Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Eat The Rainbow


Today was a rainy, grey day. 

Not that I am complaining whatsoever. I love rain - the cool crisp air, the smell of rain, jumping in puddles. Plus, with all of the wildfires we were LONG overdue for some rain to calm the smoke down.



It was beautiful on Sunday, however. I did enjoy some time strolling around Prosperous Lake with a very cute someone...

Look at that face!!



Awwww Mocha *love*

- - -

I've been very fortunate that my Mom, Aunty, and friends have been sharing their fresh summer produce with me. I have a crisper full of kale, beets, beans, raspberries, potatoes, lettuce, carrots...

There is a general recommendation to eat a variety of foods in various colors. This is because differently colored natural foods house different phytonutrients, carotenoids, and antioxidants. This is essential in ensuring optimal healthy and slowing aging. 
I try my best to have this variety, but I admit I am not always perfect. Especially during the winter months, when seasonal fresh produce is limited.

Each color has their own potent (and delicious) benefit:


Red: Tons of phytochemicals such as lycopene, anthocyanins,  Vitamin D, folate. These have significant roles in prostate health and cardiovascular health. 
My favorite sources: Cherries, beets, tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries.

Yellow/Orange: Very high in antioxidants! Full of beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, alpha-carotene, and vitamin A+D. They are excellent for eyesight, immune function, bone health, healthy skin, and the heart. 
My favorite sources: Carrots, yellow bell peppers, oranges, sweet potatoes, mangos, cantaloupe.

Green: This is the most common color I incorporate into my sources of produce. LOTS of delicious chlorophyll! Which is fantastic, as greens are full of phytonutrients, minerals, and tons of nutrition! There is lutein, calcium, iron, Vitamin K, folate, glutathione, indoles, and sulforaphane. All helpful in detoxifying the liver, keeping a healthy blood pressure, keeps skin and bones healthy, and has some anticancer properties.
My favorite sources: Kale, spinach, beet greens, spirulina, broccoli, brussels sprouts, avocados, celery, cucumbers, green apples ...

Blue/Purple: My second favorite color - always something blue or purple in my morning smoothies! These rich colors are full of anti-aging and antioxidant nutrients. This includes anthocyanins, Vitamin C+E+K, and many other fantastic antioxidants. The richer and darker the color - the more health benefits! It is great for your  immune system, circulation, skin, heart health, urinary tract health, brain function, improved cholesterol, and anti-cancer properties.
My favorite sources: Blueberries, blackberries, raisins, plums, pomegranates.

White: This does not mean processed white foods - think fruits and vegetables! White produce has anti-microbial properties (due to it's sulfur content), flavenoids, vitamin C, and manganese. They are also great for your immune system, heart health, cellular recovery, and has anti-cancer properties.
My favorite sources: Mushrooms, garlic, onions.


My example of a colorful food day. First stop: Breakfast.


A green smoothie. It's full of spinach, blueberries, strawberries, spirulina, banana, coconut water, and Vega protein powder!

Hydration is also very important. So, I have been drinking lots of water with mint and cucumber. Flavored water is more enticing and delicious to drink - and the new jug makes it visually more appealing!




Lunch was some leftover Borscht that my Mom had prepared. The Ukrainian part of me is very pleased! I had to wear a makeshift bib to prevent myself from getting red beet broth all over my work clothes!
I threw in some organic black beans to increase the protein and fiber quotient.



So delicious. It went well with some organic raspberries.



I snacked on a Taste of Nature bar throughout the day. It's easy to pack during a busy shift, and even eating half a bar in the morning and the afternoon can sustain me. Oh, and it's organic, gluten-free, and vegan. Canadian, too!
I chose the Quebec Cherry Carnival, which was full of dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds.



These are so delicious. I can't wait to try more flavors!


After a wee walk, a delicious dinner:

Panfried trout with fresh sage, basil, and thyme. Sauteed beet greens with  garlic.



Delicious side of sweet potato fries - mildly burnt. Oops.



More delicious than just processed white and beige food. Significantly healthier as well!


Tell me, how much of the rainbow do you devour in a regular day?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Catching Up


I have been feeling ... off.

My Remicade dose was doubled for my previous doses in reaction to my continued inability to achieve remission. I didn't consider that this would be much of an issue, and the pre-meds were going to presumably make the process better. However, my experience with the pre-meds was less than delightful.

Over the last two months, I've been noticing an increase in hair loss, worsening fatigue, nausea, hip pain, and general malaise. I tried improving my diet, going for walks/bike rides more frequently, and practicing good sleep hygiene. None of that seemed to make a lick of difference. Luckily, I had a pending appointment with my GI so I knew I could review my concerns at that time.



