Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sausage, white bean and kale soup - parmigiano rind not optional!

On my last grocery shopping trip I bought a big bunch of kale with the intention of using most of it in a sausage, white bean and kale soup, many variations of which I have seen floating around food blogland for some time now. The recipe I used was from Closet Cooking, chosen partly because I love the blog and partly because I was intrigued by the addition of a parmigiano reggiano rind. I was definitely not disappointed - this soup is crammed with so much good stuff, and the parmesan rind added incredible flavour. After the soup was finished cooking I broke the rind up into smaller pieces and left it in the soup rather than discarding it - it's delicious, and the hunk of cheese cost me upwards of 10 dollars so no way was I going to throw any part of it out!

This soup fits the veggie packed bill that I have been trying to stick to lately, in addition to trying to do a true 30 Day Shred (as in, do the workout every day for 30 days). Not sure if the Shred will happen tonight - with Christmas decorating and making this soup, the day got away from me pretty quickly - but if it doesn't, I can feel satisfied that my dinner was on track!

Sausage, White Bean and Kale Soup (adapted from Closet Cooking)

4 turkey sausages, casing removed
2 tsp. olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Crushed tomatoes (I used a mason jar full made by my BF's mom, probably less than a 28 0z can)
1 can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch kale, chopped (unless you have a monster bunch like I did - the whole bunch was too much for the soup pot, I had to scoop some of it out!)
1 tsp. dried sage
1 parmigiano reggiano rind
1L container chicken stock, plus two cups water (the 1L container was not enough to cover all the soup ingredients. I used a low sodium broth - if this is not available to you, I recommend using half broth and half water - the soup is very flavourful on its own, it doesn't need a ton of salt)

Brown the sausage in a large pot and set aside. In the same pot, heat the oil and saute the onions for about 7-8 min. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour (I caved at 45 minutes because I was hungry, but my carrots were still a bit crunchy).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I heart cookbooks!

(I had hoped to add some images to the post, but Blogger isn't letting me upload them for some reason. Sorry!)

I am the kind of person who likes to flip through cookbooks when I am bored...and sometimes, sit down and read them as if they were novels! After the elliptical fiasco I decided to treat myself to a few new cookbooks and spent about an hour perusing the cookbook section at Chapters (where I'm sure the many employees walking by wondered what the heck was wrong with me).

My first choice was easy - after seeing so many great recipes on other blogs from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan by Dreena Burton, I couldn't resist buying it. I am so glad I did...all the recipes look phenomenal! I found the hummus section especially drool-worthy...I can't wait to try Peanut Sesame Hummus and Chipotle Lime Two Bean Hummus!

(One thing I don't get about this book - the weird greyish toned pictures of food at the beginning of each section. Anyone else find this odd? They're not very appetizing pictures!)

The second choice was a lot harder. So many cookbooks, so little money! I took a good long look at Veganomicon, and the Eat Clean Diet cookbook also caught my attention. In the end, however, I decided on Crazy Plates by Janet and Greta Podleski. My mom owns this cookbook and I've thumbed through her copy so many times that I figured I should buy my own. Cookbooks by the Podleski sisters are really awesome...full of great recipes, of course, but also lots of nutrition info, fun tidbits about food, and cute cartoons. Some of their recipes call for "low fat" ingredients that I'm not likely to use, but most of the time these can easily be substituted. I've made the Potato and Roasted Pepper Quiche (Quiche Me You Fool!) many times from this book, it's soooo delicious. I want to try the black bean soup recipe (Bean Me Up, Scotty) as soon as possible - it's blended smooth, so a good candidate to try out on the bf!

What are your favourite cookbooks? Let me know what I should look for the next time I treat myself at the bookstore!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

It's not always easy!

I've been a bad blogger, haven't I? It's partly because I've been fairly busy lately, and also because nothing too exciting has happened to write about - I've been getting stars on my calendar for exercise and making healthy meals for the most part, but nothing interesting enough to post.

I'm kind of grumpy today. A few days ago I bought an elliptical machine that was on sale at Canadian Tire. I was so excited to use it and to blog about it, but last night while putting it together, my bf discovered that one of the parts was not properly made and so it had to be returned. We had to put everything back in the box, lug it up the stairs, and cram it into the car (NOT an easy feat - it's a two-seater car with no trunk, essentially I was being crushed by the box in my lap). Then halfway to return it...the car stalled!!! It was the most ridiculous night. By the time we got the car going again and returned the elliptical I didn't bother exchanging it for another one - I didn't want to chance that there would be something wrong with the new one and have to go through all that again! I then came home and fixed myself a large drink - not good for my calorie count but I so didn't care at that point! I still really want an elliptical, so hopefully I will find another sale soon or possibly a used one.

