Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday 2014

black friday humor

Because we here in Canada celebrate Thanksgiving in October, one can only conclude that we've appropriated Black Friday solely for commercial reasons.  As if there was ever any other reason for it?  While it may make no sense to me, I won't complain that we have it now too as I am all about a good deal.

Fortunately, we don't get as loonie here as folks do in the don't usually see shopping-related violence here.  I've had enough chaos for a while anyways.  Last night was the girls' daycare's annual fundraiser and it is always, crazy and exhausting.  I am (by choice!) no longer on the fundraising subcommittee (I am now the communications person for the daycare), but last night was still nuts.  I helped with the basket raffle we have.

The entertainment this year was a big hit: DJ Trevor, who the kids absolutely adore.

Tonight I have a Christmas party for one of the fertility clinics I work with, which should be fun.  I work tomorrow and the girls have their usual weekend activities.  Sunday I have clients too, and both girls have a playdate, so its a busy one.  I also can't believe its the last weekend in November!  I guess the countdown to the holidays really begins!!  Have a happy, healthy one and be careful at the malls!!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Are You Protein, or Against It?

So what's the deal with protein, you may be wondering?  It seems to be added to everything from granola bars to breakfast cereal to orange juice these days.

And I am guessing that either you or someone you know has at least once attempted a high protein, lower carb diet at some point, right?

I can't say the same for myself though...I already know that I couldn't restrict my carbs too much.  No one takes away my daily oatmeal I say!

But every day it seems their is another headline contradicting the next in terms of how much we need and whether or not eating lots of it (and little to no carbs) will make us all look like Greek Gods.

So, what's the deal with protein?

North Americans have been obsessed with it since the resurgence of the Atkins and other low-carb diet trends in the late 1990s.  After failing to improve our health and lose weight on the popular low-fat diet (primarily because we gorged on high sugar, low nutrition carbs), the pendulum swung back to high fat, high protein diets. 

Many people were able to lose weight on these diets since protein is very satiating, and it was exciting to be allowed large quantities of bacon and other high fat foods, but most people - and this is backed by plenty of studies - have a difficult time staying on these restrictive diets long-term, and usually are not able to keep off the weight they initially lose.  As I have said many times, making changes to your lifestyle to improve your health that you cannot maintain long-term are kind of pointless.

Nevertheless, even my thinking about nutrition has changed a whole lot since back then. I was never into the whole low-carb thing (take away my oatmeal and you risk your life!) but I also have come to realize that carbs, even the good ones, should not be eaten with abandon.  I can easily gorge on a massive plate of brown rice or whole grain pasta but doing so isn't all that great an idea.  Even healthy, whole grains, should be eaten in moderation.  Fortunately for me, I have found that the more I've shifted my workouts away from endurance cardio and more towards HIIT and strength training, the more I crave protein instead.  I actually think I've managed to overcome my carb addiction!  Except for my morning oatmeal!

Anyways, protein is clearly still hot and trendy as most of the popular diets these days like Dukan and Paleo are pretty high in protein.  So how much do you really need to be healthy?  Well believe it or not, you may actually need more as you age.

After the age of 30, we start to experience sarcopenia, or age-related loss of muscle.  Whether you are concerned about maintaining independence and mobility when you are elderly or just want to avoid gaining fat, you should be concerned about this.  When you lose muscle mass, your metabolism decreases, which means you will lose strength, balance, mobility and coordination.  You will also likely experience an increase in subcutaneous fat, which increases your risk of Type II diabetes, heart disease and cancer, without even seeing the scale change that much. 

In order to counter sarcopenia, adults over age 60 should get  about 0.54 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

But guess what trumps the effects of protein intake on fighting sarcopenia?  Strength training, of course, and its never to late to start.

So what else do we know about protein?

The kind you eat matters.  Red meat is linked with cancer and cardiovascular disease, so stick with poultry, eggs, fish and plant proteins.

High protein intake is not associated with osteopenia (weak bones) or kidney disease.

And what about protein and weight-loss?

Most experts agree that getting enough protein is important when you are attempting to lose weight because:

1. It is satiating (along with fibre...its a myth that fat is satiating);
2. It helps preserve lean mass (muscle), which is important because when people cut calories, they often lose lean mass, which means their metabolism drops.

As for all the crap foods they are now adding protein to (i.e. Special K Protein products, protein bread, etc.)?  Skip it and eat real, whole food instead!

Source: Nutrition Action Healthletter

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

PeaNOT Butter Protein Cookies

Why did the cookie go to see the doctor?

Because he was feeling crumby!

That's currently Little A's favorite joke.

If you are feeling crumby and only a cookie will do, but you want something satisfying and nutritious that won't leave you with a sugar-crash, then these fit the bill perfectly.  They are sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan and high in protein.  Oh, and super delicious as confirmed by the family, including the picky little ones.

I used pea butter so they could go in the girls' lunch boxes, but you can use peanut butter if you want, or any other nut or seed butter for that matter.

If you want them a wee bit more decadent, feel free to add chocolate chips.

