Try Something New

My new years resolution for 2015 was to try something new in my kitchen every week. Knowing I was a couple months away from becoming a new mom, I wanted to do something that would keep me learning, growing and being creative. Essentially, something for ME (my wellbeing!) that would also meet the needs of my family. Most weeks I’ve stayed true to my resolution and it’s been really fun. This season, there is no better time to do this yourself, maybe not every week, but to just try something new! This is such a great time of year for food as local veggies are in abundance and very cheap to buy. Here are a couple things I’ve tried:

Freezing Kale:

The past couple of years I’ve planted around 20 kale plants in my garden. Let’s be honest, I can’t eat that much kale! I’ve tried putting it in smoothies, but I just can’t do it (I know there are a lot of kale smoothie people out there but I find it ruins the taste and just doesn’t belong! I wish I liked it!) . Kale is pretty much only going in salads right now… BUT I love kale in soups, stews, even crepes (instead of spinach and cheddar, why not kale and cheddar!? It’s very good). Last year I tried freezing kale fresh in freezer bags, but I think I’m going to like this better. I steamed it, ‘vitamixed’ it (you could throw it in almost any blender or food processor with a little water left over from the steaming), then froze it in ice cubes. It’s great!

kale

Next was my first attempt to do my own tomatoes. Very easy- blend (the vitamix even blends the seeds!), boil for 20-30 minutes with a little salt and basil and then bottle (make sure your bottles are hot and then i kept them under a blanket for a good 24hrs to seal well). Normally a bottle of tomatoes are around $2, this cost me around 66 cents/bottle (750ml)  and 3-4 hours of work. Worth it for local, not sprayed, home made tomatoes for at least half a year!

tomatoes

Give something new a try this season and tell us about it…Even if it’s just some pumpkin soup, that might be next for me!

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Key Lime Pie… Healthy enough to eat for breakfast!

I recently bought Julie Daniluk’s book, Meals that Heal Inflammation, and have been really inspired by her writing and recipes. Not that I’m severely allergic to sugar, gluten and dairy but I certainly feel it when I eat them… and feel awesome when I don’t. Too much gluten (like a large Subway sandwich, for example) will trigger the beginning of an eczema breakout and dairy just leaves me feeling VERY bloated. Sugar, well I could write a whole blog on sugar… so I wont go there now!

When I saw this recipe for key lime pie I was very inspired. I love finding ways to make delicious and creamy desserts that are actually good for us. Thank God for the avocado!

Here it is (I’ll add my modifications in brackets)

Ingredients:

Crust:

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 cup walnuts (I used walnuts the first time and almonds the second time and they both worked great)

1/4 gray sea salt or pink rock salt (I used normal sea salt)

1/2 cup pitted Medjool dates (from experience, it works best to use soft, fresh dates)

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Filling:

3 firm avocados (I used 4)

3 tbsp lime juice (I used at least 4 limes the second time I made it and it tasted way better and didn’t brown as easily)

1 tsp lime zest (I used ALL the zest- I really like lime!)

1/2 cup raw honey

Pinch of gray sea salt or pink rock salt (again, I used normal sea salt)

Kiwi or lime slices as desired

Directions:

1. Process the coconut, walnuts, and salt in a food processor until coarsely ground.

2. Add the dates and process until the mixture resembles break crumbs and begins to clump together.

3. Press into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate using the back of a spoon or your fingers.

4. Place the crust in a freezer for 15 minutes.

5. Process all the filling ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

6. Pour the filling into the piecrust. Set in fridge for 20 minutes. (20 minutes minimum, I thought it served much better after a good 8hrs)

7. Garnish with fresh slices or kiwi fruit or thin slices of lime. Makes 8 servings. (as you can see, I garnished with berries and toasted coconut- delish!)

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– See more at: http://juliedaniluk.com/recipes/key-lime-pie.html#sthash.2TAZogMI.dpuf

The Wellbeing of Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Here’s a confession, I love food, I’m an emotional eater and I’ve struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. Before I was married I always had said, ‘when I get married, I don’t want to be one of those people who gain weight and just let myself go!’ I wanted my wedding dress to still fit on our one year anniversary but within four months of being married, Matt and I had both gained 10lbs. When I discovered this in early January I decided that this couldn’t go on any longer, I needed to do something to change before it became 20lbs, so I joined Weight Watchers! The $50 a month to join was a stretch on our newly wed budget but we found ways to make it work. Now, looking back, it was a great three month investment on my health and still continues to be today. Within six weeks I made my goal and then for six weeks I had to maintain my goal, weighing in every week for three months. Now, almost three years later, as a ‘Weight Watchers Lifetime Member’, I weigh in every month for accountability and only once have not been in my goal range (which means I had to pay $19 and go back the following week for another weigh in, which frustrated me enough to never let that happen again!). My wedding dress fit on our first anniversary and I’m confident it would even still fit today!

