And Now to Get Honest

I talked yesterday about “getting real” – how eliminating processed foods, sugar and alcohol from your diet will make you feel better, you’ll have more energy, and most importantly, you will be doing the best you can to prevent disease, never mind that your body will likely start to change shape too.

Here’s the thing.  Making the decision to eliminate these foods from your diet isn’t going to change you overnight.  You won’t instantly feel better.  You won’t automatically have more energy.  Your body takes time to change.  And you won’t know how well you’ve done in terms of preventing disease until much, much further down the line.

In fact, you’re likely going to feel pretty horrible when you make the leap to a “real” way of eating.  Your body has to literally go through a detox process; yup, sugar addiction is a real thing.

And while the physical discomfort you might experience switching to this cleaner way of eating can be unpleasant, there are also mental/emotional consequences that don’t often get discussed.

Friday nights in our house, as I’ve talked about before, are usually a night to unwind, see family and friends, order in pizza and have some wine.  Oh . . . and the Husband is known for often bringing home cupcakes for everyone to enjoy too.  If we’re not hosting a pizza night, the Husband and I often go out for a date night to one of our favourite restaurants.

Personally, I find it extremely difficult to abstain from having a glass of wine when I’m surrounded by my friends who are all imbibing.  And while there are lots of gluten free pizza options, I have yet to find a place that delivers pizza with organic toppings, and logistically, making homemade pizza for more than just our family of 4 . . . well, that’s not exactly a relaxing evening!

I also find date nights hard . . . lingering over a cup of herbal tea at a restaurant where you’d normally be having an after dinner drink . . .well, it’s just not the same.

So I spent this morning alternating between moping and texting the Husband to see if we could come up with something “fun” for tonight that fit within our eating parameters.

And then it hit me.  We can have family date night.  Complete with homemade organic gluten free pizza and cupcakes!  While I don’t LOVE the gluten free crust mixes you buy at the grocery store, they will do – hopefully one day I’ll be able to come up with something that is a little better – and our fridge is already stocked with the rest of the ingredients we need.

Which brings me to the cupcakes.  Gluten free cupcakes made out of ingredients I have on hand . . . because . . .to be really honest, I do need to get to the gym today (one of my little ones has been sick this week which has meant no gym for me for most of this week) . . . and that taste as good as the store-bought ones.

Ok . . . so I’ll admit, I’m cheating a little bit.  Because I just happened to have 2 boxes of organic sweet potato flour in my pantry.  Why?  Because I’ve been meaning to make these cupcakes for a while.  I bought this brand from Barefoot Provisions – I checked all the major stores, Whole Foods, and all the small health food stores for it, and no one carried it – hence ordering it from the US.  So, unless you happen to have sweet potato flour in your pantry, you won’t be able to just whip these up.  That being said, these turned out pretty well – they will make an excellent snack for the kids (I’ll freeze what doesn’t get eaten and use them for Friday treat snacks) as they are nut free!  Oh . . . and they are free of refined sugar too!!!

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Sweet Potato Flour Chocolate Cupcakes

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 cup sweet potato flour

1/2 cup arrowroot flour

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup cocoa powder

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup raw honey

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

2 eggs

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and line a muffin tin with liners.
  2. In a small saucepan on low heat, add the butter, milk and honey.  Heat until the butter has melted.
  3. In a small bowl, beat the eggs until well combined.  Add in the vanilla and apple cider vinegar and mix again to combine.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add in all the dry ingredients.
  5. Once the milk/butter/honey mixture is melted and combined, add it, along with the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well.  You may note some white lumps in the batter from the arrowroot powder.  Just let the mixer run for about a minute and these should all disappear.
  6. Fill the muffin tin with the batter and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of one of the cupcakes comes out clean (or the cupcake springs back when you push down gently on the top)
  7. Frost with your favourite frosting . . . or just eat plain!

Revised and IMPROVED Cookie Recipe

So, I’ve been making these cookies for quite a few weeks now, and the kids really do love them.  This week, I had the time to make the cookies, but had forgotten to set out the butter in the morning so it was soft enough to mix.  I really wanted to have the cookies made . . . so I just melted the butter.  While the butter was melting, I added the raw honey to the pot too – not sure if this made any difference or not . . .   I also had just a little bit extra vanilla left in the container – so I added that in as well, and turns out the cookies were even better!  So here’s the revised, improved and even more delicious cookie recipe.  Remember, you can use regular flour if you don’t have a gluten intolerance.  We seem fine in our house with gluten, so I don’t mind the kids having these in their lunch made from and organic wheat flour.  But feel free to use gluten free flour.

