Friday, April 21, 2017

I 8 the Cookie

Though I am not working this weekend, aside from tonight, I don't think its going to be a relaxing one. It is Little A's 8th birthday and she is having a sleepover party (Help!).

She starts thinking about what she wants for her next party the day after her party. Luckily, its just a few friends, and, actually, its one of the least expensive parties we've ever thrown for the girls. But hopefully it doesn't cost us our sleep...or our sanity!

The plan is the girls come over for pizza (I always offer other meal choices, but they always want pizza!), and movies, and this year, Little A wanted a cookie cake like the one Adam always gets for his birthday.

I found the perfect one from a local bakery, that offers more flavours and colours than any other place I have found up to this point. She is absolutely thrilled with the heart shaped white and milk chocolate chunk variety she chose, with purple and pink icing.

The next morning I promised her we would serve the girls waffles with fruit, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Sigh! All nutrition rules go out the window at birthdays! Fortunately, I convinced her that along with the non-edible goodies, the loot bags needed only a small box of Smarties. Hopefully, the girls will be on such a sugar high, they won't complain about the limited candy in the loot bag. I am sure the parents won't mind!

Its funny how my baby is 8 and not at all a baby, but she still seems like a baby to me. Its so different than with Big A, who has always seemed, in some way wise for her years, and at almost 11, frequently gets mistaken for being 14-15. Little A is still so slight and really relishes being a kid, in a way I don't think Big A ever did. She's always just seemed in a big hurry to grow up.

Facebook keeps presenting old photos to me when I log in, and though I never ever ever ever want to have another child, I do get a bit heartsick seeing how quickly they have grown. And we haven't even hit the stage when they start to hate us yet!

Well, wish us luck, hopefully everything will go smoothly tomorrow night.

Have yourself a happy, healthy weekend!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pure & Simple: Book Review

I have been completely discombobulated this week. Since Monday was a holiday, I am just totally off kilter, though kind of in a good way. We were so busy over the 4 day weekend, it flew by. Lots of time with family and friends, which is the best way to spend it.

And now I bring you a cook book review!

Pascale Naessens is one of those women its hard not to envy. She is a model, healthy eating advocate, ceramic artist, speaker and author from Belgium.

I had not heard of her before being asked to review her latest book, but I suspect that's because I am North American, as she clearly has made a name for herself already in Europe. Nevertheless, I was eager to read her take on healthy eating.

Pure & Simple is primarily a cookbook, but it is based on her approach to nutrition (which she says is not a diet) and includes an explanation of her perspective on healthy eating. In a nutshell, she eats a low carb, high protein, high fat diet of whole foods. Its nothing ground breaking. For carbs she sticks with small amounts legumes, brown and wild rice, oats, and pseudo-grains like buckwheat and quinoa (which are actually seeds).  The bulk of the diet is non-starchy veggies and fruit, and lean proteins. She consumes some cheese, full-fat yogurt and heavy cream, but avoids dairy milk and  all processed foods.

Though there is nothing unhealthy about her way of eating, she also promotes food combining, which is based on bunk science. That being said, there is nothing harmful about this practice, so its one of those things where, if it works for you (meaning that it helps you look and feel your best and be healthy and you enjoy it), than go for it. Just don't think there is any magic behind it because there is zero evidence that it inherently has any weight loss or health benefits.

I like that she avoids being too extremist, encouraging readers to indulge their guilty pleasures 20-30% of the time, to keep themselves feeling happy and satisfied. She also stresses the importance of exercise, and limiting alcohol.

The book is full of beautiful pictures, many of them including Pascale herself, who is drop dead gorgeous. But I am sorry to say that adopting her style of eating will not transform you into looking like her. That's about genetics!

The recipes are great, primarily because they use fresh foods and have short, simple ingredient lists. The recipe chapters include:

  • Fish
  • Seaweed
  • Shellfish
  • Meat
  • Cheese
  • Vegetables
There are just a few dessert recipes, and few vegan ones, but I don't have a single issue with the ingredients she uses, because, as you know, I abhor added sugars and refined flours, and there is almost none of that here.

There are no meal plans in this book, but she still claims that if you are overweight, adopting this style of eating will lead to weight loss. She is probably right, as long as you watch your portion sizes.

If you love flavourful, high quality food that is easy to make, you will very much like this book.

I recommend this book for anyone looking for simple, nutritious recipes to improve their health.

Disclosure: I was sent this book to review, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Macaroons 2 Ways

More recipes for you today!

I always like to explore new recipes for Passover, because...well the ol' traditional stuff is pretty yucky (I am looking at you matzo!).

