karen's blog


A New Nickname

05 Jun 2012
Posted by karen
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A couple weeks ago my husband and I joined about 20 other people for a weekend cycling trip around Masstown, N.S. Our accommodations were at the "hub of the wheel" from where we started each day's ride. Spectacular weather - a bonus at any time of year but especially in May - awesome scenery, and meeting new friends of "like activity" were components to the perfect launch for our cycling season.

Coming home with a new nickname was a surprise freebie. 
 
Eating (and drinking) is energetically linked to long distance cycling (our days were from 70 - 130 kilometres/day) so naturally the focus on fuel (food) is big. Our paniers were stuffed with trail mix, fruit, homemade fig bars and raw peanut butter cookies, water - and on the first day, tuna sandwiches and carrot sticks for our picnic lunch. Foodie that I am, I'm always keen on what people eat - and listening for what will be their treat for the end of the ride. Could be chips and a cold beer, for others a fresh cinnamon bun, or a double-scoop ice cream cone. Or a combination thereof!  My treat choice is usually salty - nachos, pistachios - with an apple or banana, then lots of water to rehydrate before opening a cool "anything" - unless I want to end up with a dull headache. 
 
On day two we linked up with a couple cyclists compatible with our pace and personality. A fantastic ride - rolling hills along quiet roads, wild enough country for a black bear sow and two cubs to feel at home. Terry had brought her standard lunch along - the rest of us decided to "eat out". A certain Big Al's was getting a lot of pull because of their "best pies in the land" but my husband and Dean obliged my request that we check out a "revived" railroad dining car. 
Perfect. The guys enjoyed their smoked meat on rye sandwiches and my chicken and veggie quesadilla was "yummyliscious" - the salty goat cheese just hit the spot.
 
Here's where my two road-and-lunch mates fell off the rails. They had polished off their lunches - plus what was left of mine - all the while contributing to our conversation about the benefits of healthy food choices, including eliminating sugar. With this disclaimer: if you do indulge in a treat, it should be worth it in taste and quality.
 
"Do you think Big Al's pies are really as good as they claim to be?"
 
 
The pie was scarfed down in record time - I helped with a taste of each. My husband loves lemon (anything) and the other kind was coconut cream. My idea of pie is fruit-something but according to these two taste-testers, the indulgence lived up to the restaurant's claim. 
 
By this time it's 3:00 and we're still on our lunch break!! And we've got 50-plus kilometres to pedal.
 
We weren't ten minutes on the road and the guys were feeling awful - groaning and questioning whatever possessed them to eat pie on a full stomach with miles left to ride on a bike! No sympathy from me - but a lot of  "what did you expect?!" - and I was branded with my new name.
 
Miss Healthy Pants.
 
My husband and our new-found friend were vowing never to eat pie again - well, at least not for lunch during a long bike ride. I was feeling fresh, showing and telling them I felt absolutely wonderful and ready to rock. Which I did.
 
Of course my lead was short-lived - they eventually worked through the discomfort of the combined fats and sugar's delayed digestion - and then Miss Healthy Pants was cycling hard again to keep up. 
 
I love being a nutrition nut - but I don't aspire to be a nutrition snob
This whole pie affair was in great fun. But at the end of the day, my goal is to encourage people to make healthy changes by sharing nutritious food facts, the consequences of poor nutrition, and that the choice is up to us. It's your body!!
 
In all fairness, my cycling buddies are generally healthy eaters (I think they're aiming for the 80% good -- 20% not-as-good rule). They liked these fig bars. Check.
 

Fig and Pumpkin Seed Snack Bars 

(the extra step of chilling the dough in the freezer before baking helps these bars hold together - excellent travellers for camping, cycling, work lunches, etc.)
 
4 Tbsp. ground flaxseed, divided
3 Tbsp. warm water
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup organic millet puffs  (or puffed rice)
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup figs, very finely chopped ( I used Calimyrna figs)
1/3 cup currants
1/ 4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. unsweetened almond butter
2 Tbsp. unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
 
Line an 8x8 baking dish with plastic wrap. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 Tbsp of the flaxseed with the warm water. Set aside.
 
In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the remaining 3 Tbsp flaxseed with the pumpkin seeds, millet cereal, buckwheat, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Process until finely ground, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the figs and currants.
 
With an electric mixer, or by hand, beat together the almond butter, almond milk, maple syrup, vinegar, and reserved flaxseed slurry until smooth. Stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.
 
