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Showing posts from July, 2011

Escape from Alcatraz

The girls are growing up, there is no doubt.

Big A, at 5, seems to have finally developed an interest in the opposite sex. At least pictures of them in a book anyways.

The book on reproduction we bought her last year gets circulated through the pile of before bed readings. We've read it a few times lately and she always wants to read the same page: the penis page.

Last time I rebelled because I despise reading the same things over and over, even reading about how penises work. And I like penises just as much as the next heterosexual woman! "No not that page again," I told her, "I'm sick of that page, why do we always have to read that page?" She smiled, "I like penises...they're interesting." We'll I can't disagree really.

Little A moved into a "big girl" bed last weekend and we gave away her crib. Incidently, the folks who were first to ask for it when I posted it "available for free" on Craigslist drove u…

Vegan, Gluten-Free, Double Chocolate Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches for One (or Two)

It is Adam's birthday this weekend so I wanted to make him a little treat. And little is the key word.

Adam lives a very disciplined life. He works harder than anyone I know, is a terrific dad and husband, works out almost every day and tries to eat a healthy diet.

Unfortunately for him, sticking to a healthy diet is sometimes a chore. Unlike me, he does not get excited about broccoli, kale, chickpeas or brown rice.

Nope, his favorite foods are: meat(ANY), chocolate, ice cream, cookies and cake.

But he rarely indulges.

Every year on Father's Day he gets a Blizzard from Dairy Queen and every year on his birthday, his parents buy him one of those gigantic cookies from Mrs. Field's covered in icing. I look the other way while he and the girls gorge on all that white flour, sugar and saturated fat.

So knowing that he has the cookie coming, Adam said I could bake him a treat, but it had to be "mini" so that he doesn't pig out TOO much this weekend.

I wanted …

Help(less)!

Do you ever feel helpless?

I will admit I have serious control issues, when I do not feel in control of something I become extremely anxious. If I also feel helpless I become terrified.

That's kind of how I've been feeling about school/my future lately.

Aside from completing my practicum, I also need to write a Master Case Presentation (i.e. case study/mini-thesis) in order to graduate. It is due 2 weeks after I complete my practicum.

I put off thinking about my MCP altogether until a few weeks ago. I was actually pleased with myself for procrastinating. You see, last year when I did the cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), one of the things I worked on with the psychologist was the obsessive tendencies I had developed with my school work. I had gotten myself to the point where I experienced extreme anxiety unless ALL my work was completed. This meant that I was forcing myself to work further and further ahead until I had finished assignments due weeks or months later. …

Canadian Television

Lets be honest, Canadian television used to suck. When I was a kid there was Polkadot Door on TVO and Beach Combers on CBC, and even back then I hated these shows.

Things got better in the 80s with Degrassi Junior High and the Anne of Green Gables series, but generally speaking, there was very little of interest.

Rick Mercer and the rest of the crew were always good for a laugh on This Hour Has 22 Minutes (I will ALWAYS love the "Talking to Americans" segments!). But let's face it, Canadian political spoofs are never going to have mass appeal.

Ironically, we used to flagellate ourselves for not supporting Canadian television and preferring American/Hollywood productions, but even so, we still couldn't bring ourselves to watch much of our own pathetic programming.

Oh how things have changed my friends!

Adam and I marvel these days about how many of our favorite shows are Canadian. If you haven't already, I highly recommend you check out:

*Being Erica
*Combat …

Coffee Culture

Coffee consumption in North America is not just a habit, it has become an integral part of our culture.

According to the Canadian government, 14 billion cups of coffee are consumed in Canada every year and coffee is the most popular hot beverage and the number-one foodservice beverage in the country.

Until recently, most of us considered coffee consumption to be a vice. But recent studies are demonstrating that coffee itself is actually a nutrition superstar and is associated with a host of health benefits including a decreased risk of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, stroke, Type II diabetes, and prostate cancer.

It is not coffee that is unhealthy, it's what we add to it and some of the associated rituals that are really the problem.

Those tempting blended drinks at cafes and coffee chains take what is a virtually fat and calorie free beverage on it's own and load it up full of fat, sugar and calories. These drinks usually range from 150 cals (for a skinny…

Rasta Pasta

The inspiration for this dish came from the jerk seasoned turkey sausage I found at Costco last week.

A restaurant in Toronto used to sell a dish by this name, but I never tried it. When I did a Google search for "Rasta pasta" a mish mash of recipes came up which had only one thing in common: there was an element of Caribbean flavour in them.

So here is my take on it.

