Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sweet Retreat from Wheat

To get us started off on kicking gluten I decided to try making these gluten free cookies.  They were super easy to whip up, and are very similar to a sugar cookie.  Overall, they were good but definitely not something I'm going to be rushing out to make right away again.  The biscotti was really good, although the pieces are cut a little bigger than I'd like for one cup of tea, so next time I'll probably break them in half.  Enjoy!  

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dear Gluten, It's not you... It's me...

Well, actually... it is kinda you.  After talking to my naturopath this past thursday we decided that it would be worth while to put me on a gluten free diet to try to achieve some of my health goals we're working on together.  I have to admit when she first said "How do you feel about going gluten-free?"  I thought she must be crazy!!  How was I going to give up my beloved pasta... my breads... my muffins... and let's not forget my granola bars!!  But actually, when we took a closer look at my diet it was actually a relatively low gluten diet to begin with, and the areas that were high, such as pastas are easily substituted.  Quite a bit of the gluten I've been eating is just to go along side with my main meal (ie: A roll with my ceasar salad for lunch... or a muffin to go with my eggs in the morning.)

This in combination with the fact that almost all things that have gluten are available in a gluten-free variety makes me think that it will actually be a lot easier than I thought it would be.  For instance I found a really great brand of gluten free rolled oats which I plan on using for my next batch of granola bars.  My naturopath's advice was that Japanese, Thai and Mexican are great cuisines that are low to no gluten since they rely heavily on rice and corn flour.  That's very good news being that I cook mexican at least once or twice a week... and Jon and I both LOVE sushi and Thai! 

She also mentioned Satisfaction Feast, The Wooden Monkey  and  The Brooklyn Warehouse which are all restaurant in Halifax which are gluten-free friendly.  We tried The Brooklyn Warehouse tonite which we have actually been meaning to try for a while, and was absolutely incredible!!!  It's so great to be able to go out for a nice meal and still get farm fresh food that tastes incredible!!  Whoever said that healthy eating can't be absolutely yummy is just flat out wrong!  I've tried Satisfaction Feast ages ago and it was wonderful.  We'll have to try to go again soon.

All in all, Jon and I have actually been making a lot of changes to our diet recently from switching to organic foods to adding a great variet of supplements to our diets.  Each change has been much easier than we originally thought it would be.  What's more is that I've already noticed the desired effects of the supplements which is huge incentive to keep up with it and all similar changes.

I'll keep all my blog readers up to date on how the gluten-free diet goes.  So far my plan is to still make my granola bars, but obviously use a gluten free rolled oat.  In addition for pasta we are switching to rice pasta.  Other than that I have to just be conscious to not ask for a roll on the side and I should be golden!!  :)  This may also be the push I need to cook more indian foods for us such a dal which is a lentil... and rajma which is made from Kidney beans.  Wish us luck!!    

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Good Morning, Sunshine!

One of the main health initiatives that we've been trying to focus on is cutting down on refined sugar, and trying to reduce our sugars overall.  I was shocked to learn that my beloved Nature Valley Granola Bars (and essentially all granola bars in the grocery store) are just glorified candy bars!!  I was literally angry when I was looking at the label the other night!  I really do not understand how they're able to market that junk as healthy!

This in combination with the fact that I'm still not eating much of a breakfast in the morning, I took on making my own granola bars!  I figure this way I will know what's in them, and they're the perfect grab and go breakfast food.  This morning I tossed a granola bar, an apple and an orange in my purse and was off!

Here are the goods!

One cup whole wheat flour, 2 cups rolled oats

1/2 Cup Powdered Skim Milk

This is the money shot... I *heart* honey!

My new best friend, the flax seed

Variety mix of pumpkin seeds, almonds, and raisins 

The earth's candy...  Dried red currents, apricot, pineapple papaya and raisins

Chopped and saved 1/2 for the next batch. 

All the yummies mixed up and ready to go!


Just ready to go in the over!!  They already smelled SOO good!  

The good stuff!!  There are no pictures of me dipping the bars cause I was WAY too wrapped up in how heavenly it was!!  :) 

Voila!!  Easy Peasy!!  This batch made 16 bars, which is perfect to last Jon and I through 1 week... giving us each one bar a day with a little wiggle room!  :)  

And here's the recipe!  The cross outs are what the recipe called for, and I substituted for, or eliminated.