Using slightly wet hands, press the dough evenly into the plastic-lined baking dish. Freeze for 30 minutes.
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lift the dough out of the pan using the plastic wrap. Cut the dough into bars. Place the bars 1-2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15-18 minutes until firm to the touch. Cool completely before serving. Store in an airtight container.
 
 

I kind of like my new nick name.  You never know - Miss Healthy Pants may show up in future Q&A phone-in shows, as a newsletter title or a cookbook - or any other ideas out there?

 

Posted by karen
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I haven't made lasagna for ages (probably years) - and not because it calls for a lengthy preparation time, but I've been reducing my refined grain consumption (i.e. pasta).

Then I came across the following recipe using polenta; both my husband and I loved it. Holds together very well, is also delicious the next day - even cold as a take along lunch. You don't have to make your own polenta but it's quite quick and simple - I didn't have any of the packaged kind on hand and I also wanted to make sure the corn was organic.

Easy Polenta

Can be served with fish, chicken or a rich tomato/veggie sauce. 
 
3 cups water 
1 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil or coconut oil or butter
1 cup polenta (ground cornmeal) – 2/3 cup fine grind, 1/3 cup med-coarse grind 
(organic cornmeal is recommended, as most corn grown is genetically modified) 
Preheat oven to 350F.
 
In 3-qt. pot, bring 3 cups water to a boil. Add salt and oil. Slowly add polenta, stirring continuously with a whisk. Lower heat and continue to stir for 10-15 minutes with a wooden spoon. If desired, stir in additional options for the last 5 minutes of cooking time.
 
optional additions:
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2-3 Tbsp. sun-dried tomatoes in oil (swab with paper towel before chopping)
 
Spread into a greased 8 or 9-inch square baking pan. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes (depending on pan size) or until tester comes out clean. Let cool 5-10  mins. before serving
 
Other ways to use this polenta recipe:
- a double batch can be levelled out in a greased 9x13 pan to be used as  gluten-free pizza crust or as the bottom "bun" for burgers. For pizza, simply top the cooked polenta with pizza sauce, your favourite sauteed veggies and some cheese (opt). Cook at 375 for about 20 minutes, or until everything is heated through. For open-faced burgers, cut polenta into squares and use as the base for burger and choice of toppings. If polenta is thicker than what you like for these dishes, spread in a larger pan and adjust cooking times.
 
 
(original recipe credits to www.WholeLifeNutrition.net)
 

Polenta Lasagna with Portabellas and Greens

Ingredients:
1 18-oz package prepared polenta or homemade
1/2 large onion, chopped
3 medium-sized portabella mushrooms, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 2 cups, chopped)
4 cloves garlic, minced or diced
8 cups washed, bite-sized pieced spinach, kale or other greens
1-2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. herbamare
fresh-ground pepper
 
"Cheese" sauce:
1/2 cup extra-firm silken tofu (soft worked fine for me too)
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk (or milk of choice)
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 Tbsp. tahini (sesame paste) 
1 tsp. onion powder
1 1/2 - 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. tapioca starch (or corn starch)
 
1 1/4 cups marinara sauce (homemade or spaghetti sauce in a jar works fine)
1/4-1/3 cup pitted and sliced olives - green, kalamata, etc.
parmesan cheese (optional)
 
Instructions:
 
Put cheese sauce ingredients into blender or food processor and puree until completely smooth. Set aside.
Saute onions and portabellas in a non-stick skillet until mushrooms start to release their juices. Add the garlic and saute on low heat for another minute. Add the greens, basil and 1/4 cup water. Saute until the greens are wilted and tender and the water has evaporated. Add the cheese sauce and cook, stirring, until thickened. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper or herbs if needed.
Remove from heat.
 
 
Preheat oven to 375F.
Spray bottom and sides of 8x8 or 9x9-inch baking dish with non-stick spray.(If using homemade polenta from recipe above, "build" the lasagna in the same size dish.)
If using purchased polenta, cut into 1/4-inch slices. Line the bottom of the baking dish with half of the slices, overlapping slightly if possible. (If using polenta recipe above, remove from pan and carefully slice the whole thing through the middle, and put the bottom layer back into the pan.)
 
Spread 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce over the polenta, then spread on the greens mixture on top of that. 
Sprinkle the chopped olives over the greens and top with the remaining polenta.
Spread the remaining marinara sauce over the top and sprinkle with grated parmesan, if using.
Bake 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5- 10 minutes before serving.
 
