Friday, September 28, 2012

Hulk Hogan Veggie Burgers

Did ya know that Hulk Hogan is still kicking (throwing people) around?  In fact, he's still wrestling!

I only know this because my sweet, brilliant husband loves wrestling.  Yes, he is an enigma.

Anyways, I call these Hulk Hogan Veggie Burgers because they are manly, meaty and huge.  No tree-hugging veggie burgers here.  But in all honesty, perhaps I should call them Trish Stratus burgers - after the Canadian former wrestler cum yoga guru, because they are also healthy and virtuous.

I am an omnivore, so I tend to like anything with the word 'burger' in it's name to be hearty and 'meaty', but at the same time I aside from wild salmon or chicken burgers, I generally stick with veggie burgers.  I don't think I've eaten a beef burger since 1995 (I think my residence roomies convinced me to go to McDonalds one morning after a particularly wild party, with the promise that it cured hangovers).

I tend to stick with a few tried and true brands that I buy, but I really wanted to make some myself.   Unfortunately most of the veggie burger recipes that I have seen don't suit my preferences for one reason or another (don't want ones that are 'curry' flavour or made with blackbeans, or are too high in fat, or have too much binder/flour/starch, etc.) and I was scared to come up with my own.  I wanted one that is delicious, of course, as well as low-fat and high-protein.  Just as I was devising a recipe, Susan Voisin of Fat Free Vegan Kitchen posted one that was very close to what I was dreaming up.  Unlike Susan's however, this one is 100% grain-free.  The one thing you do need to make these babies is patience.  It takes time to carmelize the onions and takes time to cook the burgers so that both sides get a crust and will hold together.  But be patient my friends, these are worth it!

Hulk Hogan Veggie Burgers (Inspired by these)

1 onion, thinly sliced
About 8oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
3-4 cloves garlic
2 tbls sherry vinegar
2 tsp vegan worcestirechire sauce
A few drops liquid smoke (optional)
1 can brown lentils, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups cooked lentils)
2 tbls tomato paste
1 tsp konjac root flour (4 575mg capsules glucommannan/konjac root)* or 2 tbls cornstarch/arrowroot starch
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Place onions in a non-stick pan or skillet and cook over medium heat, with garlic, vinegar, worcestershire sauce until soft and starting to carmelize (about 15-20 minutes).  Season to taste.  Add mushrooms and continue cooking until they have released most of their liquid and then liquid has been absorbed.  Let cool a bit.  Puree lentils tomato paste and konjac root flour/starch in food processor.  Add onion/mushroom mixture and puree until there are no large chunks of mushroom or onion.  Form into 4 huge patties (or 8 smaller ones, if you wish!).  Place in non-stick skillet or fry pan, sprayed with non-stick spray, over medium heat. 

Cook on one side until crust forms and then flip and continue cooking on the other side until there is a crust and burgers hold together.  Serve on a whole grain bun and garnish as desired. 

Freeze extras with wax paper in between.  Reheat in fry pan or skillet before serving.

*Konjac is the root veggie used to make shiritake noodles.  If you cannot find canisters of the flour (usually available at low-carb shops), then just empty out the content of 4 capsules (available at most health food stores).

This recipe has been entered into this week's Gluten-Free Fridays on Vegetarian Mamma,  Diet, Dessert & Dogs' Wellness Weekend, and the recipe link-up on Urban Naturale.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

My New Favorite Brand: One Degree Organics

Recently I discovered a new line of products at Fiesta Farms : One Degree Organic Foods!

I purchased their organic sprouted spelt flour and I have been absolutely thrilled with the results. 


Every recipe I've used it in so far, has baked up absolutely light and scrumptious.  They also have regular spelt flour, regular whole wheat, and sprouted whole wheat.  The company also manufactures breads, seeds and legumes.

What's cool about their products is that each bag has a code on the front which you can scan to find out on what farm the item was grown.  Their website lists their farmers, which are mostly in Western Canada, and the U.S.

I've started to find their products at Herbs and Nutrition, my favorite local health food store in Toronto, and their website allows you to search for retailers across North America. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Crispy Baked Fries with Vegan Gravy

French fries probably rank up there with one of the most popular foods in North America.  Although I always liked them well enough as a kid, they weren't one of my faves, but I certainly remember them being the top choice of most of my peers.

I recall many of my friends in highschool buying the fries & gravy from our school's cafeteria, however, I never did.  First off, I don't like deep fried food. The smell really gets me!  Second, I prefer fries with ketchup and only ketchup.  I once tried poutine from Bubba's (if you grew up in Kingston, you know this place!).  Once was enough.  Third, in highschool I was busy satisfying my sweet tooth with oatmeal raisin cookies the size of my head which were also sold by our cafeteria. 

But my kids and Adam love fries, and I do enjoy the occasional plate of baked fries, so I set out to make some this past weekend.  Adam also adores gravy on his, so I decided to attempt a healthy, vegetarian gravy that he would love.  Both were a huge success!  The gravy makes a huge amount, so I froze it for future use.  It would be amazing with mashed potatoes, too!

Crispy Baked Fries (adapted from Angela's)

4 baking potatoes, or Yukon gold, cut into desired size pieces (I used our beloved Starfrit Potato Chipper, but you can hand cut if you wish)

Potato Chipper from Starfrit Kitchenware

1 tsp Kirkland Rustic Tuscan Seasoning from Costco (or other herb/spice(s) of choice)
1/4 tsp Herbamare Sea Salt (or other salt)
1 tbls corn starch
1 tsp peanut oil (or other high smoke point oil)

Place cut potatoes in large Ziplock bag, along with corn starch and seasonings, seal bag and shake to coat.  Add oil and shake again.  Place fries on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 425F until crispy, turning once after about 20 minutes.  It took mine 40 minutes to bake, more than I expected probably because I crowded the baking sheet to cram on as many fries as possible.  Remove with spatula and serve as desired.

