Snack Attack!

I love snacks but they have to be worth having or forget about it. I have learned the hard way about choosing wisely when it comes to snacking. This time of year is especially difficult for me to snack wisely since all I really want to do is what Nature intends for us to do and pack in calories to get us through the winter here in this chilly climate.  I have started making my own healthy snack options for a couple of reasons.

1: I don’t want to munch on crappy junk food.

2: Eating something just because it’s “healthy” is pointless unless you actually like it.

3: Cutting out extra sugar and sodium is easy when you are the one to decide how much to use.

4: There is nothing wrong with being frugal.

5: I really, really like to cook and bake.

One of the latest snack crazes that has risen to popularity in our house is  Roasted Chickpea Bites. These little guys pack a serious nutritional one-two punch while satisfying the need for salty or sweet (or both). One cup of chickpeas contains 10 grams of protein, approximately 15% of your RDA of iron, 6% of your RDA of calcium, 7 grams of fibre and 0 mg of cholesterol. I’m in love. Sure the calories may be on the high side at 220 calories/cup but I’m okay with that. Everything in moderation, right?

Chickpeas

Chickpeas

 

 

 

I thought you might enjoy these tasty morsels as well so I am going to share with you so you can snack-on without guilt.

Roasted Chickpea Bites

large 796 mL (28 oz ) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

olive oil

seasonings of your choice

Preheat oven to 350*F.

After rinsing the chickpeas well, pour them into a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with approximately 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil,  add your seasonings (today I used 1 tbsp of my favorite madras curry powder and 2 tbsp maple syrup), and stir.

Gathering the ingredients.

Gathering the ingredients.

 

 

Mix well to ensure each lovely little orb is coated with deliciousness.

Pour the chickpeas and any liquid onto a rimmed baking sheet. Don’t use a flat cookie sheet without a rimmed edge or you will have chickpeas all over the place, no matter how steady your hand is. I know this from experience!

Chickpeas on baking tray.

Chickpeas on baking tray.

 

 

 

Put the chickpeas into the preheated oven and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes. Wiggle the tray around every 10 minutes or so just to ensure even cooking and so the chickpeas  don’t stick to the tray. I like my chickpea bites to still be soft in the centre but crispy on the outside so after 25-30 minutes I put the oven onto broil for about 5 minutes. Watch them carefully because you can quickly gazorch (okay, burn) things very quickly under the broiler. This I also know from testing the reaction time of the smoke alarms.

Remove from the oven when they feel crispy and are dark golden brown. They will start to “pop” when they are perfectly cooked to my taste. Allow the chickpeas to cool on the tray. Don’t try to eat them when they are first out of the oven. You will burn your mouth. Yup, done that too. Once your mouth is burned you won’t be able to enjoy the yum-factor as much so please try to be patient.

Voila! Here is the finished Roasted Chickpea Bites ready to snack upon. Dig in!

roasted chickpea bites

roasted chickpea bites

 

 

 

I recommend storing the Chickpea Bites in the fridge once they have cooled down. Since there are no preservatives they will go bad quickly. These are scrumptious cold by the handful or tossed on top of salads.

“When baking, follow directions.  When cooking, go by your own taste. ” 

 ~Laiko Bahrs

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Winter Skin Blues

This frigid weather is brutal on my skin! My back is itching like crazy and my face feels as dry as a desert. I have tried product after product trying to aid my visage to no avail. The closest I have come with a manufactured product has been the gorgeous line of Shaklee Enfuselle products. I use these products on a year-round basis because they are naturally sourced and chock full of great stuff for my skin. However, this time of year always gets my skin crying out for extra TLC, no matter what. For the past few years I have slapped on coconut oil religiously and it works pretty well. However, my kids balk at the scent of it and make gasping noises when they come in for a hug. Thanks, guys. It can’t really be that bad. In the container it smells delicious like a pina colada. On my face, not so much, obviously. Weird since I can’t smell it and my nose just happens to be smack dab in the centre of my face.

