Friday, April 26, 2013

Why I Won't Be Giving Away Tickets to See Jillian Michaels

I live in jeans!

I get a lot of offers from PR companies to promote products and events on this blog.  I turn down most.  They have to fit in with my values and beliefs, and offer something to either myself and/or my readers.  Recently I was offered 2 tickets to Jillian Michaels' talk in Toronto, which is part of her Maximize Your Life tour, if I would promote the event.  I declined.

Although I realize some readers might be really interested in winning these tickets, I felt it would be hypocritical since I do not agree with a lot of the messages Michaels sends to her audience and fans.

Now, I reviewed one of her fitness videos a few years back, and was very impressed.  While she may have some good fitness DVDs out on the market, however, I do not watch the Biggest Loser.  I tried, and felt sick after a few minutes.  I have no time for this type of garbage reality tv that involves publicly humiliating people.  Furthermore, there is some evidence that watching this show can have a detrimental impact on viewers, particularly children.

After reading an article about Michaels recently, I am even less of a fan.  Big A's school had a fundraiser where you buy a magazine subscription and some of the money goes to the school.  I hate fashion magazines, avoid the fitness magazines like Shape and Self, and already get the 2 Canadian lifestyle magazines I enjoy: Chatelaine and Canadian Living.  This left me few options, so I chose Health magazine.  I assumed it would be less focused on appearances than the fitness magazines, but I am so far not very impressed.

In the March 2013 issue, Michaels is on the cover.  Before I get to her feature article, however, I'll mention the other one that really ticked me off, titled, "Wine or Your Waistline?" It discusses how alcohol can lead to weight gain or prevent you from losing weight.  While this is an important issues, nowhere in this entire article is it mentioned that alcohol consumption also comes along with other serious potential health risks like cancer!  I know the focus is on weight, but really I think this is a big omission.

The article on Michaels starts by quoted her mantra, which they describe as an "encouraging phrase": "Unless you faint, puke or die, keep walking!"

Um, and how exactly is that motivating?  No wonder watching Biggest Loser has deleterious effects on viewers!  To me, this simply promotes the idea that being healthy involves extreme suffering and deprivation.  Yeah, way to get people to jump on the healthy living bandwagon!

That being said, she does say in the article that no one should use extreme measures to lose weight, you should eat healthy 80% of the time, and practice positive affirmation, however, this all seems to clash with her approach on Biggest Loser.  So I guess my problem with Michaels is her affiliation with the show.  It seems that even she knows that the measures taken on the show are not particularly healthy, which makes her a bit of a hypocrite.  So sorry readers, as much as I know many of you would love to see Michaels speak, I felt that promoting her tour would have made me a hypocrite too.

I'm on a blogging break until May 6th, so until then stay healthy!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Red Onion Avocado Salsa

I am calling this a salsa because unlike a standard guacamole type thing, I've cooked down the onions, garlic and spices.  The reason for this was purely practical: as a counsellor and therapist I've realized it isn't very considerate to eat raw onions and garlic for lunch before sessions (for the sake of my clients!).

In an effort to be kind to my clients, however, I discovered some unexpected much so, that I think this is going to be a staple condiment from now on!  The flavours are intense and absolutely scrumptious.  I didn't even think it needed any salt, but adjust the seasonings to your own taste buds.  Enjoy on tacos, wraps (like I did on mine pictured above) or any mexican dish, spread on sandwiches, or just serve with corn chips or cut up veggies.  Yum, yum, yum!

Red Onion Avocado Relish

1 red onion, finely diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Jalapeno pepper, minced, to taste (optional)
1/4 cup of your favorite salsa
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 ripe avocado, pit and skin removed, mashed

Saute everything except avocado in a skillet or fry pan over medium heat until onion softens and everything is fragrant.  Add to avocado and mix well.  Keep refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Taking a Bite Out of the Big Apple

It's almost time for my annual visit to New York City!  Only this year Adam is going too because he has research to do for his next book.  So it's more like I'm tagging along with him as I get to stay in his hotel. 

The past few years, basically since my Grandma Ruth was moved to a home, I haven't been seeing the sights at all, just mostly walking to and from her home.  This time, I've decided to try and sneak in some activities.  I have already purchased tickets for a tour at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.  Adam and I did a tour a long time ago, but they have several, so I'm going to do another.  I loved it, it was so incredibly interesting.  It is also perfect timing because I just finished Edward Rutherfurd's novel, New York, which weaves fictional characters into the real history of the city from back in the 1600s to 2008.  I love, love, loved this book, and if you enjoy historical fiction, you will too!  I learned a lot of the city's history that I didn't know before, like the story behind some of the famous landmarks including the Chrysler and Empire State buildings.

