Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook: Book Review

Looking to get healthy in 2014?  Well your mother was right: You gotta eat your greens!

Lucky for me, I'm the Queen of Greens.  I absolutely love veggies, especially leafy green ones.  So I was thrilled to receive a review copy of The Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook.

Whether you are a leafy green newbie, or you think you're an expert like I did, I guarantee you will learn a lot from this book.  It has sections on 67 different varieties, a whole heck of a lot I'd never even heard of before, and 250 recipes.

The recipes range from classic to innovative and author, Susan Sampson, provides a wealth of information on nutrition, taste, storage, prep and equivalents/substitutions.  All recipes are vegetarian and/or vegan or have vegan variations.

Recipes include salads, side dishes, pastas, stir-fries, beverages, condiments and dressings. 

Some of my favorites include:

  • Ethiopian Collard Stew
  • Sesame Shungiku Salad
  • Chinatown Takeout Curry
  • Roasted Beet Salad With Candied Walnuts
  • Whole Wheat Pasta With Kale and Chickpeas
  • Napa Cabbage Slaw
...and there are many, many more.

There are photos of each variety of greens, but not of the recipes, however, most of the recipes are quite straightforward.  Even though the ingredient lists are sometimes long, it's mostly stuff you'll have in your fridge and cupboard, except maybe some of the spices for the ethnic dishes.  But most of them can pretty readily be found in generic grocery stores now.  There is a full index of recipes at the back and a huge list of greens-related online resources.

So why don't you go add this unique, information-filled cookbook to your collection?  I'm sure you're probably sick of the quinoa, gluten-free and paleo books you picked up last year anyways!

Okay, I gotta go make a dish (involving kale) for our pot-luck dinner tonight.  We're not going to be staying late though, we are going to have tons to do tomorrow to prepare for our New Year's Day party we are hosting.

Have a safe, fun, happy and healthy New Year celebration tonight!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Got Away From It All

ice storm toronto

Hello!  I hope you had a nice holiday.  If you live in the Toronto area, you might not have, unfortunately.  There was an ice storm just as we were leaving for Florida on December 22nd, and when we got there we heard power got knocked out for most of the city.  Our neighbours emailed us and said we were fine, thankfully, but many of our friends were not so lucky.

We got back from Florida and saw a ton of broken trees as we drove home from the airport.  When we stopped to pick up some groceries, most of the stores had empty shelves because they'd all just recently gotten their power back.  It was surreal.

Apparently our power was only out for 3 hours, but Adam's parents' was out for many days, so this past weekend, Adam had to go over there and empty their fridge and freezer (they are still in Florida).

Man, we feel so lucky.  We were enjoying warm weather, swimming and shopping while the rest of the city was in complete chaos.  Apparently ice melter/salt is nowhere to be found anywhere.

Our vacation wasn't perfect, however.  Both Adam and I got a stomach bug (likely caught from Little A) as soon as we got to Florida.  No barfing, thankfully, but lots coming out the other end.  Then, just as we were feeling better, I came down with the bad cold my little nephew brought with him.  So now I'm getting over that.  Nevertheless, we both feel quite refreshed, since we ended up just sleeping a whole heck of a lot.   A few nights we both slept more than 10 hours, which is normal for Adam on vacation, but definitely not for me!  Feeling so crappy also meant we had few indulgences...we just weren't in the mood, and oddly enough, despite my queasiness, fruit and veggies were going down just fine, so I was able to eat healthy.  I just didn't have my usual appetite (which, Adam always tells me, means that I ate like a 'normal' person, and not 4x a normal person).

The girls had a fabulous time playing with their cousins and swimming.  I managed to be well enough to make 2 trips to the outlet mall.  Hee hee!  I scored with a sweatshirt from Under Armour, 2 sweaters from Banana Republic, a pair of pants from Guess and 2 pairs of shoes from Nine West. 

I have to say, now that they are 4.5 and 7.5, the girls are much easier to travel with.  The only melt downs happened upon landing during both plane rides because Little A gets ear pain.  I sympathize because I have always had problems with my ears on planes.

I am basically off work until Friday (I have a full day on Friday though!), so I plan to enjoy my time off...although I will be busy for the next few days preparing for our party on New Years Day.  Have a lovely Monday.  If you live around here, bundle up, it's supposed to be a freezing one.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Break Time!


It's time for a little R&R around here, and for me, that includes a blogging break.  Given that Little A has been sick this week and we are expecting a huge snow storm this weekend, I'm a bit skeptical that everything is going to go as planned.  But isn't that how life works?

But I'll be back on December 30th.  No matter where you are or what you are celebrating, have a great week!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Original Protein Shot: Product Review


We were recently sent some samples of Pro Balance Inc.'s The Original Protein Shot to try.  I am definitely not deficient in protein intake, I love my protein.  I also don't like drinking my food (I don't even like juice or smoothies), so I passed these along to Adam who is a bigger user of protein supplements than I am.

He was very excited over the flavour with caffeine because he saw it as a nice alternative to cola or tea (he is not a coffee drinker), and he said that all of them tasted fine.  Adam found that the shots were not filling, which is no surprise because research consistently shows that liquids, on their own, are not satiating like solid foods are. 

But he didn't really understand the purpose of them, particularly those without caffeine because, "Protein is tasty, so why would I want to consume my protein in this form?  I guess it's convenient."

His reasoning is that he would rather eat real food forms of protein, or even a smoothie made with protein powder because they taste better and fill you up.  In terms of portability, yes I would say they are convenient, but a small bag of almonds can give you a little protein boost too and is just as portable...and much cheaper.

We decided that the shots are probably good for folks who are really struggling to get enough protein and calories and this can give them a little boost.  Maybe?  I guess they are also good for people who love drinking their food.  That just doesn't include me.

Disclaimer: We were sent the products on a complimentary basis but all the opinions on this blog are our own.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sugar-Free Peppermint Bark

Big A made this recipe (using regular sugar sweetened chocolate) at school with a friend's mom and has been asking to make it with me ever since.  Of course, I wanted to healthify it a bit so I removed the sugar and sweetened with stevia instead. 

If you want them to be 100% sugar free, you'll have to skip the crushed candy cane on top, unless you can find sugar-free ones.   Another option is just sprinkling cocoa nibs on top to provide some crunch.  Or maybe you could take unsweetened coconut and mix it with some liquid stevia and peppermint extract before lightly toasting it instead.

Sugar-Free Peppermint Bark

350g unsweetened chocolate
2 tbls coconut butter or coconut oil
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 dropper full of peppermint stevia (or to taste)
1 dropper full of plain stevia (or to taste)
1 candy cane, crushed (optional)

Melt chocolate and butter/oil over simmering water.  Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients except candy and pour onto parchment covered baking sheet.  Sprinkle top with candy, if desired.  Place in the fridge or freezer until hard and then break into pieces.   Store in air-tight container.

This recipe has been submitted to Gluten-Free Friday and Wellness Weekend for this final weekend before the 2013 winter holidays!!!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mexican Chocolate Plantain Bread

I am still fascinated by the whole plantain instead of flour baked good thing.  It's so cool.  Not to mention simple.  It takes so few ingredients to bake with plantain, it couldn't be easier.

1 large plantain
1/2 cup egg whites
2 tbls cocoa powder
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt

Puree plantain in food processor.  Add remaining ingredients and blend until mixed.  Pour into 2 parchment-lined mini loaf tins (or some muffin tins) and bake at 325 for 30-40 minutes.  Let cool completely before removing from parchment.  2 mini loaves.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Every Cloud, Raindrop, Snowflake and Heatwave Has a Silver Lining

It's Friday!  So I thought I'd finish the week off with a little rant about the weather.  Seriously is it too much to ask to live in a climate that isn't at one extreme or the other more than 300 freakin' days of the year?

Our summers are blisteringly hot and humid.  Our winters are ass-kicking cold.  Both suck big time.

The problem is that while I have always hated the heat, as I've gotten older, I've gotten less and less tolerant of the cold.  I feel like I am turning into a big wimp.  I just can't bring myself to bike in the cold anymore and instead force myself to endure the misery of riding the subway.

