Magical Fruit?

For me, one of the easiest and satisfying things to make is soup. If you have a steamer and a blender or food processor, then this will really simply your soup-making life!

Since it’s fall (sorry for those that may still be in denial – especially those of you who push it and wear shorts until the first few snow flurries fall from the sky), I wanted to make some butternut squash soup. YUM! Since I try to avoid dairy at all costs, I had to research a way to get that creamy goodness of soup without adding cream. I discovered cauliflower!

But of course!

I also wanted to add some protein and fiber to my soup, so I experimented and added lentils.

With soups, I try to add the ingredients in batches since the ingredients rarely ever all fit into the blender at once. But that was fine…it was definitely worth the extra effort!

I was worried that the soup would lose its sweetnees because of the lentils, but really, it had a nice “earthy” flavour to it and was quite hearty.

Here it is:

Some quick health benefits of lentils, in case you’re dying to know:

  • lowers cholesterol
  • balances blood sugar
  • high in fiber
  • full of minerals
  • good source of protein

More great benefits are listed here.

So now, I try to incorporate this magical fruit into soups, stews, stir fries, salads, sauces to get my fiber and protein. Every little bit helps, right?

Here’s how to make it…

Butternut Squash and Cauliflower with Lentil Soup

  • 1 medium butternut squash, cut in half and cooked with 1 tsp of butter and 1/4 tsp of cinamon in each half
  • 1/4 cup of brown lentils – cooked
  • 1 cup of cauliflower florets – steamed
  • 1 garlic clove – steamed
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/4 tsp of chilli flakes
  • 1/4 tsp of garam masala
  • 1 tsp of all spice
  • 2 tsp of coriander
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 tsp of pepper

Method:

1. Cut a medium sized squash in half and scoop out the gooky stuff in the middle. Add 1/4 tsp of cinamon and 1 tsp of butter to each half. Place the halves in a baking dish with 1 cup of water in the dish so that that squash does not dry out. Bake for 1 hour at 350F.

2. Cook the lentils.

3. Steam 1 cup of cauliflower.

4. When the squash is cooked, scoop out the squash and place in a blender of food processor. Add the cauliflower and lentils, and gradually add enough chicken stock so that it blends.

5. Add garlic,  chilli flakes, garam masala, spice, salt and pepper.

6. Blend and serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8

Enjoy!

Whey not?

I read, recently, that women do not get enough protein in their diet. This made me question my own eating habits and I realized that with my busy schedule, I’m probably not getting enough either. Even though I have a solid breakfast, a mid-morning snack and I drink plenty of water, I’m still STARVING by lunch time. What gives? Do I need to fry up a steak in the morning? Do I need to crack a few raw eggs in my mouth a la Rocky Balboa? I hope not. Then I remembered the wise words of my naturopath suggesting whey protein and I thought, whey not?

I went to Noah’s health food store and asked the sales person a million and one questions about whey protein – how much to take, what brands were good, what did she recommend for someone with a lactose, sugar and wheat sensitivities etc. She recomended an isolate – which is the whey protein in its purest form with minimal lactose. Of course, I opted for the natural flavour to avoid any additives. I figured by adding fresh fruit, not only would I get a natural flavour, but it would be sweet enough. She also had some great suggestions and shared with me that she adds fish oil or flax oil to her smoothy. I thought that was genius, so I totally copied her. Then, after a few days, I had the genius idea of adding matcha to my smoothy and I feel like a rock star! I usually add berries (strawberries have been the best so far) and/or a banana (but I limit my banana in take as bananas have a  lot of sugar).

Some immediate benefits were that I felt fuller for longer and I had more energy, especially after I went running.  After trying this out for a week, I’m noticing that my digestion is improving and I’m toning up a bit (but maybe that’s all in my head).

Anyways, I did some Internet research and I came across some great websites that explain why protein is important. Here’s one that you should check out.

Basically, whey protein is very low in fat and calories and a great source of amino acids, which is important because it:

  • helps build muscles
  • promotes skin, hair and nail growth
  • assists in weight management
  • assists with healthy aging
  • aids with wound healing

If you find that you are not getting enough protein in your diet but are watching your weight, I say, give it a try! You don’t have to be a body builder or competitive athlete to enjoy its benefits. Who doesn’t want a stronger immune sytsem and more energy? Especially now that cold and flu season is around the corner!

Here is my favourite recipe:

Combine the following ingredients in blender and blend on low until all contents are mixed.