I am also considering renting a bicycle because of how awesome it was to explore Washington, D.C. that way.  That being said, I'm a bit nervous as I've never ridden in NYC before and I suspect it's not as bicycle-friendly as D.C.  Toronto isn't particularly bicycle-friendly, however, I've been riding here for many years.

I was also hoping to get in a visit to the Ellis Island Immigrant museum, however, it's currently closed due to the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. If I have time, I am going to check out the High Line Park, something I've been wanting to do for a while.  It sounds so cool!

Adam will be working all day but at least we will have the evenings together and can maybe sneak out for a nice dinner or two. 

To me there is really no other place that compares to New York, at least that I've visited to date.  But it's not just the energy of the city, the history absolutely fascinates me, which I suppose is because it is part of my ancestral heritage.  My great grandparents arrived from Eastern Europe to give their families a better life. They started with very little and worked their way up.  Of course the beautiful brownstones, amazing Central Park, and fabulous restaurants are pretty awesome too!

Although I used to fantasize about one day living in Manhattan, I've accepted it will probably never happen.  That's okay, I suspect reality would not actually live up to the fantasy.  For now, I'm thrilled I get to go on a regular basis to visit.

Do you have a favorite city?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Paella (Vegan Option)


I am so happy to have Adam home (like you have NO IDEA how happy!), I wanted to celebrate with some lovely dinners this weekend.  In order to be a treat for my husband, a meal better involve meat, if it isn't pizza.  So I did home made pizza one night, and this dish the other. 

Traditional paellas are usually seafood and/or meat with both chicken and sausage.  I thought just using some spicy turkey sausage was enough meat, but you can also veganize this by subbing tempeh or beans for the meat, and using vegetable broth instead of chicken.

I added in some non-tradition veggies, like cauliflower, to bump up the veg action of the dish, but that's entirely optional.

This was definitely a winner.

Funny thing, by the way, Adam and I actually have an authentic paella pan, however, this is the first time I've actually used it for paella!  If you don't have one, I am sure this will work in a large, deep skillet of cast iron pan, maybe?


1-946 ml carton chicken or vegetable broth
Pinch saffron
3-4 bay leaves
A few sprigs of fresh thyme

1 onion, diced
4 plum tomatoes, diced
1lb turkey sausage and/or skinless, boneless chicken thighs (or beans or tempeh)
1.5 cups short grain brown rice
1/4 cup red wine or sherry vinegar
2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt + black pepper, to taste
Crushed red chilies, to taste (optional)
Handful of fresh thyme leaves, removed from stems
I head of cauliflower, cut into florets (optional), or other veg such as zucchini, peppers or broccoli
1 cup frozen peas

Add saffron and bay leaves to broth in a pot and heat over medium heat until saffron blooms and broth is fragrant.  Turn off heat. 

Meanwhile, saute onion, tomato and meat until veg and meat begin to cook.  Add in rice and seasonings and continue to cook a few minutes to 'toast' the rice.  Pour in broth, straining out herbs, and simmer over medium heat for about 1 hour.  Add in veggies, if using and continue to cook until liquid is absorbed, about another 20-30 minutes.  Add in peas and serve as soon as they are heated through.

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

Monday, April 22, 2013

Party Time Again


Little A's 4th birthday is today!

And Big A's 7th birthday is in exactly a month.  Already I'm exhausted by everything involved in the planning and horrified at the cost.  Considering how bratty the girls have been acting lately, I'm feeling particularly resentful about all the trouble I'm going to, to make them a special celebration.  Not that I'm doing anything above and beyond what any upper middle class parent does these days, but maybe that's the parties have become such a big to-do!

In order to avoid what was way too much stress last year having separate parties for the girls within a few weeks of each other, I've gone back to planning a joint party to be held at a community centre NOT at our house.

For Little A and her friends there will be a bouncy castle and lots of riding toys, slides, etc.  For Big A and her friends, there is going to be a karaoke dance party.  In lieu of gifts, once again, we are giving people the option of bringing 2 toonies, one for the birthday girl for a gift of her choosing, and one to go towards a charity.  This year the girls have chosen the Hospital for Sick Children.  Loot bags are going to be a CD - mixed pop for Big A's friends, and Robert Munsch books on tape for Little A's friends.  Both girls are beyond excited.  At least there will be no clean up of our house required, which I am very pleased about. 

Unfortunately, Big A wants vanilla cake pops with pink frosting, while Little A wants vanilla cupcakes with multicolour icing.  Good thing I got those natural food colourings in Florida over the holidays!  But this is going to mean a whole heck of a lot of baking and icing.  This past weekend I already baked 48 mini chocolate cupcakes, just to have as extras, since it looks like we are going to have a rather large crowd.