Revised and Improved Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • Servings: 60 cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

3 cups flour

1 cup oats

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2/3 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips

4 eggs

1/4 cup raw honey

1/2 cup butter

3 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.  If you have a convection setting, feel free to use this.  I do as I cook all three sheets of cookies at once.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter – you can add the honey to this pan as well and melt them both together.
  3. While the butter is melting combine the flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder and chocolate chips in a big mixing bowl.  You can also crack the 4 eggs into a separate bowl and mix them well with a fork to combine.
  4. Once the butter and honey have melted, add in the vanilla, mix to combine, and add this along with the eggs to the bowl with the dry mixture.
  5. Mix well to combine – you can do this by hand or in a stand mixer.
  6. Using a small ice cream scoop, or just 2 spoons, drop 1 tbsp of batter at a time onto cookie sheets (I’ve found no need to grease or line the cookie sheet with anything).  You should get 60 cookies, give or take, out of this batter.  I don’t bother to flatten or squash the cookies either – they will just rise up again anyway.
  7. Bake for 8-12 minutes – when I use convection and put all 3 trays of cookies in at once, they take about 10 minutes.
  8. ENJOY!

Getting Real

So, I’m feeling the need to get real with you, and myself.  My last post was as much for me as anyone else.

Throughout the month of December, our family ate more refined, processed and sugar-filled foods; we slept less; we moved less; and a glass or 2 of wine a night was not uncommon.  I thought I was simply relaxing – relaxing my ideas of what is good for us (and I mean good for us in every way).  Turns out that throughout the month of December, we were all crankier, we had less energy, we were quick to get frustrated with each other . . . which made us crankier, took more energy, and lead to more frustration.  So . . . where exactly was the relaxation?????

As we approach the end of January, a month where refined foods, and especially sugar have all but been eliminated from our diets, where we have focused on getting proper exercise and proper sleep . . .well, we’re all much more energetic, calmer, kinder to each other . . .

In life, I think we ALL want to feel good.  When we wake up in the mornings, we want to have energy, to move easily, to be pain free and disease free.  And yet what do we do to make that happen?

Do we, as a population really no longer believe that how we feed ourselves has no effect on our physical well being, on our mental well being?  Do we really expect that after years of feeding ourselves, and our kids processed, chemical laden food, while no longer prioritizing physical fitness that we’re all going to live long healthy lives????

Because of my tumour, I have become involved with Toronto General Hospital, and am working on a few projects to make services and programs for tumour/cancer patients more readily available.  Yesterday, I had a meeting at the MOST AMAZING cancer support centre, Wellspring, with not only representatives of Wellspring, but representatives from the hospital, including a Radiation Oncologist.  The services that places like Wellspring and hospitals like Toronto General and Princess Margaret are truly wonderful.  Tumours/Cancer are conditions that have profound effects and consequences for those that develop them, never mind their friends and family that care about them.  And when you look at the lifetime risk of developing cancer (1 in 2 for American men and 1 in 3 for American women, with a 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 risk of dying from cancer respectively – see Cancer.org for more statistics), more people than EVER are going to need these services.

And while millions of dollars are spent on these wonderful programs, and on research to cure these diseases, imagine if none of this was necessary?

Put differently, what are we doing to minimize the risk that we, or members of our family aren’t unnecessarily at higher risk for these diseases?   (While I fully realize that there are a lot of reasons why a person might develop a disease, we are, by now, all well aware of the fact that poor diet and lack of exercise play a significant role in the development of disease).

Which brings me back to the idea of “getting real”.  I get that we’re all busy – juggling work, kids, commitments and budgets.  And so the idea of quick, easy, cheap food is really appealing.  But what is all that quick, easy, cheap food getting us?

I’m right there with you.  I have the Husband that works long hours.  Two kids that have school and extracurricular activities.  And I have my work as well.

