Friday, January 30, 2015

The Blessing of the Mundane

Its been a quiet week for me  with my counselling practice.  Adam has had many evenings of work engagements or working late, and finished off the week with a trip to Winnipeg, so that's meant less available work time for me.  Most clients want to see me after 5pm, after work, but the girls' after school daycare closes at 6pm, so if Adam isn't available to pick them up, its usually a no go for me.   I also had a daycare board meeting Wednesday night so my evenings were pretty much not open for appointments this week at all.

Fortunately, my mother-in-law stepped in to pick up the girls today so I was able to book a few sessions, and tomorrow I've got a bunch more clients lined up.  Saturday afternoon, the logistics of the girls' activities (gymnastics, swimming, playdate and birthday party) are so complicated, we actually have to borrow one of my in-law's cars so I can shuttle Big A in one direction while Adam shuttles Little A in the other.

The silver lining has been I had time this week to try to get my taxes organized...not an easy thing when you are self-employed and receive income from a whole lot of different sources.  Depressing how little I make too...and I have finally started my dreaded application for the new Ontario College of  Registered Psychotherapists.

Sunday I teach spin, the girls have Hebrew School, and Little A has swim, and then Adam has his book club meeting.  It doesn't look like I'll even be able to fit in too many errands this weekend.  But that's okay, yesterday I packed in as many as possible before the snow started.  While I've been here dealing with a big dump of snow, Adam has been in Winnipeg which has been having a boil water alert and power outages.  Oh good times!

So essentially, nothing but ordinary life stuff happening around here, which makes me feel blessed.  Oh yes, blessed. When counselling I hear about the most unbelievable trauma, tragedy and loss many of my clients have experienced.  Whether its infertility, or abuse, or illness, or an accident, so many people in this world face adversity on a daily basis. 

We may not be rich, I may not be famous, but none of that is really what matters.  Its all about love, friendship, and good health.  Having nothing much to worry about except juggling work commitments, getting the kids to swimming on time or shoveling snow is a privilege.  Its easy to get caught up in this stuff, so its important to step back once in a while and look at the big picture. Life is good.

I guess I should mention that its Superbowl Sunday since most of you - unlike myself - might care.  Have a wonderful, healthy, love-filled weekend.  Make my savoury roasted chickpeas to eat while you watch the game ;)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Savoury Roasted Chickpeas

Clearly photographing food in a glass bowl is not the best pun intended!

This was another recipe I made for the first time for our New Year's Day party.  They are yummy as a snack, or you can throw them in a salad.  Super delish!

Savoury Roasted Chickpeas

2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained (or 3 cups cooked)
1 tbls olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp Herbamere seasoned sea salt (or regular sea salt), or to taste
2 tbls nutritional yeast

Toss chickpeas with oil and spices and roast at 400F for about 45 minutes, or until crispy.  Keep in an air tight container in cool dry place or fridge for up to 1 month.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

WIAW: Recent Yummy Things

Here are some of the tasty things I've been eating lately...

My Smokey Tomato Soup, along with a Vanilla Spice Plantain loaf cake.

My absolute favorite Mutsu (sometimes called Crispin) apples and Chocolate Chunk Quest bars.

Warm kale salad with strawberry, red onion dressing (which I forgot to photograph) with this soft sheep's milk black peppercorn cheese diced into it...oh yeah!


Roasted kabocha squash...because delicata squash has disappeared from the entire city of Toronto!

But it was actually pretty awesome, especially with cinnamon.

How about you, what yummy things have you been consuming???

This post is linked with What I Ate Wednesday's host, Peas and Crayons.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Smokey Chickpea Tomato Soup

Oy its a cold one today!  At least we aren't having the snow storm like our friends east and south of us...

Recently a client who I am counselling about improving her health told me she and her fiancĂ© made soup together for the first time, rather than buying it, and they couldn't believe how easy it is.  It is...really!

In fact, here are 3 reasons you should make soup instead of buying it:

1. Healthier - Not only is the soup you buy usually full of salt, but it often also has added sugars and starches, not to mention weird preservatives.  The canned kind also contains BPA...blech!

2. Cheaper - The good quality soups can be $10/litre!  Making your own is much, much more economical!!

3. Efficient - Its hard to make a small quantity of soup.  Make tons and then eat all week, or freeze for future meals.

This soup is very warming from the smoked paprika, cumin and the kick of cayenne, if you can stand the heat!  You can replace the chickpeas with black beans if you wish, and swap out the zucchini for another veggie like spinach, kale, okra, carrots, etc.

Smokey Chickpea Tomato Soup

1/2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
4 zucchini, diced
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 can diced tomatoes, with juice
2 cups passata (strained tomatoes)
1 litre salt-free vegetable stock
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Handful fresh cilantro, chopped

Optional: Toss zucchini with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast on foil-lined baking sheet at 400F for 30 minutes.  If you want to skip this step, just add zucchini to soup pot with onion.