The day I became a Weight Watchers Lifetime Member

The day I became a Weight Watchers Lifetime Member

I’m a big believer in knowing who you are, feeling good in your skin and being healthy.  What do I mean by that? I mean that often in life we get way over busy, stuck in a rut, depressed, frustrated, over worked and just don’t have time… Completely losing time for our wellbeing and then we ‘let ourselves go’. Circumstances may happen on the short term but when it becomes a long term thing, I believe our wellbeing begins to suffer, our health suffers and ultimately how we feel suffers. I don’t believe that what the scale says defines who we are whatsoever, but I do think it’s important to take care of ourselves and do our best to maintain good health. From experience, I also believe that feeling good about yourself and maintaining good health/a healthy weight deeply effects our wellbeing.

If this is something you struggle with, here are a few things you can do.

  1. Recognize it! It’s ok, you’re not alone. According to Forbes, Canada ranks 35 on a 2007 list of fattest countries, with 61.1% of people being overweight or obese. This is a real struggle in our world and big health risk for many today. If you’re not sure if you’re overweight or not, you can check your BMI here.
  2. Set some SMART goals for yourself:
    • Specific – target a specific area for improvement. For example, how you eat, how often you exercise, etc.
    • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress. I need to lose 10lbs, 20lbs, 50lbs (my mom just lost 50lbs and feels great- you can too!)
    • Assignable – specify who will do it. You! When?
    • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved.
    • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.
  3. Get accountability: For me, I joined Weight Watchers, which could also work for you or could not. Maybe you need a health coach, a personal trainer or a friend/family member to help you. Accountability for me has been a great way to meet my goals and stay on track… for years now!

My mom has always said, “Daria, if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will!”. That statement has bugged me a little because I do believe in many ways my friends, family and Matt ‘take care of me’… But reality is if I’m not taking care of myself in making healthy choices, no one else can do it for me. It’s like telling a smoker to quit smoking who doesn’t want to. Some days I need to push myself to go for a run, hit the gym or say no to a meal that isn’t good for me in ways that no one else could influence. After a long, hard day, no one can push me to go for a run on my treadmill, not even Matt. So what I think my mom means is that if I’m not making the choice to take care of my health/myself, no one else can make it for me… and same goes for you!

How Kramer has Increased my Well-being…

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog! At the end of November I started back to work full-time again and that same week we adopted Kramer, our first dog, that crazy week turned into a few crazy weeks and then before I knew it, it was Christmas. Now to find a blogging rhythm again with so many ideas to write about!

I never thought I’d say this, but our little Kramer has been such a blessing for us. The first 10 days I thought we made a big mistake, if Matt had agreed I totally would have given him away. Sleepless nights and this new big responsibility was starting to get to me. What had I got myself into? I remember lying in bed at 3am unable to sleep thining up what the Kijiji ad would say about him… And the worst part was that it was me who had really pushed the idea of the dog, Matt was the hesitant one.

As I write this blog, the little guy is sleeping on my lap and I love it! I don’t think dogs are for everyone because they are a big responsibility but if you’re up for it, I highly recommend a furry friend. A friend of mine is a college psychology teacher and we were chatting the other day about the psychological benefits of dogs (they also have two dogs!) so I did a little research. Dogs actually lower your blood pressure, heart rate, relax you and reduce stress… And the positive psychological effects of dogs actually work faster than drugs taken for stress! This is what a Psychology Today blog said:

The strength of the human animal bond has been known for a long time, but scientific evidence about how it works was first published only about 30 years ago when a psychologist, Alan Beck of Purdue University, and a psychiatrist, Aaron Katcher of the University of Pennsylvania, actually measured what happens physically when a person pets a friendly and familiar dog. They found that the person’s blood pressure lowered, heart rate slowed, breathing became more regular and muscle tension relaxed-all of which are signs of reduced stress. Furthermore a study published recently in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine not only confirmed these effects, but showed changes in blood chemistry demonstrating reduced amounts of stress related hormones. It is interesting to note that these positive psychological effects work a lot faster than many drugs taken for stress, since all of these effects occurred after only 5 to 24 minutes of pleasantly interacting with the dog.

      There is now a large amount of data confirming that pets are good for your psychological health and may increase, not only the quality of your life, but also your longevity. The benefits are not just short term but last well beyond the time that the pet is in the room, and the positive effects build up over time. One important study of 5,741 people was conducted in Melbourne, Australia. Researchers found the pet owners had lower levels of blood pressure and cholesterol than non-pet-owners, even when both groups had the same poor life styles involving smoking and high-fat diets.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/200906/the-health-and-psychological-benefits-bonding-pet-dog

So although it was a crazy few weeks and he is a new responsibility, Kramer has brought so much joy into our life! How could anyone resist this face?!

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Delicious Muffins, Benefits of Coconut oil and making healthy taste GREAT!

Last week was grandpa’s 85th birthday so the whole family got together to celebrate, it was a great, it felt like an early Christmas! I’ve heard that as grandpa has gotten older he’s also gotten pickier with his food and isn’t crazy about anything good for his health. Grandma on the other hand is VERY healthy, recently battling breast cancer she has become even healthier with her juicing, soups and garden. She’s an amazing cook, she’s Italian and makes the best chinese food I’ve ever had, so you could only imagine her Italian food! I’m blessed to have married into a wonderful family.

