Breakfast of Champions!

When I first started changing the way I ate, I had a really hard time with figuring out what to eat for breakfast. I had to avoid wheat and sugar so 99% of all breakfast cereals were off the list; and, bye-bye to toast in the morning, too. I had read that eggs are a good option since they provide protein to keep you full and don’t fall into any of the “no-no” categories that I had to avoid.

I decided to spice it up and make omelettes – so, I’d throw some spinach, onions and garlic and some spices in the mix. Sounds yummy, eh? BUT, after 3 weeks straight of omelettes, the thought of eating another egg made me want to throw up.

Before I became completely repulsed by eggs, I decided that on my next visit to my Naturopath that I would get some advice. She gave me the go-ahead to have oats in the morning. Huh. I thought oats were the same as wheat!? Nope. Totally different family.  Who knew? So that was good news. She also recommended that I buy Ezekiel bread which is bread made of sprouted grain i.e. not processed and it’s way easier on my immune system. At least that way, she said, I’d have more options than just omelettes every morning. BARF!

The Ezekiel bread, I will discuss later on (which is AMAZING by the way, can be found in your grocer’s freezer section, in the “organics” section OR in any health food store).

Okay, back to oatmeal. Because I’m a bit of a go-getter, the very next day, I bought a bag of Robin Hood Minute Oats for less than $2.00. This product has everything that I could ever want…Cheap and easy. I’ve had it about 4 days a week since May and I’m JUST running out now, so I think that it was well worth the toonie. Just sayin’.

Here’s my oatmeal from this morning, nicely cooked. It seriously only took me a few minutes.

And while that was cooking, I mixed some ingredients in my bowl (at least I can justify the fact that I put “multi-tasking” on my resume).

I had read,too, that if you are going to have veggies or carbs, that it’s a good idea to mix it with protein in order to balance out the insulin levels (blood sugar) in your body to avoid feeling too hungry later on and to keep you pancreas working steadily. Apparently, insulin spikes are bad – they lead to light headedness, fatigue, drowsiness, weight gain, irritability etc.

Ever feel drowsy and cranky after eating too much? Kind of like you’re in a coma? That’s why. Too much sugar from the starches in your food is causing a negative reaction in your body. If you balance out your meals with enough protein, you’ll avoid these effects. Seriously, why didn’t I know this before?

So! Back to the morning oats…here is what I came up with (after a few months of experimenting):

  • 1 serving of minute oats (cooked)
  • 1 small handful of sliced almonds
  • 3 dates chopped
  • ¼ TSP ground cinnamon
  • 1 TSP grated coconut

Mix these in the bowl and enjoy!

Other variants can include (though I have not tried this yet, but daydream about it):

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Walnuts (okay, I lied, I have tried this and it was glorious!)
  • Dried cranberries
  • Raisins
  • Nutmeg
  • Agave honey (A little goes a long way, people)
  • Maple Syrup (preferably pure and/or organic – or unprocessed – again, a little goes a long way)

What else tickles your fancy? Get creative!

You can also purchase pre-made granola or trail mixes at the health food store or grocery store, but read the ingredients as they often contain a lot of added sugar. Plus, most of these ingredients purchased can be used in other recipes like smoothies or salads. I am amazed by what I find out just by reading the ingredients (something I never did before). If it contains, wheat, dairy, preservatives (i.e. something I can’t pronounce) or sugar, I ditch it. NEXT!

Enjoy!

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Lamb Coconut Curry

One new recipe that I tried recently, is lamb coconut curry. In fact, this was my first time EVER cooking lamb. And you know what, not that different than cooking beef. It was kind of a hybrid between chicken and beef. It was some good times and very easy. This recipe is simple and delicious. I will definitely be including it in my regular rotation.

This website acutally has a ton of great recipes. Don’t be put off by the fact that it is targeted to people with candida, these recipes are nutritious and suit a variety of tastes.

Here’s a pic of my masterpiece:

Enjoy!

Best First Date, Ever!

A couple of months ago, I was getting dinner at Kale and I noticed that they had desserts in their display. They had these coconut balls that instantly appealed to me, even before the lady behind the counter advised me that they were vegan, organic AND contained no added sugar. No added sugar? Were they bland? How were they sweet, then? Dates. I think dates are serious contenders for nature’s candy. Raisins, you better watch out! You’ve been warned!

