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Showing posts from November, 2012

Racoons Riding Buses...

Did you ever have one of those days that just seems surreal?  That was my Wednesday this week.

I had a terrible sleep Tuesday night after the daycare fundraiser.  I was just too wound up.  I just landed a new gig writing reviews of fitness clubs for BlogTO, a local online magazine.  Wednesday I was scheduled to check out a new fitness studio near where Adam works.  Adam had the car that day, so he recommended the best way for me to get there by public transport and suggested that an hour should be plenty of time to get me there, regardless of my legendary bad luck with the TTC.

The bus arrived at the bus stop down the street from our house almost immediately - in an unusual stroke of luck for me.  I made it to the subway, efficiently caught the first subway going east, and then was thrilled to find the connecting northbound subway pulling into the station as soon as I arrived.  I hopped on and sat down relieved that the trip was going so smoothly.

Then an announcement was made that s…

Cool and Crazy Gift Ideas

The frenzy has begun for holiday shopping. I've already gotten all my Hannukah gifts, so I can relax, sit back, and give you all some ideas for those hardest-to-buy-for folks in your life.  It's much easier to be Jewish in December I tell you!!

Recenly we received the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog.  I always find it amusing to look through.  Like every year, there are items that range from clever to outrageous.  Here are some of my favorites.

The Peaceful Progression Wake Up Clock

The catalog's description is as follows:

More gentle than traditional jarring alarms, this clock uses gradually increasing light, stimulating aromas, and peaceful nature sounds to awaken sleepers. At 30 minutes before wake-up, the clock's light begins to glow softly, brightening over the next half-hour. The device can simultaneously release aromatherapy scents into the air to stimulate the olfactory senses. Fifteen minutes before wake-up, the clock generates your choice of six nature sounds (incl…

No-Bake Bake Sale Snack Mix

If you have school-aged children, than you are probably frequently called upon to contribute to bake sales and/or treats for various functions and events.  Even for those of us who love to bake, this can sometimes get overwhelming.  If you don't bake, then it can be downright terrifying.

But don't fret, there is no need to resort to buying the revolting 2-bite cupcakes in the plastic clamshell package from your local grocery store.  Other options abound.

I whipped this up for the girls' daycare fundraiser last night and it was a huge hit.  It was inspired by my experience being one of the bake table salespersons at their school's spring event this past year.  I noticed that regardless of the actual product, some of the most popular items were those that parents had pre-wrapped, allowing them to be more portable, less messy and enjoyed later.  After all, there is only so many cupcakes or cookies people can gobble down at once.  Well, maybe not, but let's not go the…

Low-Fat, Grain-Free, Gluten-Free Falafel

I love falafel but have never made them from scratch until now.  I always thought you had to use dried chickpeas or fava beans and grind them and it all just seemed to intimidating and time-consuming.  Then I saw Dreena Burton's recipe which uses canned beans and pan fries instead of deep fries them.  She dredges them with flour (I used chickpea flour) to get the exterior crispy.  I  loved this idea and knew I had to try making them myself. 

Of course, as I always do, I adapted the recipe.  Among other things, I use zucchini instead of celery, and use a bit of konjac flour, instead of oats, to hold them together.  I hate hiding grains in food in a way that you can't appreciate them!  Kind of like I'd rather get my fats from nuts, nut butters and avocado, rather than oils hidden in dishes in such a way that you don't even know they are there.  I am experimenting with konjac flour (glucommanen) more and more these days as a binder and thickener ingredient. It is so ama…

Dark Chocolate Protein Truffles (Vegan + Sugar-Free)

I started out trying to make chocolate mousse...I even almost followed a recipe!  I used Michael Smith's tofu chocolate mousse recipe, but instead of using bittersweet chocolate, I used unsweetened, and used xylitol to sweeten. At first it had the perfect mousse-y texture, but once refrigerated, it hardened into what was more of a ganache.  Oh well, I ended up with intense chocolate, sugar-free, high protein, vegan truffles.  I'll take that, thanks!