2 Cups rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup dry skim milk powder
6 Tbsp sugar    2tsp honey
1 cup apple juice
1/4 cup flax seed
1/2 cup dates snipped in small pieces
1/2 cup chopped dried pineapple, apricot etc.
1/2 tsp cinnamon  1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/4 cup shelled pumpkin or sunflower seeds
pinch of salt
1/2 cup oil  (I used sunflower seed oil, but evoo would be fine too if that's all you have handy)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat over to 350 F.  Grease glass baking dish.

Combine all ingredients except chocolate.  Pat into the pan with moist hands.  Bake for 30 minutes until lightly browned around the edges.  Cut while still hot, but let cool completely before taking out of the pan.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave on high for 2 minutes, stopping every 30 seconds to stir the chocolate.

I've wrapped mine individually with cellophane, and put them in a zip lock in the fridge so they're super easy to grab and go!  No fuss!!  No muss!!  Enjoy!  

Monday, April 19, 2010

Organic Decadence

On an impulse buy during my last trip to Planet Organic, I bought a chocolate bar that was by the register.  I know, I know... not really in keeping with our whole new "health" kick.  But I'm a sucker for good marketing... On top of which I was starving... and my logic was, "I am in an organic store, it's gotta be healthy..."  I know it's not a great defense... moving on, I picked it up.  One of the best decisions of my life!!!  It was a Theobroma Chocolate Bar.

Now those who know me well, know that I am not, by any means a chocolate lover.  But this was pure decadence!!  60% cocoa... dark chocolate with real raspberry flakes.  No chocolate I've ever tasted has come close!!  It embodies the word decadent.  I highly recommend you seek one out. 

Of course I only had the wrapper left before I was able to snap a picture... DELISH! 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Organic Healthy Food... Cheap, Easy AND Convenient??

This is the beautiful box of organic veggies and foods that showed up at our house Saturday morning!  Words cannot even begin to describe how happy I was when I opened this box!  Jon and I just signed up for the "weekly food box" with Home Grown Organic Foods.

We've been trying to eat healthier, and really take a close look at labels, and what's really in our food.  Even things that we thought were healthy, like soy milk... is actually SO over processed when you really look at it.  With all of this, I was really begining to wonder if I can't even help Jon and I eat healthy... how the heck do people manage to teach their kids the healthy things to eat??  Friends have mentioned Home Grown to us a few times, and to be honest... I really have no idea why it took us so long to sign up.  There are 4 sizes to choose from... single, double, family and clan.  This is the single and it was $30!!  Home delivery and all included!  I never in a million years thought that eating right would be easy AND convenient.

Home Grown is a cooperative that purchases from local growers in NS so that way we are supporting local growers, and know that our food doesn't have any pesticides, hormones or other yucky things.

To support our new initiave to eat healthy, we've also started taking some pretty essential supplements... one thing we've both started doing is 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed a day.  So I decided to add this all natural Goats Milk yogurt to throw my flaxseed in... and it's been delicious!!

Yummy almond butter!!  Much less in fat than peanut butter... and helps me get my protein!  

Jon was over the moon to see these fresh mushrooms! 

This is Swiss Chard.  I have to admit, when I first saw this in the box I didn't have a sweet clue how I was going to cook it.  Jon made us supper last night, and he cut up some of this Swiss Chard, steamed it with 2 chopped cloves of garlic, a tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil... and once it was done put a couple handfulls of feta cheese in, put the lid back on the pot so the cheese got soft and spread on the Chard.  It was DELICIOUS!!  I made some to go on the side of our meal tonite too cause I was still craving it!

I'm also planning on making this  during the week.  I will likely sub out the sausage for baked chicken breast...  But it sounds delicious!

I've met with naturopaths a few times... never really found one that I fully connected with.  But I'm actually booked in to see one who was highly recommened by a friend, at Balance Naturopath Health Center.   And the one thing that I've always gotten consistently is a scolding for skipping breakfast.  I know everyone says it's the most important meal of the day... But who has the time for healthy nutritious breakfast in the morning when rushing off to work??  So I decided to add this to my order as well.  The plan is to have my granola with a few table spoons of yogurt, and an additional 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds.  So far it's been going really well... although, it has also been the weekend.  Haha!  My plan is to tonite, mix up a tupperware of the granola and yogurt and some fruit to last me through the week.   I really think, like all of the other choices that we've made, it'll be alot easier than we thought it would be.

All in all... It's been really easy to start eating healthier... and while it does seem like a big adjustment before you start doing it the one thing Jon and kept talking about is that we want to make these changes before kids come along because life itself seems hard when you have a newborn... I can't imagine making a change like this while also adjusting to parenthood.  And it's really important to both of us to make sure we teach our kids healthy eating habits that our parents didn't have to worry about when we were little tykes.  There are so many chemicals and over processed foods out there that just weren't on the market 20 years ago.  It only makes sense to start making these habits now.  