 

I think I have finally come up with a solution! The past few weeks I have been experimenting. I am sort of in an obsessive domain at present since the itching and stinging of dry skin is all-encompassing. I have tried a slew of DIY concoctions with varying success and have put ingredients from different skin care recipes together in my own formulations. I have figured out that exfoliation two times per week is necessary during the winter. I’m sure there are skin gurus out there gasping somewhere. Oh well.

 

 

Almost good enough to eat!

Almost good enough to eat!

 

 

 

Perfectoid Exfoliating Scrub:

*All ingredients are approximate amounts since I just put everything into a small dish and use immediately. This makes the correct amount for one use this way everything is fresh, fresh, fresh.

 

  • 1 tsp melted organic coconut oil
  • 1 tsp avocado oil
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp used coffee grounds (or is it grinds? I am never certain)

Mix these few ingredients together and you are ready for superior exfoliating and moisturizing action!

Splash warm water on your face a few times – just water, no cleanser necessary. You will feel as though you are in a face wash commercial at this point. Turn off the tap to conserve water while applying the concoction. Scoop a bit of the mixture onto your fingertips and apply to face starting with the forehead and working your way down. Apply all of the mixture before starting to scrub. Lightly scrub in small circles starting at the forehead while leaning over the sink since bits will fling while you are scrubbing. Go easy. You don’t want to irritate your sensitive facial skin.  Allow the scrub to stay on your face for a minute or two for the most benefit. It is now time to wash off the mixture with warm water. Cool water is great for your skin but makes the oils harden slightly so it is much easier to rinse with warm water then follow with a couple splashes of cold water. Do not use any cleanser or soap to wash of the oil residue. This is beneficial to your skin and no, it will not cause breakouts.  Pat your face dry gently. Very gently.

 

You are finished!

 

For added moisturizing, I finish with a very light coat of either avocado oil or coconut oil (at night). If it feels too oily simply dab a tissue over your face to remove excess. If you wear makeup, now is the perfect time to apply. I usually add extra moisturizer to my tinted moisturizer for a more natural look anyway so this is a great way to cut out a step.

 

 

Why did I choose to use these particular ingredients? Other than they were some of the few ingredients that my very sensitive skin didn’t react wickedly to.

Coconut Oil –

  • prevents and protects skin against free radical damage.
  • aids in reestablishing the skin’s natural antimicrobial and acid barrier
  • easily absorbs into the skin and doesn’t feel greasy
  • helps to reduce inflammation

 

Avocado oil –

  •  avocado oil is rich in vitamins A, D and E, all of which  help maintain healthy skin
  • heals and soothes skin
  • keeps skin young and supple
  • helps reduce itching, dryness, and inflammation

 

 

Sugar –

  • stripping away tired old skin by using an exfoliant is rejuvenating. Exfoliants smooth your skin and help increase the production of new collagen to improve the appearance of fine lines
  • sugar is rough enough in texture to help rid the top layer of dry skin
  • can be too abrasive and cause sensitivity if scrubbed to firmly. Go easy. If white sugar is too scratchy feeling, perhaps brown sugar would be a better option for you.

 

 

Coffee Grounds –

  • contains caffeic acid which is suggested to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects
  • stimulates collagen production
  • helps skin feel silky smooth
  • great use for used coffee grounds since I am not using them in the garden this time of year
  • What can I say? I love coffee whether it be in me or on me!

 

 

 

One of the best ways to assist skin this time of the year is ensuring you maintain a high level of water consumption. I drink a lot of water because I simply like water not juices. I must admit that I suck down far too much coffee which doesn’t help but I do try to compensate by drinking extra water for every cup of coffee I consume.

 

If you try out this DIY exfoliator, please report back with your comments.

 

 

“Taking joy in living is a woman’s best cosmetic.”  – Rosalind Russell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peruse Before You Partake

I have always been interested in food. Not just what I ingest, but what others choose to consume as well. I admit that I am a discreet food snob and I am okay with this characteristic. It’s not so much that I would judge another on their choice of food but will judge the food itself against my own standard of quality. For instance, I will always choose a creamy smooth piece of spiced gouda for instance over a processed cheese slice. To me this is common sense. So maybe I’m not necessarily a food snob as I am a seeker of quality. That sounds much better.

