Fall.

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My yoga series this season was “fall into yoga” and my heart feels like falling in love with everything!  So I am in my kitchen this week falling into everything the season has to offer, loving the crisp air, the honeycrisp apples, and the colours of change.

This week’s meal plan:

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  • Spinach Salad with tempeh bacon and egg. (Like a chef’s salad – for a vegetarian!)

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  • Red Lentil Rotini with Pumpkin Sauce (easy as pie to make!!)  And yes the red lentil pasta is pricey…I was hoping to give it a go and then buy in bulk at Costco.  Which we will now be doing.  We LOVED this!  Did not love the $8.99 price tag for the 12oz box…but love the 21g of protein per serving.  And no, the picture does not do this dish justice.

 

  • IMG_4506Broccoli and Cheddar Soup with crusty whole grain and seed bread (This was pulled out of the freezer from when I made it 2 weeks ago – LOVE freezer days when I don’t have to cook!)

 

 

  • Butternut squash soup and crusty whole wheat bread

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I wanted to give you a better idea of how to speed things up in the kitchen (or at least my kitchen) and also a good idea on pricing…(since I’m starting to spend a little more gearing up for Christmas). Soooo….

IMG_4507I bought a butternut squash from our local grocer. Buying it whole meant saving quite a lot of cash ($0.79/pound).  I also bought some pre-cut, and on sale ($2.99/pound)  I call it the *time saver, money spender*!  The squash cutting requires a fair amount of effort, and a sharp kitchen knife.

I think it’s worth it, considering the extra effort yields a substantial amount.  I still go back and forth, as this is one of the few things I have repeatedly cut myself doing.  And it always seems to happen at the most inopportune times.  I did not cut myself today.  Hence why I have time to write about it!

I bought about 1.5lb of pre-cut butternut squash (rang in at $4.50) and then about 3.5lb of a regular squash (rang in at $2.75) So I got more than twice as much for less than half the price.  You can see the difference in the picture of my hard work of cubed goodness compared to the store’s boxed.

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I also have started adding lentils to our butternut squash soup recipe.  We are all very active in this family and being vegetarian I try to get protein in where ever I can.  This is a no brainer here, as the red lentils don’t add much flavour to the soup, but add a good amount of protein, which I feel rounds out the meal nicely.  It also keeps us full for longer…if vegetarian fare (or soups in general) are a cause for complaint in your home. (Hi Dad!)

IMG_4509To make the soup I start by heating up the butter or oil in my large stock pot.  I saute the onion until translucent and then add the cubed squash, IMG_4514lentils, boiling water, broth, salt, and pepper.  I simmer for 20min.  After simmering I use an immersion blender to process the soup into a fine puree.  Alternately you could transfer back and forth from a countertop blender to puree.  I keep the heat on low until we are ready to eat and serve with a hearty toasted bread.  Alone this recipe can feed 8.  We split it up and freeze half so it makes a freezer meal for later.  And the kids LOVE it.  Tonight my 4 year old ate two full bowls and my 2 year old ate three full bowls (plus their bread).  And yes, three toddler-bowl-fulls is more than what I ate.  It is that good.

Pumpkin muffins also made an appearance this week.  Yeah for fall!!  They are filled with a cream cheese icing of sorts and are amazing.  Worth that little bit of extra effort.

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Like what you see?  Let me know (or share).  And if you don’t, don’t.

Happy Week!

 

 

Pain.

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I sat down to write this blog tonight, and frankly I just don’t know where to start.  So I’ll begin at the beginning and when I’m done will be the end.  First things first.

Pain.

The most constant thing on my mind since having my braces adjusted.  (Yes, I have braces.  19 months now.  But who’s counting right?)  And every month with an adjustment comes pain.  And soft food.  And soups. (My husband hates soups, so in effect my pain causes him pain.)

Me and my better half...and the braces.

Me and my better half…and the braces.

The kids too.  Have you ever noticed that being in constant nagging pain makes you kind of a painful person to be around?  I think if you asked my kids, and they could articulate how they really felt about me, I’m pretty sure my braces being adjusted causes them pain too. (If only in the way that the constant ache makes me less resistant to noise, like drums and whistles and screeching – in joy or not.)

So this week might be a painful read.  But I promise to give you some really good recipes out of it.  The one thing that makes me happy is filling my family with healthy food, bursting with love and joy.  And also softness (literally and figuratively) as I try to be gentle to myself (physically and emotionally).

These type of weeks are effective tools in helping me to ask for what I need (quiet please…and maybe an Advil). Also hugs.  Compassion goes a long way in the road to dealing with what’s bugging you. Even when it comes from a 2 year old.