1 lb whole grain short pasta (I used rigatoni, but rotini or penne will work too)
1 lb turkey sausage, cut on the bias into thin slices (any kind will do, but try to avoid Italian sausage because the seasoning won't go with the other flavours)
1 large bunch kale, chopped

Sauce
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large chunk fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 tsp cider vinegar
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp allspice
Caribbean scotch bonnet hot sauce (or any other hot sauce), to taste (optional)
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 can light coconut milk

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

Cook pasta according to package instructions…

Live Clean

I have been committed to living a healthy life through nutrition and fitness for over 20 years now.

It took me a lot longer to pay attention to what I was cleaning the house with and what I was putting ON my body as opposed to IN it.

When I got pregnant with Big A I started reading about the toxins in a lot of commercial cleaning products and switched to the all-natural, eco-friendly stuff. When I became pregnant with Little A, I switched to all-natural, eco-friendly personal care products.

I am all for being environmentally friendly for the good of the planet, but to be honest, what really motivates me to make these types of changes is concern for my family's health.

You may remember I mentioned giving up my favorite perfume a while back because it apparently is full of nasty chemicals. I switched to the "Red Tea" scent made my Roots, which is supposed to be somewhat "natural". This was only after a number of trial and errors. I first found a woman in …

Optimist or Pessimist?

I could bitch for hours about the disgusting heat wave we are having in Canada right now, but after seeing and hearing about what folks in Somalia are facing right now because of drought, it just doesn't seem right.

What a peverse world we live in, huh? Here in North America we face a growing obesity epidemic because of our over consumption of calories and our insufficient energy expenditure. Half a world away millions of people are facing starvation.

Of course, this is a global problem that goes beyond individual life choices. It involves politics, economics and culture

Will things ever change for the better? I am not sure. How do you feel?

Are you generally an optimist or a pessimist?

I am probably more often a pessimist, which is typical of somone like me who tends to be an anxious worrier.

Like many anxious folks, I tend to hold common dysfunctional beliefs about my worry like: preparing for the worst possible outcome will (1) prevent it from actually happening, and (2)…

Vegetarian Pate

This recipe has been bouncing around in my head for a few weeks now but I only had time to finally make it yesterday.

One word: Y-U-M!

Not only delicious, but super healthy and a cinch to make. Seriously, give it a try.

1 cup red lentils, rinsed
3 cups water

1 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely minced (can be done in food processor)
2 tbls sherry vinegar
2-4 cloves garlic, to taste (minced)
1 carrot, finely grated or minced (can be done in food processor)
2 portobello mushroom caps, finely diced
2 tbls tomato paste
2 tbls worcestershire sauce (use vegetarian if you want this recipe to be vegetarian/vegan)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp thyme
Pinch of allspice (optional)
Fresh ground pepper, taste

Place lentils and water in sauce pan. Bring to boil, and then turn heat down to medium low and simmer, uncovered, until all the water is absorbed (about 45 minutes). You want them to be thick, soft and mushy. Turn off heat.

Meanwhile, pour oil into large skillet over…

Green Monster

Sorry, this isn't a recipe for spinach smoothies.

I'm talking about envy, the kind of green monster that rears it's ugly head for all of us from time to time.

Just for the record, it is different than jealousy. Jealousy involves fear of losing something you have (a boyfriend, etc.) while envy is about wanting what someone else has.

I admit I have been feeling envy lately. It's never a good feeling, in fact, it's downright sucky and invokes feelings of shame and embarrassment. After all, it's one of the deadly sins, right?

My life is pretty good. Great, actually. I have almost everything I have ever wanted. I am healthy and fit, I have a wonderful husband, two beautiful daughters, supportive friends and family, a lovely home, a car and...almost a career I love (I just gotta graduate, establish myself as a therapist and actually start MAKING MONEY from my counselling!).

Still, every now and again something triggers envy for me and it's rarely logical or rational. …

Small Victories

Is life with kids EVER easy? I think not.

But sometimes there are small victories and special moments.

Little A is officially weaned. She's still not thrilled about it and will occasionally ask for "mommy milk", but she will accept some pumped milk or bovine milk in a cup instead of nursing.

Of course she still loves the mammaries. In Costco last week, she was faking a dirty diaper (we were too stupid to actually check) and claiming that sitting in the shopping cart was hurting her butt, so I was carrying her around the store. She took this opportunity to reach down my tank top, grab my breasts and exclaim loudly, "Mommies boobies!"

No that was not the special moment I was thinking of...

I was worried that once I weaned her, our regular cuddle sessions would cease. But she is still affectionate and absolutely adorable...when she isn't having a terrible 2 tantrum.

The new "treat" system has completely transformed Big A! It is working even better tha…

Buttermilk Blueberry Lemon Muffins

Who doesn't love blueberry muffins? And right now the markets are full of inexpensive, fresh blueberries.

Unfortunately, most commercially-made blueberry muffins available at coffee shops, cafes and grocery stores are full of empty calories from sugar, fat and refined flours.

