Sunday, January 30, 2011

Healthy indulgences.

I think everyone needs some indulgences in their lives. It's what keeps us sane, happy and well... human. An indulgence is as different as people are - some people indulge in a tall, fancy latte at a chic cafe; others in an expensive bottle of wine. or a well aged rare cheese. Others prefer something of the simpler sort - a bag of chips and a good movie.

My indulgences vary depending on my mood. Coffee is most definitely a major culprit, and you'll rarely find me able to turn down a glass of good wine. But today I indulged in something of a different sort. Instead of telling you about it though, I think I'll just show you.

Ladies and Gentlemen I present a simple coconut cake.

This is a recipe I adapted from on-line. I would describe this as a simple, very versatile light cake. I'm looking forward to experimenting with different mix ins and ingredients. But the recipe I'm including is the basic one. I have a slightly well worn oven so it took way longer to bake. If your oven is temperamental I would suggest lowering the heat and lengthening the cooking time.

Yellow coconut cake (it's vegan as well):

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3.4 cup raw sugar
1 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy works)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1/2 cup shredded coconut

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients

2. In another bowl, mix all wet except oil, and stir well. Mix together wet and dry ingredients.

3. Add oil, 1 tablespoon at a time and mix well. (To be honest I'm not sure why you can't just add it to the wet ingredients. I did it this way though, and it turned out just fine). As a final step add in the coconut.

4. Bake 22-25 minutes till lightly golden or a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

(Variations : instead of using flain milk you could used some vanilla flavored soy milkt. I imagine using coconut oil would be a lovely addition as well).

Serve with coffee or milk, plain or topped with strawberry preserves, chocolate icing, nut butter – or whatever else suits your fancy.

People that call cake "unhealthy" don't really know what they're talking about. Admittedly the ingredient list doesn't contain any "super foods"l yes it was made with white flour and sugar. But milk is healthy, isn't it? Canola(or coconut ) oil is healthy, isn't it? Coconut is healthy. And a little raw sugar once in a while won't kill you either

Am I suggesting that a bit of cake from time to time is healthy - I sure am.

Here's another indulgence that may be scandalous to some, but healthy in my book - pizza.

(Sorry for the poorly lit shot - no windows in my kitchen)

Made with a whole wheat crust (awesome recipe here) and topped with eggplant, chopped tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, cheese, olives and mushrooms.

Let's break that down, shall we?

eggplant - contains vitamin A, B, C ; calcium and riboflavin, high in fiber and potassium and contains antioxidants

chopped tomatoes - high in lycopene (which is better absorbed by the body when cooked) vitamin C and potassium

olives - monounsaturated fats, B vitamins, pro-vitamin A, E, K

mushrooms-a rich source of riboflavin, niacin, and selenium, a excellent sorce of potassium, lots of fiber

whole wheat crust - a whol
e grain - need I say more

cheese - high calcium content, protein, and B vitamins plus a large amount of other essential nutrients such as phosphorous, zinc, riboflavin, and vitamin A.

When I put it in that way it hardly sounds like an indulgence, does it? But if it is then you certainly have to agree it's a healthy one at that.

So go ahead - do it! Eat pizza more often. It's good for you :D

What's your healthy (or not so healthy) indulgence?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Simple is good.

Sometimes the good things in life are simple.

I'm not sure if anyone else can relate to this, but often I browse food blogs and find myself wishing for a certain ingredient/food that is simply unavailable and/or extremely expensive. I'm thinking of things like peanut flower, canned pumpkin, almond butter, Greek yogurt, chia seeds. Most of these ingredients seem to be "healthy living staples" for most food bloggers, but sadly they are out of my reach :(

Not to mention all the fruits and vegetables that are not seasonal in this part of the world, and thus unavailable to me - fresh berries , zucchini, squashes of all kinds, spinach, kale. Unfortunately, because I am on a very tight budget at the moment I am limited to mainly - carrots, apples, bananas, beetroot, potatoes, broccoli, green beans, corn and cabbage. There's always the occasional special deal on eggplants, tomatoes and the like. But for the most part it's pretty repetetive.

But you know what - simple and cheap can be yummy! Take my meals today for example. They are simple, cheap yet tasty and healthy at the same time. And they all take a relatively short time to prepare.

( Disclaimer :This does NOT represent my food intake for an entire day. There are snacks and add ons/seconds that are NOT pictured here. I will not be posting everything I eat in a single day simply because it would cause me to compare with other food bloggers and their portions. I am a unique individual and my body needs different things then others, and I am learning to accept that fact.)

My day started with a popular breakfast: oats!!!!!
(I know this is unoriginal, but I can't help myself. Oatmeal is yummy :))

This bowl is something I call "chocolate cake" oats. It's just a name though, because they don't REALLY taste like chocolate cake, but they are yummy all the same. I can actually kind of taste the egg white in there, but it adds a sort of "cakie" flavor to the oats. And its super thick as well (just how I like it). Here's how I make'm

1/2 cup of oats
1 egg white (you can add more, but I find the flavor too overpowering then)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1/2 - 1 tbsp of DARK cocoa powder (it has to be really good quality stuff, if it isn't you need to add more)
sweetener to taste

Mix everything together in a pot stirring vigorously to make sure that the egg whites have "dissolved" evenly through the oats (otherwise you are left with little white strings of egg white and that is NOT cool). Turn on low heat, stirring from time to time until the mixture is thickened to your liking. Watch out though, because the bottom may begin to burn if you leave the heat on too high. Leave to cool for a few minutes (it'll thicken even more)and add your desired toppings ( I personally am partial to coconut). Enjoy!

It's as simple as it looks, yet it's full of protein and yummy as well.

Let's move onto lunch. I had bean burger ala Kath (she has an awesome tutorial/recipie here)

This is also cheap (way cheaper then making it with meat in any case - especially if you're cooking for a crowd). If you make a bigger batch I'm pretty sure you can freeze them if you need something easy to grab on the go. Just pop em' on the pan and they're good to eat.

They require no special ingredients and you can top them any way you like. I had mine with pickles and mustard, and the other with spicy salsa.

After taking this picture I realized I had forgotten an ingredient that would make these burgers complete - cheese. So before I finished my meal I quickly rectified the mistake. And I made a priceless discovery - cheese + bean burgers + salsa are like peanut butter + bananas + bread. A match made in heaven :P

Then I had a driving lesson and went out to do a few things. I got home and was feeling just a tad (alright more then a tad) bit hungry. I decided to try something new with my afternoon snack today (yes I eat more then one), and take the time to sit down and really enjoy it. And I sure did enjoy it.

Coffee (REAL Italian coffee mind you) with a pear with cereal and cinnamon sprinkles.

Again nothing fancy, but really good.

Dinner came none too soon. I was "tasting" my food the whole time I was cooking - I was so hungry. I snapped a poorly lit shot and dug in.

(I wonder how professional food bloggers manage to set up their shots perfectly, take a beautiful picture and eat before their food gets cold. It so does NOT work for me.)

Lazy girl's stir fry - brown rice, egg, broccoli seasoned with chicken spice and a bit of soya sauce (be careful about combining the two - my food was too salty)

I think by now I've made my point. As much as I'd love to, I can't eat gourmet vegetarian/vegan food like this:

But I do the best with what I have. And I think I do a pretty good job too :)

I still want to get my hands on some almond butter and chia seeds though ... someday

Friday, January 28, 2011

Exercise + winter temperatures

Since my last post was about winter nutrition, I though it would be a good idea to talk about winter exercise.

If you're one of the lucky people that live in a place where the temperatures hardly drop below zero - I envy you. I'm currently living in a climate where the winter temperatures range anywhere from -5 to -20. Not exactly my idea of enjoyable weather.

Honestly on days like these all you want to do is stay indoors with a good book, sipping a cup of tea. But after a while even this gets boring and your body starts craving some movement (at least mine does).

Then the question appears of what to do to satisfy your bodies craving for movement. And if you don't have such a craving - what to do to motivate yourself to move a little. Especially if the view outside your window looks like this.

Well first let's explore the realms of indoor activities. Work out videos can be helpful as can indoor gym options, but after a long period of time even these options get repetitive. So why not switch it up and do something fun. I love dancing so dance videos are the name of the game for me. I alternate between that and yoga, and it satisfies my need for variety.
Another great exercise activity I tried the other day was trying to get my 3 year old brothers to burn some of that inborn child energy. Although that was officially declared "mission impossible" by me, I sure got my exercise in for the day. Bouncing around "picking coconuts" from a tree, or running around "being chased by lions" sure got my heart rate up. And I think it's safe to assume that there wasn't a dull moment.

Even with such entertaining activities, I need to venture out of the house for some fresh air from time to time. Today for instance - despite the -10 temperatures I braved the cold and went for a walk. And I not only lived to tell the tale, but actually managed to enjoy it. Here are some tips I've found that make spending time outside in these temperatures a little more bearable.

- Dress warm. I've found that you feel the cold significantly less in 5 layers of clothing then in 2 (think bulky sweaters and warm woolly socks). At this point it's not about fashion but warmth

(Even if you end up looking like them, it's all for your ultimate good.)

- Set yourself a destination you want to get to. Otherwise there will be days you'll be tempted to turn back after the first 15 minutes. Give your body a chance to adjust to the temperature and heat up.

- I usually have a few "warming points" along the way. I stop into a shop or two along the way, for the sole purpose of "defrosting" a little. If you're out in nature and there are no such points available, I would suggest you walk faster and for a shorter amount of time.

- It's always better if you can accomplish something along the way. I usually opt to walk as opposed to taking a bus if getting to where I need to go is within realistic walking distance. It saves money and helps me get my exercise in, without the need to schedule it for another time.

Do you have any tried and proven methods for getting exercise in during the winter months?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winter fuel


Most people find it difficult to keep up a healthy lifestyle during the winter months. The cold, unpleasant weather , coupled with holiday indulgences and seemingly incessant desire for comfort food makes for a pretty formidable challenge.

Likewise if you're a person that is dieting or has been suffering from an eating disorder all the situations you are thrown into can be extremely anxiety inducing. Not to mention the "Lose the holiday pounds" and "Detox diet" ads that we are bombarded with - whether we like it or not. All those things combined can make us feel like "not eating" is the simplest path to choose.

The secret in my opinion is moderation and having just enough of the right things. If you need to lose weight - starving yourself is not a solution. Nor is a "cold salad" only detox diet.

Your body actually NEEDS more fuel during the winter months to heat you up and keep you going. This is a scientifically proven fact. So an increased appetite and craving "comfort food" is normal and par to the course and shouldn't be fought off

But comfort food doesn't have to be deep fried, cream based or "unhealthy" in order to qualify for that title.

One of my favorite comfort foods in the winter months is a thick soup or stew. I never thought I'd say this, because in the summer I'd rather eat a shoe then suffer through a steaming bowl of liquid. But I've made a 360 degree turn around since then, and I am a converted soup lover. Not only are they warm, filling and comforting but they are an excellent way of getting in your vegetables, which are far to easy to neglect in the realm of comfort food.

I had this soup for lunch today, and absolutely LOVED it. And since it looks oh so appetizing (note the sarcasm which is meant more as an apology for my poor photography skills) I decided to share the recipe with you all.

1 cup cooked white beans
2-4 cups chopped broccoli crowns (depends how green you want it to be)
1 cup vegetable broth
1-2 cups water (depending on how thick you want your soup)
salt and pepper to taste.

Throw the beans, liquid and broccoli in a pot. Bring to a boil and let it simmer there for 30 minutes or till the broccoli is really soft. Blend and season (adding more water/broth) till it reaches your desired consistency. Serve hot topped with shredded cheese and something to chew on the side :P

This soup is tasty, filling, full of protein and vitamins. I'd say that's a pretty good deal for a comfort food - wouldn't you agree?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An introduction to this blog.

This blog is about my idea of a healthy life-style and eating.

I believe that everyone is different and just as everyone is different – everyones body has different needs, and thus the term “healthy lifestyle” means something different for each person. For me discovering what is healthy has been and still is a journey. I am in the process of recovery from an ED and so have learned to accept that what might be healthy and normal for other people is not the same way for me.

I believe in “clean eating” - eating lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and vegetarian sources of protein. I still eat meat, because at this point it isn't medically recommended for me to make the switch to a full vegetarian diet. In the future that might be the case, as I have moral and health based grounds for wanted to do so. But at this point in life, meat is still a part of it. So I'm going to take that fact and enjoy it.

I believe that the human body is not made to be inactive, and so I try to get some physical activity every day. Vigorous exercise is also not a regular part of my life at the moment, but as I get to a better place health wise I'm hoping to slowly incorporate it back again. Right now I do a lot of walking and yoga, and some very light strength training for time to time.

Another thing I am bound by at the moment is a very tight budget. But just because you don't have a lot of money to spend on expensive “organic” products doesn't mean you have to kiss your dreams of healthy living goodbye. I just do the best I can in order to live a healthy life. Although I wish there was more available in order to enable me to do that, just because you can't do everything, doesn't mean you can't do anything. It's all about doing your best.

And one more thing. I'm trying not to have the black and white mindset that states “Sugar and all processed foods are deadly poisonous and I may NEVER indulge in them”. I think a good mentality to have is “everything in moderation”. And a piece of chocolate or scoop of ice-cream from time to time are good for the soul :D

Hope you'll enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing. Healthy living can be fun, and it's not just for those who have a million bucks either.