman but my hands could belong to a sumo wrestler.

Anyways, Dr. Guy Winch, who wrote the article in Psychology Today suggests that people:

1. Assess the extent to which technoference may be affecting your life and relationships
2. Distinguish between valid usage and excessive/unnecessary usage of your device
3. Negotiate fair expectations with your partner/loved ones about your usage to find better balance
4. Establish technology-free zones and time periods
5. Address exceptions and problems-solve future possible hurdles with regards to your technology usage

I am hoping that as a culture, we eventually establish norms for usage that bring the situation under control.  Perhaps it will be like smoking, which used to be permitted everywhere, until we realized the perils of this.  Just as it is now illegal to phone/text while driving maybe we will develop other restrictions in order to bring some semblance of balance back to our society.  Here's hoping...



Friday, March 13, 2015

Reality TV


On Wednesday, I took my mother-in-law and a friend of mine to see a taping of the Steven and Chris show.  This is CBC's daytime lifestyle show.  I watch it during the week sometimes, while I eat lunch, if I am at home.

I like it because they are sweethearts, and I can honestly say they really are like that in person.  It totally comes across how genuine they are when you see them in person. I snapped that pic on a filming break as they were answering audience questions.

That being said, watching a taping of a television show is a great reminder of how misleading the media can be.

Shows like this often make me feel a bit inadequate.  The fashion models, the clothes, the celebrity guests, the d├ęcor features...I am no fashion plate, nor am I a DIYer!  I love watching this stuff, but I wear very simple clothes, have a very simply decorated home, and although I love to cook, I certainly don't have a knack for presentation nor 'artistry on the plate'. I just like food that tastes good that I can shove into my mouth!

When watching them set up the segments, however, you see just how much work goes into every single detail.  Literally a TEAM of staff sets up the kitchen counter for the cooking demo, and arranges the food on the plates.  Make up and hair artists primp every tiny aspect of the guests and hosts, and a guy waving a piece of paper at the audience prompts us to either clap or cheer wildly, whether we would actually do that or not.  Everything is planned, arranged, and manipulated.  No wonder my life doesn't look so shiny and perfect!

And that's thing, when it comes to television, or media in general, there are only shades of reality.  Even the news is not always an accurate representation of the truth.  When Adam was in Ottawa during the Parliament Hill shootings, he said the situation was blown out of proportion by the media. 

Ironically, one of the segments on the Steven and Chris show that was being taped while we were there was with their parenting experts panel.  They were discussing this case about the "Free Range" parents who were charged by police for allowing their 10 and 6-year olds to walk home alone from the park.  The psychotherapist was saying how ridiculous this is (I agree!) and how the media and constantly increasing exposure to media, has completely distorted our perceptions of risk and danger.  I couldn't agree more.

So whether you are cruising Instagram, Facebook or television shows, remember to take everything you see and hear with a grain of salt! Just not too many, because too much sodium isn't healthy ;)

Today is a crazy, busy work day, and I also work tomorrow.  Then on Sunday Adam is taking Big A to see the Junos in Hamilton, as an early birthday present...she is so excitied!!  I am taking Little A and her best friend to the aquarium.  Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Quickie


I am really short on time for blogging this week, so I am just popping in to say, don't forget to follow me on Twitter: erica_health and/or Instagram: konjacforlife for your chance to win this amazing basket of 7 different organic cereals from Nature's Path!!

Also, check out my new website, which is finally open for orders: www.konjacforlife.com

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Of Lice and Men


No the girls don't have lice! But I am acting like they (and I) do!

I know, I am a bit neurotic.

Yesterday, I was sitting at my friend's house after spending most of the afternoon in Big A's classroom as a parent volunteer.  The daycare where my friend's son goes, and where the girls go, called to say her son had lice along with 5 other kids in the room. A little while later, Adam called me because both of Big A's friends who go to Brownies with her, also had lice so their parents called to say they wouldn't be going.  Um, hello, I just spent the afternoon in the classroom with those kids!!

We walked to the school to get the kids, who were not to happy to hear I was going to be putting them through the treatment last night, but come on, can you blame me?  Big A mentioned 2 other kids who were also found to have lice yesterday! 