On Tuesday, I tried to get on the subway on my way home from work just before 5pm.  Ha!  What a total nightmare!!  I stood on the subway platform for 30 minutes while train after train stopped in the station but was too packed to pick up any more riders.  Eventually, I went back up to the ticket agent and asked for my money back so I could leave.  Apparently they don't do that.  I stormed off and went back up to street level and just started walking in the freezing cold.  Even the street cars going by were too full to pick up more riders.  I walked about 7 blocks and finally PAID AGAIN and caught a northbound street car with space, went up to the east west line, took a subway west to our stop and another bus north to our street.  All in all, what should have taken no longer than 30 minutes, took me 90 minutes.  I vowed to ride my bike Wednesday.

Then I woke up Wednesday morning, heard the weather report and got out my subway tokens.  Um, minus 12 C with the wind chill?  No thanks.  Fortunately, all my trips were not right in the heart of rush hour but the damn transit system isn't cheap and it takes forever.  My bike is free and so much faster, but my resistance to the cold seems to be declining.

It's funny because I used to laugh when my dad would say his parents (who lived in Los Angeles for the latter part of their lives) didn't want to come to Canada to visit in the winter.  It just seemed so silly to me that they'd let the weather affect them so much.  Man, they were probably in their 60s at the time...I'm just 39 and already feel like an old fart when it comes to the cold.  Except I hate the heat too.  I guess I'm just a big whiner really. 

Of course, since we don't plan to leave Toronto anytime soon, I have decided I have to just learn to accept the crap weather here.  I am trying to let go of my guilt and annoyance of relying on public transit instead of my bike and just accept that too.  Most Canadians don't bike in the winter, so why do I feel I have to?

Since the winter starts to bug me more after the holidays, I have decided to start a little gratitude exercise come January 1st.  Every day in January I will blog about something I am grateful for.  I am also thinking I will finally buy an LED mood lamp so that come February/March when I am so sick of the cold, grey weather that I feel like hiding under the bed all day, I don't fall into my usual late winter slump.

So have yourself a great cold weekend (or a not so cold weekend, if you are so lucky). 

Almost Time to Relax

Good Monday Morning!  How was your weekend?  Ours was lovely thanks.  I worked Friday night and Saturday and then we had a birthday party on Saturday afternoon.  I also had one client I had to fit in on Sunday.  Fortunately, work is a bit less busy this week.  Not good from a financial perspective, but good from a giving me time to get other things that I've been putting off kind of way.

Last week I didn't manage to fit in a single yoga session and I thought I was okay, but by Friday I felt like the tin man.  I was so excited to have some time today to get back to my practice before seeing clients but, now I'm not sure that will happen as Little A woke up last night with the stomach flu.  Ain't that always how it works?  I just hope if this bug is going to rip through our house, it does it before the holidays.

It's almost time for our annual trip to Florida.  We stay at my in-laws time share at the Vistana Resort.  We are all super excited.  This year Adam's bro and his family are again coming from Vancouver (they didn't make it last year because its so far and their youngest child was still so little).  So there will be eight adults and six children.  Lots of craziness and fun!

I have no agendas this year...not even a trip to Target...okay wait, that's not true, I do want to get to the amazing outlet mall we usually hit up.  Aside from that, I am just looking forward to relaxing.  I am also hoping to maybe fit in a few strength training workouts if I can.  Sometimes I'm good about getting in my workouts on these vacations and sometimes I barely even walk for the whole trip. 

Eating healthfully down there, I find, is a bit trickier.  The nearest grocery store is Publix, and I find they (or maybe U.S. grocery stores in general) don't carry as many healthy products as the ones around here.  I'm just talking about things like a basic pasta sauce that doesn't have added sugar!  We do usually hit the nearby Whole Foods as well, but the prices are insane and its hard to justify buying super expensive stuff when we are only there for 5 days and not likely to finish a lot of it.  Ah well, I do my best to keep us on track nutrition-wise, but it is a holiday after all.  I guess we'll see what happens.

Adam and I are counting down the seconds until the holidays arrive.  We're both feeling pretty burned out.  I have no clients booked between this Friday and January 3rd and I am really looking forward to the time off.

Do you have to work between Christmas and New Years? Are you going anywhere this holiday season?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pur Gum: Product Review

Adam and the girls are avid gum chewers.  Me? Not so much.  I only like cinnamon flavour, and I only chew it on occasion if I can't brush my teeth and have just eaten something potentially odorous, I have a dry mouth, or am nauseous.

The rule in the house is sugar-free only, but the conventional brands all contain a host of undesirable chemicals.

Fortunately, a number of companies have started making sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol.  Xylitol is an all natural sugar alcohol.  It is less likely to cause intestinal discomfort than other sugar alcohols like maltitol, mannitol and sorbitol.  It has about 1/3 fewer calories than regular sugar, and chewing gum sweetened with xylitol has some health benefits including decreasing risk of ear infections and tooth decay.  Personally, I like erythritol even better because unlike the other sugar alcohols, it is calorie-free (and also does not usually cause intestinal distress).

So I have no problem letting the girls chew xylitol sweetened candies and gum.  Therefore, I was thrilled when Pur sent us a generous selection of their products to try.

The girls don't like straight-up mint gum very much, but they both really loved the Pomegranate Mint flavour.  Adam and I both thought it was a little hard to chew at the beginning (in general, Adam only likes stick gum and Pur is the Chicklet-type) but that the flavours are good.  Unfortunately, I found that the flavour disappeared within seconds.  But neither of the girls mentioned this and they seemed quite satisfied with it.

Overall, I would use it for a quick breath freshener in a pinch, but you may not like it if you are the type of person who wants to chew for a long time.

Dentists do sometimes recommend chewing sugar-free gum for people who are prone to tooth decay.  If your children fall into this group but you have not wanted to give them aspartame-sweetened gum, Pur may be the perfect option for you.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Candy Dump Squares: Get Rid of Holiday Temptations by Giving

Making the gingerbread house for the daycare fundraiser was so much fun!  Unfortunately, it left me with a whole lot of candy crap hanging around the house.  Nothing I'm tempted by, but the girls kept asking me over and over what we were going to do with all this left over candy so I knew I had better get it out of the house.

Since we were also having a bake sale at the fundraiser, I decided to take everything I wanted to get rid of (and out of the girls' clutches) and make one big sugary treat that could be sold off to help us raise more money.  I've become jaded about trying to use healthy things for fundraising.  It just doesn't work.  People only seem motivated by crap.  If I sound bitter, I am.  As a society, I feel like we may be past the point of no return.  North Americans are going to eat themselves to death with all the bacon, sugar and whatever other garbage they gorge on.  Sorry, okay, my rant is over.

Now, should you want to avoid being one of those North Americans destined for lifestyle-related health problems, then candy dump squares are a great way to get rid of all the temptations that may appear in your house over the holidays.  You know, all the chocolate and baked goods people bring around as hostess gifts, etc.  You can also through in savoury things like salted or plain nuts, seeds, pretzels and/or crackers.  You can also add dried fruit if you want.  Since the base is gluten-free and vegan, you can make these to suit most people, based on what goodies you mix in.

The other great thing about this, is it turns things you don't need into a little gift for someone else.  Let them decide what they want to do with these nutritional monstrosities.  The folks at the fundraiser devoured these, so apparently they were pretty yummy.

Candy Dump Squares

2 cups dark or semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 tbls coconut milk, warmed
2 cups candy (I used what I had: soft peppermint candies and marshmallows)
3 cups cookies/biscuits, crackers and/or pretzels (I used the left over graham crackers and tea biscuits), broken up a bit

Melt chocolate and oil together over simmering water.  Stir in hot milk.  Mix in candy and cookies, etc.  Scrape into a parchment-lined 9x9 square baking dish.  Freeze for 15 minutes until firm.  Remove from dish and cut into squares with a sharp knife.  Keep in airtight container for up to 3 weeks.  Makes 20 squares.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Afghan Rice Pilaf

I don't really eat red meat anymore.  In case you haven't heard my story, I gave it up originally in 1998 after my mother's breast cancer diagnosis.  It was on the list of foods/substances that came up as carcinogenic when I started exhaustively researching the link between nutrition and health.