PeaNOT Butter Protein Cookies

1 cup nut/seed/pea butter
1/4 cup ground flax
1/4 cup vegan, stevia sweetened vanilla or chocolate protein powder
1/2 cup granulated stevia
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)

Stir together all the ingredients and then let sit a few minutes until dough thickens.  Scoop spoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes.  Let cool and eat.  Keep in air tight container for a few weeks. Makes 20 cookies.

This recipe has been submitted to Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday and Urban Naturale's Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Party Blog Hop.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Time to Get UFC Fit!

I have an admission...I am cheating on my beloved Tapout XT fitness program!

Although I still think Tapout XT is super awesome, I had grown bored of it...something that happens to me frequently.  There is a second edition, but it is not yet available in Canada.  So when I was at the mall a few weeks ago with the girls and spied the UFC Fit program, I decided to take a risk and check it out.

Oh man!  I have fallen in love all over again!  Honestly, I think this program is even harder!!  I also like how its organized.  Each workout has a set number of rounds and exercises in each round.  You do each exercise twice, for 30 seconds at a time.  Its essentially HIIT training, with a mix of strength, cardio and MMA exercises.  So much fun!

I will warn you that there is a ton of level change exercises (BJJ get ups, burpees, sprawls, etc.) including going right from lying on your back to standing quickly, so if you have back or neck problems, this probably isn't the program for you. 

While Tapout XT has more of a focus on upper body (punches and strikes), there is far more kicking in this series.  The one drawback is that it utilizes weights instead of bands so it isn't as good for travelling.  Due to all the rolling stuff, you also don't want to be doing it on a hard floor, which is why they sell a rubber mat you can buy.  Truthfully, however, you can probably get a similar thing for cheaper through Amazon, or at a local fitness equipment store.

Its a good value with 12 DVDs, and has a program and nutrition guide too, if you are interested in that (I'm not). 

The workouts are led by Mike Dolce, a UFC trainer.  He's got a weird, robot-like way of talking, but because I love the workouts so much, it doesn't bother me.  His participants are all 'industry' folks.  Not necessarily the champion fighters he name-drops, but others from the MMA world, as well as dancers, stunt doubles and other entertainment people who are ridiculously fit and beautiful.  These super men and women will either inspire you, or piss you off because they set the bar so high.  In Tapout XT, by contrast, MMA fighters are mixed in with ordinary folks like you and I.

One thing I'll warn is that the titles of the DVDs can be a bit misleading.  For example, Power Punch focuses a lot on core, Grapple Strength is all weight training, and no fight moves, and Fat Fighter, Plyo Shred and Cardio Cross Training contain the most MMA-inspired moves.

I don't recommend this program if you are completely unconditioned, or, as I said, if you have some sort of musculoskeletal injury, but if you are already fairly fit and looking for something challenging and fun, you totally want to check this out.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Surprise, I'm Starting a Business!

For a few years now this has been in the works, but its taken a very long time for everything to come together.  I am starting a business called Konjac for Life selling konjac powder (Some of my recipes on this site use it but I've been hoarding a ton more) and building an online community where you can not only purchase it, but learn everything you need to know about its health benefits and how to cook and bake with it. I am excited to finally have a product to bring to market that is perfectly aligned with my interests in healthy cooking and baking, and nutrition.

Konjac Root has been harvested and consumed in Asia for centuries and is only now being discovered by North Americans.  Shirataki noodles, now widely available, are made from konjac, but the flour from this amazing plant has many other culinary applications and I have spent the past 4 years building up a repertoire of recipes using konjac powder.  It can be used to replace a variety of less healthy ingredients in your favorite dishes.

Konjac is a prebiotic, and highly concentrated soluble fibre that is largely calorie- and carbohydrate-free.  It has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries and has been proven to:
  •  Lower cholesterol, control blood sugar,
  • Regulate bowel function and treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease, 
  • Act as a powerful appetite suppressant and weight-loss aid,
  • Be a versatile cooking ingredient. Due to its unique chemical properties, konjac has many varied culinary uses and can be used to create a wide array of mouth-watering, healthy foods.

Today I am launching an Indiegogo campaign to kickstart my business.  I would be most grateful if you would check it out and consider making a contribution.  There are many available perks!!  If you have no cash to spare, simply helping me get the word out through email and social media would be much appreciated.

Please visit my campaign site here to make a contribution:

Thank you so much for your support!!

I have linked this post with WIAW on Peas and Crayons because...I eat konjac everyday!  I have also submitted it to Urban Naturale's Healthy Happy Green and Natural Party Blog Hop.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Don't Feed the Animals

Kids can always pick out the onions! #Parenting
We may be past the toddler stage in this house, but feeding the kids still remains a challenge.  Like most kids, they would prefer a steady diet of cake and candy, with the only savouries being pizza and hotdogs.  Sigh!

I guess I should feel lucky that I can whip up all sorts of whole grain, stevia-sweetened concoctions and they'll gobble them down whereas I hear a lot of kids clearly distinguish between true crap and healthier imitations and will only go for the former. My kids also don't notice all the fruits and veggies hidden in their food, and they will, sometimes willingly eat vegetables.

