Friday, July 29, 2016

The Coles Notes on Life

I haven't had a chance to write any personal posts in a while. I still don't have time to write one, so here is what's up in my world, point form version:

1. My practice is going well and I just started developing a collaboration with a women's health clinic that will utilize my psychotherapy skills as well as my fitness background.  Yay!

2. The children are making have made me crazy. They fight with each other constantly. I should buy them both boxing gloves and let them duke it out.

3. I just found out that my root canaled tooth is infected and will either have to be (a) re-root-canaled, or (b) extracted. F#CK!

4. We are about to start renos on our home.  The kitchen will be overhauled, the living/dining room re-furnished, re-painted and just entirely re-decorated.  The basement is being totally redone so that Adam's study will become a proper guest room, which we don't have right now, and the rec room/gym space will be made more functional (rubber gym flooring like at a commercial gym!).

5. The kids are camp surfing, and its super stressful.  I don't find summer any more relaxing than any other time.  Not living in a big, busy city where getting anywhere at anytime is a gong show.

6. I broke my new and favorite water bottle from Lululemon :( Me and glass clearly don't get along.  I wasn't even using it at the time. I grabbed a cutting board from the cupboard and knocked it over.  The lip, which isn't covered in rubber, smashed to pieces.  SH*T!

7. Its a milestone birthday for Adam on Monday, but the dude won't let me do ANYTHING for him (aside from get him his annual giant birthday cookie)!

Its a long weekend here in Canada, and I DON'T HAVE TO WORK! As much as I love to work, its nice to have the weekend off.  Oh, except I do see clients on Monday, which is the holiday.  That's okay, I do love my work!  We also don't have much planned. A playdate for the girls, a trip to Costco, and just hanging out.

Well that's my life, I hope yours is going well.  Have a healthy, happy weekend, whether or not its a long one for you!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Thai Mango & Tofu Salad

Happy Hump Day! We've got at least a week more of this absurdly hot, humid weather.  Definitely a good time for eating salad.  This recipe is one you have to try.

If you think salad is boring, this one will change your mind. It is so flavourful and delicious, your taste buds will dance.

Since I am not vegan, I used fish sauce in the dressing to provide that unique, umami flavour, but if you are vegan, substitute Asian plum vinegar for the fish sauce and it will still me awesome.

Thai Mango and Tofu Salad

Organic mixed greens (as much as you want), and/or rainbow slaw
1 cucumber, sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced (I had none so I used grape tomatoes)
1 cup fresh or frozen and thawed mango chunks
A few handfuls fresh cilantro, chopped
1 350g block extra firm tofu, cubed


2-3 tbsp. peanut butter
1/4 cup fish sauce or plum vinegar
1/2 cup rice vinegar (unseasoned)
Crushed chili flakes, to taste (optional)

Toss salad ingredients together in large serving bowl.  Whisk together dressing ingredients and pour desired amount over salad, tossing well.  Keep in mind dressing is very highly flavoured, a little goes a long way!  Leftover dressing will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

I have shared this recipe with Urban Naturale's Plant-Based Pot Luck Party and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Best Grain-Free Family Meals on the Planet: Book Review

One of the many food groups often demonized by self-proclaimed health experts are grains.  The Paleos eschew them as do a lot of low-carb, high fat diet advocates.

Its bullshit.  I am not saying everyone should eat tons of grains.  As people age, they need fewer carbs and more protein to help prevent sarcopenia (muscle loss), and diabetics have to limit their carb intake, from not just grains, but all sources of carbs.   But it is not true that they are inherently bad for humans.  There are also huge differences between whole grains and the refined grains most North Americans eat. Also, its not a guaranteed way to lose weight as many grain-free products contain large quantities of high calorie nut and coconut products.

In any case, over the last several years I have gradually found myself eating much less grains and much more protein.  Its just what I crave.  I don't see myself ever giving up oats, however, I'm not a huge bread lover, and to my surprise, I've pretty much lost my taste for rice and pasta.  I am perfectly satisfied with shirataki noodles as a substitute. I believe my shifting tastes are due to my gradual decrease in endurance cardio exercise and a shift to more strength training.  But who knows.  All I know is I'll take a huge hunk of salmon, chicken or trout over a bowl of spaghetti any day.