Then when I got pregnant with Big A I had insatiable cravings and red meat was back on the table.  This continued, to some extent, between pregnancies, and then during my pregnancy with Little A as well.  But since then, those cravings have completely dissipated.  I would be happy if I never eat it again. 

But the same cannot be said of Adam.  Nevertheless, because of his cholesterol issues that he inherited from his dad, he is supposed to avoid saturated fat as much as possible.  So when I found ground bison at the grocery store, I decided I'd treat him.  It is extremely lean for a red meat and very low in saturated fat.  Besides, I still seem to have low iron, so I figured it can't hurt me either. 

The last time I had red meat was back in April, when Adam and I went to the Afghan restaurant in New York.  Unfortunately, it was a big disappointment compared to the last time we had their food.  The lamb I got was tough and stringy and relatively tasteless.  While I bemoaned the situation, Adam suggested I just try cooking a similar dish myself.  So I did!  Of course, I put my own stamp on it, like I always do.  First off, I used the ground bison.  I also incorporated a lot more veggies into it than is customary.  Usually the rice is simply garnished with fried onions, raisins and shredded carrot.  I added parsnips and cauliflower too.  I also subbed figs in for raisins because I felt like it.

If you don't eat meat, you can easily veganize this recipe by using vegetable broth and chickpeas instead of meat.

Afghan Rice Pilaf

1  tsp coconut oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp coconut sugar
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
1 lb ground lamb, beef or bison (or 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
1 litre beef stock (or veggie stock)
Pinch of saffron
1.5 cups water
1.5 cups brown basmati rice
12 figs, chopped (or 1/2 cup raisins)

Roasted vegetables

1 cauliflower, cut into florets
1 lb parsnips cut into sticks
1 lb carrots, cut into sticks
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbls cider vinegar

For the roasted veggies, toss all ingredients together in a large bowl and then spread on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets.  Roast at 425F for 30 minutes.

For the pilaf, sauté onions in oil in a deep skillet until softened.  Add sugar and continue to cook until caramelized.  Remove from skillet.  Brown meat and then add stock and saffron. Simmer for about 5 minutes and then remove meat.  Add water and rice and simmer until liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked.  Stir in figs (or raisins) and meat.  Combine with roasted veggies, caramelized onions, and serve.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Chewy Cocoa Cranberry Plantain Cookies

Wow, it's Monday again!  We had a great weekend, but it went by way too quickly.  And we woke up to a blanket of snow everywhere.  It looks pretty now, but in a few hours it will just be a big slushy mess I'm sure.  I think this is a take the subway and leave my bike at home day.  Anyways...

After the success of the plantain bread, I decided to try making something a little fancier.  These were my latest lunch box treats I baked for the girls.  They love them!  And I love that they have no oil or sugar in them and are super quick and easy to make.  Since they have oats in them, they aren't for cavemen, but they are gluten-free if you can't have gluten.

Chewy Cocoa Cranberry Plantain Cookies

1 semi-ripe or ripe plantain
2 eggs (or flax eggs*)
1/4 cup powdered stevia or coconut sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups oats (gluten-free, if necessary)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries (juice sweetened, if possible)

Puree plantain in food processor.  Add eggs, sweetener, vanilla and cocoa and puree again until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients, except cranberries, and pulse until combined.  Stir in cranberries by hand.

Drop large spoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake at 350F for 10 minutes.  Let cool completely before removing from pan.  Makes 20 cookies.  Keep in air tight container for up to a week or freeze.

*I think flax eggs will work, but I didn't try them this way.
This recipe was submitted to Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Good versus Bad

It is kind of interesting to me, that today, December 6th, 2013, we are commemorating the Ecole Polytechnique massacre of 1989, as well as the life and death of Nelson Mandela.

It is so easy to become fixated on all the bad in the world, and in our own lives and sometimes seems much more difficult to see the good.  But there is good.  And beauty. And love.  You just have to look a little harder to find it sometimes.

The massacre is, of course, one of many horrors in human history, but Nelson Mandela and the legacy he has left is proof of just what a huge difference on person can make.

There are psychological theorists who believe that the cause of much human suffering is a lack of engagement and sense of meaning in our lives.  I do feel I see evidence of this in my practice as a counsellor.  What most people seem to need and want is a sense of purpose and belonging.  Of course, this is what changed my own path in life.  I spent years absolutely miserable in jobs that had no intrinsic value for me.  Now, I am doing work that I am passionate about.  Nothing makes me happier than feeling like I am helping others and making some sort of significant difference.  And this too has been shown to be linked with positive psychological outcomes for people.  It is difficult to feel bad when doing something good.

So go find some good this weekend, or, even better, do some good for someone else.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bust Out of Your Fitness Rut with the Asylum Workout Program

I have been meaning to review the Asylum Workout program I got for my birthday this past year, but since right around the same time I switched to doing a less cardio/more strength based routine, I didn't get around to trying them all until now.  I've been squeezing one in for the last few weeks on Saturdays, which is my DVD day.

The set includes:

  • Athletic Performance Assessment
  • Speed & Agility
  • Vertical Plyo & Relief
  • Strength
  • Game Day & Overtime
  • Back To Core

  • Okay, this program is definitely more intense than Insanity, and likely one of the toughest fitness DVD workouts out there.  I do not recommend trying it if you have a serious musculoskeletal injury or vulnerability, or are not already highly conditioned.  That being said, some of it is adaptable but even if you choose the easiest variations, they certainly are not easy.  There is lots and lots of jumping (plyometrics, skipping, etc) so if that's not for you, than this system is definitely not for you.

    So the reviews I read before I bought it said it requires more space than Insanity because of the ladder and skip rope.  I wasn't too concerned because when I move our arm chair out of the rec room where our TV is, there is sufficient space for me to do most things.  Unfortunately, it isn't quite big enough to make this program easy for me.  I can't skip with the ladder on the floor or it gets caught in it, so I have to fling the ladder onto the couch until I need it again.  This means I am always falling behind in the workout because I have to set up the ladder and then get rid of it between each exercise transition.  Also, even though we have a chin up bar (Shaun T gives you options if you don't), the door frame we can use it on is on the other side of the basement where you can't see the TV, so it doesn't really work for me.  The other problem I have is that - being pretty uncoordinated, I have trouble doing some of the moves.  I have come to love skipping, but no matter how hard I try, I cannot do a split squat with a skip rope.  Of course, than I get really frustrated and angry and don't enjoy the workout.  If you have done a lot of team/organized sports and are already familiar with a lot of these training drills, than you'll be fine.  It's not like it's complicated dance routines or anything.

    My favorite workout is the Vertical Plyo followed by Speed and Agility.  I found the Game Day/Overtime workout frustrating (I am too uncoordinated for a number of the drills).  Relief is a pretty vanilla stretch routine which is good if you hate yoga and just want straight up stretches to restore length to your muscles.   Back to Core is a pretty good workout focusing mostly on back (not much abs), and Strength is a good routine, but not one I'll use as I prefer to do my own strength training.

    Overall, it is pretty killer.  If you are already really fit and looking to kick it up a notch, you will probably love this.  I do recommend you make sure you have enough space for all the equipment, so you aren't constantly rearranging things between drills, like I have to do.

    Oh, and Shaun T is still doing static stretching at the beginning of his workouts.  Will someone please tell Beach Body this is contraindicated??  I guess the upside is these stretch segments are about half the length (3 minutes) of the ones in Insanity.

    I think I will probably continue to use my favorite ones now and again to mix it up in my own routine.  The more variety I throw into my workouts the happier I am.

    Wednesday, December 4, 2013

    Plaintain Bread


    Sorry if I offend anyone, but the whole 'Paleo' diet movement really irritates me.  It's based on faulty reasoning and pseudo science.  That being said, I get it that it may be a very enjoyable and effective way for some people to lose weight and/or improve their immediate health.  The problem is, I think long-term health may not be maximized.  Why?  Because research links consumption of animal protein (which is a big part of the paleo diet) with chronic illness.  Beans and WHOLE grains, on the other hand are associated with lower risk of chronic illness.