Its frustrating, because I feel like no matter what I do at home, they are still exposed to way too much junk from the outside world.  Probably a day does not go by...and I am seriously not exaggerating...when they get cookies, candy or other garbage either from school, daycare or other family members who tell me, there is no harm in the occasional treat.  The problem is, since they are getting it from all directions, it is absolutely NOT occasional.

Oh well, I feel like there is little I can do except try to set a good example and I think we do that pretty well.  I ate my fair share of crap as a kid but eventually gravitated to the healthy side.  My parents were never health nuts like me, but rather foodies, and, at the very least, foodies tend to appreciate good quality food, which eliminates most fast and processed foods.

What trips me up with the girls sometimes is taking things personally.  Like most kids they are incredibly unpredictable, one minute adoring something and the next minute hating it.  Because I love to cook, when they reject something, my feelings get hurt, especially if its something I made just for them.  Case in point, last week I made this homemade baked honey Dijon garlic chicken.  Super moist boneless chicken thighs in a yummy, flavourful sauce.  Or so I thought.

Served a tiny bit, cut up into tiny pieces, each girl was only willing to nibble a corner of a single piece.  Big A said little, but Little A told me it was disgusting and then complained that it smelled like throw up so could I get it off her plate immediately.  Oy vey!  Her response was so dramatic I thought perhaps there was something really wrong with the chicken that I missed, however, when Adam tasted it, he confirmed what I thought, which was, it was amazingly delicious!

Thank goodness I've learned to worry less about their nutrition.  Several years ago I was constantly stressing about what they were and were not eating and wondering how this would impact their health.  I've learned to let go of that a bit.  They may not eat like I want them to, but I guess they do okay, and the reality is, there is not much more I can do about it so I have to just suck it up.  All I can say is thank goodness they now make organic, whole grain Mac and Cheese in a box because it takes 5 minutes to make, and the kids love it.  Yes, I'll admit it, I feed that stuff to the girls possibly once a week. In fact, my mom is coming today to stay for the weekend and I am making a delicious dinner tonight of lemon pepper trout, roasted delicata squash and my edamame, cucumber, and shitaki mushroom salad.  I know the girls won't touch any of it, so I may just break open a box of their Mac and Cheese.  We'll all be happy and their will be no fights...although I admit I may encourage them to eat some vegetable matter along with it...

I no longer feel guilty about being imperfect.  I do my best and that just has to be good enough.

Feeding a family
Saturday I made sure not to book any clients so my mom and I can do something fun with the girls before their afternoon activities (gymnastics and swimming) and then my brother and his family are coming for dinner.  His kids are darn picky too so we're ordering in Mashu Mashu, which is a favorite around here and actually appeals to most kids.  Sunday I teach spin while the girls are at Hebrew School, then we'll take my mom to the train and the girls have a playdate in the afternoon. 

Have a happy, healthy weekend folks!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Holographic Acupressure Discs: Product Review

Relief Discs

What the heck are Holographic Acupressure Discs?

Well, apparently they are "All-natural, non-invasive pain relief discs used by world class and Olympic athletes now available to consumers." They are just one of the products sold by the Winning Factor wellness company.

I had just wrenched my shoulder when these arrived for me to try out.  I stuck one on the effected shoulder in the area indicated in the instructions for shoulder pain before bed.  Is my shoulder better?  It is actually.  Can I attribute it to the discs? Impossible to say, to be honest, because the day before I did an acupuncture session.  In any case, a sample of 1 does not make for scientific data. 

I couldn't find any data, actually, on any link between holographic acupressure discs and pain.  In fact, I found just one study on holographic anything in relationship to health...apparently holographic arm bands do not improve balance or stability.  But here's the thing, perhaps research is just behind in this area.  A few decades ago, we folks in North America would have scoffed at the idea that acupuncture can actually be effective for treating various ailments and now we know it is.  So whether there is scientific evidence out there for these or not, given that these are non-invasive and affordable ($20 for 35 discs), if you have pain that is resistant to other interventions, it certainly doesn't hurt to give these a try, no?  Next time I have an ache or pain, you can bet I'll be sticking one on!

Disclosure: I was provided with this product by the company but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Chickpea Sweet Potato Roti

Whenever Adam expresses delight over a vegetarian recipe, I know its one I need to share.  Generally, its hard to get him excited about savoury dishes that have no meat in them.  This one's a sure winner though.  Hearty enough for even the biggest, carnivorous appetite!

Chickpea Sweet Potato Roti

1 tsp coconut or olive oil
1 onion, diced
Large chunk ginger, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbls madras curry powder (hot or mild)
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cabbage, sliced
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas)
1 can light coconut milk
1 large sweet potato, cooked, peeled and mashed
Caribbean hot sauce, to taste (optional)

Roti skins or whole grain tortillas

Heat oil in large skillet, pot or fry pan.  Add onion, garlic, ginger and spices.  Cook for several minutes over medium heat.  Add in vinegar, cabbage, chickpeas and coconut milk and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Stir in mashed sweet potato until most of the liquid has absorbed and sauce has thickened.  Adjust seasoning, to taste.  Add desired amount into wrap and insert into mouth.  Makes a lot.  Keep leftovers refrigerated for up to 4 days or freeze.

