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

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Liking Christmas Ain’t Easy

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I’m trying to like Christmas and sort of succeeding.

Not because I’m scroogy or morally superior but because I’m struggling to find anything redeeming about the Holiday craziness.

Malls are insane with people trying to buy the right thing, showing they care the right amount. Money flying around like we all somehow won the lottery or that credit card companies don’t bill for December.Chidley Sean01

The grocery store feels like a barely contained mob ready to stampede if stock on cranberries or hams get dangerously low.

Even my mailbox can’t keep up with the ridiculous amount of flyers telling me all the amazing deals and how I could spend even more money while saving so much, (except trees, definitely not saving any trees).

I find myself drawn in, struggling to find the perfect present for my kids. One that captures our love and the joy of Christmas but that comes with a cheap price tag cause we’re still broke. I wander the aisles wondering if I’m causing permanent damage if I buy a singing purse for my daughter and Batman for my son. Or if our budget and the recognition that I’m being pretentious will just let me buy the damn things cause they’re on sale and the kids will like them.Chidley Sean05

So I can’t be smug and self righteous. I thought about it. I thought about only buying local or making all my gifts out of burlap and driftwood. About donating to charities instead of buying family presents and shopping at craft fairs.

But the truth is I can’t afford to only shop local (although I try with my groceries) and anything I make will be crap. No one can successfully craft at 10 pm with two small children and still make something that doesn’t look like burlap glued to a piece of driftwood. I’m just not ready for the charity idea and not every one wants a floral tea pot cosy, although they do make fun hats.Chidley Sean07

and now what… You can’t just whine they say…

I agree. So here’s what I am doing to try to make my holiday about something more and yet not something I can’t achieve.

If it comes with a should or a feeling of obligation I am saying screw it and not doing it. I’m not baking a mountain of cookies or making wreaths out of collected branches and I’m not finding some delightful craft my kids can do that will be cherished forever. If I have time I may make a few treats and I may draw some Christmasy pictures but not because I have to and only if I want to.

If it costs too much I’m not buying it. I have set a very limited budget for gifts and I’m not going over it. I will find ways to stick within that and I will not feel guilty if it means that my kids only get one gift this year from mom and dad. They have grandparents, they will survive.

I am not sending out Christmas cards. Maybe one day it will happen but at this point you all wouldn’t be getting them until the summer anyway.

I am not attempting to make the perfect Christmas with things.
 “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”
Why do we still think that if we buy the right thing or do Christmas right we will create the perfect memories? What if looking back on our life we realize too late what made Christmas and the holidays magic? I will be finding ways to create memories not piles of stuff. I will wake my kids up so they can play in the snow, I will share stories about little people making toys and I will sing songs about reindeers loudly and off key.Chidley Sean24

I am going to find joy in the time I have. I work all week so to have a few extra days off is a gift. I will spend it with my kids and husband, family and friends. laughing, drinking and eating. I will not waste it on cleaning or shopping or being away from the people I love.

I am going to have a clean house for one hour. I will however take immense pleasure in cleaning enough to have people over and loving the hour before it becomes a disaster again. I will gracefully allow it to return to it’s natural state and not worry if someone has to step over toys to come into my house.

I am going to make a fantastic dinner and feed the people I love. My husband and I started our own Christmas Eve tradition of making a meal inspired by another culture. It is a chance for me to treat my family to some delicious food, try some new cooking and just get together and stuff our faces. This year we’re going for a Greek theme and I am actually looking forward to the chance to share a post about that one! I am doing this instead of buying presents for the family and I can’t think of a gift I’d rather give.

I am going to let everyone else do Christmas however they need to. I will not put expectations on anyone else and I will not stress if our Christmases look different. If someone else can make burlap and driftwood into something beautiful I will ooh and aaah and if they send me a card I will be terribly impressed with their organization.Chidley Sean27

I hope you all find a way to make the holidays special and that you don’t need years of counselling to deal with the stress.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

As you can see we did decide to get Santa photos and I had to share. Apparently my daughter is not a fan yet:)

Balance might be futile…

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I used to think that being a working mom meant finding the perfect balance.

Homoeostasis if you will, where there is harmony and equilibrium. That place where my attention is equitably divided between family, work and a little social too. Houses are mostly clean, files are up to date and my children happily play while I follow my passions and hubby builds something…

I think I invisioned the place where June Cleaver and Gloria Steinem meet.

But the truth and reality is no where near that.

I have had to accept messes and I sometimes have to resort to using TV as a distraction to get supper on the table. My toilets are so gross that I have quarantined one bathroom to minimize the damage. I can’t even imagine where I would send someone to pee if they came over.

My sons books create Mandalas on his bedroom floor and there is the semi permanent pile of laundry on our couch that I tuck my feet under while I watch TV, officially dubbed Laundry Mountain.

Although all attempts are made at being super, working mom I forget keys to my office, photocopy the wrong thing twenty times, have a laughable pile of ‘to dos’ and have a coworker that I am sure must wonder how I remember to put on pants.

I was obviously deluding myself about what it would look like. I have realized that a ‘balanced’ life is futile and that the type of women I imagined was barely possible on paper.

My day starts in chaos and ends in exhaustion. It is no where near that glorious, balanced place I imagined. But somehow I feel like a better mom and a better wife, probably not a better friend but definitely a better me.

When I was home with the kids all day I would feel just outright drained. I would run out of things to do, ways to entertain them and I could tend towards getting a little yelly (thank you ohdeerestme for the apt description). Bed time was the only relief I could see and I was so tapped I hurried through the moments that I now savour.

Now, I can lie with my son forever, squished snuggly in his little bed. Surrounded by furry things and staring at a starry ceiling we discuss our days. He tells me about spiderman and playing pirates and I tell him about going into a school or working on my computer. We snuggle and he tells me he loves me and that I’m the best mommy in the world and I believe him.

My daughters special time is in the morning. I used to dread the early wakeups and now I listen for her little peeps to bring her in to our bed. We look at books, touch our noses and toes and cuddle while she has her morning bubba.

My time with them has become more valuable and precious. I know I have less of it in the day and I refuse to waste a single second of it. Laundry Mountain be damned if my kids want a story read to them. And if at the end of the day I’m too tired to make the house all sparkly and perfect for the next day, screw it, I need to write or pin until I fall into a well deserved sleep.

My work is also important. It is a part of my identity and who I am. It is a seperateness from my family and space where I am the professional that I spent all those hours and dollars to become. It doesn’t define me but it is a part of me and even with children that part of me still needs to be nourished, encouraged and explored. I am good at what I do and I love it.

In a way I suppose that is a type of balance. I have the love of my children and the support of my husband. I’m in a profession that provides challenge and growth. I have a home that feels lived in and safe to be who we are and every night I create a meal that nourishes my family.

“Roots of Love in a Beautiful Storm” is our family motto and I think that sums it all up pretty well.

Speaking of roots…This weeks plan shows my new goal of half vegetarian meals. In another attempt at finding balance I am trying to meet my wants for lighter non meat meals and hubbies needs for calorie dense and meaty meals. I think so far it’s working pretty well and you’ll probably see this in my meal plans from now on. I’ve also started branching out and trying some fellow bloggers recipes so I don’t always have to be a creative genius.

Lasagna

Lasagna

Sunday

Lasagna
My sauce starts with celery, carrots and onions then Italian sausage and ground beef. I add diced tomatoes, garlic, dried oregano and basil and a cup of stock. I let this cook down as much as possible and season with salt towards the end so that it doesn’t end up overly salty. I layer this with noodles and a mixture of a large container of cottage cheese, two eggs, pesto, spinach and parmesan. This turns into a creamy layer that’s less expensive then using ricotta. Top the whole gorgeous thing with mozzerella and bake for an hour. The biggest thing I have learnt about lasagna is to let it sit at least 20 minutes before serving. If it’s served too soon you end up with soupy glop instead of the lovely slices you see on Pinterest

Butternut Squash and Kale Pizza

Butternut Squash and Kale Pizza

Meatless Monday

Butternut Squash, Kale and Sage Pizza
I love the combination of kale and squash it’s a little sweet and a little savoury and combined with sage it’s just plain delicious. I used a creamy garlic white sauce as the base and then layered on the kale and squash then finished it all with a combination of parmesan and old white cheddar. A good friend made a dairy free version that sounds delic!

Chicken Fajitas

Chicken Fajitas

Tuesday

Chicken Fajitas
I oven roasted 3 chicken breasts and then thinly sliced a large zucchini, a large onion and two red peppers. The veg was sauteed with 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tsbp olive oil. Once it had cooked down I seasoned the veggies with salt and a sprinkle of cumin and finished with some chopped cilantro. Toppings were diced tomatoes and grated cheese plus some plain yogurt and hot sauce…of course

Sweet Potato Nachos

Sweet Potato Nachos

Wednesday

Sweet Potato Nachos
One of the few times I made an easy supper for the kids so I could have dinner with hubby when he got home. I used a recipe from Pinterest as inspiration. I thinly sliced two large peeled sweet potatoes and tossed them in a combination of olive oil, cumin and chili powder then roasted them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Once they were cooked and a little crispy I topped the whole thing with grated cheese, diced green onions, cilantro, and diced tomatoes and then baked it for another 10 minutes until the cheese was lovely and bubbly. Served with tomatillo salsa and plain yogurt I will definitely be making these again. 

Asian Salmon Meatball Subs

Asian Salmon Meatball Subs

Thursday

Asian Salmon Meatball Subs
I used this recipe to create the meatballs but using canned salmon instead and adding an egg to hold it together. For bread I used a multigrain baguette cut the old school Subway style and a mayo with added siracha, grated garlic, ginger and a splash of sesame oil. I layered in cucumbers, and grated carrots. It was different but really tasty. I can see myself making it again for sure although I’d love to try the meatballs with fresh salmon. I imagine they’d be even better.