But here’s the thing . . . by focusing on good quality, unprocessed “real” food, I end up saving time, energy, and even money, and our family is happier and healthier.  And I know that I’m doing my BEST to avoid exposing us all to any increased risk of disease.  (and by best, I mean that I do like to have a treat – and I will have a piece of cake, or a special meal out – I do like alcohol, and I will have a drink from time to time – and I will let the kids have treats too, Fridays, for example are treat snack day where they can have ONE processed snack in their lunch – but on the whole, I am committed to eating real, unprocessed foods)

And if I can get “real” for a minute . . . I can make 60 of my gluten-free, sugar-free cookies in 20 minutes.  The kids LOVE them.  They ASK to eat them.  You can find 20 minutes in a day to make a batch of snacks that can last a week or longer (depending on how many kids you have).

I made my almond flour chicken fingers in 10 minutes this week – and even better, the kids made them with me, then trimmed the beans and chopped the broccoli – we had family time and a tasty dinner.  Oh . . . and there are enough leftovers that I can feed the kids this meal again next week.

 

Do organic and natural ingredients cost more?  Individually, sure.  But when I can make 60 cookies (which translates into 20 – 30 snack servings) for about $7, and a box of 6 packs of star wars cookies (the popular snack in my kids classes these days) costs just about $3, which is the cheaper option?  I won’t lie and say almond flour is cheap – but the chicken finger recipe can come together in under $20 – how much would  you spend if you bought fast food for your family’s dinner?

I’ve talked about choice before . . . what choice are you going to make to ensure the health and happiness of your family . . . today, tomorrow, in the days that follow?  Because I know that I am going to continue to choose the “real” option.

 

A Missed Lift, Goals, and Finding Joy

Last week at the gym, this happened:

Yup . . . I fell while trying to do a heavy lift . . . and I laughed.  When I showed the Coach the video, instead of offering some insightful commentary of why it was exactly that I missed the lift, he simply said “you laughed because you know you you can get right back up and hit that lift”.

Ok . . . so here’s where I’m going to head out on a tangent . . . but I promise, there is a point to this meandering path I’m taking here today.

There was a time, not so long ago, where missing a lift like that would have made me mad.  I would have gotten frustrated, annoyed, probably would have stomped around a bit, pretty much behaved like a petulant three year old.

Why?

Simply because missed lifts meant I wasn’t performing the way I was “supposed” to.  Missed lifts meant I wasn’t progressing.  Missed lift meant I wasn’t reaching my goals.

Right.  Goals.

So a few days ago, there was a fantastic seminar at CrossfitAIO about goal setting.  During the talk, we were encouraged to write down our goals.  Normally, I would have been able to churn out a list in about ten seconds flat . . . things I knew I could achieve, things I wanted to achieve, and things that I could maybe possible stretch to achieve.  But this time, I was stuck.  As much as I love the idea of having measurable markers of improvement, goals with any kind of deadline simply don’t fit into my world of unpredictability; when something as benign as a sick kid can keep me out of the gym for a week, what point is there in setting weekly/monthly/yearly goals?  It can only lead to frustration, annoyance, and likely disappointment.

Which brings me back to the whole concept that I talked about earlier about focusing on how you want to FEEL as opposed to what you want to get done (There is Magic in Focusing on How you Want to Feel).  When I go to the gym now, it’s because I want to work on getting stronger and feeling good.  And when I’m freed from the shackles of trying to meet specific targets in set amounts of time, I can just work on getting stronger and feeling good.  And the funny thing is . . . I’ve gotten stronger, and I feel pretty good.

And here’s where I loop back to where I started  . . . I could laugh as I fell squarely on my rear because one missed lift didn’t mean anything at all.  I was simply having fun, working on getting stronger and feeling good.

And here’s where I loop right back to “real” life . . . I have very publicly stated that this year, I want to feel JOY.  I’ve spent more than a few hours already this month just thinking about, working on, and figuring out just what allows me to get to that place of joy through my One Little Word project.  And yet, this month, I’ve really struggled with finding joy.  Put differently, when things haven’t gone as planned, when I’ve been knocked on my rear, my reaction hasn’t been to giggle . . . I’ve gotten down on myself and searched for external things to make me feel better (I won’t lie . . . I am loving my new gym wardrobe that was an offshoot of a particularly aggravating day, but I digress.).

And for one last giant loop back to where I started . . . life really isn’t that much different than the gym.  I may get knocked on my rear for any number of reasons in “real” life, but I can still get right back up again and do whatever it was that I was trying to do.  And when I focus on having fun (and finding and feeling the joy) in whatever it is that I’m doing, rather than trying to work towards some crazy self-imposed goal, life really is a lot more enjoyable.