Vegan Gravy

1 cooking onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup water
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tbls sherry vinegar
2 tsp vegan worcestershire sauce
2 tbls nutritional yeast
1-900ml tetra pack of vegetable stock
2 tbls dijon mustard
2 tbls cornstarch
Season, to taste

Cook onion with water in a skillet or pan over medium heat until liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently.  If onions have not yet carmelized, add 1/2 cup of stock and continue cooking until liquid is absorbed.  Add garlic, vinegar, worcestershire, nutritional yeast, and stock.  Simmer for a few minutes and then remove from heat.  Let cool.  Transfer to food processor or blender, adding in mustard and cornstarch.  Puree until smooth.  Return to pan or sauce pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened.  Serve as desired.  Freeze extra for future use.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Braised Fennel and Turkey Bolognese Sauce

If you love fennel like I do, than you'll love this recipe.  If you are not a meat eater, you could easily make this vegetarian by using crumbled tempeh instead of turkey.  Yummy over pasta or spaghetti squash, this makes a great comfort food meal.

1/2 tsp olive oil
1 large fennel bulb
3-4 cloves garlic
2 cups creamy milk (I used unsweetened, plain soy) or cream
2 tsp fennel seed
Fresh grated nutmeg, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb ground turkey or chicken (or 350g package tempeh, crumbled)
700ml jar pasta sauce (or 28oz can ground tomatoes)
2 tsp dried basil (or 2-3 tbls fresh basil, chiffonaded)
Crushed red chili flakes, to taste (optional)

1 lb whole grain pasta (gluten-free, if desired), cooked al dente

Remove fronds (green, leafy parts) from the fennel and finely chop in food processor.  Set aside.  Take fennel bulb, remove core, and thinly slice.  Place oil, sliced fennel and garlic in a large pan or skillet.  Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.  Add 1 cup of milk, fennel seeds and seasonings, and simmer until liquid has evaporated.  Add remaining cup of milk and continue cooking until liquid has evaporated and fennel is tender.  Add ground meat and cook until meat is no longer pink.  Pour in pasta sauce or ground tomatoes, fennel fronds, and seasonings and simmer until ready to serve.  Adjust seasonings, to taste.  Serve over pasta or cooked spaghetti squash.  Sprinkle with fresh grated parmesan (or vegan parmesan). Makes 4-6 servings.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fall Family Fun

While some folks around here are probably grumbling about the chilly weather this morning, I'm delighted.  Farewell Summer, don't let the door hit you on the way out!  It's going to warm up a bit over the week, but even today's 16 celcius is fine with me.  The sun is shining and the air is fresh and beautiful.

It was a lovely weekend in our house and it actually seemed to end too quickly. 

Friday I had my annual physical and I met my new family doctor for the first time.  My old one, who I loved, moved to Calgary and this woman took over her practice.  She seems great too.  She confirmed that there are some people, like myself, that are complete non-responders to pain medications.  Great!  Friday evening I visited one of my best friends, Sheri, who presented me with some lovely birthday gifts: a pair of earings, and this lovely tea set from David's Tea:

A tea cup that you can brew the tea in, and two types of loose leaf tea:  

Organic Hot Lips

Organic Hot Lips

Ginger Pu'erh

Organic Pu’erh Ginger

Given my love of cinnamon and chili, and ginger, I cannot wait to try both of them!

Saturday my in-laws took the girls for the morning, so Adam and I got a little time to ourselves.  In the afternoon, Big A went to a movie with a friend, and then we dropped off a care-package at her 'boyfriend's' house because he broke his arm last week. Poor little guy, it was a bad break which I am sure was very painful, and his poor parents for whom the whole thing was certainly quite traumatic! 

I can't believe how grown-up Big A is.  We are already having fights about how short her skirts and dresses are.  I didn't think we'd be having this battle for at least another 7 or 8 years!  She keeps trying to wear dresses that are too small, or tunics that are meant to be worn over leggings, without anything on her legs.  WTF?  Have we been letting her watch too much YTV? Fortunately, with the cooler temps, tights and leggings are becoming a must.

Little A has also been in a great mood for the past few days, although it can and does change on a dime.  By late afternoon when she is getting tired, she can be absolutely impossible.  We are also concerned about her refusal to listen to us, particularly when it comes to safety issues.  Last week after I repeatedly told her to stay out of the kitchen cupboard, she went in and knocked a glass bottle onto the floor.  Also, after being  to repeatedly to stop jumping on the couch, she didn't listen and fell off on to the floor.  With my mother-in-law, she ran across the street when she shouldn't have.  We've tried to explain how dangerous her behaviour is, but I don't know if she really gets it.  Big A has always been cautious, so we never had to deal with this stuff as much before.  But I do find her impish, mischievousness endearing, particularly her continued penchance for getting messy and dirty (Adam doesn't share my perspective on this, it just drives him nuts).  This morning I  walked into the dining room and caught her washing her hands - sticky from eating her French toast with her hands - in her glass of milk!

Yesterday we took the girls to Word On The Street, the annual literary festival.  I have wanted to go like forever, but have never made it.  Unfortunately, the minute we got there, it began to pour rain. So we walked over to Indigo, where I got a book I've been wanting forever:

Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too

These guys wrote my favorite parenting book to date:

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

I'm hoping to get some tips on how to manage the girls' constant bickering.

Then we went back to the festival once it stopped raining and the girls got to meet TVO's Polkeroo and get big hugs from...him? her? it?


We bought a few more books and then headed home.

Enjoy your Monday...I'm off to flush my sinuses with allergies are killing me!  But I still love autumn, and I still think summer sucks!