I allowed the girls to invite whoever they want.  This meant 9 kids for Little A, but for Big A, our popular social butterfly, she invited 22 kids!  Oh, and this doesn't include cousins and some neighbours who will be coming.  Me thinks there could be a wee big of chaos!!  Adam asked me, "Do you realize how many cupcakes/cakepops you are going to have to make?"  Oh yes, yes I do...I see a high probability of cupcake burnout in my future...

But I know it won't be long before the girls would rather go off with their friends and have nothing to do with their parents.  While they are still at the age of enjoying these parties, I do want to give them some great memories to take with them.  I just may have to make sure there is beer or wine chilling at home to aid in our post-party recovery!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Spa Contest and Weird Happenings

Who doesn't love a trip to the spa?  If I ever become a multi-millionaire, I think I'll build my own personal spa...or at least hire my own personal massage therapist and yoga instructor...who will also clean my house.

If you too love spas, then you'll love this: SpaFinder Wellness is giving away a Mother’s Day Spa package for two valued at $300 to treat a lucky reader and mom to a spa and wellness day. The contest closes on May 8, 2013.

You can enter here.

Spafinder has also offered me a $25 gift card to give away to one of my lucky readers.  Gift cards are redeemable at over 2,000 spas, yoga, Pilates and fitness studios in Canada (over 20,000 worldwide!).

To enter, please "Like" my professional Facebook page, and/or follow me on Twitter, then leave me a comment that you've done so. 

This contest is available to readers Internationally.

Boy, would I love a little spa getaway right now.  Adam just returned from 10 days in Washington, D.C., and even though this trip was half the length of his London trip, it actually felt longer.  Both girls have been really challenging lately.  Big A is obnoxious and giving me attitude like she's already a teenager, and Little A is still screaming whenever she doesn't get what she wants.  She too has started to develop an attitude.  She keeps telling me, "You are not the boss of my body."  And last week, when I wouldn't let her open ALL of my nail polishes, and, instead, said she could chose one colour, which I would apply to her nails, in order to minimize mess, she started having a hysterical meltdown and yelled at me, "This is not just your house, it's everybody's house, but we always have to do things your way, it's not fair!"  Add to all this the girls constant fighting and I've been tempted to sell them both to the circus.

So I've begun some zero tolerance policies:

- If Little A begins screaming, she has to go to her room until she stops (not a new rule, but now I'm enforcing it consistently). 
- If I have to ask either of them to do something more than once, they lose a privilege.
- When they start fighting, they have to work it out themselves, with no intervention from either Adam or myself, or go play in their rooms separately until they can get along.  This worked very well this morning to resolve a massive, screaming fight they were having with each other!

These rules seem to be helping to at least curb the behaviour after it starts, but it certainly hasn't helped stop it from starting yet.  But I suppose it takes time.  Parenting expert Alyson Schafer says when you start making changes like this, things often get much worse before they get better.

Overall it's been a tough spring and this seems to be something felt by a lot of people.  Most of my parent friends report similar difficulties with their kids, and everyone has been feeling totally down in the dumps because of the weather and what seems like mounting tragedies striking down innocent people around the world.  It almost seems surreal.  Last week we had a hail/snow storm in the middle of April, it was so bizarre.  And lately we can go from winter to summer like weather all in one day around here!  And then around the world horrific things keep happening.  People killed at the Boston Marathon?  Another child took her own life in the maritimes after being raped and then bullied?  Explosion in Texas?  The insane gun lobby in the U.S. won't back down, even after all the needless deaths and losses in Newton, Connecticut?  Of course, there are always tragedies happening all over the world, but these all seem so close to home.

I've decided my small random acts of kindness have not done enough to teach the girls about gratitude.  I am disgusted by all the "I wants..." I get from them, whether it's for me to make them food, and then for me to hurry up and make it faster, or they want dessert, or a material item.  A few weeks ago Big A said, "I want an Ipod Touch for my birthday."  I said, "You already have an Ipod." It's mine, actually, but I've let her appropriate it.  She said, "No, that's an Ipod Shuffle."  Little A then pipes up with, "Yeah mommy, she wants the one with the touch screen!"  Literally, my jaw dropped.  I am also sick of all their complaining: how far it is for them to walk to and from school (10 minutes), how unfair it is they have to make their bed, get themselves a glass of water instead of being waited on, etc., etc.  Give me a break!

So, I emailed one of the moms I know on the school's parent committee and asked what kind of initiative the school could take on that would drive home to the kids how fortunate they are, and what life is really like for others around the world (or even disadvantaged children here in Canada).  She loved the idea and said she's working on it.  I think my kids need a major wake up call.