Being an adventurous Aries, I decided that one day and one day soon, to make these myself. I scowered the interwebs in search of a recipe that omitted any kinds of sugar and had the simplest recipe with the simplest ingredients. I settled on the following, and ladies and gents, it turned out to be glorious! My parents and friends tried them and they asked me to make them again, which I totally will – when life settles down a bit (famous last words, I know).

Here’s the recipe!

For me, I don’t own a food processor and I naively thought that a blender would be the next best thing. Normally, it really is but when it comes to mashing mass quantities of sticky dates and coconut pieces, it was very laborious and time consuming – BUT well worth it!

If you’re using a blender, like me, I would blend the coconut first, then slowly add the dates in batches. I added everything at once and it was the worst. Nothing blended. Everything stuck to the blade. I had to pour in some water to get things to move and was constantly using a spoon to de-clog the dates from the blade so that the coconut pieces would blend. Excellent times.  But, like I said, well worth it!

See how nicely they turned out?

The best part? GUILT FREE! Just like Margarita says! This works with nearly every diet (unless you are avoiding coconut, but why? WHYYYY?)

Enjoy!

Coconut, Chocolate, Banana Smoothy

Continuing on with my love of coconuts…

Here are some health benefits of coconuts:

  • Good for the kidney and urinary bladder problems
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil a day provide an excellent source of vitamin E
  • Coconut milk relieves stomach ulcers
  • Helps with constipation
  • Packed with vitamins and nutrients

Tonight, I had dinner with an old friend and ex-roommate whom I haven’t seen in far too long. It was great to catch up and people watch – it reminded me of when we lived together and we would sit on our balcony and comment on people who walked by in between sharing stories about our adventures from our night out.

After a nice sushi dinner and some tea,  I really wanted something more, and something a little sweet, but what? I came home and treated myself to a coconut, chocolate banana smoothy.

Here’s how to make it:

Ingredients:

  1. 1 banana (preferably ripe)
  2. 1 heaping teaspoon of coconut flakes (organic, if you can)
  3. 1 heaping teaspoon of cocoa powder (I used Fry’s)
  4. 4oz of soy, goat’s, almond, rice milk
  5. 4 ice cubes

Method:

  1. Put all ingredients in a blender and blend.

Enjoy!

That’s a Tough Nut to Crack!

On my quest to make Coconut Date Balls, I bought my first ever coconut! I brought it home and then realized that I have never cracked a coconut before but thought, how hard could it be? It turns out, it’s pretty hard – literally. I found this great demo on youtube showing how to effectively crack this nut.  After following the instructions, it ended up not being as difficult as I thought.

Tools Needed:

  • Diamond head shaped screw driver
  • Flat head screw driver
  • Hammer
  • Towel or oven mitts
  • Cup or container
  • Veggie peeler

Here’s what I did:

As per the video, I pierced one of the three holes on the top. One of the three is soft – who knew? Why aren’t they all soft? Then I let the coconut water drain into a container which can be used later for drinking or added to a smoothy, which I will get to later.

Once all the juice is drained, I put the coconut in the oven at 375F for about 30 minutes – the video said 15 minutes but I guess it depends on how hot your oven is. Apparently, when it’s ready to be broken, it splits. Mine didn’t. Maybe I just got impatient and didn’t leave it in long enough? But I thought that 30 minutes in the oven was pretty generous.

Then, it’s time to crack the nut. That’s when the hammer comes in handy. This was my favourite part! Take some oven mitts or a towel and remove the coconut from the oven. Place on the counter or another hard surface and hammer the shell. Luckily, I have a concrete balcony, so I brought my coconut out there wrapped in my oven mitts and beat the hell out of it without scaring my neighbours TOO much. I don’t think anyone noticed me hammering, though. At least I don’t think so.

A Tough Nut To Crack!

Anyways, eventually, it will crack.  This is when you bust out the flat head screw driver.

As he shows in the video, the flat head screwdriver pries the coconut meat away from the shell. This wasn’t so bad. The worst part, for me anyways, was peeling the skin from the meat. I had a bit of an accident when the peeler slipped and nearly took off my thumb nail. I’m okay! But my nail is chipped and nearly torn off. All worth it though.