 
(Note: this is gluten-free, but if preparing this dish for guests I recommend confirming ahead of time regarding corn allergies.)

runner on the rebound

08 May 2012
Posted by karen
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"What's changed, Mom?"

This was my daughter's question last year as I did my cool-down stretches and slurped water after my morning run. Renee could see I was flushed from pumping up the driveway, exhilarated with oxygen recovery - happiness smeared all over my sweaty face.
 
It had been many months since I was (practically) painfree while running, my fitness "love affair" of fifteen years.
Niggling pain in my sacroiliac (SI) joint and a tight lower back and hamstrings were the main symptoms that not only hampered my physical activity but messed with my sleep. Two years prior to this enforced "detour" I'd had a "buff and polish" (arthroscopy) on my left knee resulting from an injury, wear-and-tear, overuse, and?! - but I resolved not to give up. The expanded story will be part 2 and maybe 3 or more to this series.
 

First I'm sharing how I arrived at the present outcome: how "a little bit of a whole lot" factored in for my rebound.

 
Honestly?  It was like months of  a hilly rabbit trail "run."  Flip-flopping from submitting to my "cratering" body or questioning God why my body was betraying me - to fighting back to dig as deep as I ever had in my racing days when I was "so done" before reaching the finish line. 
 
It really was a matter of seeking for the proverbial "needle in the haystack" (what didn't I try!?) -  a lengthy list I logged in my journal. To be clear, over the period of about 18 months, I was receiving one, maybe two, of these treatments at one time, spacing them out as finances and mental will could afford.  
 
Yoga - how much flexibiltiy is in a tight rope? That was me, my routine still includes stretching after exercising.
 
Chiropractor - both "traditional" and NUCCA
 
MELT - a self-"massage" treatment using a foam roller (I took a few classes, bought the roller and use it a few days/week)
 
Massage - mostly deep tissue release, which is not a pleasant "touchy-feely" experience, but can/did help alleviate some muscle knots
 
 
Physio - a new-to-me technique using ropes 
 
Pilates - a single one-on-one session
 
Acupuncture - I was unfamiliar (read skeptical!) about this but my first treatment with Dr. Connolly completely changed my thinking. Since then I've had many sessions with Jason Lomond, occupational therapist (OT) who specializes in neurofunctional acupuncture especially for athletes - and lives in my community. Perhaps it's due to being the most recent, but of any one treatment, this (including manipulative muscle work) has appeared to be the most effective. 
 
Minimalist shoes - the founder and editor of Toe Salad (who happens to be my son-in-law), switched to minimalist footwear several years ago and his example and conversion helped me to finally  "see the light". Merrell Pace Gloves are what I'm using now - love 'em.
I am convinced this is the on-going most significant contributing factor to my rebound.
(Unfortunately no free shoes or other Merrell products for this endorsement!)
 
 
In reality, all of the above contributed to the "what changed."
 

There were constants from my life/running history that I carried into this "marathon."

 
nutrition - for the last five years I've significantly adjusted my diet to more veggies and fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds and minimal animal protein. Having our vegan family live with us for six months last year was a huge support to this menu plan - my body loved it.  
 
setting a goal - as the months went by and I could gradually add on mileage without suffering for it after, I took a leap of faith and registered for a half marathon. To "train with my brain" and finish the race was the plan - and I was going to enjoy the trip, without painkillers. October 16 was my version of  "the amazing race" - a gift -  thanks to training, God's help, guts to go for it.....(The same medals were given to finishers in both the full marathon and the half.)
 
 
thankfulness  - to God for life and the strength and desire to be a (wacky) runner
 
perseverance - before I got my Merrells I wiped out on the paved road by our house. Frontal splat. By the grace of God, with herbal poultices (my daughter's initiative), a quick acupuncture treatment (thanks, Jason), an afternoon of rest and recovery, the only reminder is a scar on my right knee. Stubborn, persevering, whatever you want to call it, you gotta have it if you're going to get to any finish line. 
 
I'm still a happy runner but I'm on a quest - to truly live the truth that my joy of living won't be based only on the ups and downs of my physical body (and I have to admit this is more difficult than running intervals or going for an endurance run).
 
My rebound is a gift returned, to be treated with respect and perspective.
 
I am happy and I'm still running.
 
 
Are there any changes - invited or otherwise - that are helping you reach your heart's desires?
 
 
 
Posted by karen
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Healthy gluten-free eating has been on my radar screen the last few weeks, so it was no surprise that the buckwheat noodles caught my attention on this recipe from jodyhorton.com. As a rule - contrary to what my "runner" mind previously thought was key for athletic performance - I presently don't eat a lot of pasta (go ahead and ask why but that's for another post). However, last Tuesday my prep time was limited, I needed a make-ahead dish for a late supper - and though my fridge harboured few of the salad ingredients, I could pull off the dressing.