There are a few things that I'm still learning to do.  Like today when I went to go pick up my favorite box of crackers, glanced at the label and noticed that almost none of the ingredients were easily pronounced, or even the names of food.  I hate to admit, I did stand there for a second and try to decide if it was worth it... but I'm proud to say that I put them back, and chose a natural cracker with actual foods as the ingredients.

Thanks for reading!!  I'll be sure to update some of the new recipes we try!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Just for my honey...

Well, it's that time again... Exam time.  The dreaded exam time.  To make matters worse, Jon has a stats exam this wednesday and it's apparently supposed to be a brutal one.  I was feeling really guilty because I got his hopes up yesterday with the promises of a black forest cake (his FAVORITE) only to realize that we didn't have whipping cream, or cherry filling...  He was pretty bummed out.  To make it up to him, I whipped it up tonite... even after having to work late, and a pretty stressful day at work.  What can I say... my boy is worth it!  :)  Nice little treat to suprise him when he's back from the library tonite.


The Finished Product

Mmm... Chocolate batter....

Ready to go in the oven... (You can tell it was a long day because I used disposable pans... Haha!  No chance I was hauling out my regular pans and doing dishes...)  

There is nothing more heavenly than fresh homemade real whip cream....  

Mmmm... my heart melts with this... Jon won't eat the cake unless it's got the real stuff on it!  :) 


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Must Love Dogs... Err... Cats

Yesterday I was in the grocery store picking up milk... That's all I needed.  Just had to run in and out.  Then without even thinking about it, I went to the pet supply aisle and picked out a new toy and treat for Sprout.  And that's when I realized... I'm a "cat person" after all....    

Having never had cats before, and growing up with a few dogs through out my childhood I have always considered myself more of a "dog person" than a "cat person".  Truth be told, I always used to wonder how anyone could really like cats?  They seemed like such selfish animals, that were always on mission, and had an agenda they were on.  People were just the lowly servants that attended to them, and they couldn't be bothered by things like affection.  Jon on the other hand has always been a "cat person", and never really cared for dogs much.  Whenever we considered getting a dog he always asked me what the different life spans were for different breeds and the longer the life span the less interested he was.

I never thought I would see the day that I owned a cat - and much less the day that I would consider myself a "cat person".  Sprout has now been a part of our lives for almost two months and I'm completely a cat person.  Now, I have put this clause in here that I really do think we got lucky because he has never once touched any of our furniture, is not a scratcher, or bad with his claws at all, he lets me brush him and clip his nails no problem... and even lets me bathe him!  I'm still maintaining that I like cats on a case by case basis... but we got really lucky! 

Here are some pics of our boy with his new toy!  

Sprout with his pretty blue bow tie - a hand me down from Armani  :)  

Another shot of the bow tie 

LOVES having to chase, and playing with the furries.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Song for a Fifth Child (From a Friend)

This is a poem a friend of mine who is a new mother posted on her blog.  I wanted to share, cause I think it's beautiful...   

Song for a Fifth Child.
by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton
Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I've grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo

The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew
And out in the yard there's a hullabaloo
But I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren't his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Humane Alternative

I will absolutely never forget the first time I saw a cat being declawed.  I was 16 years old, volunteering in the local Vet Hospital in Freehold.  The "surgery" is nothing short of the most barbaric act I have ever seen.  For those of you who have not had the ability to see the procedure... It starts by cutting incisions in each of the cat's toes from the claw down about 1cm.  Then surgical scissors are used to cut the claw at the base.  Up to this point, it all seems relatively fine and humane.  Next, a small mallet is used to selectively smash any of the bones that are left in the toes of the cat and they are pulled away peice by peice to avoid any possiblity of regrowth.  And just to make sure the job is done, inscisions are made all through the muscle of the cat's front paw to make sure the claws never regrow.

Ofcourse, the cat is fully sedated for the process, and feels no pain during.  However, there's nothing quite as sad as seeing a cat wake up from this surgery only to find that his paws are not only sore, but also bandaged beyond belief.

What's the most sad to me is that alot of people don't realize that there are a lot of other ways to deal with cat claw issues!!!  First of all, our kitty LOVES his scratching post!  I highly recommend, if you're considering getting a cat... Buy your scratching post first!!  He has NEVER touched a single peice of our furniture or tried to take a swat at us.  He's absolutely amazing with his claws.  Now I know, we were lucky... and there are situations that dealing with a cat's claws are necessary.  For instance, if a cat ever swatted at a child...

