Why do we need things need to be like other things?

This has come up for me twice this week.

Most recently, just a few minutes ago. While stopping at the most amazing Safeway (Burquitlam) on the way back from my parents’, I grabbed a little package of date balls because I was famished. Now, date balls are good on their own. These date balls, however, weren’t actually date balls – I only gleaned that from reading the ingredients list. These date balls were packaged as salted caramel energy balls. Sounds delicious, right? I dug in as soon as I could tear open the bag once we got back to the car. Guess what? They were date balls. Like any other. Which is PERFECTLY FINE if what you’re buying is a date ball. I was sold a very different idea of what was inside, but it was the same old thing. It only made me feel ripped off that the expectations outlined on the packaging set me up for something way better.

Before that, I’d been talking to a friend who told me that she hadn’t tried a Beyond Meat burger yet. As you know, I am obsessed with them. She said her butcher had stocked Beyond Meat burgers (forward thinking butcher, kudos!) and they also had sausages and wieners. I didn’t even know those products existed so I was super into that. Then she told me that they used to have Beyond Meat chicken tenders, but they pulled them from the shelves because consumers found they tasted too much like fake chicken. This is in spite of the fact that THEY ARE FAKE CHICKEN. (This story seems to be somewhat sketchy, I can’t find a relevant link to support it, but it’s what I was told.)

As a thirty-year vegetarian (to varying degrees over that time) this is something that has always baffled me. I mean, I was pretty conscious of my desire to give up meat at the time when I did it. Back then, meat substitutes were just coming into play. Money’s Mushrooms had a veggie burger and Yves was just entering the market with veggie dogs. Those were basically the mainstream options that you had and you took them. I mean, what choice did you have?

For barbecues, they’re convenient, but outside of that that, why is everything in a pseudo-meat form? We’ve moved pretty far past that as far as what we can produce, but we’re still looking for meat knock-offs more than we are alternatives. Yes, I eat Beyond Burgers practically daily, but it’s because of their high protein content, not because I can trick my tastebuds into believing they’re actually made from real meat.

(Veggie ground round, I get because of its versatility, although for the most part I just sub in lentils instead.)

So, why do people need non-meat products to be like meat? Didn’t they give the meat up for a reason? And whatever that reason might be, they’re seeking a solution that is NOT meat. (The sole exception I can really get down with is that they’re really reluctantly doing it for health or environmental reasons, but I know few people who are that motivated for either.)

So, what’s the deal? How do you see it? Why can’t we call things what they really are?

30 grams of (plant-based) protein

That isn’t even all of it, friends. THREE TIMES A DAY.

There it is.

Yikes.

I’ve been witness to friends who committed to intense and meticulous eating plans and I have applauded them. I have cheerleaders for them. I have have talked them down from ledges with reminders of their greater goal. This isn’t even that hard, but it’s certainly a challenge for me.

I saw my naturopath again today. (I also saw my regular doctor who didn’t brush off my issue the way I’d hoped she would. Then I broke a tooth. Needless to say, my ND visit was the highlight.) We caught up on my findings from the anti-inflammatory diet I’ve been following. Mostly it’s been going well and I am feeling great. We also checked in on the DNA results that we had access to as part of my Ancestry raw data.

Among the things I learned:

  • Caffeine is not my friend. Coffee, green tea, chocolate. None of it.
  • I’m great at absorbing the nutritional content of nuts and seeds.
  • I’m best suited to a Mediterranean diet: fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains. (A ketogenic diet would wreak havoc on my body.)
  • I was really happy to hear that my DNA indicates that a plant-based diet should suit my body just fine.
  • My disinterest in food likely “tells a story about my digestion.”
  • I don’t absorb Vitamin D well as others.
  • I don’t deal with saturated fat as efficiently as other people might.

We reviewed all that and much more. Most of it I can’t relay accurately. Next up, we worked on an eating plan and a timeline.

The Plan.

  • The aforementioned 30 grams of protein per meal.
  • Three meals a day, for that matter.
  • New supplements, all related to digestion.

I love that we’re focusing on one thing and that its digestion. Never before in all my life, all my medical care, all my doctors, nobody has ever taken even a passing interest in my digestion, but in the short look we’ve taken, it seems there may be legitimate concerns. It’s enlightening and also disappointing. For all of the health concerns I’ve had, some of the roots may have been in the health of my gut. How could it be that until now nobody ever asked?

Instead of looking back, I would prefer to look forward. I’m excited for the changes ahead and the challenges in learning more about how to eat. I haven’t had a number around a goal before so I’m looking forward to seeing how this goes.