Better safe than sorry!  By the way, a nice thick conditioner plus tea tree oil and one of the special combs does the trick just fine, no harsh chemicals required.

In more pleasant news, my mother-in-law, a friend and I are going to be in the audience of the Steven and Chris show this afternoon.  I really hope they are giving out some good prizes.  Happy Hump Day!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Win Nature's Path Organic Cereals!


Hello folks!  Its the warmest day we've had all year and I am loving it!

Before I head off to the girls' school to help out in Big A's classroom for the afternoon, I thought I would share some exciting news.

Nature's Path sent me this massive, incredibly generous box of their products - the cereal lovers in this house are going to be over the moon - and you can win one too!

Just follow me on Twitter or Instagram and let me know in a comment on either one that you want to win the basket.  Contest is open to those in both Canada and the U.S.!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Have a Snack with Pazazz

Pazazz Apples
Hello!  Its Monday!  Its supposed to warm up this week.  Oh hallelujah!

As you know, I am an apple connoisseur.  Apples are one of my favorite foods, bar none.

But not just any old apple.  No thanks to Golden or Red Delicious,  Macs or Galas, Granny Smiths, or Cortlands.

My favorite apples of all time are, in order of my adoration:

1. Mutsu (Crispin)
2. Honey Crisp
3. Pazazz
4. Pink Lady

What are Pazazz apples?  I am so glad you asked!  They are a new variety I just discovered and they are AWESOME!

They are a relative on the Honey Crisp which I discovered on sale at Loblaws a few weeks ago.  They are MASSIVE, sweet, tart, crisp and delicious.  The whole family loved them. 

Unfortunately, after introducing them for a special price, they tripled the price to $2.99/lb and since each apple is about a pound, they are now a little too much of a luxury (when I can find my favorite Mutsu for 99 cents a pound at the market.  But I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for another sale.

I love it when you discover something new and delicious created by Mother Nature because it means not only does it taste good, but its good for you.

If you think you don't like fruits or veggies, I challenge you to try a new kind once a week, and try cooking or serving them in different ways.  Frankly, since we have been eating stuff that grows since the beginning of time, it doesn't make sense to me how a person can not like eating plants.  Its like a rabbit not liking carrots!

So go...eat some plants!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Hold Me Tight

Best Forearm Exercise

I am bad-ass strong.  Yeah, you heard me! I may be a tiny 5'2, but I can kick some serious butt!  I often lift as much weight in the gym as men twice my size.  So what if most of them are senior citizens...

One thing I struggle with though, is my grip strength.  My large muscles - legs and back - are often strong enough to lift or push heavy weights, but my forearms are not and I find those muscles tend to cramp up quickly when I am holding really big weights.  Its super annoying! The other issue is I have small (ugly, man-like) hands, and most bars and dumbbells and cable attachments are made for bigger hands.

I keep telling myself I am going to start focusing on strengthening my forearms, but I always seem to forget.  So I am putting it out there right now to keep myself accountable. At the very least I can commit to grabbing a weight and doing some exercises in the evening while we watch television a few times per week.

If you struggle with the same issue when lifting, here is some great info about grip strength and a workout to target your hand and forearm muscles.

Well, its Friday and man, the weather sure has been playing with my emotions lately.  Monday it was freezing but I noticed a spring-like quality of light.  Then Tuesday happened: Tons of snow, freezing rain, and an ice storm that knocked out power to a lot of Torontonians (we were spared, fortunately).  Wednesday, Thursday and today there is sunshine, but its freakin' cold and I'm so sick of it!

This weekend its supposed to warm up somewhat, thank goodness.  I am not working tomorrow but we are very busy with the girls' activities, a birthday party, playdate, etc.   I am not looking forward to springing ahead this weekend and losing an hour of sleep.  Stupid time change, they should really do away with it!

Have a happy, healthy, fitness-filled weekend!


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Supplements I Take



Go into any health food store...or even the supplements section of your standard grocery store, and you'll be blown away by the number of products available, claiming to make you look and feel better and/or prevent and treat disease.

Some have true value while many others are unproven.  Most are expensive.