Ok . . . and now for one last tangent.  January is a month where most of us embark on something new.  As this month draws to a close, most of us won’t have succeeded in whatever it is we were trying to do.  We can lay blame (on ourselves or on others), we can get down (on ourselves or on others), and we can quit.

OR, we can choose to try again.  For those of you that were trying this month to get to the gym more or to eat better . . . don’t give up.  Focus on how you want to feel, and what you need to do to feel that way.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, and again, and again . . . it might be easy to reach for the fast food, for the “easy” answer to feeding yourself and your family. And it certainly is easy to skip going to the gym.  But is that really going to make you feel any better?

Working In Joy (aka Sprinkle Cake)

I mentioned before that this year, I decided to jump in with both feet and commit to Ali Edwards One Little Word workshop.  As Ali says on her site, “a single word can be a powerful thing”.  And yes, my word for the year is JOY.  There are a million reasons why I think this is the absolute perfect word for me to work with this year, but I think this quote sums it all up quite nicely:

Joy quotes

Or, as Danielle LaPorte put it,

“Happiness is like rising bubbles — delightful and inevitably fleeting.
Joy is the oxygen — ever present.”

While the start of a new year is supposed to be filled with the excitement of fresh starts, new challenges, and first steps on the path to being a better person, the first few weeks of this year for me have brought more than a few reminders of how life doesn’t always go quite as we had hoped for or planned.

But rather than focus on the dark clouds in life that are sickness and setbacks, I actively looked for the joy in the situation.  For there was joy in snuggling with my little one on the couch while she was home sick from school for two days.  And there was joy in making special dinners with the kids as the Husband worked late.  And there was even joy in changing up my gym routine when I wasn’t able to meet with the Coach (and for those that know me . . . i do NOT like a change in my gym routine . . . some things are sacred and not to be changed . . . EVER).

As the days of January tick by, I’m also starting to realize that it’s a whole lot easier to find joy in life when you wake up each day full of vitality and refreshed from a good night’s sleep . . . the benefits of a clean diet, no alcohol, and lots of physical activity.

It’s also a whole lot easier to wake up early so I can work on my One Little Word project when I am so rested and full of life!

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While the gym is definitely one of my happy places, I am probably happiest in the kitchen.  And this weekend, because the majority of my family’s birthdays happen in January, I found myself in the kitchen all day on Sunday baking birthday cakes and making frosting.  In all, I made 2 four layer cakes and with two different frostings.  The first was a sprinkle cake, for which I am about to share the recipe, and the second was simply the sprinkle cake without the sprinkles.  As for the frosting, I made a simple vanilla frosting for the sprinkle cake and a mocha one for the plain vanilla cake.  I will freely admit that there is nothing nutritionally redeeming about sprinkles, or their appearance in cake.  And while I’m admitting to things, I also used vegetable shortening in my vanilla frosting (yeah, even I was horrified by it) . . .but it made for an excellent frosting that hardened on the outside just that little bit, you know, the way the icing is on a cake from a bakery.  And yes, I did have a slice of cake (the mocha one which didn’t have shortening . . . but cake nonetheless).  And yes, there was a whole lot of joy in that slice of cake!

Vanilla Sprinkle Cake

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 cup butter

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup greek yogurt

1 1/2 cups milk (any kind that you have on hand)

2 tbs vanilla extract

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

3 1/3 cups flour

1 cup sprinkles (I used the thin round ones, but you could also use the little ones that look like balls – other kinds of sprinkles may bleed too much into the batter)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and butter and flour 2 9″ cake pans.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and two sugars.  Beat until they are well combined.  Add in the eggs and continue to beat until the mixture is light, fluffy, and pale yellow in colour.
  3. Add in the yogurt and mix again.
  4. Measure the milk and vanilla into a bowl.  Measure the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into another bowl.
  5. Add half the milk mixture and half of the flour mixture to the bowl and mix until just combined.
  6. Add in the remaining milk mixture and flour mixture and again, mix until just combined.
  7. Add in the sprinkles and mix on last time.
  8. Distribute the batter between the two pans and use a spatula to even out the batter in the pans.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes and assess how well done the cakes are.  At this point, I put the cakes back in for another 10 minutes.  I then covered the cakes with tin foil and baked them for another 15 minutes until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cakes came out clean.
  10. If you are making these cakes without the sprinkles, baking time may be reduced by about 10-15 minutes.
  11. I cut each of these cakes in half to make a total of 4 layers!

