Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Squash it! Sweet Roasted (Delicata or Kabocha) Squash

I fell off the orange veggie wagon for a while.  For some odd reason, during my child bearing years I lost my taste for squash and sweet potatoes just like I lost my taste for pink fish.  Weird huh?  I was into red meat and white potatoes.  Did my body need stuff in those things?  Who knows?? 

Fortunately, I am back to my normal self and have now lost my taste for red meat again...white potatoes I no longer crave, but squash and sweet potatoes?  Oh yeah baby!!

I've mostly been gorging on sweet potatoes, but I have also recently been demolishing mass quantities of squash. 
When I was a kid, my mom made squash a lot, but usually only Butternut and Acorn.  Always mashed with a bit of butter and cinnamon.  I loved it.  But now there are so many more varieties widely available.  I've heard so much about Delicata and Kabocha, both extra sweet varieties with skin you can eat, but didn't often see them around. 
This autumn, however, they're everywhere!  I've been making both and loving them.  They are denser and drier than the squash of my youth, so mashing isn't really what you want to do with them.  Instead, I toss them with a bit of coconut oil and cinnamon, and a pinch of salt and stevia and roast them.  So so so so good!  So good!!

I like Delicata more than Kabocha because: (1) Its even sweeter and not as dry as Kabocha and a little lighter, and (2) Its a heck of a lot easier to cut.  Although, cut a Kabocha squash and you can really skip your upper body workout at the gym that day!

This isn't really a recipe, since I don't measure anything, but basically, take squash, wash, cut, discard seeds (or season and roast them separately!), toss with oil or butter, cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice and whatever else you desire (pinch of salt, cayenne for a kick, etc.), and roast for 30-40 minutes until golden and tender.  Open mouth. Insert.

Monday, October 20, 2014

What If...Lightening Strikes?

Anxiety....humor? This use to be a big problem for me. Learn to shut it off!

Its Monday.  For some people, this means 5 days of stress and anxiety.  Others may feel this way 7 days a week.

I have openly discussed my struggle with anxiety.  I has been there since I was a child.  Its been better at some points and worse at others, but it will probably always be an area of vulnerability.

I am certainly not alone.  So many of my counselling clients describe themselves as 'worriers'.  Worry and anxiety lay along a continuum.  Some anxiety, believe it or not, is a good thing.  It is a motivator.  It encourages us to be vigilant.  But too much wreaks havoc on your mind and body.  It can cause panic attacks, chronic insomnia and even generalized anxiety disorder.  I have had the insomnia and I've had the generalized anxiety disorder.  It ain't fun.

Part of what often fuels anxiety is the fear of uncertainty.  Few people cope well with it.  We all feel better when we feel we are in control and know what to expect.  The problem is, in reality, we never are truly in control or can anticipate the future.  Ever.

Those who struggle the most are those that catastrophize (Guilty as charged!  But I'm much better about this now and can stop when I start going down this path).   For example, many of my infertility clients will become consumed by anxiety and depression before they even start treatment because they start imagining the worst case scenario.  Women seem to do this more than men.

Often we tell ourselves that if we imagine the worst, either it will be less likely to actually happen, and/or we will be more prepared if it does happen.  Neither are really true.  We end up spending a great deal of time suffering needlessly.

Although I don't meditate, in the strict sense of the word, I try to practice what I consider the most useful tenets of the Mindfulness tradition, which is to try and make peace with uncertainty and to not stop striving for what we want to change, but to accept that things are not as we want them right now.

Stay in the present.  Don't write a story that hasn't happened yet.  As my favorite fridge magnet says,

                                      Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday

Remember, most things turn out okay.  And when they don't, crisis is an opportunity. Have a lovely start to the week.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Glass Half Full, Toronto Runeth Over

toronto flood

Good morning and happy Friday!

Wow, if I look at the glass half empty, I will tell you we had a crazy-ass, massive thunderstorm last night.  I got caught in it on my bike on the way home from work and (waaaaaaaaaaaaaa!) I think my new (and favorite) leather boots were completely destroyed.  It was the heaviest rain I have ever been in on my bike ever.  By the time I got to our street, there was flooding everywhere.  The water at one point was up to my knees.  I think my bike is probably in rough shape too.