Sauces, dressings - that part of my menu sometimes breaks down. Not because there aren't healthy options but some of them are as complicated and time-consuming as the main event. It's for good reason that professional chefs work so hard at developing their secret sauces - that's what defines their signature dishes.
 
 And for the rest of us - I think a good sauce can make the difference between a ho-hum dish and one that makes it a regular "go-to." 
 
 

Buckwheat Noodles, Broccoli and Mushrooms with Toasted Sesame-Lime Dressing (my version)

1 package (about 8 oz) buckwheat soba noodles, cooked to al dente, drained and rinsed well in cold water
broccoli florets (about  3 cups) lightly blanched and rinsed
1 red pepper sliced and 1- 2 cups sliced mushrooms - lightly sauteed in wee bit of coconut oil
3 green onions, sliced on diagonal
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
handful of fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup roasted peanuts (mine were raw peanuts that I toasted in cast iron pan)
 
As soon as noodles are cooked, drained and rinsed, place into bottom of salad bowl and spread around a bit so they don't stick together - as buckwheat noodles tend to do. Cut noodles up slightly using fork and knife - not into pieces too small, just to make it manageable.
As other ingredients are prepared, add them to the bowl with the noodles, saving some of the peanuts and parsley for garnish.
 
Make dressing:
 
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (lemon juice would be an acceptable substitute)
3 Tbsp. fish sauce
2 Tbsp. "rooster" chile sauce or your choice of hot sauce 
2 tsp. maple syrup (optional)
2 Tbsp. (gluten-free) tamari sauce
3 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
 
Put all ingredients into small jar with tight-fitting lid and shake until well blended. Adjust seasonings to taste. 
Add to salad, mix well without mushing, and refrigerate until ready to serve - don't forget to add the garnish later (like me:)
 
To complete the meal we grilled a salmon fillet in coconut oil with salt and pepper - the same could be done with a chicken breast. This dish would also go well with marinated, then quick-fry tofu chunks.
 
This one is a "keeper". We loved this recipe - the dressing was well-balanced with a zing we both appreciate. I might even make the "original" recipe one day but  I can see many variations of it in my future.
 
What's your "keeper" sauce?
Posted by karen
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Do you look forward to your breakfast?

-- if it's a choice (or combination) of supermarket-storage eggs, plastic bread, and crinkled cereals - breakfast will be beyond boring and worthless calories.

-- or if you face a groaning board of variety like Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel: "… eggs, ham, hot biscuits, fried apples seething in their gummed syrup, honey, golden butter, fried steaks, fragrant brown sausages, a bowl of wet cherries, fat juicy bacon, stacked batter-cakes…" breakfast could be the makings for a perfect nutritional melt-down.
 
Thankfully, there's a stack of nutritious, delicious options between these two food book-ends.
 
Taste-test and tweak the following recipes to suit your taste buds and energy needs.
 

Sunflower Seed Omelet

 
4 eggs, beaten very light 
1/2 cup sunflower seed meal (a coffee grinder does a fine job grinding seeds)
1/2 tsp. minced dulce flakes
1 tsp. minced chives (more would be better, this is all I could steal from the early offerings of my spring garden chives)
 
Heat a heavy skillet. Blend ingredients. Add to the hot skillet (I used a medium-med/high heat) a bit of coconut oil or olive oil. Pour in the mixture; let brown on the bottom, tipping the pan as needed so the runny mixture gets to the hot part of the pan. Cut in quarters; flip over and brown on the other side. serves 2-3
 
 
note: The sunflower meal may seem an odd addition but it adds healthy polyunsaturated fats; minerals: manganese, magnesium, selenium; and vitamins B1 and E. This omelet would travel well too, in a sandwich or pita pocket with shredded lettuce, sliced tomato, cucumber and sprouts.
 

Nutty Apples with Yogurt

 
2 apples, washed, unpeeled
1 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 - 2 tsp. raw honey
1/2 cup plain unsweetened yogurt
1/4 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup cashew halves
1 tsp. ground flaxseed
(additional options: other nuts, dried fruits, banana chunks, etc.)
 
 
Core apples and shred. Blend in everything else, folding in the yogurt last. This is one of those breakfast meals that doubles as a dessert or a salad. Makes 2 generous servings. (This is becoming my favourite "anything" meal!)
 