As well, I went grocery shopping this morning and couldn't find any kale, and I had a bunch of meals revolving around kale planned. I did a quick meal plan change in my head though, picking up spinach instead of kale to use in some recipes and picking up chili ingredients to replace a soup with kale I had wanted to make. And on the plus side, the grocery store was not that busy for a Saturday, and I had my handy little grocery cart with me which I love (even if people laugh at me for having a granny cart). So all was not lost.

I guess I should look at this as a lesson to not drop being healthy just because something doesn't go my way. Just because I don't have an elliptical now doesn't mean I'm going to stop working out, and just because I couldn't find kale today doesn't mean I bought myself a cheesecake instead. Life goes on. (And we'll ignore that whole having a drink thing after the elliptical debacle right? haha)

I promise to make my next post more uplifting, and to make it come sooner rather than later!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Quick Bites

- As you can see I'm back to tracking my exercise on a calendar! (Someday when I get a new printer, the calendars will be prettier, I promise). I'm proud of the active weekend I had (DD = Dirty Dancing, P = Pilates, S = 30 Day Shred). Hopefully I can keep it up and show you a calendar full of stars at the end of October!

- In this post I wrote about trying to stay away from wheat, dairy and refined sugar in an effort to help my skin. Well, I haven't eliminated any of these things from my diet, but I have cut way back on them - and what do you know, my skin is looking better than it has for a long time! I can't say for sure that it's the dietary changes that are improving my skin - could be the change in weather, could be less stress, could be exercising more - who knows! But cutting back on these foods certainly can't hurt so I'm going to try and keep it up...

...even though I had an epic FAIL tonight while making dinner. I was cooking up some brown rice pasta that I bought at Bulk Barn a few weeks ago - or so I thought. Once it was cooked, my BF tasted it and said, "I think you cooked some of my pasta by mistake..." and he was right! Plain, white, refined wheat pasta! Sigh. I was really hungry by that point and didn't want to waste what I had cooked, so I ate it. I'll live.

- Tomorrow night I'll be making spaghetti squash mexicana and hopefully that will go more smoothly!

- You should really read the following two blogs, for different reasons:

Escape from Obesity: My favourite weight loss blog, no question. This blog has no flashy details or fantastic photography - just moving, honest, incredibly-well written posts. The author, Lyn, struggles with her weight loss and does not have a "lost 100 pounds in a year" story like many weight loss bloggers, and yet I find her far more inspirational than any other blogger.

Daddy Likey - nothing to do with healthy living, but it is HILARIOUS - and laughter is healthy, right?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Your inner Homer Simpson will drool..."mmm, pork chops"

Now that I am eating meat again, I am discovering recipes in some of my favourite cookbooks that I previously ignored. While doing some menu planning I pulled 12 Best Foods by Dana Jacobi off the shelf. This book was a great resource when I was vegetarian, but this time a recipe for 'Pork Chops with Sweet Potato Gravy' immediately caught my eye.

Everything about this dish was amazing, particularly the sweet potato "gravy." Yes, the potatoes contained butter and cream, but it's a relatively small amount, and it's the only added fat in the recipe. Besides, the sweet potatoes provide a huge amount of health benefits (hence this recipe's inclusion in 12 Best Foods) which I would say makes up for a little bit of indulgence - especially since my notoriously veggie-phobe boyfriend loved it!

Pork Chops with Sweet Potato Gravy - adapted from 12 Best Foods Cookbook by Dana Jacobi