And now the recipes! (Excitement over these is also a from of pain-escapism!)  This week’s meal plan is amazing!

  • Broccoli and Cheddar Soup (adapted from The Vegetarian Bible).  I would have taken pictures of this as I made it.  But it is ugly.  Really truly.  Boiled broccoli can have this beautiful green colour, but when you boil it down to be blended…let’s just say it’s not the same green.  Also for this recipe I do not recommend making it unless you have a food processor.  Unless you just love grating potatoes and cheese by hand for extended periods.  The end result keeps me coming back for more.   Which is good because this recipe makes a LOT.
  • IMG_4019White Bean and Kale Soup.  I know I know, I keep posting this.  But honestly it is only because I KEEP making it.  And the husband kinda sorta likes this one (as much as a soup hater could ever love soup.)  It is very easy, and hard to mess up.  Oh an freezes so well!  Yeah for leftovers!  This also uses up the GIGANTIC kale in my garden.  My kale “tree” is over a year old and now a tiny bit taller than my four year old.  Makes for a lot of great soups, smoothies and juicing.
  • Sweet Potato and Spinach Lentil Curry served with rice.  Yes, again.  I think when in pain,I lose brain power to the “dull ache void”.  So I’m less creative.  And go to old standbys (and comfort food).  And it’s soft and easy to eat.
  • Chickpea Stew.  Yum!  Seriously folks I got over my aversion to chick peas with this meal.  Packs in protein and is really really REALLY easy to make.  And freeze.  And eat.
  • Vegan Spagetti.  I have to hope that soft pasta is in my future, at least nearing the end of the week.
  • Mexican Salad in Tortilla Shells.  New recipe!  I will let you know how this goes and post if it’s good.  Very basic.  And will hopefully be at a time where my salad fantasies can be fulfilled with the ability to chew properly.

The end.

33. Cover Your Essentials

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Simply Living Healthy – 40 tips in 40 days

My grandfather used to always start his speeches with this line:  a speech should be like a mini skirt, short enough to get your attention but long enough to cover all of the essentials.  I know, I know, kind of creepy coming from a grandpa but the point was made.  So here is enough to cover the essentials…nutrient wise.

The smoothie!

There are all sorts of variations out there but this is our go to at least 3-4 mornings a week.   

Go-To Green smoothie

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Add some extra nutrients to your day.  It’s really easy, and tastes great.  You can up the anti by adding extra omega 3s (by adding a few teaspoons of ground flaxseed – just make sure to drink up fast, this stuff gels!) or up protein by adding a tablespoon or two of chia seed.

My breakfast smoothie caters to little kids and has added avocado, which provides the essential fats needed for brain development.  Want it a little sweeter – add a diced apple.  More anti-oxidants?  Add some berries as I did in the pictures. (Frozen works great too, and are cheaper than fresh.) The possibilities are limitless, and the ability to add essential vitamins and nutrients in the form of whole foods is exciting.

Enjoy your day!

Simply Living Healthy – 40 tips in 40 days

Meal Plan Monday Sunday.

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Whoa.  Wait.  What?? Meal planning on a Sunday. That’s just crazy.  Especially for a planner like me.  But yes, a houseguest is coming (Yeah Mom!!) Requiring planning and coordination ahead of time.

Lucky for you that means meal planning this week.  My intention with the 40 Tips in 40 Days was to skip Sundays, but alas here I am on the laptop with a plan.  Happily I might add.  Houseguests make me happy!

  • IMG_1462Butternut Squash Soup with whole grain bread for dipping in olive oil and balsamic vinegar **Update** When I made this soup I was feeling like we hadn’t gotten enough protein lately – so I added an extra 2 cups of broth, 1 cup of uncooked quinoa and 1 cup of cooked garbanzo beans, blended and voila! A beefed up butternut soup. So good. And about 40g protein added!
  • Cauliflower Indian with peas, paneer and Naan bread
  • Quinoa Zucchini Bake with a large side salad
  • Soba Noodle Salad with Moo-Shu (Lettuce!) Wraps

Then come dates nights and restaurant nights to spoil our guest and a night out at a friend’s house.  I haven’t forgotten my blog though (you can breath a sigh of relief now…I know how worried you must have been.) This master planner has blogged ahead (much to my kids dismay at lack of playtime over the last 2 days.) So for the next week or so everything is on automatic.  And I’ll be back in person blogging next week.

Unless the recent sunshine and warm weather has gotten to me, and I’m outdoors permanently…

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Meal Plan Monday.