Pour oil into large soup pot over medium heat and saute onion, garlic and spices.  Add chickpeas, roasted zucchini, vinegar, diced tomatoes, passata and stock.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Add lemon and cilantro just before serving.  Keep leftovers refrigerated for up to 4 days or freeze.

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

Monday, January 26, 2015

Personal Hygiene

Personal hygiene is something that is not always so personal.  If you emit bad odour, chances are others are going to notice!

The hygiene habits of others comes to my attention on a daily basis simply from using public transportation.  Already vulnerable to motion sickness, I instantly become nauseous if I end up near someone with bad body odour.  Blech!  Sometimes I may not be near enough to someone to smell them, but I am often amazed by how unclean people look.  Hair greasy, full of debris, and clearly unwashed for a lengthy period of time.  Clothes that smell worn and musty.  Ugh!

Of course, when I feel disgust, I then wonder if I am not just being elitist.  After all, for many people, regular bathing and clothes washing is a luxury.  Often poor hygiene can be an early sign of mental illness.

But sometimes there just seems to be no excuse.  I am only at the gym once a week to teach my spinning class, but lately every time I am there so are two older gentlemen who have unpleasant BO.  I can't even be in the vicinity of these individuals and it simply ruins the whole experience.  I certainly don't want to use equipment they have used!  Makes me appreciate working out at home even more!!  These guys are definitely not homeless and likely not living in poverty or they wouldn't be able to afford the gym membership fee.  Cognitive abilities starting to decline?  Perhaps...

Yesterday my friend who takes my spinning class was also grossed out because she witnessed another woman filing a snowstorm of dead skin off her feet onto the floor of the changeroom.  We gagged together.

I have always been a shower and wash my hair every single day kind of gal.  I suppose that's partly because I work out every day so its kind of essential.  But even at times when I have not been working out (like the 6 weeks after each C-section, or when traveling, etc.) I still shower every day.  Besides the hygienic reasons, it also wakes me up and refreshes me.

Now perhaps I am a bit OCD about hygiene as is Adam...we bathe the girls every day, at least when possible, and most of my friends do not seem to bathe their children as often. But having children certainly does get you more comfortable with grime and bodily fluids.  Little A is still our little pig pen.  She's gotten better, but the kid still can't eat without making a mess, and she has a penchant for touching absolutely everything she sees, which makes me crazy.

Admittedly, things got pretty out of hand with me while dealing with PPD after Little A was born.  I was consumed with worry about contamination and was going through bottles of Purel like crazy.  I am not like that anymore, but still probably worry about it more than most people.  The first thing I do when I come in the house is always wash my hands and I never wear any of my clothes more than once before throwing them in the laundry.

Just a friendly reminder that personal hygiene & clean clothing go a long way towards your coworkers not having to stand upwind of you. Thanks! -Human Resources.

I also admit that a toothbrush and toothpaste accompany me almost everywhere.  Okay, so maybe I'm a bit OCD...although like everyone else in this house I practice the 5 Second Rule and happily eat food off the floor.  Ha, I guess we all have our inconsistencies!  Funny how we rationalize certain things.  Have a happy, clean Monday!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Social Evolution

TGIF!  Happy Friday everyone!

Despite the chilly temps, its actually been beautiful and sunny here all week.  Its amazing what a positive impact the sunshine can have on your mood.

Nonetheless, even when the sun is out, I've noticed that for the past few years, I have had a cloudy feeling.  I've been very introspective and tried hard to determine the source of my angst.  I've explored every aspect of my life: health, relationships, parenting, career, spirituality, and while my life is not perfect, its pretty what's going on? I kept wondering and not finding the answer. Until recently.

It suddenly dawned on me where this existential angst and sense of foreboding is coming from...not from anything in my life, specifically, but more to do with how our society is evolving.  I feel sad, frustrated, and concerned about where our world is going...and I am referring to the usage of technology and portable devices.

I know I now probably sound like an old crank...and perhaps I am.  After all, if you were born later than the 90s, you probably don't even remember a time when everyone didn't carry around tiny devices that function as phones, computers and cameras.  Well I certainly do!  In fact, it wasn't until my last year as a university undergrad that I even started using email.  Adam and I got our first cell phone, which we shared, as a wedding gift in 2002, and it wasn't until a few years ago I ever got a smart phone.

Don't get me wrong, I know all this new technology has its benefits...its just that I think it is being overused and I don't like what it is doing to human interaction.

Too many people are too dependant on their phones.  This incessant need to be 'connected' is making us disconnected.  I have no patience for people who text and check their phones when I am having a conversation with them.  Its rude and obnoxious, and frankly, to me speaks to a certain growing narcissism people seem to have.  Are you really anticipating something truly important?  Unless you are a doctor on-call or the President of the United States, then my guess is, you can wait a bit to return that text or email. Seeing couples and friends ignoring each other completely in favour of their devices depresses me. In my work as a counsellor I hear how gaming addictions destroy relationships and couples resort to texting one another while in the same home!  Come on folks, this is absurd!  Even riding public transport gets me in a lather.  My favorite thing to do is people watch, but apparently I am the only one because everyone else is glued to their device.  Even on the subway, where there is no Internet service, people are listening to music, watching TV or playing Candy Crush.  Nobody looks up, nobody notices anyone else.