Friday, September 21, 2012

What I've Been Consuming Lately...

Aside from a lot of oatmeal, fruits and veggies, beans and whole grains (oh and lots and lots of cappuccino frosties), here is what I've been consuming lately:

Moon Music

I am a loyal reader of Faye Kellerman (and Jonathan Kellerman) mysteries.  They're great for relaxing and not thinking too hard.  But this novel really blew me away.  Interesting characters and a spellbinding mystery that had me hooked and unable to put it down.

50 Shades of Grey


I would have ignored all the media hype about this book, but one of my good friends was reading it and couldn't stop talking about it.  I decided I had to check out what all the fuss was about.  It's not a well written book, in fact, some parts had me cringing, but it is definitely entertaining.  But I don't think it's because of the sex scenes - at least not for me - it's the emotional relationship between the characters that's compelling.

Ministry of Special Cases

The Ministry of Special Cases

This is a fascinating story that got me researching the Dirty War and everything about Argentina in the 1960s and 1970s.  Fantastically written, but ultimately rather depressing.  I can't wait to read Englander's other books!

Arctic Air

Bobby Martin

With our usual shows on holiday for the summer, Adam and I tried out a few new ones.  Despite not being big fans of Adam Beach in the past (yeah he's hot, but he sucked in Law & Order), Adam and I both really like Arctic Air, a relatively new CBC show, and think he is well suited for this character. 

The Big C

The big c.jpg

A high-anxiety person like I am who already worries about cancer more than normal probably shouldn't watch this show, but I can't help myself.  The acting is so good, you can't help but love Laura Linney and Oliver Platt!


Adam and I also rented a whole bunch of movies this summer, including:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Hunger Games
Charlie St Cloud
A Dangerous Method

I think Benjamin Button, Hunger Games and A Dangerous Method were my faves.

Yes, Adam and I are always WAY behind in our movie watching...kind of ironic since my brother works in the industry!

I have a growing stack of books I hope to tackle this fall and will report on any more gems I find.  Although I enjoyed the new t.v. shows we tried out this summer, I am excited that some of our old favorites such as Flashpoint, Criminal Minds, and The Good Wife have started their new seasons or are starting them soon.  We're also going to try out a few new shows starting this fall since a few of our faves are no more (House, Being Erica, etc.).

Tomato Quinoa With Roasted Vegetables

Happy Friday and first day of autumn!!
What if you forgot to take out your contact lenses one evening, but still put on your glasses?
What if you then couldn't figure out why everything looked a bit funny?
What if while watching t.v. with your husband, you took off your glasses and realized you could see the t.v. perfectly?
What if you momentarily - before realizing you'd simply forgotten to take out your contact lenses - thought there had been a miracle and your nearsightedness had suddenly been cured?
This is all hypothetical of course, it didn't really happen to me last night...really, I'm not that big a dufus...he he...
Anyhoo, on to food.

As I've complained mentioned many times before, Adam generally prefers meat and flour-based carbs (bread, pasta, etc.) to beans and whole grains, however, he is particularly averse to quinoa (which, I know, is technically a seed).  He claims it has nothing to do with not actually liking the taste, but everything to do with feeling overfed with quinoa at Passover every spring, which makes him sick of it for the rest of the year. 

So when I offered to make a quinoa dish for our Rosh Hashana dinner at my in-laws' this week (since my mother and sister-in-law love it as much as I do), I decided to make it in a way that I thought Adam would really enjoy. 

You see, Adam loves anything in a tomato sauce.  In fact, I think he would eat a tennis shoe, if I served it in a nice marinara.  I like tomato-based sauces too, however, I also like variety.  I do love, I mean absolutely love, sundried tomatoes, so I combined regular, and sundried in this dish to appeal to us both.

My husband grudgingly admitted that this is one good dish!  I made a large quantity to feed a crowd (although Adam says I made enough to feed a small country), so feel free to cut the recipe in half, or make the whole thing and freeze the leftovers.

Serve as as side dish, or add in a can of chickpeas, some cooked lentils or romano beans for a complete one-pot meal.

Tomato Quinoa With Roasted Vegetables

1.5 cups quinoa
2.5 cups water
2 cups sundried tomatoes (dry - not the ones in oil), chopped
28oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
2 tsp Costco Rustic Tuscan seasoning (or 1 tsp Italian seasoning + 1/4 tsp sea salt)
2-4 tbls red wine vinegar, to taste

4 small zucchini, cut into 6 pieces, lengthwise, then cut into 2 inch pieces
2 yellow bell peppers, cut into 6 pieces and then each piece halved
Red onion, cut into chunks
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp Costco Rustic Tuscan seasoning (or 1 tsp Italian seasoning + 1/4 tsp sea salt)
Season with salt and pepper, to taste

Place quinoa, water, tomatoes and seasoning in a large pot over medium heat.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low.  Simmer until quinoa is tender and liquid is absorbed. Stir in red wine vinegar.

For the veggies.  Toss with balsamic and seasonings and then spread on foil-lined baking sheet and roast at 350F for about 40 minutes.  Mix into quinoa.

This recipe has been added to this week's Gluten-Free Fridays on Vegetarian Mamma, and Diet, Dessert, & Dogs' Wellness Weekend.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Blog Nomination

I just found out I've been nominated for Circle of Mom's top 25 bloggers contest again.  I would be grateful if all you readers out there who enjoy my brilliance and wit could please vote for me once per day (yes, very inconvenient) between now and October 11, 2012.  Thank you, thank you!

Psychological Approaches to Pain Management

                                              Image Source

I don't know why, but I seem to be immune to painkillers.  For someone who periodically gets debilitating headaches (mostly allergy-related), this really sucks.