IMG_1950This week I’m cracking out new recipes!  And I’ve already begun the alterations.  Nothing seems to fit two people quite the same…and recipes for me fall into that category.  So I make it mine, whatever it is in my pot! (Likely also why I am NOT a baker.  I can bake. I just really struggle with it, as I feel like there is no room for adjustment – at least not in my timeframe.)

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So this week’s list is exciting!  And includes quite a few vegan options!  (Which I seem to make up for with cheese in the lasagna recipe…)(V=vegan, GF= gluten free)

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The altering of recipes I do is a good reminder of how everything should be altered to suit the needs of those it is for.  Whether it be clothes, or relationships, food or a health plan, I think we are all individuals and no one person is exactly like another.  That explains why blanket ‘diets’ and blanket treatment programs don’t work for everyone.  So go out and find what works for you.  Get to know yourself.  Really understand what it is you need and then ask for that.

That is all we ever can know.  Ourselves.

And the more we understand that, the more we can find happiness in our life.

IMG_1957The only person you can blame for ever being disappointed is yourself.  If you don’t have the expectation in the first place there is nothing to fall short of.  (Unless I am baking of course!)

Meal Plan Monday. (4of4)

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This is the last of my weekly meal plans for the month.  Did you love them? Hate them? Try any new recipes?  Tell readers what you think – click the comment button and share with others.  Want me to keep posting meal plans? (hint: let me know!)

So this week I have one of my dear friends coming to visit from out of town.  She has celiac disease so I wanted to give her as many options as possible for meals.  Although she will only be here for maybe a dinner or two I figured I’d let her pick from a variety of options.  One challenging thing for me is that she doesn’t do dairy either… She said she will cheat with cheese (for my ease of meal planning).  I pulled out all the stops at trying to find recipes I love without either.  I’ve marked them GF=gluten free, and/or DF=dairy free as applicable.  Although there are only a few that meet all her requirements, here is what I came up with:

As I was planning these meals I was busy prepping for our Sunday night dinner where friends came over as well.  A realization came to me: people are funny about food.  We are so particular about what we like, what we’d prefer and what we believe.  The fact even that as a species we change our diets to lose weight, or cleanse, or detox or etc. strikes me as odd.  I’m no different.  I choose to be vegetarian.  I don’t like cooked pineapple.  And it’s odd.

Almost everybody I know who has these preferences; at some point, has gone against them and done the exact opposite.  For example: I don’t like cooked pineapple (in soups or stir frys or pizza) but put that sucker on a bbq, coated in honey glaze that carmalizes, with a bit of cinnamon and I’d dive in!  Even my gluten free friends (even the celiac ones) have eaten something ON PURPOSE that doesn’t fit into their preference.  (And please don’t jump on me; I am a nurse, I am aware that having celiac disease is a medical condition with severe consequences if a gluten free diet is not followed. I’m using the term preference here as a matter of choice, which it is.)  The thing is, even with consequences, sometimes that ‘delectable baked good’ is just too ‘good’ to resist.

Or take for example, a diet to lose weight.  How many people have you known to ‘cheat’ on that?? It just seems weird to me, that we categorize and put all these ideas, ideals and notions into boxed categories.  Lacto-ovo vegetarian, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, fat free, etc.

That is only the start of where things get weird.  Then we start introducing and projecting our thoughts on what the people look like in each category.   How many of you think vegans are hippies?  Or that all vegetarians don’t eat meat because they love fuzzy animals?  How many meat and potatoes eaters are old, white men? Or salad eaters: skinny, pretty girls?

Where do these ideas come from?

Why can’t we just eat??

Hence why I diet. And by that, I mean I eat.  And what I eat is my diet.  And who I am isn’t something that can be contained in a box.  Today I do not like cooked pineapple, but by tonight when the rain has cleared, and the barbecue is fired up, I might love it.  And hypocritically eat the whole thing.

Meal Plan Monday. (3of4)

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This past week has been so wonderful.  The food, the people, the love.  Even the sun shone more than usual and the rain always held out so we could go outdoors and have fun at least a little everyday.

So here is this week’s meal plan.  Nothing fancy, and a ‘cheater’ meal included (easy meal not cooked from scratch).  Also trying out a new recipe!  After the indulgence of our Valentine’s meal I’m feeling good about the health and nutrient packed snacks and meals I have in store for this week.