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

Monday, November 17, 2014

Small Wonders


Good Morning! I hope you had a nice weekend.  We woke up to a winter wonderland this morning.  Good think the girls were cooperative, or actually, pretty excited, to get all dressed up in their winter gear.  Don't they look cute?

I can't help but brag a bit about my girls.  They got great report cards last week and we had lovely parent-teacher interviews.  I am so proud of them! 

Big A is a good student, but what makes me so incredibly proud of her is just what a good person she is.  It was noted on her report card and by her teacher in person, that she is very kind and helpful to all the other kids.  All.  She is not clique-y at all.  And she apparently is learning not to be as bossy as she used to be.  I would say that between her kindness and her assertiveness/confidence, she has the makings of a very effective leader (CEO, politician...), ha ha!!

Little A is miss smarty pants, blowing away her teachers with her clever questions.  She just still has to work on 'controlling her emotions' and not distracting the other kids by chattering with her best friend so much.  Nevertheless, the teachers are very pleased with her progress and academically she is doing great (she's going to be a Nobel Peace Prize winning scientist I think!).

Aside from the girls fighting, which, at the very least, is much less frequent these days, and some serious spoiled-brat-like behaviour (i.e. whining about having to walk 7 minutes to school, sulking because they can't have what they want whenever they want, etc.), I'd say we're in a pretty good place around here.  Big A is so grown up sometimes it amazes me.  She can still act like a 2-year-old though.  Little A is still prone to tantrums too, but she has them less often and I am loving the last vestiges of her 'babyness'.  She is still so cute and cuddly and silly and impish. 

Older people with grown children always warn me it all goes by too quickly and I get it.  I already can't wrap my mind around the fact that Big A is 8.5 years old.  It won't be long until I've been a mom for a whole decade!  And yet I still feel like a kid myself!!

I can't help but be relieved to be at this point where we no longer have preschoolers or babies and the girls have a degree of independence.  I sometimes forget that they are now capable of doing certain things themselves, which means that as a family we have more freedom and ability to do all sorts of things that weren't possible before.  But there is also part of me already mourning the loss of my little monkeys.  I am sure it won't be long before they want nothing to do with me and spend all their time with their peers and just roll their eyes when I address them.  Those days are coming for sure.  And in the blink of an eye they'll be leaving for university and Adam and I will be empty nesters.  Gasp!

Fortunately, since they are both going to be extremely successful and wealthy, they'll be able to fly back and visit their old parents regularly. HA!

Well, here's to family, and hoping I don't screw mine up too much!!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Delavier's Women's Strength Traning Anatomy Workouts

Click to hide.

I have made it no secret that I believe strength training is absolutely critical to health and fitness.  Unfortunately, I find even committed fitness fanatics, particularly female ones, resist embracing it.  I suspect this is due to many misunderstandings and myths about strength training, but its very frustrating to watch people failing to reach their fitness goals because they are missing out on this vital component in their exercise program.

Why is strength training so important?  This is why, it:

- Reverses sarcopenia, or the loss of muscle mass we experience with age
- Lowers risk of osteoporosis
- Lowers risk of dementia
- Strengthens tendons and ligaments, lowering risk of injury
- Improves overall strength and helps to maintain mobility as we age
- Builds lean mass which increases metabolism, making it easier to lose weight and maintain weight loss
- Improves sport performance
- Is empowering

Need I say more?

But since the world is primarily motivated with aesthetics, let me reiterate the point that it is just as important as, and quite possibly more so than, cardio for improving your body composition and HOW YOU LOOK!

Now a lot of women tell me they just don't know where to start, and weight rooms and machines seem intimidating.  They need not be!  Honestly, its like anything else, once its familiar, you realize there is nothing to be scared of.

Now, perhaps you can't afford a regular personal trainer to take you through several weekly workouts.  I get that!  Most people can't afford that.  Even 2-3 sessions with a trainer can get you started.  But if you want to figure it out on your own, than Delavier's Women's Strength Traning Anatomy Workouts may be the book for you.

This book is absolutely packed with information.  It too may seem intimidating because of the sheer volume of info, but if you read through it carefully, you'll realize it is actually quite straightforward.
It is particularly well suited for people who really want to understand the what and why behind things.  And really, I think anyone who works out should know that about their exercise or activity.  Too often I see folks at the gym doing weird things, which you can tell, they are doing because they saw someone else doing it, but because they don't have a clue what the purpose of the exercise is, or what muscles they are trying to target, they are doing it all wrong.  This makes it useless at best and dangerous at worst.

Delavier's Women's Strength Traning Anatomy Workouts tells you everything you need to know. Should you not be interested in the details of your anatomy, than you can ignore those parts and diagrams.  But again, its helpful to understand why you are doing what you are doing.

In Part I, there are directions for now to create a strength training program for yourself, based on your level of experience, while avoiding injuries.  It also talks about how to integrate cardio and stretching into your routine.

Part II has very, and I mean very, detailed sections organized by body part (glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, abs, shoulders, upper back, lower back, chest and arms) including instructions on how to do the foundation exercises properly (most are pretty fundamental), what muscles you are working and why, and how to avoid injury.  There are photos and diagrams for each too.