Regular or even extra strength over-the-counter drugs like acetomenophen (Tylenol), ibuprofin (Advil), or asceticylic acid (Aspirin) do about as much for me as Tic Tacs.  I watch Adam pop a single Advil and get pain relief and I'm envious.  Even prescription drugs don't seem to work for me.  Toradol, Tylenol 3s, and Naproxen?  All useless.  The low-dose oxycontins given to me after my c-section when I had Little A?  About as effective as Skittles.  I've had short-term success for headache relief by combining some of the prescription drugs, but this never lasts long.  Even the morphine they gave me when I was in labour with Big A (I wasn't dilating so they didn't give me the epidural until 9 hours into serious contractions), did absolutely nothing.  The nurses were shocked.

Of course, being a health-conscious individual, it concerns me to be taking large quantities of these drugs.  Chronic usage of even over-the-counter drugs can lead to serious health consequences like rebound headaches, bleeding ulcers, and liver damage.  Tylenol 3s, in large enough quantity, and in combination with other drugs (like 2 prescription strength naproxins) usually has the best chance of giving me some pain relief, but they also cause intestinal spasms which have me doubling over in pain.  Not good.

Yet whenever one of my brutal headaches hit, no matter how many times I remind myself how futile it is to pop pills, I end up so desperate for relief, that I cave and take some.  What's worse is, if I'm in a huge amount of pain, I will take more.  Two extra strength Advils, plus 3 Tylenol 1s (with codeine), was my latest experiment...which worked about as well as everything else (i.e. not at all).   In addition, I think I've finally realized that I end up feeling worse when I take pills.  This is consistent with recent reports that overuse of pain medications can make headaches worse.

So a few weeks ago I made a decision that from now on, when I get a headache, I will NOT take any pills.  No pills.  Period.  After all, my doctor has said that sinus headaches typically do not respond to most of these pain relievers anyways, and thus prescribed me steroid nasal spray.  But the problem is, even when I am diligent about using it - as well as my antihystamines, I still sometimes get these killer headaches.  So there have already been a few days since I made my pledge when I have come very close to caving - like last week when my allergies were really bad and I felt like my head was going to explode!  But I've stayed strong.  And you know what?  My headaches often pass much faster than they usually do when I actually take pills for them.  And no stomach cramping!  I also feel better knowing I am not putting my health at risk by over-using these potentially dangerous drugs.

I feel so relieved because I had begun to feel so desperate and hopeless because of the severity of my heachaches and inability to get any relief.  I now feel much more confident that I can manage the pain without meds and that the pain will be temporary  I've found that an ice pack on my forehead can help, as can deep breathing and staying calm when I feel a headache coming on.  For sinus headaches, continually flushing my sinuses with saline also helps alleviate the pain.

Although I am a therapist and strongly believe in the unity between mind and body, I've always been skeptical of cognitive approaches to pain management.  Until now, that is.  And there is certainly a lot of research that backs up the efficacy of psychological approaches to pain management.  The experience of pain is not only influenced by pathophysiology, but also by an individuals thoughts, feelings and behaviour.  Just learning more adaptive coping skills can provide lasting relief for individuals suffering from chronic pain.  Cognitive-behavioural and mindfulness-based programs are particularly effective.  Generally, therapists, hospitals and clinics offer individual and/or group pain management behaviour programs that run 8-12 weeks long.  The ultimate goal of these programs is to allow individuals to effectively self-manage pain on a long-term basis.

Honestly, if, in the past, you had suggested to me that I could control the degree of my pain with my reaction to the pain, I would have hit you over the head with something I deemed heavy enough to expeience the pain I feel when I get one of these headaches.  But now, I agree.  It just goes to show the power of our thoughts and feelings and the intensity of the mind-body connection.

Whether it's migraines, cancer, fibromyalgia, back pain or another condition, if you are suffering from poorly controlled chronic pain, explore the mental health resources available in your community that focus on pain management.  It might just allow you to ditch pills altogether.  I'm not saying everyone should stop taking pills.  If they work for you that's one thing...but if they really aren't helping, perhaps there are other things you can try.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sugar-Free Banana Brownies

I came up with this recipe as another 'treat' option to pack in Big A's lunch box.  No one can believe how healthy they are!  Sugar-free, low fat, and whole grain, but all you taste is moist, sweet, fudgy goodness. The one pictured above is still frozen from the freezer (I pull one out the night before to pack in Big A's lunch)...but these are so good you may not be able to wait for them to defrost.  Big A loves these so much, I may be making them again and again.

Sugar-Free Banana Brownies

2 ripe bananas, mashed
2 whole eggs
1/4 cup stevia baking blend  (or other sugar substitute)
1/4 cup organic canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Whisk together wet ingredients in a large bowl.  Combine dry ingredients, and add to wet, stirring just until mixed.  Scrape batter into greased 8x8 square pan.  Bake at 350F for 16 minutes.  Let cool and frost, if desired.

Chocolate-Banana Frosting

1 ripe banana, mashed
4 tbls unsweetened peabutter (or any nut or seed butter if these aren't for a lunchbox)
2 tbls cocoa powder
2+ tbls stevia baking blend, or other sugar substitute

Mix together all ingredients for frosting and spread over cooled brownies.  Cut into squares and keep refridgerated for several days or freeze.  Adjust amount of sweetener, to taste.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Orange Chipotle Bean Chili

The only good thing about the picnic last week was that my chili was a success.  Full of veggies, this dish is flavourful, and satisfying.  Perfect for the 'chili' weather that autumn brings. This recipe makes a large quantity, so you can half it, or make the whole thing and freeze some for a quick meal later on. 