Simple Vanilla Frosting

  • Servings: ices 1 2-layer cake
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

3-4 cups icing sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

4 tbsp milk or cream

Directions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, shortening and vanilla together until well combined.
  2. Add in 3 cups of the icing sugar as well as the milk.  Mix well.  If the icing is not as thick as you’d like it, add in the remaining cup of icing sugar.  Depending on how “fluffy” you like your frosting, keep beating it until your desired state of fluffiness is reached.
  3. If you are making a 4-layer cake as I did, double this recipe.

The Best of Intentions

At some point over the holidays I came across the concept of writing down an intention each morning before getting out of bed.  Since just before the start of the new year, I’ve been putting this concept into practice.  At some point in the morning, before my day has truly begun, I take a few minutes and write a few lines about what I intend for that day.  Some days it’s an intention about how I want to feel, others it’s about how I want to interact with others, and some days, it’s about what I want to get done in a day.

If you google intention setting, you’ll get loads of hits; I think just about every self-help guru worth their weight has at some point touched on this topic of intention.  And I think I know why now . . . it is a really powerful tool.

Writing intentions (for me anyway) is like making a little promise with yourself; one that you can keep working on as the day progresses.

Writing intentions has also helped me to focus; focus on what is really important.

And most importantly, writing intentions has helped me to let go; let go of what isn’t really that important at all.

I started this September with the lofty goal of creating real structure around the concept of “mommy school” for my kids.  My plan was to cover different themes each month and to really explore these themes with my kids; to investigate topics that aren’t necessarily covered in school.  While this seemed like a fantastic idea in theory (and on paper), my heart just never caught up to where my mind was on this idea.  And so, I have let go of my pre-conceived notions about my mommy school.  Instead, I start each day with the intention of having a meaningful interaction with each of my kids.  Inevitably, there is an educational component to these interactions, but more importantly, we are having fun and really connecting with each other.  Part and parcel with this is that for some time each day, my phone, iPad and computer are all turned off.  The kids are loving the attention, I’m loving the time with them, and we’re all happier for it.  And that . . . well, that’s the power of intention!

Speaking of intention, the Husband and I intended to give up gluten, sugar and alcohol this month.  The most difficult part of this is our Friday night pizza tradition.  This is a tradition the Husband grew up with, and one that we are passing on to our kids.  Friday night often involve a bunch of family / friends / neighbours at our house with a very relaxed night of oder-in pizza and quite often cupcakes from a favourite downtown bakery.  The lack of gluten, sugar and alcohol in our diet makes these Friday nights just a little bit challenging, especially since I love ending off the week with a “treat” dinner.

Last week, as the weather turned cold, I decided to make a comforting dinner for the two of us while the kids had chicken quesadillas.  This green curry turned out amazingly well; it was exactly what I had been craving.  And the best part was that it made enough for 2 meals – so we get to have the leftovers tonight!

Thai Green Curry with Brown Rice

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

10 boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces

4 shallots, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

Coconut oil

2 cans coconut milk

2 tbsp green curry paste (or more or less depending on how spicy you like things)

3 tbsp tapioca flour

Directions

  1. Heat a large skillet on medium heat and add a dollop of coconut oil to the pan.  Add in the chicken thighs and cook until they are just cooked through.
  2. Remove the chicken from the skillet and drain out any juices that have accumulated in the pan.
  3. Return the pan to the stove and add in another dollop of coconut oil.  Now add in the shallots and garlic and cook until they have softened.  Add the chicken back into the pan along with the coconut milk.  Stir occasionally until the coconut milk comes to a simmer.
  4. At this point, get out a whisk and add in the curry paste and the tapioca flour.  Whisk the mixture until everything is well combined and the sauce has reached the desired consistency (I like this to be nice and thick).

Serve over brown rice, quinoa, or whatever else you’d like to serve it with!

 

What Happens When I’m Forced to Just Sit and Be

Despite often claiming that all I want is quiet time to myself to just sit and be, truth be told, I’m not very good at sitting and being even when given the chance to do just that.  Yesterday, while home with my sick little one, I had to just sit and be.  She’s old enough now to voice her opinions, but young enough to still just want to cuddle.  Which meant I spent most of my day with her snuggled up next to me on the couch watching a series of shows (from the high of Nanny McPhee first thing in the morning, we devolved quickly into the land of Barbie on Netflix, and then ended on another high note with a series of classic Disney short films).  Point is, I had to just sit there and be.  The way my little one was snuggled up to me, I couldn’t work on my laptop, and the iPad and phone were pretty much out too.