 

 

All of this interest in food consumption has led me down many different eating paths over my lifetime . I am presently a lacto-ovo vegetarian and have been most of my life. I am presently not consuming wheat or sugar as well. I go through phases where I cut out eggs and dairy and abide by a strict vegan diet. I have even gone for a period of time as a raw food vegan and felt fantastic. I was breastfeeding my second child ( my last) during this time and she flourished and is still incredibly healthy. It just wasn’t the right diet choice for my lifestyle after a while. I find, and I’m not sure if this is just me, but living in the climate I am in I felt cold constantly in the winter months so I added some cooked food back in to stoke my internal fire up again. Twelve and a half years later I have had a huge epiphany in terms of eating habits. It is not so much about “belonging” to any one eating regime as it is about providing ourselves with food that our body will be thanking us for.  I always knew this, I just seemed to need to identify with a particular lifestyle to feel like I was doing the right thing. Not so much anymore. As you are aware, I have ventured down the road to whole food eating. This, to me, is where it’s at. There is no need to call this lifestyle choice anything but common sense eating. No need to belong to a diet plan title. This is about choosing foods that are not processed and are from the original source be it a fruit, vegetable, oil, or animal product. The further our food gets from the source the more unrecognizable it becomes to our body.

 

 

There are many within the whole foods methodology that subscribe to the Paleo diet. I am going to give my opinion now so please don’t get your knickers in a twist. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts on this. Like I said, this is my opinion. I don’t profess to be perfect or have all the answers. I only do the things that make sense to me and that feel right. I am a live by my intuition and heart type of person. Here goes…I like the idea of so many people trying to make positive change for their health. I am speaking at present of one of the newest crazes called the Paleo diet. The concept of eating what our systems were originally fed and powered on is very noble. There is one key point missing – is this really how Paleolithic humans ate? Probably not.

 

 

Common sense would suggest that eating large quantities of meat is probably not the best thing we could be doing for our bodies. Most meat is acid-forming for starters. On the topic of our Paleo forefathers and mothers diet, I am convinced that there was a heck of a lot more starchy vegetation/fruit  consumption than the Paleo ideology subscribes to. As I read blogs and articles as well as “studies” regarding Paleo eating it is very evident to me that this diet is an excuse for many folk to eat tons of meat – especially bacon.  How does this coincide with our Paleo relatives? Bacon is a form of food preservation/processing that was unknown to humans of old. This is just an example of ideas twisted to suit our desires. If my own vegetarian diet was controlled by my favorites, I would quickly become off balance consuming only aloo gobi and red wine!

 

 

I read a blog post last week regarding Paleo eating that actually made me sad. The author put the Paleo diet on a pedestal while slamming other lifestyle choices. She went on to flog vegetarianism as unhealthy and extremist. Hmmm….how very unfortunate. There are great ideas at the base of almost all eating styles however, things can quickly veer off course. The Paleo diet is a great idea at its core but has been reworked and altered to compensate for our desires.  However, to get right down to the nitty-gritty of eating perfectly Paleo the participant would need to investigate more than just a book written by one person about their idea of the perfect eating regime. In my opinion, the participant would need to first dig into their own personal ancestral past to find out where their origins started. This would give a great place to start whittling down the food choices. If they originated from an ancestral background that resided by the ocean, their diet would be composed mainly of fish and probably sea vegetables. If that aforementioned individual originated from a forested area they probably would have consumed predominantly berries, insects and game such as deer or small birds.  I venture to suggest that probably a majority of our ancestors within temperate climes ate with the focus largely on plant matter and enjoyed meat sporadically, not the other way around. This makes sense to me. Just sayin’.

 

 

Chasing down the animal content of the diet would make a huge difference as well. There is great physical exertion in hunting Paleo-style unlike walking into the grocers and picking up a nicely packaged portion of meat. Then there is the carbon footprint issue. Eating a large quantity of meat in the diet creates unnecessary waste of resources and a higher carbon footprint. If a family of four skips steak one day a week, it will have  the same impact as taking your car off the road for three months, supposedly. Not sure how accurate this fact is but it is definitely food for thought.

 

 

Do you know what your Carbon Footprint is?

Alternate Carbon Footprint calculator.