Orange Chipotle Chili
1 tsp olive oil
1 onion
3-4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
4-5 garlic cloves
3 cups sprouted organic bean mix (or red lentils)
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 zucchini, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 tbls chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
2 tbls dried jalapeno or 1 fresh, diced (optional, for extra heat)
8 cups water
1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 can black beans
1 can red kidney beans
Juice and zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup fruit-sweetened orange spread (or 1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate)

Put onion, chipotle peppers and garlic in food processor and pulse until minced. Scrape into large pot, with olive oil over medium heat. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add sprouted beans, veggies and spices and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add water and simmer until beans and veggies are tender. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes. Use immersion blender to blend up big chunks of veggies and thicken chili (or take about 1/3 of chili out and let cool, then puree in food processor and pour back into chili pot).

This recipe has been added to Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday and Diet, Dessert & Dogs' Weekend Wellness for the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Rosh Hashana Cookies

This weekend Big A had a playdate with her 'boyfriend' on Sunday.  Oh my goodness, he is such a cutie!  The two of them are so adorable together. 
Since his family also celebrates Rosh Hashana, we decided to bake them some new year cookies.  The girls taste-tested them and were smitten.  These incorporate many traditional foods of the season (apples, honey, raisins) and are appealing to kids and adults alike. 
I added white chocolate chips so they wouldn't taste 'too healthy', but you can customize them any way you like.

Rosh Hashana Cookies

1.5 cups spelt flour or whole wheat pastry flour
1.5 cups large flake oats
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup apple sauce
1 apple, finely grated (don't have to peel)
1/2 cup honey (if you don't eat honey, agave syrup will work too...maybe even maple syrup)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins
Optional add-ins: vegan white chocolate chips or butterscotch/peanut butter chips, other dried fruit, nuts, etc.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until mixed.  Drop large spoonfuls onto greased baking sheet and bake at 350F for 10 minutes. Let cool slightly and then remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.  Makes about 2 dozen cookies.  Store in an airtight container for a few days or freeze.

Shana Tova!  A happy and healthy new year to everyone celebrating Rosh Hashana!!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Carrot Cake Dip & Spread

It seems everyone is doing some version of chocolate-chip-cookie-dough dip these days.  This doesn't appeal to me much, but lately I've been wondering if it could be one option to expand Big A's limited repertoire of lunches.  Chickpeas dressed up as cookie dough might be the only way to get my girls excited about legumes.  But I have reservations about frequently making her lunches involving chocolate chips.  Like most kids, I think she already gets way too much sugar.

So I got thinking...what OTHER kind of 'dough' or baked good flavour could I use with chickpeas as a base?  Then it struck me: Carrot Cake!  No chocolate chips needed and added bonus of some veggies.  I got so excited coming up with this recipe, that I decided to make it for my own lunch instead.  After all, I gotta test it out first to ensure it's kid-friendly, right??

I enjoyed this a lot, simply spread into a whole-grain wrap and rolled up.  But it would be amazing on whole-grain graham crackers or whole-grain cinnamon-raisin bagels, with or without dairy/vegan cream cheese!  This could be part of a yummy, healthy breakfast, lunch or snack.  For Big A, I am thinking I might have to add more pineapple and/or sweetener, less carrots, and will probably have to steam the carrots to make them less crunchy.  But for me, it's just fine as is.  So at least I succeeded in expanding my own lunch repertoire!

Carrot Cake Dip & Spread

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 of a fresh pineapple, about 1 cup (or frozen or canned is fine)
2 tbls tahini, cashew butter or coconut oil (optional, if you want it richer/creamier)
2 tbls sweetener, or to taste (xylitol, erythritol, stevia, Splenda, coconut sugar will all work)
2 tbls fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Fresh ground nutmeg, to taste
1/8 tsp salt
Coconut milk (either canned or for drinking is fine)
1.5 cups grated carrots (lightly steam if you want them sweeter and less crunchy)

Optional add ins: grated coconut, chopped pecans, raisins.

Place all ingredients, except carrots, in food processor and puree until smooth.  Thin out with coconut milk, if desired (I kept mine thick so it wouldn't drip out of my wrap!).  Add in grated carrots and pulse until desired consistency is reached.  Keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Picnic from Hell

Last night goes down as one of the worst and most embarrassing in my parenting history...except perhaps for this evening.

Little A's good mood ended.  Abruptly.

Of course, I have no one else except myself to blame, because as soon as I picked up the girls from daycare yesterday she was in full-on meltdown mode and I should have known what was coming.  I should have gone straight home.  But instead, I took the girls and a gargantuan amount of food I had prepared to the picnic at a local park for Big A's school.

I was hoping that the playground, other kids, and yummy eats would snap her out of it.  But she was at the point of no return before we even arrived.  Just overly tired, as our little nap-resistant darling is, MOST of the time.  Her behaviour is a perfect example of how critical it is to get sufficient sleep and how simply being tired and sleep deprived can MAKE YOU CRAZY.  It can also make the people around you CRAZY!

She basically shrieked and carried on hysterically the entire hour we were there.  When Adam arrived, straight from work, she was in such a state that he suggested taking her straight home but she kept insisting she wanted to stay.  But one thing after another just triggered massive explosions.  The cake was the final straw.  Someone had brought a chocolate cake covered in bright pink icing - something that drew my girls in hook, line and sinker.  I agreed they could each have a piece after their dinner, but Little A only wanted cake and no dinner.  After negotiating with her, she ate 2 pieces of cheese, a cracker and a piece of watermelon, so I got her a piece of cake.  The minute I gave her the plate she was off again shrieking that it was too small and demanding I get her a new, bigger piece.  When I refused, she became completely irate and out of control.  Adam and I decided to pack it in at that point.  She screamed and howled the whole long walk to the car while Adam and I schleped all our stuff, including her plate and too-small piece of pink cake.  Finally we gave her the cake to eat in the car - which she was now willing to do since she realized it was that piece or nothing - but after one bite she started screaming that she didn't like the pink icing. 