More out of sheer curiosity than anything, I have dabbled a lot in the grain-free baking world.  I find it fascinating that nut flours, coconut flour and plantains can be used to produce products that look and taste like grain-based stuff.  I also have a kid (Big A) who is a total carb-junky, so I like the idea of making her grain-free, lower carb things, and lucky for me, both kids gobble up all my healthy baked good creations.  That's why I often add protein powder to my baked goods, because sometimes that's the only way to get protein into my 10 year old! The only protein foods she likes are hotdogs (are they really food?), yogurt, and on occasion, eggs.

For this reason, I was eager to agree to review, The Best Grain-Free Family Meals on the Planet, by Laura Fuentes.  Not because I think grains should be cut out of our diet, but, cutting back is not a bad idea, especially to help balance out Big A's diet.  Kid-friendly grain-free meals? Yes please!!

First off, I like in the introduction that Fuentes explains why she's developed these recipes (due to her own and her children's allergies and intolerances).  She doesn't make any claims that eating grains is causing every health problem from A to Z and we should all be giving them up.  Hallelujah!

The cookbook is not vegan, but many of the recipes are. They are all gluten-free.  Fuentes also includes lots of tips and allergy substitutions.

There are nice photos, though not all recipes are pictured.  They mostly appeal to me, but I know my own kids wouldn't touch a lot of them.  My kids aren't particularly adventurous though.

Some recipes are quite unique (love the idea of Tropical Meatloaf made with ground turkey and mango!), but again, probably too 'different' for my kids.  I can only hope there will be a day that my kids will eat cauliflower rice!  They aren't even big fans of regular rice.  Zucchini noodles are definitely a no-go as both girls hate zucchini.  Sigh!

Of course, the biggest challenge when going grain-free is replicating recipes that are inherently based on grains, like baked goods. And how many kids don't love muffins, cakes and cookies?  As can be expected, the book includes a few baked goods that use coconut flour and almond flour in place of grain flours.  Personally, me and my family prefer the results of baked goods made from plantains.  We just haven't had much luck using coconut flour.

In any case, whether there is someone in your family who eats a dairy-free, gluten-free and/or grain-free diet, this book has lots of yummy and inventive recipes to try.  If your kids are super picky or unadventurous, however, some of these recipes might be a no-go, at least at first.  My kids won't touch most of the stuff, however, I think I might just make some of them for myself!  Cilantro-Avocado-Lime Cauliflower Rice?  Yum!!

Disclosure: I was sent this book to review but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Bob's Super Smooth Vodka: Product Review

There is something I have no doubts about: Liquor and beer stores will never go out of business.  People love drinking alcohol.

I hope I don't have to tell you the social toll all this drinking takes? Oh, if I had a dime for every client I've seen who's life was practically ruined by drinking or by a loved one's drinking.

Yet, our society encourages drinking at every opportunity. Marijuana, oh no, stay away, but here, have another drink!

I think it hurt more than it helped when researchers came out and told us wine has health benefits.  By the way, those benefits were over-stated.  Somehow most folks are still completely oblivious to the fact that alcohol consumption is strongly linked with a whole host of cancers.

As I've said before, alcohol should be consumed in moderation and considered a 'treat'. 

Personally, I am not a big fan of wine, but I do love beer (good, craft beer!) and cider.  I am not a hard liquor drinker.  I don't really like how its taste and I really don't like that most hard liquor cocktails are absolutely full of sugar.  Like full of it!

In any case, if I am going to indulge in it, my choice is always vodka because it doesn't have a strong taste.  Just thinking about rum or gin makes me want to barf!  Vodka be refreshing when served very plain, with just soda water and lime (what my sister-in-law teases me is the 'personal trainer's drink of choice').  Honestly though, if you are going to have a cocktail, stay away from the sweet stuff!

Vodka is the choice for a lot of low carbers, Paleos and vegans because it is usually made from potatoes as opposed to grains.  So I was intrigued when I was asked if I would sample Bob's Super Smooth Vodka, which is made from whey! They claim it is extremely smooth with little burn.  It contains no lactose but I suppose this will not be appealing to vegans or Paleos (though I doubt the only buzz our prehistoric ancestors got was from running from large predators or from accidentally eating poisonous mushrooms or plants). 