Part III puts together a whole bunch of programs for readers from beginner to advanced with all sorts of variations based on workout frequency and whether you will be training at a gym or using minimal equipment.  Again, these sections include photos of each exercise, so you don't have to go back to the previous section to figure out what they are if you forget.

Whether you simply want to stay healthy and mobile as you age or you want to be a ripped, lean, mean fitness machine, I can't stress enough the importance of strength training.  If you want to see and feel an amazing change in your body, I suggest you give it a try.  And if you want some guidance, this book is a great place to start.

Disclosure: I was presented with a complimentary copy of this book, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Please Say It Isn't Snow!?!

Yep, it snowed yesterday.  Didn't stick, thank goodness.   Nothing to build snowmen with yet at least. But there is no denying winter is here, whether its 'official' or not.  Tuesday we had a gorgeous, warm, sunny day, but I think that was it for that until spring.

I am already looking forward to our trip to Florida in the middle of December with my family.  We usually go to Orlando with Adam's folks, but in honour of her 70th birthday, my mom is treating us, and my brother's family to a vacation in West Palm at the Sandpiper Club Med resort.  Apparently its just a dream for people with kids as they keep the little ones occupied practically 24-7, giving adults time on their own.  Sweeeeeeeet!

But this does mean we will be in town over Christmas, which is going to necessitate some serious planning on my part to keep them busy when they are home from school and daycare.

I just worry that if we have another particularly bad winter, which they are predicting, that by March I'll have lost my marbles.  I wonder if a last minute get away might be possible...

I work tonight, but then the girls are staying for a sleepover at my in-laws which means Adam and I will get a bit of an evening alone, and a relaxed Saturday morning.  I see clients tomorrow but then I am thinking we should start doing our Hannukah mother-in-law is having her party on December 7th, since both our family and my brother's will be leaving for Florida the following week so there isn't much time to get gifts for all the cousins!  Where did the fall go? I can't believe I'm thinking about Hannukah already!!

Sunday Adam has his book club but otherwise this is going to be a pretty quiet one for us.  Sunday, however, is also the Santa Clause Parade, which means getting anywhere around downtown Toronto will be a complete nightmare.

How about you?  Any snow where you are yet?  Have you done your holiday shopping?
Have a safe and healthy weekend.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Frosted Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Squares

Yep, another flavour of oatmeal squares.  Why? Because having a prepared breakfast in the mornings that the kids love is brilliant.  It makes life so much easier.

Since its pumpkin everything season I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon.

The frosting is optional but it always increases the attractiveness of a baked good for the girls (of course!).  You can also choose to make it less sweet but I knew I had to mask the pumpkin taste completely if they were going to go for it.

Success was mine.  The girls fought over the frosting bowl and were covered in it before I plunked them both in the bath.  They refused to wait until morning to try these and ended up having a couple for dessert after dinner.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Squares

2 cups quick cooking steel cut oats
1/4 cup flax meal
2 cups boiling water
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 scoop vegan vanilla protein powder
1/2 cup granular stevia
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup chocolate chips (preferably stevia sweetened)

Stir together oats and flax with water in large bowl and let cool a bit.  Add everything but chips and mix well.  Fold in chips and scrape into greased 9x9 square pan.  Bake at 350F for about 24-25 minutes.  Let cool.


1/2 cup canned pumpkin
2 tbls coconut oil, softened
1 scoop vegan chocolate protein powder
3 tbls cocoa powder
1/4 cup stevia
2 droppers full of chocolate stevia liquid

Place ingredients for frosting in blender and whip until smooth.  Ice cooled squares.  Let set before cutting.  Makes 16 squares.  Keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.

This recipe was submitted to Urban Naturale's Plant Based Pot Luck Party Link Up and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Paleo Cleanse: Book Review

Given that I don't believe in cleanses/detoxes, etc. nor the Paleo diet, you might be wondering why I agreed to review this book.

Well I try not to judge a book by its cover...or its title.  You might recall I reviewed Paleo Fitness, which I expected to be ridiculous, but actually was pretty good?  So I decided to give this a chance too.

Unfortunately, that was a mistake.

Paleo Cleanse is written by Camilla Carboni and Melissa Van Dover, who both have a background in marketing.  I guess it should come as no surprise that they clearly don't understand how to do proper research.

These women are devout followers of Loren Cordain, who supposedly came up with the whole stupid Paleo Diet thing. 

The book starts with them chronicling their own health journeys are their discovery of the Paleo Diet.  Next, they compare the Paleo Food Pyramid with the traditional one here in North America.  In the third chapter they supposedly 'debunk marketing myths' about the diet.  This is where I started getting agitated. First, I want to point out that they use almost no primary data for this book, relying almost exclusively on secondary data.  For example, when making their claim that eating grains can result in leaky gut, their reference is a book called Perfect Health Diet, which is for popular consumption.  They refer to the same book to suggest that if you are going to eat any grains, you should stick with WHITE RICE because it is least likely to cause leaky gut.  Um yeah, but its also linked to diabetes and obesity!  I very strongly agree that refined carbs INCLUDING white rice should be avoided at all costs, but there is no compelling scientific evidence that those of us without intolerances or allergies benefit in any way from eliminating things like oats, quinoa, millet, etc. from our diet.