We got home, stripped off her clothes, brushed her teeth and put her to bed, no bath, no story, just bed.  For once she didn't call us back. I suspect she fell asleep right away.

Her screaming likely ruined the whole picnic for not only the entire school who attended, but anyone in the park last evening.  Did I ever mention how loud she is?

I am so embarrassed.  I hope no one thinks we are some wacko family...well okay, I guess we are...I know some people were feeling pretty sorry for me.  One mom gave me a pat on the shoulder and said, "You're doing so well, you haven't lost it yet."  Another asked me, "So how much are you drinking these days?"

Ah well, this phase can't last forever, right?  I'm plagued by the fact that Big A's difficult phase lasted from 18 months to 5 years...I think I may be drinking more if she's still like this a year and a half from now!

Here is a picture of Adam and I (in the background) with the girls and my brother's kids.  Can you guess which one is Little A??

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Blueberry Vinaigrette (Oil-free)

This is not a sweet dressing, but very flavourful and delicious.  Just a word of warning: because of it's vibrant purple hue, you may not want to wear white when making or eating it!

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
Half a red onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup water
2 tbls balsamic vinegar
1 tbls dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Place berries, garlic, onion, water and balsamic in a sauce pan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Turn heat down and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Let cool.  Place in blender along with mustard and puree until desired consistency is reached.  Add vinegar and seasonings.  Will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Vegan Banana Blueberry Mini Muffins

Happy Birthday to me!  And what a birthday it's been so far.  Big A woke us up at 3:45am, but then went back to sleep.  Just after I got up at 5am, Little A got up - because of some sort of nightmare involving her elbow, apparently - and did NOT go back to sleep.  The good news is that our 3 year old dictator has actually been in a delightful mood for the past few days.  We'll see what she's like tonight though, if she doesn't take a nap at daycare today like she promised.

Unfortunately, today is going to be a pretty typical, busy day.  I am not seeing clients, but I have a gazillion things to do.  With the beginning of the school year, the never-ending requests for baked goods for various events has started.  Today Big A's school is having a tea party for new families, so I volunteered to make muffins.  Last year I started frequently contributing gluten-free goodies for events, and this was much appreciated by many.  This time I decided to go vegan for those folks who eat a plant-based diet.  The girls sampled these little yummies and were very impressed...also very disappointed that they weren't staying in the house for their consumption!

Little A is also upset that I am not baking myself a cake.  I just don't feel it's necessary.  Last weekend I munched my way through quite a few Hubby cookies, and my parents are coming on Thursday for a few days, and we are all having cake at my brother's house on Saturday to celebrate my niece's birthday, which was yesterday.  If Little A's good mood continues, that's worth more than any birthday cake or gift anyone can give me!

Vegan Banana Blueberry Mini Muffins

3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup agave syrup
4 flax eggs (4 tbls ground flax mixed with 12 tbls hot water, let stand until consistency of egg whites)
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
A pinch or two of freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Whisk together all wet ingredients in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.  Dump dry ingredients and blueberries into wet ingredients and stir, just until mixed.  Scrape batter into greased mini-muffin tins and bake in the oven at 375F for about 12 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Makes 36 mini muffins.  Keep in air tight container for 2-3 days or freeze.

This recipe has been submitted to this week's Wellness Weekend on Diet, Dessert & Dogs.

Monday, September 10, 2012

NO-Sugar & Spice Popcorn

Beautiful Monday morning!  This is my favorite kind of weather: sunny but not too hot.  This is why I love autumn.  Unfortunately, by the end of the week, we are supposed to be back up to summer temps.  Guess I better enjoy this while it lasts...

We are into the second week of the new school year and so far so good.  Packing Big A lunch and snacks every day hasn't been as painful as I expected, but we are still working with a narrow variety of approved menu options: along with the requisite fresh fruit and veggies, she is okay with: cheese and crackers; hard boiled eggs and home-made muffins; tuna-cheese quesadillas; and veggie dogs.  Thankfully, the school offers a pizza day on Fridays featuring organic, whole grain pizza from a local business.  That leaves me off the hook one day a week at least.  As far as snacks, I've been avoiding the usual packaged/processed items and I've been packing her home-made cookies or other baked goods and home-made microwave popcorn.

Usually when I make her popcorn, I just add a bit of melted Becel and some Herbamare sea salt, but I decided to try doing a sweet version and both she and Little A absolutely LOVE IT!  I love that it's so easy to make and healthier than most snack-food counterparts.

NO-Sugar and Spice Popcorn

1/4 cup popping corn
1 tbls extra virgin coconut oil
1 tbls xylitol, erythritol, Splenda or liquid stevia, to taste
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Pour popcorn in a paper bag and fold over opening.  Place in the microwave and cook on high for 90 seconds.  Remove and dump into large bowl.  Put coconut oil, sweetener and cinnamon in a microwave-safe bowl and cook for about 30 seconds, or until oil is melted.  Pour over popcorn and toss to coat evenly.  Sprinkle with additional cinnamon, if desired.  Store in an airtight container.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Ultimate Health-by-Chocolate Chip Cookies (Vegan)

While my Hubby cookies taste pretty spectacular in my opinion, they still didn't achieve that crispy-chewy consistency I was going for.  Almost, but not quite.  So I was still determined to continue with my quest to make Adam a decadent-tasting but healthy bakery style chocolate chip cookie.  However I couldn't figure out how, given that to achieve the perfect consistency you need a fat that is solid at room temp.  Butter, coconut oil and even Earth Balance are not the most heart-healthy choices.  Liquid oils, avocado or other fruits just won't produce the right texture.  Than I finally came up with an idea:  Cocoa butter!