I am the first to admit that social media can have a positive effect.  For example, I have made incredible relationships with women across North America through the infertility channels.  These women are people I have never met and many I never will meet, however, they mean the world to me.  Things like Facebook are also a great way to keep up-to-date with friends and family who are far away.  But the online world also creates a forum for people to spew hatred, to bully and to intimidate.  So many of the things people say to others online they would never say in person.  Its cowardly.  It concerns me.  This is the reality we have created for future generations. I worry for my girls.

All this online 'socializing' is not an adequate replacement for face-to-face interactions.  We are social animals, we need true, intimate, physical connections with one another.  Sometimes I want to go back in time, I really hate the current state of the world with all this shit.  I think what makes me feel so frustrated and frightened is that this is completely beyond my control, and there does not seem to be an end to it.  Adam thinks there may eventually be a backlash against all of this, but I do not feel so optimistic. 

So while the rest of the world gets consumed by all this technology, I'll continue to stay behind and watch.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Avocado Cilantro Lime Dressing

I brought this dressing for the dinner we had at my brother's house last weekend.  My husband and children may hate avocados, but the rest of my family loves them and they adored this dressing and demanded the recipe.

This delicious, healthy dressing kicks your everyday salad up a few notches.  It is absolutely amazing!  I have nothing more to say.

Avocado Cilantro Lime Dressing

1 ripe avocado, pit and skin removed
1/2 cup cider vinegar
Juice of 2 limes
1-2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
Handful fresh cilantro

Throw everything in blender or food processor and go!  Dressing is very thick, feel free to thin out with water if you wish.  Keep refrigerated for up to a week.

I have posted this recipe in Urban Naturale's Healthy, happy, green and natural party blog hop.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Reading List

I have read so many amazing books recently and I have not been keeping up with sharing with you all. 

First, I have to mention this one as I love, love, loved it!  I got it in the airport on the way to Florida and am so very glad I did.


The Museum of Extraordinary Things is set in New York, my favorite city so of course I love it!! It captures true historical events like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, but is purely fictional.  In fact, it has some magical realism in it, which ordinarily I don't go for, but I seriously adored this book!

I also loved this mystery, The Cruel Stars of the Night, by Swedish author, Kjell Eriksson. 


Now I want to read all his other books!  It was a very creepy, clever who done it.

The Orenda, is, of course, a masterpiece! 

Written by Canadian author, Joseph Boyden, it is an engaging and disturbing tale about the lives of Jesuit missionaries, and natives in Canada in the 17th century. 

I have to say, it was hard to have much sympathy for the missionaries, although I found myself having more toward the end of this epic tale.

My mom also introduced me to the mystery series by Donna Leon like Dressed for Death.


I have also read and enjoyed Quietly in Their Sleep.  I am loving these and will have to get my hands on the rest of them!!

Currently, I am reading The Massey Murder, which isn't actually a novel, its a history book by Charlotte Gray.

I never expected to love it so much, but I do like social history, and since it takes place in Toronto, I am learning so much about the city I live in.  I am enjoying it so much, reading more history books like this may be in my future...

I also read Love Anthony, but did not love it...which is a shame because I loved Still Alice, by the same author, that just got turned into a movie.

I can't imagine life without books...and I mean hard copy, old-school, paper books...none of this reading on an electronic device shit!  They are my guilty pleasure, my restitution, my meditation and part of every single day.  I always always always read right before bed.  You should try it.  Turn off your devices (they interfere with sleep anyways) and open a good ol' book!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Buttersquash Muffins (Vegan)

Someone please help me, I am living in a household of squash haters!  How did this happen?  My family also hates avocadoes...really, I ask you, what did I do to deserve this???

After making a huge bowl of roasted buttercup squash mashed with butter, salt, cinnamon and a bit of stevia, which was greeted with turned up noses, I realized I needed a plan B for this orange vegetable.  So through desperation (as many inventions are found), I created these absolutely delectable muffins.  The squash makes them incredibly fluffy and moist.  Combined with the caramel/butterscotch flavour of the coconut sugar, they are just divine.  Just don't tell anyone what's inside!!!  You probably also shouldn't mention that these are packed with vitamins and fibre and are low-fat and refined know, you don't want to scare of the picky kids and nutritionphobics out there.

Buttersquash Muffins

2 cups cooked, pureed squash (butternut, buttercup or acorn)
2 flax eggs (2 tbls flax meal + 6 tbls hot water)
2 tbls Earth Balance or coconut oil
1 cup coconut sugar
1/4 tsp butterscotch flavour (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)

2 cups whole spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Whisk together flax eggs with oil/Earth Balance when hot so it melts.  Add in squash, sugar and flavour.  Stir dry ingredients together and then add to wet.  Stir, just until combined.  Pour batter into 12 greased muffin cups.  Bake at 375F for 20 minutes, or until done in the centre.  Let cool and then remove from pan.  Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days or freeze.  Makes 12 large muffins.