Falafel

Falafel

Friday

Falafels
I used a box mix of falafels called Casbah. It came together really quickly and dinner was ready in 20 minutes. While the mixture was resting I sliced cucumbers and tomatoes and set out some sprouts then made a sauce of cumin, chili powder, plain yogurt, feta and parsley. I used Roti instead of pita because pita always fall apart and piss me off.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Saturday

BBQ Chicken Pizza
This is one of the earliest recipes I posted on my blog. I still make it regularly and I think it’s a family favourite. I love the combination of the slightly spicy BBQ sauce with sweet pineapple and my favourite cilantro.

Butternut Squash and Sage Mac and Cheese

Butternut Squash and Sage Mac and Cheese

Sunday

Butternut Squash and Thyme Macaroni and Cheese
I think this will be my new favourite mac and cheese. I followed the recipe almost exactly (strong almost). I used sage instead of the rosemary in the recipe and added a clove of garlic to the cream sauce. Other then that no changes needed and I have a feeling this will be become super popular in your home too.

Well that’s another week of meals and a little more about my family. If you want to see what we eat everynight you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

I hope I’ve provided some meal inspiration and made feeding your family and friends a little easier. I always love to hear thoughts and comments so please leave me a message:)

Beet and Pear Tart with Goat Cheese and Walnuts

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Our wonderful sweet daughter is such a horrible sleeper that it’s a constant challenge for me and hubby. She did just have five teeth come in so I have some sympathy for the little beast but man am I one sleepy momma.

We were alternating nights getting up with her but hubby just started a new job that has the potential for serious injury if he’s not awake. Being the wonderful wife I am I’ve taken over so that he can eek out that little bit more sleep and hopefully come home with all of his fingers and toes.

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Doing the broke dance – a week of meals for $100

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We all have fears and things that create anxiety in our lives. For me it’s money or the lack thereof. I hate being broke more than anything and I can tend towards obsessiveness around finances. Not that I’m good at it. In fact I kind of suck and that really doesn’t help. It takes me a million hours to create a budget and make sure the bills are all paid.

Looking back my concerns probably started in university. I had next to nothing and there were times where the best meal plan I could create was rice with either hot sauce or soy sauce. Coffees were an absolute luxury and I snuck on the train to get to school. I hated it and everything I thought it said about me. Since then I’ve always squirrelled a little away or stockpiled toilet paper and pasta to get us through the little bumps that all families face. Continue Reading »

Comfort in a bowl – Split pea soup

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My husband grew up in a small community in rural Newfoundland. It’s really small, like 400 people small. He spent most of his time outdoors on dirt bikes, snow mobiles or on the water and not much time watching Much Music or wearing neon. Because of this I sometimes tease that he grew up under a rock, (or on a rock depending on how you look at it). However, both of us were pretty fortunate and had adventurous cooks in our homes. It’s probably why he loves me so much.

His dad is the cook in the home and always willing to try new things in the kitchen. However, in his own way he is really picky and there were certain meals that didn’t make it to the table like pizza or pasta.  I think that’s why to me its so cute that when hubbers was growing up and they got to go to a restaurant he ordered pea soup. Going out for supper in such a small community would be a big deal. And my lovely, sweet man wanted pea soup. Continue Reading »

Braise’n Dinners

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A dear friend and fellow blogger, Tasha from an Imperfect Girl, stopped by the other night and I immediately dragged her into the kitchen to taste the sauce from the braised short ribs I had made. She thought it was delicious and was interested in how I made it. I started rambling and she suggested I write about it, (hmmm excellent play my friend). Since I have less time lately to develop recipes I thought it was a great way to still share what happens in my kitchen. So here it is, a post lovingly dedicated to the art and science of the braise. Continue Reading »

Back to work

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Going back to work after kids is a necessary evil for a lot of moms. Either financially, or for career reasons we get pulled back into the workforce. Sometimes kicking and screaming, and sometimes secretly a little grateful for the break. For me I had always known I would return, just not how. Too much in student debt and a love for my job just can’t be argued with. Initially, I wanted to return only part time but when I found out this wasn’t possible I tried to put on my big girl panties and prepare for going back. I still hated the idea of leaving the kids full time but had limited options. Continue Reading »

Weekly Meal Plan – Community Garden

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When you live in a town house there are pros and cons. I don’t have to mow my lawn, worry about maintenance and it’s nice to know we’re surrounded by people that are quick to lend a hand. Especially the weeks when I’m on my own. The biggest drawbacks are the horribly small kitchen that I complain about daily and the teeny tiny yard. With two kids and a large dog it makes for a limited space to play.

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Happy gardener

So having a community garden as a yard extension has been my life saver. Continue Reading »

Manadarin and Candied Almond Potluck

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Over the years I have been invited to my share of Potlucks and funnily enough I always have a hard time deciding what to make. I come up with fifty billion ideas and reject them all within a matter of minutes. Too expensive, too spicy, too time consuming, too weird and so on and so on until it’s the day of the Potluck and fortunately I finally remember this salad.

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