After some warmer temperatures this week, we are back to cold, wet weather this weekend.  I am at least grateful to have Adam back home - I feel like a major weight has been lifted off my shoulders - and a fun weekend lined up.  Have a good one!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Double Chocolate Mint Chip Muffins (Vegan + Sugar-Free)

This was my first recipe using the home-made sugar-free chocolate chips.  Although the name suggests cupcakes, I feel justified in calling them muffins, since they are sugar-free, oil-free, whole grain, and contain spinach to boot.  If your kids aren't used to such virtuous baked goods, or may be more likely to recoil from errant green bits in their muffins than mine, than you can sub apple sauce or another pureed fruit for the spinach.  But even picky Little A gobbled these down, so I will definitely be making them again.  I can't wait to see what else I can make with these chips!!

Double Chocolate Mint Chip Muffins (Vegan + Sugar-Free)

1/2 cup pureed, steamed spinach (or apple sauce, etc.)
2 flax eggs
1/2 cup stevia baking blend
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat, spelt or other whole grain flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt

1 cup sugar-free chocolate mint (or regular) chips

Whisk together wet ingredients in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together dry ingredients to remove any lumps.  Add dry ingredients to wet and stir, just until mixed.  Fold in chips.  Spoon batter into greased muffin cups and bake at 375F for 14 minutes.  Let cool before removing from pan.  Makes 12 large muffins.  Keep in air tight container for 3-4 days or freeze.

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sugar-free, Vegan Chocolate Chips

With what seems like endless horrific events happening in the world lately, I think we could all use some chocolate, no?
One of the easiest ways to get my family to eat anything is to add chocolate chips to it.  I know, who can blame them, right?

There are certainly worse things, however, it's the sugar that bugs me.  I feel like no matter what I do, the girls eat way too much sugar.  If it's not eating Adam's sweet breakfast cereals, or spreading honey over their toast every morning, than it's what they are being fed at daycare, birthday parties, playdates and virtually any place we go.  A trip to Costco, for example, inevitably involves the kids sampling at least 4-5 products that I would NEVER buy, many of them being cookies, refined flour products and/or chocolate or candy.  Sigh!

This is why I rarely cook or bake at home using any sugar, and if I do use sugar, it is most often coconut sugar, or something less refined and lower on the glycemic index.

I've been wanting to find sugar-free chocolate chips, and, although I have not seen them at any of the stores where I shop, I've found they are pretty readily available online.  The only problem?  The cost!  A 1/2 lb bag for $8???  Forget about it!

Solution?  Make my own, of course.  I can't believe how easy this is to do, and you can flavour them any way you want.  I made mint chips, but you could just do regular, if you prefer.

1/2 lb unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 tsp pure peppermint extract, or vanilla
A few droppers of clear stevia liquid, to taste

Stir extract and stevia into melted chocolate.  Pour onto parchment-lined baking sheet and smooth out until spread evenly into a large rectangle.

Place in refrigerator until firm (about 30-45 minutes).  Remove from fridge and, using a very large, sharp knife, cut into thin strips width-wise.  Divide strips into 3 groups, and then strips into small squares of chocolate.  Keep in an airtight container.  Makes 2 cups of chocolate chips.

This recipe has been shared with Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday and Diet, Dessert & Dogs' Wellness Weekend.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Marathon

I couldn't bring myself to post anything today, besides a tribute to those who were injured or lost their lives in the events at the Boston Marathon yesterday.

I don't know about you, but the whole thing, from afar, just seems so unreal.

It's hard sometimes lately to not feel like this world is going to hell-in-a-handbag.

I think the important things at times like this are gratitude and kindness: Acknowledging what we have, and remembering the importance of kindness and tolerance.

He that is kind is free, though he is a slave; he that is evil is a slave, though he be a king.

- St, Augustine

Monday, April 15, 2013

GoBio: Healthier Jello Mix

Organic Lemon Jelly, 18g/0.6oz pouch
Happy Monday morning!  The sun is out.  It's mild.  Could spring actually be here?  It's hard to believe, I'm trying not to get my hopes up.

Anyways, I found a little treat that is great for little ones.

My girls always ask me to make jello.  Usually I refuse.  All that sugar and artificial colour?  No thanks!

Then I found GoBio jelly powder mix at the health food store.  No sugar.  No artificial colours!  You actually add your own sweetener of choice.  I added 2 droppers full of clear stevia liquid and that was enough for the girls to gobble up 2 bowls each in about 30 seconds.  They absolutely loved it.  I'll definitely be buying this again!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Kiwi Berries

I love discovering new, yummy, healthy foods.  Unfortunately, it happens far too seldom.  At the grocery store, anyways.

Each time I go food shopping I scan the aisles for new products that are healthy and my family will love.  Honestly, this almost never happens.  Most of the food in the freezer section (aside from frozen fruits and vegetables), and the shelves filled with packaged goods are complete crap.  In fact, I am often disheartened by the plethora of disgusting, sugar-filled, processed crap that is still coming out.  Given what we know about the dangers of this sort of food, it still surprises me that food companies are cranking out increasingly unhealthy products.  Remember good ol' Cheerios, for example?  First there was honey nut and apple cinnamon flavours, which were bad enough.  But now they come in chocolate, banana and peanut butter.  All this means is a lot of extra sugar and artificial crap in your breakfast bowl.