The appointment was fairly lackluster.
My dose of Remicade was going to slowly taper down to regular dosing, pending that my symptoms don't worsen. That, and a TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) would be added to my next labwork to assess if I have a component of hypothyroidism contributing to my symptoms. I also tried to discuss the use of VSL#3 high-potency probiotic as it was suggested to be previously by another GI physician, but I was meet with a disinterested reply - that it may or may not work, Remicade is the main basis of my disease management. Great.
I have been very inconsistent with taking my Imuran, as I found I was getting more infections when I was taking this medication. As well, Imuran has a slight increase in the risk of developting Hepatosplenic T-Cell Lymphoma. I have been off it for several months. I was reminded of the use of Imuran to prevent the development of antibodies to Remicade; thus increasing it's effectiveness for a longer period. So back on the Imuran I go.
I also need a Bone Mineral Density, a consideration for my hip pain and long history of prednisone use, which can be associated with early onset of osteoporosis. Fun.

Life goes on, however.


I was volunteering for Folk on the Rocks, a local folk festival that is full of music, food, sand, and sunshine. I was volunteering at the beer gardens, keeping the hooligans at bay and making sure everyone is having a good time!


I was fortunate to be volunteering with some good friends, who don't mind getting a little dirty in the sand!

Our Volunteer Shirts!
My little friend Sarah! Isn't she cute?!

Although I wanted to dance in the sand all night, after volunteering and being in the sun all day I went home earlier for a shower, food, and sleep. 
My feet were filthy!


The Zing! booth was also there, so I was able to indulge in vegan and gluten-free foods. I had about two blueberry smoothies and black bean brownies each day. They were DELICIOUS!!



I also went one evening to check out Theater on the Lake, in which a stage is quite literally on the lake. My brother wrote and directed a play, which was fantastic. There were also some clowns from Argentina that were ... bizarre. 


I have also been spending time with Mocha and my Dad, going fishing on calm nights. Unfortunately, lots of bites but no fish!


 Awwww look at that face! She's such a cutie!



This last week has been very lazy, due to worsening of my fatigue, malaise, and sleep issues. I am hoping that, with time, this will improve. I have my next Remicade infusion in a few weeks, so I'm hoping for the best.

In the meantime: Lots of sleep, nutritious food, and being kind to myself.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Eat it Tuesday (from Monday ... on Wednesday...)


I did have good intentions.

I photographed what I ate on Monday. I intended to make a "Eat it Tuesday" post on Tuesday. And, well ... here we are.

I am easily distracted by shiny, pretty things. I also prefer sleeping to pretty much everything else, so sleep has won over this week. I've also been enjoying the pretty, aromatic smoky environment I'm presently living in. Many, many forest fires:


Photo: NWT Sixtieth Parallel on FB

Mighty and stunning.
Summer just isn't the same without smoke and ash in the air.


Anyway, deliciousness from Monday:



Started my day with chia seed pudding and organic raspberries. With lots of cinnamon!


In the morning I had a few cups of Yogi Kombucha Green Tea. I was feeling pretty fatigued on Monday morning, so a boost was required!





Then for lunch there was some broccoli soup I had made the night before. I'm finding that I'm having a bit more of a time crunch over the lunch hour, so having something prepared beforehand is making my life MUCH easier.



I loaded the soup with nutritional yeast, which gives it a nice cheesy flavor (without the nasty effect I get from dairy). 

The afternoon was one of my favorite snacks. Organic, of course!:


Nom nom nom ...


Dinner was some leftover Luxurious Tomato Basil Pasta. It's so good. SO. GOOD.



My after dinner snack is my latest guilty pleasure. I randomly came across these chips while on a Westjet flight and they were giving out sample bags. I instantly fell in love. 
I love the Hardbite All Natural chips - just a little bit of salt and crunch. I could inhale a bag in one sitting if I let myself!

They are also made in BC, gluten-free, vegan, no MSG!



I may have finished this bag in a mere few days...


I went to the grocery store and there were no more Hardbite All-Natural chips left. It was tragic. Almost.

The really tragic thing would be ignoring the beautiful, clear sky and crisp air this evening. 
I think it's time for a stroll around Old Town.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cookbook Review: The Oh She Glows Cookbook



I love Oh She Glows.



I discovered this plethora of plant-based deliciousness several years ago, when I was avoiding animal products in my diet. Her website has concise recipes, beautiful food photography, cute commentary ... and the recipes DELIVER! There are so many recipes that I have bookmarked on my computer, and I refer to them frequently. Here are a few of my favorites:


Angela Liddon is a self-trained chef, whom found herself seeking inventive and delicious ways to incorporate nutritious plant-based meals into her life. She had previously struggled with an eating disorder and chronic IBS, and had overcome these challenges and created her blog. Years later, she is now an author - and a mommy-to-be (her pregnancy updates are pretty darn cute - check them out here).


Thusly, I had high expectations for the cookbook. I was expecting the same beautiful photos, amazing recipes, and catchy commentary.

Visual Appeal



Beautiful photography. Throughout the book.
I wanted to eat the meals right off the page. Everything looks delectable!