  • Recommended serving of whey protein isolate
  • 1 handful of frozen strawberries
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tsp of matcha
  • 2 tbsps of fish oil or flax oil
  • water (until desired consistency is achieved)

Enjoy!

The Best Things In Life Are Free

This week, I tried something new; something that I haven’t done in a long time: Exercise. Up until my sickness reared it’s ugly head in March 2011 and  nearly immobilized me, I was jat least going to yoga 2 to 3 times a week to destress. But since then, I haven’t been doing much. Honestly, for the first few months, I really didn’t miss it and I couldn’t imagine having to exercise ever again. The thought of taking the stairs to my 3rd floor apartment made me sweaty and achey.

As time marched on, I began to feel better and  I began to take on more; and the more I was able to take on, the more stressed I was getting. It’s funny how that works, isn’t it? My temporary solution was beer, and the summer weather made that temptation greater.  But I started to find that my symptoms were slowly creeping back in. And it wasn’t just beer that was the culprit, but the snacky foods that went along with it. And then I found that I was cheating more and more – a piece of chocolate here, some chips there…before you know it, I’m feeling lethargic, sinusy, stressed and just not my energetic self.

Then – the wake-up call happened: I weighed myself. To my disbelief, I had gained 5 pounds. I honestly thought that the scale was broken, so I shook it, played with the settings and then stepped back on. Nope. Not broken. I did a mental playback of the past summer and realized how my diet has slowly deteriorated. It’s no wonder I’ve gained some weight!

Being the calm, cool and collect person that I am, I ran to Shoppers Drugmart at 9pm and scoured the shelves for some sort of detox formula. $25.00 later, I bought this liver flush from BodyLogix. It’s an all herbal formula and really, I only needed 3 tablets for one night. Not bad!

The next thing I did was cut out all sugar, alcohol, soy and wheat since I had been overdoing it with thesee items. I also increased my water intake to flush out all the toxins that had built up in my body. Over the next couple of days, I felt like I was coming down with something; I had a sore throat, my sinuses were sensitive and I felt feverish. I realized that I wasn’t catching something, but it was my body’s reaction to the detox. Crazy! Mind you, it was NOTHING like the initial detox I went through in the spring, but still…after only 2 months of not eating so well, I couldn’t believe that I had that kind of reaction. Scary!

So that was a nice wake-up call to not take my health for granted. But don’t worry, I’m back on track!

The other thing that I started doing, was running. I went for my first jog last Monday. The last time I had gone was probably in November of 2010 in a meagre attempt to lose some weight for my trip to India – not very successful. I tried not to overdo it, but once I got going, I really enjoyed it and actually missed it. I ran for about 30 minutes and made sure I stretched as much as possible afterwards. It all seemed for naught because the next day, I could barely move! Every movement was  a production and I couldn’t imagine ever running again!

My snazzy runners

Wednesday, was much of the same. When I came into work, I saw a sign on our elevator saying “Donate to the Shelter Foundation to Ride the Elevator!”. Being the decent person that I am, I thought: “Are you kidding me?! I can barely walk, let alone walk up 50 stairs to my desk!” Plus, Ididn’t have any spare change, otherwise I totally would have donated. It turned out that walking up stairs was the best and the worst thing that I decided to do that day.

Eventually, after the burning in my thighs subsided and my lungs no longer felt like they might burst, I realized just how out shape I am and that spurred me to challenge myself to take the stairs for 30 days, correction: 30 work days. Ya. Well, to clarify, I mean the stairs at work – I can’t always take the stairs at home because sometimes I have way too many groceries and I would likely injure myself. I have a nightmare of falling backwards on the stairs carrying toilet paper and bottles of water. I don’t think that would look very good when and if someone were to find me.

I’m on day 5 of the stair challenge and I’m happy to say, that my lungs don’t feel like they are going to explode! I’m still really out of breath by the time I get to my desk, but I just try to go to my happy place – the kitchen, to fill up on tea and water and hope that no one comes in to hear me panting like a furry dog on a hot July day.

The point of this story – there’s a point? Is that I’m realizing how beneficial exercise is. You won’t lose weight just by exercise, diet is key, however, with my recent exercising adventures, I find that it has really helped me manage my stress, given me more energy throughout the day and improved my quality of sleep. Not too bad! And the best part? It’s free!

My advice is to find an activity you enjoy or even love. Gyms are overrated so if you hate the gym, don’t go! Join a team, go for walks, start jogging, go swimming, try yoga, learn to dance, climb stairs in your building, dance in your bedroom for half an hour…the possibilities are endless.

Enjoy!