Chunky spaghetti sauce- from scratch!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

In the past, I usually made spaghetti sauce using a bottled sauce as a base. This time I went without anything pre-flavoured and it turned out GREAT! I use ground organic chicken, but you can skip the meat altogether or you can use ground organic beef in its place. I will admit that using chicken results in much less fat than if you use beef, so there is a bit of a lack of viscosity. So, I cheated a bit and added a knob of "Earth's balance" shortening to the pot. I's horrible...but this is one place where I really do think beef works better. However, chicken was awesome too. Okay- here's the recipe:

Spaghetti sauce from scratch (easily vegan, GF, CF)

Main ingredients:
1Tb grapeseed oil
1 chopped sweet onion
4 cloves of garlic
2 organic chicken breasts, ground in your food processor
1 green pepper
4 stalks celery
2 zucchinis
1 pint chopped mushrooms
2 x 720mL bottles strained low sodium tomato "Passata" (sub crushed, but make sure they're low sodium)
1 small can tomato paste
juice from 1/4 lemon

1 Tb dried basil
1/2 Tb dried oregano
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/4 Tb salt
1/8 Tb pepper
2 pinches saffron
2 pinches cayenne pepper (I would have loved more but not with kids!)

Chop onion and heat on medium or medium low in the grapeseed oil until it's translucent (not brown). That might take 5-10 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and heat for an additional minute.
Add the ground chicken and stir it in, cook until all the pink is gone. This only takes a handful of minutes.
Add all the chopped veggies to the pot and stir several times, heating the veggies through. Add the tomatoes and the seasonings, stir well, cover and simmer on very low for about an hour.

Serve over brown rice noodles, steamed spaghetti squash, or raw zucchini noodles (made by slicing them super thin into noodle shapes).

We simmered this over the afternoon, had a big warm bowl full then headed out to the Santa Claus parade. It was awesome!!


Holiday season- how NOT to fall off the wagon

Friday, November 26, 2010

So...the holidays are coming. Every place you go, from the desks at the office, to every house you visit for the next month will be bursting with stuff we all really shouldn't be eating en masse. So once you've chosen a way to eat healthy, how do you look into the face of temptation and decide you're not gonna bite (literally AND figuratively)?  How do you eat healthy during the holidays? Here are a few tips:

1- Remember how eating that crap made you feel- yes, the instant rush is pretty cool, but then the crash, the tiredness, the restlessness...the puffy spare tire. Think of how happy you'll be in January when everyone is moaning about how their pants don't fit and you'll be doing great.

2- Remember not to eat standing up. Don't cruise by someone's desk, pop chocolates or donuts into your mouth and walk on, chewing as you think about the report you're working on that was due yesterday. If you're going to have a treat, take it someplace without distractions (read: tv or computer) and sit down. You want to be present- really enjoy the taste. That way you're both physically and emotionally satisfied with your treat.

3- Before you head to a party, ruin your dinner. Yes, do what your mother always told you not to do. If you go when you're starving, you're much more likely to eat things you otherwise wouldn't have. Fill up first on raw veggies, raw nuts, and other foods with "staying power".

4- Watch what you drink. Booze adds a lot of empty calories- particularly if you're drinking something with a lot of sugar in it. If you're the kind of person who likes to pound back the wine coolers, remember that the sugar in those will very quickly translate to the puffy spare tire mentioned above. Drinking also lowers our inhibitions and impairs our judgment. If you're tipsy, you'll be the first one with your tongue in the chip dip (and the last one invited next year).

5- Be a good guest- bring something. Not only does bringing something contribute to the evening, but it allows you to bring one thing- preferably a treat item- that you will allow yourself to indulge in. Maybe it's strawberries covered in dark chocolate, some of these date and nut balls, or some other not-so-terrible treat. Better that than something that you will regret scarfing down.

6- At a party, pick one decadent thing to indulge in. If you didn't bring something, do a scan and decide what treat you're going to have. Don't stand at the table shoving it in your face. Put it on a pretty plate, get a fork, and sit down someplace as quiet as possible. Enjoy every bite. Roll it around your mouth. TASTE it. You'll be much more satisfied that way; standing by the food table is dangerous- you'll end up like Wilbur at his trough...