I invited my neighbour and friend over to sample it with me.  She also isn't usually a liquor drinker.  She tried it straight up and indeed declared it quite good.  Then she mixed it with a grapefruit sparkling drink, and I mixed it with carbonated water, fresh lemon and a few drops of coconut stevia.  I too thought it was quite good.  It tastes as little like liquor as you can get, though truthfully that could really be dangerous!

Overall, we both liked it and were quite impressed and both felt we would drink a cocktail made from it even though neither of us are usually liquor drinkers.

I also like that its Canadian, and made locally in Ontario.  Unfortunately, this means at this time it is only available in Ontario.  You can find it in your local LCBO store.

Just remember, drink responsibly.  For women, in particular, limit your alcoholic drinks to a few per week, because it really increases your risk of breast cancer!

Disclosure: The company sent us the product to review but all opinion on this blog are our own.

This weekend the weather is supposed to be 800 degrees Celsius, and Saturday night we're going out to a chic restaurant for dinner with friends, so there is likely to be a few drinks being had.  If you are going to be imbibing too, just do so judiciously and avoid the sugary drinks!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Cheezy Hummus Collard Wrap

I am not a big bread person.  I know some people could live off it, but it doesn't do much for me.  I'd much rather get my carbs from things like oats, squash and sweet potatoes.  I do eat bread, but just not much of it compared to the SAD (Standard American Diet).  And definitely not any white bread.  I don't even understand why people like it. Blech!  For this reason alone, I love the idea of collard or lettuce wraps.  The focus can really be on the fillings.  Then I got thinking...Why not use a tastier carb and stuff it into the leaves as part of the wrap?  This was the epiphany I had one day while dreaming up lunch ideas for myself.  And that is how this scrumptious wrap was born.

The hummus recipe alone, is a real winner, so if you aren't into the collard wrap idea, at least try the hummus!  Its so yummy.  Combined with all the other ingredients, there is a symphony of flavours and textures: sweet, salty, tangy, creamy, crunchy...oh good! But, hey, if you don't like some of the items I used, omit them, or add your own favorites.  Sliced bell peppers and sprouts would be good in them too!

This recipe makes 2 monster sized wraps, so if you eat like a bird, you might have to eat half of the wrap at a time (in which case you are a total wimp! Just kidding!!).

Cheezy Hummus

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp. cashew butter (or use tahini for nut-free)
1 clove garlic
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
3-4 tbsp. cider vinegar
1/4-1/3 cup nutritional yeast

Toss all ingredients in blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Adjust seasoning, to taste.

Collard Wraps

8 large collard leaves
1 large sweet potato, cooked, skin removed, and mashed
8 thin cucumber strips
A few handfuls sundried tomatoes
A few handfuls fresh, organic baby spinach leaves
1 recipe cheezy hummus (above)

Take collard leaves and blanch in boiling water for about 20 seconds.  Lay on a towel to dry.  For one wrap, take 4 leaves and remove fibrous stems.  Lay them in overlapping fashion with cut ends in the middle.  Fill middle with half of the hummus, spinach leaves (as much as you want), half of mashed sweet potato, half the cucumber strips, sundried tomatoes (to taste).  Fold in ends and then roll burrito style.  Cut in the centre and serve.  Repeat with remaining collard leaves.

I have shared this recipe with Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday and Urban Naturale's Plant-Based Pot Luck Party.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Time to Step it up!

I started doing group fitness classes in 9th grade.  Back then it was called aerobics.  So that was maybe 1988.  About a year later, step aerobics came on the scene.  For me, it was love at first step!

In 12th grade when I became certified as a fitness instructor, it was step that I was most keen on teaching.

Though I ended up teaching classes of all kinds over the years (muscle conditioning, boot camp, aerobics, spinning, stretch, etc.), step always remained my favorite. 

The step work in the Cathe DVDs I have (and, by the way, I still love these workouts!!), have reignited my obsession.  Its such a good workout, and its so much fun!! I don't understand why step has fallen out of fashion in the fitness world.  Just remember, the latest trends may be most current but that doesn't mean they're better than past trends.

