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Showing posts from December, 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 StewSesame Shungiku SaladChinatown Takeout CurryRoasted Beet Salad With Candied WalnutsWhole W…

Got Away From It All


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 …

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!

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 w…

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 ba…

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.

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.  Appar…

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 b…

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 sweeten…

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…

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 …

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…

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…

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 AssessmentSpeed & AgilityVertical Plyo & ReliefStrengthGame Day & OvertimeBack 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 rev…

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…

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 …

Citrus Sanity Saver

 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 t…