Sunday, 24 June 2012

A Thousand Little Lies

I moved in with my fiance in my early 20's. Until then I'd lived at home with my family. My Mom had struggled with weight issues for most of her life and worried about me. I felt like everything I ate was watched and measured, that if I ate just a little less... weighed just a little less, I'd be so much better. I found it overwhelming and was relieved to discover my fiance simply did not care what I ate. Tub of chocolate frosting for dinner? Go for it. It took me years to realize that not caring was not a good thing.

The novelty of eating a tub of frosting wore off pretty quickly and I soon began pouring though easy recipes. I'd become a vegetarian in college and was basically learning how to cook from scratch. I grew up in a home where meat was the centre of the meal and veggies were an afterthought, boiled and placed on the side of the plate. I've always been interesting in cooking healthy food and soon worked out several recipes we enjoyed. Nevertheless I slowly grew fat under the weight of a thousand little lies.

It's easy to lie to yourself. Easy to let things slip past. I'm young, I don't need exercise. I'm busy chasing after the little ones all day, that's enough exercise. I deserve a treat after the day I had (totally ignoring the fact I'd already had several "treats" that day). I'll exercise tomorrow. Sure I've gained weight but it doesn't show. It's just PMS weight, it'll be gone soon. A life without chocolate isn't worth living. Maybe my life will be shorter but it'll be a good life with food I love and enjoy.

My favourite treat was milk chocolate. I'd buy a bag of milk chocolate chips to mix into brownies. Then I'd have a little bowl as a treat... and another... and another. Within a day or so I'd need to buy a new bag so I could make brownies. Days later, when I finally made a pan of brownies, I'd have to buy yet another bag. But the brownie mix made two batches and, while I only needed half a bag of chips per batch, I'd usually snacked enough that I needed another bag in order to make the second batch. And so on.

My daughter commented once that brownies weren't a treat when we had them all the time. At the time I was annoyed because I still felt they were my treat but she was right. A treat is supposed to be something special and out of the ordinary. I was making two batches of brownies every single week. And eating other treats besides.

Then came more lies. It's just that one pair of pants that don't fit. Elastic waistbands are more comfortable anyways. That photo was simply taken at an awkward angle (same with that photo and this one). If I stand at this exact angle with my head tilted just so, I look fine.

There's only so long I could blame the camera and/or crop photos so that all of me wasn't in the shot before admitting it wasn't the camera, it was me.

Now I'm working at telling myself the truth. The more exercise I do, the better healthy food tastes. I crave junk food less when I take care of myself more. There is time every day to exercise. We all have 24 hours and it's not hard to squeeze in 15 minutes to a half hour. Cooking a pot of rice, lentils, garlic, and herbs while tossing a salad takes just as little time than popping a frozen pizza into the oven and is infinitely more satisfying. If you have 15 minutes, you have time to cook a healthy meal. If you routinely don't have 15 minutes, you need to organize your time better.

The one I'm struggling with right now is exercise. Now that I've moved, I need to leave for work just over an hour in advance. I start as early as 6:30am and, when I'm up at 4:30am and walking out the door just before 5:30am, it's hard to get up a half hour earlier to exercise. And it's equally as hard to come home and exercise after working on my feet all day. Plus I need to be in bed around 8:30pm those nights, leaving little time to work out after dinner. This week, however, I start at 7:30am every morning. I'm hoping that a solid week of daily workouts will help get me into a routine of regular exercise again.

As for today, I've been out for a walk, exercised with the Wii My Fitness Coach, and am heading downstairs for a half-hour on the treadmill before dinner. No more lies, no more excuses. It's time to shape my life and be the me I want to be.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Easy Vanilla Ice Cream

I promised yesterday that I'd post my vanilla ice cream recipe on here today, and here it is. It came in the booklet with my ice cream maker but I've modified it a bit.

Easy Vanilla Ice Cream

1 cup sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
3 cups 18% cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Pour mixture into ice cream machine.

I keep it in the machine for about an hour then put it in the freezer for a day to let it set. If you don't have a machine I'd recommend mixing it well then stirring about every 10 minutes for at least an hour to let it set well. I stir it every couple of hours until it's fully set.

Also, if you want a yummy chocolate sauce to go on top, try this recipe.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Decadent, delicious low-fat frozen chocolate yogourt

I think the title pretty much says it all. I'd been looking for a yummy chocolate treat that wasn't too rich but still tasted good. Something that warranted the word "treat". And I found it here. Unfortunately the recipe calls for low-fat evaporated milk and I couldn't find a can that wasn't processed (mmm... dipotassium phosphate). But one of the comments had alternate instructions and they were even yummier than the original.

Home-made frozen chocolate yogourt

1 can low-fat sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup dark chocolate (either chips or a broken chocolate bar)
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup fat free plain Greek yogourt

Stir chocolate chips and condensed milk in a sauce pan over medium heat until chips are melted and blended in with the milk. Remove from heat and add cocoa and vanilla. Stir until blended then mix in yogourt. Cool.

At this point I spoon it into my ice cream machine (it's very thick) and let it mix for about an hour before putting it in the freezer. If you don't have an ice cream machine, just put it in the freezer immediately and remove to stir about every 10 to 15 minutes for the first hour. I find it needs to freeze for about 24 hours before it's thick enough so make it a day in advance.

If you're making this for a family, you might want to double it as it only makes about two or three bowls. I make this and plain vanilla ice cream so the kids have some choice with their treat (I will post that recipe tomorrow). Enjoy!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Exercise and all that good stuff

A few years ago, when I weighed 212lbs, I fluffed off mobility issues as "middle age". Rolling over in bed was a struggle. I couldn't do it in my sleep, in fact I had to haul myself over using my headboard. But, well, I was almost 40 years old. I couldn't expect to stay young forever. I woke up every morning with an aching back (which thankfully faded away by breakfast). I chalked that up to an old mattress. Forty(ish) pounds later I know I was deluding myself. Rolling over is easy again and my back never hurts even though I have the same old mattress. These days I revel in how well my body moves.

I got off work early today and suggested a walk to my son. He promptly asked if we could ride our bikes instead. The busses in our area all have bike racks so I agreed. We took the bikes downtown and headed onto the trail. Of course, since he rides his bike regularly and I've only been riding since the beginning of the month, I almost never saw him. He'd wait for me by a bridge or bench then, within seconds, he'd be down the trail again while I peddled along by myself.

The trail, as you can see in the picture to the left, is quite lovely. It wends its way from the downtown core to the lakeside, alongside a creek. There are no interruptions, no roads to cross. It goes under bridges (alongside the creek) along the whole route. I love walking this trail and it's just as nice to ride. I know we're in the middle of the city but I love biking along listening to the birds and the leaves rustling.

When we got to the lake I immediately discovered a swing set off in the corner of the park, facing the lake. I promptly asked my son if he wanted to swing and he did. The swings were quite high off the ground and I had to pull myself up by the chains to get to the seat. There I sat, legs dangling and toes unable to reach the ground, until I asked my son for a push. I also asked him to take a photo. He took six, this was my favourite.

We went home shortly after this photo was taken, which turned out to be a good thing as thunderstorms started rolling in about an hour after we got home. It was clear skies and sunshine for our whole bike ride.

I went for a swim with my son last night and think I'll head downstairs with him soon for another swim. Just because it feels good to get my body moving.

Sunday, 17 June 2012


I've had a few people ask me for recipes in the past week and decided to share some here. The hard part is I don't always use a recipe. I smell spices to see which ones would work the best in a recipe and just chuck in a pinch or two. I'll add a slosh of cooking wine and a handful or two of veggies. This makes it hard to write a recipe down. But I'll try my best.

The first one is easiest as it's my Mom's banana bread recipe, just slightly modified to make banana muffins. These are yummy and make a great breakfast or snack.

Banana-Pecan Muffins

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour (I use PC Organic)
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter (or low fat Greek yogourt)
1 egg (or equivalent amount of egg whites)
2 or 3 mashed bananas
1 lemon (grated peel and juice)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped pecans

1) Preheat oven to 350F and grease 12 cup muffin tin.

2) Grate lemon and squeeze juice into a small bowl then mash banana with juice and peel. Add vanilla and set aside.

3) Blend flour, ground flax, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.

4) Cream sugar, butter, and egg well.

5) Add dry ingredients alternately to creamed mixture with mashed bananas. Blend well after each addition. Stir in pecans.

6) Scoop a quarter cup of batter into each muffin tin. Bake about 22 minutes and cool on rack.

Simple White Sauce

2 tbsps whole wheat flour
2 tbsps butter
1 cup milk

Melt butter in a pot and add flour. Stir until combined then pour in one cup of milk. Stir continuously until mixture thickens and begins to boil. Remove from heat.

The nice thing about the white sauce recipe is it's very versatile.  Grate some cheese into it and mix with noodles and you have macaroni and cheese. Today I used it as a base for vegetable gravy.

Roasted Garlic

1 bulb garlic
oil to drizzle

Preheat oven to 400F. Rub some of the paper off a bulb of garlic then slice the top off, just deep enough that all the cloves have the tip cut off. Drizzle the bulb with oil and wrap in foil. Place on a pan or cooking sheet (unless you want oil dripping on your oven floor) and bake for a half hour. Remove (carefully) from foil and cool.

I made poutine for dinner tonight. I used the white sauce as a gravy then mashed a bulb of roasted garlic with some cooking wine and added that to the white sauce with some snips of fresh dill and some freshly ground black pepper. Homemade fries are dead easy. Just chop potatoes into whatever size fries you want, keeping in mind the thicker they are the longer it'll take to cook them, and rinse them in cold water. Pat dry with a towel and drizzle with oil. Then cook at 400F for 40 minutes (for medium cut fries), turning once at the halfway mark. I used white cheese curds as they didn't have any colour added. They turned out really yummy and the sauce would have been just as good as a topping for rice. Or even with some freshly shaved Parmesan over fettuccine noodles.

Bonne appetit!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

The yummiest diet ever

I've been on an "eating from scratch using minimally processed foods with no additives or preservatives" diet for just over a week now. I have no real idea how the diet's going since there hasn't been enough time to judge. I've lost a pound but a single pound is easily lost and gained. However, this is the yummiest diet I've ever been on. I baked banana nut muffins this evening. Organic whole wheat flour, butter, organic bananas, grated and squeezed lemon, real vanilla, and pecans. I ate one a few minutes ago and it nearly melted in my mouth.

Cooking from scratch has been interesting. I have spent most of my adult life cooking meals and come from a family which cooks. So I was surprised to realize how much we do use prepared foods. From bouillon cubes to prepared salad dressing to family dishes that use powdered mixes or canned cream soups for bases... switching to this diet has meant overhauling my kitchen (made easier by letting my kitchen go almost bare for the move) and rethinking a lot of recipes and supplies.

There have been some mistakes. I baked muffins last week and substituted natural peanut butter for the butter, thinking peanut butter banana muffins would be yummy. The peanut butter was too thick and I ended up with peanut butter banana bricks. Then there was the vegetarian gravy recipe I made for poutine, with 2 tbsps of cornstarch. It was more like a savoury vegetarian jell-o. But the successes have majorly outnumbered the mistakes.

My son was so worried when I told him about this new diet. What was he going to eat? No more ice cream from the store? No more pizza pockets? No buying a couple of boxes of Kraft dinner? Those fears dissipated with the first batch of homemade ice cream and totally evaporated with the homemade macaroni and cheese. He just came over here now after squeezing his own apple juice with a garlic press. It was a tad lumpy but he was thrilled with it. "Look Mom, I made apple juice from scratch and it tastes really good!"

On top of the healthy eating, we have so many more options here, exercise wise. I've discovered a trail that starts a block from my home and runs right downtown, as well as a nearby conservation area. This evening I went downstairs to the gym and used the elliptical for a half hour then swam laps for 20 minutes. Tomorrow I think I'll try out the treadmill.

As for now, I think I'll go clean the garlic press.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

We're here!!!

The move was hellish, which I think pretty much describes all moves. Our truck came an hour and a half late, or just in time considering the people moving out ahead of us were also an hour and a half late, and they sent the wrong sized truck and had to make two trips. Our last box came inside just before midnight and I woke early the next morning to boxes everywhere. Mazes of boxes and three confused cats wandering around crying. I also woke in a panic because we left both our bikes back at the old apartment. Luckily we hadn't turned in our keys yet (funnily enough management wasn't around at that time of night to accept them) so we grabbed the bikes on our way to drop off the keys.

Now the boxes are almost empty, all that's left is putting up the decorations and taking 200 photos to share with friends and family. Then I can finally relax and enjoy the last couple of days of my vacation before heading back to work.

When I was a child I loved vacations where we stayed in a hotel with a pool. To me it seemed unspeakably fancy to be able to just leave your room and go downstairs to swim. That's how I felt on Friday when we went downstairs to use the pool for the first time. It was miserable outside; cold, rainy and windy. But there we were, towels and bathing suits slung over our arms as we headed to the pool. It was wonderful splashing around, knowing our home was just an elevator away. This was when my son piped up and said "Mom, this feels so fancy" and I realized he knew just how I felt. The gym is right beside the pool and I noticed there's an elliptical and an exercise bike as well as a treadmill. I can go downstairs to work out then cool off in the pool.

Yesterday we went out grocery shopping for the first time since deciding to eat all natural foods. It was interesting. I couldn't get over how many additives there are in everything. Even things like flour, whipping cream, and cream cheese. But we managed to find everything we needed and lug it all home. Today I'm making soup stock, bread, and ice cream.

And now I'm using the Wii My Fitness Coach for the first time in a month!