At the health food stores I often find awesome new products made by small companies using various superfoods.  The only problem?  They are freakin' expensive, and way beyond our budget!  Especially given the appetites in our house.  Tiny little serving sizes don't cut it, so that $8 bag of raw quinoa, chia, flax and maca crackers would get devoured in 2 seconds.

So I was delighted last week to discover our favorite produce market was selling kiwi berries!  I've seen them at very upscale markets before selling for a billion dollars a pint, but our humble market had them for a very good price.  Score!  Into the cart they went.  I thought the girls would love these cute little fruits. They are even sweeter than kiwis, and have a smooth, thin, edible skin.

Boy was I right about the girls liking them...they gobbled down an entire pint - fighting over every single one - in about 5 minutes.  I love when I can get them that excited about fruit!!

Nature really does produce the best food...the big food companies, not so much.

So this weekend, why don't you look for a new fruit or veggie you've never tried.  You never know what kind of yumminess you might find!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Black Bean, Pineapple and Jalapeno Burritos

Give me a tortilla and I'll give you a meal.  Yes, I don't think a week goes by without at least one dinner involving burritos or some sort of filling wrapped up in a whole grain tortilla.  Love em!   These ones are sweet and spicy and satisfying.  Full of fibre and nutrients too!  These are pretty simple to prep and make, but give the peppers and onions time to cook down and get really sweet.

Black Bean, Pineapple and Jalapeno Burritos

1 onion, thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
2 green bell peppers, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Jalapeno pepper, to taste, finely diced
2 tsp mild chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 14oz can crushed pineapple, with juice
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained (or 1.5 cups cooked black beans)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 can tomato paste
A few handfuls roughly chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

4-6 large, whole grain/gluten-free tortillas

Place onion, peppers, garlic and spices in a large skillet or pan with pineapple and juice.  Cook over medium heat until veggies cook down and most of the liquid is absorbed.  Add black beans and cider vinegar and continue to simmer until, again, liquid has reduced.  Stir in tomato paste and turn heat down to low.  Cook another 15 minutes.  Spread desired amount of mixture into the center of tortollas.  Sprinkle with regular or vegan cheese, if desired.  Roll up.  Spoon additional filling over top if you wish.  Makes 4-6 burritos.  Leftover filling can be frozen.

This recipe has been added to Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday and Diet, Dessert and Dogs' Wellness Weekend.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Fred Flintstone is Fat: Is the Paleo Diet for You?

Are you trying to lose weight?  Thinking about trying the Paleo diet?

If so, you may want to pick up the book: Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, diet and How We Live.  In it, author, Marlene Zuk, a professor of ecology, evolution and behaviour at the University of Minnesota, debunks some of the myths about our ancestors that underlie the popular Paleo diet craze.

Although I have not read the book, in an interview published in the Nutrition Action Healthletter she explains that what prehistoric folks were eating depends on exactly what time period and on what region of the world these peoples lived.  She also points out that often these people at only what was available and their bodies adapted to this, however, this does not mean that they were necessarily eating the healthiest diets.  Furthermore, while the Paleo diet forbids grains based on the assumption they were not eaten by our ancestors, Zuk points out that scientists have growing evidence that they DID, in fact, eat grains.  Another thing to consider is that very few of the plants and animals early humans were eating still exist.

All this aside, there is also little evidence that a Paleo diet can help you shed pounds.  Nevertheless, here are my two cents.  First, my main concern with this diet is that it heavily relies on animal protein and eshews grains and legumes.  That being said, if you stick to lean sources of protein, minimize red meat as much as possible, avoid any processed meats, and consume lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, you are probably getting better nutrition than most North Americans.  My other concern is whether a person can stick with such a restrictive diet long-term.  As I have said many times, I couldn't live without grains (or legumes).  If you can, and this diet makes you feel good and helps you maintain a healthy weight.  Go for it.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Cooking for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet: Cookbook Review

Cooking for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet: Over 100 Easy, Healthy, and Delicious Recipes that are Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free, and Grain-Free

Recently I was asked to review this book.  I had never heard of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, so I was intrigued, and, to be honest, a little suspicious.  Maybe it's because I'd never heard of it, or perhaps because I freakin' love carbs so I'm never enthusiastic about low-carb diets or any diet that eliminates a whole food group.

The book provides very little detail about the scientific basis for this diet except that it was originally developed by a physician in New York named, Sidney Haas for his celiac patients.    In 1955 Elaine Gottschall wrote a book about the diet after it reportedly cured her daughter's ulcerative colitis.  The author, Erica Kerwien, recommends picking up Gottaschall's book to get some explanation of the science behind it.