The glass half full perspective would be at least I didn't get hit my lightening.  Really!  There was a whole lot of it and I was kind of getting worried.  Riding your bike is not what you want to be doing in a Thunderstorm.

Well, hopefully my boots and bike survive but if they don't, I will try to be positive and focus on the fact that they're just things and I made it home unscathed.  It truly was quite a storm!

Fortunately, the weather this weekend is supposed to be okay.  We have no set plans, just the usual stuff. I work tonight and tomorrow and the girls have gymnastics, swimming, and Hebrew school. I promised them we'd go pumpkin shopping for Halloween and they want to try and go to Snakes and Lattes again.  This time we'll be sure to sign up 2 hours ahead of time!

Have a happy, healthy, weekend!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cactus Pineapple Chili

It's chili season!  As soon as it gets chilly, is there anything more comforting?  Okay, forget the fact that it almost feels like summer this week...

I am always trying to come up with variations on recipes...as they say, variety is the spice of life!  It took me a bit of thinking with this one but one meandering down the aisles of Fiesta Farms and it struck me like lightening.  Aha!

Cactus, you say?  Yes, absolutely!  Now, I used the jarred kind, but maybe you could use fresh, if you can find it.  Don't worry, they aren't prickly, and the taste is quite mild.

Serve this alone, or over brown rice, quinoa or millet, or stuff into a tortilla.

Cactus Pineapple Chili

1 tsp avocado oil or olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1 jalapeno pepper, diced (optional)
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 zucchini, diced
1 cauliflower, cut into small florets*
1 yellow plantain, diced
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 lb ground turkey or chicken (or crumbled tempeh)
1 jar cactus, drained
2 cups tomatillo 'green' salsa
2 cups pineapple chunks, with juice (if from a jar) or 1 fresh pineapple, cut into chunks
1 can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed**
Juice of 1 lime
1 can tomato paste

Saute veggies and spices in oil in a large pot over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.  Add vinegar, meat or tempeh, cactus and tomatillo sauce and stir until meat is cooked through.  Add pineapple, beans, tomato paste and lime juice and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until ready to eat.  Keep leftovers in the fridge for 3-4 days or freeze. 

*I roasted cauliflower ahead of time to maximize flavour, but throw in to chili raw if you like.
**If making this vegan you can skip tempeh to replace meat and just add an additional can of beans.

I have submitted this recipe to Urban Naturale's Plant Based Pot Luck Party Link Up and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Apple Cinnamon Bran Muffins

Are there any foods that make you think of your childhood?  In terms of purchased foods, for me, its bran muffins.  My parents weren't strict about junk food, but they didn't buy us Hostess Twinkies or that kind of thing.  They did, however, buy us Sunmaid raisin bran muffins from the locally grocery store in Kingston.  Oddly, I never saw them sold elsewhere, and I haven't seen them sold in many years.  Nevertheless, they were a family favorite.

They came in packs of 4, and even though we were a family of 4, we always fought over them.  Despite the name, like most muffins you buy, they weren't remotely healthy.  Sure the bran and raisins gave them fibre, but they were full of white flour, sugar and trans fat.  We just weren't aware, at that time, how bad they were for us. If they were in the house, you can be certain I was grabbing one for breakfast.  I remember them being very moist and sweet, with a hint of cinnamon.  Mmm!

I thought about those muffins as I baked these, much healthier ones, for Adam to take to work.  I wasn't sure he'd love a raisin bran muffin, but I know he loves apple/cinnamon treats, so that is why I chose this combo.  Apparently its a favorite with the girls too, as before I could put them in the freezer, they gobbled down as many as I would let them.

These too are moist, tender and sweet, but without all the sugar, white flour and saturated fat of those Sunmaid ones. 

Apple Cinnamon Bran Muffins

2 cups bran
3 cups buttermilk (or non-dairy milk + 2 tbls vinegar or lemon juice)
2 eggs (or flax eggs)
2 cups granulated stevia (or xylitol or erythritol)
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Yellow Delicious apple, chopped

2 cups whole spelt (or other whole grain) flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Place bran in a medium sized bowl and pour buttermilk over top.  Stir and let sit for 30+ minutes.

Whisk together remaining wet ingredients in a large bowl.  Add bran and mix together.  Combine dry ingredients, mix well and then add to wet.  Stir, just until combined.