  • Quinoa with Zucchini and Ricotta Bake (gluten free!)
  • Asparagus Risotto
  • Tempeh Shwarma (adapted from The Coup restaurant’s cookbook!)
  • Mushroom Pita Pizzas
  • IMG_1887Cauliflower Indian  (vegetarian AND gluten free!) We also serve naan bread with this meal.   It is a low protein meal so I make sure we get ample protein elsewhere during the day (read: lots of almond and greek yogurt snacks!)  Here is your ‘cheat’ for this week!
  • Refried Beans ‘n rice, with salad (from 100 days of Real Food Blog.) *this is the new recipe!!

In doing all this planning I have realized there is so much I want to share…including how I set up our daily snacks and organize so that our nutritional requirements are pretty much balanced throughout the day.  Certain meals don’t necessary contain everything we need, but we make those up in other areas through the day.  To break it down a little further…

Daily: I sort it out into the 4 major “food groups” (loosely based on the Canada Food Guide.)

IMG_1886 IMG_1453 IMG_1394 IMG_1356Grains, protein, fruits/vegetables and dairy.  Although in the dairy section I break it down further (as we are trying to cut back on dairy products consumed).  The break down is: healthy fats, and calcium (although calcium does come in other groups as well).  

For every meal and snack we aim for at least one thing from every group.  

And for meals where we are lacking, snacks make up the difference.  Like adding walnuts to a snack, which gives us healthy fats and protein.  I don’t break down the numbers (very often anyway) – just too much work!  But I do listen to my body, pay attention to how it responds to food, and use that information later in my planning.

From a nursing and nutritional perspective I also try to balance out blood sugar levels.  This way we have enough fuel to keep us going for at least a few hours until our next snack.  Balancing carbs (starches and fruits) with proteins (greek yogurt, nuts, beans, pulses, nut butters) gives our body a quick energy boost (carbs) and then a slow steady ride (from the protein.)  This is broken down to be very very basic.  You can get all wound up in how nutrition works in the body and what everything rates on the glycemic index.  But I go for general rules…that are easy to follow. Hence putting some of each “food group” into what we eat.

Always eat a carb (or starch) with a protein.

Weekly: I try to even out nutritional components…like levels of iron and B12 (specifically those because we eat a vegetarian diet.) Also mixing up the types of grains we have, and variety of fruits and vegetables.  So that is incorporated into the meal planning portion of my Monday.  What I’ve given here is our dinner…lunches, breakfasts and snacks of course are planned out too.  Just not to the same extent. (Thank goodness!  The B-type personality has to come through somewhere or life would never be laid back!)

Eat a rainbow and you’ve got it covered. (Rainbow = a variety of whole foods in different colours.)

Having said all of that, I am a firm believer than the whole is greater than the sum of all ingredients.  Just eating a tablet of vitamin C, a protein bar and a tablespoon of olive oil does not equate with a healthy meal.  Which is why we don’t add things like protein powder to our foods.

The nutrients we do get are as close to the source as possible.

I believe that is the best way to live.  Not only nutritionally, but environmentally as well.  If I can go into the garden and get a fresh carrot, or egg (or whatever) it saves a ton of petrochemicals in transporting goods and housing them in a store.  You are then also more aware of what’s in your food, and more importantly what’s not (pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics…) I’m not saying we all need to go out and become farmers, but I am saying a little awareness goes a long way.  Especially when you are using those things to fuel the most powerful tool you have – your body.

Recipe. A. Day.

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Tonight’s dinner was a variation of Cashew Paella from The Vegetarian Bible.  If you don’t already own it I would suggest a purchase!  99% of the recipes are amazing.  And I source it regularly for base recipes that I build on.

Recipe Vegetarian Paella

The finished dish

The finished dish

Cooking...oh the anticipation

Cooking…oh the anticipation

I know some days it’s hard to get the stars to align to come up with and prep healthy meals. In my world this is one of my top priorities so I MAKE time.  

The dicing and prep work often happens hours before the actual meal.  The grocery shopping is limited to once a week.  (I give myself an hour and a half for all my meal planning and grocery prep time.  In that time all our meals are planned for that upcoming week and a dinner list is made.  It is time well spent.)  I will often include 2 ‘fast’ meals a week which take 20min or less to prep and have on the table, for the nights when the stars aren’t aligned…because we all know that happens.  I will often combine prep work, i.e. if I’m dicing onions I will do the next couple of days worth and bag it.  Or chopping veggies/ washing lettuce etc. The more I can do when the time is available makes sense for making up for the times I don’t.  Eating healthy isn’t only about choosing the right foods, its about organizing myself so I can succeed.  Oh and the grocery shopping only once a week limits impulse buys, which saves cash and time.

 It’s just cruel the things they put by the cash registers and on end caps isn’t it?