Feeling Fat?

Fat. What is it? Should we avoid it? Why do we need it?

So many things to consider when standing in the aisles of the grocery store staring blankly at all of the “healthy” options in front of us. Now that summer is here and we are outside and more active (hopefully) and trying to shed our winter flab, I thought I’d help to demystify what are GOOD fats and what are BAD fats.

Basically, there are two type of main fats: Saturated and Unsaturated.

Saturated Fats: When the molecule in the saturated fat molecule is packed with hydrogen atoms leaving no more empty spaces for additional molecules to attach.

So basically, this fat is so dense that it  makes it very difficult for your body to break down. It’s not a good idea to consume this often (i.e. by eating lots of fast food, processed foods, etc.). Like everything in life, enjoy in moderation.

How do we obtain it? Two ways – animal and plant sources.

Animal Sources: red meat, pork, dairy fats, butter and cheese

Plant Sources: Tropical oils –> coconut oil, palm kernal oil and cocoa butter.

Using these tropical oils to cook with is a better bet than say olive oil because since they are high density fats, the nutrients in the oils will not break down. And yes, there are plenty of health benefits to the plant sourced saturated fats – but, like I said, everything in moderation! I’ll get into more of these benefits later on. Isn’t it better to get your fats from whole foods rather than chemically produced foods? That way, you know that what you are consuming has nutrients in it.

I usually scoop a  tablespoon of organic extra virgin coconut oil into my frying pan when I make a stir fry or fry up some chicken. A little goes a long way.

The second type are unsaturated fats.

Unsaturated Fats: These fat molecules have empty spaces that are not taken up by hydrogen molecules, therefore, our bodies can break these fats down much easier.  There are two types: Mono-unsaturated and Poly-unsaturated fats. In order for them to maintain their nutrients, it’s best to only heat them slightly or not at all (i.e. serve as part of a salad dressing, more on that in a minute!).

What’s the difference between Mono and Poly?

Mono-unsaturated fats: This is when the the fat molecule has one bond and two empty spaces not taken up by hydrogen molecules. That empty space is what helps absorb other nutrients that consume alongside the fat. This oil should only be heated slightly.

Sources include mainly vegetable and nut oils such as: almond, olive, peanut and canola.

Poly-unsaturated fats: This when the fat molecule has many spaces not taken up by hydrogen molecules (even more nutrients can be absorbed and this fat is even easier to break down in our bodies). Because this fat is unstable, its sources should never be heated, otherwise, it would lose all of its nutritional properties. Not good for business and really, quite pointless since you’ve spent the money and time preparing your food just to have it be devoid of any health benefits. Cooking fail.

There are 2 types of poly-unsaturated fats: Omega-3 and Omega-6 known as Essential Fatty Acids or EFAs.

Why are poly-unsaturated fats amazing? Well, among a whole slew of health benefits, one of the main things that they do is help control your cholesterol. They increase the “good” cholesterol (high-density lipoproteins aka HDL). HDL is responsible for carrying the cholesterol from the tissues to the liver and thus, flushing it out.  On the flip side, poly-unsaturated fats lowers your “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins aka LDL). Seems like a good trade-off.

Omega-3: This little guy  slows down the formation of blood clots in the arteries and controls your blood pressure, increases your energy, improves your learning, decreases your risk of heart disease and assists in weight loss.

Omega-6: This is one of the components in all cell membranes. In humans, it’s found in the brain and nerves. Omega-6 is needed for healthy skin, proper function of the reproductive system, to regulate blood pressure, and to promote blood clotting.

Here are some great food sources for Omega-3 and Omega-6: flax seeds, hemp seeds, almonds, walnuts, avocados, pumpkin seeds, green leafy veggies, tofu, soy beans, eggs and cold-water fish.

Now that it’s summer and you probably don’t feel like standing in front of a stove, plus you probably would rather be taking advantage of the sunshine (you know, for those 3 months we get it) then why not eat more salads? They are quick, easy and there are so many ways to get creative so that they never get dull.