Instant Breakfast with Attitude

 
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1/2 cup sesame seeds
 
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger powder (or more, to taste)
 
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup of milk of choice (dairy,soy,almond,rice,hemp) - if so desired
options - fresh fruit and more crunchy nuts
 
 
Pulse ingredients (except for liquid) in a food processor or coffee grinder - a small Bullet blender works well if you pulse half a recipe at a time.
 
To serve:
Mix 4 Tbsp. of the mix with 1/2 cup very hot water.
Let sit and thicken for about 7-8 minutes.
Add milk and other options:  chunky nuts, fresh fruit.
 
Store leftover mix in a glass container in the refrigerator. Recipe makes enough for 7-8 servings.
 
 
 
This recipe also works well for taking along:
- to work
- out camping
- on a touring bike ride
- on a day hike
.......wherever you can heat water (or transport it) and take along your choice of milk, if desired.
 
(recipe credits to the "domesticdiva" )
 

Breakfast Pudding - with Rice or Oat Flakes

 
In blender, mix together until crumbly but not gummed together:
- 5 - 6 pitted medjool dates* (or 7-8 other whole dates)
- 1/3 cup cashews*
- 1/3 cup unsweetened large coconut flakes*
*if not using high-powered blender {e.g. Vitamix} - pulse blender often until ingredients are pulverized
 
 
 
Bring to boil in saucepan:
- 3 1/2 cups of your choice of milk (dairy, almond, soy, etc.) or use half milk and half water (I use equal amounts of water and soy)
 
Add:
- 3/4 cup rice flakes OR oat flakes - along with the blended mixture of dates, cashews and coconut
- 1/3 cup currants or raisins
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- dash of sea salt
 
 
Stirring often, cook for about 8-10 minutes.
 
Remove from heat, stir in 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract.
Serve while still hot - (the rice variety has a tendency to thicken up quickly).
Adding more milk is optional - I like to eat it as is.
 
Sprinkle with toasted pecans and cinnamon.
 
Makes 3 good-sized servings of "dessert for breakfast".
 
 
Yummmmy!
 
(Thanks to my son-in-law, Damien, for this recipe.) 
 
What do you eat to"break-your-fast"?
 
Blog P.S. How could I have forgotten this one? I dressed this dish up nice and pretty for my Dad's 90th birthday brunch. The recipe is on this previous post. One tweaking: I'd leave the peel on the apples and add a splash of lemon juice. 
 
Posted by karen
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Does nutrition have anything in common with naturopathic medicine?

When I posed this question to Dr. Ben Connolly, ND, this nutrition nut (me, not him), was thrilled to hear: "... nutritional counselling is my first consideration when I see my patients." That nutrition includes dietary changes and supplements - with his plan for the latter as initial building and restoring, and some for maintenance - with the goal as food being the primary source of healthy nutrition.

My appointment with Ben had been due to pain and swelling in my left hand, specifically at the base of my thumb (something happened while hiking and grasping a walking pole?!). He introduced me to acupuncture treatment, demonstrated appropriate stretches, and prescribed vitamin E, and fish oil, rich in omega-3 fats. There might have been more recommendations but this is all I remember from that visit two years ago. Since then, I've completed my nutrition studies and am grateful for the opportunity to do nutrtional consulting with some of his patients.

For the record, since then the thumb is functioning much better.  And I've learned more about Ben's naturopathic medicine philosophy.

"To promote innate healing of the body through safe and effective natural treatments."

Besides clinical nutrition, some of these treatments include:

- hydrotherapy - using the properties of water (temperature and pressure) - to help alleviate symptoms of disease and to improve circulation. My own experience/experimenting has been fluctuating the hot and cold temperatures while in the shower - an awakening! This is to improve circulation and to help flush toxins. For hardy souls - Ben's advice: take this on gradually, but is oh so reviving!

- acupuncture - this technique has my vote of credible healing/treatment 
 
- hands on body work, muscle manipulation
 
- lifestyle modifications - exercise, sleep, stress, aids for functional living
 
- herbal therapy
 
- orthomolecular medicine
 
What can't a naturopathic doctor do? "Refer patients for blood tests (can recommend that patient ask MD for specific tests) or perform surgery." 

 

From childhood, Ben had been interested in medicine and started his training with a Bachelor of Science degree at Saint Mary's University in Halifax. His job in a hospital lab, specifically related to transplant patients, was interesting work but other "aspects" of the job enforced his decision not to follow through on his original plan for mainstream medicine.