Once the skin is peeled off, I rinsed the coconut in cold water to get all the debris off. I stored it in tupperware container and put it in my fridge for when I’m able to make the coconut date balls. But the meat can be chopped into flakes or used for a variety of other recipes. It’s pretty fantastic!

How It All Began…

Up until recently, I never really took my health seriously. One of my weaknesses was that I wasn’t any good at coping with stress. I would be fine and dandy until something stressful would happen, and then my life would lose momentum and all hell would break lose; I would eat junk food, go out drinking all the time, not get enough sleep and then get too much sleep; my relationships would suffer and I was always too busy trying to get through a day rather than living it. I always knew, that one day, my excessive drinking and partying would catch up to me, and you know what? It did.

I went to India in December 2010. This proved to not only be the worst experience but the best thing that has ever happened to me. From that trip, I realized my life was going in the wrong direction, but more importantly, I realized that I wanted to change it.

What brought it on? Sharp. Stabbing. Severe pains in my lower left abdomen that steadily got worse and worse. It started towards the end of  my trip, but when I got back, it began to get progressively worse.  I went to the doctor who tested me for parasites and liver function. Both came out fine. Still, pain, pain and more pain. Whyyyyy? I went back to the doctor who admitted to me that he had no idea why I was in pain, which is exactly what you want to hear from a trained professional when you are frightened and vulnerable.

He ordered me an ultra-sound of my entire torso. The results came back showing that I was fine. Huh.

Still stumped, my doctor ordered me a CT Scan but the only availability was 3 months later. He sent me on my way and told me that if they pain was unbearable, then I should go the ER. Well guess what, the pain started becoming unbearable. It got to a point where I couldn’t sleep a whole night without the pain waking me up. It got to a point where I couldn’t get through a work day without having to leave early because the pain was unbearable. Eventually, I stopped being able to work full time hours. I would either have to call in sick, or leave early. Thankfully, my boss was very supportive and was behind me 100% to find out what was causing me so much grief.

One day, I was at work and I really wasn’t feeling well; I freezing cold, but I was sweating. I was very lightheaded and I just felt yucky. By 11am, I decided that I had enough and that I should go to the ER. I walked into my boss’ office and before I could ask if I could go home, she told me that I didn’t look good and that she would drive me to the ER. She later told me that my face was a light shade of grey. Not good.  It was then that I realized how sick I was but I didn’t know why. When I finally got to see a doctor in the ER he thought that I might have diverticulosis since I had pain all the time – even when I drank water. He loaded me up on antibiotics and sent me on my way. Out of desperation, I filled the prescription and began taking it. Nothing was working. Little did I know that these antibiotics were actually making me worse!

A few days later, I had an appointment with another family doctor for a second opinion. She wasn’t convinced that I had diverticulosis and asked me to stop taking the antibiotics, agreeing that it could be making me worse. Instead, she asked me to puchase a probiotic and begin taking that. She also asked me to stop consuming caffeine, alcohol, wheat, dairy and sugar for the next few weeks. I was heavily addicted to all of these substances and wasn’t sure if I could do it. She also sent me to get a colonoscopy and a gastroscopy. Both showed that I was “perfectly fine”. I remember the technician telling me that I probably just needed to eat more fibre. Oh….kay…..If only it were that simple!

I really tried to cut it out all out, but it was tough, and honestly, I wasn’t taking it that seriously mainly because I didn’t understand why I was doing this. I cheated every so often, and a few weeks later, during Easter, I completely fell off the band wagon and had some chocolate. I began to feel depressed because my efforts were not helping and I still felt the same – in pain and yucky. I went out drinking a few nights later with my friends and the next morning when I woke up, I felt like death.

That day at work, I could barely focus on what I was doing. I decided to at least make myself useful so I did some research. I had been reading a book called “The Body Knows” by Caroline Sutherland. In it, she describes a condition called Candiasis or Candida Albicans Overgrowth. The symptoms she described in her book sounded like what I was going through, so I decided to research it. What I found, changed my life. I took a quiz to determine whether or not I did indeed have Candidas.

The quiz said that if you scored over 180, then you definitely had it and to get help. My score? It was 285! I couldn’t believe it. I freaked out. Luckily,  my friend was able to refer me to her Naturopath. I was able to get an appointment to see the doctor within a few days.