Usually, for lunch, I’ll have a spinach salad with fried tofu, tuna or a hard boiled egg, some avocado, seeds, and veggies (tomatoes, carrots, cucumber or whatever else is in my fridge). Rather than buying commercial salad dressing, I make my own. This is a really simple recipe that takes me less than 3 minutes to make and it costs pennies to make.

I had this salad the other day for lunch: spinach, sprouts, quinoa, red onion, fried tofu, orange bell pepper and cucumber. Sprinkled some oregano and black pepper on it and then mixed in the dressing. Yum! So refreshing!

Ingredients:

  • Apple Cider Vinegar (organic if possible): 2 tbsps
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (organic if possible): 2 tbsps
  • Agave or Honey: 1 tsp
  • 1 clove garlic – minced (optional)

Method:

In a small bowl or dish mix all of the ingredients and stir. Done! This serves two.

Enjoy!

Next time, I will discuss our enemy, hydrogenated fats.

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Recipe: Thai Inspired Stir Fry

Today’s recipe is an oldy but a goody. If you like Thai food but don’t want leave your apartment to get take-out or not enough funds in the bank to go to Thailand BUT you do have enough veggies in the fridge to make this (more or less) then you are in luck!

In keeping with the garlic theme, I made sure to include garlic in this recipe – and believe you me, it was a wise decision! It added a certain sweetness to the curry that otherwise would not have been there. Or maybe it was due to the coconut milk. Either way, it turned out pretty darned good.

In my quest to find foods that are both antiviral yet delicious, I stumbled upon coconuts. Coconuts for me have become this wonder fruit and I try to incorporate this ingredient into as many meals and drinks as I can on a daily basis. In my previous post all about coconuts, I gush about how not only they are high in magnesium (which is excellent if you are active) but they kill the bad bacteria in your gut and aid to flush it all out. Incredible.

Give this a try and let me know what you think!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of coconut milk (I used light organic)
  • 1 handful of baby carrots – chopped
  • 1/4 head of broccoli – the florets only
  • 1/4 cup of red onion – finely chopped
  • Chicken (as desired) – make sure it’s cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 bell pepper – cut into strips length-wise
  • 1 small romano tomato – diced
  • 2 baby bella mushrooms – diced
  • 1/4 tsp of chili powder (or to taste)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp of coriander
  • 1/4 tsp of turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp of cumin
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 2 servings of brown rice pasta, brown/wild rice or quinoa

Method:

Heat the oil in a pan and add the spices and let this simmer until fragrant (usually about a minute or so). Add the onions and stir.

The red onions sizzling in the pan with the spices.

Then add the chicken pieces, tomatoes and mushrooms. Let all of this goodness simmer for about 5 minutes.

Here she is…in all of her glory….

Next, stir in the coconut milk (you’ll want to slowly mix this in so that it doesn’t splatter everywhere).

This is what I used…YUM!

Flip the chicken pieces over (they should be browned by now) and then add the broccoli and the bell peppers.

Stir everything together. Let everything simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes or until the broccoli has cooked. You’ll know it’s cooked when it starts to appear softer in texture.

By now your rice pasta/rice/quinoa should be ready. Add this in and mix it all in together! Don’t be shy!

Let everything sit for a few minutes and serve.

The final product! I had 2 helpings and even had enough for lunch the next day.

Serves 2-3 people.

Prep time: 5 to 10 minutes

Cook time: 10 to 20 minutes

Total: 30 minutes

Enjoy!

Variety is the Spice of Life!

How many times have you read a recipe and thought, “I have NO IDEA what that spice is (or how to pronounce it) let alone how it will taste?” or “When will I ever use this spice again?” I have.

Before last year when I started my health make-over, I didn’t even own a spice rack! I was so intimidated by spices that if I didn’t recognize one or already have it I would deliberately omit it from the recipe. It’s like saying, “I don’t know what interest vs principle means, so I won’t bother trying to figure that out and I’ll just keep paying the minimum payment.” Imagine? Wait, don’t.