Four years later, he obtained his Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine from The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto.

Ben's purpose as stated on his business card.

"To improve quality of life for patients by addressing the fundamental causes of disease, by healing the whole person through individualized treatment and by promoting the principles of healthy living and preventive medicine." 

Knowing Ben's postive and professional attitude, expertise in his field, and friendly manner I can recommend that he will follow through on his purpose. 

Dr. Ben - and his wife, Julie, a massage therapist and certified laser therapist - work out of Upper Tantallon, Nova Scotia, and can be contacted through cornerstone naturopathic inc. . 
 
The sure link between this ND and nutrition? There are recipe books using whole, real food ingredients for sale in the front office. Let's just say, you probably won't see that at most mainstream doctor's offices.
 
It would only be right that I should have at least one recipe to suggest. The original recipe used kale but I thought the chard was a fine substitute.
 

Beet, Swiss Chard, and Walnut Salad

 
 
3 - 4 beets, peeled and cubed
1 bunch swiss chard (or can substitute kale), rinsed and chopped
1 cup raw walnuts, lightly roasted
2/3 cup (organic) feta cheese (optional but is a great addition)
 
Dressing:
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1-2 tsp. maple syrup
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves (carefully chopped)
1/4 tsp. sea salt
 
Steam cubed beets until tender, for 15-25 minutes, depending on their size. Put into bowl to cool; steam chard (or kale) greens for 5-10 minutes - until tender but still bright green. Rinse in cold water and carefully squeeze out excess water. Place in bowl with beets.
 
Toast walnuts in toaster oven or in frying pan on the stove for about 10 minutes, stirring or shaking often, watching carefully so they don't burn. 
 
In a small jar with a lid, shake together dressing ingredients. Pour over the salad and toss carefully. Top with feta cheese if using and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper.
 
Colorfully, delicious nutritious.
Beets - rich in folic acid and promote detoxification
Swiss chard - abundant in chlorophyll: purification and promoting the growth of beneficial intestinal flora
Walnuts - high in omega-3 fats: reduce inflammation, help protect against cardiovascular disease
 
 

The last few blogs have been on a bit of a salad roll - I think it's the hope and vibrancy of spring (as I finish this on a snowy Easter Sunday!!). But before I switch gears I have to leave a link for one more: this salad from FatFree Vegan Kitchen is  worth eating just for the dressing!

Bon appetit!!

Hur-"raw" Salsa Salad

31 Mar 2012
Posted by karen
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I'm satisfying my craving for "fresh", dancing with this salsa salad.

dressing: mix together
1/2 avocado, mashed
juice squeezed from 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp. ground pepper (to taste)
 
 
Chop the following into small chunky bits - salsa consistency - and put into a small bowl.
 
1/2 of a red pepper
1/2 or more of a jalapeño pepper
1/3 of an English cucumber
1 large tomato
4 green onions
2 stalks celery
1 carrot peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 tsp. pepper flakes (or to taste)
cilantro leaves - cut up, enough to fill 1/2 cup (careful not to bruise while cutting)
1/4 tsp. sea salt (to taste)
 
Mix in the dressing and start munching - and munching - and more munching - to properly digest it and get the full benefits of vitamins and minerals.
Bonus: the (hot) peppers and omega 3's in the avocado are great for your metabolism - fat burners, so to speak.
 
Add your favourite cooked beans to make this salad a meal - plus notching up the nutrition (B vitamins, calcium, zinc, potassium, magnesium and protein). Roll the salad up in a huge crisp lettuce leaf and you'll have one crunchy veggie burrito. Can be eaten out of hand, or if messy bothers you, use cutlery.
 
 

Need more "raw-raw"? If ever there was a time for green, this is the season.

 
 
Savoury Green Soup
 
Put the following into a blender and - blend well: I love my vitamix for always doing this job so well.
 
2 tomatoes
about 3 handfuls of greens - a mixture of spinach and kale or chard ( dandelion greens will soon be available)
3 stalks of celery (cut up into chunks)
1 avocado (without pit and peel)
some chopped spicy pepper - you choose your heat
juice of 1/2 lemon
 
Blend until smooth. Pour into a pretty soup bowl. At this point you transform it from a smoothie to soup. Cut up some more - small - avocado chunks and stir (hide) into the soup for added texture. Garnish the top with snippets of dulce (will give soup a salty flavour), or fresh sprouts (alfalfa, clover, pea, broccoli), or the first wee sprigs of parsley reviving in your garden.
 