This is not meant to be a weight-loss diet, but is apparently intended to help individuals suffering from a number of chronic illnesses including Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, diverticuliis, IBS and various food intolerances.

The diet is called Specific Carbohydrate Diet because it permits certain carbs while eliminating others. 

Permittable foods include:
- Fish, poultry and meat
- Non-starchy vegetables and fruit
- Eggs, yogurt and certain cheeses
- Navy, green, kidney, and black beans, split peas, lentils and peanuts
- Nuts
- Oils
- Honey

Forbidden foods include:
- Smoked and/or processed fish and meats
- Starchy vegetables
- Grains
- All other legumes not listed above including chickpeas
- Sugar, maple syrup, xylitol, stevia and all other sweeteners

I checked out Elaine Gottchall's work but frankly wasn't so impressed by the research it's based on.  All the published work citing this diet's effectiveness for curing illness is based on case studies.  There are no large-scale controlled, scientific studies.

I suppose if you are suffering from one of the chronic illnesses that this diet is supposed to help heal and nothing else has worked, there is no harm in trying this (with your doctor's approval!).  There is no reason to think eating this way will help you live longer or lose weight.  Personally, I can't fathom living without grains.  Just thinking about giving up oatmeal and rice makes me depressed.  And chickpeas?  I freakin' love chickpeas!  I'd have to be in some serious pain to try this diet, but I guess that's the point.

In terms of the recipes, some are quite interesting and all are based on natural, whole foods.  They also probably fit into the 'Paleo' diet which is so popular right now.  For example, almond flour and coconut flour replaces wheat flour in a lot of recipes. 

Aside from shirataki and kelp noodles, I have yet to find a carb imposter that satisfies me, however, her recipes using grated cauliflower in place of rice look so good I may just have to try them. 

The book covers everything from making your own yogurt, nut milks and creams, nut flours and butters and broths, to snacks, salads and soups, sauces, jams and dips, baked goods, veggies, poultry, meat and food, and desserts.  There are a fair number of colour photos, and simple, easy to follow instructions.  Kerwien provides staple ingredients to stock in your kitchen as well as a list of ingredient substitutions at the back of the book.

While this diet is not for me, this book does have some lovely, healthy recipes that may appeal to you if you are looking for a potential solution to a chronic health problem, or are following a low-carb, or Paleo-type diet.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Night Lights: Bright Light Pillows

Good Monday morning?  How are you feeling?

I still have this darn cold, but thankfully I got a super sleep last night so I definitely feel better than I did.

Speaking of sleeps, I have another find that has made bed times around here a little more bearable.

Little A is very particular about EVERYTHING and the whole bedtime routine is no exception.

One of the things she has been insisting on for months is that her (special, very expensive black out) blinds be raised to let in "a little light". 

Given how detrimental it is to sleep with light (messes up melatonin and can increase risk of breast cancer and other health problems!), this has distressed me, but if we ever tried to fight her on it, she would flip out and scream and cry until we raised the blind a bit.

While it hasn't been a huge deal in winter when it gets dark early and the only light outside her window is from outside street lights, etc. (which is bad enough!), in summer it's a different story.  Even though we've still been having unseasonably cold temps around here, already it's staying daylight bright past 7pm the past few weeks.  So when she fell in love with this fuzzy, pink, heart-shaped night light pillow at the mall a few weeks ago, I gave in a bought it for her on the condition that she allow us to fully close her blinds from now on.

The Bright Light Pillow comes in a few shapes and variety of colours, and lights up when you tap it.  They are extremely soft and cosy and the light goes off after 15 minutes.  It's been the perfect solution for us!  She has her light while she is falling asleep, and then it shuts off on its own.  I'm loving this thing!

The pillows cost between $20-$30 and you can buy them online.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Information Overload


My name is Erica Berman.

I am a multitasking addict.

I finished my mindfulness course and I feel like it was an incredibly valuable experience.  I'll be honest.  I don't think I am ever going to meditate.  Not in the way we were instructed in this course anyways.  But I have discovered that many of the ideas and concepts in mindfulness are powerful, thought-provoking and potentially life changing.  So much so, that it is almost unsettling.  The teacher warned us that the 'symptoms' that brought us to the course may worsen at first, and this definitely was the case for me.  After 3 years of living insomnia-free, I could not sleep for 2 straight weeks.  My head was so full of ideas. I was having revelations about myself and about the world.  I could barely keep up with it all.  It was all very positive, but also completely overwhelming.

Meditation is meant to be a fundamentally goal-less endeavor.  You are supposed to do nothing for a said period of time with no expectations of the outcome.  It is not a means of self-improvement.  It is about self-acceptance.  Accepting things as they are.  For many of us, myself included, this is a state of being that we are not used to, nor comfortable with.  Most of us are always striving.