This month, I’m going to try to help take the mystery out of some spices that are not only common but should be added to your dishes frequently. Why? Mainly because not only do they add a punch of flavour but they happen to be very good for you!

Spices are great (and important) because they can turn any basic meal from ordinary to extraordinary!

The spices discussed will be: garlic, ginger, coriander, and turmeric. I consider these to be some of the essential spices.

My plan for the month of May is to demystify them by sharing with you some of their benefits and giving you some recipes to incorporate them in.

There are many others that I wanted to discuss but I wanted to start with these since they are on my top 10 list (yes, I actually have a top 10 list and anyone who knew me in my 20s would be shocked that am this in love with cooking and no longer in a passive-agressive realationship with Dominoes pizza!).

Don’t worry, I promise to do another Spice Month soon to discuss the other six spices that I deem essential and/or amazing.

Stay tuned!

First up: Garlic.

PS: Tell us, what is your  favourite spice?

PPS: What spice would you bring with you on a desert island?

Recipe: Quinoa Patties

Looking for a way to add other grains into your diet? If you’re getting bored of rice, mix things up with quinoa (pronounced KEEN-WAH).

Some quick facts about this super grain:

  • An amino acid-rich protein (a complete protein suitable for vegans) considered to be a grain but actually part of the the leafy green family, like spinach or swiss chard (WHO KNEW?)
  • Contains the high levels of the amino lysine, essential for tissue growth and repair. Lysine is also used to treat cold sores.
  • Great source of maganese, magnesium, folate and phosporus making it useful in combatting migrains, diabetes and atherosclerosis

Did you know that you can purchase quinoa all year round? Find it at either at your local health food store or in the health food section of your grocery store.

This week, I wanted to make something different but not too complicated. With a little digging on the interwebs, I found this recipe.

This was simple enough and one of the only quinoa patty recipes I’ve found that doesn’t require me to purchase a dehydrator (more on that later).

*** I made mine bite sized. Though it took a little bit more time to cook, it was TOTALLY worth it.

I really like their ideas on what to pair it with.  Another treat would be goat cheese, with sliced roasted beets on top. Or avocado with a slice of tomato and some salt and pepper. Or, have it with salad and/or soup. That’s usually my fail safe option. Or you can cut up the patty and put directly on your salad or in a pita or tortilla.  I had a couple for breakfast this morning with my Vega shake. So many options!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed (organic if possible)
  • 2 cups water or broth
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour (I like to use rice flour)
  • 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano (parmesan), grated
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oil for frying (olive, coconut, saffoil, grapeseed…)
* I also added some chili powder to spice it up a bit. Feel free to add any spices that you prefer!

Method

Simmer the quinoa in the water for approximately 15 minutes. By then , the liquid should be absorbed and the quinoa should be tender. When it has finsihed cooking, let it cool for a bit.

Mix the cooked quinoa with the eggs, onion, garlic, flour, parmesan, salt and pepper, adding more flour if required.

Here's the quinoa mixed with all of the ingredients.

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.

Spoon the mixture into the pan and form patties of any size that you desire and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 2-4 minutes per side.

The bite sized patties frying in the pan...they smelled SO good!

Set aside on paper towels to drain.

The first few that I made...I must have ate about 5 of them, you know...to make sure they came out alright 😉

 
 
 
 
Here they are, the finished product, served on top of my spinach salad!
 
 
 
 
 

___________________

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Enjoy!

_________

Tell us, how do you prepare your quinoa? What is your favourite dish?

Up next…spicing it up with spices!

Whole Grain 5 Blend Rice

I experimented with some new rice last night. I had found it at the most magical place on Earth – the Bulk Barn (more on that later). I was getting bored of the same old brown rice and brown rice pasta so I decided to mix things up a bit. Living on the wild side, I know!