Let me know if you have any suggestions or tips. (I have to continue to avoid the same things I have been already, including wheat and sugar.)

Lots of water. Lots of sleep.

Honestly, I’d forgotten how hard it is to do a full clean up of my diet. Twenty-four hours after I started, the foggy, dull ache at the back of my neck from being caffeine free. I was reminded of the tough work ahead by mid-afternoon when I started to feel a little spacey. By the time I went to bed last night, I was best described as groggy. I woke up to much of the same.

Today, it’s been headache and out of body feelings and aches and stuffiness and nausea and cursing every single cup of coffee or sugary dessert or heavy carb product I have been allowing myself to consume.

I know it’s going to be over soon. If I recall correctly, things should start looking up by the end of the day tomorrow. In case I’m overly optimistic, Hillary all but promised me five days is the turnaround. No matter how long, I’ll just keep repeating that mantra until it happens.

Lots of water. Lots of sleep.

Kevin made Superfoods Soup from the Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. cookbook and just omitted the canned tomatoes. (Also prohibited.) Bless his soul. 🙏🏻

Lent 2019

We’re not traditionalists. Heck, I don’t even come at religious holidays from a spiritual point of view. But, as I mentioned yesterday, I do believe in the power of abstention or denying ourselves something. I think we stand to learn more about what we value and sometimes we discover that we don’t necessarily need the things that we thought we did.

This year, we’re doing things differently. Sure, we’re kind of giving things up, but it’s more that were focusing our attention differently.

We got this anti-inflammatory diet guideline sheet from our friends over at Catalyst. For Kevin’s ongoing injury, reducing inflammation will be key to his recovery. For me, I’ve suspected I’ve been ongoing, low-grade inflammation for a while. So, for 40 days and 40 nights, we’re adhering to the guidelines of this diet. This includes giving up caffeine, sugar, alcohol, red meat and many other things.

We’re less than a day in and I’d forgotten how challenging it can be to eat a defined diet, but I keep reminding myself how much I actually enjoy it – the stricter, the better. (I really just have to convince him to hang in there!)

Have you given something up for Lent? If so, what?

Things we’ll do this month: January 2019

All the excitement of the new year and I forgot to celebrate the new month by setting some additional short term goals!

THINGS WE’LL DO THIS MONTH: January 2019

Goal setting is fun. It’s great motivation to sit down and hash out the things we want to do and fantasize about the roads that will take us there. When we talk about goals, we talk about money and career and real estate and competition, but we rarely talk about good, old-fashioned leisure. What I’ve found is that having some fun and light-hearted goals is a nice way to interrupt the monotony and drudgery of obligation. Month to month, I will publish a list of things I would like to do during the month ahead. Of course, this list doesn’t take the place of all of my standard goals related to health, wellness, money and spirituality, but I reserve the right to, in some cases, blur the lines.

  • Make some changes on Facebook. I’m back to not liking it. Like really not liking it. I don’t know that I want to quit, but I need to identify and make some changes. Suggestions?
  • Prepare for a minimalism challenge in February. As of last night, it’s a go. And I’m not getting rid of anything else this month in order to pad my stats for next month. (Kidding/not kidding.)
  • Grocery shop once a week. Until this month, we’ve spent years doing this thing where we shop seventeen times a week, responding to daily whims that dictate what we eat for dinner. This week, we took our first stab not at meal planning, but at shopping once and eating what’s here all week. So far, so good and I LOVE not having to go to the store all the time!
  • Research meal prep delivery services. The least convenient part of getting a meal delivery service is the receiving the delivery part. I mean, we are paying someone else to prepare our food because we aren’t at home to do it ourselves. Now that I have the flexibility to work from home, we’ve started talking about incorporating it again. We tried Hello Fresh back in 2017 and it was good, but it’s a competitive market and I want to make sure we’re finding the best balance of quality at the amount we want to spend.
  • Snowshoe. In Kevin’s recent physical state, we haven’t been able to go at all yet this year. If you want to join me on a local mountain sometime, hollah!
  • Give up TV two nights a week. Not in any form. I have a huge list of things I want to work on (freelance projects, personal projects, reading, arts, crafts) and the biggest time consumer that steals time away from those things? Television.
  • Plan my races for the year. I know a lot about what I don’t want to do, but I want to narrow down a little about what I do.

Have you made any goals for the month of January specifically? Are you trying out any new routines?

The anxious host

The days before I go back to work have dwindled to just three more and I’m starting to feel nostalgic about the holidays. I don’t even feel like it’s past Christmas and yet, it’s 355 days away again. That whole time speeding up as you age thing is no joke.

