Friday, November 27, 2015

Happy Shopping Season!

As soon as Halloween is over, Christmas shopping season begins.  When Black Friday hits (i.e. today!), things really get nuts.

A few years ago, despite the fact that Canada celebrates Thanksgiving in October, we adopted the Black Friday tradition.  I guess retailers will use any excuse to get us spending.  Honestly, it probably benefits Canadians, like myself, who don't celebrate Christmas, most. 

It used to be we got our shopping jollies on Boxing Day, but now we start opening our wallets for great deals on Black Friday (and Cyber Monday).

I will admit I have been eager to join in on the discounts, and have already gotten a few good ones.  All year 'round I tend to be an online shopper.  In fact, Canadians love online shopping.  That's why Target failed here, because they didn't address that fact.  Is it because we like to avoid going out in bad weather? Or because this is such a geographically huge country and we often have to drive far to get places? Or is it because we are less aggressive than Americans and don't want to elbow (or trample) each other for the prize? An article in yesterday's newspaper actually said this is true!

I definitely prefer online shopping because of the convenience factor, but also because there are all sorts of things I buy online that I just can't find in stores.

Now as any Canadian knows, as online shoppers we have to be cautious.  If you don't ensure you are buying from a Canadian site, you will waste a lot of time filling a shopping cart with items that can't be shipped to you, or items listed in Canadian dollars, that will also have an additional shipping fee and duty charges.  Been there and done that!

I thought I would share with you my favorite Canadian-friendly sites for shopping:

Food/Supplements This place has tons of products you can't find in stores.  Its where I get powdered erythritol, for example, which is a must if you want to make sugar-free frostings and glazes.  They also stock tons of sugar-free condiments, other sweeteners, low-carb bakery items, protein powders and bars, etc.  Some of their prices are good while others are alright, but they always have stuff on sale and that's when you can really score big.  If you spend $100 or more (which isn't hard), shipping is free. This one has very competitive prices and good sales on health foods, supplements and sports nutrition products.  Orders of $50 qualify for free shipping.

Kids' Clothing

My kids (especially Little A!) wear out their clothes, and outgrow them, super fast.  So I refuse to invest a lot in their wardrobes (they get nicer, more expensive stuff from their grandparents).  The best for great deals on everything are:

For Adult Clothing and Investment Pieces

The Bay's regular prices are meh as they transformed themselves some years ago into an upscale department store, however, their sales are insanely good.  But Adam and I have realized that going into the stores for the sales are waste of time unless you get there for opening, which is a pain.  Going online is so much easier, however, stuff still sells out really fast!

We use Bay for shoes, boots, coats, dress clothes and suits.  Shipping is free on orders over $100.

Books/Fitness Equipment/Supplements/Food

Well, it should come as no surprise, but tends to beat out most other places.  I also can only seem to find certain things through them, like my licorice supplement.


I like the offerings from Chapters/Indigo better than what you usually can get at Toys r Us and they often have good sales at

Kitchen Supplies

For small appliances, is pretty good, but also sometimes has good deals.

Kitchen equipment, appliances and housewares are delivered free from on orders over $75.

So there you go! If like me you can't tolerate the lineups and crowds in the stores and malls this time of year, curl up in your PJs, drink a cup of tea, and do all your shopping online.

Have a lovely weekend and Happy Thanksgiving to all you American readers!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Hawaiian Fried Cauliflower Rice

I still shudder at the amount of rice I used to eat.  Don't get me wrong, its very nutritious, its just all the warnings about the arsenic content...which is apparently highest in brown rice, my absolute favorite! I ignored the headlines for a while because the media loves to cause panic, but finally when credible sources began to warn about limiting rice intake, I decided I needed to cut down.

I never thought cauliflower rice would cut it as a substitute for me, but was pleasantly surprised to find I really enjoy it.  What's more, the last time I indulged in real rice, I found I wasn't loving it as much as I used to. I don't even miss it in most dishes!

So I now make all sorts of dishes with cauliflower rice.  I can't say how I came up with this recipe, it just came to me like a bolt of lightening, but I am sure glad it did, because its a standout.  I love the sweet, sour, spicy combo. 

You can make it vegan by using tempeh bacon, tofu or other substitute for the turkey bacon if you wish, and if you don't like heat, just omit the jalapeno pepper.