It’s called: Whole Grain 5 Blend (long grain brown rice, grano, Colusari red rice, sprouted brown rice (YES PLEASE!) and wild rice).

Here it is!

The verdict? Delicious! Definitely loading up on more of that stuff on my next trip to the Bulk Barn.

And here's what it looks like...

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 tsp of pepper, chili powder, turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp of coriander and paprika
  • 2 tbsp grape seed oil (olive oil or coconut oil as a substitute)
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1/4 smal onion, chopped
  • 1/2 a chicken breast chopped
  • 1/4 cup lentils – cooked or canned
  • 1 lime (juice)

Veggies of choice:

  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • small handful of baby carrots
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1 romano tomato diced
  • 1 generous handful of sprouts
  • 2 baby potatoes, chopped
  • Rice – 1/2 cup of cooked rice (brown, wild, mixed, brown rice pasta)

Method:

Cook rice (as per the instructions) while you prepare and cook your stir fry (takes about 30 minutes).

Put the oil in the pan, then spices, then chicken. Next, add your onion, tomato, potatoes, garlic and lime juice.  Let simmer for  a few minutes. Flip over chicken pieces when they are a brown on one side. While they are simmering, add red bell pepper, spinach and sprouts.  Let simmer and mix occasionally. When the rice has cooked add about 1/2 a cup (or however much you prefer) to the pan along with the lentils. Stir and let it sim-simmer (you want the flavours to mix).

This is enough for 2 servings (one for dinner and one for lunch).

The finished product... What I brought for lunch today.

Enjoy!

What Happens in Vega, Stays in Vega….

Ben Franklin said it best, “Lost time is never found again.”.

Have you ever woke up in the morning and thought, “If I could just sleep 10 more minutes, I’d feel so more refreshed?” But then, 10 minutes turns into 20 and before you know it, you’re scrambling to get out the door and get to work and you haven’t even had a bite to eat at breakfast (and no, a latte does NOT count).

This leads me to today’s post. I’d like to share with you a product that was recently recommended to me by a friend of mine. At first, I was sceptical, well, cynical, that this was worth the money.  But, after using it every day for 2 weeks, I have to say – this is a winner! If my name was Oprah Winfrey, I would definitely have this as one of my favourite things. But I’m not. So, I will just have to blog about it instead.

The product that I am gushing about is called Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer. I think the name says it all. But I’d like to go over what it is, the benefits and where to buy it.

Vega - Whole Food Health Optimizer (15 servings of goodness!)

Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer contains 100% of your recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals, fibre, Omega 3 and 6, EFAs, antioxidants, probiotics, enzymes , ChlorEssence and MacaSure.

It comes in four flavours: Vanilla Chai (my favourite), Chocolate, Berry and Natural Flavour.

It’s free of any allergens and toxic additives such as: animal products, dairy, gluten, soy, sugar, wheat, yeast, artificial sweeteners, GMOs and pesticides.

Additionally, it’s a clean product and alkaline forming. In short, a tall glass of heaven.

It was created by Brendan Brazier, a vegan and a professional iron man athlete. He wanted to create a formula and a line of nutritional products that would aid him to train and recover in the most efficient way.

Here is his story .

He recently developed a new and improved version of the Whole Food Health Optimizer called One.

I just purchased a bunch of the old stuff since it was on sale, so eventually when I run out, I’ll be looking forward to trying this out!

Why do I like this product so much that I would want to share it with you? Here is a quick list of why I think this product is great:

    1. Convenient. This is SUPER easy to make. All you really need is a cup, a measuring cup and some water. But if you want to be fancy like me, get your trusty blender out and add a couple of ice cubes and 300ml of water and blend. It makes a bit of a slushy and is delicious! It’s also super easy for when you travel. Just pre-measure the amount you will need depending on the number of days you’re gone and pack it along with the scoop that is provided in the tub. I have a plastic cup with a lid that I bring with me, so all I need to do is put 2 scoops of the powder in the cup along with enough water, put that lid on TIGHT and shake until the mix is dissolved. Then I chug that baby down and I’m done. Believe it or not, it keeps you full for about 3 or 4 hours. Starting to see why I’m loving this so much?