I have entered this recipe into Urban Naturale's Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural Party Blog Hop.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Portuguese Sausage and Bean Stew (Vegan option)

Good morning!  Its ONLY -1 Celsius here right now, which relative to the extreme temps a few weeks ago, is positively balmy!  But I am still all in for hearty, warming food.  Cold salads just don't cut it.

This is a delicious, comforting winter meal that's pretty easy to prepare.  If you want to make it vegan, just substitute vegan sausage or crumbled tempeh for the sausage.

Portuguese Sausage and Bean Stew (Vegan option)

1 tsp olive oil
1 lb turkey sausage, sliced
2 onions, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbls sweet paprika
1/4 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups cooked)
I head kale, chopped, tough stems removed
1 can tomato paste
Crushed red chili flakes, to taste (optional)

Saute sausage, onion, garlic and spices in oil over medium heat until onion is softened and sausage is cooked.  Add vinegar, beans and kale and continue cooking until kale is wilted.  Stir in tomato paste and chili, if using.  Simmer on low for 15 minutes.  Serve alone or over brown rice or other grain...or on top of baked potatoes.  Keep leftovers refrigerated for up to 4 days or freeze.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Risky Business

Its Friday, yay!!  What are your plans for the weekend?  My parents are coming to Toronto tomorrow and staying with my brother.  So we're having a family Sunday at their place.  Tomorrow I have clients to see and errands to do, and the girls have all their activities, so its going to be busy.

We are already midway through January and that means just 8 more days to get in on my Indiegogo Campaign!  In case you missed it, I started this campaign to help launch my new business.  I am very nervous and excited.  I have tossed around starting a business of some sort for many, many years and its been a lot of hard work to get to this point.  Its not easy to start a business in Canada, especially an online business, because, in case you didn't know...Canada is a HUGE freakin' country!  I am still working out the details of shipping which my friend and business consultant has promised me is going to be, 'the bane of my existence.'  Ugh!!

I never expected to hit my target with my Indiegogo campaign, but the main goal is to get the word please help if you can with your Facebook shares and Tweets!

Here is a teaser of what this is all about.  Photos from my soon to launch website/business showcasing my product and all the yummy, healthy things you can make with it!!

Have a happy, healthy weekend!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Wellness Kitchen: Book Review

Adobe Photoshop PDF

The Wellness Kitchen cookbook is written by registered dietician, Paulette Lambert, from Extreme Makeover Weight-Loss Edition. Now that fact does not impress me, given how I feel about reality television, but the book is not at all what I expected.  Given that contestants lose massive amounts of weight in a short period of time, I expected the book to prescribe a diet to consist of kale and vitamins.  But it isn't that at all.

In fact, Lambert explains, it is not a diet book at all, but, rather a guide for healthy living and cooking.  She does, however, also provide detailed menu plans for those looking to lose weight.

Lambert's general philosophy is that health begins with cooking from scratch.  I can't agree more.  Cooking at home with real, whole foods is critical for maintaining a healthy weight.  What my clients struggling with obesity all share is an overreliance on restaurant meals, takeout and processed, convenience foods.

Her goal with this book is to simplify healthy cooking for those who think it is too complicated or time consuming.  She starts with listing what you need to stock your pantry.  She lists many commercial products (i.e. All Bran Buds, Kavli Crispbread, Boca Veggie Burgers, etc.) that she approves of.  Just keep in mind that many of them are not available in Canada, particularly fat-free half and half, which she uses in many of the recipes.

Before the recipes, there is a section on general nutrition guidelines that explains the importance of various macronutrients and food groups, as well as a section that explains the link between diet and chronic illnesses like hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.

Another section is devoted to weight loss where she addresses some of the most common reasons people struggle to lose weight (portion distortion, unbalanced diet, biological binging, emotional overeating, etc.) and provides solutions for each.  There is also a 21-day meal plan for those who desire to lose weight.

Part 2 of the book is the recipes broken into chapters by category:

1. Breakfast
2. Appetizers
3. Salads & Dressings
4. Soups and Breads
5. Main Dishes (Beef, Fish/seafood, Poultry & Tofu)
6. Vegetables
7. Pastas, Grains & Pizza
8. Sweets

The recipes are lovely, although I would say they are not as quick and easy as I would say is necessary for people reluctant to cook.  Believe me, I have clients unwilling to even cut up a piece of fruit!!!

They are accompanied by lovely photos, and nutrition tips.  What is probably the most useful thing about the book, is that many dishes start with a basic recipe and then provide numerous variations.  This is essential for individuals who are not comfortable altering recipes on their own to suit their tastes or available ingredients.

My one criticism is that, like many cookbooks, a lot of refined flour is used.  It makes little sense given she discusses the importance of sticking with whole grains.  I would say replace the white flour with whole spelt, another whole grain flour, or whole grain gluten-free blend in these recipes.  Honestly, if there is one thing I wish I could change about our food landscape in North America, it is the ubiquitousness of white flour and sugar, which are basically the same nutritionally. If they were no longer available at all (that's my fantasy), than even the most die-hard sugar/carb addicts would have no choice but to eat whole grains.  If you are thinking right now that you could not live without your ___________ (croissants, donuts, baguettes, etc.), well yes you could. Suck it up buttercup!!