I had visions for my vacation from work this week and those visions were largely centred around my bed and some books. I’m on my second book of 2019 and I’m squeezing in as much reading time as possible, but my commitments are getting in the way.

Monday was, of course, New Year’s Eve so I did New Year’s Eve things – prepped food, tidied up, finally hung my HAPPY NEW YEAR banner. Yesterday, I went to the relatively early relegation game at the World Juniors and tomorrow I’ll do the same. Today, I met my Mom so that we could go and pay my aunt a visit for midday coffee. I am so glad I did/am doing all of those things, but I’m also a little disappointed that I never indulged in my fantasy of staying in bed with a book all morning.

One truly can’t have it all, I suppose.

It occurred to me today that there is another thing I’d like to work on this year – a late addition to the resolutions list – and it’s the act of entertaining. Perhaps some of it is related to being graciously welcomed into my aunt’s house this afternoon and it might also be attributed to my recent rediscovery of a post I’d written a few years ago while visiting Kevin’s hometown in Ontario. The post was celebrating how welcoming Kevin’s friends, family and neighbours are, inviting everyone in with a smile and a hug. That hasn’t been my upbringing, but I liked it very much when I experienced it. I know that I thought about nurturing that practice in my life after that trip, but if I’m honest, I haven’t truly followed through.

I have friends who have open doors. At the drop of a hat, they’ll say, “come over!” or “come in!” I love that and I harbour fantasies about doing the same, but I rarely act on them. As I pondered it today, I had to ask myself why not. It basically boiled down to me feeling some anxiety about it with it and I hate that.

The first time I ever hosted a dinner party, I was nervous. I had the meal planned – seafood cannelloni, salad and a chocolate cake. I had bought wine, a tablecloth, fancy napkins and favours for my guests (tiny notebooks with each one’s astrological sign on the front.) I spoke to my Mom on the phone that day and told her about how nervous I was feeling about the dinner. She shared some words of wisdom with me that I have never forgotten. She said,

They’re your friends, Carly. They’re not coming for the meal or for the dessert. They’re coming to spend time with you and as long as you’re there, that’s all that matters.

That was nearly twenty years ago now and, frankly, I’d envisioned myself as being much better versed in entertaining by now. Expectations aside, I still think of that advice every. single. time. I welcome people into my home.

Just about a year ago, we had my girlfriend Rebecca over for dinner and an impromptu paint night (props to Kevin for the arts and crafts idea.) As I served up steaming bowls of homemade tomato soup, she told me she wanted to have people over more, but said that she had never really developed her ability to coordinate food prep. As expected, I shared that story about what my mom had told me, but this time, in saying it again, or perhaps just saying it out loud, it made a deeper click for me. If I went to her house for dinner and a side finished cooking before the main or an appetizer didn’t turn out right or something else went sideways, I would laugh about it and assure her that it didn’t matter – and that would be true. If her house was messy, I wouldn’t even notice. If her furniture was outdated, so what?

These are the most common insecurities people reveal when they are having someone over for the first or fiftieth time and I feel variations of them all, too. In fact it surprised me that she spoke to me as though I wasn’t nervous.

I told her one of the beliefs that I hold from on is that most – not all, sure – people feel some degree of a self-conscious response to having people over. It may be a natural born talent for a select few, but the rest of us have to work at it. And I intend to work at it in 2019.

If you’re like me and feel like your hosting skills could use some polish, here is a must read to calm your nerves:

I’ve often wondered if hosting is another practice makes perfect activity. Does it get easier the more you do it? Does a host become more comfortable and confident with every visit?

Are you someone who invites others over often? Were you born with the ability to play host or is it a skill that you honed? What advice do you have for those of us who aren’t as comfortable with it?

12.20.18

Today I’m going to talk about another lost art – Christmas cards being the first – Christmas baking.

I’m heartened to know that there remains a crowd who keep the tradition of working diligently on a variety of baked goods and then piecing it all together in delicious care packages alive. I know it because I’ve started to become the recipient of them.

I have memories from childhood of my mom diligently following recipe after recipe and carefully stuffing cookie tin after cookie tin before we set out to deliver the goodies to grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins and friends. I also remember my brother and I taking some of these same tins to school to thank our teachers before we broke for the holidays.

Over the last few years, I’ve started to have these kinds of packages delivered to me at work and it always makes me so happy. When you have a professional relationship, it’s one of the most personal and touching gifts that you can offer. It’s more than a gift card or a box of chocolates, it feel like being welcomed into someone’s home. (And, for the record, I will forever remember whose wife makes the most unreal, out of this world chocolate chip cookies.)