Although high in saturated fat, the saturated fat in cocoa butter primarily stearic acid, which does not raise blood cholesterol levels as much as other types of saturated fat.  For more on the nutritional value of cocoa butter read this.  I found raw, organic cocoa butter at my favorite health food store.  Just a warning though: It's very pricey!!  Also, keep in mind that while these are vegan, and contain no refined flour or sweeteners, they are not low-cal.  For a lighter cookie, calorie-wise, the other recipe is the way to go.

As amazing as these smell and look, resist grabbing them off the pan immediately after they come out of the oven as they will fall apart if you attempt to remove them before they cool.

Ultimate Healthy Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 lb cocoa butter, melted and cooled a bit
2 creamy flax eggs* (see note below), or regular flax eggs
1 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup xylitol or erythritol
2 tsp vanilla extract
3.5 cups kamut flour or whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips (stevia sweetened, if possible)

Whisk together cocoa butter, flax eggs, sweeteners and vanilla in a large bowl.  Stir soda and salt into flour and dump dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  Mix until no more flour is visible.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Roll dough into balls and then flatten into discs.  Place on non-stick baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes.  Let cool before removing from pan. Makes about 30 cookies.  Keep in airtight container for up to 2 weeks or freeze for future use.

To my surprise, Adam rated both cookies equal on flavour and texture, however, he thought these tasted less 'healthy' than the other ones.

*To make creamy flax eggs, warm up 6 tbls of unsweetened vanilla or regular almond milk, or other non-dairy milk.  Whisk in 2 tbls ground flax and remove from heat.  Let stand until mixture thickens.  Alternatively just mix 2 tbls ground flax with 6 tbls hot water.

This recipe has been entered into this week's Diet, Dessert & Dogs' Wellness Weekend and Urban Naturale's Blog Hop Link-Up.

Hubby Cookies (AKA heart-healthier chocolate chippers)

Since getting the bad news about his cholesterol levels from his last physical, Adam suddenly seems to have developed a renewed appreciation for healthy food.

But while I may be getting more compliments than normal for my various chickpea and kale-filled meals, I know what he really loves.  Like REALLY loves: chocolate chip cookies. No nuts.  No cocoa in the batter.  Just your classic plain chocolate chip.

While Adam will take just about any chocolate chip cookie, his favorite are the gigantic ones you get from bakeries and cafes that are the perfect crispy-chewy texture, super sweet, and full of chocolate (and butter, sugar and white flour). He can easily handle cookies made with whole grains, but once you start messing with the other less healthy ingredients, for Adam, they start to lose their appeal.  I considered making sugar-free chocolate chips to use in these, but I suspected he wouldn't go for that...

Since I have to go to Ottawa today for the CFAS conference, I thought I would attempt to make my hubby some chocolate chip cookies he can enjoy, guilt-free while I party it up in the Nation's Capital (it will be my first time EVER staying in a hotel all by myself), and he takes care of the girls.

I am sad to say that cutting down on the saturated fat made it impossible to get the crispy-chewy texture I was going for - they are more soft and cakey, but the flavour is bang on and I know he will still love them.  The kamut flour keeps them light and delicate, and erythritol and coconut sugar give them the perfect sweetness, while keeping them lower on the glycemic index and refined sugar-free. 

You could easily replace the butter with Earth Balance, and the egg whites with flax eggs to make these vegan.

Heart-Healthier Chocolate Chippers

2 cups + 6 tbls whole grain kamut flour*
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup light butter or Earth Balance, melted and cooled
1-7.5oz jar pureed sweet potato (babyfood)**
4 egg whites (or flax eggs)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup erythritol or xylitol
1/2 cup coconut sugar
3/4 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Whisk together melted butter and sweet potato and set aside.  Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Whisk in remaining wet ingredients to butter/sweet potato mixture and add to dry ingredients, mixing just until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Drop large spoonfuls onto non-stick baking sheet, flatten them out a bit, and bake at 350F for 14 minutes.  Let cool and remove from pans.  Makes about 26 cookies.  Keep in air tight container or freeze.

*Start with 2 cups + 2 tbls of flour and add more if dough is still too wet.
**If you use homemade sweet potato puree, keep in mind that the babyfood is blended with water, so you may need less flour.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Almond Butter Roasted Cauliflower

One day I'll have to make some one elses' recipe and NOT change anything.  But then again, often my tinkering ends in deliciousness.

This recipe was inspired by Dreena Burton's Almond Roasted Cauliflower, but I was intrigued with the idea of subbing the olive oil and almond meal for almond butter.  I used my father-in-law's birthday bbq last weekend as an opportunity to try it, and even among the 'not-always-fond-of-overly-healthy-food' set, it was a hit!

2 heads cauliflower, cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup almond butter
2 tbls nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp Herbamare or regular sea salt
Boiling water

Whisk together almond butter, NY, and salt.  If your almond butter is liquidy, you may only need to add a few tbls of boiling water (Mine was rock solid, because it was the bottom of the jar, so I had to add a whole 1/2 cup or more before I could even start whisking).  Toss with cauliflower and then spread cauliflower on a baking sheet.  Roast at 350F for 35-45 minutes.

I've entered this recipe into Diet, Dessert & Dogs last Wellness Weekend of 2012!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

You DON'T Always Get What You Pay For

I've been having coffee maker issues for the past few months.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, my Kitchen Aid, which I got last spring blows.
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The glass carafe was difficult to clean by hand so I pulled the top off the first week I had it, to put it in the dishwasher, only to learn the top doesn't come off.  I'd broken it.  So I called the company and ordered the stainless steel carafe.  Ironically, this one seemed to suck out the heat from the coffee instead of keeping it hot.  It was also difficult to clean because of it's design.  The machine takes a long time to brew, and you have to put a ton of coffee in to get a strong, rich tasting beverage.  Neither the glass, nor stainless steel carafes pour without spilling...a lot, and I could never get the damn programmer working so that the machine would start by itself in the morning.  All that and I paid $100 for this piece of crap.