Today has been a whole lot more of the same – although the little one has bounced back pretty quickly and I think is now just enjoying the fact that she gets to watch whatever tv she wants without her brother trying to get her to put on Star Wars.

With all the time to just sit and be (and watch kids’ tv), I also had a lot of time to think.  The re-visited eating regime is already paying off for both the Husband and I.  Sleep is getting better (when we’re not interrupted by sick kids).  Our bodies are recovering faster from our workouts.  And we both have a lot more energy.  Why, when I know how good it feels to live this way, do I ever allow myself to slide back into bad eating habits?

The truth is we slide into bad eating habits because we think it’s easier.  Because we think it’s going to help us deal with the stresses in our lives.  Because we think it’s going to make us happier to have a little bit of indulgence in our lives.

And while it may very well be easier to feed ourselves processed food, whether at home or at restaurants, it doesn’t help us deal with the stresses in our lives.  And it doesn’t, in the end make us happier.  In fact, it makes us more tired, sleep more poorly, less able to deal with stress, and in the end, decidedly not happier.  And with the most recent study from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre linking sugar intake with breast and lung cancers, bad eating habits can make us sick.

I hope, that with the recipes I share in the blog, you too can see how easy it is, even with the craziness of having two little ones, all their activities, and all that the Husband and I do, to make healthy food for you and your families that everyone will enjoy . . .and enjoy making!  Because I promise, when you start cutting out alcohol and sugar from your diet, you WILL start to feel better!!!

And speaking of recipes, the kids and I made a great meatloaf on Tuesday night.  I had started making this while the kids were playing, but in no time, they had drifted into the kitchen and were right in there helping make this.

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We made it free-form on baking sheets, but you could also make it in loaf pans.  Don’t be alarmed if, when you take it out of the oven, there is a lot of liquid on the pan.  While this was good on the first night, the Husband and I had leftovers the next day, and I think it was almost better on the 2nd day . . .Also, I doubled the recipe so we had lots (for leftovers).

Actually, that’s one of the most important ways the Husband and I can stay so committed to eating better – when we cook, we make lots – that way, there’s always healthy options – either in the fridge or frozen in the freezer.  Meat dishes make for great quick lunches.  And extra roasted veggies make salads that much tastier!

Super Easy, Super Quick Paleo Meatloaf

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 1/2lbs ground beef

1 egg

1 small onion / 2 shallots, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

6oz tomato sauce (use homemade if you have some on hand – it’s another thing we make in bulk, or use a good quality organic sauce from a glass jar)

1/4 cup blanched almond meal (I use Bob’s Red Mill)

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

salt and pepper to taste.

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or line or grease well with coconut oil a loaf pan).
  2. Crack the egg into a large bowl and beat it well.
  3. Add in the almond meal, paprika, salt and pepper.  Mix well with a whisk.
  4. Add in onion and garlic and mix to combine.
  5. Add in the ground beef, and mix well (use your hands!).
  6. Dump the mixture onto the cookie sheet, form into a loaf shape and put in the oven to bake.  Ours too about an hour.  Just make sure that the loaf is no longer pink inside before serving.

A Life Lesson from Nanny McPhee

My day started at 3 this morning.  With the little one asking for a glass of water.  This isn’t like her, I thought, but gave her the water and tried to get back to sleep, knowing that the Husband (and I) would be getting up for good an hour and a half later.

But at 4, she called for us again.  And a 4:30, she threw up.  My son, hearing noises and seeing that lights were on, decided to start his day at 4:30 too.  I will say, he demonstrated a great deal of compassion for his sister, and was more than happy to “just watch a little movie with her”.

In an attempt to keep them both on the couch and “resting”, I went to Netflix to find a movie we hadn’t seen before.  And without much thought, I put on Nanny McPhee returns.  If you haven’t seen it, it is a lovely movie for kids.  A nice break from animated movies.  And the story line is perfect for even really little ones.

Anyway, at the very end of the movie there’s a wonderful quote:

“that’s the thing about Nanny McPhee; when need her but do not want her then she must stay.  When you want her but no longer need her, she must go”.

I love this quote.  Because in the context of the movie it is quite beautiful.  And in the context of life in general, it is so highly applicable . . . how many times in life are we handed things we don’t really want, but that we need.  And how often do we have to let go of things we want but no longer need?