What's your favourite "ode (recipe) to spring and all things green and raw?"
Posted by karen
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{Breaking news! There is a winner for the giveaway, Nurturing Creativity: a Guide for Busy Moms. Comment number 6, as drawn by an online random generator, is the lucky recipient. Congratulations, Sara - please connect via my contact page with your email so Renee can send you your copy. Thanks to you all who left comments, and thanks to Renee who offered this copy to give away through my blog.} 

This is a remarkable day: one of memory and deep joy for my daughter.

Renee (Tougas) has launched her first e-book, Nurturing Creativity: A Guide for Busy Moms

 

Let me introduce you to the author I know.

Renee is my close friend, the mother of three (amazing) children, and lives authentic to the life she writes about in her blog, FIMBY. She home schools her three-some: sharing her passion and skills for language and learning, ever encouraging her students' imagination (and mess) to craft and display their creative works. Cardboard castles with knights and stables; glue guns, fabric, beads and markers;  soil, moss, plants and a jar with a lid - all these and more have taken up residence in their home and ours. 

Renee's grandmother (whose birthdate is today) expressed her creativity with fabric, yarn, nature's bounty -  Mom would have enjoyed this milestone day. The two of them could have reminisced those days at Grandma's house, creating slippers out of masking tape, baking together, and designing water slides for the lawn. 

Renee has nurtured her mother's creative soul: giving me permission to forego a spotless house if I'm "being called" to write or garden or knit. To pursue a dream at any age. To embrace the journey of trying new things and the time it takes to explore them. Thanks, Renee.

But of utmost importance, Renee has discovered and tended her own creative self - and from that she shares her experience -  encouraging young Moms that making creativity a priority can add meaning and beauty to their lives, that "everyone has the desire to create..."  

This guide was written especially to young Moms - but it will inspire others too...I've read the book! 

Some of the topics she addresses are:

- seasons of motherhood

- the value of creativity

- celebrating your uniqueness

- filling your well

- letting go of perfection

Included in the e-book are experiences of six other creative Moms. It's all wrapped up in about 50 PDF pages:  a nice length for busy Moms, busy anyone! 

Today, I am offering a giveaway of a downloadable copy. The one lucky winner will receive a download of three versions of the book. A printable PDF, a mobi file for your Kindle and an epub file for all other e-readers. To be eligible, all you have to do is leave a comment!

I will choose a winner at random on Friday night. Comments close at 8pm AT Friday, March 23rd.

If you aren't the lucky winner, you can purchase Renee's book here or at Amazon. At $3 a copy, Renee's making this book affordable for any budget.

 

Posted by karen
karen's picture

Can't sleep⇔stress: the age-old "chicken and egg" story.

Two clients this last week told me they had trouble sleeping. There are nights when I too have less-than-stellar "rest."  And when that happens? It's frustrating, can lead to fatigue, affects our quality of life - and relationships.
 
 
Sleep is anything but a luxury:  it's vital for our immune system, supports growth and healing, helps to regulate our blood sugar levels, feeds our brain function - and the beat goes on...
 
Is this problem of stress-anxiety a greater issue in this generation than those previous? If you watched last week's Age of Anxiety on CBC's Doc Zone it appears  so. Pharmaceutical prescriptions for anxiety (and its bedfellow, sleeplessness) are at unprecedented proportions. Why are we so stressed that sleep evades us?? The reasons are myriad: a topic reserved for another post.
 
Until then, rather than burying our head under the pillow and hoping we'll nap a few hours before the alarm, let's look at some sleep enhancers.
 

Action plan:

-- engage in relaxing activity before bedtime. Reading may help - provided it isn't study material for tomorrow's work or school, a thriller novel or related to a stimulating project. Handwork, like cross-stitch or knitting, can help mellow your mind too. (From experience, try to set it down before you're deaing with a challenging new pattern or recovering dropped stitches.)
 
-- this may seem obvious, but eliminate caffeine and other stimulants from your diet - at least after noon.  Some people may swear by "the glass of red before bed" to ease you off to sleep. Perhaps so, although the effects of too much alcohol may cause insomnia later in the night - plus the stress it adds to your liver.
 
-- Bach Flower Remedies are homeopathicaly prepared flower extracts - the label on the Rescue Remedy bottle offers "comfort and reassurance to help you cope in balancing life's ups and downs." Recommended dosage: a few drops when under stress or tension. 
 