Dark Chocolate Protein Truffles

225g unsweetened chocolate, melted
350g silken tofu
1 cup xylitol or powdered stevia
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
Cocoa powder for rolling

Puree tofu, sweetener, vanilla and salt in food processor until smooth.  Add melted chocolate and blend.  Refrigerate until firm.  Form into balls and roll in cocoa powder.  Keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Everybody Poops


I am so glad it's the weekend!! How about you?

It's not that it's been a bad week, per se, but it's been exhausting.

For the first time in a long time, I had insomnia.  In fact, last night was the first good sleep I've had since last Sunday night.

This self-employment thing is tough for me sometimes.  The whole uncertainty of it.  You see, this week was looking pretty quiet counselling-wise, so I took on a whole host of other commitments.  Then at the last minute, the appointments started coming in and before I knew it, this week was completely jam-packed.  Not a bad thing, but I was feeling a bit overwhelmed.

A lot of my stress is due to the fact that I'm on the fundraising committee for the girls' daycare and we have our big annual fundraising event next Tuesday.  I volunteered to take care of the catering, which I'm pleased about, of course, because I got to insist on healthier fare than past years, but going with a new caterer, it also means …

Black Forest Granola

This super chocolately, decadent-tasting granola is actually sugar-free, gluten-free and oil-free.  Definitely makes you feel like you can have your cake and eat it too!  Amazing with yogurt, milk or on its own as a snack.  All the chocoholics in this house, even Little A who is not usually a granola lover, have been enjoying this.

1.5 cups unsweetened prune puree (baby food works perfectly!)
1/4 cup-1/2 cup xylitol or powdered stevia, or to taste
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder
4 cups large flake oats (gluten-free, if necessary)
8 large, unflavoured rice cakes, crumbled, or 6 cups puffed brown rice
1-2 tbls chia seeds
1/2-3/4 cup unsweetened dried cherries
Optional: 1/2 cup chopped, toasted almonds or hazelnuts and/or sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.

Whisk together prune puree, sweetener, vanilla, salt and cocoa powder.  Place oats, rice, and chia seeds in a large bowl.  Poor prune mixture overtop and stir until fully coated.  Spread evenly onto 2 baking sheets, …

Wild Wood Tomato & Herb Angel Hair Pasta Slim

Up until now I have not been a huge fan of the shiritake noodles made with tofu.  Aside from the ones I found in New York, which, unfortunately, like so many other yummy products are not available in Canada, I've found the kinds I have tried here not to my liking.  The texture just didn't do it for me.  This has been disappointing because the Asian-style ones, that I love, aren't really well suited for Italian pasta recipes.

Recently, however, I've been noticing Wild Wood's new Tomato & Herb Angel Hair Pasta Slim in grocery and health food stores.  Something about them piqued my interest and I decided to give them another try.  Last week I made some, served with a red clam sauce, and topped with garlic sauteed kale for lunch.  I loved them! 

Definitely a must try.  Just be sure to use the 'drying' method for the noodles, by putting them in a very hot, dry fry pan after rinsing them, and 'cook' until all excess liquid is gone.  Also, make sure …

Super Simple Low-Fat Chocolate Truffles

Usually to make truffles, you have to melt chocolate with another high-fat ingredient, usually cream.  In this case, I've substituted amazing, fat-free, high protein quark and the results are fantastic.  I use this kind: 

With just a few ingredients, these are simple to make and make an impressive treat to serve at holiday gatherings or to give as a hostess gift.

Super Simple Low-Fat Truffles

1/2 of a 375g tub quark
270g chocolate* (use chips, or chop into pieces), melted and cooled slightly
2 tbls agave syrup
1/8 tsp salt

Stir everything together until smooth.  Place in the freezer until firm (about 1 hour).  Form into small balls and roll in cocoa powder, or finely grated coconut, or crushed candy canes, nuts, etc.  Keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks...but don't worry, they'll never last that long!