Hawaiian Fried Cauliflower Rice

1 tsp coconut oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 chunk of fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 small jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
2 green bell peppers, diced
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 cups golden pineapple chunks, pureed
1 can tomato paste
6 strips cooked nitrite-free turkey bacon (or alternative)
1 tsp salt
Toasted coconut for garnish (optional)

2 riced cauliflowers

Saute onion, garlic, ginger, and peppers in oil until softened.  Add vinegar and pineapple puree and cook another 10 minutes over medium-low heat.  Add tomato paste, bacon and season, to taste.  Continue cooking for another 5 minutes over low heat.  Stir in desired amount of cauliflower rice (for me this recipe made with 2 riced cauliflowers is 2 servings, but if have a smaller appetite, use one cauliflower and freeze half of the recipe for later).  Serve and garnish with toasted coconut.

I have shared this recipe with Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday link-up.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The (Fall) Party is Over

There is no denying my favorite season is over.  We already had the Santa Clause parade, and yesterday the temperature dipped dramatically and it actually snowed! Fortunately, it didn't stick on the ground.

I have to admit, we had a pretty awesome fall.  Perhaps a bit too much rain, but also some absolutely spectacular, and unseasonably warm weather.  But the trees have lost most of their leaves and I am sure that it won't be long until the temperatures drop even more and snow starts to pile up. Blech!

As my brother said the other day when we were complaining about the climate here, "Where else in the world does it go from 30 Celsius and -30 Celsius?" Good question!  Sucks for me since I hate temperature extremes.

Also, like lots of people I can get the winter blues.  I am really really hoping that doesn't happen, and perhaps the fact that I honestly have never felt better (no idea why...but I think its connected to starting to take CoQ10), will keep me buoyed throughout the dreary winter months.

On the bright side, with the freezing temps come a few positives:

- No more frizz. If I straighten my hair, it stays straight all day!
- Beer stays cold in our cold storage room.
- I sleep even better in the cold.
- No more having to slather sunscreen on every inch of my body, because virtually nothing is exposed.
- We get to go to Florida in December!!

With work being busier and the holidays approaching, my posts might be a bit sporadic.  I have lots of topics I want to cover, just not enough time right now! 

That's it for me, now go enjoy your Monday.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Busy is Better Than Bored

Its Friday but I'm not really feeling TGIF.  I work until really late tonight, and then again tomorrow morning. Then its a whole lot of chaos trying to get the girls to activities, and 2 different parties.  Sunday there are more activities and then we are supposed to go to my brother's house to celebrate my nephew's birthday...except Adam will be at his book club and I will have to leave my brother's half way through to get Big A from theatre school.  Its going to be nuts.  But I guess at least its not Monday, right? Then again, this coming Monday is quite sane, though the rest of the coming week is also a bit nuts because besides work, there is the girls' daycare fundraiser on Thursday I am helping sell tickets for, and then, of course, attending.

In reality though, I am not complaining. Being busy is good.  We all complain about it endlessly, but most of the time its with stuff we enjoy.  At least in my case, I am very fortunate because I love my work and I love socializing with friends and family on weekends.

So off you go, have a happy, healthy and busy weekend!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Chewy Chocolate Chip Protein Power Bars

Need some extra protein power? Look no further.  These bars are choc-full.  They are also very high in fibre, packed with nutrients, gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan.  Oh, and my kids adore them!

I am so pleased with how these turned out.

The problem I've always had when making protein bars or granola-type bars is that they usually rely on either a liquid sweetener (and there are none I like to use in abundance) and/or nut/seed butter as binders.  This makes them high in sugar and calories and the nut/seed butters makes them kind of greasy.

This time I used...pureed chickpeas!


Even I wasn't sure how they'd taste, and, in particular, whether they would pass the kid-friendly test.  I am happy to say the exceeded my expectations!! Or perhaps I should say, ex-seeded my expectations, because they are full of good-for-you seeds like chia and hemp.

