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!

 

 

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The No Dairy Diet

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And by diet I mean temporary lifestyle.  I’m trying this out for the next 6 weeks to give my system a break from certain inflammatory food.  And in the meantime it’s a good vegan experiment too!  I have even found a creamer substitute for my coffee.  It’s still not cream, but makes my coffee loveable and drinkable and still enjoyable.  Which in turn makes me happy.  Yeh for coconut creamer!

So here’s what I’ve been working on this past week:

  • Thai Cashew Quinoa Salad– perfect for the summer weather and filled with energizing protein (who doesn’t LOVE thai?)
  • IMG_2966Jumbo Stuffed Shells and Vegan cesear salad.  This appears to be a take on my tofu and spinach stuffed shells recipe…only it’s not at all and doesn’t contain parmesan like my recipe.  AND it tastes just as amazing.  I don’t even know how that is possible but it just is.  I planned on freezing half, and then we ate. it. all.
  • IMG_2409Thai Coconut Red Curry with added edemame.  Filled to the brim with veggies, and more veggies and THAI! I used red and green bell peppers, a sweet onion, edemame (about 2 cups!) broccoli and brown rice for our dinner.  And of course omitted the chicken, still a veggie girl over here!
  • IMG_2927Green “Pasta” Primavera.  This was a shocker.  Again, so amazing.  With all the new recipes I am testing I keep anticipating failure and yet I always am so pleasantly surprised.  But my poor husband ends up not getting leftovers for work.  These meals are just so great, they are gone by the end of the meal.  IMG_2929With this meal you make a sundried tomato pesto for the primavera; I doubled the recipe for that and froze it so the next time I make the meal my time is saved (and I don’t have to clean the food IMG_2928processor – bonus!) Bought a vegetable julienne tool (and spiral slicer) especially for this, and my many vegetable “pastas” to come!  I can’t wait to give it a go on kohlrabi – so refreshing for the summer.  My kids loved the carrot “pasta”!  The tool I bought was easy to use and ranked high in the ratings.  It also makes making vegetable pasta fast.  Way faster than the manual peeler type (and anything to make my life easier working with whole foods is a GO!)  You can find it on Amazon here if you are interested in expanding your kitchen helpers.
  • Spinach Lentil Bake.  My old go to, with love and comfort baked inside.  And enough leftovers for the sitter, kids and our night out to the baseball game!

Also this past week has been energized by the longest days of sunshine in the year.  Yeah for summer solstice! There just seems to be more energy in the air.  With that I am off to do a run!  Gotta make use of this vamped up energy.  And bonus that it helps me train for another upcoming race.

I love summer!

15. Spring Cleaning

Simply Living Healthy – 40 tips in 40 days

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Today’s tip sounds simple.  Spring cleaning: get rid of junk.  All those sweets, hidden halloween candy (okay does anyone even have any left?), chocolate stash, chip bags.  Get rid of them!

 Have a sweet-release party and invite your friends to eat everything up and make your pantry healthy again.  The fact is, if it’s not in the house and accessible you won’t eat it.  You won’t have a niggly voice in your head tempting you saying “just one chip”.  You will have newfound willpower! (Likely because you won’t have the choice of bad food!)

Once your stash is cleaned out, don’t buy it or bring it into the house.  If you are craaaaaving something, then go out for it.  Only buy a small portion that you can consume on the spot.

Fill your home with fruits and veggies and healthy whole food options.  By replacing everything with healthy options you are also more likely to only eat when you are hungry…i.e. when did you last overeat on apples?

You’ll have no choice but to eat healthy (at home anyway).  And sometimes that’s half the battle.

Simply Living Healthy – 40 tips in 40 days

5. Fifteen Minutes.

Simply Living Healthy – 40 tips in 40 days

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This rule is simple. Give your workout a go for fifteen minutes.  If you are still very anti-exercise (or exhausted) at that point, give yourself permission to get off the treadmill (or yoga mat).

We all have days that are tough, mentally, physically, emotionally.  If you can push through and get yourself to your workout (however that might look, walking, biking, swimming) chances are that if you give it a an honest-to-goodness effort for 15 minutes the endorphins will rush in and you will actually feel better.

Physical activity can act as a pick me up, it decreases stress and gosh darn it, is just good for you.  So give yourself 15 minutes before deciding to opt out.

Simply Living Healthy – 40 tips in 40 days

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.

What’s your excuse?

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The holiday season is upon us.

cold weather.

snow.

colds.

(Un)fortunately for me the excess morphed exponentially. And I’m not talking about the excess of white flour/sugar combination on my daily hips plate.  For all I have consumed, I have burned off the excess and then some.

I weigh less now (or rather assume I weigh less as my clothes are looser) than since before the sugar coma/ glucose shock inducing food arrived.

Want to know my secret to keeping the weight off this holiday?

