Relax…and Have A Bite of Coconut Butter

I feel as though I’ve been running in circles lately but never get everything accomplished that I would like to. Am I simply trying to take on too much? I would like to think I can tackle everything I would like to accomplish but as I mature I am finding that instead of doing more, I like the idea of “leaving space” in my day. Space to do, well…whatever. Usually quiet meditation or sitting outside with my eyes closed listening to the sounds of nature. This is my favourite way to center myself or relax if I’m feeling stressed. It may sound hokey, but it works. Try it the next time you feel nervous, frustrated, stressy, or just want a few minutes of peace. Hopefully the neighbour and his Harley won’t choose this moment to rev the engine and floor it up and down the street repeatedly!

 

 

 

 

One of the things that seems to be occupying my mind, and actions, a lot lately has been food. Food in the sense of meal planning, preparation, cooking, reading cookbooks, grocery shopping, and generally all things food related. I am engrossed in clean eating and loving it!  I certainly don’t find being food-obsessed a hardship by any means. Quite the opposite, really. I am excited by the prospect of trying new things. The best part of it all though is how incredibly fabulous I feel. I never walk away from the table hungry, nor do I find it hard to move from over-stuffing myself with heavy foods. My hunger is satiated and my body refueled with clean energy!

 

One of the many incredible members of the clean food group I am part of on Facebook  posted a link to a recipe for coconut butter. I knew instantly that I had to try it! It took a bit to source the coconut since I wanted organic unsweetened coconut with no sulphites or other preservatives or nasty stuff in it. For some reason it was painfully difficult to find dried unadulterated organic coconut. Weird. I did manage to find it eventually and it was not too outrageously priced either. So yesterday I whipped up a batch of coconut butter. Super simple and super sinful. I think this is hands-down one of the best things I have ever made (or eaten for that matter.) Warning: If you don’t like coconut do NOT, I repeat, do NOT make this. You will hate it since it is totally in-your-face with coco-nutty goodness.

 

To make your own coconut butter you only need two ingredients. Unsweetened shredded coconut and coconut oil, preferably organic. That’s it! How fabulous is that?  You will need either a blender or a mini food chopper. I used a mini food chopper since I knew my  blender wouldn’t perform the task at hand well. Add about half the bag of coconut into the mini chopper and start whizzing it up. In about 5 minutes it will start to stick together. At this point I put about a teaspoon of coconut oil in to help with the dryness. I think it was close to 15 minutes in total that I was blending it in the mini chopper in which time I added about another half teaspoon of coconut oil. Once it comes to your desired consistency, pour it into a clean jar and allow it to set a bit before you dig in. The jar on the front left is the finished coconut butter. I apologize for my jar looking a bit goopy but we couldn’t resist and have been indulging before I was able to snap a picture. Is it possible to wrestle something out of your own hands? That’s basically what I had to do to leave the jar alone long enough to take this pic! Sad, I know. I’m crazy for coconut!

Now that I’m all riled up about this new-found food affair I’m having, I think I had better go outside for a bit and let Mother Nature relax my senses.

“There is sweet water inside a tender coconut. Who poured the water inside the coconut? Was it the work of any man? No. Only the Divine can do such a thing.” -Sri SathyaSai Baba

 
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Beginning My Clean Food Journey

photo: agricultureresource.com

An incredible woman who is a dear friend of mine decided it was time for her to go further on her quest for great health through clean eating. She put it out there to the Universe, and her Facebook friends, that she was hoping that someone would take the journey of the Whole30 plan with her. In support of my friend, I offered to join her. I am so glad I did. I wasn’t the only one though that decided to rise to the challenge as a great group of people joined together to support each other and share ideas and experiences along our one month challenge. My friend started up a group page on Facebook called The Whole 30 Clean Month Poutine Detox. What a perfectly fitting title since poutine had become a bit  like a magnet for me (and her too by the sound of things) over the summer. I hadn’t had poutine in years since  it is prepared using gravy (which = animal product) and I am vegetarian. I decided to make my own poutine so my kids could taste this delicious Canadian treat. A poutine monster was reborn. Lo-and-behold a new poutinerie opened in my city which makes vegetarian gravy for their mouth-watering poutine and an addiction of sorts was formed. I am normally pretty careful about what I choose to eat but for some unknown reason when it came to poutine it was like I went into a hypnotic state and my will to resist vanished. I didn’t like this new addition to my thought (and eating) pattern. And here is where the Poutine Detox comes in! I must say this challenge could not have come at a better time. I was ready for positive change.