Although I have always been the worrying, obsessive, perfectionist type, this all became amplified after Little A was born.  Even though I recovered from my post-partum anxiety episode that I have discussed before, ever since I have been strugging with a lot of existential angst.  It's mostly been related to my career and, I suppose you could say, identity. 

It was tough to go back to school at the age of 35 for another degree after already having several to my name but still not feeling fulfilled.  It was tough to have no income whatsover for 2 years.  It was tough to begin a new career, to get used to being self-employed and used to having no stable income nor benefits.  But this would probably be tough for anyone.  What I discovered through my meditation and mindfulness experiences, is that what lay beneath the anxiety was a whole shit-load of guilt.  Guilt that Adam is now, and probably always will be, the primary breadwinner.  Guilty that since having 2 children, I have made decisions that have significantly DECREASED our household income.  Guilt that if anything ever happens to Adam, the girls and I will be up Shits Creek.  Guilt. Guilt and more Guilt!

I also realized that the basis of all this guilt is money.  In my previous career I was very self-critical because I felt I was in a meaningless career.  The good income didn't matter much to me.  Then I did a 180 on myself and started beating myself up about having a sparser income, even though I now adore my job and feel incredibly gratified by my work. 

Processing all this made me come to terms with things.  I knew this was in store when I made the decision to switch careers.  Adam and I are doing fine financially.  We have less than many of our friends, but we are still not lacking for ANYTHING.  At least 90% of other Canadians are probably worse off.  All things considered, we are very fortunate.

In addition, my professional life is going great.  The trials and tribulations of self-employment are what they are but there are many advantages too.  I am blissfully happy and I realized that this too was causing me anxiety.  I have that tendency - like most anxious personality types - to think if things are too good, than the other shoe is about to drop.  But I've now rationalized it this way:  Things are good. Great, actually.  But they are not perfect.  Clients cancel.  Office rent goes up.  Some clients never pay up.  I would really LIKE to make more money.  I wish we could afford to update our kitchen, get a new front door, repaint the interior of our house, take more vacations.  But right now we can't.  I have now reached a state of self-acceptance.  Things are what they are.  This doesn't mean I won't strive to do better but I am done with the self-flagellation.  I'm actually really, really proud of everything I've accomplished over the past few years!  I am always telling my clients to let go of guilt and regret, since they are completely unproductive thoughts and feelings.  You cannot change the past!  You are only in control of the present.  It's time for me practice what I preach.

I'm also making some other changes.  The reason I took this mindfulness course in the first place was because my brain felt overloaded and I was on autopilot half the time.  It was affecting my memory and my organization.  I also felt like it compromised my relationship with the girls since half the time I was in la la land.  Parenting young kids is tough, if I am going to appreciate each stage before it's gone, I've got to catch all the special moments as they happen.  Because some days they're pretty fleeting!

I have come to the conclusion that part of my problem is I have a mutitasking addiction and it really just ends up making me do a half-assed job of everything (yes Adam, you were right!).  Watching television, reading and surfing the net at the same time.  Writing and surfing.  Talking on the phone and surfing.  Cooking and talking on the phone. Eating and reading.  I virtually never do one thing at a time.  Not good!  So I'm going to figure out some schedule for myself give each activity my full attention.  Multitasking is sort of short term gain but long-term pain and I think I gotta stop.  It's overloading my brain and soon it's seriously going to short-circuit.  But to be honest, I don't think it's going to be easy.  Even though my brain is full, I still crave constant stimulation.  I think it may take a while for me to adjust.

How about you?  Do you multitask?  Have you tried to incorporate the principles of mindfulness into your life?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Creamy Curried Chicken and Quinoa

Okay, yes this was a Passover meal for us last weekend, but honestly it's so good, I won't be waiting until next year to make it again.  You could use chickpeas or lentils to make it vegan if you wish, but since it was Passover I was restricted from making any legumes.

Creamy Curried Chicken and Quinoa

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 bunch broccoli, cut into florets
1/2 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

1 onion, diced
3 tbls fresh ginger, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tbls madras curry powder (hot or mild)
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 teaspoon asafetida seeds
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1.5 cups unsweetened plain almond (or other non-dairy) milk
1 lb ground chicken (or 1 can/1.5 cups cooked chickpeas or lentils, drained and rinsed)
1 can tomato paste
1.5 cups quinoa

Season cauliflower and broccoli and toss with olive oil.  Lay on foil or parchment lined baking sheet and roast at 350F for about 30 minutes.

Cook quinoa according to package instructions.

