The Best Birthday Gift Ever

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I turned 36 today.

I had been dreading this day all month. Not because of the whole age thing, (although it is weird how 36 magically feels like 40 is tomorrow), but because life has been a struggle for us lately and I felt like I had very little to celebrate. I have ideas on where I SHOULD be in my life and well we sure aren’t there.

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That’s 36 candles

If you have been following my blog you know the last year has been filled with financial ups and downs and has now landed on a big, fat, massive, down. We keep plodding along  but it’s getting harder to find my inner Pollyanna when even my grocery budget is at an all time low.

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I find myself praying for help and guidance to whatever gods or divine entities might be listening and asking the universe for an endorsement. That’s what people do in the self actualizing books I read, they pray and the universe provides, (I think I’ve only read 2 but it seems to be a trend). I’m also guessing there wouldn’t be much of a story in praying and nothing happening…

When I made it across three lanes of traffic, exiting a gas station and zoomed straight over to a turning lane, I had a hard time not putting it through a divine lens… Was that the universe offering encouragement, I mean it was pretty miraculous. Or was that the most assistance I could hope for… minor traffic miracles.

I have a hard time with the whole divine intervention thing any way. I want to believe the universe has some best laid plans that also incorporate free will and my humanity but who knows. I guess at worst I look a little nutty talking to the air while I drive and at best some fat little six armed tree will help us out and things will get better quicker then with just us making it happen.

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Divine Unicorn Spirit Incarnate

Back to my birthday. This morning I awoke full of dread about the unfulfilled expectations I was sure I would experience because somehow I had decided that being broke and not having a ‘perfect’ life meant I would obviously not have a good day.

But I am truly grateful for how wrong I was.

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I don’t know if it was realizing that expectations are just that and that my actual life is what matters or if it was giving up all my brains crazy shit and just BEING. Maybe a bit of both…

Instead, I have been given I gift I don’t know if I would have received at any other time.

I feel wrapped in love and kind regard. I feel honoured by the words I have received and the gift of the moment people took to think of me today. I feel acknowledged and cherished. Knowing that so many people believe and care about me has replenished my belief too. Who I am to challenge the amazing people I have in my life and if they see some thing worth loving then it must truly be there. 

So even if that little tree doesn’t come to our rescue and even if nothing changes I will remember today and how I feel.

I guess my gift today was realizing that this time will pass just like other crappy times have too. But that who I am, how I am in this moment and the family and friends I have surrounded myself with are my actual life. That I have been blessed with more than I sometimes feel I deserve and to not honour and treasure what I have is a disservice to those gifts I have been given.

So thank you all, for being a part of my life and for being the inspiration and strength I can pull from when my own well is running low.

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PS I have a tonne of recipes I’m working on so now that I got this pity party over with I should be able to shift gears and get back to writing about my other true love, food! I gotta say there is some serious creativity that takes place in broke ass meal prep 🙂

PPS If this is your first time checking out my site I also have a Facebook page where I post nightly meal ideas. Come on over and say hi!! www.facebook.com/myweeklydish

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You are How You Eat

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Taking care of myself and my family has become more and more important.

I feel the years creeping up and I want to be an active part of my kids lives for as long as I am able. Now I am no where near ‘old’ but I have no delusions that anyone else is responsible and if I want to be healthy it’s up to me.

I also know that my kids health habits will be based in what we teach them and that is another responsibility I don’t want to screw up.

Being active, enjoying the outdoors and connecting to our natural environment all rank high on how we already make this happen.

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We also eat in a way that I believe is healthy meaning, real delicious food.

Overall we avoid heavily processed foods, make veggies the focus of most meals and I try to make what I can from scratch. This isn’t always realistic so when I am buying pre-made foods, like bread or pasta, the focus is on the highest quality with the fewest number of ingredients.

I also immediately back away from anything that has light, diet, low- fat or any other glowing sign that it is packed with sugar, filler or other things that just aren’t food in my eyes.

When the rest of my life is in balance what I’ve talked about is more then enough for me to generally feel great and maintain a healthy weight. But with returning to work, two kids, stress and financial worries my balance has kinda tanked and my overall health isn’t where I’d like.20140111-213034.jpg

Some of those things are just beyond control but there a few changes I can make and that I think will make a big difference in getting back to the way I want to feel.

And since it is the New Year what better time. Now we are not talking huge changes because honestly I am mostly happy with the way we eat. But I think it’s time for a refresh and a few updates. Call it version 2.0.

