Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sample Menu 1: 30 Day Challenge Meals

Because I didn't take photos of all the meals from day one, I figured I would just give you a sample menu from the past three. I will try to give one recipe for each meal, but I may just have to mix and match. Snacks are almonds, walnuts and plain yogurt with blueberries. I find myself drinking a lot more water to wash all the nuts down. This is good because I don't drink nearly enough water in a day.

Nutty Morning Shake
Sounds weird, but taste pretty good. I mixed 1 tbsp natural peanut butter (could use almond butter too) with water (though I wished I had some unsweetened Almond Milk) and mixed in blender. Add 1 scoop of vanilla Protein Powder (Nature Pro) and mix. I was also thinking that Iif I used some coconut milk this would be a really delicious shake!

Spinach, Egg Avocado Salad with Celery & Ranch Dip
A Yummy ML Lunch
2 cups spinach, drizzled with olive oil lemon juice, salt and pepper
1 hard boiled egg, sliced and seasoned with salt and pepper
1/2 avocado
2 celery stalks cut into sticks, served with 1 tbsp dip

Ranch Dip (sugar free)
2 cups plain yogurt
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/4 cup dill, chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Citrus Fish with Quinoa Rice Blend and steamed Vegetables

Slice oranges (we found some blood oranges on 50% off), lemon and small grapefruit. Place a layer on the bottom of lightly oiled baking dish. Add fish, seasoned with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with your favourite sweetener (avgave nectar, xylitol, stevia or even 100% maple syrup) to your taste. Top with remaining fruit slices. Bake in 350˚ oven until fish is fully cooked. If fish was frozen, I would say 45min to 1 hour, from fresh, 30 minutes. 

We served this with Quinoa and Brown Rice (for the kids- not part of the advanced plan), seasoned slightly with lemon and pepper. Add a side of steamed broccoli and cauliflower.

Monday, January 30, 2012

My Health Journey and the 30 Day Challenge

Over the past 15 years, I have been on a trek for two things. 1) to be happy and 2) to be healthy. While number one is very important and that journey is certainly a great story that needs telling, I would like to talk with you about the latter today, to be healthy. First, I needed to ask myself, "What is health and what does it mean to be healthy?". Webter's Dictionary defines health as: 

Certainly, I could agree with that definition and so I set out to make it so for my life. To give you some perspective here, I was 21 and gaining weight at an average of 10 pounds a year. At my worst I reached 185 pounds, way too much for my 5'3" frame. Add to that a relationship that was not good for either of us and being deliberately separated from God; I was NOT of sound body, mind or spirit.

Here's the thing about making change (real, lasting change) you can't try to change only one aspect of your life (i.e.: body) and expect the other areas can remain the unchanged (i.e.: mind and spirit). This is why, no matter how hard I would try (working out everyday and watching what I ate), I was going no-where and getting worse really. The rest of my life was so messed up. It would take me 5 long years to even begin to figure this out. 

Ultimately, it took me opening my life up to God again before any real positive change could happen. This change was painful, very painful and it all seemed to happen so fast, (it's long a story I can share another time). With my mind on the right track and my walk with God growing I was finally able to see success in the body. While I did loose 40 pounds in total, not all of it was done in a healthy way and I had gained a bit back because of that. I owe so much of it to God doing the hard work, me learning to love kick-boxing and the support of good friends (Mike and LaLa) and the man who is now my husband (love you Deryk).
Now, after having 3 children I have managed to keep the weight under some control, resting at about 157 pounds. Still more than is "healthy" for my body. Ideally, our bodies are deigned, by God, to heal what ails us, but because of our poor choices and the junk in our environment, our bodies are simply overwhelmed and we are all getting sick (i.e.: cancer, diabetes, fatty-liver, fibromyalgia, high blood-pressure to name a few that affect my family).

With the mind and spirit in a great place and the knowledge I have picked up on diet end exercise over the last 15 years, I feel more ready than ever to put forth the next phase. We are so blessed to have a great group of friends and health care providers (Provencher Family Chiropractic Centre) who care about whole health (mind, body and spirit) helping us in this journey. 

Since I am usually the one to get the ball rolling on health in our family, I was a bit surprised when my husband brought up doing this challenge. With him on board I know we can all do this. The idea behind this Maximized Living 30 Day Challenge is focusing on using the right foods "...to reduce inflammation, restore cell and membrane function in order to aid in detoxification, regulate hormones and promote fat as the body's primary source of energy.". Please know that I am NOT a person who does the fad diets (never have, never will). That is not what this is. We are retraining how we look at food and what types of food we allow in our bodies. There are two plans; the Core and Advanced. We are doing the Advanced Plan. Here's a basic outline of what we are doing:
1) Fat: Increase intake of healthy fats.
2) Protein: Moderate intake of protein.
3) Carbohydrates: Eliminate grains, sugars and fruit.