I am not gifted in the baking department. I’m a little too impatient and not nearly detail oriented enough to make it work. That saying, “even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while”? That about covers it. Every so often, I get a win, but mostly I just get annoyed and disappointed.

My friend Nikki made these. With her own hands and heart. That amazes me.

I’ve started to see the sharing of holiday baking happening and hear it talked about more often so I suspect it may be undergoing a revival. I’m hopeful that’s the case.

I know some really talented bakers and I’m thrilled that they are committed to sharing their creations. It makes the world a better place, I’m sure of it.

Does someone share their holiday baking with you? Would you like it if they did?

09.08.18

I woke up to a quiet house this morning. Kevin is out all day doing lacrosse work so I had the whole place and day to myself. I have no shortage of things I want to do, but after my blueberry jalapeno jelly from the other day was a total failure, I needed a victory.

Last weekend, we got a call from my friend Barb asking if we wanted to come pick apples from her tree. Of course we did. So, we headed over to her place for a little visit and a picking session.

Also, some dog petting and ball throwing.

By this point, Barb had already facilitated a lengthy discussion on her Facebook wall about what would be the best was to use these apples. There were lots of ideas and lots of suggestions to make applesauce, 💤, but I already knew what I had in mind: apple cider vinegar. (That may be the first time I’ve used an emoji as a part of a sentence. The end is nigh.)

In my opinion, this is the smartest use of apples because you don’t actually have to do much with your apples. Sure, they need a pretty thorough cleaning, but there’s no peeling or citing involved. You just need to chop them up. All parts of the apples are useful. In fact, the author of the recipe I use as a guideline uses only her scraps from making apple sauce.

According to many ACV makers who are far more experienced than I am, a mixture of apples makes for a better product so imagine my luck when a coworker walked into my office with a bag full of a different kind of apples from his yard!

Today, I set out to get this vinegar brewing, or, rather, fermenting.

How to…

Honestly, it’s super easy. Just wash your apples and chop them up. Put them in a jar then cover with sugar water (I mix in one tablespoon of raw sugar per cup of water) and use a weight or a smaller glass jar to push the apples down so all the pieces are sitting below the surface of the water. The first time I made ACV, I didn’t think I needed anything special for this, but it’s probably the most challenging part. This time, I am so glad I invested in a fermentation set from Masontops. My new pickle pebbles work perfectly and the set comes with an exciting recipe book of possibilities! Sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, carrots…

One key thing to remember, especially if you try this during the summer months, is to cover the top of your jar completely with something breathable. I use cheesecloth and an elastic band. I’ve used Abeego in the past and I’ve also heard that you could use coffee filters or paper towel as well. Just make sure you do a good job because the fruit flies will flock to it.

Keep it in the dark and after about three weeks, strain the apples out. Return the liquid to the jars and leave it for another three weeks. Taste it periodically and when you like its flavour, pour it into bottles and this time give them a seal.

Also, I finally watched the last two episodes of this season of The Affair and I am just so sad about Allison. And Cole. Allison and Cole. God, I love an impossible love story.

And how about that a cappella rendition of What Sarah Said at the beginning of the finale? Wow. The use of the original Death Cab For Cutie recording at the end was pretty killer as well.

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links which means that if you use them to make a purchase, I will receive compensation as a result.

08.22.18

For the second summer in a row, we can stare directly at the sun. It’s eerie, it’s tragic and it’s also disgusting. This year, the smoke is largely without odor and I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, last year, it was very bothersome and headache-inducing. It made you really aware of its presence and kept you indoors. This year, it’s different and, as a result, people (myself included) are walking around like it’s just fog or regular clouds, but at the same time we’re inhaling it all. I mean, that can’t be good.

🌥
I’ve started to try a new intermittent fasting routine. For a while I was fasting for 24 hours every week and now I’m adopting a new schedule, one that is often referred to as the 16/8 protocol. Basically, you fast for 16 hours a day and eat only during an eight-hour period of the day. I started on Monday and the first two days were challenging right around 11am. The last hour of fasting was torture! But, I did it. Both days.

Why? Well… (this is literally copied and pasted from my last post about intermittent fasting…)

There are a whole host of benefits to intermittent fasting. They include:

  • Reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the body
  • Inducing cellular repair processes
  • Improving metabolic features that are good for brain health, prevent Alzheimer’s
  • Helping you lose weight and belly fat
  • Reducing insulin resistance, lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Reducing risk factors for heart health
  • Extending your lifespan

(I riffed off of this Authority Nutrition link to come up with that list. There’s some great evidence based information on that page.)

Now, it’s early in the day and I have an intense (and strategic!) 11am teleconference that will keep me distracted through the last hour BUT this beauty is calling to me from the fridge.