Grandpa's 85th birthday dinner

Grandpa’s 85th birthday dinner

For grandpa’s birthday I brought chocolate banana cupcakes/muffins. I put some cream cheese icing on half to make them appear less healthy, but even the ones without cream cheese icing were eaten AND best of all, GRANDPA ATE ONE AND LIKED IT!! I don’t think grandpa knew there was no gluten, dairy or sugar in them though!

Grandma and Grandpa (married 62 years!)

Grandma and Grandpa (married 62 years!)

I got this recipe from our cousin Jana- Thanks Jana! She’s an amazing baker.

Grain Free Chocolate Banana Muffins:

3/4 c almond flour

1/4 c coconut flour

3 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 eggs

2 tbsp coconut oil

3/4 c mashed bananas (2)

2 tbsp honey (I’ve also used maple syrup instead)

1/4 c dates finely chopped

Directions:

Wisk together dry ingredients. In separate bowl, beat eggs, add rest of wet ingredients. Add dry to wet. Makes 12 muffins (I normally double the recipe, they also freeze well). You can also add chopped pistachios on top before baking.

Health benefits of Coconut oil:

Coconut oil is an amazing superfood. Although it’s 90% saturated fat, it’s an amazing fat that actually fights heart disease, cancer, brain issues like Alzheimer’s… it also helps your digestive track, kidneys, pancreas, infections, with weight loss. It’s even good for your skin and hair (a little confession: whenever I cook with it I wipe the remaining from the spoon on my arms or legs and rub it into my skin… and sometimes when my lips are chapped I even use it as chap-stick!). I’ve posted a couple of websites below which better elaborate on how good it is for you. I now use it for almost all my baking and cooking. It took Matt a little while to get used to his eggs tasting like coconut but I think he’s ok with it now! Where do you get it, you wonder? I’ve found the best bang for your buck is actually at Costco, it’s not cheap but you could get a huge container of it for $17-18 which will last you a while! Give it a try and let me know what you think.

http://authoritynutrition.com/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coconut-oil/

http://www.organicfacts.net/organic-oils/organic-coconut-oil/health-benefits-of-coconut-oil.html

Celebrating Life… With Gluten-free Carrot Cake

Today Matt, my husband, turns 31! In the past five years my love for celebrating people and events has consistently grown. There is so much struggle, difficulty and bad days that people go through, so why not make a big deal when a loved one is year older or something great happens, celebrating even ‘small’ achievements or events?? When I look back on my life, I think these are the things I will want to remember.

Birthdays are a common one to celebrate, but what else in your life, or even better, the lives of the people you love, can you celebrate today? Starting a new job? Doing really well on an exam? Losing your first 5lbs after starting to eat better and exercise? Completing a big project? Running your first 5k? Celebrate these milestones! Life is a journey, not a destination.

Celebrating Matt with some great friends and food

Celebrating Matt with some great friends and food

I remember in the spring when I was going through a difficult time, my girlfriends planned a ‘Celebrate Daria’s Europe trip’ dinner behind my back. I showed up to what I thought was just a regular girls night, but instead they had themed it all around celebrating me and my upcoming trip to Europe with Matt. So simple yet so meaningful and kind. We have so much in life to be thankful for and celebrate, so my challenge to you this week is to celebrate someone you love by doing any random act of kindness for them. I’m sure, from my experience, that it will mean so much to them.

This weekend, at Matt’s little birthday celebration, I made a gluten-free/ low sugar Carrot cake and promised the recipe to a few people. It’s actually adapted from Cathy Palmers awesome carrot cake recipe so I can’t take much credit for it, I just made it a little healthier.

Enjoy!

Gluten-free, low-sugar Carrot Cake!

Gluten-free, low-sugar Carrot Cake!

CAKE

3/4 lb. raw organic carrots (about 2 1/2 cups finely grated);

2 cups gluten free all purpose baking flour (if it’ doesn’t already have any xanthan gum in it, add 1-2tsp);

1 tsp baking soda;

1 1/2 tsp baking powder;

1/2 tsp salt;

2 tsp ground cinnamon (you could put 1 1/2 tsp, but I really like cinnamon!);

4 large eggs;

1 cup coconut sugar/ 1/3 cup raw organic sugar;

1 cup coconut oil;

2 tsp pure vanilla extract;

3/4 cup crushed pineapple

FROSTING  1/4 cup butter, room temp; 1 8oz pkg cream cheese, room temp; 2 cups icing sugar; 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 and place rack in center of oven. Butter or spray two 9 x 2 ince cake pans (or one large rectangular pan).

CAKE:  Peel and finely grate the carrots.  Set aside.  In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.  In bowl of electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs until frothy (about 1 minute). Gradually add the sugar and beat until the batter is thick and light coloured (about 3-4 minutes). Add the oil in a steady stream and then beat in the vanilla extract.  Add the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated.  Add the grated carrots and crushed pineapple.  Pour batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake 25 to 30 mins or until toothpick etc. etc.  Remove from the oven and let cool on wire rack and then after 5-10 mins take out of pan(s) and cool completely before frosting.

FROSTING: In bowl of electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on low speed until very smooth with no lumps. Gradually add the icing sugar and beat on low speed until fully incorporated and smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract.