Archive for August, 2009

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Vegan Challenge kick-off

August 31, 2009

I’m back from Texas! It was a lovely trip and I’ll write more about it later on this week, but we have more pressing things to discuss right now so I’ll just leave you with this photo:

IMG_1455My first-ever trip to Whole Foods was very successful indeed.

VEGAN CHALLENGE KICK-OFF

Tomorrow, being the first day of September, is the beginning of my vegan adventures! For the entire month of September I will be on a vegan diet. Every day, starting this Wednesday, I will post what vegan foods I ate the day before to demonstrate what kinds of things you can and cannot eat on a vegan diet.

I know, I know, veganism is a lifestyle, and “going vegan for a month” doesn’t really do a lifestyle justice. Being vegan forever isn’t something I’m interested in, however. So I’m doing it for a limited period of time.

Why I’m going vegan for a month

There are a number of reasons why veganism is my current choice for a nutrition challenge:

1. Spreading awareness about animal products. Besides the obvious foods like steak or eggs, there are many foods that we eat which use animal products that we are not aware of. Happy Cow has a list of non-vegan ingredients. Vegetarian action also has a short list, and a longer list from a different website can be found here.  Gelatin is an animal product but it goes in all kinds of things (marshmallows are one of them!). Pasta is sometimes made with eggs. Wine and beer usually have animal products in them from the clarifying process. Many types of toothpaste have animal ingredients. Even sugar could potentially have been made with bone charcoal! As with all of my nutrition challenges, the main goal of this challenge is to realize just how much of what we eat includes some kind of animal product.

2. Decrease my carbon footprint. My carbon footprint is massive from all the traveling that I do (I can’t even imagine what damage the flight to and from Cambodia has done) and also from the food that I eat. I import my powdered peanut butter and regularly eat bananas which definitely do not grow in Winnipeg. It’s terrible, it really is. But I’m not exactly willing to give those things up, either (I feel kind of bad, like I’m saying “I love you, environment… just not quite enough to make actual sacrifices”. Ah well. I guess I don’t feel bad enough to stop). So instead I’m taking a month of eating vegan, which will reduce my carbon footprint by a very small amount- it’s alarming how much our carbon footprints are increased by eating meat and products that use animal ingredients. Every bit counts.

3. Increase my knowledge and understanding of different diets and lifestyles. I’ll be honest; I don’t “get” veganism. I’m skeptical about how nutritious it is. But I don’t want to knock it if I haven’t even given it a shot. Even if it doesn’t end up working for me, that doesn’t mean it’s going to not work for everyone else, too. There are all kinds of controversies over how healthy veganism is and I’m on a mission to find out from personal experience.

I should also clear up right now that the handbag I carry every day is leather. And my bike has a leather seat and handlebars. And no doubt my shampoo and my clothes and countless other things I use daily have animal ingredients in them. Oops (bad temporary vegan!). So although I’m raising awareness about the animal products in the food that we eat, I’m not going to be talking a lot about the animal products that we use in non-edible goods, and I will not be avoiding those ingredients in said non-edible products. Because, frankly, that would be a huge amount. And that in itself just goes to emphasize what I’m trying to demonstrate by doing this challenge: animal products are everywhere and it is very, very difficult to avoid them.

Predictions of personal struggles

I eat eggs, cheese, and milk every day, or very nearly every day. I don’t expect that I’ll miss meat (and I’m including poultry/seafood in that category) too much, but I crave eggs all the time. Milk I can substitute with dairy alternatives. The cheese I eat is usually cream cheese on sandwiches or spread on veggies/fruit, so it can easily be replaced with hummus, or I can always experiment with vegan cheeses- though I’d rather try to stick with whole, natural foods rather than processed versions. Eggs, however, will be a tricky one. I can’t think of any replacement to a poached egg on toast.

September also happens to be my birthday month! Unfortunately for me, my two most favourite cakes of all time are angel food cake and cheesecake. Angel food cake is basically egg whites with sugar, so it would be nearly impossible to vegan-ize. For obvious reasons, cheesecake is not vegan. But the vegan community is growing and there are many vegan cheesecake recipes out there so perhaps I will try one of those. Or maybe I’ll just wait until October for cake 😉

Although we don’t exactly “eat” toothpaste and lip balm, I’m including them on the list of vegan products that I’ll be trying out because they’re going near my mouth. Toothpaste, mouthwash, lip balm, and lip gloss/lipstick are the only make up and toiletries that I will be using vegan versions for. I am completely obsessed with Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm, so I have to find a replacement for that during September. I think that not being able to use my beloved Burt’s Bees might be more tragic than the poached egg or angel food cake.

Challenge Invitation

I am, as always, inviting any and all of you to take part in this challenge with me! I like the idea of doing it for a month to see if it has any effect on my body. The controversy about veganism ranges from it being an incredibly healthy lifestyle, all the way to the criticism that it can cause a myriad of health issues and drastically decreases your energy levels. I’ll be interested to see if anything changes for me. As I know that there are a fair number of you who are athletes that have adopted vegan diets, I’m quite excited to experiment with this!

Will you be going vegan for this month? Or a week? Or a day? Even if you decide not to try it at all, hopefully you’ll take the opportunity to read a food product label or two… there might be more animal products in your food choices than you think.

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Guest Post: Seven Tips to Avoid Overeating

August 28, 2009

Overeating is so easy to do, particularly at the holidays or on special occasions. We somehow find a way of justifying to ourselves that there’s a reason for us to eat whatever we eat in often excessive amounts. However it’s all a mental game and if you wish to stay on track and not blow all of your hard work in one fell swoop, you need to learn ways to avoid overeating. You need to figure out ways to tell yourself how to avoid such activities and contribute to your greater health. Here we look at some effective mental tips to avoid overeating altogether:

  1. Keep Your Goals In Front of You. Create a mental picture of what you wish to look like and keep that at the forefront of your mind always. This can come in very handy as a mental trick when you are tempted to eat beyond your limits. Keep your goals in front of you and keep that mental picture of what you wish to look like closeby, and this will truly help to keep you from engaging in overeating.
  2. Drink Water Before a Meal. If you can trick your mind into feeling as though you are full, then you are less apt to eat too much. Drinking a bunch of water before the potentially big meal is a great way to ensure that you don’t over-stuff yourself. This will give into your hunger and allow you to eat less at one sitting.
  3. Eat on a Smaller Plate. If your mind gets the trigger that you’re eating a lot of food, then you are less likely to really scarf down the food. If you eat on a smaller plate and fill that up with a good sized portion, you will feel full faster. This will help to contribute to better eating habits and to eat less in one sitting.
  4. Eat Smaller Meals More Frequently. You can feel as though you are eating all day and this will trick your mind into the feeling of fullness that you are so used to. However if you keep your blood sugar at a manageable level throughout the day, then you will be less likely to overindulge in one sitting than if you space it out across the day.
  5. Cut Your Meal in Half. This can come in especially handy if you plan on going out to eat as the portions are naturally a lot bigger. If you ask to have half of your meal boxed up before it ever comes to the table or alternatively draw a line down the center of your entrée, your mind will believe you are full and satisfied only halfway through a restaurant portion of food.
  6. Eat an Appetizer for Your Meal. Again it’s all about practicing portion control but tricking your mind into thinking that you are really full with far less food. Ordering an appetizer can still offer the same delicious tastes, but at a fraction of the portion size and this means far less of an opportunity to overeat.
  7. Think About Calories as You Consume Them. The old adage goes “a moment on the lips forever on the hips” and it can help to remind yourself of just how much havoc too many calories can wreak on one’s body. Think consciously of what you are eating, focus on what it really takes to make you feel full, and get used to the idea of eating less but feeling satisfied—a change in mindset can do the trick!

Overeating is not really ‘easy’ to avoid, but it is possible.  Arm yourself with tips and tricks like these, and you will be well prepared for those inevitable moments of weakness.

Mary Ward writes about various healthcare career topics, including how to choose among online surgical tech programs.

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Guest Post: Maximize Fitness with these Maxims

August 26, 2009

I love the fact that I’m fit and healthy – I jog regularly and play racquetball every other day. But if I’m honest with myself and the world, I will admit it took me quite a while to get started down this route, the one that helped me lose weight and look and feel younger. If you’re trying to exercise and diet in order to shed those excess pounds and get fit, here are a few adages that will help you along the way:

  • All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy: If you think you have no time for exercise and have to dedicate all your efforts towards your work, you’re making a huge mistake, because when you lose your health, you lose everything. So make working out regularly a priority, no matter how much work you have or how limited your time is. Wake up an hour earlier or go to bed an hour later; just do what it takes to make time for your daily workout.
  • A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step: The first step is always the hardest, but as the proverb rightly says, it is the one that is most important. If you want to take the fitness route, you must get started sooner than later. Don’t put off your first day of diet and exercise – the sooner you start, the faster you’re going to reach your destination.
  • An early bird catches the worm: The best time to exercise is early in the morning before the sun is up. Besides the fact that it invigorates you and fills your day with energy, it leaves you with no chance to come up with work-related excuses to avoid your daily routine. You also tend to feel lazier as the day goes by and are too tired at the end of the day to hit the gym. However, there’s no hard and fast rule that says you have to exercise in the morning – just do it when time permits.
  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away: Yes, it’s true – eating the right foods can keep the doctor and diseases away. Besides exercising regularly, you must eat sensibly if you want to expedite your fitness journey. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and a sensible mixture of carbohydrates, proteins and fats make you healthy without making you gain weight. Eat right and watch your fitness levels grow.
  • A rolling stone gathers no moss: And finally, stick to a routine that you love and will adhere to instead of moving from one machine to another at the gym or one activity to another without really giving your all to any specific one. While it’s true that you must vary your exercise routine from time to time so that your body does not get accustomed to it, it’s ok to stick to what works when you’re starting your fitness journey.

So say fitness with these sayings, and watch your weight melt away!

This guest article was written by Adrienne Carlson, who regularly writes on the topic of nurse practitioner schools . Adrienne welcomes your comments and questions at her email address: adrienne.carlson1@gmail.com

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No matter how you look at it, cigarettes and chips just aren’t healthy

August 24, 2009

Tomorrow I leave for Texas but like I said on Friday, I have guest posts all lined up for this week to keep you occupied while I’m gone. Be sure to check out Living Rhetorically in the Real World on Tuesday and Thursday as well, because the fantastic Hanlie has kindly lent me a couple of her posts for re-publishing!

Big Food and Big Tobacco

In David Kessler’s The End of Overeating, he talks about the parallels between the tricks that food manufacturers and tobacco companies use to manipulate people into buying their products. I found it amusing (and by that I mean, I found it alarming) when I read this article about how people are being deceived by the packaging of cigarettes. It says that consumers are confused by terms such as “light”. Sound familiar? This just reminds me so much of the way that many people believe that oil labelled “light” automatically means that it’s healthier than regular oil. This isn’t true. If oil is labelled “light”, it’s usually because it is light coloured. The term has absolutely nothing to do with nutrition.

If there’s some kind of food with an interesting package, or a catchy brand name or attractive description, we’re more likely to buy it. Cigarettes are apparently no different.

When I think about the times when I’ve been tempted to buy certain foods, to be honest it’s usually because the packaging looks like fun. EnviroKidz packages, for example, are so cute (and the cereal is pretty darn tasty too). Because it says “organic”, most people pluck it off the shelf without thinking twice. I know I’m repeating myself here, but this is important: “organic” is not necessarily healthy.

It’s the same thing with packages of cigarettes. The consumer figures that if they buy something with a label suggesting it’s better for you than other brands, then it must be okay to consume. Or at least, this kind of advertising relieves some of the guilt. If we can fool ourselves into thinking that something that is “light”, “organic”, or “has 25% less fat” is also healthier, then we feel better. We’re also likely to buy more of it.

I can’t imagine why anyone would buy a pack of cigarettes and believe that because it’s light blue rather than dark blue, or because it says “smooth” or “light”, or because it has a number “6” rather than a number “10” on the package, that it would be good for them. But a lot of people do that. And anyway, I can’t imagine why anyone would buy a bag of chips or a sugary cereal and believe that because there are cute animals on the packaging, or because it says “organic” or “seven grains”, or because it is approved by the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation (which takes into account sodium but not sugar or many other nutrients), that it would be good for them.

And yet. We’re still buying those products. We’re still being tricked. Please read ingredients lists. Even if you don’t, stop and think for a moment before you buy. It’s a pack of smokes or a bag of chips; just how healthy do you really think something like that can be?

It’s not so much the actual buying of these products that I find frustrating. Knock yourselves out; I sometimes eat those things too. It’s when we’re duped by the manufacturers, when we convince ourselves that what we’re eating is good for our bodies, that I think it’s very important to address these issues. Just be aware of what you’re putting into your mouth! This is one of the few times that I’ll say I actually kind of like how there are burger joints which call their meals “Monster Burger” and that kind of thing; there are no false fronts about it, that food clearly isn’t so good for you. And if you’re okay with that, then go to town and enjoy yourself! Do a little research, though, if you’re thinking about eating something which uses vague terms suggestive of “healthy” for the sole reason that it sounds nutritious. You’ll be happy you looked into it.

We’re all capable of making our own decisions of what to eat. Make sure that you’re eating what you really want to eat. Make sure that you know what’s really in your food.

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Calzones and Potential Blogger Meet-ups

August 21, 2009

Giveaway Winner

And the winner of Musselman’s Healthy Picks Applesauce is… Julie! Send me your contact information and I’ll make sure your applesauce is on it’s way.

I make (more) bread

I had so much fun with making bread last week that I decided to make more this week. This time, I made a double batch so that I can freeze a bunch of it. The idea here is to stock up for when I go vegan in September. From the research I’ve been doing it’s really amazing just how much of what we eat has some kind of animal product in it, so I figure the safest way to ensure that I’m eating vegan is to just make as much as possible from scratch (and anyway, that just makes it more challenging and more fun!).

This time I used half whole wheat flour and half white flour. It turned out fantastic. The loaves seemed to actually rise better this time, which I believe is because I let the dough rest in the pans on the stove while the oven was preheating (the warmth from the oven below, I’m assuming, played a part in this). I sliced the loaves and then tossed them in the freezer- each loaf makes nine or ten thick slices for less than 70 calories per slice. Bargain.

Because I made a double batch, it was enough dough for four loaves. Instead, I made two loaves, and then with the remaining half of the dough I made a bunch of calzones! Ever since I was in Italy last year and watched someone at a restaurant make a calzone for me right there, I’ve had a special place in my heart for calzones.

A calzone is pizza folded over. It’s like a pizza pop (or a pizza sandwich). When I made my own calzones, I divided the dough into seven portions so that it made six individual calzones and one big one. I rolled out the dough as thin as I could manage with a rolling pin and made a pizza sauce by combining tomato paste with vinegar, water, oregano, and basil. Then I smeared half the rolled dough with the sauce and sauteed garlic, red and green bell pepper, crimini mushrooms, tomatoes, and asparagus in some olive oil spray. Add the veggies onto the sauce, fold the other half of the dough over and press down the edges with a fork, and transfer to a baking sheet before popping in the oven. Voila!

The sister-roommate and I each ate one (and she loved it- I always know that I’ve created something really tasty when she enjoys the food I make because she’s honest about whether or not it’s good), but the rest are going in the freezer. These calzones are vegan so they will be perfect for reheating, pizza pop style, during September when I go vegan for the month.

I want to play around with the recipe a little bit more, and then I will post it for you all to enjoy. Each individual calzone is a very decent size and I estimate it to be about 200 calories a piece.

Travels

Next Tuesday I’m going on yet another adventure! This time I’m heading to San Antonio, Texas for about a week. The reason for this is that my mum has a veterinary acupuncturist conference, so I’m joining her for the fun of it (I mean, I’m there as her receptionist. Yes). I won’t be blogging after Monday but I’ve already got a couple great guest posts lined up for Wednesday and Friday, including tips for dealing with overeating and some fun twists on cliche sayings.

I’m incredibly excited to be going to the United States for my first time ever (airports don’t count). One of the first things I’ll be tracking down is a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s grocery store because I’ve never been to either of those. If you have any recommendations of your favourite products from those stores, let me know!

It also looks as though my sister and I will be driving up to Austin for a day to explore the city, so if you are in San Antonio or Austin, let me know! I would really love to meet some of you bloggers if you’re in the area.

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Guest Post: Handing in my stripes

August 19, 2009

Please welcome my workout buddy! Westwood is a writer, outdoor-enthusiast, and one of my best friends. She also reviews applesauce.

I’m westwood, and I am an elite, high-performance athlete.

I train 25-30 hours a week. I undergo comprehensive fitness testing every three months. I travel across the country six or seven times a year to compete, and work incessantly to be the provincial champion and maintain a top 16 national standing. I am sponsored by a company (Victor), who provides me with free (Victor) racquets and (Victor) shoes and (Victor) bags and (Victor) grip tape and (Victor) clothes and whatever other lovely (Victor) items I desire. I eat six times a day, as much food as I like. The other players, my friends, are Olympic hopefuls who spend months training in China, Denmark, and Mexico. I am debating joining them, but am not ready to sacrifice my academic life just yet. I go to class, do sprint training, go to my next class, hit the weights, and then head to the club to practice. Every day. When I am not studying or training, I coach, or cross-train by playing on three or four basketball teams. This is my life.

Wait. There is something wrong with this picture.

I’m westwood, and I was an elite, high-performance athlete… until a dislocated kneecap ended my badminton career. Although, I am nothing if not persistent, so it took dislocating my kneecap four times to force me to stop trying to be a comeback. At twenty, I have been retired for two years. And in terms of sports, I feel like my life has ended.

I’m still active, and reasonably fit, but nothing like I was. The trouble is, I still define myself as that person who stood on top of the world at the Canada Games. That person is who I am, deep down inside. My mindset hasn’t changed, which explains the weight that piled on unnoticed around my midsection before I took a reality check. It used to be a mystery to me why my sprint times kept declining, but I understand it now. It still frustrates me that I can barely hold a plank for two minutes when it used to be closer to ten. Push-ups? Forget it. I’m lucky if I can hammer out twenty.

I am not that super-athlete. I have to accept this. But I can’t, because if I do, I will stop running and lifting weights and cycling and eating so well. I need to have something to train for. I was taught at the age of nine that you haven’t had a good workout unless you feel like vomiting (or do vomit!) by the end, and I still believe this. I was also taught young that the purpose of sports is winning, and the purpose of exercise and nutrition is to drive you on the road to glory.

Recently, I was running hill sprints in the park behind my house. Sprint up, jog down, repeat. Three sets of twelve. A man walked by me with a dog, his expression serene in the warm evening sun. He asked me what I was training for, and I mumbled an excuse. I have plenty of them, which I use often.

I am training for basketball, because I played on a college-level team, even if I sat on the bench the whole time.

I am training for aikido, because I want to test for my next level, even though my attendance is poor and I can’t remember anything I’m taught.

I’m training for baseball, because I can throw really, really, really far, even though I’ve never played the sport in my life.

I’m training for biathlon, because I think I would like it a lot, even though I have no idea how to ski.

I’m training for badminton, because if my knee ever heals I might go back, even though I hate the fracking thing for killing my love of sports.

The list goes on.

In many ways, I envy the recreational athlete and those who engage in fitness activities just because they want to. Don’t get me wrong… I have had fantastic experiences with elite sports that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Training and traveling were incredibly rewarding. But I’d like to not feel like a failure because I barely manage to work out ten hours a week. I would like to not feel like a failure if I’m not the fastest runner in the gym or lifting the heaviest weights. It would be nice to exercise and manage my eating just because I want to look good and feel good. Because I want to be healthy and fit. Or, even better, because I enjoy working out. But I can’t. I do these things in pursuit of glory… I’m chasing after victory that will eternally evade me.

So I am trying to learn about new kinds of glory. Like the chatter of birdsong on my run through the park, or sun dappling through the trees during my bicycle commute to work. The superficial ecstasy of rediscovering taught lines of muscular definition in my back. The fun of laughing as I shoot hoops with a friend, and the glory of sweating out every last drop of water doing sprints in my backyard on a hot day. Or the swell of pride that comes with coaching, and watching the kid you’ve coaxed for months finally have the courage to drive to the hoop.

This is not a happy ending, though. There is no take-home moral. I am restless and unsettled, constantly displeased with the quality and quantity of my workouts. I feel like a loaded gun with no target. At least, no target that is realistic to hit. How have you done it? Whether you played high-school sports, recreational games, or are an ex-Olympian, I want your advice. How did you fold up your jersey and relegate it to collect dust in the basement? Anyone who has played competitive sports understands how they give you meaning, give you purpose… they define you. When it was over, how did you fill that enormous void?

I don’t have the answers to these questions. I refuse to be retired, to be an ex-athlete, to be washed up. But I can’t write any more, because I need to go do a lay-up circuit and shooting drills on my driveway. I’m training. I’m training to make the university basketball team when I do my Master’s degree. I swear I will do it. Whether or not I really want to, or have time to, doesn’t matter. I swear I’m training for something.

I am an elite high-performance athlete and somewhere, somehow, there is glory ahead. I will be the champion. Of what, I don’t know. When, I don’t know. Perhaps it is all just lies and delusions.

Whatever. I just need an excuse to keep me going.

P.S. Badminton is not a sissy sport. It is actually one of the most played and most difficult sports in the world, and this is what it really looks like:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1jED7lu-r8&feature=fvw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5r590F7mRTw&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHKczoFrPK0

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I make bread.

August 17, 2009

I’ve been having fun with cooking, as usual. My most recent kitchen escapade was baking bread! I have never made a yeast bread before without the breadmaker at my parent’s place. I don’t own a breadmaker, so I decided it was high time I learn how to use yeast and start kneading!

I found an excellent recipe in a cookbook that my Grandma gave me. It uses one cup of whole wheat flour and two cups of white flour. I figured it would be best to start off with a mostly white bread recipe, as it would rise more easily. This particular recipe suggested that I not use a loaf pan and instead form the loaf myself with folding and pinching and such. I actually succeeded the steps it lays out with one loaf, but with the second loaf that the recipe instructs you to make, I decided that forming a loaf was too difficult. Instead I made a bunch of little buns.

P8110965One bun on a plate.

Making the bread itself was easy enough when you follow the instructions. I made sure to use warm water so that the yeast would react properly (I don’t even want to admit how many loaves my dad and I ruined in our breadmaker by using cold water!). Kneading for ten minutes solid was quite enjoyable. It’s relaxing and the time went by surprisingly fast. I found that making bread isn’t that tricky at all; it’s simply the resting time that all adds up to make it appear as though it’s a daunting task. It took about three hours in total to make, but so much of that time is spent wandering off to clean the kitchen or to read blogs while the dough runs rises and rests that bread is- dare I say it- simple to make.

The bread turned out beautifully! It didn’t rise a whole lot, but the cookbook is quite old and I expect that “back in the day” their loaves of bread were much smaller than they are today, anyways. I was immensely pleased with the bread. It tasted delicious. Next time, though, I will use a loaf pan to give it more structure. I think I’ll also add a little bit more whole wheat flour in ratio to the white and add in some flaxseed meal and/or wheat germ for extra nutrients.

P8120970This is my pastry board! It’s actually a table cloth. But it has the same bumpy texture as a pastry board so it does the trick. Plus it folds up and takes up much less space than a big pastry board would!

Segue in which I question my sanity:

I’m still in mild shock that this experience went by without a hitch. I didn’t drop anything on the floor. Or forget to turn the oven on. Or burn my oven mitt*. Or set the smoke alarm off. Or forget any ingredients. The bread didn’t even stick to the pan, for goodness sake! But I think that the bread made me cocky because then I tried making chocolate pudding for my sister and, although it was decidedly thick and pudding-like while on the stove, as soon as it cooled off it turned runny as water. I was disappointed, but the fact that the pudding didn’t turn out also assured me that no alien has taken over me and turned me into Nigella Lawson overnight (not that I’d be complaining if I turned into Nigella Lawson, obviously. But it would also be a little disconcerting to magically find cooking to be so easy). Anyway, that particular mishap was remedied by dipping frozen bananas into the runny chocolate. Delicious!

Back to the bread:

I’ve been looking for more yeast bread recipes to play with them so that I can see which one is my favourite. In newspapers and on blogs there are a surprising number of whole wheat beer breads. I’m going to make one of those soon, but I’m curious as to why these recipes are so common. Does it taste like beer at all? I mean, is it worth it to turn a beer into a loaf of bread? Most people I know who are beer lovers would much rather drink the beer straight than mix it into bread dough.

I’ve also found this recipe for regular whole wheat bread, and it looks delicious, but it calls for five cups of flour to make one loaf! That seems like an enormous amount of flour, especially because the recipe that I used called for three cups of flour for two loaves. But maybe that explains why the loaves were so tiny. What do you all think? Is five cups of flour for one loaf a normal amount? Could I get by with less or would that distort the recipe horrifically? (Normally I’d be all for finding out on my own through trial and error, but, that’s rather a lot of flour to waste. That’s the worst part about kitchen experimentation. If someone goes wrong, everything goes to waste).

Also, I’d love to hear any tips and advice that all of you seasoned bread bakers have to share. I’d like to make a bread with a higher whole wheat to white ratio, but I’d still like the bread to be light. I’m not looking for a super dense bread! Any ideas?

*Does anyone else have this problem or is it just me? Seriously, about once a month I catch my oven mitt on fire when removing a dish from the oven. Consequently all of our oven mitts are blackened or have holes in them. I wonder if people with their own cooking shows ever have this issue?

P8120973Raspberry jam and a mixture of light cream cheese, honey, cinnamon, and vanilla extract smeared on freshly made bread

Don’t forget to enter my applesauce giveaway!

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Product Review and Giveaway: Musselman’s Healthy Picks Applesauce

August 14, 2009

I’m not a huge fan of applesauce. I can go through an enormous bag of apples in about two days, but applesauce can sit in the fridge for a week or more and I’ll forget all about it. But I do love using it for baking, and so I don’t see any particular reason why I should say “no” when a company asks if I’d like to try some of their product. That’s how Musselman’s Healthy Picks Applesauce arrived at my doorstep.

Healthy Picks Group Image

It actually turned out to be excellent timing. A couple days after I received the applesauce, I developed a sore throat and was quite ill for about a week. The first couple days were frustrating because my throat was too sore to comfortably munch on my usual food choices. Luckily I had piles of applesauce to hold me over! I had a taste of this and a taste of that to help cool my throat down some.

There are three flavours of Healthy Picks: Blueberry Pomegranate, Key Lime Cupuacu, and Raspberry Acai (kind of unrelated side rant: anyone else noticing how these days, everything with the label “healthy” on it seems to be infused with either pomegranate, acai, or goji? Anyone else getting tired of this trend? I get it, those are nutritious fruits. But there are lots of other fruits and vegetables out there which are equally as powerful in terms of nutrients. Grr. Anyway, rant over). Key Lime was my favourite flavour because it was the least sweet. It had a subtle, slightly sour taste.

I decided, when I realized I still had piles of applesauce after I had tasted them all and given some away to friends (more of that below), that rather than let the applesauce sit in the pantry for days without touching it, I would try using it instead of regular applesauce in some baking. I whipped up a batch of my favourite apple banana bread, but this time I exchanged blueberries for the apple chunks and I used one of the single serving portions of blueberry pomegranate applesauce instead of the regular applesauce I usually use.

Unfortunately I was ill when I baked the bread, and consequently I forgot the vanilla and all the spices when I was making it. Oops. But the bread still tasted really good (especially when smeared with a mixture of light cream cheese/honey/vanilla/cinnamon). I couldn’t taste the blueberry pomegranate applesauce in the bread but it worked well and I’ll be experimenting with the rest of the applesauce similarly in the future.

The product is called Healthy Picks, so let’s take a quick look at the nutrition stats: each single serving portion is 70 calories, 3 grams fibre, 10 grams sugar (=2.5 tsp), and 25% of your vitamin C intake. The really important part of the packaging, however, is the ingredients list!

This is the ingredients list for Musselman’s Healthy Picks Key Lime Applesauce: apples, water, dextrin (soluble fiber source), apple concentrate, cupuacu concentrate, key lime concentrate, passionfruit concentrate, calcium lactate (USP grade) and ascorbic acid (vitamin C). The other flavours are very similar but with some “natural flavour” and “natural colour” added in there.

All in all I’m fairly pleased with the nutritionals. The sugar is all from the fruit and I like that they are sweetened and flavoured with natural ingredients (except for “natural flavour/colour”; those aren’t the best ingredients. And I think it actually takes away from the applesauce considering that those two things aren’t in the Key Lime yet it’s my favourite. Real is best!).

I felt that I can’t really do an applesauce review justice when I don’t care much for applesauce either way, so I enlisted one of my best friends (and the editor of my novella, and my workout buddy), Alana, to give you all another opinion:

Before I review Musselman’s applesauce, let me clarify something. You are probably wondering why someone else is sharing their opinion about a product the wonderful [editor’s note: awwww!] Sagan received. There is a simple reason… I am culturally Jewish, and she is not. Therefore, applesauce is a biological forte of mine.

Taste-wise, this stuff is fantastic in isolation. Blueberry pomegranate, raspberry acai, and key lime all burst with flavour, although it is a little strange until you get used to the fact that the applesauce doesn’t actually taste like apples. However, let’s chat about fact that it says ‘HEALTHY PICKS’ in giant letters on the packaging. I prefer it when my food doesn’t lecture me, thank you very much. Clearly, if it wasn’t for that message, I would be forever doomed to select only additive-filled obesity-inducing applesauce for the rest of my life. Somehow, I doubt that glaring label will make anyone drop their twinkie in favour of pureed fruit.

The applesauce is organic (whatever that means… but I won’t even get started on that one), which is a plus. Although, I can’t pretend that the organic or sugar-free labels offset the fact that Musselman’s is in single-serve, throwaway, foil-topped, effectively unrecyclable little plastic containers. Anyone with any sort of modern sensibilities or social-environmental conscience shouldn’t go within ten miles of packaging like that. If you’re so concerned about HEALTHY PICKS, you might as well multitask and spoon applesauce from a large glass container into Tupperware in the morning. That way, there’s a reduced chance of cancer, and you’ll probably burn about four calories. Double bonus.

Musselman’s texture is different than any other applesauce I’ve had, but not unpleasant. I like it, but given the pretentious, fancypants nature of the flavours, you wouldn’t catch me putting it on my latkes any time soon. And, given my Jewness, there is one overriding deciding factor: price. I haven’t seen how much the applesauce costs (thanks Sagan!), but I feel that my deeply ingrained bargain instinct will lead me far away from Musselman’s. If you need me, I’ll be in the bulk aisle.

Questions? Comments? You know where to leave them. Alana’s the real applesauce expert here so I’m sure she’ll drop in on the comments if you’ve got any questions for her!

If you’d like to win your very own Musselman’s Healthy Picks Applesauce, just leave a comment below telling me what you like to use applesauce for in recipes. I love mind for bread recipes; it replaces fats so very nicely without much difference at all.

You know the drill; I’ll use a random number generator but if there’s any comment which really makes me giggle/think, that trumps the random number generator 😉 And if you have anything specific to say to Alana and she gets vocal in the comments, well, I just might let her pick the winner instead. Have fun!

Winner will be posted next Friday, August 21st.

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Our Likes and Dislikes

August 12, 2009

My relationship with running has been all over the map. Love, hate, tolerate; it’s a crazy up-and-down journey that we have gone through. And these days, with the completion of two races, I love it. Really, I do. So much so that I’ve been craving it and last night went out for a 30+ minute run with a friend (okay, probably still not quite recovered enough to go out running, but I really wanted to. And it was enjoyable. And now I think I’ll rest some more). But how did this all happen?

We can choose what we like and dislike, to some extent. If we start off disliking something, it’s going to take a lot of work to really begin liking it. Sometimes we won’t want to put the effort in, and we just won’t bother trying to like it. That’s okay, because there’s other things out there that we like naturally instead. But if you dislike something that you want to like, have hope! You can make the change so that you like it.

Lately there are recipes involving beans appearing all over the blogging world. Mexican Lasagna. Stir fry with black bean sauce. Black bean brownies. There have been many more but I’m recuperating from illness right now so searching all over the blogosphere for the recipes I know I’ve been seeing would just be far too exhausting. Anyway, these recipes look great, except for one tiny issue: I really, really dislike beans. And I mean all beans: black beans, kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, pinto beans. I really love most legumes, but I cannot do beans.

There are some foods which I don’t have a problem with disliking. Ice cream cake, for example. Sour cream. Mayonnaise. Slurpees. Coconut. Avocado. I have absolutely no intention of putting any effort into liking those foods. I’m incredibly grateful that I don’t enjoy them because of how unhealthy they are (except for coconut and avocado, of course. They can be incredibly healthy, and they are after all real food. But most of the time these two foods unfortunately seem to be used in very unhealthy recipes. I like avocado in my sushi and I like coconut milk in my curry, so I don’t see any other reason why I *need* to like those two foods).

However, I want to like beans. I want to be able to enjoy this food which is a staple for so many people. So I’m going to put in the effort to try a bunch of bean recipes and see if I can gradually get myself to like them. I think that now is a good time to do this, too, because September is going to be my month of going vegan (more of which I will talk about as we get closer to that time). Enjoying beans would be useful for that nutrition challenge!

Other foods which are healthy but I’m not a huge fan of and will therefore be putting the effort into transferring from my “dislike” list to my “like” list:

– Zucchini

– Eggplant

– Brussel sprouts

I need your help. Convince me that these nutritious foods are tasty. That you have a recipe for them which will completely win me over. That’s your challenge for today 🙂

Also: what healthy foods do you dislike?

Edited: Judging by a couple of the comments, I didn’t make myself quite as clear as I perhaps should have. The reason why I want to like these foods is for a couple reasons; mostly because of convenience. There are recipes and restaurant dishes constantly cropping up with these kinds of foods, or people tend to make dishes which involve these foods, and it’s frustrating that I’m always skipping past the dishes that have these in them. Besides that, I’m going to be vegan for an entire month. I’ve already been looking up vegan recipes and there are a lot of vegan recipes which call for things like beans or eggplant! So I’d like to like those foods before I become vegan so that I can enjoy some of those recipes and have a little bit more variety. Hopefully that clears up the reason for why I want to like these foods- it’s not just because they’re healthy; I know that I get enough nutrients from the other foods that I eat. It’s because they happen to be good for you and also very popular. They’re just useful foods to enjoy!

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9k Race Results

August 10, 2009

It started on Thursday. A sore throat. Then a headache. Then an achy body. On Friday night, somehow inexplicably a party broke out at my apartment. I went to bed at 9pm but got next to no sleep, constantly waking up in coughing fits if the noise didn’t keep me awake.

On Saturday morning I woke up feeling, to be honest, like crap. I was supposed to run the race with my friends Richard (my race buddy from the 6k) and Andrew. Richard was ill, too; he was more sick than I was and so that morning he decided not to run the 9k. I almost said to hell with it, I’m sick too and in no condition to run a race, and sleep is just much more inviting.

Then I saw this message on the whiteboard outside my room, left by some of my friends who had been hanging out at my place with my sister/roommate the night before, and I decided to go ahead and run the darn thing:

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It was a tough race- particularly at the 6k mark- and the trail was incredibly muddy!

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Somehow, my pace was actually faster for the 9k than the 6k. That just has me over the moon! My goal was to run the 9k in under an hour. I had hopes to run it in under 55 minutes. Running it in under 50 minutes was my ideal, but not something I expected I’d really be able to achieve…

Time: 48: 25.

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Andrew and I after the 9k race

I’ve been paying for it, though. All day yesterday I was too sick to do much more than whine about it on Twitter and read novels (Richard, on the other hand, is apparently on the mend). I’m very happy, however, that I ran the race. I know that mentally it would have bothered me a lot if I hadn’t ran it. Physically, though, it wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had. I’ve been resting plenty to be kind to my body- health, after all, is about appeasing all parts of ourselves.

What do you do when you’re not feeling well? Exercise your way through it? Rest to recover faster? Share your thoughts in the comments.