    2. Save time in the mornings cooking breakfast. No more waking up and wondering what to make. No more wasting so much money on overpriced breakfast cereals (that are generally laden with sugars). Simply wake up, shake, drink and go. Even if you don’t have time at home, you can always bring and keep some at work to prepare at the office. If you LOOOOVE breakfast, this also makes a great meal replacement for lunch, especially if you have all day meetings or no time to grab lunch. Or you could have half of a serving as a snack!

    3. Save money vitamins. Since this product contains 100% of your recommended daily intake of vitamins, you won’t need to shell out money on supplements and multivitamins.  Yes, please!

    4. More energy and knowing that you’re doing something great for your health. I’ve definitely noticed that I have more energy and just feel good since taking this product. Digestion is better and I have more clarity and focus.

    5. Gluten, dairy, wheat, soy, sugar, chemical free product‘nough said!

    6. Good for the environment. I thought this was clever:

      I thought this was interesting.

So, where does one purchase this fine product? It can be found at any health food store such as Noah’s or in the health food store section of your grocery store.

This site also sells it http://shopca.sequelnaturals.com/ and will also indicate where Vega products are sold http://myvega.com/find-a-store .

It costs anywhere from $60 to $80 depending on the store.

Like I said, I’ve been seeing it on sale since there will be a new version launched soon. But it’s totally worth the cost considering the money you spend each month on vitamins and breakfast. Plus, aren’t you worth it?

If you’ve read this and thought that this sounds amazing and would really benefit you then I suggest that you buy some (you can buy a smaller tub for about $45) and try it out for a week and see how you like it. Why not?

I hope at the very least, I’ve given you some good information and something different to think about.

Enjoy!

Detox: Day 8 and Feeling Great!

Day eight of the detox. I’m starting to notice more of a difference especially in my energy level and mood. I initially did the detox because I was feeling sluggish and a bit depressed. I thought that by not only feeding my body properly but also focusing more attention on myself, I would start to feel better – and it’s working.

I have a few challenges up ahead, notably, this weekend is my mom’s birthday and I’m not sure how well the conversation will go with my “meat and potatoes” Irish descendant parents about why I am not partaking in birthday cake. I can hear their pleading yet mocking voices now, “One little piece won’t kill you…..” Sure, it won’t kill me, but it will kill all of my hard work so far. By then, I would be on day 13 – so that’s nearly 2 solid weeks of sacrifice and thoughtful planning down the tubes. Once you eat anything on the “no no” list, it’s over. I wish we had a dog. Or more kids in my family (I’m an only child) so no sneaking the cake to a sibling or pet.

I could always do like in that one Seinfeld episode when Jerry doesn’t want to eat the mutton so he spits it out in Grandma Memma’s napkins. Please tell me you know what I’m talking about! If not, here’s a clip (sorry for the poor quality).

Anyways, the fact that I’m already feeling so much better has been totally worth it and after another week or so, I’ll feel even more better. So that’s exciting!

I’ve also started my running challenge and I even pushed myself to get up a bit earlier this morning to get my run in. For those that know me, they know that I am NOT a morning person. Snooze and I have been intimate lovers for many, many years – possibly my longest relationship. BUT, despite my everlasting love for Snooze, I just forced myself to get up and get out the door as quickly as possible.

My roommate saw me in the hall and was very confused, “Yo…it’s not even 7:30am and you’re up?!”. All I could mutter, more to myself than to him was,  “Yup. Yup, I’m up.”

On the bright side, by the time my workout was over, I was just starting to wake up and I had lots of energy for most of the day. The exhaustion didn’t hit me like a brick wall until a couple of hours after lunch. But even though my body was tired, my mind was alert and the afternoon passed quicker than it usually did sans exercise. It’s enough to motivate me to do it all over again tomorrow. I know, I’m definitely on fire this week!