Each of us in this support-type group are dealing with our own food demons or lifestyle choices that could have been better surrounding food. We all start at different levels in our dietary choices with the same goal – to be healthier. Who doesn’t want better health? So it is the Whole30 plan that is the base to our month-long clean food poutine detox. It is interesting to hear how others are doing on their journey. My journey feels a bit unique as I think I am the only vegetarian in the group. If I’m misinformed, feel free to tell me. I have had to make my own plan due to the fact that the real Whole30 is basically a paleo-type eating style. I will not under any circumstances consume another Being. Unless of course I am ever lost in the wilderness with nothing else to eat or I would starve to death. Hopefully I will never experience this. So, instead of consuming meat I have included legumes and beans which I eat a lot of normally with no ill effects. I have also discovered a love for nut butters and tofu as alternatives to meat.

A few things I have learned along my journey thus far:

  • I no longer gag involuntarily at the thought of tofu.
  • Eggs are not my friend.
  • Sugar is nasty stuff that can control your mind until you break free of the cycle. I no longer crave anything sweeter than a fresh piece of fruit.
  • Processed food is not our friend. I knew this going into this journey but the past couple of weeks has really amplified this point.
  • The detox process (Day 2 and 3) were like having the flu. I seriously hate that feeling.
  • Exercise is not evil but fun! Yup, I said exercise is fun. Strange but true. Although I draw the line at certain forms of exercise.
  • The clothes in my closet are quickly becoming baggy. I don’t like saggy-bummed jeans. They are not at all attractive.
  • I don’t feel gnawing hunger like I did a month ago come mid-afternoon. I feel great when I eat small snacks throughout  the day that are fresh and wholesome.
  • I am losing my taste for coffee! I’m not so thrilled about this one. I always filled my mug about 1/3 of the way with soy milk and now I’m drinking it black. It is tasty but I don’t feel the need for cup after cup all day long.
  • My energy levels are pretty stable unlike they used to be. I would feel up and down in my energy all day prior to eating clean, whole foods only.
  • Eliminating wheat has been a God-send. I wish I had done this years ago! It is ridiculous how many things our society eats that are centered around wheat. It was a difficult process to break the habit of wheat-based meals such as sandwiches or bagels with cream cheese. I feel so much healthier not eating wheat.
  • Not eating dairy has been the easiest adjustment for me since I didn’t eat a lot of dairy anyway. Organic hormone-free dairy is a budget-buster for a family and I have no interest in the alternative of  funding the corruption of factory-farmed business and the propaganda of the dairy board. I love to support farmers and what they do but ethics trump all else on this issue for me.
  • I enjoy having curves, not jiggly bits. Being comfortable in my own skin is a great bonus to eating “clean”.

So I must give a big thank you to my wonderful friend over at Change My Body, Change My Life. Without her little push I would still be scarfing down poutine and pastries without a thought to how it affected the way I feel over the long-term. I found this approach of  “cold-turkey” elimination of offending foods easier than removing one thing at a time. This isn’t for everyone. Removing something as simple as one soda per day or the sugar in your morning coffee will make a difference to your overall health. I would like to clarify something. This lifestyle choice to eat whole clean food is NOT a crash diet. It is not all about losing weight or being brainwashed. I think it is just the opposite. Eating food in its original whole form is the origins of nurturing or bodies and feeding our need for sustenance. Our body will adjust accordingly and will find its true weight. We have all been brainwashed to believe that convenient non-food items are good nutrition. That because a package states that the product inside has less fat or sodium than it used to makes it a healthy choice. Our taste buds have been primed to want things taste a certain way; saltier, sweeter, or just more of whatever we happen to be consuming.  If we just stop to think a moment about the rates of obesity and illnesses that are diet-related it would become very clear that real food is superior to fake food.

“Don’t dig your grave with your own knife and fork.” ~ English Proverb

Rainy Day Play

There is something so therapeutic about waking up to the sound of rain. The softness is enveloping. This morning was one of these peaceful awakenings. It  has set the stage for a wonderful day.

