Thursday, February 25, 2010

A convenient curry

Usually when I grocery shop I try to stick to two rules: buy whole, natural foods as much as possible, and shop cheap. However, I cut myself a bit of slack on this week's grocery trip. For one thing, it's been snowing in Ottawa for 3 days straight now, and I only wanted to make one stop so I could get home as soon as possible (this meant not stopping at Bulk Barn). Also, I wanted to buy things that would let me cut down on prep time a bit, in the hopes of making it easier to stick to my meal plans.

As a result my grocery cart contained some things it hasn't for quite some time: individual Source yogurts instead of plain yogurt that I add fruit and agave nectar to, instant oatmeal packets instead of oats from the bulk store, and a package of pre-cut butternut squash cubes instead of a whole squash. I suspect no one is judging me too much for this - it's still all healthy food after all - but in the case of the yogurt, I think it was a mistake. I'm finding I can really taste the Splenda in it, and it's not pleasant. The butternut squash, however, was worth the $2.99. It meant I didn't have to kill myself trying to cut through an uncooked squash and I got to make this unbelievably delicious curry - which made at least 4 servings, so really the squash only cost be about 75 cents a meal. Worth it!

Do you rely on any convenience foods to help you stick with healthy eating (or to cope with neverending wet snow?)

Butternut Squash and Chickpea Curry (adapted from Eat Like a Girl)

1 package butternut squash cubes (or 1 butternut squash, peeled and diced if you must)
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can coconut milk
Half of a 28oz can diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp turmeric
Pepper to taste
1 cup baby spinach
2 green onions, sliced
Fresh cilantro for garnish

Sauté the garlic and ginger in a little oil over medium heat for 1 minute. Add 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp coriander and all the turmeric and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the squash cubes and cook 2 minutes, stirring to coat with the spices. Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, remaining cumin and coriander, and pepper. * see note below* Cook for 10-15 minutes or until squash is tender. Add the chickpeas, spinach and green onion and cook until spinach is wilted. Garnish with plenty of fresh cilantro. I served this over some leftover brown rice. So, so yummy!

*I also added a few shakes of dried jalapeno peppers at this step for a bit of heat - this is optional if you don't want heat, or you could also add a finely diced jalapeno when you cook the garlic and ginger if you don't have a BF who grows and dries his own hot peppers!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The physical and mental health connection

While enjoying lunch at Fresh this weekend (delicious - how can I convince the owners to open an Ottawa restaurant?) Ashley said to me, "you don't blog anymore!" How right she was. The first thing out of my mouth was "I don't have time" then realized the ridiculousness of saying this to Ashley, whose schedule makes my days look like a walk in the park. I guess the spark to write hasn't hit me lately but this weekend got me thinking about how mental health is as important as physical health, as well as the connection between the two.

I was in Toronto this weekend because my friend Kristy and I had planned a trip so that we could see Ashley perform in the musical REX. I've known Ashley since we were 12 but this was the first time I've been able to see her perform. Ashley played both Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth, and I was blown away by her stunning singing voice (you've come a long way from karaoke in Rossmore hun!) and the stage presence she brought to both characters. I also really enjoyed the show as a whole since I love musicals and am really interested in the history of the Tudor era.

The show, along with many other great experiences this weekend, was an excellent opportunity to reflect on where I am in my life right now and how it's a pretty great place to be. I feel so fortunate to have remained friends with Ashley for all these years and to get to see her shine on stage. I am also so fortunate to have a friend like Kristy in my life, with whom I always have an amazing time and who appreciates my dorkiness (by going with me to both the ROM and a dollhouse store!). It was a good weekend for mental health - a chance to take a break from work (and Ottawa weather), and an opportunity to appreciate the good things in my life.

This morning, having returned to Ottawa, I had my annual physical. On my way to the doctor's office I couldn't help thinking about last year's physical. I was not in a very good place in my life at the time. I was very stressed out by work and a lengthy bus strike and I wasn't taking care of myself - so it shouldn't have come as a shock when my doctor told me I had gained 10 pounds, but it did. 10 pounds may not seem like a big deal, but it hit me that if I kept on going the way I was, 10 would turn into 20, 30, 40 pounds very quickly. When my doctor asked me about exercise I had to admit that other than walking there had been no exercise for me for quite some time. Sitting wrapped in a paper sheet in your doctor's office is not the greatest feeling at the best of times, and that day, I couldn't imagine feeling worse.

What a difference a year makes. Today I chatted happily with my doctor and grinned when she said, "your weight is back down to normal, good for you!" We talked about the different types of exercise I've incorporated into my life, and I didn't feel guilty about some food indulgences this weekend, because I knew I'd be going home to a healthy meal and my Pilates dvd. Today's doctor's visit clearly illustrated to me that mental and physical health are so closely linked. Stress has certainly not disappeared from my life but I've learned that clean eating and exercise are healthy ways to deal with stress. I've also learned to allow myself a fun weekend without guilt, and how to get back on track once that weekend is over.

I hope to continue writing on the blog because writing has always been a great way for me to reflect and unwind, so while writing about my physical health I will also be doing my mental health a favour. I'll try to use this blog to continue being healthy in all ways!