Since I was a kid - when my parents had me take a chewable multivitamin (not Flintstones!) - I have always taken a vitamin or supplement of some kind.  Over the years, just what I have taken has changed based on my needs.

I'll be honest, I eat such a healthy diet and live such a healthy lifestyle, I don't know whether it is crucial I take everything I take, but most North Americans are sorely lacking in the nutrient department and can probably benefit from some supplementation.

In my case, despite living a healthy lifestyle, I live in a big city, with a fair amount of pollution (some of it shared with us from New York State, thank you very much), and a northern climate where sunlight is often in small supply.  Remember, besides how you live, where you live is also important!

I thought I would share with you what my current supplementation routine looks like.

Pre-Workout - 2 Total Energy capsules (Siberian ginseng, wheat grass, vitamin B12 and caffeine) and a glass of licorice root tea.

After Workout - 1000mg L-Glutamine

With Breakfast - 1000iu Vitamin D, Multi, 2000 Fish Oil, and Probiotics

Lunch - 2 iron pills (since developing anemia in my 30s, like my mom did!). If I have dairy in my lunch, I will take these at dinner.

After Dinner - 1000mg L-Glutamine

Because my blood pressure is so ridiculously low, I take the licorice root tea and energy pills before my workout.  Please note that most people should not take these 2 in combination because it can lead to high blood pressure!

The L-Glutamine is for muscles repair and because I find it helps minimize DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).  2000mg is the minimum I take per day.  If I do a heavy-duty weights workout, like on Sundays, I will take some both before and after my workout and sometimes more at nighttime.

The fish oil is to make sure I am getting enough Omega-3s.

The Vitamin D is because most of us in northern climates should take a D supplement because we can't get enough through diet and sunshine exposure alone (and shouldn't spend long periods of time in the sun unprotected!).  But whether or not healthy people really do need to take a D supplement is not agreed upon by health professionals.  Whether its rational or not, however, I feel better taking one than not until the data provides us with clear information.

Similarly, there is still much debate on the benefits of a multi...I prefer to take one, even if not every day, just in case.  I probably don't need to though.

I just added the probiotic this week, because for some reason, I have been having IBS-like symptoms since we got back from Florida.  Its normal for my digestive tract to get out of whack when we travel, but it wasn't going away.  Its definitely better now, but I thought I would take this for a month to see if it can get me back to where I was before. I would love to take probiotics regularly, but they are too expensive, so I usually just take them when I am feeling under the weather.

If I had all the money in the world, I would definitely take more supplements, such as:

CoQ10 - helps with mitochondrial function of all organs
Chaga Mushroom - Anticarcinogen
Maca - Energy and Vitality
Biotin - For hair and nails

...and many others...

Until I win the lottery, I am sticking with my current routine.

What do you take?



Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Great Low-Carb Bread Company

Great Low Carb Everything Bread
If there is one food people tend to be passionate about, besides chocolate, its bread.

I know, I live with a man - that would be my wonderful husband - who adores bread.  He is happy to just grab a piece from a loaf...even that dreaded end piece, and gobble it down without even putting anything on it!

Big A also loves bread, although she favours it slathered with peanut butter and honey or PB&J.

When people have to cut down on carbs, giving up bread is often the most difficult sacrifice for them.  Its hard to find a good low-carb bread!

The Great Low Carb Bread Company makes a whole line of low-carb bread products and we were lucky enough to receive a whole bunch of them to sample.  We got their:

  • Plain bread
  • Sourdough bread
  • Cinnamon bagels
  • Pumpkin spice bagels
The products do not contain any refined flour or sugar, and are high in fibre and protein.  They do, however, contain gluten.

A slice of bread is only 60 calories, however, they are very small.  I use 4 slices and make 2 sandwiches for lunch, which gives you the general calorie equivalent of using 2 larger slices of most conventional breads.

Here are the nutritional facts:

Servings per Container 16
Serving Size 1oz = 1 Slice

Amount per Serving:
Calories 60
Total Fat 3g
Saturated Fat 0g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 140mg
Total Carbohydrates 8g
Dietary Fiber 7g
Net Carbs 1g
Protein 7g

Ingredients:
Water, Vital Wheat Gluten, Almond Flour, Flax Seed Meal, Oat Fiber, Wheat Protein Isolate, Modified Wheat Starch, Virgin Olive Oil, Yeast, Calcium Propionate, Vinegar, Salt , Stevia
I was hoping that Big A would take to them because getting protein into her is a big challenge, but she wasn't a fan for some reason.  That kid is picky!