7- Host! What better way of bringing people together to enjoy the holidays - and NOT spoil the healthy lifestyle you're building- than being the chef! Pick the food you love, include some healthier dessert decadence, and stress less about falling off the wagon.

8- When in doubt, go in "packing". If you have intolerances or just don't want to eat garbage food, bring a tiny little something with you in your bag. You know what I'm talking about- 80% cocoa dark chocolate!!! Bring a bar that's big enough to share though- you might attract a crowd.

Tree is going up this weekend- the crew is very excited- and I am in the midst of recipe testing. Hope to have some healthy but delicious suggestions coming your way soon. :)


Sugar and artificial sweeteners make you fat, ugly and depressed

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I was recently chatting with a good friend of mine who asked me "So what's the big deal about sugar, why do you not want to eat it?"

I was kind of caught off guard. Truly. I wanted to provide an intelligent answer on the evil effects of sugar, but the only fact which sprang to mind, was that the cane or beet sugar that runs rampant throughout processed food (particularly ones marketed TO CHILDREN) brings absolutely nothing with it. It is empty of minerals, vitamins or other nutrients, so to process it, you actually have to dip into your body's nutrient stores just to metabolize it. So eating sugar leaves you DEFICIENT. Who wants to eat and end up worse off than they were before they ate???

But you know, there is SO much more than that. The proliferation of sugar, wheat, corn and soy in all our packaged foods (go ahead- find one packaged food in your cupboard that has none of these- I dare you!) has correlated very nicely with an increase in our waist sizes, a decrease in our abilities to metabolize sugar (hello type 2 diabetes, nice to meet you!!), an increase in ADD/ADHD, a rash of food allergies/intolerances, widespread pain and depression, and more.

I've mentioned before that my sister Shan Larter is an eating disorder freedom coach. In this video, she talks about the use of sugar and artificial sweeteners to her community of women with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. But the audience is much broader than that; don't let the "eating disorder" term fool you. Many of us use sugar and artificial sweeteners to pump us up, keep us "high", fill us up, etc. Don't forget that there is an even LARGER community out there that you can call "those with disordered eating". Watch it...put the gummy worms down, and ditch the diet coke.


Restaurant owners: train your staff in safe food preparation!!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

So there's this salad place near work that I really like, and on the odd occasion I get take-out for lunch, that's my old stand-by. However, I decided to go and give Sushi Go a try and see what I could eat (incidentally, it seems Sushi Go is a chain restaurant of, obviously sushi, soups and loose leaf teas).

First of all, the place was JAMMED. I had to wait in a line that snaked around the room and began to feel that horrible sinking feeling that I would get to the cash after all that time only to realise there was nothing "safe". But as I made my way up, I noticed a red GF next to a number of the menu items posted on the wall. Could it BE? NAH, can't be!?!?! Yep- they actually name their gluten free products so they're easy to spot. Fantastic!! How excited was I at this point??

So I ordered a tom yum soup with edamame and queued up to wait for the dude to make it. I watched as he made the soup ahead of me, in the style of a lunch counter, kind of like a sub restaurant when certain foods are added from clear plastic bins inside a refrigerated counter. So, first off I noticed that there was only one set of tongs. Huh. Interesting. Then I watched him remove the lid from the udon noodles (wheat!!) and drip them through the rice noodles (which on the menu had the big GF on them) and then use the same tongs on all the veggie trays. When he began to make my food, I said "would you mind please washing the tongs and do you have a bin of rice noodles that have not been opened yet?" and he said "do you have an allergy?" and I said "yes. And when your menu says gluten free, people have the expectation that you're treating the items listed as such"[okay so I wasn't so eloquent, but he got the point...I stopped short of saying 'well DUH!']. He wasn't angry, but seemed frustrated. He did comply, but the whole scene was awash in cross contamination. I definitely lessened the chances of getting sick, but there was a good chance it still happened.

So please, restaurant owners: if you want to serve the gluten free folks out there (and there are many, so having a place to eat is AWESOME and profitable!) train your staff. Put the gluten free bins furthest away to make sure nothing is dripping on them, and just use a few sets of tongs. It's not hard. If in doubt, drop me a line- I'll help you. If it were peanuts, no one would bat an eye. They would get it. But because it's not death, but weeks of ill health a gluten intolerant person experiences, they don't treat the condition with the same respect. You say gluten free, we count on you to come through. Simple as that.