I used a bag of Nature's Path Q'ia Superfoods Cereal, but you can use any chia-based cereal or similar product.  Its basically a mix of chia, hemp, buckwheat groats and some extras, depending on the flavour. I used the Cranberry Almond Vanilla, because that's what I had, but can use another kind and keep it nut-free.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Protein Power Bars

1-14oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 flax eggs (2 tbsp. ground flax + 6 tbsp. hot water)
1 cup baking stevia (or coconut sugar or xylitol or erythritol)
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
2 scoops vegan vanilla protein powder
1 bag Q'ia Superfoods Cereal
2 cups oats (gluten-free, if necessary)
1/2 cup stevia-sweetened, vegan chocolate chips

Puree chickpeas and flax eggs in blender or food processor until smooth.  Add everything except chips and pulse until dough forms a ball.  Add chocolate chips and pulse just to mix in.  Spread evenly, pressing firmly, into greased 9x9 square pan.  Bake at 350F for 16 minutes.  Let cool and then cut into bars.  Makes 16 bars or 32 squares.  Store in air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.  Warm a bit before eating if you want the chocolate melty (like Big A does!).

The girls love these so much, and I love that they are getting so much nutrition from them, I will definitely be making these regularly.  Especially since they go through them so fast!!

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Monk Fruit

Krisda Monk Fruit Natural Sweetener

Nope, I am not referring to a silent and celibate fruit.  Just a really sweet one!

Monk fruit, also called luo han guo and Siraitia grosvenorii, is a type of fruit native to China and Thailand that has been used for medicinal and sweetening purposes for centuries.

Its been available as a sweetener in North America for some time, but still doesn't seem to have caught main-stream awareness yet.

I have tasted things where its used as a sweetener, but never bought the sweetening products itself until recently, because they used to be so expensive.  But the price seems to be coming down, probably due to growing demand.

So far, there is no evidence that it has any side-effects and actually has health benefits, it is zero calorie, and will not raise blood sugar (is safe for diabetics!).  The research I checked out was actually quite impressive!  As usual, we folks in the West are slow to catch on to all sorts of goodies they've been using in the East for ions.

I bought the Krisda brand because I like their products (they make lots of stevia products) and they are Canadian.

The sweetener is granular, kind of looks like unrefined sugar, rather than a powder, like most stevia products.  Unlike stevia, this one has no after-taste that I could detect, however, I also don't find it as sweet as sugar.

In case I haven't convinced you yet, quitting sugar is really something you should do.  It doesn't matter what form it comes in or what fancy name a company puts on the label, if it spikes blood sugar, it will harm your health.  So this includes corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, agave, brown sugar, organic sugar, sucanat, dried cane syrup, brown rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, and more.

If you are dead-set against artificial sweeteners and don't like stevia, I suggest you try monk fruit, and stick to using it, or coconut sweeteners, which are much lower on the glycemic index.  Ditch the sugar!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Warm Mediterranean "Pizza" Salad

I got totally addicted to salads this summer.  Unfortunately, come winter, the body craves warm, comfort foods, not cold, refreshing salads.  Rather than abandon my new appreciation of salad, I am going to spend the colder months experimenting with warm salads.

This recipe came to me when I was thinking of what flavours to add to a salad base of baby spinach (one of my favorites).  Instantly I thought of my favorite pizza toppings: spinach, garlic, sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, and feta cheese!  Hmm, that could be a salad!

What better way to get all the yummy ingredients in a healthier way than traditional pizza?

Of course, you can take this idea and modify it based on your favorite pizza toppings. 

Not pictured is the cut up sundried tomato and basil chicken sausage I added for extra protein! But keep in vegetarian if you wish and just add chickpeas for extra protein.  Vegan is possible too if you want to use a non-dairy cheese substitute. 

The recipe calls for 2 boxes of spinach (1 per person for a main dish), assuming you are, like me, someone who can easily eat that much spinach.  Keep in mind the warm sauce wilts it a bit! But feel free to half the recipe if you wish.

Warm Mediterranean "Pizza" Salad

1 tsp olive oil
1 red onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced or minced
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Crushed red chili flakes, to taste (optional)
1 can tomato paste
1 cup water
Salt and pepper, to taste
2-5oz boxes organic baby spinach
4 tbsp. feta cheese, crumbled

Saute onion and garlic in oil for 2-3 minutes.  Add olives, tomatoes, vinegar, oregano and chili and continue cooking until onion is soft.  Add tomato paste and water and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.  Pile spinach onto plate or in a bowl and top with sauce.  Sprinkle with feta cheese (about 2 tbsp. per person).  Serve.  Makes 2 main dishes or serves 4 as a side dish.