In the meantime, I was still freaking out. A few days felt like like a lifetime, to me. I consulted a few websites to see what I needed to do to remedy this awful sickness. One the best websites I found was this one. The general advice was to avoid wheat, dairy, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and anything processed. Very similar advice to what the other doctor had given me. Hugh. The good news? I could eat as many veggies as I wanted and as much protein as I wanted. Everything I was told to avoid, I was highly addicted to. But this time,  I was determined to give it all up if it meant that I would feel better.

It was also advised to take some natural antifungals to kill the yeast.

Some of the main suggestions were:

  • Pau d’Arco tea
  • ginger
  • garlic
  • onions
  • coconut oil
  • olive oil
  • cayenne pepper
  • cinnamon
  • cloves…

More are listed here.

Basically, you name it, I took it.

Within a few hours of cutting out the no-no foods and taking the anti-fungals, I began to feel some effects. And then, without warning, I began to feel like a crackhead coming down from a meth addiction. I had the shakes, I was sweating, running to the bathroom every 10 minutes, dizzy, foggy, bloated and achey. I felt like I had the flu! 

Because of the strong side-effects, I knew that I definitely had Candida. When I went to the ND and told her what I had been up to, she laughed but in a horrified kind of way. You know, with the gaping mouth and wide eyes but trying to smile at the same time? Yeah.

After spending more than hour with her, she assessed me and put me on a brand new plan, something a little less hard core and a little more simple and manageable to relieve me of feeling like a washed up celebrity passing out on Hollywood Blvd after yet another failed audition. She gave me these tablets called Candida SAP  and they were used to kill the yeast. I had to take 2 of those 3 times a day. Then, an hour after taking that, I had to take a strong probiotic to rebuild the good bacteria in my gut. I had to take 3 of those a day. Then she put me on  a more manageable eating plan. She gave me recommendations of what to eat so that I wouldn’t be eating stews and carrot sticks for the rest of my life.

This meant that I had to start cooking. No more pizza, or McDonald’s or sushi or subs. Cooking. This meant that I had to plan my meals, buy groceries and re-arrange my schedule so that I would have time to shop, cook, eat and clean. Honestly, it was a huge adjustment for me! I felt very stressed by that whole thing. For a while, I felt like I was constantly shopping and cooking and doing dishes. I was always researching recipes and it would take me forever to make anything because I had never made it before and I didn’t have a clue what to do!

It also meant that I needed to stock up on basics, like spices and dishes and appliances. The best decsion I ever made was buying my blender. It’s kind of like a Magic Bullet but it has lots of different sized cups and is BPA free. Because of this purchase, I discovered my love for soups and dips and smoothies. Oh my!  

I also invested in a spice rack, but that came much later after months of living out of spice bags which was SO ghetto!

The other thing that I invested in, and that totally saved my life was a steamer. I could steam veggies to go with my dinner or steam veggies to make a soup. These things just made life so much simpler for me.

After a while, a funny thing happened – I began to enjoy cooking. After trying something new that I cooked I would say to myself, “Holy, that’s delicious! Who knew that such simple ingredients could be so satisfying??

I began to look forward to trying new recipes.

I also began to get more organized and strategic. When I would cook, I would make triple the amount: one serving for lunch the next day and then the other two, I would freeze. If I had time on the weekend, I would cook a couple of dishes and freeze them. Not only did this save me time, but it saved my sanity!

Whenever I run low on lunches, I pick a night in the week to cook something. At any given moment, I have tomorrow’s lunch ready to be thawed. It’s genius!

After 3 months of careful eating and lifestyle changes, I can say that I feel better than I ever have in my whole entire life. Maybe even better than when I was a kid. I have more energy, my moods are better, my pain is gone, my complexion is better, I’m no longer losing my hair, I’m sleeping better, my allergies are nearly gone and  I lost about 15lbs! I will never, ever go back to that lifestyle.

Remembering how sick I was and how unhappy I was is motivation enough to keep me on the right track and that is why I started this blog. Not only will this blog serve to motivate and inspire me to keep learning about health and nutrition so that I stay on the right track for the rest of my life, but I hope that whatever informaiton I learn, I will be able to share with you, to help you, so that you don’t have to go through the same suffering that I went through.

I look forward to sharing my journey with you as I live and learn!

Bon appetit!