Thanksgiving Challenge

Last year at this time I was in full-out Thanksgiving dinner mode. See last year’s post here. This year I thought I was going to cruise through the weekend with absolutely no stress in sight. Alas, here I am on Thanksgiving Monday in the throes of assembling something “wow-worthy”. If not for my family’s enjoyment then at least my own sense of accomplishment. Here’s the thing…since we went to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving for a couple of days I figured that I wouldn’t feel like preparing one myself so I didn’t fill my fridge and pantry with any of the necessary ingredients. This Thanksgiving Day I have decided to challenge myself by putting together a full spread with a near empty kitchen. I seem to like this type of challenge since I do this type of thing frequently. I cook with the spirit of adventure – trying new things is great fun and I seldom use recipes except to bake.  I am sticking to an Autumn harvest theme in celebration of the season.

 

At present I have a luscious smelling pot of pumpkin and roasted garlic soup simmering on the stove. It is chock full of delicious organic ingredients and fresh herbs from my garden. In the oven is a cauliflower roasting away with real butter (mmmm…) and a sweet mesquite spice blend.  I have yet to sort out a main dish but I suspect a chickpea something or other is about to be concocted.  I’ll report back on that if anyone is interested in the comments below.  Cyndi over at Healthy A-Z inquired as to whether I would be making the gluten-free pumpkin pie that I made last year. She inspired me to do so. Sadly, my cupboards were void of the necessary items so I have decided to whip up a spiced custard and serve with baked apples. 

 

This time of year encourages me to get busy in my kitchen and get back to the simplicity of great food using what is being harvested. Soups and stews fill my foodie brain and I enjoy the run out to the back garden to snip herbs for whatever is in the works on the stove. I am usually hopping from stone to stone down the garden path in my bare feet and quickly darting back into the warmth of my fragrant kitchen with my arms full of healthy goodness.  

 

To all of my fellow Canadians, may you be filled with thanks for all of your blessings and enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and family. To all the non-Canadians, let the spirit of gratefulness bring you peace at this splendid time of year.

 

 

 

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”  – Oprah Winfrey

 

 

 

 

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Breakfast Bliss

breakfast with Buddha

breakfast with Buddha

 

Breakfast this morning was a blissful start to the day.

What could be more sinfully satisfying than a bowl of warm chocolatey, coconutty sumptuousness?

A few days ago I happened upon a recipe for chocolate banana breakfast quinoa that made my taste buds dance at the thought. While reading through the ingredients I mentally omitted certain things and added others.

The original recipe can be found here. The first ingredient to hit the chopping block was banana. Over the past couple of years I get this weird mouth-feel from bananas that makes me highly uncomfortable. Okay, that sounds kind of weird. I guess I should be more specific. I may possibly have a slight allergy to bananas or at least an intolerance since my mouth and throat get a tingly, fuzzy feel and my stomach feels as though I swallowed a bowling ball. Does that explain why the banana was axed?

Instead, I aimed for pure gastronomic pleasure and substituted with coconut.  Gosh I love coconut. I would lay in a tub filled to the brim with coconut milk and drink pina coladas if the situation ever presented itself.  Yes, I am mad for coconut.

I think I need to stop and compose myself with a sip of coffee. Or three.

Let’s get down to business now, shall we? Collect your ingredients and let’s get the quinoa simmering so you can make yourself a cup of coffee while its doing it’s thing.

Fixin's for chocolate-macaroon breakfast quinoa

 

Quinoa

Coconut milk – read your ingredients before buying since most coconut milk contains preservatives. Find one without if possible.

Honey – unpasteurized is my preference. I want the “good stuff” that’s meant to be there.

Cocoa – I am trying to use up a large canister I bought for Christmas baking. Choose an organic, fair trade cocoa if you can.

Water

Coconut – shredded, unsweetened and preservative-free.

Sliced almonds

Now that all the ingredients are collected, let’s put the quinoa on to cook.

Make sure to rinse the quinoa well before using to avoid the bitter taste from the protective layer of saponin that covers the grain to repel birds and insects. Put 1/2 cup of washed quinoa into a small pot and add 1/2 cup of water, a handful of shredded coconut, and 1 cup of coconut milk. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer for about 10-15 minutes. I covered the pot but you don’t need to. Watch it doesn’t boil over and make a mess of your stove top like I did.  The smell of burning coconut milk is not pleasant. This is where you can make yourself a cup of coffee or tea and relax for a few minutes. When the liquid is almost fully absorbed, remove from heat.

 Add 2 tsp of cocoa and 2 tsp of honey. Stir well. Top with a little coconut milk, shredded coconut and slivered almonds.

Find somewhere comfortable to sit while savouring your morning meal. Lingering over each bite and being mindful of enjoying the goodness of sustenance makes it all worthwhile. When we rush to consume “whatever” in the morning we are doing ourselves a disservice. I know I feel so much better and more clear-headed when I sit down, put on some music or just enjoy the silence while eating instead of trying to multi-task while walking around.