    Frankly, I think its just replaced the Atkins, and no doubt is at least an improvement on that, since it focuses on unprocessed foods and natural, uncured meats, but still.  I don't believe its a magic bullet for all our health whoas.

    Anyways, I do think some great culinary ideas have come out of the Paleo movement.  One is the use of the plantain in baking.  I love plantains so when I started seeing recipes that use it in place of flour in baked goods, I was blown away.  The scientist in me was totally mesmerized by the notion that this fruit could stand in for flour.  I had to see for myself.

    I started with a plain bread, because it seemed so simple.  Just a few ingredients really and the results are fabulous!  This totally blows my mind.  It really creates something with a taste and texture like something that contains flour!  Very cool.  I've now been experimenting with some other recipes, which will come soon, so stay tuned.

    Plantain Bread

    1 large, semi-ripe plantain
    1/2 cup egg whites
    1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    2 droppers full of stevia liquid, or to taste (optional)
    Pinch of cinnamon
    Pinch of salt

    Puree plantain in food processor.  Add remaining ingredients.  Blend for another few seconds.  Pour into parchment-lined muffin or mini-loaf tins. Bake at 325F for about 30 minutes.  Let cool completely and then remove from parchment.  Eat within 48 hours or freeze for future use.  Makes 2 mini loaves or 6 muffins.

    I like these cut in half, lightly toasted or warmed and then smeared in chocolate almond butter (1 tbls almond butter + 1/2 tsp cocoa powder + dark chocolate stevia liquid).  Mmm!!

    This recipe was shared with Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

    Tuesday, December 3, 2013

    Seabuck Wonders: Product Review

    Recently Seabuck Wonders generously sent me some of their Omega-7 pills and body lotion to try out.

    Although I had heard of Sea-Buckthorn before, I really wasn't sure what it is.  Apparently it's a fruit, but one that contains high levels of omega-7, an unsaturated fatty acid.  In fact, it is one of the only rich sources of omega-7, along with macadamia nut oil.

    Sea-Buckthorn isn't supposedly very tasty as a fresh fruit, but it is extremely high in antioxidents.  There are not yet many human studies linking it to health outcomes, but studies on mice have demonstrated anti-carcinogenic and anti-obesogenic properties.

    The lotion couldn't have come at a better time.  As the summer heat quickly gave way to the cold, dry late autumn weather, my skin seemed to get itchy and scaly almost overnight.  Usually I use a heavy moisturizer in winter, like a body butter, so I wasn't sure this light, grease-less lotion would do the trick, but it's amazing.  It has a delicate orange scent (and bright orange colour) thanks to natural orange oil, and it is vegan, non-GMO, paraben-free and wheat and gluten-free.  I've been putting it on every morning after my shower and it keeps my skin feeling soft and supple all day.

    They also sent me their Omega-7 Complete soft gels.  It is recommended to take 2-4 per day.  I've been taking them in place of my fish oil soft gels, and I have to say that they have a much nicer smell and aftertaste.  No fish burps!

    Sea Buckthorn Oil Blend - Omega-7 Complete
    My one comment about them is that, although they are kosher, non-GMO and gluten-free, they have gelatin, so I guess they aren't vegan.   They claim that Omega-7 is good for dry eyes, a problem I suffer from chronically, so I am excited to see if this helps.  I'll keep you posted!

    Seabuck Wonders also sells other beauty products and supplements which are currently available in stores across the U.S.  Canadians can buy them directly from the company online.

    Disclaimer: Seabuck Wonders provided me with their products free-of-charge but all opinions on this blog are my own.

    Monday, December 2, 2013

    Citrus Sanity Saver

     I only drink vegetable juice.
Vodka is made from
potatoes so that counts.
    Good Monday morning!  How are you feeling today?  I feel great, thank you very much.  I was looking forward to this weekend for a long time.  Partly because it was packed full of fun events, but also because I knew it would be my first opportunity to really relax after all the build up to the fundraiser last week.

    Part of relaxing meant having a drink or two.  I have said many times, alcohol should be considered a treat, not a regular part of ones daily routine.  Too many of us have convinced ourselves, thanks to flawed research and inaccurate reporting in the media, that alcohol consumption is healthy.  As a counsellor, I also see it being misused by people all too often as a coping strategy.  Alcohol, along with food, drugs, etc, are frequently used to self-medicate, and are considered to be avoidant coping strategies, by us folks who work in the mental health field.  This means, they temporarily help us cope with unpleasant feelings or events by pushing them away or numbing us to the emotions.  The problem is, they don't help us actively deal with the issue at hand and can often create other difficulties for us.

    Along with the social costs of drinking too much, alcohol consumption is also associated with a host of cancers as well as liver problems.  It is also high in empty calories and inhibits the body's ability to burn fat.  Not much good there I tell you. If you are going to imbibe, try to stick with wine, beer or clear spirits.  Stay away from high calorie drinks that include sugar syrups, liqueurs, cream, juice, etc.

    I try to minimize my alcohol intake as much as possible because of its links with cancer, but I do occasionally kick back with a drink or two for a treat.  And that is exactly what I did this past weekend.

    Usually I stick with wine but I was in the mood for something a little more hydrating.  This drink is refreshing and tasty without any sugar in it to fuel a furious hangover the next day.  Just make sure you don't over do it, as too much alcohol of any type is really not advisable. 

    If you want a less sweet drink, skip the stevia. 

    Citrus Sanity Saver

    2 packets Pure Orange
    1 dropper full of lemon stevia liquid (or regular stevia liquid)
    Slice of fresh lemon or orange
    1 ounce of citrus flavoured vodka
    1 can (350ml) club soda, or seltzer

    Stir all ingredients together in a big glass and drink.

    Disclaimer:  Alcohol consumption increases the risk of many chronic illnesses including cancer, and is associated with risky sexual behaviour and stupidity.  Consume with caution.

    Friday, November 29, 2013

    Laugh a Lot

    Who needs a therapist when 
sarcasm gets me through 
the day just fine!

    Have you heard they now have laugh yoga?  It may sound absurd, but it makes complete sense.  Laughing is incredibly therapeutic and most of us don't do it enough.  Its not new information, but I was reminded of this one day last week when I was feeling particularly stressed out.  I started reading one of those top autocorrect mistake posts like this one.  Because of my silly sense of humour, this kind of shit makes me hysterical.  In no time I was laughing so hard I was crying and I had to put my hand over my mouth so I wouldn't disturb the other therapists in the office working with their clients.  But it felt fantastic.  And I sat there wondering why we don't spend more time laughing.  There are lots of funny things out there! 

    Whenever I feel depressed, 
I remember that there are 
millions of microscopic
beings on my skin
who think I am the 

    Similarly, it hit me the other day how weird it is all the things we stop doing when we become adults.  Like cartwheels.  Why do we stop doing cartwheels and hanging off monkey bars?  If we just kept doing these things, we'd probably all be a lot fitter and healthier.  I wonder what would happen if we took life a lot less seriously?  Our society is full of people (including myself) who get mired down in expectations and responsibilities.  We feel like we are facing insurmountable obstacles in our lives, when really there is no actual threat.  Most of us are blessed - compared with other living in the world - with fairly safe, stable, comfortable lives, and yet stress is a pervasive and chronic problem that leads to significant mental and physical health issues.

    I guess that's why Mindfulness is an increasingly popular buzzword in the wellness world.  Most of us can benefit from practicing gratitude and trying to put things in perspective.  So have a great weekend: turn some cartwheels, dance, and laugh a lot.

    Thursday, November 28, 2013

    Hey Jamie Oliver...WTF??

    So Jamie Oliver has apparently partnered with Sobeys, "...On a mission to bring better food to Canadians."

    I have to admit, I was pretty surprised when I heard about this, but given his commitment to get folks eating better, I was optimistic that this could mean good things to come.  We have a Sobey's in our neighbourhood and go there quite a bit for various staples (I actually think they are even better than Loblaws for fresh fish and seafood!).

    The first evidence of this new partnership was displays of his pasta sauces and pastas and cook wear and serving dishes.  I didn't really pay much attention although I did note that it was a bit weird that all his pastas were made from processed white flour given his commitment to better nutrition.