 

 

I am not simply spouting off about the Paleo diet and I am not suggesting vegetarianism is perfect. I am using this as an example due to the blogger that made me question why people make the  food choices they do.  This goes for all methods of eating as far as I’m concerned. No diet is 100% perfect. Suggesting such is foolish. When a new diet calls itself “the perfect diet” my alarm bells start ringing. The human body is a complex “machine” that relies on us to fuel it appropriately. Each of us has different needs. It can only accommodate so much before we start to see and feel inadequacies. I think if we all just stopped listening to the hype and started listening (really listening) to our bodies we could enjoy a better state of health.

 

 

 

 

” The very fact that we are having a national conversation about what we should eat, that we are struggling with the question about what the best diet is, is symptomatic of how far we have strayed from the natural conditions that gave rise to our species, from the simple act of eating real, whole, fresh food.”  – Mark Hyman

Do I Know You, Ma’am?

which one is which?bw serenity

 

 

 

There is some serious weirdness going on the past couple of days. Wherever I go, people seem to want to stop and chat. People I don’t know. I am going to take this as a sign that I look friendly. Not only am I chat-worthy, I have been told numerous times that I have a “twin” or a double. The first couple of times someone presented the twin scenario I thought it was interesting. I do believe we all resemble someone else somewhere, even remotely ,that would remind another person of someone they know. However, after a while it starts to get a bit freaky. Who is this other woman? I am curious, but at the same time a bit unnerved. What if she is a total monster! Sorry, my ego panicked a little.

 

 

When I first moved to the city where I now reside (twenty years ago – yikes!), I started hearing the “do you have a twin sister?” line. My response was, and still is, “No, and I’m not originally from around here” since the next question is always something like “Do you know so-and-so?” It is starting to get a bit old. Yesterday, my daughter and I went out for dinner for her birthday to one of her favorite places. There was a man who kept looking at me blatently…then smiled…then bee-lined for me! Needless to say I was a bit thrown. Guess what he asked me? C’mon, one guess. Bingo!  I did not know the woman he thought I looked like, of course, but it gave my daughter and I another topic of conversation – as if we needed more to talk about.

 

 

This morning I was at a coffee shop with my fabulous friend M when another customer at the counter reminded me of the incident from yesterday. As I was telling her the story, dramatically of course, the guy turned around and looked directly at me. I told M that he actually looked like the guy I was telling her about. He strolled our way with his coffee and pretended to look at the television behind us while sneaking peaks ever so discreetly at me. Finally you could see the recognition on his face that I was “the lady” from yesterday. It was quite comical and I couldn’t help but laugh out loud which made him laugh too. A brief conversation ensued that yes, I was me and he was…whoever he was. Very chatty fellow. Jokingly he insinuated that one of us was following the other to which I immaturely responded, “I was here first.” Nice one. What can I say, I called it like I saw it.  I’m sure he is a very nice man and this was obviously coincidental.  It fuelled M’s and my conversation a bit longer after he took his leave, wishing us a good day. After complimenting M’s choice of accessories, of course.

 

 

Cyndi over at Healthy A-Z has mentioned smiling more lately and I have been practicing what she is preaching. Perhaps it is working a little too well!

 

 

As for this twin of mine…where for art thou?

 

 

 

“Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.”  – Elbert Hubbard

Recycled Thoughts

Tomorrow is garbage day. Whoop-dee-doo, you say. Well, it is something to be conscious of, I think.  As I was sorting through the recycling – oh joy – and putting each item in its allotted bin I realized how much stuff we actually use. Or in this case, not use. There must be a better way than tossing everything into recycle bins. You can only reuse so much packaging without looking like the neighbourhood freakazoid with strange bird feeders hanging from every branch and nasty-looking garden sculptures. I refuse to go there so please don’t suggest that I “make stuff” with my soy milk cartons and wine bottles. OK, the wine bottles go to the Beer Store to be recycled  along with beer bottles. We receive  a deposit rebate so I won’t be making a garden wall out of wine bottles any time soon. I wouldn’t want my friends to think I drank that wine single-handedly. Come to think of it, my friends probably helped me drink most of it!