And while I want to lose a few pounds and then maintain a healthy body weight this is not just about the shape I am in. My focus is on overall well being not on having a skinny bod, in fact I like having an ass and plan on keeping it. 

So here are the changes I have in the works for the New Year. Some I’ve already been experimenting with and some will be a slower shift but all are goals I think are realistic and will become another part of the way I define health.

1)  Drink Mostly Water or Herbal Teas

Growing up when I went to my mom for something to eat she would always say drink some water first. I thought she was just trying to save money or being momish but she was right.We often mistake thirst for hunger, and although food is a source of moisture it’s really no match to a tall drink of water.  We need 6-8 glasses a day and I can definitely say I fall short. 

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Like a lot of people I forget my water bottle, drink caffeine to stay awake and sometimes partake in a tasty glass of wine. But I’m missing out on probably one of the easiest health changes I can make. Water helps us digest our food, eliminate waste, and lubricates our insides. Our blood depends on us staying hydrated to flow nicely and all of our organs use it in some way.

Being dehydrated can also make us groggy and sleepy, which my children are already doing, so really a little effort around this one will be well worth it.

2) No Seconds at Supper Time

I am brutal for going back for seconds. We eat well and the food I make tastes good so I want to eat it. I also for some reason think that because my husband was born with a hyperactive metabolism and is physically active, I somehow can eat the same amount or should be allowed to. Truth is I can, but  it has the unfortunate side effect of me eating twice what I probably need and my bum being a little more ample then I like. I don’t know if it’s jealousy or what but it’s slightly ridiculous so I am cutting back to one plate and then having a glass of water until my body can check in if it’s full or not.

Licking

3) Tune in to when I am full

Recently I became aware of the actual sensations of feeling full. I’ve been working on tuning in to my body so while i’ve been eating I have tried to really listen and pay attention to what is going on.

What I realized is I associate a certain level of fullness with a comforting, happy feeling. It’s like this lovely warmth that radiates out from my tummy. What I have also realized is that this sensation is often followed by eating more then I needed and then the “oh god what was I thinking” feeling of discomfort and over fullness.

Wow, my mind was kind of blown, I was so disconnected that my body had a built in message to tell me when I’d had enough and here I was only just noticing it. So this week I tried an experiment of enjoying the warmth in my belly and the happy feeling but then stopping once it was there. It was amazing, I stuck to my one plate plan and left the table feeling happy and satiated.

4) Eat at least 3 Vegetarian meals a week

What!!! Actually I have already been doing this and it was a lot easier then I thought. Even my hubby who would never make this change on his own has been okay with it. I have a few reasons for this one.

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First, we’re broke and I save a lot of money by not buying meat. Generally I would spend 7-15 dollars a meal on meat alone. This means I save at least 20 bucks a week or close to 100 a month. That’s almost a whole week of groceries again.

Second, it’s healthier. When you eat a plant based meal it’s generally lower in fat (see next point), higher in nutrients, fibre and healthy fats.

Finally, it’s more environmentally responsible. We all have to do what we feel is right and for me animal farming is just not sustainable on the level we currently consume meat. The amount of land, feed, processing and waste created by our meat consumption is astounding. I was doing some mental math one night and realized that in a city of one million 20 000 chickens were potentially killed and processed every night. That’s not counting pork, beef or any other meat sources. Can you even fathom that?

Actually that’s not the final reason. Finally, finally is that we have decided to only purchase meat that is locally raised and butchered and this costs more. To counter the big nasty factory farms that treat animals in deplorable ways we have decided to support our local farmers that treat their animals with respect, feed them properly and we end up with a finished product that I don’t have to worry was dipped in bleach. I’m not trying to get preachy but we as a society need to be more responsible for the choices we make in what we purchase. Our dollars impact how the billions of animals we  chose to eat are treated.

5) Eat a Little Less Cheese

Switching to more vegetarian meals was pretty easy but for some reason it meant that I added cheese instead. Well actually I know why. No meat, no problem, just put cheese on something and everyone will be happy. It’s true and it probably was a great transition food for us. Now that we’re all a little more used to not eating meat with every meal reducing the dairy goodness is doable.

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I’m even a little excited to branch out more and may even try one or two vegan meals. Let me be clear, cheese is not evil. I buy locally made white cheddar and it is tasty and an important part of my meal plans but covering mac and cheese in more cheese becomes a little heavy handed and unnecessary.