Anyways, now that I'm done my rant I will say that its a nice book and if you are open to learning how to cook great, healthy recipes, than check it out.  If you have absolutely no experience cooking and/or want really, really simple and fast recipes, this one might not be ideal for you.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Popcorn Indiana: Product Review

Do you know what one food is most associated with obesity? Potato chips!

Yes, those crunchy little dudes do not do a body good! 

Why, you ask, are they so deadly?

I suspect its because (1) they are very calorically dense (about 10 chips have about the same number of calories as a whole baked potato!), and (2) They are easy to eat lots of (betcha can't eat just one!). So within minutes of opening the bag, you could easily consume half your daily calorie needs.

Lucky for me, I have no taste for them as an adult (not including my 2 pregnancies, but that doesn't count!!).  In fact, I don't really like most foods in the 'snack' category except nuts. 

But as my husband often reminds me, most people are not as weird and really like salty, greasy, fried snacks.  That is certainly true of the other folks in this house!  Big A, in particular, is a total carb-addict and could live on chips, crackers, sweets and bread products.

The one snack food my family absolutely adores that I feel good about serving them, is popcorn.  Popcorn is a whole grain that is high in fibre, and when air-popped and not drenched in butter, is a very low calorie snack.  Go ahead, eat a big bowl!

So I was happy to sample some products sent to us by Popcorn Indiana.

We got a bag of their Fit Popcorn with sea salt and their Movie Theatre Classic Popcorn.  We ate both bags over the holidays, sharing with guests we were entertaining, and in both cases everyone approved.

We all thought they were perfectly crispy and crunchy and not too salty.  Big A preferred the Movie Theatre variety, and you might too, if you are used to heavily buttered popcorn, but the Fit Popcorn is almost half the calories.  You could eat 4 cups and it would cost you just 148 calories! So if you want a snack you can nibble on through a long movie without going over your energy needs, this is a great bet!

Disclosure: The company sent us complimentary products to try but all the opinions on this blog are my own.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mini Frittatas

I decided to change things up for our New Year's Day party menu this year.  I thought mini frittatas would be a cute little appetizer.  They were pretty simple to make and went over really well.

You can really customize these anyway you want.  I didn't add cheese for my cheese-hating husband but here some ideas for what to add: parmesan, cheddar, swiss, bluecheese, asparagus, spinach, pesto, smoked salmon, olives, capers, etc.

These are easy and tasty and can be made ahead and then reheated.  They also make a great quick breakfast on the go.

Mini Frittatas

8 extra large eggs
4 tbls milk
Salt and pepper, to taste

Add ins of choice: I used marinated Portobello mushrooms and sundried tomatoes

Whisk together eggs and milk and season.  Evenly distribute egg mixture between 12 greased muffin cups.  Drop in additional ingredients of choice (cheese, veggies, etc.).  Bake at 400F for about 18-20 minutes or until centres are set.  Refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Mamma Chia's Chia Squeeze

Hello and Happy Monday!

If there is one weekday task most parents hate, its packing lunches!  Trying to find something that's healthy and the kids will eat can be a challenge.  So check this out...

You know that squeeze fruit kids love?  Basically apple sauce sometimes with a bit of other fruit mixed in?  Yeah, my kids love it.

Recently at Costco, I found an awesome alternative in the same packaging: Mamma Chia's Chia Squeeze!

Admittedly I was a wee bit nervous they wouldn't go for it, but it was a total hit.  I think what worked though, is we got the blackberry flavour, so they think the 'seeds' are just blackberry seeds.  I couldn't pull off that deception with the other flavours.

Anyways, they are organic and, of course, more expensive than regular squeeze fruit, so not sure these will be a regular purchase, but for now, they're going in the lunch boxes!

Blackberry Bliss

Friday, January 9, 2015


Its a beautiful, sunny - albeit - cold Friday!

I am smiling because I am feeling wonderful.  Nope, didn't win the lottery.  But the intense sinus headaches I've been experiencing a lot lately are gone.

Its always driven me crazy that even in winter I suffer from allergies.  I am usually on antihistamines (Aerius) all year round.  It isn't goldenrod that gets me the worst, it seems  to be dust, and what gets stirred up by the furnace - even though Adam is anal about replacing our furnace filters - is apparently a real trigger. 

But after doing a bit of research this week I discovered another culprit for my intense sinus pain: the dry air!  Although the inside of my nose has been extremely dry and sore the past few weeks, I didn't realize that the dry air can also cause inflammation in the sinuses.  After digging out our humidifier and letting it run during the night, I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER!!!

So that's reason enough for me to celebrate this weekend.  I also have a rare Saturday off work so this is looking up to being a nice, relaxing couple of days.  Have a safe and healthy weekend!!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Chewing the Fat on Oils

If there is one thing that makes me furious its when people, particularly public figures, spew misinformation about health and nutrition.