These are deliciously moist, full of flavour and packed with nutrition and fibre.

Using finely grated zucchini, which you won't taste at all, keeps them moist and low in calories. The kamut flour and golden ground flax seeds produces a light-coloured batter that ALMOST looks like you have used white flour. If you are worried that green flecks from the zucchini will turn off picky eaters, try substituting yellow summer squash, also in season now, instead. These muffins are also very low in fat (no oil needed!)and sugar free if you choose to use Splenda or stevia.

4 small zucchini or yellow summer squash, finely grated (or just throw in food procesor until very finely chopped)
2 large eggs or 4 egg whites
1…

Don't Sweat It

If you are an exerciser or simply someone who "perspires" a lot (I am both!), than you may be familiar with this problem: STINKY CLOTHES!

Both Adam and I notice that very quickly even brand new workout clothes can get pretty ripe. Adam actually goes through is workout shirts and throws them out on a regular basis.

But frequently tossing out all your exercise clothes is not very "green" nor is it feasible if you are on a budget. Workout gear is EXPENSIVE! Not only that, but I find it hard to find stuff that is flattering on my body shape (i.e. short with no hips or waist + big boobs).

I don't buy Lululemon anymore because it is too damn expensive and I have had bad luck with it (holes, shrinkage, colours fading, etc.). I LOVE the La Senza Spirit line of active wear, but it has been discontinued (boo hoo). Joe Fresh and Costco actually have some great and very affordable stuff, but they rarely have my size.

Sooo, I decided to try and "fix" some of…

Drink at Your Own Risk

Believe me folks, as a mother of two young kids, I understand what a pleasure (i.e. NECESSITY!) a little tipple here and there can be.

While I may occasionally crave a glass of red wine in the colder months to take the edge off of a busy life with two strong willed little ones, it's the summer when I really crave a drink. Is there anything better than a cold beer or glass of white wine at a friend's barbecue or on a restaurant patio?

Unfortunately, I have watched too many people make a few drinks a regular or even daily part of their routine without realizing the associated health risks.

Sorry to burst your bubble folks, but even if you choose red wine to imbibe, don't fool yourself into thinking you are doing your body good. Yes, it can be protective against cardiovascular disease, but alcohol consumption - even moderate consumption - increases cancer risk. Why assume that risk when there are other ways to lower cardiovascular disease risk that are ALSO PROTECTIVE AGAIN…

Attitude is Everything

Last week's summer cold seems to have morphed into something worse. Although I felt better on Saturday, yesterday I felt worse and this morning I felt like I had been hit by a truck. The sore/scratchy throat has become massively swollen glands and a bad headache, which fortunately have abated how thanks to the handful of painkillers I swallowed (very bad!).

Then Adam suggested I could have mono, and now I'm totally freaked out. I had mono in 11th grade and it was awful. I was house bound for 2 weeks and then not myself (i.e. totally lethargic) for 3 months. Oh well, I'll cross my fingers and hope for the best.

When I have posted in the past about my concerns regarding Big A's eating, some of you have given me suggestions indicating that the problem may be I am too restrictive with her.

While I can certainly see how you might feel this is the case, it really is not. In fact, I think I am probably too permissive, and I believe even Adam would agree. Big A eats a L…

Cold Cucumber and Glass Noodle Salad

It's another scorcher today. Fortunately, my cold has abated, but I'm still miserably hot and sweaty.

So I decided I HAD to have something COLD and refreshing for lunch. This turned out beautifully. If you want to add a protein and make it a complete meal, try edamame, tofu, or canned tuna or salmon, drained.

1 lb bag tofu-free Shiritake noodles (yam starch), rinsed, snipped and dried, or 250g glass noodles or rice noodles, prepared according to package directions.
1 English cucumber, cut lengthwise and then thinly sliced

Dressing
1 hunk fresh ginger, peeled
2 cloves garlic
4 tbls rice vinegar
2 tbls fish sauce or light soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 handful fresh cilantro/coriander
Hot crushed chili flakes, to taste

To make dressing, throw everything into blender or food processor and process (won't be completely smooth). Pour over noodles and cucumber in a medium bowl (and protein, if using) and toss to combine. Let sit a few minutes to absorb flavours. Glass noodles will…

Summer Colds

Summer sucks.

I know you probably don't hear that very often.

Most people love summer.

I HATE IT. I must have a different metabolism from most people because I hate heat. Not just sun heat but saunas, whirlpools, fireplaces, etc. It just doesn't feel pleasant to me. I'd much rather be cold and be able to snuggle into a sweater, blanket or cup of tea.

Yes, in my opinion there is little to enjoy about summer. Particularly heat, humidity and summer colds!