Wish me luck!

So, I’m on a massive stir fry kick these days mostly because by the time I get home after a long day (especially one like today) and Mondays are killer for me too. Stir fries are quick and relatively easy to prepare. Plus, you get to be as creative as you like with ingredients.

Here’s what I made tonight:

Tonight's Dinner!

Tonight's Dinner!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsps onion diced
  • 1 roma tomato diced
  • 1 clove diced
  • 3 skinless, boneless, chicken thighs chopped
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 thyme tumeric
  • 1/3 tsp thyme
  • 3 tbsps of oil (olive, grapeseed, coconut – any one of these is great)
  • 10 baby carrots chopped
  • 1/3 red bell pepper chopped
  • 1/2 floret of brocoli chopped
  • 1/3 medium sized zucchini chopped (I left the skin on but you could always peel it off you don’t like it)
  • 1 handful of sprouts
  • 1 handful of baby spinach
  • 1 cup of brown rice pasta (I just bought fussili but use whatever floats your boat)

Method:

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the spices. In the mean time, cook the pasta. Chop the onion and garlic and add it to the frying pan. Stir the ingredients in the spicy oil. In the meantime, chop the chicken and add it to the pan. While the chicken is simmering away, grab a medium to large sized bowl and chop all veggies except the sprouts and spinach and add to the bowl. Pour a bit of oil on top of the veggies and stir it around.

This is great time to check on the chicken. Grab a pair of tongs and flip the chicken over and let it cook for a few more minutes. While I wait, I usually do some dishes quickly to kill some time. Once the chicken has cooked enough (brown on the outside) add the veggies to the pan. Then add spinach and sprouts on top and let it sit for a minute or so. The pasta should be ready by this time. Drain it and add it to the stir fry. Stir all the ingredients around with the tongs. Let simmer and stir off and on for another 5 to 8 minutes.

You’ll know it’s ready when the sprouts and spinach are limp.

This should serve about 2 or 3 people OR enough for a second helping and lunch the next day. The entire process should take about 20 to 30 minutes.

Enjoy!

Detox: Day Four

What a week! I only had a three day work week but Heaven knows that it felt like at least a six day week compressed into three.  I think it was mainly because of the adjustment to the detox diet and the fact that I had four glorious days off – which meant lots of sleeping in and lounging about, then when that alarm goes off for work I had to snap back into reality and get with the program: work, errands, house work, obligations. Not complaining – but I’m glad it’s Friday!

One aspect of the detoxing that I really like is that it gives me the opportunity to just take a break and do things that I don’t normally get the opportunity to do (scratch that – allot myself the opportunity to do).  This weekend, for once in a long time, I don’t have any serious plans. No scheduled dinners or birthday parties, no events or trips out of town to make. I just get to be at home all weekend and hibernate if I want to. And I just might. I have a mountain of laundry that needs some attention and I need to organize and clean my room before I trip and break my neck. I also want to spend time to catch up on some reading that I haven’t had the energy to do lately. Mainly, I just want to catch up with myself.

But the detox does have its drawbacks. I don’t want to paint this super rosy picture that this week so far has been a breeze. Frankly, it’s been quite challenging. There’s nothing I wanted more, most mornings, than a nice cup of chai tea with soy milk. Or one of my roommates fresh (?) buns that taunt me when I open the fridge to grab some spinach for my stir fry (that I’ve had for dinner and lunch two days in a row). Or the overwhelming craving for a nice, cold, pint of beer after a long week. Instead, I came home, had a nap and went for a run. Then I rewarded myself with a spinach salad with some smoked salmon on top (the recipe is below). It was AMAZING and very satifsfying! Almost made me forget about that pint that I was so looking forward to. But, there’s light at the end of the tunnel: I’ll be finishing my detox in time to celebrate my Irish heritage on St. Paddy’s day and will hopefully be feeling a lot less sluggish and shed those few pounds that I gained over the last month. More importantly, I hope to have regained some better eating habits instead of resorting to pizza when I’m starving after work.