I bought it because my beloved President's Choice coffeemaker kicked the bucket.

I'd had it for 5 years, which is good for a coffeemaker, since my mom got it for me right after we moved into our house and I had Big A.  She didn't like the one I'd brought with us from our student apartment and bought it on a whim while she was at Loblaws picking up groceries for us in the first few days we got home from the hospital after Big A's birth.  It was inexpensive and none of us expected it to be anything special, but it was a great coffeemaker.  When it died, I looked for a new one, but couldn't find it at any of the Loblaws stores near us, so Adam said to just go ahead and invest in a more expensive one that would last.  Ha!  The Kitchen Aid failed the grade!!

I've been grumbling about coffeemakers ever since so Adam promised me a new one for my birthday this year.  I was kind of at a loss in terms of what to buy though, because every time I thought I'd found one that would be a good choice, someone would tell me it sucked. I also have no interest in the ones that use pods or in an espresso machine.  I just want a good drip coffee machine!

Then I happened to drop in to the Maple Leaf Gardens Loblaws last week, and discovered they sell President's Choice coffeemakers.  What's more, mine was on sale for $30!!  I snatched it up immediately.  Ahh, I am now back in coffee nirvana.  The machine brews coffee super fast and hot. The programmer works perfectly, and you can use much less coffee, and still get a strong, rich beverage.

To make the whole thing even sweeter, since I got such a bargain on a new coffeemaker, Adam told me to go ahead and by a TRX Rip Trainer for my birthday! 
 TRX Rip Trainer Basic Kit
I can't wait to add this baby into my workout routine.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Back to School Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (Nut-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free)

Happy New School Year!

Today is a big day in our house: Big A starts grade 1!!  The kid is so incredibly confident, she hasn't shown the least bit of nervousness or anxiety.  In fact, when I dropped her off this morning, she eagerly lined up the minute her new teacher called the kids in, and didn't even kiss me goodbye.  She's so different from how I was...I would have been desperately clinging to my parents' legs.

I always love this time of year as it really feels like a new beginning and the start of all sorts of exciting things.  It also usually means the end of the scorching summer temps is near, although I have bad memories of it being close to 30C last Thanksgiving...

We had a lovely weekend to mark the end of summer holidays.  Friday I took the girls to the Ex.  We met up with my friend Jenny an her kids and went on rides, played games and won stuffed bears, ate too much sugar, checked out the farm animals and completely tired ourselves out.  Saturday we had a big BBQ at my in-laws to celebrate my father-in-law's birthday.  Sunday the girls had a playdate with friends, and yesterday we went to 2 parks, took them to a local cafe for lunch, and then Adam took Big A bicycling while Little A and I went to the movies.

Adam also had a few hours of work to do yesterday morning, so to keep the girls out of his hair for a while, I got them to bake these cookies with me.  I figured they can make a nice addition to the lunches I must now pack for Big A.  Everyone loved them - even Adam who generally doesn't like oatmeal raisin cookies - and I feel good that they are so healthy.

1/2 cup light butter, softened
2 whole eggs
1 cup xylitol or erythritol (or sweetener of choice)
2 tbls stevia baking blend (optional, if you want them sweeter)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups oat flour (gluten-free, if necessary)
2 cups rolled oats (gluten-free, if necessary)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup raisins

Cream together butter, eggs, sweetener, and vanilla in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Whisk together dry ingredients in a smaller bowl and then add to the wet ingredients.  Mix until dough comes together.  Stir in raisins.  Form dough into balls (note: it's pretty sticky and will feel like it might not hold together...but it will!).  Place on non-stick baking sheet and bake at 350F for 14 minutes.  Let cool and then remove from pan.  Keep in an air tight container for a few days or freeze.  Makes about 30 cookies.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Scosche Action Wraps II Ear Buds

Product Image
At the Can Fit Pro conference this year, representatives from Scosche were giving out their new ear buds for people to try.  Free ear buds?  Yes please!  Not for me though.  I rarely listen to music while I work out, however Adam always does, so I thought he could review this new product for me. These ear buds are designed to be worn while exercising and retail for about $30.

The company describes them as follows:

Enjoy your music while you workout with these sport style earbuds. actionWRAPS II fit securely over your ear and wrap around the back of your head to ensure that they won't fall off during physical activity.

Active Use
Antimicrobial earbud jackets protect the actionWRAPS II from sweat and other moisture. The 3.5.ft audio cable has been designed to be non-tangling. The reinforced strain relief cable ensures that the actionWRAPS II are durable and can withstand normal tension that occurs during workouts.

Works with: Smartphones, Android Devices, BlackBerry, iPod, iPhone, iPad, MP3 Players, Tablet Devices and more.

After using them with his ipod during his workouts for the past few weeks, this is what he had to say:

  • Sound is just as good if not better than iPod buds;
  • You notice them for the first few minutes, however, after that, you forget they’re there for a good hour. If you’re working out for much longer than that, you will feel them again, but it’s not a real problem. They’re also flexible enough that you can wear them with sunglasses and/or a hat without any difficulty;
  • They look very fragile, but they are actually pretty durable (although I wouldn’t shove them at the bottom of a gym bag);
  • The buds definitely do absorb sweat better than the iPod buds do;
  • Bottom line: I’d pay the same amount as I would for iPod buds, or maybe a bit more for these (assuming that they last – I’ve only had them for a few weeks). One drawback: the buds did not come with replacements.
So these headphones may be a worthwhile investment for you if you are looking for ones that are sweatproof, comfortable, and will stay put while exercising.