AND how to get killer abs in less than 3 weeks?

One word for you.

Pneumonia.

Bam. Just like that killer abs, weight loss and still able to indulge. Right?

If only the killer abs weren’t so literal (thank god for modern day antibiotics). And thank goodness I no longer feel like I’m breathing through a swimming pool.

One more thing to be thankful for this holiday season. So maybe count a few extra pounds lucky. Instead of wishing the opposite. It’s not always what it’s cracked up to be.

Eat it.

So most of the people I talk to say that the biggest issue is knowing what to eat.  Reading into that more I see it as an “how to eat” issue.  Society forces us into a fast pace.  We struggle to s-l-o-w down.  I am adding a section to this blog called “Eat It” with my own weekly meal plan for dinners. If you are in need of a time saver (and don’t mind choices being made for you) you can follow along and use the “Recipes” section of the menu bar to create your shopping list.

Nothing is set in stone and most of the time I don’t eat as much as planned for.  If you still find yourself hungry consider all raw fruit and veggies (no dips) as a completely free food to gorge on (hint: if you aren’t hungry enough to be eating that than maybe it’s not hunger you are looking to fulfill…)

We as a family try very hard to follow a rule I read about in a book called Body for Life and that is that we can have one free day per week to eat junk or whatever we’ve been craving.  This usually extends to our weekend (so of the 7 days in the week we are allowed “bad” foods on weekends.) This rule also applies to alcohol.  The only exception to this rule is one piece of dark chocolate after dinner to kill any sweet cravings we may be having – we have also found that an expresso will do the trick nicely.  In addition to that, I will use my recipe for **raw chocolate pudding** to kill cravings if I don’t feel enough fat has been in place in my diet that day (or if I have been lacking in omega 3s).

We buy organic when we can, and local as much as possible. (This is especially so after reading **The Omnivores Dilemma**.)   Having said that I don’t dwell on it.  I make a shopping list for the week based on my meal planning and I stick to it.  I try to make use of large quantities of food through the week.  For example in one week’s meal plan I would have bought a very large bag of baby carrots and a huge container of blueberries, to use in recipes and as snacks through the week.  I spend as little time running around and preparing as I can.  This is also why dinner one night becomes lunch the next.  I consistently try to always make extra to use the next day, or to freeze.

Time savers: when making meals double the recipe and freeze if you are able.  That way nights when you are tired or busy dinner just needs to be reheated.  When doing meal prep I try to always to extra.  i.e. Cutting up an onion – do two and bag one for tomorrow’s meal.  Washing lettuce? Why not wash the whole bag, pat dry and put in a bag for the rest of the week.  If you know you will be tired this week or short on time buy the pre-washed lettuce.  Baby carrots are a lifesaver.  You might save money by doing things yourself but ask yourself if it’s worth your time.  There have been nights I would love to have a salad but have been too tired and don’t make the effort, which leads to junk eating later.  Prep work is key.  I will even do some in the morning if I have a minute to make dinner go little faster. Time savers like apple corers and eggs slicers are great, as long as the time saved isn’t spent on clean up afterwards.

Sit down for every meal or snack.  Period.  Pay attention to your food, the way it tastes and the way it makes you feel.  I am always grateful for the ability to prepare, enjoy and be able to obtain nurishment.  Even if you are running late and have grabbed a sandwich while you are out.  Find a bench, park your butt and pay attention to your fuel.  I honestly think intention and awareness to what we are eating helps us become more connected to how we feel.

Water, water, water.  If you are still hungry after what you feel is an appropriate amount for dinner, drink a glass of water and wait 10 minutes.  If still hungry grab seconds of dinner (not something else.)  Drink at least one glass of water with every meal. 8 glasses a day should be minimum.  It helps to control hunger and flush out the body.

Cravings.  ugh.  This one isn’t easy as I don’t believe in depravation.  Most of the time the “Body for Life” rule is enough to make me feel like I’m not depriving myself (Chips is my big one and if I can just wait till Saturday I can eat a whole bag to myself if I want…just knowing that gets me through to Saturday and usually by then I don’t need the whole bag, or any at all sometimes.) For sweet cravings the dark chocolate helps, albeit ONE piece.  My new favorite is Theo chocolate (especially the coconut or chili flavour)  I find that sometimes I can find alternate foods that will help.  I replace club soda with a wedge of lime for pop cravings, and will do a small bowl of plain yogurt with frozen raspberries and a little bit of cocoa to kill really bad dessert cravings (or the raw chocolate pudding.)  For my salty cravings I usually find pickles, olives or rice crackers and humous help.  I limit the amount I eat though as the salt will tax your system (i.e. 2 pickles, or 5 olives).  And pay attention to my body…am I eating because I’m hungry, or bored?  Is it just salt I am craving or fat as well? What should I change in the next meal to try and restore balance?