Recipe: Green elbows

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

This is one of my favourite go-to recipes when the rest of the family is eating something I can't. Here it goes:

Cooked pasta of your choice (today I made a few handfuls of brown rice elbow noodles)
2 big swiss chard leaves
1/4 lemon
handful of grape tomatoes
1/2 cup spaghetti sauce (I chose this one, but in the spicy variety)
4 TB hemp seeds
3 handfuls of mixed organic salad greens

Chop swiss chard leaves, sprinkle with lemon juice and heat gently in a frying pan. You want it to wilt-not boil.
Add the grape tomatoes and sauce once the greens have started wilting. Give it another minute or two of stirring.
Add in your cooked pasta and stir to heat.
Turn off the element and add in the handfuls of salad greens. Stir to warm (again, you want the whole thing to wilt- not cook- it should still be bright green and some leaves will still be crunchy).
Pour onto a plate and savour.

This rocks. :)

What are the alternatives to dairy? (saying bye bye to Bessie)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

According to our friends over at Wikipedia and many other sources, as many as 75% of adults worldwide show a decrease in their ability to break down cow's milk. This process typically begins around age four and corresponds with weaning. Weaning is the point where for all mammals -except humans- milk is no longer consumed. For those of you affected by dairy intolerance, allergy, or the simple desire to remove dairy from your diet (and there are endless compelling reasons for making that choice), there are a lot of non-dairy options available to you. Here are some that you may have heard of and are commercially available:
  • Soy milk
  • rice milk
  • almond milk
  • hemp milk
Those four are more commonly available, and can be found in tetra packs on the shelves of your grocery or health food store (though sometimes in the fridge near the cow's milk, eggs, etc).  Now for a little info on each (there is sooo much more I can say, but here's a bit of an overview on how I see each one):
  • Soy milk is a definite no as a regular choice (though it IS the only one that froths well for an occasional latte). Soy is one of the most allergenic substances out there, and has slowly crept into our diets as a "meat and dairy" alternative, but anything in mass quantities quickly becomes a very unhealthy choice. Have you looked at your average packaged food lately? Startling numbers contain "soy lecithin" or other soy derivatives. Soy, in its fermented state (in miso paste) is actually a great choice to add to soups, etc. as long as you don't "cook it"- then it's live and full of probiotic qualities. However, the proliferation of tofu, soy milk, soy burgers, textured vegetable protein (TVP), etc. mean the average person- typically someone trying to get away from too much animal protein- is getting WAY too much. Soy has natural plant estrogen and other "not-good-in-large-quantities" components that I highly suggest staying away from. There are so many great choices for non-animal proteins (nuts, seeds, legumes, lentils) that relying on soy is not only dangerous, but leaves you missing out on the good stuff!
  • Rice milk is really high in carbohydrates (starches) and even if we're talking about unsweetened brown rice milk, it's really not what I choose when I have options, though I'd gladly have some on my cereal if that's what's handy. Rice milk, incidentally, is the one my daughter is currently okay with, and it's "school safe" whereas nut milks are not. Though it's not my first choice, I am thrilled to have her off of soy. 
  • Hemp milk is not widely available, and the brands that I've tried have either tasted...well...horrible, or been heavily sweetened. I always opt for the "unsweetened" version of any milk I'm buying. However, that mighty hemp seed is incredibly powerful and loaded with goodness, so I'm very much open to finding another brand or making my own (see below).
  • Almond milk is my first choice out of what's above. I usually choose organic, unsweetened, fortified, vanilla almond milk when I have the option.
There are other milks entering the marketplace now. Coconut milk made an appearance at my local health food store. Haven't had a chance to try it yet, but coconut is absolutely bursting with incredible nutrition. It's definitely something I will try (considering that I cook with coconut oil, use coconut sap as a low-glycemic sweetener and bake with coconut flour, you've gotta figure I'd be game). I HAVE had the chance to try coconut ice cream (as in, made using coconut milk, sweetened with brown rice syrup) and it is so ridiculously creamy and DREAMY that I have to cut myself off or I'd eat it by the gallon.