5) Move my body

This isn’t exactly food related but since I returned from my maternity leave I spend a lot more time parked on my butt. I sit a lot, like all day, and it’s killing me. I recently found out I have a pretty bad back (deteriorating disks) and I have always known my posture was crap. Sitting is just making it worse. I have found some exercises I can do in my office to work on both my back and posture and I am taking a quick break every hour or so to do them. I also plan on trying to walk at least once during the day. How I work with clients is pretty flexible so I am going to encourage some walking and talking:)

I also plan on creating an exercise routine that can be done at home. I don’t have a lot of time but I do have an elliptical trainer, resistance bands, a yoga mat, and a Wii. Really there are a lot of options and my body needs me to make it a priority. I’ll keep ya’ll posted.

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7) Cutting back on white, refined sugar

I am switching whenever possible to sugar cane, maple syrup, agave or other options. These have less impact on our blood sugar, reducing the up and down spikes that white sugar creates and our body is better suited to dealing with these types of sweeteners. Also there is a lot of processing involved in making white sugar and since my goal has been to move away from processing it only makes sense to move to more natural sources.

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So that’s it, nothing crazy…well to me. I’m not making it so I have to take out another mortgage to buy groceries and I think my meal plans and recipes will still be accessible to everyone.

If you are ready to make some of your own changes in your diets and lifestyle I suggest finding small changes that don’t require a whole life overhaul, (unless that’s what you want, then go for it!!!).

Small changes can have big impacts. Consider them gateway changes, opening the door for more shifts in a healthier direction. I started years ago making small shifts and now like to think that my family and I eat in a way that is healthy, sustainable and budget friendly.

For inspiration I recommend In Defence of Food, by Michael Pollan and The Undiet, by Meghan Telpner. Both are great reads if you are sick of dieting or trying to follow food trends that just can’t be sustained over time. These books promote looking at food in a whole new way and at it’s core is the super simple idea that real food is best. 

Let me know what you all think and if you have any plans on making changes this year:)

If you are looking for inspiration I share what we had for supper each night on my Facebook page too www.facebook.com/myweeklydish

Tuna Noodle Casserole

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Do you ever do a little cleaning of your kitchen cupboards and find something in the back you totally forgot you had and really aren’t sure what to do with?

I do it all the time and I hate wasting food so I need to be pretty creative. A while ago I found a bag of goldfish crackers. My kids love them but this bag was a little salty so I put it in the cupboard and well that’s where it stayed. Until I needed a topping for my tuna casserole recipe.

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I’ll be honest this is not a recipe I ever thought I would be working on. I had a traumatizing incident with tuna and noodles as a child (sorry dad) and until last year I had never actually tried it again. But being budget concious and having a hubby who grew up with comfort food like this, made me want to give it a try again.

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Lets call it an exercise in moving forward and letting go of the past:)

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I used a white sauce with lots of veggies to make a tasty and canned soup free casserole that comes together pretty quick. The goldfish crackers make a great crust but if you are short on time you could skip the baking step and it would still be great.

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Tuna Noodle Casserole

1 package of broad noodles

1 Tbsp canola or olive oil
1 cup diced onion (about 1 medium onion)
1 cup of diced carrots (about 1 large carrot)
1 cup of diced celery (about 2 stalks celery)
1 cup of frozen peas
2 cloves of crushed garlic
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp mustard powder (grainy mustard would work too)
1 bayleaf
2 cups of milk
2 cans of chunk tuna

preheat the oven to 350

Prepare the noodles to the package instructions.

In a large saucepan heat the canola to medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery to the pan and cook until the onion becomes translucent. Stir in the garlic and continue cooking for about 30 seconds. Melt in the butter and stir in the flour. Add the mustard powder and the bay leaf.

Heat the milk until  luke warm (I use my microwave and it’s about 45-60 seconds), slowly add it to the veggies and flour, stirring constantly.

Once it’s all mixed together add the peas and simmer the sauce until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon then remove the bay leaf

In a large casserole dish spread out the noodles and pour over the sauce. Fold in the tuna and top with the goldfish crust

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Goldfish crust

1 1/2 cups crushed gold fish crackers
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 Tbsps melted butter
1 Tbsp chopped parsley

Bake the casserole for about 45 minutes

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My sister decorated this plate almost thirty years ago. It was one of those ones you colour and than bake. I think it’s one of my most treasured dishes.

Well there’s my version of a meal I’m sure most of us have eaten at some point. I just happen to think mine’s awesome. Hope it makes your family and friends as happy as mine. Let me know what you think

I also post nightly meals on my Facebook page if you’re looking for inspiration www.facebook.com/myweeklydish