Recipe Ease

I made two recipes for two separate occasions. The first was Luxurious Tomato-Basil Pasta ...



... and the second was Glowing Strawberry-Mango Guacamole.



The recipes are laid out in a simple manner, with clear instructions, and with tips for those who might want other alternatives. For the guacamole, I did not opt to add jalapeno!

Replication

The photo:

The reality:


The end results were not as glamorous as the photos from the cookbook, but they were attractive and smelled tasty. That was also the pasta sauce before the actual pasta was added - I promise it was much prettier when it was all completed!!

Flavor


Oops!
The Luxurious Tomato-Basil Pasta was so delicious, that my dinner partner and myself inhaled it before any photos could be taken. It was really that good. Creamy texture, flavorful, filling. I may have even had seconds!

The Guacamole was prepared the evening before a work potluck/BBQ. I prepared all of the ingredients and tossed them together before I headed for the gathering the next day.


It was a hit. I was told by several co-workers that they enjoyed the mango guacamole/salsa, which is an impressive feat considering the amount of cookies/cupcakes/dip, etc that was available.
Since I had doubled the recipe, I had some leftovers. I used them atop salad as a "dressing", and it was FANTASTIC.



Taste Test

The pasta was enjoyed by my dining partner, although he added some chili peppers to it. He tends to be fond of spicy foods, so I think it's more an ode to his own personal tastes than him disliking the pasta. 

The salsa was enjoyed by my co-workers. As well, I shared some with a friend who was raving that he enjoyed it - eating it by the spoonful, or with chips!



I continued to be impressed with the Oh She Glows cookbook, as I continue to try other recipes with great success. For anyone who's never been (you're seriously missing out!) - check out her blog as well: Oh She Glows

HIGHLY recommended, especially for anyone looking to incorporate more nutritious, plant-based meals into their repertoire that also tastes fantastic.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Mango Lime and Raspberry Agave Chia Drinks (Ch-Ch-Ch-CHIA!!)


I was walking through my local co-op, search for my regular organic and healthy food items for the week, when I came across this new product  next to the organic salad mixes:


I love me some chia seeds. I eat this nutritious powerhouse almost daily. They are dark little seeds that become gelatinous when exposed to fluid. Aztecs were rumored to chow down on this before going into battle, as it was believed to provide energy in strength. If it's good enough for the Aztecs, I figure, it's good enough for Red! As well, it comes from a flowering plant in the mint family, and is harvested in Guatemala and Mexico. Oh, and they were once used for this purpose:


CH-CH-CH - Chia!!


They are packed with Omega-3 fatty acid, fiber, manganese, calcium, protein, antioxidants, amongst other amazing things! The Ceveland Clinic even boasts that in some studies, Chia Seeds are found to lower cholesterol and C-Reactive Protein in some people with Type II Diabetes and may lower cholesterol. Read more about that here

... but for these wee bottles it seems fairly pricey. I mean, $4.29?! Then again, it is organic. I had a quick skim of the ingredients to see what magic potion is in these elixirs to make them so magical:



Nothing too extravagant. 
Rather than purchasing these fancy drinks, I decided to experiment at home and make my own versions - for much cheaper - and without "natural flavours". It's also fully gluten-free and vegan!

I made two versions: Mango Lime Chia and Raspberry Agave Chia.




The recipes were quite simple, with ingredients I already had at home (and are easily available in YK at this time of year!)

Raspberry Agave Chia Drink
  • 1/2 cup frozen (or fresh) raspberries
  • 2 tbsp agave nectar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds

Mango Lime Chia Drink

  • 1/2 fresh mango
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp agave nectar
  • 3 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
The Recipe

The recipe is fairly similar for both, easy, and takes very little time. Perfect for hot summer days when you want a refreshing, nutritious drink. Or, I imagine it can be easily prepared the night before and be enjoyed while hiking, fishing, or out cycling!

First step, put the chia seeds and 2 cups of water in a glass jar. Set aside and let the chia thicken:



Above is what it looks like after 20 minutes.

While the chia is thickening, mix the fruits/berries with one cup of water until smooth:



The mango with water, and the raspberry with water.

Then, add the fruit-water mixtures and remaining ingredients into the glass jars, mix, then either drink or put in the fridge to enjoy cold!



I left them in the fridge to cool, then enjoyed on my balcony while enjoying the sunshine.



I recommend classing it up with some wine glasses. I may have to invite some of my friends over sometime soon to enjoy these - they are too cute and delicious to hog all to myself!

I can't pick a favorite between the two. The raspberry reminds me of a margarita and the mango is like a refreshing summer cocktail - without the alcohol, and full of nutrients!


There you have it - chia drinks that are really inexpensive, delicious, and simple to make!

I intend on making other versions of this very soon - I'll be sure to post if they are as successful and delicious as these ones!

I'm off to enjoy a beautiful summer evening with friends. Tell me, what is your favorite "healthy" drink?