Here’s that spinach salad I was gloating about:

Spinach Salad with Spicy Smoked Salmon

Ingredients:

  • 2 or 3 handfuls of baby spinach
  • 8-10 baby carrots (chopped)
  • 1 slice of red onion (chopped)
  • 2 handfuls of sprouts
  • 1/4 of an avocado
  • 1/4 of lemon (juice)
  • 1 lime (juice)
  • Oregano
  • Salmon (sliced)
  • Olive oil (3 tbsps)
  • Chilli powder (1/4 tsp)
  • Black pepper (1/4 tsp)

Method:

In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil and add the spices once the oil is warm. Let the spices simmer for a minute then add the salmon. Let cook until the meat darkens. While this is cooking, grab a large bowl (you can either eat this as a meal or make it and share it with a friend).  Layer the spinach, carrots, onion, avocado and sprouts in the bowl. Squeeze the lemon slice and the lime over top of the salad. Sprinkle the dried oregano on top. Once the salmon has finished cooking, place the salmon on top of the salad and drizzle the spicy oil on the salad. Mix it all together, and voila!

Of course, you can add or replace whatever veggies you like but I found that this combination was very satisfying. Next time, I’d definitely add cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. If I weren’t detoxing, I’d add some goat cheese or feta, too. If you wanted to add some grains, you could always mix in some cooked quinoa. Why not? AND you could always replace the salmon with chicken (chopped up and fried in the same oil). Okay. I’ll stop and let you try this out for yourself.

Enjoy!

Detox: Always seems like a good idea at the time….

Well, I wish I had a good excuse for why I’ve been MIA the past couple of months, but I don’t. The holiday season was pretty crazy for me and my work load exploded. So between working lots and a full social calendar, I didn’t have much time to cook let alone blog. Then after Christmas, I had a few personal things to deal with and now, I’m back on track!

Since my eating habits needed a lot of fine tuning after one too many pizza nights and pitchers of beer, I recruited a friend of mine to do a detox diet with me for the next few weeks. What that means is: no dairy, no wheat, no refined sugar, no caffeine, no booze, and no smoking – basically, no junk!

It’s day 2 and I have to admit, it’s pretty tough so far. Temptations are everywhere! I was walking home from work tonight, starving, and I saw a massive poster for a large pizza for only $5. You have no idea how tempting that was. Or maybe you do. But I stayed focused and realized that quitting on day 2 is pretty lame, even for someone as inconsistent as me.

The secret of doing these kinds of diets is to plan ahead and make sure that you have enough of the right food on hand so that you don’t blow your diet and order a pizza (like I almost did) because you’re way too starving to even open the fridge. I’ve been there – it’s riduculous.

It’s amazing, too, how when you “deprive” yourself of certain things, it seems like that’s when you want it most. Today, for instance, was my first day back at work after four glorious days off and my eyes didn’t stop burning for one minute the entire day. Nope, not one single minute. All I wanted was a nice cup of chai tea or even a small cup of coffee to get the motor going but I’m not allowed. I ended up just sitting, staring blankly at my computer screen and imagining how delicious and satisfying a cup of coffee would be. Out of sheer will, I snapped out of it and got a cup of green tea and some water instead.  It only took about 5 cups of green tea before I sort of felt like myself again and by then, it was 4:30pm; almost time to go home. I think tomorrow will be better. It`s got to be. I’ve done these detox diets before and I always find that the first days are the hardest (mostly mentally).

For me, the hardest things to give up are drinking alcohol and dairy. To get through, I usually make a deal with myself that at the end of my detox, I’ll treat myself to a nice glass of red wine and some goat’s milk ice cream. Not both at the same time.

Anyways, today was pretty easy – for breakfast I had 2 eggs and some soy milk blended with strawberries; for lunch I had a MASSIVE spinach salad and for dinner, I had a delicious stir fry. I sent pictures to my friends who’s doing the detox with me and he was pretty jealous so I promised him that I’d blog about it. You’re welcome!