*I decided to try President's Choice new naturally flavoured mint semi-sweet chips, because everyone in our house loves chocolate mint.  Most dark or semi-sweet chocolat…


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Literally the day after I posted about the new and improved Little A, she went back to the old and not so improved preschooler we've been dealing with the past 18 months.  She has had her characteristic irrational and incredibly dramatic fits every evening this week.  The change coincided with her catching a bad cough and cold, however, so I'm hoping that it was a temporary blip.  By Saturday when she seemed fully recovered, she was back to her happy, delightful self. 

Things with Big A have been unraveling too.  She has been giving me attitude for a while now, but Friday night she was being so obnoxious and disrespectful that I was flooded with the extreme negative feelings I used to get during our interactions on a regular basis.  I can't even remember the last time that happened.  Adam was out at a concert with his parents and while I was putting her to bed I felt like I was coming close to losing control.  I spoke through clenched teeth and may have said …

Cranberry Butternut Squash Bean Chili

This was an experiment gone very right.  I love it.  Adam loves it.  You'll love it. 

It was inspired by Little A.  No not because she'd ever eat it.  Not with 'bits' in it (i.e. detectable pieces of vegetable).  But because last weekend she became mesmerized by a bag of plump, garnet hued fresh cranberries and insisted Adam buy them for her.  He tried to explain that they would not taste terribly good raw, but she wouldn't listen and promised she would like them and would eat them.  As soon as they got home, however, I placed one in her eager hand, she popped it in her mouth, nodded her head for a second to indicate liking, then began shaking her head vigorously to indicate, no, she did not actually like it. 

Sooo, I ended up with a big bag of fresh cranberries in the fridge.

It never occurred to me to add cranberries to chili, but I was making chili and adding butternut squash, and since squash and cranberries work so well together, I figured, "Why not?&q…

Facing Your Fears

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I haven't mentioned it on the blog before, but Adam and I have been embroiled in a bureacratic nightmare with the U.S. government for the past year or so.

You see, we are both dual citizens: me, because my parents are from New York, and he, because he was born in Boston.  Neither of us have ever worked in the U.S., I've never lived there, and Adam only lived there for a few months before his parents moved back to Toronto.  So it never occurred to either of us, or any of our parents, that we should be filing taxes with the U.S. government.  We pay lots of taxes here, thank you very much. 

When the laws for U.S. citizens living abroad changed, we decided to be honest and went through the process of trying to file.  Unfortunately, this turned out to be not so easy.  First off, we couldn't do so without having social security numbers.  Adam never had one, and the one my parents had for me was apparently 'invalid'.  Adam immediately drove to Niagara Falls …

Wild Salmon & Dill Spread

If you're Jewish, particularly if you're a Jew from New York, than you probably enjoy indulging once in a while (or often!) in a chewy bagel slathered in cream cheese, covered with a few slices of salty, buttery lox...and maybe garnished with a sprig of fresh dill, red onion, capers, cucumber and/or tomato slices.  Jewish deli food at its finest!

Cream cheese is found in a lot of Jewish dishes, and honestly, I love the stuff.  But it's not exactly a nutritional superstar.  High in fat and salt, low in protein and calcium, it doesn't really do the body good.  If you're looking for a better alternative, try quark!  What the heck is quark? It's a fresh cheese with the same consistency as cream cheese, but is low in sodium, low in fat, and high in calcium and protein.  It's an amazing versatile product that can be used as a base for spreads, like this one, or used in cooking and baking for both sweet or savoury recipes.  If you are not a big fan of mayo, you w…

Back to Yoga

Despite promises to myself, I fell off the wagon and stopped doing yoga for about 6 weeks.  Once my counselling practice picked up, it just got too difficult to schedule clients around the classes, and even when I didn't have client sessions, there always seemed something else to do: accounting, paperwork, errands, baking, volunteer obligations at the school/daycare. 