2 boneless center-cut pork chops
3 medium sweet potatoes
1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp half and half
1/2 apple, peeled and grated (I used a Granny Smith, the recipe calls for Golden Delicious)
1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 small onion, finely chopped (I used a bit of onion powder instead - see above re: veggie-phobe boyfriend)
Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Roast the sweet potatoes (the recipe calls for you to roast the sweet potatoes whole and unpeeled, then peel and mash them. Ever try to peel a cooked potato? Not fun. Next time I would peel the potatoes, cut them into chunks, coat with a tiny bit of oil and then roast them). Reduce oven temperature to 35o F.
Remove 1/2 cup of mashed sweet potatoes. Combine the remaining potatoes with the butter and half and half. Spread the creamy potatoes over the bottom of a greased square baking dish.
For the stuffing, combine the 1/2 cup sweet potato with the apple, onion, breadcrumbs and pepper.
Make a large slit in the side of each pork chop. Pack the stuffing generously into the pockets. Combine the paprika, salt and onion powder in a small dish. Sprinkle each side of the pork chops with the spice mixture. Place on top of the sweet potatoes and cover the dish with foil. Bake covered for 35 minutes, then uncovered for 10 minutes.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Are you a tea drinker?

Then head over to Dancing Through Life for a fantastic giveaway! (And even if you're not a tea drinker, head over there anyway - both Ashley and her blog are wonderful).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Vegetable and corn chowder

Hmm, two soup posts in a row - clearly it is getting colder in Ottawa! Soup goes a long way towards helping me tolerate the dropping temperature - they are warm and comforting, easy to throw together, and a great way to cram a lot of veggies into one meal. This chowder has more lovely chunks of vegetables in each spoonful than it does liquid. The small amount of cheese gives nice flavour to this soup without adding a lot of fat, but you could omit it and use soy or almond milk for a dairy-free soup.

This recipe is from the fantastic cookbook Quick and Easy Soups.

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 large potato, diced
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk (I used 2%)
1 1/4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups broccoli florets
3 cups frozen corn
1/2 cup old Cheddar cheese, grated
Pepper to taste
Cilantro for garnish (do NOT skip this - it adds great flavour to the soup. I used this fresh frozen cilantro which is really convenient)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic and potato and sauté over low heat for 3 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in the milk and broth.
Add the broccoli and corn. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese. Season individual bowls with pepper and cilantro.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dirty Dancing Official Workout: My Review!

It's safe to say I have NEVER been as excited for a workout as I was for this one!

I grew up watching Dirty Dancing (and yes, that means I'm very sad about the recent passing of Patrick Swayze) so when I read about this workout in a magazine at my sister's place I knew I had to buy it. I found it at Future Shop for only $12.99 (I had to do a little digging to find it but I eventually did, which is good because I really didn't want to ask a salesperson where it was).

The DVD starts out with a "syllabus" that teaches you the basic dance moves that will be used in the routines. It also serves as a great warm-up. From there you can choose from the 4 dance routines - "Love Man," "Yes," "Johnny's Mambo" and "Do You Love Me." No "Time of My Life," sadly (although without Johnny there to do the lift and tell your father "Nobody puts Baby in a corner," what's the point?). Each routine starts out with the chance to learn the choreography, then you can do the whole dance with instructions, or with just the music.

This morning I tried out "Love Man" and "Yes." I really like that the choreography part is pretty extensive - the instructors teach you all the steps individually and then you run through the whole routine a few times. It's nice that you have the option to practice as much as you want before moving on to the actual dance routine. I also really like that the DVD gives you the option to pick which routines you want to do rather than having to run through all 4 dances each time.

Believe it or not, the cheese factor is not as high as I thought it would be. I was pretty worried when the opening started out with the female instructor carrying a watermelon, but it got better from there. The instructors are pretty perky but they're actually quite good at teaching the steps - you just have to get past the fact that the male dance instructor really is named Johnny.

I'm not the most coordinated person in the world so it's definitely going to take me awhile to learn the steps, but I can tell I'm going to have a lot of fun while I'm learning them. I also made the mistake of wearing my clunky running shoes - not great for dancing in and certainly didn't help me to feel sexy! Next time I think I can probably get away with bare feet since the workout is pretty low impact.

This workout isn't the most intense you'll ever do, but it still had me sweating and got my heart pumping. Besides, I was looking for something to give me a break from the super intense 30 day shred, and this is exactly what I wanted - it's fun and I'm still getting exercise in!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tomatoes, tomatoes everywhere

Remember my tomato plant? Well when I returned from Alberta it was covered in ripe tomatoes, meaning I had to fast forward through the "mmm, fresh tomatoes" phase into the "what the hell am I going to do with all these tomatoes?" phase.

Hello my pretties.

I bookmarked this soup recipe from my kitchen addiction when I was still dreaming of ripe tomatoes and decided to make a modified version of it last night. Unfortunately I didn't get a decent picture of the finished soup last night, and my boyfriend just finished gobbling up the leftovers, so you'll have to use your imagination.
This soup was really good, but SPICY. I added chipolte peppers because I love their smoky flavour but I definitely went overboard. Next time I'd only add half as many, but if you like heat, go with what I added originally. If you'd like to get the same flavour but without the spiciness, try adding some smoked paprika.

5 pounds tomatoes (10-12 depending on how big your tomatoes are)
1 red bell pepper
3 jalapeno peppers (next time I think I'd switch these for another bell pepper)
1 onion, chopped
4 canned chipolte peppers, chopped (next time, only two!)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups 2% milk
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Broil the peppers on a baking sheet until the skins are charred. Set aside to cool. Cook the tomatoes in a large pot over medium heat until soft. If you like, you can strain them to remove the seeds, but I found that blending the soup made this step unnecessary.
Remove the skins from the roasted peppers and chop finely. Saute the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until softened. Add to the tomatoes along with the roasted peppers and chipolte peppers. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Add milk and heat through. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The truth comes out...

I have been thinking about writing this post for awhile and was finally inspired to do so by a recent post on Ashley's blog. This might seem ironic given the topics of our respective posts, but ultimately they are posts about the same thing - trying to do what's best for one's personal health.

Those who read this blog who know me already know that I have been vegetarian (well, semi-vegetarian - I still ate fish - let's not step on any veggie toes out there) for about 5 years. Anyone reading this blog who doesn't know me (though I'm not sure those people exist haha) might have come to this conclusion from the recipes I post and the many veggie friendly blogs I link to.

But here's the thing that not everyone knows - I haven't actually been vegetarian for about 2 months now.

I've hesitated to bring this up as talking about being a vegetarian has never been my favourite thing (which I'm aware sounds odd coming from someone who writes a blog about healthy living). I never wanted to push my beliefs on other people, and now that I've gone back to eating meat, this still applies - I don't want it to come off as a negative stance on vegetarianism or the eating habits of others. But I'm sure people are curious as to why I've begun eating meat again, so I'll do my best to explain.

Ultimately this is and always has been a matter of health. When I went vegetarian it was a quest to make healthier eating choices, and I want to state right away that I do not regret that choice. While vegetarian I moved away from eating lots of processed, junky food and discovered whole foods, lots of new veggies and a love for cooking. Vegetarianism taught me that a meal does not have be a piece of meat, a starch, and a spoonful of veggies. It encouraged me for the first time in my life to really look at my eating habits and to work towards being a healthier person.

One of the first things that made me think about eating meat again was when I became slightly obsessed with a new meatless chicken breast put out by President Choice. I loved having a replacement for chicken in so many recipes - until I started looking at the long list of ingredients. I really try to avoid products that have a list of ingredients as long as my arm, half of which I can't pronounce, yet I was contradicting this with pretty much every meat substitute that I ate. I couldn't help thinking, "wouldn't an actual chicken breast probably be healthier for me?"

There were other factors too. For the first time in years, I began having really strong cravings for meat. It made me think that my body must be lacking something for these cravings to appear out of nowhere. My doctor would agree this was true - blood tests over the past few years have shown my iron levels to be consistently low, though I tried to eat as much iron rich food as possible and even took iron supplements.

Maybe to some people these seem like poor excuses to go back to eating meat. You can certainly be vegetarian without relying on meat substitutes. Cravings for meat probably come and go for most vegetarians, and young women often have low iron levels, whether they eat meat or not. But all I can say is that at this point in my life, this feels like the right thing to do. I'm not saying it's been an easy decision. One issue in particular I've struggled with is the treatment of animals raised for meat. While it's true I became vegetarian for health reasons, and not because of animal rights, as a vegetarian you are inevitably exposed to information about the treatment of farm animals that makes you ill. My goal as I introduce meat back into my diet is to try and eat locally raised, organic meat as much as possible. This is somewhat of a challenge living in a big city - it's not as if there's a farm around the corner raising chickens - but it can be done and I really want to try.

I'm not ashamed about going back to eating meat. Ultimately it's just another step in the process of trying to do what's right for me healthwise. It is important to me, however, that people realize I am not looking at being vegetarian as a silly phase. It wasn't - vegetarianism changed my life, made me a healthier person, and will still continue to affect the way I eat and live.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

I'm back!

Wow, I've been away from my blog for a long time! Hopefully my few readers will still be around to read this new post.

My trip to Alberta was amazing - a great chance to see some of the most beautiful parts of this country, to spend time with my family, and to get away from it all. It was the first trip I've taken (that wasn't work related) in about two years so I really appreciated it. Healthwise the vacation wasn't too bad. I didn't take my exercise chart with me, but we did do a lot of walking - and stair climbing! There were some not so healthy food choices (yes Olive Garden and Red Lobster, you do have healthy choices, but let's face it...that's not what I came for) but a lot of my meals were homemade, healthy, and delicious.

Now that I'm home I'm trying to get out of vacation mode and back to the healthy (and frugal - no dinners out for awhile!) lifestyle. Here's how I'm doing so far:

- I went grocery shopping and stocked up on lots of healthy foods. I avoided wheat, dairy and refined sugar. I'm not planning on giving these things up entirely, but I'm trying to reduce my consumption of them for a few reasons. For one, it's thought that these foods trigger breakouts, and as I have a constant struggle with bad skin, I'm willing to try just about anything that might improve it. Also, dairy and sweets are huge trigger foods for me (as in, I eat one piece of cheese or one chocolate and I never want to stop) so best to avoid buying them for home and save them for special occasions. As for wheat, I wanted the opportunity to focus on other whole grains. I've got lots of brown rice and bulgur to use up, and I bought quinoa and brown rice pasta to try for the first time (for super cheap - I love you Bulk Barn!)

- I haven't gotten back into an exercise routine yet, but I plan to change that this weekend. I was considering joining the gym again but my brain keeps saying, "why spend all that money each month when you can exercise at home for free?" I just need to motivate myself to do so. I'm looking into some new workout dvd's in order to shake things up (one that I'm really excited about and if I can find it to buy you will hear about on the blog soon!).

- Made my first dinner for myself in two weeks!

Mmm....kale. I only tried kale for the first time about a year ago but now it's one of my favourite vegetables. If you haven't tried it yet, please do! Try not to be turned off by the monster bunches in grocery stores. Yes, they are huge, and cashiers might laugh at you when you buy one, but you can use a large bunch up fairly quickly - like spinach, kale wilts when it's cooked, so you can use lots of it. Kale is amazing when paired with a peanut type sauce as I have used here. Bear with me as I try to remember what I threw into this dish...

Kale (about 10 large leaves torn into bite sized pieces)
1 large tomato, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp grated ginger
1/2 cup vegetable broth
Peanut butter - about 2 tbsp? I just added spoonfuls until it was as peanutty as I liked
Curry powder and cayenne to taste
Green onions

Saute the garlic and ginger in a small amount of olive oil for 1 minute. Add the kale and cook for about another 2 minutes, until it's starting to shrink down. Add the tomato, broth and spices and cook until the kale is wilted. Turn off the heat and stir in the peanut butter until smooth. Serve over brown rice and top with green onions.

If you're planning to serve this right away you may want to play around with the spices. I found it a little bland when I first made it, but my leftovers for lunch the next day were amazing! If you make it let me know how it goes!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Keeping track to get back on track

Even with seeing Ashley's beautiful activity charts and being encouraged by my friend Rachel to use a calendar to track my progress, I couldn't see it working for me, but as I've started to become lax in the exercise department I decided it was worth a shot. Here's how my thought process went the first day:

"Ok, crappy wrinkled calendar stuck on the fridge. I guess I could just mark the days I've exercised with an X."
"Or...I could use stickers."
"Hee hee....stickers are fun!"

And that folks is why being easily amused by things will get you far in life. So far the calendar has been surprisingly motivating. Looking at that blank stretch from Thursday to Saturday this morning inspired me to Shred tonight (for the first time in about two weeks probably...and I paid for it). I'm not sure how the last two weeks of August will look as I'll be in Alberta visiting my sister (!) but I will have access to a gym and pool while I'm there so hopefully I'll get some exercise in. Will I be dorky enough to bring the calendar with me and stick it on her fridge? Stay tuned to find out!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pay it forward

Recently I discovered and fell in love with the blog Prior Fat Girl. Its author, Jen, has lost almost a 100 pounds and her posts are funny, honest, and inspiring. Jen always signs off her post with the following line: "When you receive motivation and inspiration from me, pay it forward."

A few days ago, Jen lost her mom in a tragic accident. I was so shocked when I read this news on her blog this morning. It's amazing how you can come to feel as if you know someone just from reading their blog, and I hurt for Jen today.

My suggestion is that you take Jen's advice today and pay it forward. Do something nice for someone you love, someone you work with, even someone you may not know very well at all - because you may not get the chance to do so again.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The weekend dilemma

Lately my weekends have been a healthy eating hazard, characterized by dinner and drinks out, baking at home, and a complete lack of exercise. This is partly due to the fact that my boyfriend is working out of town during the week, so weekends become an excuse to be lax. It's also because summer weather has finally come to Ottawa, and my friends and I are grabbing the chance to hang on restaurant patios, have picnics, and drink summery drinks while we can. I'm enjoying myself too much to worry about it (although I do need to try and fit exercise in amidst all the fun), and I try to make up for it with light summery meals when I am cooking at home.

Tonight I made a variation of a basic couscous salad that I make all the time. Couscous is great to make in the summer because it cooks unbelievably quickly and you can toss it with any number of fresh veggies.

I did my best to write out measurements for this salad, but it was difficult - I rarely measure anything when making a salad like this, but just add ingredients until it looks/tastes right. I would suggest you do the same and find a combination that works for you! Do measure the couscous and broth though - you need equal amounts of each for the couscous to cook properly.

1/2 cup couscous
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup black eyed peas (normally I would use chickpeas but I didn't have any)
1 cup broccoli florets, steamed
Handful of grape tomatoes, quartered
1 green onion, sliced
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
Basil to taste - I use frozen basil that I found at Loblaws - it's not quite as fantastic as fresh but it's still yummy and a lot more convenient!
Extra virgin olive oil - you could skip this if you want a practically fat free meal, but a light drizzle really makes this dish in my opinion.

Bring the broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the couscous, stir, then cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit while you chop your veggies and drain and rinse your beans. Toss all the ingredients together, using a bigger bowl than I did so you don't scatter couscous everywhere.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My first green monster!

If you haven't heard about green monsters, you are clearly not a food blog addict. I've been intrigued by them for some time now but never seem to have time for smoothie making in the morning. After a very hot walk home from work I decided a nice cold smoothie would work just fine for part of dinner.

My green monster was tame by most standards:

A cup of spinach
1 (frozen) banana
A handful of frozen strawberries
Soymilk - I didn't measure but just added it as I needed it.

It wasn't as pretty as some of Angela's, but wow, was it good! First of all, I promise you cannot taste spinach. It just tastes fruity and creamy. At the same time, the spinach definitely adds something...I have made the same smoothie without the spinach and this was better by a long shot. A great way to get greens in your diet without even noticing them (once you get past the colour!)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Raw...don't be afraid!

When I first started hearing about the raw food movement, I was, shall we say, skeptical about the whole thing (the phrase 'crazy people' may have uttered on more than one occasion). As a vegetarian who thought veganism was too restrictive, raw foodism seemed way too out there, not to mention unappetizing. Recently though, I've had to change my tune somewhat. While I still can't imagine following a strict raw diet, I've experienced firsthand how yummy raw food can be (Live anyone?) and lately I've seen a lot of really interesting ideas on raw food blogs, like this zucchini pasta from Choosing Raw. With a lovely zucchini and a julienne peeler from Pampered Chef on hand, I decided to give this a try tonight. I would have loved to try the cashew alfredo sauce used in the original recipe, but I am sadly lacking a food processor, so instead I tossed the zucchini, carrot and tomato with some store bought pesto.

Yum, I LOVED this!! It was so fresh tasting...a perfect meal for a hot day. I think the zucchini 'noodles' would work well with lots of different sauces and toppings. What a great way to get in veggies!

This recipe is a good example of why it's important to try veggies in a variety of ways. If you don't like a vegetable cooked, try it raw (or vice versa). Or if you've only had it cooked a certain way (say, boiling the heck out of it, a good way to ruin most veggies), try it roasted, stir fried, steamed... If you are close-minded about veggies you will miss out on some delicious possibilities - as I almost did!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Food for thought

I've mentioned that "healthy eating" is a big passion of mine but what does that mean exactly? For me it means trying to eat unprocessed food as much as possible, trying to get a good balance of protein, whole grains, and fruits and veggies, and trying to cut back on foods that I tend to overindulge in, namely cheese and sweets. Defining what "healthy" is to me is an ongoing process and though it's a process I enjoy, it can easily become complicated.