Sometimes people do it to profit financially, sometimes I think they just don't understand how to interpret data.  The problem is it makes it very difficult for the rest of us to know what really is true and what is total BS.

Unless you live under a rock, you probably have noticed the current obsession with coconut.  Coconut oil, in particular, is everywhere. It has been touted to do everything from prevent dementia to help shed fat.  So you may be wondering, does it really live up to all the hype?

Unfortunately, the answer is no.  Despite what Dr. Oz and Dr. Mercola say...please do not EVER mention Dr. Mercola to me...that quack makes my blood boil...there actually is no strong evidence that coconut oil helps with weight loss, lowers cholesterol, prevents dementia, fights bacteria or viruses.

There is some data showing that oils made entirely of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) can raise metabolism, but coconut oil is only 60% MCTs.  That being said, MCTs are super expensive and the impact on weight loss is modest at best.

Have you heard that canola oil is toxic?  Do you remember in the 1990s when we were told it was healthy?  Are you confused yet?

Once again, its butt-heads like Mercola that are spreading these inaccurate rumours.  The truth is, critics often confuse canola oil with rapeseed oil, which has been shown to cause cardiac damage.   Despite the claims of the alarmists, canola oil is not more processed than other types of oils, it doesn't raise LDL cholesterol, stiffen cell membranes or cause kidney damage.  There is no data supporting those claims.

So what should you do?  Well first, do your research before believing health information you find out there.  Keep in mind that someone like Mercola, who just so happens to sell coconut oil, benefits financially from his own claims.  Oh, and he's an osteopath, not an MD, by the way!  Many of his theories are based on anecdotal information, not on scientific data.  He also seems to have a knack for misinterpreting the scientific data he does site.  Seriously step away from Dr. Mercola!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In terms of oil.  I would say just consume all oils in moderation!  None of them are a cure-all.  Depending on what I am cooking or baking, I use small amounts of coconut, olive, canola, avocado, and toasted sesame.  But I prefer to get my fat from nuts and seeds, avocado and fatty fish.

For more info, check out the December 2014 issue of the Nutrition Action Healthletter.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

WIAW - At an All You Can Eat, All-Inclusive Resort

Holy crap it is -17 Celsius here today...with wind chill it feels -100!!  Time to think back to our wonderful vacation in the Florida sun a few weeks ago.

This might sound weird, but one of my biggest fears about going to the Club Med was that I would be really hungry all the time.

How is that possible at an all you can eat place?

I worried that either food would be doled out by stingy servers who would glare at you if you came up for seconds, and/or there would be so few healthy and/or appetizing options, that I wouldn't find much to eat.  For someone with a big-ass appetite, this had me concerned.  So much so, that I brought 14 Quest bars with me...enough for 2 a day, just in case.

As it turns out, I certainly didn't need to be worried about being hungry at Sandpiper!  Not only were you able to help yourself to as much as you wanted, but there were a ton of delicious, healthy options.

That being said, if, like my children, you cannot resist white carbs (pasta, pancakes, pastries, etc.), hot dogs, French fries, chicken nuggets and ice cream, than you could certainly do major damage to your arteries. I was very dismayed to see my children living on sugar, salt, nitrites, and simple carbs the whole week.  I kept joking I was going to have to put them on a detox cleanse when we got home!


At least Big A ate some raw spinach leaves a few times, as well as corn (as you see above) and some fruit.  I don't know if little A even had a single bite of fruit the whole time!  Oh wait, I think I spy some Craisins on her plate below...if you can call them fruit.

Me, on the other hand, managed to eat pretty healthy the whole time.  There were always a ton of options to suit everyone including those who eat gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan.  I was in heaven!!

I got into a rhythm of having an egg white omelet with veggies and cheddar cheese for breakfast, along with a little kale or spinach salad with salsa and 2 navel oranges or a grapefruit (hey, we were in Florida after all, gotta have some citrus!). When I got sick of the omelets, I started to make this breakfast salad with cottage cheese, salsa and a few hard boiled eggs.  I couldn't believe how filling this, comparatively small breakfast (for me) was!

I was also surprised how much I loved these savoury breakfasts as I usually love my oatmeal.  Although they always had oatmeal at breakfast, as well as grits and a bulgar/quinoa porridge, I have learned that oatmeal never tastes the same when its not made by me at home and I am always disappointed, so if I am out for breakfast I choose something totally different.

Lunch was always a base of greens (usually baby spinach), with 2-3 proteins...probably excessive but there were always so many to choose from.  I usually went with some sort of grilled chicken, a fish, and a bean dish. Then I would heap on a bunch of both raw and cooked veggies. 

Dinner was another version of lunch and I never got bored because there was a ton of variety at each meal.  There was always plain meat, fish, etc., available as well as all the kid-food crap, burgers, fries, etc., as well as a rotation of Thai, Chinese, Caribbean, Indian dishes and more.  There were always 2 soup options and a raw salad bar too.