But, my friends, I paid the price.  My muscles got stiff, and one night when attempting to stretch them out, I re-injured my hamstring.  Although I heard a pop, and the onset of pain was rather sudden, I've healed enough by now that I'm pretty sure it wasn't a complete avulsion (tear), nevertheless, it's not feeling as good as it was before that incident.  Upping my L-Glutamine intake has helped, and I'm pleased that this time most activities feel fine, yet sitting still causes discomfort and that is a royal pain-in-the-ass.  Literally.  I finally get in to see my sportsmedicine doctor this week,…

Samko & Miko Toy and Book Sale

It's hard to believe that Hannukah is just a month away, and Christmas less than two months.  Especially since yesterday was a mild 18 celcius here in Toronto!  Unfortunately this warm weather is supposed to end by tonight.

Us Jews are pretty lucky this time of year.  Unless we've bought into the whole Make-Hannukah-a-Proxy-for-Christmas thing, than we don't have the same pressures to buy, buy, buy, that Christians do.

When I read stats on how much North Americans spend at Christmas, on average, and how many go into debt to do so, it really freaks me out.  I've heard from people about the family politics involved and how buying someone the wrong gift or spending too much or too little can cause a rift that lasts years.  Yikes, who needs it???

On the other hand, the Christmas season can be kind of a bummer for us non-celebrators.  It kind of feels like there is a big party going on and we're not invited.  While everyone else complains of being too busy with social …

And The World Turns...

Over the past few weeks Little A seems to have made some dramatic developmental leaps.  She decided to potty train herself at night and now wakes up most mornings with a dry pull-up.  And with almost no input from Adam and I!  After an absolutely astonishing feeding frenzy she also appears to have grown an inch.  But most wonderfully, she has been at her very best.  The Little A that spreads joy everywhere she goes.  Happy, jolly, fun, spirited, affectionate and funny.  Aside from Halloween, prior to trick-or-treating, she has had no fits or tantrums.  Little things that would have set her off in the past have elicited no adverse response at all.  Although she generally saves all her bad behaviour for Adam and I, even her daycare teachers, have noticed that she is particularly agreeable lately.  It's been wonderful.

And so, parenting has become effortless and blissful.  NOT!

All of a sudden, Big A is copping a bad-ass attitude. It's as if she is 6-going-on-16!  She completely…

Japanese 7-Spice Kelp Noodles

I love trying new spices and seasonings, so I am very excited that the President's Choice Black Label line now has a bunch of new spice blends available.  My most recent find: Shichimi Togarashi, or Japanese 7-Spice blend.

It's a combination of crushed red chili flakes, sea salt, Szechiuan peppercorns, black and white sesame seeds, poppy seeds, orange zest, wasabi powder and nori seaweed flakes.

I make Japanese-inspired dishes all the time, but resort to the same old flavours most of the time: miso, soy, sesame, ginger and garlic.  I was so excited to be able to liven things up a bit.

This dish is easy and tasty, although be warned that this seasoning packs punch.  I used 1 tsp, which ended up being too spicy for me, and I have a high tolerance for heat!  I recommend 1/4-1/2 tsp, or, if you don't like heat at all, make your own at home and omit the red chili flakes.  You'll get all the flavour without the heat.

I served these noodles with a mix of seafood (shrimp, cal…

Gingerbread Latte

It's been so many years since I've been a regular customer of coffee shops, I sometimes forget how many folks visit a Starbucks or 'indie' equivalent every day.  When I remember this, I'm always astounded to think about how much money people spend on beverages every day, and on the amount of sugar, fat and calories they consume if they purchase the specialty drinks.

So if you love all the seasonal offerings in these places, but want to avoid blowing your whole gift-giving budget for the holidays, and slurping down a Big Mac worth of calories, I have the solution for you! 