I bring you... SOFT PAWS!!!  :)  They're SUCH a wonderful invention!!  They are soft rubber caps that glue on to the cat claw.  Sprout has them on him, and he doesn't even notice them!!  I was able to put them on and it only took about 10 minutes per paw.  You may be asking why I put the Soft Paws on him if he's so great with his paws.  Well, for a number of reasons... 1) He's just a kitten, and we want him to get used to us handling him, and checking him out for different things, and things like trimming nails, giving baths etc... (Yes, we even gave him a bath no hiccups... I told you, we got lucky!!)  2)  I'm pretty certain that when babies come along Sprout might be the jealous type, and we want to start training him now to not rely on his claws to take out his frustration.  And 3)  As he is just a kitten, and when he wants to jump off of us he will sometimes put his claws out for traction to leap off.  Since putting the Soft Paws on him he has learned how to use the muscles in his pads more, and not rely on digging in.

Soft Paws Website

Check them Out!!  You can get the soft paws in all different colors or clear.  Jon wanted red paws for Sprout, so that's what we got for our little guy.  You can get them at almost any Pet Stores, and Vets across the country have them.  They cost $25 - $30 for 4 applications.  (1 Application lasts about 6 weeks) 

Here are some pics!

This is a picture from the website.  Looks like painted nails on Short Haired Cats!!  

Sprout with his pretty red nails!!  
Sprout doesn't look too impressed in this picture... That was mainly because of the repeated pictures his mom was trying to take of his nails...  :)  It's harder to see since he's a DMH.  (Domestic Medium Haired)

So please consider alternatives to declawing.  Soft Paws and scratching posts are only two options.  If you chat with your vet, I am sure that they will have many other options for you to try.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Back To Blogging!

I have to say I'm a little embarrassed that it's now Apil and I'm just blogging for the first time this year!  Well, first of all I have to say that I'm definitely more committed now to blogging more often, and hope this becomes our new way to keep in touch with friends and family who live far away.

Not to make excuses for myself, but one of the reason I hadn't blogged much was that I wasn't too impressed with the blog lay outs on and could never figure out how everyone else seemed to have these beautiful blogs!!  Finally, I stumbled across!  Such a wonderful website with free blog backgrounds and banners!  Definitely inspires me to blog more and keep our blog current!!  I'm hoping this will be the inspiration that I need!

Well, the most notable change that has happened in the months since Christmas is that we've added a new addition to the family!!  We've adopted a kitty from the local Halifax SPCA!!  His name is Sprout.  Jon has always been more drawn to cats, and I've always been more of a dog person.  I didn't think I would ever really become a "cat person" per say, but to my surprise, I am absolutely in love with our little munchkin!!  Jon's pretty smitten with him too.  He was just 7 months old when we adopted him on Valentine's day, and is really settling in quite nicely.  I have to say, I've been lucky... he's let us put kitty sweaters on him, fancy bows, lets me cut his nails no problem, and even let me give him a bath!!  (There were a few splashes ofcourse!)  I have no idea how we got so lucky but he's definitely the perfect kitty for us.  So glad we were able to give him a home, and give the SPCA room to take in another kitty in need.

Another new development is that I have taken up the guitar, and am absolutely loving it!!  I have started taking guitar lessons regularly friday nights.  Jon's been enjoying the "music", and is hoping that I learn some Johnny Cash songs soon!  At the moment I'm working on "I walk the line".  Hopefully it won't take too long to get down.  I've got the first few strums down, and have learned chords C A G E and D.  Overall, it's just a really fun hobby that I'm really enjoying!  

I will definitely do a better job of keeping everyone up to date on what is new with us, and am sure that blogging will finally become a new hobby of ours.  In the mean time, here are some pictures of what we have been up to over the past few months!

Me and my honey...  Just snapping some pictures so I don't miss him too much when he's on the boats this summer ...

Practicing the first few lines of "I walk the line", by Johnny Cash. 

Our stylin' kitty... Sprout Monahan

 Me and my baby on my birthday hike... March 18th.  Such a beautiful day!

Our family picture on my birthday after a very nice long hike, a wondeful afternoon of snuggling, romantic sushi dinner, and a great movie with my honey!!  Now that's what I call a GREAT birthday!!

Our kitty on Valentine's day... just one day after we brought him home.  :)

Family picture on Valentine's day after a very yummy greek dinner at Athens!!  :)

Thanks for reading!!  We'll be posting much more in the next few weeks!!  Some really exciting news coming!!  :)