The other day I was talking food and cooking with one of my coworkers and he commented that he was impressed with how much thought I put into what I ate, and how he didn't really give much thought to food.

Sometimes I wish I could say the same. The problem with putting thought into what you eat is that there's so much to think about! I think about adding fruits and vegetables to every meal. I think about getting the right amount of protein, iron, vitamins. I think about ways to make quick healthy meals without pulling them out of a package. I think about avoiding certain foods and filling up on others. I think about all the food research out there and how one minute a food or food trend is good for you, the next minute is bad. It gets exhausting and I won't pretend there aren't days that I just put it all aside and eat whatever I want.

I think the important thing to realize is that ultimately I am the one who makes my own food choices. No one else is judging me for what I eat and analyzing everything I put into my mouth. If I eat a packaged meal or skimp on the veggies once awhile, the sky is not going to come crashing down and body is not going to fall apart either. I choose healthy food because I want to do something good for myself - AND because it's yummy! - not because I am imposing a strict regime on myself.

Tonight's food choices:

A salad made with broccoli, a Granny Smith apple, shredded carrots, and raisins, with a combo of mayo, apple cider vinegar, and sugar for a dressing.

Followed by....butter tart ice cream. Like I said, it's an ongoing process!

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Even though the weather in Ottawa has caused me to question it lately, my tomato plant reminds me that it really is summer. I grew tomatoes last year as well but the fact that in a few weeks time I'll be able to walk into my backyard and pick a tomato to eat still amazes me. I can't wait - there are few better food experiences than eating a tomato you have grown and picked yourself.

Last year I had two huge tomato plants and the situation quickly got out of hand, with more ripe tomatoes than I knew what to do with. One plant, especially one this big, should more than suffice for this year! I hope to be more on top of things and make more batches of pasta sauce, soup, and salsa, although the first few ripe tomatoes are destined for one thing and one thing only - tomato sandwiches. Yum, yum, yum.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Exercise - my biggest challenge

Eating healthy has been an easy and enjoyable thing for me to do for a long time. I cannot say the same about exercise. A lot of health/weight loss bloggers, regardless of the physical shape they are in now, talk about how they were active and athletic in high school or university. This was so not me. I remember in 6th grade gym having to run around the perimeter of a large soccer field and finding it pure torture. At the end of Grade 9 gym I celebrated because it meant I never had to take a gym class again! I did do some beginner yoga classes in high school and went to the gym occasionally in university but after graduating two years ago pretty much the only exercise I got was walking.

When I learned at my recent physical that I had gained 10 pounds since my last weigh-in a year before it was a wake-up call. 10 pounds on their own is not that big of a deal, but I knew if I didn't become more active that my weight would only go up more. I went to the gym for a few months but got tired of spending the money and the amount of time it took out of my day to bus to and from the gym so I started to exercise at home instead, starting with a dvd I had heard a lot about online, Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred.

The first time I did Level 1 of the 30 Day Shred I had to stop several times to take a break and I was completely wiped out at the end. I remember still struggling to catch my breath even afterthe workout was over and I was in the shower! I was embarrassed at how hard it was for me but I think it made me realize how much I really do need to exercise and get in better shape.

I have kept up with 30 Day Shred although I have not done it every day for 30 days. Currently I try to do Level 1 3 or 4 times a week and Pilates the other days of the week. It is still very hard, and Pilates is not so easy either. I am very inflexible and I am frustrated sometimes at how little I can move into a stretch. But when I notice things like how my endurance is improving or how a stretch is a little bit easier, or how energized and happy I feel after a workout, it all seems worth it!

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Here I am, finally making a first blog post after thinking about making a blog for months. I have been interested in healthy living for a long time now, and recently I have been making some changes in my life to try and be as much "in my healthy place" as I can be. These changes have inspired me to stop just thinking about a blog and start writing already!!

On this blog I will talking about why I am interested in a healthy lifestyle in the first place, the changes I have been undertaking to become a healthier person, and hopefully taking on some new challenges along the way! I promise I won't spend the whole time talking about myself though...I really hope to focus on providing some tips and tricks for getting healthy that can fit into any lifestyle, not just my own.

I will also try and avoid putting the word 'healthy' in every single sentence as I'm sure by now you are as sick of reading it as I am typing it!