-- a couple supplements that may help before bed: melatonin, the hormone that keeps our body in sync with the seasonal balance between day and night, light and dark; or inositol (one of the B vitamins) that has a mild anti-anxiety effect.
 
-- an Epsom salts bath and a cup of peppermint or chamomile tea can put you in a mellow mood for sleep. 
 
 
-- mineral deficiencies, e.g. magnesium, potassium and calcium, can sometimes trigger insomnia. Foods like sesame seeds, pecans and bananas contain these minerals and support the nervous system.
 
 
-- some sources may not agree but a protein snack before bed might be just what you need: yogurt (with or without fruit), nuts, or a piece of cheese on a healthy cracker (if you're okay with dairy). This may save you from waking up later to wander to the kitchen for that banana and yogurt - I've tried that too, with positive results - but why go through the disruption if you don't have to?!
 
-- exercise during the day - get your heart rate up, sweat a little, a lot is even better. Make your body work - get tired out. This should help your body be happy to crawl into bed and zonk out. A caution though, about exercising too late in the evening. Allow enough time to mover from overdrive to low gear. (From experience: adrenaline after a 9:00-10:00 p.m. swimming class was a recipe for a (too) late bedtime.)
 
-- having your bedroom cool and dark contributes to a better sleep - some people sleep better with a "white noise", e.g. a fan whirring in the room. Maybe it'll work for you.
 
-- go to bed before you're overtired, e.g. if at 10:00 p.m. you're feeling ready to go to sleep, then time to turn out the light. Reading a book or watching television for another hour may tip you over the edge into not being able to fall asleep.
 
-- when you wake up in the night, concentrate on belly breathing  - breathing in slowly through your nose, then slowly releasing the air from your belly through partially open lips. This is a good habit to develop during your waking hours - it reduces tension in your neck and shoulders.
 
-- have a glass of water on your bedside table in case you wake up thirsty
 
-- meditation, prayer and other practices that nurture our spiritual health are vital for help with stress. (From experience: prayer has more power than counting sheep.) 
 
-- a short nap in the day helps for catch-up. My Mom (God rest her soul) did this only occasionally - probably the reason why my Dad snapped the photo below! 
 
 
-- a thankful attitude can contribute positively to our stress-sleep conundrum. Brené Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection poses the theory we go to sleep burdened by thoughts of what we didn't get, or didn't get done that day and wake up to the "reverie" of lack...."hungry for more joy....we're malnourished (my emphasis, not hers) from a lack of gratitude." I'm not suggesting we be naive about nutritious and lifestyle changes to ensure we get our sleep. But I am suggesting we "live grateful". For the blessings we experience, for the sufficiency we have to choose the way how we think - and deal - with our circumstances.
 

Fast-track Bedtime Summary:

-- have a small snack
 
-- prepare restful bedroom conditions
 
-- have a warm bath, read a while, breathe deeply
 
-- journal your thanksgivings before turning out the light
 
 
Good night and sleep well, my friend.
 
 
 

gluten free workshop

12 Mar 2012
Posted by karen
karen's picture

Going gluten free - it's mainstream health news.

Bookshelves, magazine racks, the media, our friends and co-workers - all broadcast their opinion and understanding on the why and how to eat GF. 

This workshop will help you navigate this journey for yourself by providing nutritional information, instruction and tasty GF alternatives. 

Even if you're not planning - or needing - to follow this diet route yourself, the recipes and handouts will help you serve healthy and tasty GF dishes to your family and guests who are eating that way.

If you're skeptical that {healthy, tasty and easy=gluten free}  here's one of  several recipes we'll be tasting.

Fudgy Black Bean Brownies - gluten-free

1 ounce dark chocolate (70% cocoa or greater)

1 1/2 cups soft-cooked black beans, rinsed and drained

3 eggs

2 Tbsp. coconut oil (or substitute with olive oil)

1/4 heaped cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp. GF baking powder

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract (or substitute almond extract)

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/4 - 1/2 cup maple syrup or raw organic honey

1/2 cup unsalted walnuts, chopped (optional)

How to:

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease or mist 8 or 9-inch square baking dish.

Melt dark chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat with 1 Tbsp. water mixed in. Combine melted chocolate, beans, eggs, oil, cocoa powder, baking powder, flavoring, applesauce and sweetener in a food processor (or powerful blender); process well until smooth. Stir in walnuts and pour mixture into prepared baking dish. 

Opt: sprinkle a few more chopped walnuts on the top.

Bake in preheated oven until the top is dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides, about 35 minutes.

recipe source: Clean Eating Magazine

 

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