 

 

I started doing a bit of research as to what happens to our recycling once it is taken from the curbside. It is rather difficult to find specifics for the region I live in. Yes, we seem to have a great recycling program. Almost everything can be recycled and/or composted. Or can it? This is my question. Are the items we put into our recycle and city green waste bins really being recycled? I need to look into this further for my own information. I am a firm believer in recycling, reusing, and most of all reducing. I would almost always pay more or somewhat inconvenience myself in the name of being earth-friendly. I am OK with this. I prefer to carry bulky reusable water bottles with me than buy a plastic bottle of water. My kids lunch bags are jam-packed with containers instead of plastic baggies. I purchase household laundry and cleaning products that are super concentrated to avoid excess packaging (see the Live Love Be Green website at the right side of this blog  for more details). I don’t even get a newspaper to cut down on paper use. Mind you, the newspaper is pure crap. I find spelling errors in almost every article and it is written at a very low skill level which I find aggravating. I still have too much recycling to put to the curb each week. Sigh.

 

 

 

I need to find a way to reduce the amount of recycling that finds its way to my blue and grey bins. That is the situation I am dealing with here.  I came across a statistic that states on average, 16% of the purchase price of a product is in its packaging which ultimately just ends up being tossed in the garbage or recycle bin. Think of all the money we could be saving. I shall be more diligent and mindful of packaging before I purchase an item rather than after as I am stuffing it into my bin, cursing under my breath about too much wasted paper/plastic. The weird thing is, when I look around my kitchen I see a lot of non-packaged items. We eat a LOT of fresh fruits and veggies that are in the packaging that Mother Nature provided. No pre-cut lameness here. It takes about 30 seconds to cut an apple into slices. Why on earth would I buy apples pre-sliced and needing a preservative to keep them appearing “fresh”. Stupidity. Sorry if this offends you but, seriously? I think I went off topic…again. Sounds like my conversations with my friends over coffee or one of those bottles of wine that won’t be made into a garden sculpture.  I purchase large bags of dried beans and lentils as well as ginormous bags of rice to avoid a bunch of little wasted bags and to get a better per unit price.  It baffles me how we seem to accumulate so much in the way of packaging.

 

 

As far as garbage that goes out to the curb, our household generally puts out one small grocery bag in our garbage pail each week. I think at Christmas we were extravagant and put out four small grocery bags one week. I was wracked with guilt. Briefly. Then I compared that with the amount we used to put in the garbage pail even 5 years ago and am amazed at the progress we have made. For the most part without any inconvenience.  I don’t think my family even realizes that they are making any sort of added effort to reduce their garbage since I have implemented an easy to use system that requires minimal thinking. Oh, I am so cunning.

 

 

How do you keep your packaging and recycling amounts to a minimum?

 

 

 

 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  – Margaret Mead

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter at the Beach

lighthouse

Today the sun was shining brightly and the temperature  a cool 4 degrees celsius. My body was longing to be in the fresh, cool air so I set out for a walk. My feet took me to the beach. The beach on a sunny winter’s day is miraculous. The biting breeze off the water was invigorating and the beach was still. I noticed that the sound of the beach in the winter is totally different from in the summer. It was incredible.

There were a few other people around but the stillness was peaceful. A few men were fishing along the pier and there were a handful of other walkers but no one else ventured onto the beach other than myself and a lady running with her dog. An older couple was feeding bread to the seagulls.

Tucked Away for the Winter

Tucked Away for the Winter

The marina was quiet with all of the boats tucked away snuggly for their winter slumber.

looking down the pier

looking down the pier

On  one side of the pier the water was still and the sun shone off of it as though it were ice. The other side of the pier the water was rough with ice chunks and waves. It seemed as though the water had a dual personality.

The icy, rough water was hypnotizing and calming. The sound of the water on the rocks soothing.

 

 

 

 

Looking from the pier toward the beach, the breaking ice reminded me of shaved ice in a glass. If it wasn’t so cold it would have tempted me to have a margarita!

The sound of the ice chunks bobbing around and clinking against one another was like music. Sweet, tiny chimes playing an enchanted song for whoever would take a moment to slow down and listen.

melting ice

 

 

 

Snow-Ice-Water

Snow-Ice-Water

The snow on the beach, the icy bits and the open water of the lake created distinct layers that intrigued me.