    It was the flyer we got in the newspaper this weekend that really shocked me.  It featured all his new products that are now available at Sobeys stores.  He now has his own line of frozen foods exclusively available at the grocery chain.  Um, isn't he the guy that stresses the importance of fresh, homemade food??  I might be okay with this if the products were actually healthy but they totally are not.  Banoffee cakes?  Gooey brownies?  Creamy seafood pie?  There are also some Jamie Oliver baked goods available and these too are not remotely nutritious...all made with refined flour and sugar.

    I don't know man, but this all seems incredibly hypocritical to me.  What do you think?

    Wednesday, November 27, 2013

    Jewelled Winter Kale Salad

    The fundraiser is over and I am physically and mentally exhausted.  We had an amazing turn out and the bouncy castle and games were a huge hit with the kids.  Believe it or not, I won ALL 3 baking contests!  Mom Who Runs cookie recipe really is the bomb.  There was only one other pie entry to be honest, but hey I'll take 1st place!  I gave the trophies to the second place winners.  The gingerbread houses were sold off at the end.

    But seriously, stress is so toxic.  Really its so stupid that we all get worked up over what is really such insignificant stuff.  I'm as guilty of it as the next person.  I constantly need to remind myself to put it all in perspective.  But I'm pleased with how it went and am looking forward to a quiet weekend.  Oh wait, its only Wednesday.  Oh yeah, and our upcoming weekend is like insanely jam-packed.  Sigh!

    Moving on to food.

    One of the things that is fairly consistent among clients seeking help with weight loss, is that they don't do much cooking and rely far too heavily on restaurant food/prepared foods.  There are studies that have directly linked # meals eaten in restaurants/per week with BMI.  I promise you, no matter how healthy a restaurant dish seems, it is most likely far higher in calories, fat and salt than you can ever imagine.  The Toronto Star often does lab analyses of restaurant meals, and even a very nutritious dish from, say, a raw, vegan restaurant can be almost a days worth of calories (because of the reliance on nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut and other high calorie ingredients).  Of course, most are way way worse because they aren't even nutritious and - in the case of fast food - are basically toxic.

    It's always shocked me how many people buy their breakfast and lunch every day.  Not just because of the monetary cost, as well as the cost to your health and waistline, but also because I think you can often make far yummier food at home!

    When people tell me they don't like to cook or don't know how, I tell them it is a critical life skill and one worth learning.  I explain to them that being organized and prepared is key.  If you don't arm yourself with healthy food at all times, you're in trouble, because we live in a culture where we are always surrounded with easily accessible, highly palatable (thanks to sugar, fat and salt) food options that make it too easy to over consume calories, and the worst kind of calories, at that.

    Cooking fresh food at home doesn't have to be time consuming, it's also a great creative outlet.  Think about it, if you rely on prepared food all the time, you are constrained by the imagination of other people (as well as their desire to make a profit), if you make it home, you have the freedom to explore your own unique tastes and preferences. Sky's the limit!

    This is my new favorite lunch.  It is sweet, savoury and comforting.  Thanks to the sweet potato and hemp seeds it is also extremely satisfying.  It's full of super foods, but I just think it tastes super.  And when I brought it to work, there were many folks commenting on how amazing it looks.  The colours alone are beautiful, but the taste is out of this world!

    Jewelled Winter Kale Salad

    1 head kale, washed, dried and finely chopped
    1 large sweet potato, roasted, diced (I keep skin on, but you can discard skin, if desired)
    2 tbls hulled hemp seeds
    2 tbls pomegranate seeds

    Place all the salad ingredients in a large bowl.

    Warm Blueberry Balsamic Dressing

    1 red onion, diced
    600g bag frozen blueberries
    1/2 cup cider vinegar
    1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    2 tbls maple syrup
    1 tsp konjac powder or 1 tsp xantham gum

    Place onion, blueberries and cider vinegar in pot or sauce pan over medium/high heat.  Bring to boil and then simmer over med/low.  Add balsamic and maple syrup and simmer until onion and blueberries are soft.  Remove from heat and stir in thickener.  Pour desired amount over salad (I used about half).

    This recipe has been shared with Wellness Weekend and No Croutons Required recipe Link-Ups.

    Tuesday, November 26, 2013

    D Day

    Tonight is the daycare fundraiser.  I have had butterflies since I woke up yesterday morning.  But now I'm freaking out about something else: One of the board members, and a good friend of mine, was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery yesterday!  Nothing like something like that to put things into perspective!  So what the fuck if the whole thing bombs tonight???  I just hope she's going to be okay.  But it does mean that she and her wife will not be able to come to the fundraiser.  Sheesh, if they didn't want to come, there are easier ways to get out of it.  Ha ha!

    Anyways, I have had lots of great people helping me so I think just maybe we will be able to pull it off.

    And in the midst of it all, I was able to bake stuff for the contests.  Along with the gingerbread house, I made these cookies. 


    I used Mom Who Runs' favorite recipe and just swapped out white flour for whole spelt and brown sugar for coconut sugar.  I went out and bought white sugar just for this recipe...not sure what I'll do with the rest, I'm thinking maybe homemade facial scrub?

    I also made these pumpkin pies.

    I just used the recipe on the can of pumpkin (and again swapped out brown sugar for coconut sugar).  For the crust, I made a standard graham cracker one, but threw in some chopped, crystallized ginger to dress it up a bit. 

    Off to get started on my to-do list for today!  Have a great chilly Tuesday.

    Monday, November 25, 2013

    Home Sweet Home

    Wow, the weekend went fast.  Too fast.  And now it's the day before the fundraiser and I feel like there are still a million things to do.  On the bright side, it's gotten super cold here so the fact that I took the day off work and am stuck at home can easily be appreciated with some hot tea and cosy slippers.

    At least I got some of the baking done.  Worried that no one else would step up, I signed myself up for all 3 baking contests.  Today the pies get made.  Yesterday I finished the cookies and last week I put the finishing touches on the gingerbread house. 

    Since all these things were for OTHER people to eat (although my kids are begging to try all of it), I put no thought into the health factor.  That being said, I couldn't resist using spelt flour in the cookies, instead of white, and coconut sugar instead of brown sugar.  Whether those swap outs will make me lose the contest or not I don't know.  In any case, it's all for fundraising purposes and fun, of course.

    Okay, off to start knocking things off my to-do list.  Have a great Monday!

    Friday, November 22, 2013

    And the Countdown is On...

    Its been another nutty week.  Adam was away in Tampa at a conference for a few days, work was busy, I had to shuttle the girls to their various activities, and I've also been trying to make sure that everything is going smoothly in preparation for the daycare fundraiser I am organizing next Tuesday.  This week we started selling tickets and thankfully, they've been selling really well.  This thing might be a success after all!

    Things are not going as smoothly at home.  The girls won't stop fighting with each other.  It's constant.  They can't even look at each other without starting to bicker.  We've tried all the things the experts suggest and nothing seems to work.

    One of the things we are auctioning off at the fundraiser next week is a $250 gift certificate for the services of parenting expert, Nanny Robina...I am thinking that I have to win that thing and get help with these kids!!

    So there isn't going to be much relaxation this weekend.  I have to work Saturday, and Sunday a few other moms are coming over to help me get some of the baskets ready for our silent auction for the fundraiser.  I've also taken Monday and Tuesday off of work to make sure I have time to handle any last minute emergencies that come up.  Since I'm self-employed, this basically means giving up my personal income for 2 days.   Oh man, I can't tell you how relieved I will be when the whole thing is over!  I like feeling like I'm helping a good cause and making a difference, but this has been a bit too overwhelming.

    Have a happy, healthy weekend!

    Thursday, November 21, 2013

    Poop in Peace

    Recticare Box
    Okay, I've really been falling behind in getting out some posts I've been working on, butt I really thought I should squeeze this one out.

    For some reason, people really don't like talking about anything to do with their butts.  Butt, what's going on down there can be an indicator of your overall health.

    Most of us know that if you have blood in your stool, you should get it checked out.  We also know that we should start getting screened for colon cancer at some point (depending on family history/personal risk factors).