Scrape batter into greased muffin cups.  Bake at 350F for 18-22 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool completely and then remove from pan.  Makes 18 muffins.  Keep in air tight container for up to 4 days or freeze.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

You Can Go Home Again

Well well, its Tuesday and the girls and I are home safe and sound.  I did it!  I drove to Kingston and back, with just the 3 of us!

Its interesting...now that my parents sold our house and live in a downtown condo, I get a different perspective on the town.  I mean that both literally and figuratively, of course.  They have great views from their 12th floor condo of the waterfront and they are in the centre of the downtown core.  For some reason, I found myself marvelling over what a lovely town it is. 

It used to be the capitol of Canada before Ottawa.  Its absolutely full of historic, beautiful buildings.

It seems like a lifetime ago that I lived there, and yet in some ways like only yesterday. 
So the drive there was pretty seamless.  Very little traffic and the girls were very well behaved.  Nevertheless, every muscle in my body was sore when we arrived from tensing the whole time.  I think I am now comfortable with driving at fast speeds, but its the other (psycho) drivers on the highway that scare the crap out of me.  Perhaps its not so different on any major highway, but I find on the 401 there is no slow lane.  There is fast, faster and truly, fucking insane.  I just try to keep my distance from the asshole aggressive drivers who are obviously a danger to everyone.
When we arrived, the girls wanted to swim in the condo pool almost immediately.  Then we went out to dinner for gourmet pizza, followed by gelato.  For a smaller city, Kingston has some pretty amazing restaurants actually.
Then the fun ended.  I decided to share the bed in the guest room with Little A.  I thought it would be nice to snuggle together.  Oh my was I wrong!  The kid tossed and turned like an octopus on a bad acid trip...ALL NIGHT!!  Neither of us got a wink of sleep.  I was very concerned about driving home when I was so tired, but what choice did I have?
My parents made the girls challah French toast for breakfast and then we went for another swim.  Unfortunately, I don't think the girls ate anything with any nutritional value the whole trip.  My mom felt it was important for grandma to spoil them.  I turned a blind eye...
After we all showered, my mom and I wanted to go for a walk with the girls but they just wanted to sit on their butts and play Ipad games.  Sigh!  So we made lunch and then packed up the car.
The drive home was slow.  Between Kingston and Cobourg, it was start and stop the whole way.  Traffic was nuts.  Little A was also grumpy because she was so tired.  I was darn tired too!  At one point she spilled popcorn all over the back seat and started having a freak out.  I wished we had a roof rack I could strap her too for the rest of the ride.  But despite all this, we made it home safe and sound.  I'm proud of myself!  I honestly feel like (in decent weather) the drive to Kingston is now no big deal for me.  Ha, a few years ago I would never have thought I'd have the confidence to do it.  But I did!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Live Life to the Fullest and Gobble it Up!

Hello!  It is Friday.  Before a long weekend.  The weather is beautiful!  Life is good.

I am both excited and nervous for the weekend.  I am driving with the kids to Kingston alone!  This will be only the second time I've done this drive alone and the first time with the girls in the car with me.  Gulp!

Adam needs some time to catch up on work but the girls are dying to visit my parents and see their new condo (and check out the indoor pool!).  Funny thing though, I used to adore traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but seem to have lost my taste for it.  I told my mom not to bother doing the whole turkey thing, so we're going out to this cute gourmet pizza restaurant instead.  Besides, the girls will prefer it to turkey, etc.

So even though I'm really scared for this trip, I am glad I am doing it.  I actually like challenging myself.  It always pays off in the end.  Even though its a cheesy tag line...often found on Lululemon bags...I really do think everyone should, "Do one thing that scares you every day."  As I always tell my clients, its not taking risks we usually regret, its missed opportunities.

By the way, I tried to donate blood again yesterday because Canadian Blood Services is in dire need, but my blood pressure was once again below the cut off.  It has to be at least 90/50 and mine was 91/49.  I asked the nurse if she couldn't just move the 1 from the 91 and add it to the 49, but apparently its against the rules.  Sigh!  So maybe, if giving blood is something you're scared of, you can give it a shot this weekend.  What do you say?

Have a fabulous Thanksgiving Canadians!