Little A, however, loved them.  I think she ate 3 bagels in one meal!  My mom said the bagels tasted like real bagels, not 'bread with holes', which is a huge compliment coming from a native New Yorker!

Although the consistency is different from regular bread, I was pleased with these products.  They are soft enough, but sturdy to make some hefty sandwiches and are good both toasted and untoasted.

They contain almond flour, so unfortunately, cannot go in a lunchbox, but I am very happy to hoard them at home for us to chow down on here.

The company also makes buns, pizza crust, muffins and squares.

The products are available on their website, and in stores across the U.S.  In Canada, they can also be purchased online at ontarionutrition.ca .

As I've said many times before, most low-carb eating plans are expensive.  These products will cost you a premium ($6.99 U.S., $9.99 CAN per loaf!), but if you are trying to lower your carb intake but don't want to give up your favorite bakery products, than it may just be worth it to you.

Disclosure: The company sent us these products for free but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Ketogenic Diet

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As you know, if you've been following this blog for a while, I don't really believe in super restrictive diets.  Not because they can't help you lose weight, but because most people can't stay on them for very long.  Oh, if only I had a dollar for every client that has come to me for assistance losing weight, who has lost a significant amount of weight on one or another restrictive diet, only to gain it back, and then some, because it was unsustainable.

But they continue to grow in popularity: Low-Carb, Paleo, Gluten-Free...

I've noticed that many of the health bloggers I follow who spent a period of time swearing by these diets and what a cure-all they are, eventually go off them and admit they weren't all they hoped they would be and were too difficult to maintain long-term.

So I really wasn't expecting much when I was sent The Ketogenic Diet to read.  What is it, you ask?

A ketogenic diet is essentially a super low carbohydrate diet, like below 50g per day...I probably get more than that at breakfast alone! It was originally created as a way to treat epilepsy, and is still sometimes used for that purpose today, as well as for other therapeutic uses. It basically puts your body into a state of ketosis, where it is burning fat instead of carbohydrates for fuel.

The author, Kristen Mancinelli is a registered dietician who put herself on the diet for a few months to get first hand knowledge of the experience, and she outlines her experience.  She apparently lost weight, even though she was already thin, and felt great, yet she doesn't explain why she didn't stay on it.  Perhaps its because there is relatively little data on its long-term safety.

The book is not a diet plan, in fact, while it includes a few recipes, it has no menu plan at all.  It mostly focuses on the science behind the diet and on strategies to begin the diet and stick with it.

Thankfully, it departs from diets like Atkins by encouraging the majority of your fat intake to be healthy fats, rather than saturated animal fats.

The diet is primarily proteins and non-starchy vegetables, along with some nuts and seeds. 

Forbidden on the ketogenic diet are all grains, fruit (except limited amounts of berries), low-fat dairy, starchy vegetables, and sugars of any kind.

The only legume allowed is soy in the form of tofu and tempeh.

So its safe to say if you are vegan, and don't want to get almost all your protein from soy products, this diet probably isn't for you.

Because of the large quantity of animal products and non-starchy veggies, which are expensive, this diet is not going to be feasible for anyone on a tight budget.

I'll be honest, when the whole low-carb thing re-gained popularity after the 1990s low-fat craze, I was outraged.  It went against much of what we were told about nutrition, but more importantly, I couldn't imagine giving up all the carbohydrate foods I ate.  Just thinking about it got me depressed.

Over the years of carefully tracking the research though, I've realized that a diet too high in carbs is no good either.  Although I didn't really set out to change how I ate, I have, mostly because what I desire has changed. I chalk it up to less cardio and more strength training, but who knows.  For whatever reason, I am not as stuck on carbs and very happy to eat a diet more focused on protein and veggies.

But here's the thing, I still like some grains in my diet (you'll have to pry the spoon out of my cold, dead hand before I give up my morning oatmeal), and I don't want to be too restricted.  I don't count calories or carbs or anything else for that matter.  I eat what I want and, fortunately, what I want is usually pretty good for me.