” To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” – Buddha 

Ties That Bind

The ties that bind us together. Family, friends and those that weave in and out of our lives to deliver timely messages whatever they might be. On my Path through life I am often reminded how we are all connected to each other by seemingly invisible threads. I have learned that there are many different types of bonds in life; the bond of genetics is strong. Within my heart is a huge section reserved for my family. My parents, my sisters and those that surrounded me by relation. I have an amazing family that I am very honoured to be a part of. My sisters mean the world to me. Although we are each very unique we are also very similar…eerily similar sometimes. We laugh at the same things without speaking or even eye contact and often feel that the other is in some sort of distress just by intuition. Sounds kind of hokey but I think it speaks loudly of our concern and respect for each other as well as the strong familial connection. As we mature, it seems as though we are drawn back toward each other. We don’t get the pleasure of spending much time together as all three of us live in different cities. A few recent family events through both loss and health challenges has brought us back to a common goal of caring for each other. It is interesting how Life throws us back together when we need each other without realizing it.

 

 

This past weekend I had the opportunity to spend some time with my family. My daughter and I went back to my childhood home to visit. On the way, we stopped off in Toronto to visit with my sister since she had flown in for work. I live fairly close to Toronto so this was a great opportunity for us to spend time together. Growing up, my sister was my closest ally. It was rejuvenating to get to spend time with her and my daughter together. This occasion allowed my daughter and I some time exploring on our own as well. We walked arm and arm down Yonge Street in Toronto and enjoyed each others’ company while we wandered aimlessly through the Eaton Centre. I am not a shopper by any means and I really do try to steer clear of malls and the materialism that is reinforced within its’ confines. However, the Eaton Centre is a really unique space. It is a landmark and focal point of downtown Toronto. It covers two city blocks and is four stories of shopping galleries while having a six-story glass domed ceiling. The Eaton Centre attracts approximately 50 million people per year with 25% of those visitors being tourists. It is a vibrant location in the heart of the city. It’s interesting how the mall itself still has the same feel it had when I visited it as a kid even though the stores have all changed. It is clean and bright and caters to eclectic tastes, not just the same stores and restaurants you find in every other mall in Canada.

 

 

 

Eaton Centre, Toronto

Eaton Centre, Toronto

 

Eaton Centre fountain

Eaton Centre fountain

 

 

 

My daughter was awestruck by Sephora while I just wanted to run as fast as I could away from it while plugging my nose! Sorry Sephora fans. Admittedly, it was a beautifully laid out store and the products are high quality. That is not the reason for my disdain. The odours of vanity hit my nose like a huge green cloud of toxicity. Nail polish remover, perfume, and masks of makeup on every female in the store hiding her natural beauty underneath. Makeup is meant to accent a woman’s beauty when worn on a “regular day”, not as though she were about to perform on stage! I guess I don’t share a flair for the (over)dramatic. I don’t think of myself as unkempt by any means but I felt as though I was totally naked walking through this establishment with my real face showing. I personally subscribe to the thought that we are each given something unique and beautiful, why try to look like everyone else? On that note, we carried on through the mall taking in all of the sights we aren’t normally bombarded with in our city which is surrounded by wineries and natural beauty. I love spending time in large urban areas. Seeing and experiencing how other people live is eye-opening. A reminder of why I have chosen the life I am living is essential sometimes.

 

 

 

Metal Sculpture

Metal Sculpture

view from 21st floor

 

 

 

Later that day, the three of us went out to enjoy dinner together. We found an incredible little place that served vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free pizza, pasta and desserts. Oh, and beer.  Jackpot! It was a great little hole in the wall that we all enjoyed immensely. If you are in Toronto and have the opportunity to eat at the Magic Oven I highly recommend it. The service was friendly, the prices reasonable and the food outstanding.  After dinner we headed to Chinatown. I love Chinatown, but sadly it was getting late and the shops were closing up for the night. My daughter had the shock of her life when she stepped on what she thought was a fish head (who knows what it really was) and I just couldn’t stop laughing at her reaction. If you’ve ever watched the show Pitchin’ In with Lynne Crawford and have heard her when her gag reflex kicks in, this was what my daughter sounded like. Hilarious. We booked it back to our hotel in the -10 degree weather as quickly as possible so we could warm up again. It was an enjoyable, if not frigid, walk. We stopped long enough to snap a pic on this extremely cool sculpture outside the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario). I got stuck holding the bags of desserts while my daughter clambered around behind me.

 

 

 

Sculpture outside the AGO

Sculpture outside the AGO

 

 

 

Saying goodbye to my sister as we left was, as always, bittersweet. I love spending time with her but that was merely the start to our busy weekend. Two more family and friend-filled days ensued. I got to spend some much-needed time with my other sister and parents. Visiting at “home” was a much more relaxed pace which was enjoyable after the hustle and bustle of the two days prior.

 

 

Catching up with my dear friend Crystal (Change My Body, Change My Life)  after a few months apart was grounding. Bringing me back to introspection. She is so good at reminding me to ask myself the important questions in life. She seems to always be able to read me like a book which is very comforting. There is no need to explain myself but just to be who I am…whatever heart space I happen to be in.  I am honoured to know that I am also a safe place for her. We help feed each others’ souls with positivity. Thank you.

 

 

These are merely snippets from my weekend spent reconnecting. Pulling the ties that bind closer to my heart. My world is more colourful and glorious because of those that grace the stage of Life.

 

 

 

 

“The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.” – Henry Miller

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

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

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