    There can also be issues with discomfort while pooping from either hemorrhoids or fissures.  This is no joke man, I can tell you from personal experience.  After both my girls were born, I developed serious fissures that made it feel like I was passing razer blades out of my butt anytime I had to poop.  I thought this was weird since I had 2 C-sections, but my OB said it's not uncommon due to the constipation caused by the hormones and surgeries.  I know for women who have natural births, hemorrhoids often develop, especially after a prolonged labour. 

    In my case, I had to take stool softeners for about 4 months after both girls were born, and the OB had to prescribe a cortisone treatment.  But it took a few weeks to work and in the short term didn't help with the pain. 

    So when I was asked to write a post about RectiCare, I agreed because I don't mind talking poop.  Bathroom humour is my favorite kind of humour after all!  I was sent the cream, but since my butt is currently fine, I really can't try it out.  What I can tell you, is that unlike the other products on the market meant to heal, which only offer longer term relief, this product contains Lidocaine, a local anesthetic that can provide immediate relief from pain, burning and itching.  It also includes finger cots so, um, you don't need to get your hands dirty.  I can tell you now, I would have really appreciated this product when I was experiencing painful pooping!

    So, if you are suffering every time you sit on the can, you might want to give it a try.

    Disclaimer:  I was sent a complimentary tube of Recticare but all opinions on this blog are my own. 

    Oh, and if anyone lives in the Toronto area and wants the free sample, it's unopened and I am happy to give it to you!

    Wednesday, November 20, 2013

    Pineapple Chocolate Chili

    Oh yeah, that's no typo...Pineapple Chocolate Chili.  Wait!  Before I lose you, seriously this is SO GOOD!  I mean think about it.  There is chocolate in a mole sauce and if I said I'd made, say, chicken in mole sauce with a side of pineapple salsa, you'd probably think "Yummers!"  Well this is yummers too, I promise.

    The idea came to me because my mom bought this spicy chili chocolate bar and gave it to Adam because she found it too spicy.  Adam tried it and even HE found it too spicy so he suggested I cook with it.  I thought it would dress up what would otherwise be a pretty standard vegetarian chili and it worked magically, elevating it to out of this world.  The pineapple adds a lot of sweetness, the chocolate more of a complexity to the overall flavour.  A bit of cider vinegar, smoked paprika, cumin seed and chili powder round it out.  Adding additional cayenne pepper to boost the heat factor is optional. 

    By the way, this is the chocolate that is so freakin' spicy:

    I used a mix of sprouted beans and canned to get both some chewy and creamy textures, but you can use all canned if you prefer.  I left the veggies large because I like it that way, but feel free to dice everything down small if you prefer.  This makes a large amount so its great for a crowd or to have for several meals in a row.  Or just freeze for a future time.  You can serve it on its own, or over rice or another grain, or stuffed into a burrito.  It's very versatile!

    Pineapple Chocolate Chili

    1 cup sprouted bean mix
    2 cups water
    1/4 cup cider vinegar
    2-3  cloves garlic, minced
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp chili powder
    1/2 tsp smoked paprika
    1/2 tsp cumin seed (or ground cumin)
    Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
    1 onion, sliced or diced
    1 red onion, sliced or diced
    2 red bell peppers, sliced or diced
    2 green bell peppers, sliced or diced
    1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
    1 jar pineapple chunks with juice (or 1 whole, ripe pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into chunks)
    1 can tomato paste
    About 50g dark, spicy chili chocolate, melted

    Place sprouted beans and water in deep skillet or pot.  Bring to a boil and then turn heat down to low and simmer for about 20 minutes until liquid is reduced.  Add vinegar, spices, garlic, onions, peppers,  and pineapple and simmer until veggies are soft.  Add tomato paste and melted chocolate and continue cooking for at least another 10 minutes.  Keep on low heat until ready to serve.

    This recipe has been shared with Gluten-Free Friday and Wellness Weekend.

    Tuesday, November 19, 2013

    Never Too Thin or Too Warm

    For the past few winters I have been wearing the same coat.  I like how it looks well enough, but it really isn't sufficiently warm.  I always ended up layering on sweaters and vests underneath and even then would end up cold on really bitter days.  After all, weather permitting, I often ride my bike to work and when it is really freezing and/or windy, it's not pleasant. 

    So I finally decided I should invest in a good coat for winter.  But I also wanted it to look good.  Frankly, I am tired of huge, puffy coats  that make my look like a weeble. I did some research and finally decided on a North Face coat, which I purchased from Sporting Life online.  Supposedly water and windproof, but also pretty streamlined, I loved the way it looked.

    When the small, light box arrived, I was dismayed.  I unpacked the tightly folded up jacket and thought I had made a huge mistake: There was no way such a thin coat could be warm enough for winter!  But I decided to give it a try anyways.  Well knock me down and pick me up again!  It's far warmer than I ever imagined such a light, thin coat could be!  I love it.  I still suspect an extra layer might be needed on really cold days, but the fact that it's so wind and waterproof makes a huge difference. 

    The bad news is, lately I've been having bad reactions to all my winter hats.  I am allergic to wool and sometimes I am okay with it near my skin for short periods of time, but right now I get itchy after only a few seconds.  Good excuse to buy a new hat I suppose.

    I think the next thing I need to do is go to MEC and get some super duper mittens for super duper cold days when I am on my bike.  Then I'll be all set!

    Monday, November 18, 2013

    My Big Fat Book Review: The Greek Yogurt Cookbook

    The Greek Yogurt Cookbook: Includes Over 125 Delicious, Nutritious Greek Yogurt Recipes

    Food is subject to fads much like fashion.  Certain things go in and out of style.  Gluten-free food is very popular right now, but if one more person asks me to review a gluten-free cookbook, I'll scream.  Quinoa too.  Been there, done that.  I really am only interested in things that are new and different.

    One of the hottest food trends right now is Greek Yogurt.  The appeal is obvious.  Even low-fat versions are thick, rich and creamy and it contains significantly more protein than regular yogurt, which means it is generally more satisfying.  When I was asked to review The Greek Yogurt Cookbook by Lauren Kelly, I was pleased to FINALLY see a cookbook offering something new and different.

    Admittedly we don't by Greek yogurt very often, mostly because it's really expensive.  Actually, it's super simple to make yourself, I've done it before...and come to think of it, I should really do it more often!  All you do is take some yogurt of choice (gelatin-free), and strain it through cheese cloth overnight.  If you don't eat dairy, you could probably do this with coconut, soy or almond based yogurts too!

    The book contains over 125 recipes divided into 9 chapters ranging from smoothies to main courses to pastas to desserts.

    A detailed introduction explains the health benefits of Greek Yogurt, a guide to how to choose one, and a substitution chart if you want to swap out other ingredients in your recipe for Greek yogurt.

    The recipes are really nice, and mostly pretty healthy.  Most use whole grains, although some use white flour.  I would recommend using a whole grain flour, of course (whole wheat pastry or kamut flour work well as substitutes for refined flour).  Kelly also seems to favour turbinado and brown sugar as sweeteners, which are just refined sugars, so I would use coconut sugar instead.

    I am not a smoothie person, I don't like drinking my food, but her smoothie recipes are surprisingly interesting and original.  My favorite recipes are in the salad chapter.  The Curried Chicken Salad, White Bean Salad, and Grilled Pear Salad with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette sound amazing!  Many recipes are vegetarian, and if you use a non-dairy yogurt, they can be vegan.

    There are only a handful of photos, so if you need to see what you are making, this might not be for you.

    Overall, if you are a Greek yogurt lover and generally healthy eater looking to expand uses for this super food in your kitchen, than you may want to grab a copy of this book.

    Friday, November 15, 2013

    Mood Swings

    Mom, I'm sorry for all
the things I did when I 
was a kid. Will you 
please take off the 
curse that my kids 
will be 10x's worse 
than me? PLEASE....
I'm Sorry!

    Holy cow have we been having major mood swings in this house...and there isn't even anyone close to hitting puberty yet!

    Wednesday morning Little A woke up in quite a state.  I haven't seen her in such a snit in a very long time.  Basically everyone and everything made her furious and she wailed almost non-stop from the moment she got up until I dropped her at school.  Of course, her teachers reported that she had a great day after I left.  Not sure what was up with that, but when I asked, she simply said, "I was grumpy."  Yeah, well I was left with PTSD after that kid!