I haven't had a cold in many months, which is honestly a first for me since I had the girls. I never used to get sick until I had kids but the little germ bags started bringing home every existing bug.

Being sick sucks anytime of year, but for some reason, it is even worse in the summer. It just feels wrong to be congested, sneezy and headachy when the bright sun is beating down. Even when I'm not, I feel warm and feverish. Ya know?

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night with a searing sore throat. Then…

Tuna Melt

In spite of it's simplicity, there is something so comforting and satisfying about a tuna melt. It makes a perfect lunch or dinner and is quick and easy.

This version is a bit gussied up, but still quick and easy and it tastes fantastic!! Mixing the cheese right into the tuna makes it even better than melting it over top (IMHO!).

1 can water packed tuna, drained
2 tbls fat free Miracle Whip/Veganaise/Mayo, etc.
2 garlic dill pickles, finely diced
About 3-4 pepperoncini (Italian pickled peppers), either spicy or sweet
60g aged cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes (or your favorite cheese)
1 tbls fresh lemon zest
1/2 tsp dried dill
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

1 large whole grain flat bun

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mound onto two halves of the flat bun and put in oven or toaster oven at 350F until cheese melts. Enjoy!

Espressoda

Some people find it harder to stick to a healthy eating plan in the winter because they crave high calorie comfort foods when it's cold.

I have the opposite problem. When it is disgustingly hot and humid (as it is EVERY summer in Toronto), I crave COLD LIQUID BUBBLES!! The obvious choices are beer and soda, of course.

But I try to minimize my alcohol consumption as much as possible. PLEASE don't fool yourself into thinking alcohol is healthy. Yes, it can lower your chances of heart disease, but it can significantly INCREASE YOUR RISK OF VARIOUS CANCERS!! There are many more healthy ways to maintain heart health that do not come with that risk attached.

And soda, well don't even get me started! I readily admit that I sometimes give in to my cravings with the occasional diet ginger ale or diet Dr. Pepper. But I actually don't like the taste of most other conventional soft drinks. Also, they contain a host of heinous chemicals (i.e. caramel colour, phosphoric acid, b…

What is Healthy Eating Anyways?

Even as a trained health researcher with extensive experience interpreting statistical data, I sometimes feel completely overwhelmed by the nutrition information out there.

In some ways what constitutes "healthy" eating is simple, in other ways it is so incredibly complicated.

When I was a kid, everyone knew that eating fruits and vegetables was a healthy habit. Period.

Now, we agonize over whether said fruits and veggies are too high in sugar, grown locally and/or are organic. Even when my kids are eating fresh produce, I feel pangs of guilt when it isn't organic. And it often isn't. Why? Because organic food is SO EXPENSIVE. We buy as much organic as we can, but we are living on only one income right now so it simply isn't feasible to buy ONLY organic foods. I do make more of an effort to buy organic for the kids, but still, they are eating nowhere near all organic.

I also often question eating meat as a healthy choice. I avoided red meat for 7 years, from …

Thai Tamarind Chicken

Tamarind is actually a fruit. It's the main ingredient in authentic Pad Thai sauce. It's quite tart, but is perfect for Thai dishes, which balance tart, sweet, salty and spicy flavours. You can usually find it in ethnic food shops and health food stores.

You can adjust the flavour to taste, by adding more sugar or heat, depending on your preference.

1 tsp peanut or canola oil
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
1 tbls corn starch
1 onion, thinly sliced

Sauce:
3-4 cloves garlic
large knob of fresh ginger, cut into 3-4 pieces
1/2 cup tamarind concentrate (puree)
1/4 cup ketchup or 2 tbls tomato paste + 1 tbls brown sugar
4 tbls rice vinegar
2 tbls fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
A few handfuls fresh coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped

Combine all ingredients for sauce in food processor or blender and Toss chicken with corn starch. Heat wok or skillet and stir fry chicken and onion in oil. When chicken is no longer pink, add sauce an…

Happy Canada Day!

I hope all you fellow Canadians have been having a good time celebrating the nation's birthday today!

We had a lovely day. It started with Big A getting up at 5:45am!! Then we had breakfast and drove to Downey's farm, the place we went last fall for their Pumpkin Fest.

Today they had a Canada Day Strawberry Festival. We met my in-laws, sister-in-law and niece there. They had a pancake breakfast, strawberry picking, a petting zoo, mini golf, a dog show, music, etc., etc. It was a beautiful day if you like the heat...which I don't, so I had to sneak off to find shade a few times.

Everyone had a great time except Little A. She hasn't pooped since Wednesday and is miserably uncomfortable. She became hysterical on the way home from daycare yesterday because she said her tummy hurt. But even a dose of lactulose last night hasn't unclogged her pipes yet. So she was sulky and stayed in the stroller the entire time we were at the farm. After her nap she was in a be…