Go organic whenever possible. This will be tough for us financially, but we will certainly try. Especially for the thin skin vegetables. Got to say though, when cauliflower is $2 regular and almost $5 organic it's not possible right now for us to go organic (we needed 3 heads). We'll do our best and know that this summer we will grow our own.This originally started in January, but we needed more time to plan out our way to succeed. I have researched recipes, sought out ingredients and made menu plans to help us succeed. For the children, we will be much more lenient, but for the most part they could use to not be so carb addicted anyway. I will be posting recipes and the process we make as we go!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Time to Get Real!

I prefer to think of every day of my life as a challenge to make a conscious effort to live better. Some days I rock it, while others not so much. I try my very best to not let the bad days get me down and I am grateful for each new day to try again. Today, was a pretty good day. For a while now, I have been contemplating if or how I wanted to share some of my more personal experiences. I knew I would want to blog about this at some point, but didn't really know how or when I would make this happen. After all, this is mostly a foodie blog these days. Well I think I have figured this out so here goes.

Recently, I have had doctors inform me that I apparently carry a mutated CDH1 gene. This gene is known to increase the likelihood of a rare stomach cancer that affects the lining of your stomach. It is VERY hard to detect and according to these doctors impossible to treat. Their recommendation is to remove the healthy stomach to prevent any cancer from forming. I know this seems extreme and it is really. I won't go into too much detail about the stats, just know that, on paper, it doesn't look very positive. So far I have had the routine tests to see what might be going on in my stomach & colon areas done and I do not yet have the results.

I know there will be people out there who might not understand this or even agree with much that I have to say from this point forward; I don't expect you to. This is my journey and I just ask that you respect my right to share what I know to be truth. I do not judge others for not agreeing with me, please do me this courtesy as well. Thanks.

I am a woman of faith; meaning I try to trust Christ for ALL things in my life. This is not an easy task especially in light how things look on paper. However, I am fully confident I will be just fine. This is a risky thing for me to share because I am leaning 100% on faith at this point and I run the risk of looking foolish if things don't turn out the way I expect. That is after all the definition of faith. The bottom line is, I just don't agree with the doctors; not in this case, not at this time. To have  gene for something does not mean that I WILL get sick and to say so goes against everything I believe to be true. God did not create cancer, WE (people) did. I won't go into details about how I think WE made cancer, there is enough information out there to confirm that. For me, this means I can do something to make prevent the gene from getting "switched on".

Some (many really) might say, "Just take out the stomach and you don't need to worry about these things.". This is a valid way to come at this situation and I can see how that might make sense and I have thought about it, prayed about it and ultimately I disagree and here is why. Being a woman of faith I needed to ask myself who is Lord of my life? The answer is easy, Jesus (the answer is always Jesus). Well, one night, while praying with some very insightful women from our church, I was asked to claim exactly what Jesus was Lord over in my life. There were many things on the list such as home, children, marriage, mind and my body was one of them. This was hard to swallow. Did I really believe that? At the time, I had recently received the blood test results for the gene testing and was bitter about having to deal with this at all, "I am young and a wife and a mother of 4 great children and this isn't supposed to be happening to me.". Thoughts I'm sure many people in this situation have had. Truth is though, if Jesus is Lord of my body, then I need to let Him handle this and trust that God doesn't give us Cancer. I am not naive, MANY faith filled people (people I know) have had cancer or other sicknesses and some even have died from them. I do not feel more holy or righteous than anyone else, but I know in my soul that I can't just give in to fear. I need to fight for the promises from my Lord.

So, "How do you plan on fighting?" you ask. Well, since there doesn't seem to be any real and present threat in my family thus far, I will continue to claim this health over myself and my family; reminding myself who is really in control here. God made me and he made me good (I tell it to my children every night, time to live it). I will continue to take exceptionally good care of my self, spiritually, mentally and physically. I have been actively seeking a healthy lifestyle for well over 10 years now, not that my life prior was so unhealthy, but I plan to get even better at it in the days, months and years to come.

As mentioned earlier, I am a God loving woman and give Him credit for what He has made in each of us. By trusting in God more, I am also reducing the stress that I carry, because we are never in this life alone. As a family, we are taking good care of our spines which control out nervous system and our body's God given ability to heal and repair itself. We have already begun to eat what we grow (larger garden next year I hope) and be aware of what and where our food comes from. Now for me, the exercise is probably going to be the toughest part. I am a Mom who seldom sits and while I do love a good heart pumping workout, I have yet mastered the art of putting my fitness health in higher priority. I need to get as passionate about fitness as I am about my menus.