    Likewise, last night, Big A, who was otherwise behaving great yesterday, had a massive tantrum right after Adam left with his dad to see a concert.  It was like she was 4 again, I couldn't believe it.  Of course, when one kid is having a melt down and getting into trouble, the other kid is sweet as pie...and enjoying every minute of the other's downfall.  I'm telling you, I think having 2 kids relatively close together in age of the same gender is trouble.  Last night as Big A screamed and pounded the floor in the hall while I tried to read Little A her bedtime stories (I won't bore you with the details, but due to rudeness, I took away Big A's TV privileges for the night, which led her to start claiming that her life isn't fair, because Little A always gets her way - which is so not true!), Little A commented, "Mommy I think she is having a big better go deal with it."

    My brother and I - and this is confirmed by my parents - really weren't competitive with each other.  Don't get me wrong, we hated each other and fought a lot, but not like my girls.  My brother just thought I was a pest and beat the crap out of me whenever possible.  I half worshipped/half hated my brother.  But being different genders and 4 years apart, we were mostly into different stuff.  We hardly ever played together (I remember Monopoly and Clue games and occasional games in the back yard), and really just spent most of our time doing our own stuff.

    I know the girls love each other and are very protective of each other, but their is so much jealousy, it's nuts.  If you threw one of them into a bathtub full of hairy spiders, the other would shout and complain, "Hey, not fair, why does she get to go in first?"

    Ah well, its just part of life and part of parenting.  I am very pleased with myself because I somehow managed to not go ballistic on either of them during these rather unpleasant moments.  By the time I picked up Little A on Wednesday, she was in a delightful mood.  Half an hour after I banished Big A to her room last night, she came out in a completely opposite mood, apologized and gave me a hug like nothing had even happened.

    I am so glad it's Friday, but things are still nuts.  I work for most of tomorrow and I am going to be super stressed until November 26th because I am furiously trying to organize the annual fundraiser for the girls' daycare - I have a million errands to run this weekend in preparation for the event too - on top of seeing my clients and taking care of the girls...oh, and Adam is going to Tampa for a few days next week for work.  Fabulous!

    Have a healthy happy weekend and embrace  the chaos...I'm going to try to!

    Thursday, November 14, 2013

    Cinnamon Raisin Protein Bread

    Among the foods I love the most, cinnamon definitely ranks up there.  It can transform the ordinary into extraordinary, if you ask me.  One of my favorite things to do is roast or simmer fresh fruit with cinnamon.  It ends up tasting like candy.  Even the girls have a weakness for apples, plums and peaches prepared this way.  Of course, cinnamon is also awesome in oatmeal, French toast and baked goods. 

    Cinnamon raisin bread is a favorite in this house.  Unfortunately, it is really darn hard to find a healthy version at the grocery store.  Most have refined flour in them and they all seem to be full of sugar.  So here is my version.  Not only is it sweet, moist and aromatic (the whole house smelled heavenly after I baked up this bread!), but it also happens to be gluten-free and sugar-free.  You can eat it plain, like you would a quick bread, or you can slather it (toasted or untoasted) with nut butter, jam, honey or your other favorite topping.  The protein and fibre in this bread will help keep you satisfied and avoiding any sugar crashes. too.

    The girls went absolutely cuckoo over this bread and were already complaining about how I only made 1 loaf after their first bite.  They said it tasted like cake.  If you want a less sweet bread, use unflavoured protein powder.

    Cinnamon Raisin Protein Bread

    2 eggs
    1 cup milk
    1 cup plain yogurt
    2 scoops vanilla protein powder (stevia sweetened)
    2 tbls stevia baking blend
    2 tsp vanilla extract
    1 cup coconut flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    1/2 cup raisins

    Whisk together wet ingredients in a large bowl.  Add dry ingredients and stir until combined.  Let sit 5 minutes.   Scrape batter into a parchment paper-lined loaf pan.  Sprinkle top with additional cinnamon, if desired.  Bake at 375F for 40 minutes.  Cover top with foil if it begins to brown too quickly before the end of the baking time.  Let cool and remove from pan.  Keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze.

    This recipe has been submitted to this week's Gluten-Free Friday.

    Wednesday, November 13, 2013

    Smell Yourself Thin? Spray Thin Product Review

    As I write this review I feel like I'm going to barf.  Why?  Because of the revolting stench of Spray Thin's 'savoury' spray.

    In all honesty, when they asked if I wanted to try it, my plan was to use Adam as my guinea pig because he always complains about being hungry all day at work.  He often snacks so much he can barely eat dinner.  Unfortunately, I forgot that he doesn't have a very good sense of smell (he thinks its from breaking his nose during rugby as a kid).

    So I decided I'd give it a try.  The Globe and Mail nutrition expert recently wrote about these products and concluded that there are far better ways to control your food intake.  After my experience I have to agree! There are a few studies showing that certain scents seem to make people eat less.

    They come in 2 scents: sweet (strawberry) and savoury (cheese).  I sprayed a bit of the sweet on my oatmeal one morning.  Can't say it had any effect at all.  I don't really like fruity oatmeal, so I found it weird to be eating strawberry smelling oatmeal, even if the spray has no taste.  The cheese one simply smells so bad I won't put it near my food.  It smells like dirty gym socks. I think it's a bad idea too because cheese isn't a savoury food that works with every savoury dish.  Italian or Mexican food maybe, but certainly not Indian, Thai, Chinese or Japanese!  Ugh!  I guess if you feel utterly nauseous you'll eat less so maybe that's the key. 

    In any case, I don't recommend this product, particularly since each small spray is $30!!  It's far cheaper to keep a pair of sweaty gym socks in your kitchen and take a whiff before each meal.

    Disclaimer: Spray Thin supplied me with the products but all the opinions on this blog are my own.

    Disclaimer: The company provided me with the products at no charge but all opinions on this blog are my own.

    Monday, November 11, 2013

    Monday Monday...I Wonder What the Mayor Will Do This Week?

    Hey man, how was your weekend?  Ours was pretty good.  Went by too quickly though.  I am pleased to say that as of today, I still have straight hair!  I can't believe how much easier and faster it is to do my hair now.  Yay!

    You have to be living under a rock to not have heard about the antics of our total moron of a mayor.  If you are flabbergasted that such a man could get into office, believe me, many Torontonians feel the same.

    On some level it makes sense though, if you know some of the political, economic and demographic history of the city.  Adam gave me a book called, Some Great Idea to read, written by a Toronto journalist, Edward Keenan.  If you are interested in Toronto politics, I highly recommended, it's fascinating.

    Crazy busy week so I gotta get moving.  In fact, I apologize for this, but things are so busy, I may only post a few times a week for the next few weeks.  In any case, have a fabulous Monday.

    Friday, November 8, 2013

    On the Straight and Narrow

    So I did something purely for vanity yesterday: I got a Keratin hair straightening treatment! 

    After my failed attempt several months ago to embrace my curls (it's just never going to happen folks!), I resigned myself to spending every morning blow drying my hair as straight as possible.  Unfortunately, for some reason, my hair holds water like a kid holds candy, and if my hair has any moisture left in it, it just curls up again.  This means that it takes a long time to dry it.  I have to towel dry it very well and then let it air dry for about an hour (no joke!  I usually walk the girls to school with wet hair THEN come home and blow it dry) before I attempt to blow it dry (which takes at least another 5-10 minutes depending on how damp it still is).  Then, of course, I have to apply like 6 different oils, conditioners and potions.  If there is any humidity in the air, I have to put on a hat when I go out initially until the straightness is 'set'.  Pain in the arse!

    So when one of those group coupon thingies came out with an offer of a Keratin treatment valued at $600 for $99, I jumped.  I bought it months ago, actually, but the treatment takes about 2 hours, and with my busy work and parenting schedule, I just haven't been able to fit it in.

    Actually, now that I said all that, I guess it wasn't purely for was for convenience of vanity...

    And the result?