This gingerbread latte can be made at home in seconds and is just as sweet and spicy as any you can buy.  It's also low-fat, low-calorie, and sugar-free and vegan, if you use non-dairy milk.  Drink up...

Gingerbread Latte

1 gingerbread tea bag
2 heaping tsp espresso powder
2 cups boiling water
2 tbls milk of choice
Liquid stevia, to taste (optional)
Ground cinnamon, to taste

Place tea bag and…

Banana Bread Bites (Vegan, Sugar-free & Gluten-Free)

Unlike most folks, I am so relieved when the oppressive, summer heat comes to an end.  Admittedly, we only had about 5 or 6 weeks of fall before winter weather started creeping in.  I know a lot of people experience low energy and mood in the winter.  I'm okay with it until about March when I've definitely had enough.  Right now, I'm still enjoying the return of the seasonal comfort foods I love like squash, pumpkin, root veggies, and everything cinnamon and spice.  I'm excited to dig out my sweaters and soft, comfy jeans and curl up with a hot cup of tea. My energy levels are also sky high because I sleep so deeply in the chilly weather, and perhaps because of my now higher hemoglobin levels.  I didn't think I had any symptoms of anemia, but now I seriously feel like wonderwoman!  I'd like to also think that aside from the iron supplement, my energy is due to my stellar diet, and regular exercise, of course. If you are finding your energy levels slagging alr…

Health Warrier Chia Bars

So it's been just over a week since I started taking an iron supplement.  I am pleased to say I haven't had any adverse side-effects yet.  The plumbing is still working smoothly.  I have noticed that I have a bit more of a spring in my step, most notable in the mornings after I've had my coffee when I feel like I could scale a large mountain in a single bound.  Perhaps that's just the placebo effect, but yesterday several of my spinning participants came up after my class and asked how I could talk through teaching such an intense class and not be least bit winded.  Nevertheless, this extra energy hasn't interfered with my sleep as I feared, in fact, I've been sleeping really well lately, which I suspect is due to the chilly weather.  I always sleep better in cold weather.

If you are lacking energy, you should always see your doctor to rule out any medical problem, such as anemia, depression, or a thyroid condition, but you should also review your lifestyle to…

Fiesta Chili and Cheezy Rice Bowl (Vegan)

This is another great recipe for a crowd, or to give you several meals.  Healthy, economical, but most of all, YUMMY!

Don't be scared by what seems like a long ingredient list, once everything is prepped, you just dump all the stuff for the chili into the pot and let it cook.  Also, feel free to use your food processor to speed up the veggie chopping, like I did.

Fiesta Chili

1 large or 2 small onions, minced or finely diced
4 large, ripe tomatoes, diced, with juice (or 1-28oz can diced tomatoes, with juice)
2 carrots, diced
4 celery stalks, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced (optional)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup cider vinegar
350g package tempeh, crumbled
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups cooked beans), or kidney beans
1 cup fresh or frozen sweet corn
3-4 tbls taco seasoning (recipe below)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 can tomato paste

Place everything into a large pot or skillet and simmer …

Halloween Hangover + Giveaway Winner Announced!

I'm a wee bit tired today.  So is Adam. 

Believe it or not, it's not because the girls were bouncing off the ceiling on sugar highs all night.  Nor is it because we were bouncing off the ceiling from sugar highs.

Nope, it's because Little A had a middle-of-the-night tantrum.  Yep, that's right.  In the middle of the night!

You see, she has suddenly decided to potty train herself at night.  Until a week ago, she was happy to fill her pull-up with pee while she slept.  Last week, she began waking up at night and calling us to take her to the bathroom.  Okay, no problem.  We went through this with Big A when she began night-time potty training.  It goes with the territory.

But last night, the call for help wasn't for a bathroom run.  It was to fix her blankets.  Little A has always been very particular about her blankets.  She has, up until last night. refused to sleep under her covers.  Instead, she has slept on top, covered by one of her baby blankets.  Last winter…