Friday, June 29, 2012

Spreading nutrition love in the workplace!

So for the past month or so, a colleague and I have been putting on a series of four mini-workshops on health and wellness for our co-workers. I've been presenting on nutrition and my colleague did presentations on stretching and different yoga poses to counteract our sedentary cubicle lifestyle.

At my superfoods workshop
My topics were:
  • Superfoods
  • Stress-buster foods and supplements
  • Power breakfasts and starting the day off right
  • Eating for energy and avoiding the 3 p.m. crash

It's been truly a fantastic experience and for me highlights the fact that I've chosen the right career path. I find it so interesting how nervous I can get about presenting the simplest thing at work (related to my current job), yet presenting about nutrition, something I can speak to passionately, doesn't ruffle a single feather.

It's been such a great experience for all involved -- presenters and participants. I had people coming up to me in the days following the superfoods talk telling me that they went out and bought hemp hearts. I felt like a very proud mom!

We plan to do more similar sessions in the fall. Looking forward to spreading more nutrition love to the workplace!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My urban garden

The long weekend in May turned into backyard reno weekend at my place. And I couldn't be more pleased! We (meaning a little me, but mostly my handy and awesome Dad along with his trusty assistant, the bf), got some power tools out and went to work.

More on the bigger renos later, because I still have a bit more work to do for it to be finished – I just have to find the time, which seems to be at a premium these days. But for now, a glimpse at a smaller part of the reno - vegetable gardens!

I've been wanting to do this forever! But now I have a little urban garden all of my own. I didn't go too crazy to start, planting just a few things that I know we'll gobble up without issue.
  • green onions
  • carrots
  • lettuce
  • spinach
  • red/yellow peppers
  • tomatoes
I also planted a few herbs. Other than the rosemary, which I bought from a local nursery, I wasn't organized enough to start them indoors, so we'll see how they do.
  • rosemary
  • cilantro
  • basil
So everything came up except for the carrots. I think our friendly neighbourhood squirrels might have gotten to them... The most promising are my tomato plants! Wow. I bought them at a nursery so they were already a few inches tall, but they have just taken off! Tomatoes on the vine already!

Here's a little picture tour. Enjoy!

Mighty tomato plants


Cherry tomatoes

Basil! May need some thinning out...

Cilantro and Rosemary

My now lone pepper plant, the other broke (wind/animal?) and died :( Also spinach!

Leaf lettuce! Pretty sparse... I think something's been eating it too!

A few green onions showing themselves

So vegetable gardening is not easy. Things don't always turn out like you imagine them -- all lush and beautiful. But I'm pretty happy with how my first summer is going. I plan to replant the carrots soon and maybe put up a bit of chicken wire to perhaps discourage hungry animals.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Refreshing strawberry lemonade

I don't want to brag, and maybe I should knock on some hard wood, but the weather in my part of the country has been oh so lovely recently. Today, after running some errands and doing a few chores, I was a bit of a sweaty mess and ready for some hydration!

I wanted to incorporate some beautiful and yummy strawberries that were lurking in my refrigerator and nothing is better than lemonade on a hot day!

I give you my strawberry lemonade. It makes two servings, so share with a friend! Or do what I did, and just have two glasses!

  • Juice of one lemon
  • 3/4 cup of hulled strawberries
  • 1 to 2 tbsp coconut syrup or other sweetener of choice (to taste)
  • 2 cups of sparkling water or non-carbonated filtered water
  • Place lemon juice, strawberries and coconut syrup into blender and blend strawberries are pureed.
  • Add water to blender and pulse a few times to combine.
  • Pour into glasses and enjoy!
This drink is HIGHLY enjoyable accompanied by a good book and a patio... just sayin'.

On a somewhat related note, please read what this Coke executive had to say about Coca-Cola. And then hopefully you will ask yourself, "is she freaking serious!?!?". Feel free to discuss below!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Before you take your doctor's advice, read the ingredients!

Recently my mother had some dental surgery. Prior to the procedure, I was talking to her on the phone and she told me she had just been out grocery shopping to get some things to eat following the surgery. She mentioned the dentist told her to get some "Boost" – a meal replacement drink.

I was appalled. I asked her on the phone to read me the ingredients.

I ask you now, what in this list of crap is nutritional?

Water, corn syrup solids, sugar, modified milk ingredients, canola oil, high oleic sunflower oil, corn oil, artificial flavour, salt, soy lecithin, carrageenan, artificial colour, soy oil, (may contain potassium hydroxide and hydrochloric acid), minerals (calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate tribasic, chromic chloride, cupric sulfate, ferric pyrophosphate, magnesium phosphate dibasic, manganese sulfate, potassium chloride, potassium citrate, potassium iodide, sodium citrate, sodium molybdate, sodium selenite and zinc sulfate), vitamins (biotin, calcium d-pantothenate, dl-α-tocopheryl acetate, folic acid, niacinamide, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin, sodium ascorbate, thiamine hydrochloride, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin B12 and vitamin D3). 