Thanks for taking the time to read this very personal look into my life. I will keep you posted as to the results and progress as it comes, but in the meantime, please do remember us in your thoughts and prayers. We are put on this earth to love God, to be in relationship with one another, to encourage and to love. I pray that my journey can touch lives and bring God the glory he so rightly deserves. God Bless you and keep you. May he make His face to shine upon you with favour and give you peace as you journey through these next days, weeks and months ahead.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Balsamic Steak and Quinoa Salad

I made this one for supper tonight and it was a super big hit. So good I just had to share if right away! You can serve it warm or cold. Make the salad ahead to save time in the kitchen; not that it takes long to make.

My recipe for Balsamic Garlic Grilled Steak with Quinoa Salad
(serves 6)

Steak Marinade
3-4         steaks of your preference
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (or favorite red wine)
3 tbsp olive oil
4-5         cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp         dried thyme or rosemary

Marinade steak in refigerator overnight. Bring to room temperature before grilling. Begin grilling while preparing the salad. Serve sliced over the salad. This steak is great ANYTIME!

Salad Dressing
1         orange, freshly squeezed
1         lemon, freshly squeezed
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (or favorite red wine)
1 tsp brown sugar (raw)
1 tsp garlic powder (or to taste)
1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped

Combine all ingredients and let stand until salad is prepared.

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water
4 cups baby spinach
1         red onion, finely chopped (or 6 green, chopped)
2         avocados, cut into bite size pieces
1         cucumber, cut into bite size pieces
3         roma tomatoes, cut into bite size pieces
1 cup pine nuts, toasted*
(*I had walnuts, pumpkin & hemp seeds, so I added those. Also, this would taste yummy with feta cheese, then again don't most mediterranean salads taste better with Feta?)

Bring quinoa & water to boil. Simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand with lid on.

In the meantime, chop onion, tomatoes, cuccumber and avocados. At this point it's you preference as to whether you eat this salad warm or cold. If eating warm, I prefer to add the spinach & warm quinoa together to allow the spinach to wilt a bit. Both ways are good though. Combine quinoa, spinach, dressing and all the other ingredients.

Once the meat has rested, cut and serve over the salad. I hope you enjoy this as much as we all did!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thoughts from my Brain and Foods from my Kitchen

Well, last week was an interesting one. First, our family participated in a week of extraordinary prayer and fasting. Some fasted from food, others (like myself) from the computer and internet, while our children gave up special toys. I must say that this week didn't bring the usual insights I have experienced in the past; in part because I had family from out of town visiting. The other part was because I had allowed myself to get so overwhelmed buy the "drama" brought into my life by those near and dear to me. Amazing how hard it is to see and hear from God when you keep your eyes on the dirt. I am working on that "drama" as best I can (not well I might add), but I am looking up instead of doing it all on my own.

We managed to eat a few Quinoa dishes. I have noticed that you can basically treat quinoa like rice or even oatmeal. So I added some pre-cooked stuff to my usual pancake mixture and it really beefed up the full factor. Topped them with some warm blueberries and a bit of maple syrup and YUMMY! We also mixed it with milk and cinnamon, raisins and almond slices for a nice warm breakfast. 

This week I found some great deals on grapefruit, oranges and blood oranges, so I see some citrus fish on the horizon. Last night I made some cabbage soup I had been craving for a while and it was so tasty. No recipe, just filled the pot with cabbage, carrots, parsnips, chicken stock and tomato paste and let it simmer until greatness!

Here are a few more of the suppers we ate prior to our week of fasting... 

Cauliflower Curry with Chickpeas
 Steak & Eggs with Mini-Potato Gratin
Thai-Style Coconut Chicken Soup

Thai-Style Coconut Chicken Soup

1 lb         Boneless chicken, cut into bite size pieces
4 c          Chicken broth
2 c          Carrots, bias cut
1             Large Onion, chopped
2 tbsp     Grated, fresh ginger
3             Cloves garlic, minced
2             Stalks lemongrass, cut into 1-inch pieces, or 1 tsp finely shredded lemon peel
1/2 tsp    Crushed red pepper
15 oz      can Unsweetened coconut milk
1             Medium red, yellow and or green peppers cut into bit size pieces
1/2 c       Mushrooms, sliced
1/4 c       Snipped, fresh cilantro
1/3 c       Chopped roasted peanuts

Combine chicken, brith, carrots, onion, ginger, garlic, lemongrass or lemon peel and crushed red pepper in slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours. Skim off fat if needed (I usually do). Stir in coconut milk, peppers, mushrooms, cilantro. Cover and let stand for 5-10 minutes to warm up the vegetables. Remove lemon grass. Ladle into soup bowls, sprinkle with peanuts.

I have served this soup over fresh steamed rice. We also like to top with some chilli garlic sauce for extra heat. I often leave the peppers out and added them at the table. I do not like the texture of re-heated peppers. This way they don't get mushy in the left-overs.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Six Good Ones from My Kitchen

Decided to change up my blog a bit. I will post my recipes, once a week, after making them and adding my own photos when I can. This means I spend less time posting, more time cooking and reading other people's blogs!