Dessert after dinner was a few apples (I made due with Granny Smiths and Red Delicious since that's all they had), and I did still manage to eat about 2 Quest bars a a few cocktails!
While I may have eaten a lot (my brother joked that you needed a crane to lift my plates at each meal), I feel pretty good that I made healthy choices.  I avoided all the refined carbs, which were extremely plentiful, and the sweets and got a ton of fruits and veggies.
At least at this all-inclusive, you can eat as healthy or as unhealthy as you want.  I just fantasize about a day when all the unhealthy crap is gone so my kids don't gorge on it.  What a healthier world this would be if that stuff simply wasn't available!

I have submitted this post to Peas and Crayons' What I Ate Wednesday for this week.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

WholeBody Reboot: Book Review

Whole Body Reboot Book
Now is the time of year when everyone is looking for the diet that is going to help them achieve their weight loss goals once and for all.  Unfortunately, most diets don't work long term because people they are too restrictive and people cannot maintain them indefinitely.  This is also the time of year people decide to go on cleanses or detoxes to compensate for their holiday over-indulgences.  As I have said many times, these quick fixes are pointless.

When I was asked to review this book, I initially rolled my eyes.  Wholebody Reboot? It sounded like a crock, just another gimmicky diet plan for suckers.  But the part about it being based on Peruvian Superfoods intrigued me, so I decided to take a look.  I am glad I did!

Written by registered dietitian, Manuel Villacorta, originally from Peru, it provides meal plans and recipes customized for both men and women.

Villacorta shares his own personal journey with his health and details how he put on weight and began feeling sluggish and depressed when he moved from Lima, Peru to the United States, and began consuming a typical, processed North American diet.  Fed up with his state of poor health, he finally requested his mother send him recipes for his favorite Peruvian dishes and began cooking the foods he grew up with.  Soon he lost weight and improved his health.

Now, I will state up-front, these are not magic weight-loss foods.  They are, however, whole, unprocessed, nutritious foods and eating real food and cooking them from scratch is a key component to managing your weight.  Studies have shown that the more restaurant meals you consume, the higher your BMI.  This meal plan does require a lot of cooking, and honestly, I think everyone should be cooking on a regular basis.  Its an important life skill.  But, from doing weight loss counselling I know there are some people who are just never going to jump on that bandwagon.  If you are a staunch non-cook, than this plan is definitely not for you. 

Villacorta's meal plan is based on 21 Peruvian Superfoods:

1. Aji (chili peppers)
2. Artichokes
3. Avocado
4. Beans
5. Cacao
6. Camu
7. Chia Seeds
8. Cilantro
9. Kaniwa (similar to quinoa)
10. Kiwicha (amaranth)
11.  Lucuma
12. Maca
13. Papaya
14. Pichuberries (AKA: Cape gooseberry, Inca berry, Aztec berry, golden berry, giant ground cherry)
15. Purple corn
16. Purple potatoes
17. Quinoa
18. Sacha Inchi seeds & oil
19. Sweet potatoes
20. Yacon
21. Yuca

Now, most of these products are available in good health food stores, or online.  But if you can't find the fresh produce in your community, it might be tough to follow the meal plans.  All of these items are definitely superfoods, but they are also extremely expensive.  If you are on a budget, this meal plan may be beyond reach.

The book begins by describing the benefits of the superfoods.  In the second chapter, a Jump-Start Reboot Detox plan is presented to get you going.  Now, you know I hate detoxes, but he does say you are welcome to skip this part and go right to the meal plan.  At least this detox is only 5 days, but in typical 'cleanse' fashion it is a mostly liquid diet of, admittedly, yummy sounding smoothies (and I don't even like smoothies!).  He also includes protein in every smoothie and even allows for some solid food to be added if you feel the need. 

In Chapter 3, Villacorta lays out the rules:

1. Eat breakfast within an hour of waking (I don't think you need to stick to this religiously, but do eat breakfast!)
2. Do not skip meals
3. Have carbs, protein and fats at every meal
4. Don't worry about stopping eating at a certain time of day
5. Stay hydrated

This is all sound advice.

There are then meal plans laid out for men and women that are 'basic', 'gluten-free', 'vegetarian', and 'vegan'.  This is nice as it can accommodate just about anyone.

My one problem is this: While the men's meal plan is 1,800 calories, the one for women is just 1,300.  You can bet your butt you will lose weight on this, but I doubt many people can stick with such a low-calorie diet.  If you do try this and are struggling, I would bump it up to 1,500 calories/day.

I like that Villacorta addresses the issue of dining out, and in-line with the experts, recommends eating no more than 2 restaurant meals per week.  That being said, he acknowledges this may be hard for some folks, and gives guidelines for staying on track at a restaurant. I also like that he doesn't make you eliminate an entire food group like a lot of diet plans too.  You get to eat carbs, just healthy ones.

Once you have achieved your goal weight (he doesn't give a time frame), Villacorta recommends increasing your calories by 25%, which would bring women's daily total to 1,625.  That is probably doable for most moderately active women.  If you are extremely active (like me!), that definitely won't be enough. 