From what I can tell, you've got the following:
  • water
  • sugar
  • sugar
  • modified milk ingredients, as defined by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency: any of the following in liquid, concentrated, dry, frozen or reconstituted form, namely, calcium-reduced skim milk (obtained by the ion-exchange process), casein, caseinates, cultured milk products, milk serum proteins, ultrafiltered milk, whey, whey butter, whey cream and any other component of milk the chemical state of which has been altered from that in which it is found in milk (Source)
  • a bunch of oils, from most likely genetically-modified sources
  • artificial flavour, as defined by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency: one or more substances prepared for their flavouring properties and derived in whole or in part from components obtained by chemical synthesis (Source)
  • some very processed thickening agents
  • artificial colour, this shouldn't be news to anyone... they are chemicals 
  • a bunch of added mineral and vitamins that are poor sources and often a type that our body cannot readily absorb (calcium carbonate, for instance is a poor calcium supplement choice, we absorb very little calcium from this source)

Feel free to help a nutritionista-in-training and point out the REAL FOOD, and therefore nutrition...

Still looking... thought you might.

Instead of Boost, here's my suggestion: easy, fresh, cheap, and is full of REAL nutrition.

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp hemp hearts
  • large handful of greens (spinach, kale, chard)
  • 1 cup of mixed berries
  • 1 frozen banana
  • BLEND this goodness up and then DRINK this goodness up

Feel free to take it to the next level and add more nutritious superfoods using my two go-to smoothie recipes here and here.

Enjoy and be well!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

DIY Spice Rack 2.0

Spice jars have been my enemy for a while... but I think I have it under control! At long last!

I enjoy organization. A great deal. I love the satisfaction it gives me. Messy spice bottles and little plastic bags in the back of a cupboard does not give me satisfaction. So when I saw this photo on Pinterest months ago, I got a little excited. Mainly because it incorporated my love for mason jars in a very cool way.

So I went to the hardware store and the craft store and got my supplies. And well that attempt turned into this...

So going on a tip from a reader, I headed over to Lee Valley and got some super duper magnets. They held the jars, but unless you were very gentle at pulling them off and putting them back on the wall, you'd end up with a minimum of six jars crashing onto the counter top. Not fun. Insert a few curse words here.

I decided to abandon this great Pinterest idea. Let's face it, DIY projects don't always work out as planned.

And yes, yes, I know those little spice jars with the magnets on the back exist already. But they are expensive. And not as original and pretty as my little mason jars.

Insert this. My handy-dandy drawing of what will become the new spice holding device -- thanks to some input from my handyman-dad and a coworker.

Off to the hardware store once again (thank goodness neither project was that expensive!) to get a pine board, some 'L' hooks and some drywall wall anchors. Roughly fifteen bucks later, I'm ready to get to work!

I started with a 1 x 6 piece of pine, when milled is actually 11/16" x 5 1/2". I needed about 10ft for my project, so I got one piece 6 ft long and had it cut down the length of the board at the store (for free, I might add), so I ended up with two 6 ft boards roughly 3/4" x 2 3/4". Perfect width for my little project.

I measured out all the lengths required (two 13 3/4" sides and four 20" shelves and got to work cutting them using my mitre box saw. Handy little thing to have around (thanks Dad!). And yes, I just got to work in the middle of my dining room! Hardwood floor + deluxe vacuum = easy saw dust clean up!

Once that was done, a good sanding was in order. I like to do this with a sponge sander. I find it easier to get a smooth finish.

I marked where all the shelves would go as well as where the screws would go. I then pre-drilled all the holes and followed that with screws to secure the structure. Forgot to take a photo at this stage, but this photo shows how I attached the screws via the sides.

Once it was all together, I applied a bit of wood filler where some of the boards met. In a few cases there was just a little tiny space where the boards didn't come completely together. This was easily fixed with a putty knife and wood filler.

Then one last sanding to smooth out where I applied the wood filler and all over for good measure. A quick cleaning and then I was off to paint! Using some left over paint from my kitchen walls (read: leftover paint costs $0). I applied 2 light coats with a sponge brush. I got great coverage after only one coat, seen here:

After the second coat of paint has dried for a day or so, it's ready to be mounted to the wall! Simply attached four of the "L" brackets to the rack.

Mark the wall where all the screws will go and insert wall anchors into the wall. Then attach the the spice rack! Ta Daaaa!

When I made my first spice rack with the magnets (version 1.0 and 1.1), I had made little labels for the jars. But I took this to the next level as well... I recently came across Martha Stewart's Avery line of products available at Staples and well fell in love... Here's how I re-labeled my spices. So pretty... You won't be able to see the labels when the jars are on the shelves, but in my organizing ways, I arranged them all alphabetically, so I have a idea based on that plus their colour/texture from the clear jar of what each jar contains. The label just confirms!

Hopefully (fingers and toes crossed), there won't be a Spice Rack 3.0 in my future.


(Apologies for blurry/grainy photos, been meaning to take new ones for a month now... but haven't done so, and now it's dark again and well if I take some now they'll turn out the same. This blog is finally going to see the light of day, blurry or not!)