I did my own research of the primary data and was not able to find any evidence to back up some of the claims...even when I looked at Cordain's publications!  A few of his studies find evidence that dairy consumption can have negative effects, but if you want an informed perspective on this, I suggest you refer to Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, who regularly reviews recent research.

For one thing, the claim that we shouldn't be eating legumes is total hogwash.  It took me 2 seconds to find this research showing very little association between consumption of grains and legumes and weight. I did find studies linking legumes with decreased risk of osteoporosis, lower cholesterol, increased metabolism and reduced inflammation. I found no research at all on 'leaky gut' being related to consumption of grains.

The purpose of this 30 day cleanse is apparently to prepare you for the Paleo Diet.  According to these women, following the Paleo lifestyle will lead to reduced inflammation, superior physical performance, stable blood sugar, less congestion, better skin, fewer headaches, weight loss, mental clarity, better sleep, greater immunity, fewer cravings and less stress.  Most of their evidence for all this, again, comes from secondary mass media resources, not primary data.  Also, I suspect this would hold true for anyone who eliminates processed foods and switches to eating whole foods, regardless of whether you include legumes, grains and even dairy.  What the Paleo diet does have going for it is that it encourages you to eat real food and avoid all the crap.

In Chapter 8 they explain what foods are and are not permitted on the cleanse.  As with the Paleo Diet, the dos are fruits and veggies, eggs, coconut, olive and avocado oils, fish and meat.  The don'ts are dairy, gluten, grains, processed foods, legumes, refined sugars and vegetable and seed oils.

What readers may find helpful is that they provide tips on preparing for the cleanse and setting yourself up for success (i.e. do it with a buddy, substitutions for cravings, planning shopping and cooking, etc.). 

The book includes meal plans, shopping lists and recipes too, organized by week for the full 30 days.  The recipes are pretty plain and simple...they don't really appeal to me that much.  If you're vegetarian or vegan...good luck to you!  My one problem with the meal plans is the amount of meat.  Seriously bacon?  Bacon is not healthy, unless you think getting colon cancer sounds fun!  As I've said before, if you are going to do the Paleo thing, at least try and get most of your protein from eggs, poultry and fish and minimize the red meat as much as possible.  Especially the cured meats like bacon.  There is quite a bit of scientific evidence that red and processed meats is linked to cancer and mortality.  Skip it.

So there it is.  If you are intent on transitioning to a Paleo Diet, than this book can help you do so.  But honestly, ask yourself if this is a diet you can maintain long-term.  If not, there's really no point to it. 

Oh, and just for the record, there is no scientific evidence that cleanses/detoxes have any value either.  Our bodies are designed to detoxify themselves and, again, it matters little what you do for short-periods of time.  Cleanses you do for a few days, weeks or even a month cannot make up for a poor diet and lifestyle.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"The Best" Sweet Potato Brownies

Sorry that the picture is so crappy.  I snapped it quick with my phone...and also had just finished guzzling 2 beers, which likely clouded my perspective...or at least my motivation to get a decent shot.

All you have to know about these is when I asked the girls if they were good, Big A said, "No mommy, they aren't good...they're the best!"

Good thing they don't realize how healthy they are!  Low-fat.  Gluten-Free. Vegan. Sugar-Free.  Yet, super rich and fudgy.  How do you beat that?  As soon as they were cool enough to eat, both girls scarfed down 4 each before I cut them off.  About 20 minutes later they begged me for another and I gave in.  Yeah, seriously!  I feel so smug when they go nuts for things I make which they think are a major treat but are actually super healthy.  Ha!!  I kid you not, these disappeared in less than 24 hours and the girls have been begging me to bake more ever since.

"The Best" Sweet Potato Brownies

1 large sweet potato, baked and peeled
3 flax eggs (3 tbls ground flax + 9 tbls hot water)
1 cup stevia baking blend (equivalent to 1 cup sugar)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup chocolate chips (preferably stevia-sweetened)

Puree sweet potato in blender with flax eggs, vanilla and stevia.  Add cocoa, flour, soda and salt and pulse to mix.  Stir in chocolate chips by hand.  Batter will be very thick.  Scrape into greased 8x8 square pan.  Bake at 350F for 14 minutes.  Let cool and then cut into squares.  Makes 16 brownies.  Keep in air tight container for up to 5 days or freeze.

This recipe was submitted to Urban Naturale's Party Blog Hop.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Morose Mondays

Sorry for the bummer blog post on Friday but man, the day just got worse from there.  One of my favorite clients got a negative on her IVF cycle...I think I took it as hard as she did.  Some times I just feel like raging about how unfair the world is.  But that's kind of pointless, because it just is.  I try to focus on making it a little less unfair, if I can, in some small way.  I guess that's why I love, love, love my job.  I can't do magic, but if I can at least support someone through a difficult time, I guess that's something, no?

I didn't work on Saturday, for a change, and even though it was cold and rainy, it was nice to have some family time.  We got new portraits done of the four of us, and they turned out pretty good!  I have to acknowledge just how lucky I am to have these guys:

The grey weather continues, but am pretty pumped about some work-related stuff happening this week.  I can't give any details yet until I know more myself, but I am very excited...