The last part of the book is the recipes.  I have to say my mouth watered here.  Some of these sound amazing! Roasted artichoke mashed potatoes?  Yes please!! Ceviche? Lima Bean Stew? Yuca Fries? Avocado Mango Salsa?  Yummmmmmmmm!

My one criticism is that when flour is used in some recipes, it is white, refined wheat flour.  I'd ditch that and at least replace it with whole spelt flour or a gluten-free blend.

In sum, if you like cooking and are not on a strict budget, you might like this meal plan.  The food sounds delish and you definitely will not get bored eating the same, mundane meals over and over.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Lighting Up My Life

Its Monday. Its back to work and school.  And its freezing!

So with the holidays over, winter is upon us here for at least another 3 months and that means a lot of cold and greyness.  Last winter I bought a Philips goLite BLU Energy Light to try to quell the winter blues I sometimes get.  I wouldn't say its serious enough to warrant a diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but its more like a general glumness and winter fatigue (not physical fatigue but mental fatigue from the depressing weather).  Unfortunately, I would not say it was very helpful.  Not because the device doesn't work, but because, I discovered my problem is not that I need exposure to more sunlight from a physiological perspective.  Instead, I need a break from the dreary landscape.  I need to look at something pretty and cheerful.  Even on cold days, I have in a much better mood if the sun is shining, even if I spent no time outside.

The blues always set in after the holidays and I think that's because up until New Years everything looks pretty and festive all decorated in lights and such.  We don't put anything up, of course, because we don't celebrate Christmas and lights are generally intended for Christmas. I know there is no rule that says Jews can't put up lights, but it just doesn't feel right to me to give the impression that we are celebrating Christmas.  If that sounds weird to you, well, would you put up emblems of Hanukkah around your home even though you aren't Jewish?

Anyways, I love the little white Christmas lights and they make me happy, so I decided to get some and decorate the inside of our house where the only ones who see them is us and they won't be interpreted as Christmas lights.  I am going to leave them up all winter and turn them on anytime I need a boost.  The girls are delighted by them too.  Hopefully this winter will feel a bit brighter for all of us!

If you struggle with SAD in the winter you may want to try an LED light.  Also, try waking up earlier, getting outside, and exercising daily (which you should be doing anyways!).  Even better if you can combine all 3!!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Oatmeal Date Pecan Breakfast Cake

If you have ever woken up and craved nothing but sweets and coffee for breakfast, well now you can indulge guilt free!  This cake is not-too-sweet, moist and absolutely 'awesome' in the words of my kids.  Yet they are packed full of protein, fibre and nutrition.  So stay in your pjs, read the newspaper, drink a few cups of coffee and enjoy.  A piece of this cake is also great for a mid-morning snack on your coffee break...or mid-afternoon...or for dessert after dinner.  Really, it is so good you can enjoy anytime! Ground pecans and dates give it a lovely flavour and won't believe its completely flour-free!

My blender kept getting jammed when I was making the toffee frosting so I had pieces of date in it, but that didn't stop the everyone from loving these.  You won't believe that they are gluten-free, oil-free and refined sugar-free too.

Oatmeal Date Pecan Breakfast Cake

1.4 cups cottage cheese
1/4 cup flax meal + 1/2 cup hot water
1 cup dates
1 cup pecans
1/2 cup coconut sugar (+ another 1/2 cup if you want it sweeter)
1 cup oats (gluten-free, if necessary), I used quick-cooking steel cut oats
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

Place pecans in blender and grind. Add dates, flax egg mixture, cottage cheese and sugar.  Puree until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients and pulse until combined.  Scrape into greased 9x9 square pan and bake at 350F for about 18 minutes.  Let cool and then top with frosting.  Keep in air tight container in refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze.  Makes 16 square pieces.

Date Toffee Frosting

1/2 cup dates + 1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure, uncut stevia (or 1/4 cup granular stevia)

Let dates soak in boiling water until soft, then pour dates and water into blender with remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.  Spread over cake.

I have submitted this recipe to Vegetarian Mamma's first Gluten-Free Friday of 2015 and Urban Naturale's Happy, Green and Natural Blog Hop!

Back to Reality


Is it really January 2nd already???

We've been somewhat in holiday mode for over 2 weeks around here and even though Adam and I have been working sporadically when we can, we have not been in living our full-blown, normal life.  The girls haven't had to be at school by a certain time, my practice has been quieter than usual, and Adam has been treating himself to slightly shorter workdays.  We have also done a bunch of fun activities with the girls including taking them to the new Annie movie, finally getting to Ripley's Aquarium, and going to see the James and the Giant Peach musical.  There were playdates and dinner parties, and of course, our New Year's Day party yesterday.  Now we have just the weekend left and we have to wake up and snap out of this delicious, relaxed lifestyle.  Whaaaaaaaaaaaah!

It always feels harder, the longer and more wonderful one's vacation was, huh?

Enjoy a healthy, happy weekend folks!