So this was last week's goodies from my kitchen:

My recipe for French Onion Soup 
(serves 4 adults and 3 children)

4 cup beef broth (recipe below)
2 cup water (or more to taste)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup red wine (optional, any kind you would drink)
3         large, sweet onions, sliced in rings
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp thyme
                salt and pepper to taste
2 cup swiss (or grueyre), mozzarella, parmesan, asiago and romano (blend)
1         multigrain baguette, sliced and toasted

In a large soup pot, melt butter and add sliced onions. Sauté onions until caramelized (almost gooey). Add warm beef stock, worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, wine and salt & pepper to taste. Let simmer until onions have broken down and flavors are well mixed (half hour or so).

Laddle into oven safe bowls, top with a slice of toast and sprinkle with cheese blend. Place on a cookie sheet and broil until cheese is melted and starting to brown. Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes; serve.

Beef Broth
Bones from large roast (I used cross rib roast)
Salt and Pepper
6 cup water
thyme, parsley, rosemary (in a bundle)
onion and garlic (I use ends that I keep in a baggie in the freezer)

Cook bones in stock pot until browned and add 6 cups water. Brint to a boil and add the seasonings. Reduce to low and simmer at least 2 hours (overnight in the oven on really low is best). Cool and strain liquid.

My recipe for Quinoa Stuffed Peppers 
(serves 6)

1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for oiling the pan 
1         red onion, chopped 
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup carrots, chopped 
7         bell peppers (1 chopped, 6 tops removed cored and seeded) 
2 cups cooked ground beef (optional, I just had some left over)
1 tsp ground cinnamon 
1 tsp ground cumin 
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
2 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste 

Place quinoa and water in medium sized pot. Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer until water is absorbed (about 15-20 minutes).

Meanwhile heat oil in a large skillet, add onion, mushrooms and carrot, cook until softened. Stir in cinnamon, cumin and cooked hamburger. Add chopped peppers and quinoa, toss gently to combine. Add salt, pepper and cook 1 to 2 minutes more. 

Fill hollowed peppers with mixture, gently packing it down and making sure to fully fill each pepper. Top each pepper with its reserved top then arrange them upright in lightly oiled pan. Bake in oven for 20-30 minutes at 350˚ F. Transfer to plates and serve.

My recipe for Slow Cooker Salisbury Roast
with Garlic Smashed Potatoes and Baby Carrots
(serves 6-8)

4-6 lb beef roast (cut of your choice)
1/4 cup dry onion soup mix (Bulk Barn has MSG free)
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
3/4 cup water

Place roast into the slow cooker. In a small bowl, mix together onion soup mix and the mushroom soup. Pour over the meat. Cook on the Low setting for 4 or 6 hours.

Let meat rest, covered with foil on a cutting board while you make the side dishes of your choice. Below is what I made.

Garlic Smashed Potatoes
1 potato per peson
4 heads of garlic, smashed and finely chopped
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup milk

Cut potatoes (peel if you wish but I often don't), put in a pot and fill with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Add garlic in the last few minutes. Drain, smash potatoes, add butter and milk.

Baby Carrots
Bring water to boil in a small pot, add a bag of carrots. Cook until tender. Add butter and a pinch of dill; toss.

My recipe for Baked Apple Pancakes
(serves 4)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp  salt
1/2 cup  milk
1 tbsp  butter or margarine, melted
        medium tart apples, peeled and chopped
1/8 tsp  ground cinnamon

In a mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Add eggs, milk and butter. Pour into 2 lightly greased pie plates. Bake at 400˚F for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Meanwhile, combine the chopped apples and cinnamon in a saucepan. Cook and stir until apple is softened. Cut pancake in half; place two pieces on each plate. Top with apple mixture.

I saw some really great ideas for kid snacks on pinterest a while back and thought "My children would LOVE these." Here is our creations: 

Happy Snack I 

Slice a red apple (pretty thin).
Spread a thin layer of peanut butter on each slice.
Put tiny marshmallows on the bottom lip.
Top with the upper.

Happy Snack II
This one is even easier...
Slice, core apples
Spread with peanut butter
Sprinkle with chocolate chips, or raisins
Sandwich and serve!

Last but not least Owen's 7th Birthday Cake:
A double layer cake of banana and chocolate, covered in a marshmallow fondant. His favorite show is Wild Kratts so I made it my mission to convert this PBS show into a cake. This is what I came up with.

So this week I should be making:
  • Steak and Eggs with Crispy Baked Potatoes
  • Green Chilli Breakfast Burritos
  • Quinoa Pancakes
  • Cauliflower, Chickpea Curry
  • Thai Coconut Chicken Soup (slow cooker)