Most of the time when I make a smoothie, it’s a thrown together blend of what I feel like, what I have and what I think I need. There are a couple of recipes that I have printed out and posted on my fridge and this is one of them: the Pink Power Detox Smoothie from Angela over at Oh She Glows.

Here’s the breakdown and how I did it today:

  • 1 cup water or coconut water
  • 1/2 medium avocado, pitted
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 medium beet
  • 1 lemon, juiced 
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 4 large ice cubes
  • Probiotic powder

I have a Vitamix so I don’t have to worry about the beet being too hard and if you’re worried about the beet for other reasons AKA you don’t like them, I urge you to give this recipe a shot. The beet flavour isn’t overwhelming even though the colour, delightfully, is. In the original recipe, Angela suggests adding an apple for sweetness if desired. I sometimes do that for the added fibre, but mostly I skip it.

Head over to the recipe page to read more about its origin, how it gets its detox status and to get the printable.

Hello Fresh!

I was really excited when I met someone from Hello Fresh Canada at Veg Expo a few weeks ago. I have loved the idea of having meal prep delivered since the first time I’d heard of it, but as far as I’m aware, its availability in my area is only recent. Since they had a show special that gave me $20 off for a couple of weeks, I decided to give it a shot. Since then, we’ve had three deliveries and I’m pretty happy with it so I wanted to spread the word – for their sake, but also for yours!

We are out of the house for sixty hours a week – and that’s only accounting for our day jobs. Add lacrosse for Kevin and freelance work for me and we’re home even less. Mix housework and gardening into our schedules and we are even shorter on time in the kitchen. A little help with meal prep is very, very welcome over here.

We chose the Veggie Box for two, but there is also an option for Pronto Box which includes meat and seafood based menus and Family Plan for four people. We’ve had three deliveries of three meals each and, though one recipe went slightly awry, it was still salvageable and all of them were quite good. Our meals have included:

The little fish bottles of sesame oil are my favourite

All of the recipes are very easy to make and I like that they give me some new ideas to mix into my regular routine. Each meal comes with a detailed recipe card complete with pictures to walk you through preparation step by step and includes ingredients so you can make it again in the future. Hello Fresh would be a great housewarming gift for someone who was living on their own for the first time or a birthday gift for someone who wanted to learn how to cook. Ingredients come prepared whenever possible – onions and celery are chopped, garlic is peeled – and premeasured. Practically everything you will need is in the box – the only things I’ve had to use from my own kitchen have been salt, pepper and olive oil. (One recipe I made suggested that a fried egg would be a good addition and that wasn’t included.)

Boxes are delivered by Purolator and arrive filled with ice packs. One week when we didn’t get ours on its original delivery day, the contents were still cool a day later. (Most of the time they are cold.) The boxes have FSC-certified sustainable cardboard insulation that can be recycled in household recycling and after you collect a few ice packs, Hello Fresh will arrange to have them picked up for reuse.

Smoky Black Beans that ended up more like a scramble than a cake

Here’s a breakdown of the highs and not so highs of Hello Fresh delivery service.

Excellent things:

  • Portion sizes are generous, but not too big. We always have enough without being too full or having leftovers.
  • They use ingredients I might never try otherwise.
  • Every meal is ready to serve in 30 minutes or less, start to finish.
  • Each week comes with three meals which is a nice number. It’s enough that it takes a lot of the hassle out of meal prep, but still allows you to fit your household regulars in between. We usually use our Hello Fresh meals on busy weeknights and then cook for ourselves on weekends.
  • Their customer service representatives are for real. I threw a few idiotic curveballs their way (accidentally, of course) and they dealt with them quickly, easily, and with what sounded like a smile.
  • If you don’t like a menu or will be out of town or just plain old don’t want a delivery, you just choose to skip the week. The website is easy to use and menus are available two to three weeks in advance.

Okay things:

  • A couple of times the pre-diced onions have looked a little…off. Instead, I just cut up an onion I had on hand. All of the other produce has been in great shape. (Including two perfectly ripe avocados!)
  • There aren’t many vegan meals and the vegetarian ones aren’t always easily converted. Many involve cheese or mayonnaise or yogurt.

Thing (only one) that isn’t exactly perfect:

  • Some of the meals we’ve received have had what I’d consider a pretty high calorie count. I usually reserve those of run days, but I’d prefer something a little lighter on the regular.

As you can see, the good far outweighs the less good and I hope it’s obvious that I am a BIG fan!

Have you tried Hello Fresh or another meal prep delivery service? If you’d be interested, let me know. I sometimes get promo weeks to giveaway to local friends or you can use this link to get $50 off your first box!