My usual cup of strong coffee with a touch of cinnamon was accompanied this morning by a big bowl of homemade applesauce that I made yesterday from local organic apples with, of course, loads of cinnamon. Yum. After breakfast, my daughter and I spent about half an hour or so braiding each others’  hair for fun while watching old episodes of Charlie’s Angels. We have been working our way through the original series which came out in 1976. We are enjoying and having lots of laughs over the clothing choices of the 70’s. I forgot how popular jumpsuits were!  Not that I was into fashion much in the 70’s since I was only 3 when the show premiered.  After the braiding, which we removed afterwards, we got down to business – and wrestled! Everyone should wrestle for fun at least once a month. It’s hilarious, as long as you are being mindful of your opponent. We  always end up in fits of giggles and trying to catch our breath. Good times. Playing is something that as adults we think we should forget about and be serious all the time. Until I heard Deepak Chopra once say that everyone should remind themselves to play, I forgot how important it was to just let go and stop being serious about everything. Life is meant to be enjoyed at the same time as being productive so why not relax a bit and have some laughs! If you know me personally you will know that I love a good laugh. Laughter is like sunshine for the soul.

Once we got ourselves together, it was time to shift into constructive mode. We had to SHOP! Yes, I said shop. I am not a “shopper” in general. Walking around slowly in mobs of people under fluorescent lighting is excruciating to me. If I have a purpose, such as I had today, I am fine. We executed our list quickly and efficiently so that we could stop into the local Greek Festival on our way home for some lunch. This is where we,yet again, gave thanks for a rainy day since the food line up was short and speedy. A parking spot was quickly located close to the festival so we could jump out, run to the food tent, then run back to the car to take our lunch home.

At present I am taking part in eating only whole foods and have eliminated wheat, dairy, and sugar for the month of September. This posed to be a challenge as I salivated over the thought of spanikopita, greek salad with feta and baklava. Groan. I did bend the rules today fellow “whole food poutine detox” friends. I ate a container of greek vegetarian rice with vegetables. It was perfectly cooked rice in a vegetable broth with cooked vegetables. No cheese, no wheat and no sugar – but there was rice and salt.  I am not beating myself up over this since I only have access to this dish once per year. For the record, it was amazing. If you would like to know more about the group and what we are participating in simultaneously while giving each other support, check out the Facebook page called The Whole30 Clean Month Poutine Detox.

In addition to yesterday’s post about the changing of the seasons I noted something interesting as I was in the grocery store this morning. The pull of autumn is definitely strong. My arms were  full of apples and squash. I’m in full Fall mode. Just thought I would share that in case you happen to be interested. I think a butternut squash soup is in order for dinner on this rainy near-autumn day.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”   – George Bernard Shaw

The Seasons They Are A Changing

Can you feel it? The seasons are starting to shift. I love the coming of autumn, before it starts to get too chilly. Usually I would agree with the Staples commercial that “back to school” is the most wonderful time of the year. This year, I’m not buying it. I have loved having my children around for the past two months just relaxing and going at the easy pace that is a big part of summer. The chaos of scheduling is set to begin. I will not let it control me. I will stay calm in the face of the somewhat frantic pace.

 

I will enjoy the lusciousness of autumn. The sound of the leaves blowing on the trees in the breeze. The crunch of leaves under my feet. The smell, ah the wonderful fragrance of autumn air. I think this is one of my favourite smells- up there with fresh cut grass, fresh baked bread and freshly ground coffee. I’m sensing a pattern here – fresh is best.

 

It’s still hot and humid here but the change is in the air. The early mornings are cool and earthy smelling. Nature is giving signs of the changing seasons. The squirrels are starting to stockpile food, the Canadian geese are flying in formation, and the flora is in the transition to dormancy or one last hoorah before their life comes to an end. For me, the changing of seasons is upon me when I start to want heartier, warming foods such as homemade soups and stews. Apples seem to beckon to me from the orchards to come and get them. My mouth waters at the thought. There is a strange drawing out of one season as the next one begins at the moment. Summer’s bounty is still ripening while autumn’s is just starting. Amazing. Tomatoes and apples…I’m in heaven.

 

Autumn is bittersweet in a way. I love so many aspects of the season, especially the beautiful warm tones of colour variation – reds, oranges, and golds. The plumpness of pumpkins. The crispness of biting into a fresh apple. On the other hand, it is time to start winding down in the garden. The growing season for so many wonderful crops, like tomatoes, is coming to an end. I always feel a bit deflated when it is time to start pulling out the tomato plants from the garden and begin the prep for winter. I guess the upside is that autumn brings it’s own bounty. Of course, after autumn comes winter when I can get a roaring fire going in the fireplace and pour myself a glass of gamay or pinot noir to sip while watching the flames dance. There is something to celebrate with each and every season. I must remind myself not to get too far ahead and just enjoy the “now”.

 

 

“To be interested in the changing season is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.”   – George Santayana