Beach in the Winter

Ah.. the beach all to myself.

I see a strong resemblance to Gumby. Minus the head shape. Mine seems to be the size of a pea from this perspective.

Windswept Sand

Windswept Sand

The sand. Windswept and beautiful.

Remnants of Summer

Remnants of Summer

 

 

 

Seagulls

Being in the fresh, wintry air by the water was invigorating. I felt the rosy glow on my cheeks from the breeze and the warmth of the winter sun on my face.

Turning for home, I looked forward to getting back to my kitchen where it was warm.

The apples and squash on my kitchen counter were awaiting my arrival.

“What nature delivers to us is never stale. Because what nature creates has eternity in it.”  – Isaac Bashevis Singer

On A Mission – 2013

I fear the New Year’s ball dropped on my head. I can’t seem to get focused the last couple of days, but not for lack of trying. I have so many ideas and projects swirling around inside my noggin that I am trying to process that I feel like I need a vacation to recoup from the Holidays! Does anyone else feel like this?

 

 

I was excited at saying goodbye to 2012 and welcoming in 2013. I even sat down on New Year’s Day and jotted down my intentions for this year. I started doing this last year and I referred back to my notebook throughout the year. Some of the things I listed were accomplished efficiently while many other points remained untouched. I don’t want to carry over last year’s intentions and feel weighed down by them so I created a new list without rereading last year’s before doing so. There were a few similar items on my lists but the intentions became more focused, less general. A good friend and I were discussing intent a few months ago and she said something that felt like she had hit a gong inside my skull. “If you are general and vague with your intentions, you will get a vague result.” I don’t want wishy-washy results. I want clear, concise results! So, while writing my intentions for this year, I was precise and to the point. It is only as hard as you make it. We have become so conditioned to feel sheepish about saying what we really want; even to ourselves. Don’t be. You are worth wanting to better yourself, to move in a forward direction. There is no shame in accomplishing a goal you have set for yourself or acting on a dream. Put aside ego when you jot down your list of intentions. It shouldn’t be about what others think of you or how much power you hold over others. This should be about allowing your innermost dreams, goals and insight to speak up.

 

 

 

I will share one of my goals with you. Like many other people, I like to think of the New Year as a clean slate; a jumping-off point for change. Last September, I made the leap and went 30 days without wheat, sugar or dairy. It was incredible! A few of you took that journey with me and for you I am grateful. It was such a great support mechanism to share the experience with like-minded people. I even made a few new friends out of the experience which made it even better. I lost 22 pounds  and went down three pant sizes by changing my food choices. I felt more energetic and healthier than ever before all within a week or so of changing what I was consuming.  Over the past month, the omitted items seemed to slowly creep back in. Not to the extent I had eaten them prior to September, but they were still there. I have set myself the goal of kicking wheat, sugar and dairy once again. I started January 1st and can already feel a difference. Pretty powerful. I have 15 more pounds to go before I reach my college weight. I am having a really hard time wrapping my head around this. I never thought I would ever get this close again to that number. I have always tried to maintain the “weight isn’t just a number” mentality. That only works for so many years before I realized that  those 15, 20, 50 extra pounds are creating health challenges over the long-term that I have absolutely no interest in. The number on the scale is relevant as long as you factor in other aspects of health as well. I am interested in a sculpted, muscular body not a stick. I would rather have the scale tell me I am a few extra pounds of muscle than it give me a  smaller number and not be in optimal health.  Partnered with proper fuel (food), this says “healthy” weight to me. So, my goal/intention is to lose the remaining 15 lbs while eating wheat/gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free and being active for at least 30 minutes each and every day.

 

 

Yesterday and today I put away the Christmas tree and decorations and cleaned up any bits left behind.  Packing away the signs of the holidays makes me realize that I am no longer in celebratory slow-mo. I need to give my head a shake, flick off the dust, and get a move on. I am primed and ready to meet 2013 with a vengeance – I have dreams and goals to accomplish!

 

 

 

 

“Reach high, for stars lie
hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.”

Pamela Vaull Starr