So I made 2 things using this basic macaroon recipe, a macaroon topped fruit crisp, and macaroon cookies. Take your pick, they are both scrumptious! As always, I didn't use sugar, just a combination of Vitafiber and stevia, and since the base is almond flour and coconut, they are gluten-free.

Macaroons traditionally use egg whites, so this recipe isn't vegan. You could try using flax eggs, but I have no idea if that would work. If you just want to make cookies, go for it. Its a big recipe so it will bake a lot! You can add in other things besides chocolate chips, such as dried fruit, if you wish.

Macaroon Recipe

1.5 Cups almond flour
1.5 Cups medium shredded, unsweetened coconut
2/3 Cup finely sliced almonds
1/2 Cup Vitafiber powder
1 tsp Pure stevia powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp Pure vanilla extract
4 egg whites from extra large eggs

Stir together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add vanilla and egg whites and stir until dough forms.

Macaroon Topped  Fruit Crisp

2/3 of macaroon recipe
1 600g bag frozen blueberries, thawed
1 600g bag frozen mixed fruit (I used a mix of strawberries, peaches, mango and papaya), thawed
2 tbsp Vitafiber powder
1 tsp konjac powder

Stir together fruit with Vitafiber and konjac powder and pour into oven safe baking dish. Top with 2/3 of macaroon dough, spreading it out evenly. Bake at 350F for about 45 minutes, or until fruit is bubbling and top is starting to get golden around the edges. Serve hot or cold.

Chocolate Chip Almond Macaroons

Taking remaining cookie dough and stir in 1/3 cup chocolate chips. Shape into balls and bake on parchment lined baking sheet at 350F for 10-12 minutes, or until golden. Be careful not to burn. Let cool and keep in air tight container.

If you are celebrating Easter this weekend, I wish you a Happy Easter. I have to work today, tomorrow, and Sunday, but we all have Monday off so we are hoping to fit in a fun family activity. Unfortunately, the it is supposed to rain the next couple days, so that definitely limits our options. Have a happy, healthy weekend whatever your plans!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Apple Carrot Raisin Quinoa Kugel

Good morning and welcome to Wednesday! Lots of recipes for you this week.

Though a kugel is a traditional Jewish dish, and often one served at Passover, this is something that you can make any time of year, regardless of your background.

This recipe is healthy and only moderately sweet, so it makes a great, nutritious breakfast, brunch dish, or side dish for dinner. Most kugels contain a lot of eggs and many contain cheese, but this one is entirely vegan, as well as sugar-free and gluten-free. You can add in nuts and/or other dried fruits if you wish as well. It came together because Little A wanted to make something with me for our sedar at my in-laws and I didn't want to make another dessert, but also wanted to try and find something that would appeal to the kids. Apples and cinnamon is always a good bet!

Apple Carrot Raisin Quinoa Kugel

1 cup quinoa
946ml carton unsweetened plain or vanilla coconut drinking milk (or almond milk)
2 apples, chopped
1 lb bag shredded carrots
1/2 cup raisins
2 tbsp ground flax seeds
1/2 cup Vitafiber powder (or other sweetener, to taste)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp konjac powder

Combine quinoa and 2 cups of coconut milk in pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let cool for about 30 minutes. Place quinoa in large mixing bowl and add the rest of the ingredients and the rest of the carton of coconut milk. Pour mixture into a large greased, oven safe baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes at 350F. Serve warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 5 days or freeze.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sugar Free Dark Chocolates

Its that time of know, when every pharmacy and grocery store has shelves filled with chocolate bunnies, Easter eggs, and Passover gelt. Most if it isn't even very good, its usually cheap chocolate, you know, the kind that almost has a waxy consistency. Blech! Skip it!

Make your own and make it sugar free. You get all the yumminess and the health benefits of chocolate minus the sugar. And, honestly, it is super fast and easy. This chocolate also is vegan and gluten-free, so very allergy-friendly.

If you can't find Vitafiber, or another brand of IMO sweetener, order it online, its widely available, including on Amazon.

If you don't have chocolate molds, you can pour it into little paper candy cups instead.

Sugar Free Dark Chocolates

6 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup Vitafiber IMO syrup
1 tsp pure stevia powder (or other sweetener, to taste)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Melt chocolate over double boiler (or heat safe bowl set over simmering water). Stir in the other ingredients and quickly pour into molds. Freeze about 20 minutes until set. Keep frozen if you want them hard, or in the fridge, if you prefer a softer consistency.

Happy Passover to those celebrating this week!

I have shared this recipe with Urban Naturale's Pot-Luck Link Up Party.