The alternate to running around trying to find commercially prepared milks, is simply to make them yourself. Kelly from The Spunky Coconut has made a video on how to prepare your own cashew milk, another on almond milk, and a post on how to make hemp milk. I highly recommend checking these out. As long as you have a relatively good blender, you can make this work. Mine is kind of sucky (one day I hope to get myself a Vita-Mix or Blend-Tech but they're about $500 smackers) so if I really cared, I'd strain the milk through a coffee filter or something to get the last of the grit out. But I'm not that worried about it, to be honest. I will occasionally have a glass of it, but it's mostly just for those odd times when I have some cereal or want to have a "milky" blender drink (i.e. NOT a green smoothie).

If you're a proponent of dairy, you're not here to be convinced. There are so many reason so say sionara to dairy, but frankly I'm not here to fight that fight. I'm here to talk to those of you who are leaning that way already and are looking for options. Speaking of options, if you're hoping to jump right in and have a big glass of some milk alternative with a piece of chocolate cake, I'm afraid you'll be very disappointed when you run out and buy one hoping for a clear equivalent. You won't find it. It's a very different kind of flavour and consistency. But if you're dedicated to making a healthy change for the better, surf around until you find an alternative you can live with, and reap the health benefits. The best recommendation I can make when you're going dairy free is to see a naturopathic doctor or holistic nutritionist to work out the best dietary balance for you and your family (as a matter of fact, I'd make that same recommendation to just about anyone). I'm here to share my experiences and my preferences, but they can't take the place of professional advice. All I can tell you is that I am absolutely NIGHT AND DAY different with and without cow's milk in my diet, and that as you reMOOve dairy from your diet (sorry, I couldn't help myself!!) you will experience the wonderful benefits that follow.

Wishing you all health and wellness.

Recipe: Open-faced avocado sammy

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I need to credit my friend Dayna for this recipe. She and I have just started trading, and after this one, I need to ask that she keep 'em coming. When she first told me about it, I thought "Well, not much of a recipe, is it?" but I was so wrong. There is something about these flavours that just works.

Open-faced avocado sammy
2 slices of gluten free bread
1 ripe avocado
1 TB Dijon mustard
1 TB hemp or flax seeds
splash of extra virgin olive oil

Yup. That's it. Toast the bread, slather the Dijon on, add the sliced avocado, dump the seeds on top and drizzle with a little splash of oil.
Heaven. Don't knock it till you try it.


No more gluten or wheat again!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The decision to give my old pal "wheat" a try (maybe you know him?!) was, at best, ill advised. After suffering waves of nausea, massive gastrointestinal upset (in new and spectacular severities) and a big fat eye-pulsing headache in the 48hrs following my little reunion with my long-lost buddy, I think it is safe to say that we are parting ways permanently now. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye...I'm glad, you're gone, I cannot tell a lie...

Green smoothies...and an update. :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Lately, I have been obsessed with green smoothies. They are a great way to make breakfast to go, which is fabulous on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays when I'm with the kids.

Here is one recipe I've been loving lately.

To your blender, add the following:
1/2 lemon (just peel and plop the whole thing in)
2 green apples (cored but certainly not peeled!)
2 TB ground chia and/or hemp seeds
grated ginger (you can keep this in your freezer and grate from frozen- very handy)
3 hand fulls baby spinach
5 romaine leaves
4-5 mint leaves
1/3 cup sunflower sprouts
1/4 pear (just to sweeten in a little)
water, ice (to your liking)

Now for the update...

The boy was tested and revealed no evidence of Celiac. So, the stomach pains and diarrhea that he experiences may just be those rare occasions when someone at school gives him dairy (I've not completely put the hammer down there, so he does get tiny bits now and again).  I haven't completely ruled out food intolerances, and I think anyone would benefit from less wheat in their diet, so I will try to work that out, but for the moment, there doesn't seem to be any long-term damage happening. So that is good. On to other news...

I got my biopsy results back- negative. :) This could mean that all the damage has simply healed (which is probably why the gastroenterologist wants to see me again) but it may also mean that I am totally okay for now. So for the moment, I am going to set aside my intense fear of crumbs that I've been sporting for the last year. I even had a cracker last night- an organic wheat one- just to test it out. I had no immediate reactions (I didn't die!!!! ;) but I am feeling increasingly nauseous today. Not sure if they're related. I am going to do another post soon on what all this means, but today, I'm just glad that it doesn't look like my "celiac genes" are active. This is a good thing.

Going to chill out while my kids are sleeping and having "quiet time". :)

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