Through the course of the day yesterday, I had occasion to hear several stories of people who have fallen into ill health.  One of the stories involved a mom of two young kids and cancer.  After hearing that story, all I wanted was to be home with my kids. My heart hurt for this woman I have never met and for her husband and kids.  I am all too familiar with what they are going through and wouldn’t wish it on a soul.  So today, while I could do without washing icky bedsheets, I am quite happy to spend the day in the company of my little one.  It’s exactly what we both need.

On a lighter note, with the Husband and I back in our “clean” eating routines (the kids are along for the ride too), I’ve been working on coming up with some new recipes that everyone will enjoy eating, but that fall within our eating guidelines (no sugar, no gluten (for the adults, not so much the kids), no processed food).  I am happy to report that I hit it out of the park on Monday with this chicken finger recipe.  Even the little one gobbled up her entire dinner (a rare feat in our house!).  I made a double batch (mostly because I had thawed 2 packages of chicken tenders and wanted to use them all up) we ate the equivalent of a single batch, and I froze the rest – the kids had them again last night – re-heated in the oven – and they were a hit the second time around too!

Almond Flour Chicken Fingers

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 1/2lbs chicken tenders (or just use an equivalent weight of boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into strips)

1 cup blanched almond flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)

1 tsp smoked paprika

salt & pepper to taste

2 eggs

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  (I actually experimented and did one batch right on the cookie sheet, one with a Silpat and one with parchment paper – they all turned out the same, so use whatever you have on hand).
  2. Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat them until they are well mixed.
  3. In a separate bowl, use a whisk to combine the almond flour, paprika and salt and paper.
  4. Take each chicken strip, one at a time, dip it in the egg, shake off the excess egg, and then dredge it in the almond flour mixture.  Again, shake off the excess and put it on the pan. Continue until all the chicken strips have been coated.
  5. Bake for about 10 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 5-10 minutes depending on the size of your chicken strips.

Beginnings

Yesterday, I got the best gift ever.  A whole morning with the house to myself.  The Husband took the kids out to run an “errand” (which turned out to be purchasing a new guitar at a specialty guitar store in Mississauga).  And I was left to my own devices.  And I did . . . . absolutely nothing.  I was so excited by all the things I want to do/try/learn/be in the new year, I ran around the house dabbling in lots but never really focusing in on any one thing.  Which meant that when the Husband and the kids walked back in the door, I was kind of disappointed in myself; I had pretty much squandered the best gift ever.

Which leads me to today.  Today we have no commitments until early this afternoon.  Since everyone was up early, we have a huge stretch of time, with all of us at home, to focus in on some of the things that we want to get done.

I titled this post “Beginnings” because tomorrow is, in a funny way, the real start to the new year for us.  Tomorrow is the day that we embark on our annual “dry” January.  Tomorrow is the day that we re-discover fitness routines.  Tomorrow is the day that we re-establish the way and the things we eat.  And tomorrow is the day the kids get back into their routines.

Which means today is the day that I get organized for this new year.

I’ll be tackling my normal Sunday routines this morning; packing the activity bags for the week, printing the kids’ weekly charts (where we track their chores and things like practicing piano and doing homework), and of course, menu planning!

I’ll also be tackling my to-do list; meaning this year I plan to write a giant to-do list for everything that I want to get done in and around the house.  With everything that’s gone on in the last few years, it’s been really easy to let things go around here – we’d all rather just relax and have fun than do chores like cleaning out the furnace room.  This will be a road map of sorts for me and the Husband over the next few months.  And hopefully it will help us all to be able to enjoy our house a little bit more knowing that there isn’t a massive list of outstanding things to do!

And I’ll be sitting down with the Husband to figure out how we will each find time to accomplish the goals we have for ourselves this year.  For him, it’s ensuring that he gets to the gym multiple times in a week.  And given his new guitar purchase yesterday, I’m sure it will also entail making sure he has time to practice.  For me, it’s less about making sure I can get to the gym (because that’s pretty much a given for me given my daytime schedule), and more about finding a small window of quiet time for myself to work on the projects that I would like to accomplish this year.

And on that note, I believe it’s time for me to simply begin working on what I want to get done today!

PS: The image I used for this post came from this site; she’s got some pretty awesome posts on her blog!  It’s definitely worth a look!!!!

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