I hope you have a great start to your week!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Life Isn't Fair

In my line of work, I see so-called miracles and happy endings, but I also see an unbelievable amount of pain and loss.  I am astonished by what some of my clients have endured.  Loss of loved ones, accidents, health issues, abuse, betrayal...its heartbreaking.  But what's truly amazing to me is the ones that, despite all the seemingly insurmountable obstacles and set backs that would crush many of us, not only survive, but thrive.

Life is not fair.  It just isn't.  So often when a tragedy occurs we spend a whole lot of time asking, "Why me?"  And the answer is - in my opinion, at least - its just all random.  Bad things often happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.

Occasionally karma seems to work.  Like this whole CBC Jian Gomeshi scandal, for example.  He is hopefully going to get his comeuppance now...but, unfortunately, before that happened, this total scum bag was able to spend years getting away with sexual assault and harassment.  He hurt so many damn people, it just makes me sick.

I guess this is on my mind right now because a few of my cases lately have really hit me hard.  Clients of mine who had a long infertility journey and finally conceived using an egg donor then lost their baby girl at 21 weeks, seemingly due to physician negligence, and were subjected to cold and cruel treatment by said physician and the hospital.  I was in such a state of disbelief when they shared their story.  It completely broke my heart.  But it also made me so angry that they had to ensure such heart ache and loss and that others can act so despicably.

Another client had her IVF cycle cancelled at the last minute after dedicating her life to trying to conceive this past year, only to be fired from her job yesterday.  She feels like her whole world has fallen apart. 

That being said, the couple is moving forward, this time using a gestational carrier (due to a medical emergency when she delivered her stillborn, she now cannot carry a pregnancy), and I am confident they will have their family soon.  I also know this client of mine will get another job and be okay...eventually.

Its so easy to get bogged down in all the misery out there, whether its our own or that of those around us.  But truthfully, it isn't what happens to us in life that matters so much as how we deal with it.  The only thing we can do besides folding up or falling to pieces, is to keep going.

A great example of this type of courage and resilience is a couple I saw last year.  They had lost their 5 year old daughter to cancer.  They had no other children at the time.  They were trying to conceive again but discovered that the husband had a sperm issue leaving him essentially infertile.  This meant that their daughter had been somewhat of a miracle.  They were going to have to use a sperm donor this time.  I expected this couple to be sad and angry but they were just the opposite.  They spoke of how grateful they were to have had their beautiful daughter for as long as they did.  Although they did shed tears as we spoke, it was clear that this couple never asked, "Why us." Wow!  I found them so incredibly inspirational.  I don't think I will ever forget them.

I don't mean to sound like Debbie Downer on a Friday.  Actually, I am trying to make a point about that is hopeful.  People are incredibly resilient.  No matter what you are facing, you are much stronger than you think.  Most pain fades with time and most things have a way of working themselves out.  The point is to never give up, no matter what!

So there you go, some food for thought.  Enjoy the weekend.  Hold your loved ones close and look for all the beauty in the world.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Carrot Cake Oatmeal Squares with Cream Cheese Icing (Vegan, Sugar-free, & Gluten-Free)

I admit, throwing carrots into a breakfast dish for the girls was risky...but it turned out great.  These are marvelous as a breakfast or snack.  While tasting absolutely decadent, they are actually really healthy.

Unlike my other oatmeal square recipes, however, these take a bit more prep and have a much longer cooking time, so best not to leave them to the morning of...make them the day ahead so they are ready to go for your busy day.

If you are wondering why the cream cheese icing is tan in colour, its because of the protein powder.  I find that vegan protein powders, even the vanilla flavours tend to be kind of tan/greenish.  I used this one, which is quite good:

Carrot Cake Oatmeal Squares with Cream Cheese Icing (Vegan, Sugar-free, & Gluten-Free)

2 cups quick-cooking steel cut oats
1/4 cup flax meal
2 cups boiling water
1 scoop vegan vanilla protein powder
1 540ml jar golden pineapple plus juice
1 carrot, cut into chunks
1/4 cup granulated stevia
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves or allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking soda

Pour boiling water over oats and flax in a large bowl.  Place pineapple and carrot in blender or food processor and process until desired consistency.*  Add carrot mixture, protein powder and remaining ingredients to oats and flax and mix well.  Scrape batter into greased 9x12 pan.  Bake at 350F for 1 hour.  If top begins browning too quickly, cover with foil.

Cream Cheese Icing

1/2 cup non-dairy cream cheese
1 scoop vegan vanilla protein powder
1 dropper full of vanilla stevia
3-4 tbls non-dairy milk (or more)

Whisk together all the icing ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.  Add additional milk as needed.  Spread over cooled oatmeal base and cut into squares. 

Keep refrigerated up to 5 days or freeze.

*If your audience, like mine is averse to 'bits', then process until practically pureed.

I have shared this recipe with Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday and Urban Naturale's Plant-Based Pot Luck Party.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Extremely Ripped & Chiseled with Jari Love: Fitness DVD Review

Although I had never heard of Jari Love before, when I was approached to review her new DVD, I was excited: I love fitness DVDs!