Friday, April 7, 2017


When doing mental health histories with my counselling clients, I always screen for phobias. People usually laugh at first, but then you would be surprised how many people admit to having one.

A phobia, by the way, is an anxiety disorder characterized by a persistent fear of an object, event or situation.

Sometimes they develop because of a past trauma, but sometimes they have no clear origin.

It is theorized that some of the more common ones, like phobias of spiders and snakes, actually have a biological origin, since in earlier times they may have served to keep us safe.

We tend to think of phobias as humorous, but they can truly be debilitating for the sufferer. Fortunately, I find most of my clients who have phobias don't seem to feel shame about them.

The most common ones reported to me are:

  • Spiders
  • Snakes
  • Bugs of all kinds
  • Flying
  • Needles
  • Small spaces
  • Crowds
  • The dark
  • Dental work
  • Medical procedures
Others I've had reported to me:

  • Ketchup
  • Fish 
  • Cotton balls
  • Swallowing pills
  • Intercourse/penetration
  • Having body odour (though this may have actually been more of an OCD thing)
For an unofficial list of phobias, check this out:  

Personally, I don't think I have any fears that qualify as a true phobia, though I do hate spiders, sharks and small places. I don't like flying either. But I don't require sedation or anything for any of these things.

Big A has a needle phobia, which I believe is the result of her having an anaphylactic reaction to the H1N1 vaccine when she was 3 or 4. She was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. 

If you do have a phobia and it is debilitating in any way (one of the reasons I have to ask clients is, in particular, if they are doing fertility treatments, it is critical to know if they have needle or medical-related phobias!), I urge you to get help. EMDR is extremely effective for eliminating phobias, and exposure therapy can also help.

You definitely should not feel shame about having a phobia!!

Enjoy your Friday and have a lovely, happy, healthy weekend!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April is Irritable Bowel Awareness Month

It seems that Irritable Bowel (IBS) is increasingly common these days. But I've been familiar with it since I was a kid. My dad was diagnosed with it back in the 80s. At that point, nobody was talking about it. He was put on this weird fibre supplement but I don't think it helped much because after a few years he quit taking it.

By the end of highschool, I'd been diagnosed with it too. My doctor recommended I start my day with a glass of warm water and then sit on the toilet until elimination occurred. Um. Okay...

That didn't work. Partly because drinking warm water made me gag (hot with lemon or ice cold is how I like my water!), and partly because it just didn't help me eliminate. It was only years later I realized I just needed to stop consuming milk (I was lactose intolerant and ate cereal with milk every day for breakfast) and start drinking a lot more water. I was working out regularly by 10th grade, but like most young people, drinking crap (pop, juice, etc.) or nothing at all.

My IBS symptoms have always been around since, but improved or worsened depending on what's going on with my hormones and my diet.

I am now fine with dairy, as long as I don't consume too much milk (cheese is fine). But, as I reported recently, I have had to entirely cut out chia and flax seeds. I also can't overdo it on cauliflower, beets, or beans.

I am pretty bummed about the flax and chia, as they are so nutritious and a great source of Omega 3s, which are vital to overall health. Fortunately, there are some other plant-based sources, such as sea buckthorn berries.  This plant also contains Omega 7 which can ease IBS symptoms for some people. You can get a variety of supplements and beauty products made from sea buckthorn through Seabuck Wonders, an awesome company whose products I reviewed for you all a few years ago.

They have provided some info on IBS in honour of April being IBS Awareness Month:

April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month

SeabuckWonders Offers Five Tips to Support Digestive Health 

Chicago, IL – March 23, 2017 – If you’re not personally affected by IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), chances are you know someone who is. Did you know that 11% of the world population suffers from IBS?[1] In the U.S. alone, 25-45 million people are affected by this disorder—with a majority being women. And it is quite possible there are many more who suffer from IBS but have not been diagnosed.

These are staggering statistics for a condition that does not have a specific cure. As a matter of fact, if you’ve been diagnosed with IBS, it is because most other digestive diseases or conditions have been ruled out—it is a diagnosis of exclusion with many variables in terms of symptoms, treatment and severity.

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

The Mayo Clinic defines IBS as ...a common disorder that affects the large intestine (colon). Irritable bowel syndrome commonly causes cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. IBS is a chronic condition that you will need to manage long term.[2] It goes on to explain that only a small number of people have severe symptoms requiring prescribed medications, and that most sufferers can control symptoms through diet, exercise, lifestyle and reducing stress.