    Please excuse the horrible photo...I can't take selfies, but at least you can see: it's pretty darn straight!  But the proof is in the pudding.  I am not allowed to wash it for 2 days...lovely since I work out every day...don't think I'll be getting much love from Adam this weekend!  But it made it through my workout and shower this morning (I pinned it up to keep it as dry as possible).

    I'm actually pretty excited to finally live life like a straight-haired person.  But just for extra insurance, I also purchased a flat iron.  I had a bad experience with one years ago, but I think I just wasn't very skilled with the thing.  I guess we'll find out if I can pull it off now.

    The girls love my new look and both want their hair straightened now (Little A's is pretty straight but Big A's is wavy and curly in humid weather).  Therein lies the problem with all of this: How do I undertake things like this while trying to promote self-acceptance in them?  I'll have to mull this all over this weekend...

    Well I hope you have a happy, healthy weekend.  I have to work Saturday morning.  Little A has a birthday party and then both girls have Hebrew school Sunday morning and yoga camp Sunday afternoon.  So it's going to be a busy one for us. 

    Thursday, November 7, 2013

    Pumpkin Oatmeal Waffles (Gluten-Free)

    This was one of the recipes I used the pumpkin butter in...mmm, these are AMAZING!!  Just keep in mind they are delicate, so remove them carefully from you waffle maker (and make sure you've oiled/sprayed your waffle maker well beforehand).

    Pumpkin Oatmeal Waffles

    2 cups oat flour (gluten-free if necessary)
    1 cup large flake oats (gluten-free in necessary)
    2 tbls stevia baking blend or powdered stevia
    2 tbls baking powder
    1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
    1/2 tsp salt
    2 cups pumpkin butter
    10 egg whites (or flax eggs)
    1.5 cups water

    Whisk all ingredients together and then let sit for 15 minutes.  Make according to directions on your waffles maker.  This recipe made 5 large round waffles, but it depends on the size and shape of your waffle maker.  Extras can be frozen.

    This recipe has been shared with Gluten-Free Friday and Wellness Weekend.

    Wednesday, November 6, 2013

    Pumpkin Butter

    The girls had us buy them massive pumpkins for their Jack-o-lanterns this year.  I felt we couldn't just toss them out, so after Halloween was over, I chopped up as much as I could (before arm fatigue set in) and cooked it down into pumpkin butter.  Oh my, this stuff is so good!  I think I'll be doing this every year!

    This stuff can be used as a topping for pancakes or waffles, as an ingredient in baked goods, smoothies, oatmeal, or just spread onto bread.  Already I've made pumpkin cranberry chocolate chip muffins and pumpkin oatmeal spice waffles with it.  So freakin' yummy!

    If you don't have so much pumpkin, just half the recipe or reduce as needed.

    Pumpkin Butter

    16 cups peeled, cubed pumpkin
    2 tbls lemon juice
    1 cup water
    2 droppers stevia (vanilla or plain)
    1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
    1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
    1/4 tsp sea salt

    Place ingredients in a large pot and cover with lid.  Cook over med/med-low heat until pumpkin is falling apart.  Mash big pieces with back of spoon and turn heat down to low.  Use immersion blender and blend until smooth.  Keep refrigerated for up to a week or freeze.

    This recipe was submitted to Diet, Dessert & Dogs' Wellness Wee

    Tuesday, November 5, 2013

    Vegan Pulled "Pork" & Beans


    I have been dying to dry jackfruit since I learned you could simulate pulled meat with it.  A fruit that simulates pulled meat?  Um yes please!

    Unfortunately, most of the time when I was able to find it in cans, it was either in syrup or ridiculously expensive.  Then I finally found it for a really good price at...Shoppers Drug Mart of all places!  So I snatched up 2 cans to try.

    Jackfruit is cultivated in parts of Asia and Africa.  The flesh is a good source of vitamin C, and the seeds are a good source of protein.  When you get it in cans, there are only a few seeds, so I decided to add beans to this dish to bump up the protein content.  I was a little nervous about how it would does have a weird texture for a fruit, after all, but I was pleasantly surprised: I really like it!  It doesn't have a strong taste, so you could really flavour it anyway you want.

    I served this in whole grain wraps with melted cheese (you can use non-dairy options), but you could make it into a sandwich, serve on top of rice or another grain, or just eat it on its own.  This recipe makes a lot but you can keep leftovers in the fridge for 3-4 days or freeze for future use.

    Vegan Pulled "Pork" & Beans

    1 tsp olive oil
    1 onion, sliced
    1 red onion, sliced
    2-3 cloves garlic, minced
    4 green bell peppers, sliced
    2 red bell peppers, sliced
    1 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp smoked paprika
    2 tbls vegan Worcestershire sauce
    Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
    1/4 cup cider vinegar
    2 cans jackfruit in brine, drained, rinsed and chopped
    1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups cooked beans)
    1 can tomato paste

    Saute onions garlic, peppers and seasoning in the oil in a large skillet.  When vegetables begin to soften, add cider vinegar, jackfruit and beans.  Simmer over medium heat until vegetables have started to stew down.  Add tomato paste, turn heat to low and continue simmering 10-15 minutes. 

    This recipe has been submitted to Diet, Dessert & Dogs' Wellness Weekend.

    Monday, November 4, 2013

    Fudgy Sweet Potato Brownies

    Good Monday morning!  How was your weekend?  Ours was fun.  Costco.  Loblaws.  Swim lessons.  Baking.  Hebrew School.  A birthday party.  Playdates.  And now we're back to Monday again.

    Because I love my work, I don't dread Mondays, but boy do I dislike certain things about weekdays.  I hate making the girls' lunches.  It's just another thing to get done every day.  What's even more annoying is how much food comes back uneaten, even if it's food they requested.  This is particularly true of Big A.  I have to say, I am pleasantly surprised by Little A, I thought the whole lunch thing would be even tougher with her, but actually, it's Big A who is more of a challenge.  Little A generally eats most of her food, and if she doesn't finish, she eats the healthy stuff first and leaves her treat over (often eating it when I come to pick her up at the end of the day or even saving it for the next day).  She also doesn't constantly nag me to put crap in her lunch box like Big A does.  If Big A asks one more time for one of those revolting Lunchables thingies, I'll lose it!   She claims there is a kid at school who gets one every day. Not to be judgemental, but OY!  I tried to explain to her that that may be fine for him, but we do not eat that type of thing in our house.  Is there even actual food in those?

    Big A is also more prone to losing her reusable containers and making messes...which is particularly surprising since Little A is known as our little Pig Pen.    Big A will do things like eat a container of yogurt, which I pack in a resealable container, and then not bother to put the lid back on it, and when I open the lunch bag, yogurt is smeared everywhere and, frankly, it makes me want to throw up.

    Nevertheless, I have kept up my promise of baking some sort of healthy treat for them to take (if Big A leaves over her food in lieu of eating the treat, as she often does, she doesn't get a treat the next day) every day.

    These brownies are the latest experiment and they turned out great: Sweet, moist and super fudgy.  In fact, the girls love them so much, both of them have been nagging me to give them more (I limit them to 2 per day).  But the best part is Big A is motivated to eat the other parts of her lunch to ensure she'll get more of these chocolately treats the next day.  Yahoo!

    I am not kidding when I say the first thing I would do if I won the lottery is hire a housekeeper to make lunches and do all the other domestic stuff I hate.  Then I'd hire my own personal massage therapist/yoga instructor who would be on call 24/7.

    Fudgy Sweet Potato Brownies

    1 large sweet potato, roasted and peeled (about 2 cups)
    2 flax eggs (2 tbls flax + 6 tbls hot water
    1/2 cup stevia baking blend, xylitol, erythritol or coconut sugar
    1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 cup whole grain spelt or kamut flour (or a gluten-free blend)
    1/2 cup cocoa powder
    2 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt

    1/2 cup chocolate chip (sugar-free if possible)

    Whisk together sweet potato, flax eggs, sweetener, oil and vanilla.  Add remaining ingredients and stir just until combined (batter will be very thick).  Scrape into greased 9x9 square pan.  Bake at 350F for about 18 minutes.  Let cool completely.  Cut into squares.  Makes 25 brownies.  Keep refrigerated or freeze.

    This recipe has been shared with Diet, Dessert & Dogs' Wellness Weekend.