With the ketogenic diet, it is very important to know the carbohydrate content of everything you eat and keep track of what you consume.  It is very, very strict.  For example, broccoli has a lot more carbs than cauliflower, so you'd actually have to watch how much broccoli you eat, and try to eat more cauliflower instead.  Now seriously, I like both, but limit broccoli? 

The other thing is the lack of fruit.  I don't eat that much, but don't even try to get between me and my apples!  But apples are forbidden.  While I avoid sitting down and pigging out on dried fruit, I do enjoy throwing them into savoury dishes to add some sweetness. 

You can eat a lot of fat on this diet, but even Mancinelli warns that you can't eat unlimited amounts, as excess calories from anything will prevent weight loss.

So why bother with this diet anyways?

Well, it seems the key benefit is that you can lose a lot of weight quickly.  I don't think, however, that losing weight quickly should be one's goal, unless its a matter of life or death.  Losing weight and being able to maintain that weight loss should be the goal.  And believe you me, if you do the ketogenic diet, lose weight, but then return to your usual eating habits, you will gain the weight back!

There is no specific recommendation of how long to be on this diet, but essentially I think the idea is that you do it for some weeks or months until you reach your goal weight. Then you switch to a regular low-carb diet.  So remember, if the weight loss is going to last, you have to maintain some degree of lifestyle change for the rest of your life.  You can't just go back to your regular way of eating.

Is this diet 'healthy'?

I checked the peer-reviewed literature and it is used, on occasion, by the medical community, as I stated before, to treat various conditions.  If weight loss occurs, it can have a positive effect on heart health, although, long-term data isn't available.

The book mentions that it has been hypothesized that it could help prevent cancer.  Now I have read a bit about the potential role of sugar in the development of cancer - one of the reasons I now believe in limiting carbs in ones diet - but there is little evidence of this in the literature at this point.

Mancinelli warns that this diet is not appropriate for everyone, and should only be attempted by healthy individuals.  Researchers go further than that and suggest it likely shouldn't be done by anyone without the supervision of a physician.

So my conclusion is, if you think this diet may be useful to you for some reason, pick up the book, but speak to your doctor first before attempting it, and remember, long-term health relies on consistency and healthy habits, not short-term, drastic measures that you can't sustain.  I say, develop the healthiest lifestyle you can love and keep it up for your whole life.

Disclosure: The publisher sent me this book, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

I have shared this post with Urban Naturale's Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Party Blog Hop.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Veggie Fries

Chickpea & Red Pepper Veggie Fries

Hello!  It might be Monday, but at least we're finally into March!!

I apologize for the lack of recipes lately...I've been very busy cooking and baking, but almost everything has been for my new website.  Its up, but I need to get the email working before you can place orders.

Although I love cooking, believe me, I am not putting gourmet meals on the table 7 days a week!  For one, there isn't time, and two, my kids are super picky.  On nights during the week when Big A has activities (right now its Brownies on Tuesday and dance on Wednesday), I still look for healthy, but quick and easy options that won't lead to dinnertime squabbles.  I am still happy to let the kids to go bed without dinner, if need be, but ideally, I want them to eat some wholesome food and there to be some peace in the house.

I am happy to admit I resort to 'kid' food quite often, like Life Choices' chicken nuggets, organic mac&cheese, etc.

The girls generally despise legumes (aside from edamame and green peas), so when I spied these Veggie Fries at a food store in our 'hood, with chickpeas and red peppers (they do like bell peppers), I was curious to see if they'd go for them.

They've got a pretty decent ingredient list, and more fibre and protein than you'd find in regular fries.

Chickpea & Red Pepper Veggie Fries Nutritional Info


They have several other varieties too.

This week on one of our busy evenings I served them up.  They get very crispy and taste pretty much like regular fries.  Unfortunately, Little A was not a fan, but she doesn't love fries as much as Big A does anyways.  Big A, who challenges me to find anything with protein - besides hot dogs and yogurt - that she will eat, actually really liked them, as did Adam and I.

Not health food, but not a bad quick side dish in a pinch!