Symptoms of IBS

The signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can vary widely from person to person and often resemble those of other diseases. Among the most common are:
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • A bloated feeling
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea or constipation — sometimes alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea
  • Mucus in the stool

For most people, IBS is a chronic condition, although there will likely be times when the signs and symptoms are worse and times when they improve or even disappear completely.[3]
5 Tips to Reduce Tummy Trouble:

  1. Drink plenty of water - Drink enough water. Many digestive problems are the result of a lack of water, as the liquid helps dissolve fats and soluble fiber. Taking a glass of water soon after waking up jumpstarts the digestive system, which helps prevent constipation. Also, drinking a glass of water 30 minutes before a meal stimulates the stomach lining and prepares it for food.[4]
  2. Probiotics - Increasing the number of good bacteria in our GI tract, by taking probiotic supplements and eating foods that contain probiotics, may help combat reduce digestive symptoms, a growing number of scientists say. New research indicates that specialized strains of these good bacteria could also alleviate mood and anxiety disorders.[5] Of course, always confer with your doctors to find out which probiotics are right for you and the optimal dosage.
  3. Low FODMAP Diet – FODMAP compounds (found in gluten containing foods) are thought to contribute to the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and similar gastrointestinal disorders.[6] Click here to learn more and find out which foods are low in FODMAPs, which may help reduce IBS symptoms
  4. Increase Omega-7 intake - Sea buckthorn has an array of essential omega fatty acids, including the rare Omega 7. These fatty acids soothe cells and support the functions of the gastrointestinal mucosa. Omega 7 provides also helps to restore moisture. When the mucous membranes are healthy, they hold moisture better. Constipation sufferers may find relief with the healthy functions of these mucous membranes.
  5. Exercise - Aerobic activity, the use of large muscles groups for at least 10 minutes, helps fight constipation. Exercise helps with digestion in several ways, including promoting the movement of food through the intestines and improving blood flow to your gut.[7]

Monday, April 3, 2017

Core de Force: Workout Program Review

Once a week in my fitness routine, Monday, as a matter of fact, is core day. I love core day, but long ago I got sick of my rotating routines. Though I like my Jillian Michaels DVDs, and continue to keep them challenging by increasing the weight I use, I am bored of them. I plain hate the Bob Harper one I have, its weird and he's annoying. But I do it to add variety. I will throw in the ones that came with my Tapout XT set, but I don't love them. I've been doing all of them for years and have been dying for something new. Unfortunately, I never found anything that seemed worth buying...until now.

I stumbled across a new workout program called Core de Force from Beach Body. It combines 2 of my favorite things: core work, and MMA inspired fitness!

Its led by trainers Jericho McMatthews and Joel Freeman and includes 3 DVDs full of workouts. Also, includes all the usual Beach Body stuff (workout plan, diet plan, etc.), but I toss that stuff.

The full workouts are between 27-47 minutes, and then there is a 16 minute floor routine, and a 5 minute plank challenge routine.

Now first things first. Its fun! Workouts have to be fun, right?

The shorter ones I don't fine too intense but I enjoy the punching and kicking work. There are 5 minute coaching sections before each full workout to help prepare you for the moves you'll need, if you are a newbie to MMA. I'd seen most of it before in my Tapout XT and UFC Fit programs.

The 16 minute floor routine and 5 minute plank challenge are solid ab workouts, and will definitely be very difficult for beginners. What I love is that none of these workouts involve any equipment, so this makes them perfect for traveling! What I don't love is that the 5 minute plank challenge is on each DVD. Since the program is supposed to focus on core, you'd think they could give you a different one on each DVD, but no, its the exact same.

The two longest workouts, MMA Power, and MMA Plyo, are by far the most challenging. Not just because they are longer, but also higher intensity. More lower body work, more level change exercises that really get your heart rate up. Everything definitely works your core!

If you hate situps or traditional core work, and the idea of learning MMA moves sounds fun to you, definitely give this a try. You will for sure have some learning curve if you've never done any of these moves before, so you do have to have some patience to learn them, but its nothing like fancy dancy moves aerobics or anything. Its also a good program for anyone who doesn't have any weights or fitness equipment and doesn't want to purchase any. You also don't need a ton of room, just enough to be able to kick without bashing into something.

My biggest criticism is that they don't always do a particular combination on both sides of your body. Occasionally they do, but I would say 2/3 times they don't, which I find weird, and very annoying, being the A Type that I am. But really, isn't it important to work both sides of your body evenly? They workouts are essentially HIIT, alternating between kicking and punching combos of varying intensity, with 'spikes' (more cardio like moves) in between. Everything is repeated twice, so there is no excuse for not doing everything on each side.

In any case, I most definitely will integrate these workouts into my routine, and will be packing up the set in my suitcase next time I want to bring a portable fitness program with me when I travel.