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsps Olive Oil
  • 1/4 tsp Thyme
  • 1/4 tsp (or to taste) Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/4 Black Pepper
  • 1/3 Turmeric
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 lime
  • 2 cloves of garlic choped
  • 3 chicken skinless/boneless chicken thighs (breast would work too, that just sounds wrong)
  • Bean Sprouts (a handful)
  • 1/2 a tomato, diced
  • Spinach (a handful)
  • 1/2 a Red Bell Pepper (chopped)
  • 1/2 a Floret of Broccoli
  • 1 cup of brown rice pasta or 2 servings of brown rice

Method:

In a large frying pan or skillet, pour about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and let it heat up. Once it’s heated, add the spices and stir them around so that they mix in with the oil.

Boil the water and cook the rice pasta or rice as directed.

Once the spices have heated up and are fragrant, add the diced onion. Stir it in the spiced oil and lit it simmer. Add the garlic and the diced tomato and stir. Let it cook for about 3 or 4 minutes, until the onions become translucent. Squeeze the juice from the lemon and the lime and pour it in the pan.  Add the diced chicken and let it cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the broccoli and the red bell pepper. Stir all the ingredients together and make sure that the chicken pieces are cooked on both sides.

When the chicken looks like it’s mostly cooked (should be brown and nearly crispy on the outside with no visible raw skin showing), add the sprouts and the  spinach and stir, mixing all the ingredients. The stir fry is done when the spinach and sprouts are limp and have mixed in with the other ingredients.

When the rice pasta or rice is finished cooking, add to the pan and stir.

This should serve 2 but I like to put some aside for lunch the next day.

Enjoy!

Curried Veggie Chickpea Stew

The one thing that I’ve come to enjoy about cooking is the creativity aspect of it. I love having a whole bunch of ingredients in front of me and trying to come up with something healthy and delicious to make.  Last night, I had some tomatoes to clean up so I decided to make a tomato-based curried stew.  In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of spices, which is funny because I grew up in a household where paprika was considered exotic.

When I went to India, last year (I can’t believe it’s been almost a year already!) I felt right at home with their food – the spicier the better! The people I was staying with were amazed that a white girl could handle all the spices and chilli. Honestly, I was a bit amazed too until the end of my trip when my stomach began to revolt against me.  Needless to say, it took me a few months to recover and to be able to eat curry again.

How could I ever stop, though?! Which leads me to today’s leftovers – Curried Veggie Chickpea Stew.

Here it is in the bowl, ready to eat for dinner!

Chickpeas are a Godsend and are a super healthy alternative to eating meat.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 red bell pepper
  • 1/4 chilli flakes
  • 1/4 garam masala
  • 1/2 curry powder
  •  1/4 paprika
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  •  1 and 1/2 tomatoes chopped
  • 1/2 head broccoli steamed (this was left over from the other day)
  • 1/2 carrot peeled and chopped
  •  1/2 onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 small potato, peeled and finely diced
  • 1/2 can of chickpeas (drained)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup of brown rice

Method:

  1. Cook the rice as directed.
  2. In the meantime, in a large sauce pan or pot, heat the olive oil then add the spices. Stir in the oil until fragrant.
  3. Add the onions and stir so that the spices mix in with the onions and let simmer for a few minutes, then add the garlic and stir. Let simmer for another minute.
  4. Add the tomatoes, red peppers, and carrots. Let simmer for a few minutes.
  5. Add the water, chickpeas and broccoli. Stir all contents together and cover for 10 minutes. Cook until the tomatoes have “melted” and until it is lightly boiling.

Serve over brown rice.

This was definitely amazing as a left over meal. It’s nice and light yet filling and I don’t feel sleepy or sluggish after lunch. I will definitely be making this again! Next time, I’d like to try it with water chestnuts or even some small apple pieces to add some sweetness.

What will you experiment with?

Enjoy!