As it turns out, she's a fellow Canadian, but resides across the country in Calgary with her husband and 2 kids...I've never been to Alberta, by the way.

She actually has a whole series of workout DVDs that you can purchase. Love is a personal trainer and fitness expert who has been featured in media across North America.

This particular DVD offers a full hour of strength-based exercise segments.  The cover says it is split into 30 minutes for lower body and 30 minutes for upper body.  Perhaps my copy is messed up, but it actually has only 20 minutes of lower body exercises and the rest is upper and core.  Not sure what's up with that.

You need several sets of hand weights, and a step, although, you can do the DVD without the step and modifications are shown.

The whole idea is similar to those Group Power classes from Les Mills where you use relatively light weight and do high reps in time to music.  Unfortunately, the music in the DVD is unidentifiable, generic music, not the latest hits and familiar music you get in those classes.  I guess they didn't want to pay the royalties.

The video also feels dated.  I don't know if its the music, some of the hairdos, the discoteque lighting, or what, but I feel like I'm doing a toning class from the 1990s.  Not that this is necessarily a bad thing!  I used to enjoy teaching such classes back in the day.  I also like that she offers lots of variation in timing to the moves, like 3 counts down/1 up, and the reverse, 2 up/2 down, etc.  In the gym, we tend to spend most of our time doing up, down, up, down, etc.  Doing resistance exercises slowly is a great way to activate those muscle fibres!

If you use enough weight, this can absolutely be a very challenging workout.  I actually think its perfect for someone who wants to start strength training at home but wants some guidance.  I would not recommend it for someone who has never done a group ex class or any weight lifting before, but I suppose if you start with light enough weight the chance of injury would be lower.

Overall, if you are an intermediate level exerciser who is looking for a strength training routine to do at home, this may be for you.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Caramel Banana Bundt Cake (Vegan)

We had our good friends and their kids over for dinner Saturday.  I was a bit worried the girls wouldn't find too much they would eat since we were ordering in Thai food so I decided to bake a sort-of healthy cake, so there would at least be dessert.

Caramel and banana are flavours that compliment each other nicely and I thought this would be a nice change from the banana chocolate chip everything combo they usually request. The girls loved this cake, but if truth be told, I was the one that ate most of it.  I couldn't help it, it is scrumptious...and after all the Thai food we ate that night, I was still hungry.  Go figure?  The girls were pretty peeved at me.  I guess I'll just have to make it again.

I made this quickly in the Blendtec, but a food processor would work just fine.  The caramel turned out a bit grainy, but no one minded, it still tastes absolutely awesome.

Caramel Banana Bundt Cake (Vegan)

3 ripe bananas
1 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup granulated stevia (optional)*
2 flax eggs (2 tbls flax meal + 6 tbls hot water)
1 cup non-dairy milk + 1 tbls lemon juice
1.5 tsp vanilla extract

2.5 cups spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt

Puree wet ingredients in blender until smooth.  Add dry ingredients and just pulse to combine.  Pour into greased bundt pan and bake at 350F for about 35-40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool and then remove from pan.

Caramel Glaze

Whisk together 1/2 cup coconut sugar, 1/3 cup Earth Balance or coconut oil and 1/2 tsp vanilla.  Bring to a low boil over medium heat and then remove from stove.  Whisk in 1/4 cup coconut or soy milk powder.  Pour over cooled cake.

*Depends on how sweet your tooth is!

This recipe was brought to Urban Naturale's Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Party Blog Hop.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Lazy-Mom's Guide to Halloween

Hi there and happy Monday.  How was your Halloween?

Personally, this was the best Halloween I can recall in many years!  Why?  Because I totally slacked off.

Here is what you need to (not) do to have an awesome Halloween:

1. Spend too much money buying your kids' costumes online and choose ones that don't require you to paint their faces.  Just buy enough ahead of time so you make sure they arrive before the big day!

2. Say "YES" when your neighbour invites your kids over for dinner and trick-or-treating (someone else do the dirty work for me?  Sign me up!).

3. Don't return the overpriced pumpkin to the market even though it started rotting the day after you brought it home.  Just cut out the bad parts and make the holes part of your Jack-o-lantern design.  Besides, rotting pumpkin is far easier to cut.

4.  Throw out pumpkin seeds and the whole rest of the pumpkin the next day and don't bother to cook or bake with any of it.  Feel no guilt about throwing out edible products.  Hey, its compost anyways!

5. Aside from your pumpkin, do not put up any decorations or ornamentation.  Not only is it less work to get ready, but less work to clean up too! Ignore all the adorable lights and decorations all the Martha Stewart wanna bes on your street have had up for the past 2 weeks.

6. Make husband answer the door for all the trick-or-treaters while you relax on the couch.  When children get home, make them take over.  Keep your butt firmly planted on that couch.

7. When you get close to the end of the evening, tell children to hand out huge piles of candy so none is left over and you are stuck trying to figure out what to do with it.

There you go, you are very welcome!

The rest of our weekend was great too.  We had friends and their kids over and ordered Thai food Saturday night, and then got an extra hour of sleep thanks to the time change.  Sunday we did our usual activities and then took the girls to do errands in the afternoon.