I thought of trying some of Cathe's straight step workouts, but they looked really choreographed and is not what I'm looking for. My classes never had super complicated choreography.  First off, my brain can't handle that.  Secondly, most other people's can't either and my goal was always to give people a great workout and a fun experience, not to have them frustrated because they can't follow the steps.

Now there are some that want that complex choreography, but I always figured they can go find the instructors who do that.  I don't think I could teach that way even if I tried.  Besides, I wanted to be accessible to the greatest number of people.  For that reason, I was also very precise with my cueing.  I always gave my participants lots of warning about what steps we were doing and what was coming up next.  If any moves involves turns, then I got them into something simple like an alternating knee lift (so they were still moving and keeping their heart rates up), and then had them watch me demo the move a few times first.  Because if they are trying to turn with you and doing the move for the first time, they can't SEE you! Duh!

This is the kind of DVD I wanted to find for myself.  I did a lot of research and finally found 2 I thought would be physically challenging but easy enough to follow.

Ha! I could not have been more wrong!

First there is Seasun Zieger's Z-Fit Super Step:

I didn't even get through the warm up before I started getting extremely frustrated. A few minutes into the body of the workout I started yelling expletives so loud Adam came to see what was wrong.  That was the end of it.  The second time I tried it I lasted maybe 2 more minutes before I decided I was never bothering with it again. Seasun has got to be friggin' kidding?!?

I also tried Tracie Long's STEP Forward DVD.  I didn't get further then 3 minutes into the workout. 

Like seriously, WTF? Now I am not the most coordinated person on the planet, but I don't think anyone but a freakin' professional dancer could pull this shit off!

Aarrg! I am very disappointed.  I will never, ever be using these DVDs.  I want to get rid of them but I am not sure I even know anyone who would want them.  Frankly, what I really want to do is take a hammer to both of them and pound them to pieces.

Years ago many of my step class participants asked if I would do a video they could use at home.  I kind of laughed about it but kind of think that would be cool. I could take on an obnoxious Jillian Michaels-like persona, or take myself way too seriously like Bob Harper.  So you may be wondering why I don't just do my own class since I workout at home anyways. The reason is, when I get up at 5am, I want someone else putting me through my paces without having to use my still sleepy brain too much.  So the hunt for a good step workout DVD continues...

Friday, July 15, 2016

Explore Asian Ready-to-Heat Meals

Good morning and happy Friday!

If, like me, you love to peruse health food stores any chance you get, than you likely have seen, if not tried Explore Asian's line of bean pastas.

I used to buy them frequently until suddenly they got super expensive.  Like, WTF? They seriously seemed to double in price over night!

Anyways, they're awesome!  They're vegan, organic and gluten-free and have a wonderful firm texture.  I adore them.

Recently my health food store had a sale on their ready-to-heat line of noodle packs.  I'd never seen them before, but having been a fan of Tasty Bite meals as a grad student, I am not above trying this kind of thing.  In fact, I've been super busy lately and often in need of a meal I can prepare quickly or heat up at the office and these are perfect.

The noodles are precooked and mixed with a sauce, but junk-free.  The ingredient list is pretty clean.  I bought the soybean noodles with sundried tomato sauce, and though cane sugar is on the list, its the second last ingredient.  Not so bad.

The package says its 2-250 calorie servings.  Huh? For a hamster maybe! I knew I'd be eating the whole thing, and even then, I wasn't certain it would be enough food for me.  To bulk it up and increase the nutrition, I added 2 spiralized zucchinis, some fresh basil, and chopped sundried tomatoes. 

I am pleased to say it was really yummy and, perhaps because the whole package provides 27 grams of protein, I felt satisfied for quite a while afterwards. The package says you can microwave it right in the pouch, but I don't like doing that, so I transferred it to a Corningware dish first.  It took just 2 minutes to heat!

These are definitely a much healthier choice than frozen dinners or take-out meals most folks get for lunch.

I would love to buy these again for a quick meal...but only if I find them on sale! Though if you buy your lunch every day, even the regular price on these is probably less than what you usually spend.

I hope you have a lovely weekend.  We get our oldest child back (from my parents) today, and then its a pretty quiet weekend. I have to see clients tomorrow, but I'm hoping we can fit in some fun, family activities.