In a large skillet or pot, saute onion, garlic, ginger and spices in vinegar until onion is softened.  Add milk and chicken and simmer until chicken is cooked through, stirring often to break up meat.  Add tomato paste and roasted veggies and simmer for another 5-10 minutes.  Stir in quinoa.   Makes 4-6 servings.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Magic Bumpers: An Alternative to Bed Rails for Toddlers

If you have kids, then no doubt beds, night time and sleep are top-of-mind issues in your home.  It starts when they're born.  Do you co-sleep?  Do you start them in a bassinett?  When do you move them to a crib?  When do you move them out of a crib?  Toddler bed or straight to an adult bed?  Single or double?  Railings or no railings?  And all this may be moot if your kids (and you) barely sleep at all, or if everyone just piles into one bed.

In our home there has always been a 'no kids in our bed' rule, which works well for all of us.  It's always been this way, so our kids have rarely ever even considered the notion of co-sleeping with us.  Thank goodness, because the few times it has happened, no one sleeps much at all.

Little A moved to a grown-up bed a while ago, but she has continued to insist on having railings.  A few months ago we coaxed her into giving up the one on the wall-side of her bed, but she has refused to give up the one on the outside of her bed.  It's not a big deal to me, but it drives Adam nuts because it makes making and stripping her bed so challenging, and since she recently gave up wearing pull-ups at night, her not-so-infrequent pee pee accidents are a bitch to clean up because of the darn railing.

Because she sleeps without any railings at my in-laws and when we travel, it shouldn't be a big deal, but she has stubbornly insisted she still needs that railing.  I was mentioning this to my friend and she told me about Magic Bumpers, which she bought for her son, who is in Little A's daycare class.  I immediately purchased them online and they arrived 2 days later.  They are essentially foam blocks that fit snugly under the fitted sheet.

When I saw the box I was initially outraged, thinking they sent the wrong thing because the box was too small.  When I opened it up, I realized they compress the foam.  You have to leave them for a day or 2 to expand to their full size.  Kinda cool! 

Admittedly, Little A was very skeptical and threw a small fit the first night, insisting she could still fall out of her bed with the bumpers.  But she didn't and by the second night she'd gotten comfortable with them.  The best part, is it is now far easier to make and unmake her bed!  I wish we'd discovered these a long time ago, because they are really versatile.  You can take them with you when you travel, you can use them for co-sleeping, on toddler beds, even for infants to create a safe sleeping space for them.  Very cool, and very affordable!!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Chilled Chocolate Raspberry Jellyroll

Okay, last day of Pesach for 2013 and the last Passover recipe for the year.

This was such a hit with the girls, they made me take pictures of them enjoying it for dessert (still in their bathrobes with wet hair from their bath).  This worked out perfectly since they make much prettier photos than do the jellyroll.  Or perhaps it's just my abysmal photography skills that made it look like a big turd.

Pictures aside, this tastes amazing and it's suitable for Passover.  Also, the recipe is sugar free, gluten free and vegan.  No shit!

Chilled Chocolate Raspberry Jellyroll

1 ripe avocado
1 cup xylitol, erythritol or stevia baking blend
2 flax eggs (2 tbls ground flax + 6 tbls hot water)
1 tsp vanilla extract
A few drops liquid stevia, to taste (optional)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup almond meal or almond flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt

1/4 cup sugar-free, seedless raspberry jam or spread

Puree avocado, apple sauce, sweetener, flax eggs and vanilla in food processor until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients and pulse a few times until everything is well mixed.  Scrape batter into a parchment paper lined 9x12 baking dish.  Bake at 350F for 23-25 minutes.  Let cool.  Lift cake out of dish with parchment paper. Spread top surface of cake with jam.  Very carefully lift one end of cake from parchment paper and roll up.  Transfer back into baking dish using parchment and freeze until firm.  Slice pieces from the end to get swirl effect.  Keep in the freezer.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Fudgy Passover (or anyday!) Brownies

Happy Easter Monday!  Wouldn't you know it, the last day of what has been a lovely long weekend and I woke up this morning with a cold.  Blech!  I guess I should be grateful that it's the first one I've had in months.

Anyways, I made these for an end-of-Passover event we are attending next weekend.  I had another recipe in mind using almond meal, but then realized it isn't smart to bring products with nuts to big gatherings.  No worries, these are nut-free and A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!  Really chocolatey and fudgy, but not too sweet.  Oh, also gluten-free too.  They are so good, they don't even need icing, and I don't say that too often.

Fudgy Passover Brownies

250g bag dark chocolate chips, melted
1.5 cups boiling water
1/2 cup apple sauce
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup coconut flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt

Whisk together chocolate with water, apple sauce, eggs and vanilla.  Stir in flour and salt.  Scrape batter into a greased 9x9 square baking tin.  Cool completely.  Cut into squares and remove from pan with spatula (be careful, they're delicate!).  Makes 16 brownies.  Can be frozen.

This recipe has been submitted to Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.