Author Archives: Caro

About Caro

Writing about my life according to me. Quite convenient because you can't prove me wrong.

Roasted Veggies And Quinoa Salad

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This is the kind of salad you can tweak around all you want, and the results are equally fantastic. Unless you add, like, Skittles or something weird like that. Please don’t add Skittles.
But really, in the mood for cheese? Sprinkle some feta on top. Wanting a dose of healthy fats? A bit of walnuts, almonds or cashews will do the trick. In the mood for a dash of hotness? Dice a jalapeno and roast it, too. Have the odd leftover veggie starting to look sad in the fridge? Toss it in, almost any vegetable works great here.
You know how roasting vegetables can take a bit of time. What I like to do is roast double the amount and save the leftovers for next day; you can even do more if you don’t mind eating the same food for a few days in a row.

 

Pair it up with a bed of leafy greens and you’re left with a nutritious powerhouse– an excellent energy source for middle of the day meal, or a protein packed light dinner.

 

 

Roasted Veggies and Quinoa Salad

3/4 C of quinoa, cooked

Yellow and red pepper

Zucchini

Red onion

Cherry tomatoes

Mushrooms

Two handfuls of leafy greens (I went with baby spinach)

Coconut oil

Balsamic vinegar, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Preheat oven at 350 F. Prep your veggies by chopping to the shape and size you prefer and drizzling lightly with the melted coconut oil. Place them on a baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes, keeping an eye on them and moving them around once in between.
Once roasted bring them out and flavor them with the balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

Place a bed of leafy greens on your plate, then add the cooked quinoa (and you can drizzle some balsamic vinegar on the quinoa for added flavor). Chuck the veggies on top of it all, and scarf down with joy!

 

 

 

Still Counting Calories? At Least You’re Not Working Out To Jane Fonda. Are You?

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Fad diets come and go with the times, as did leotards and fuzzy headbands– though leg warmers seem to be making an interesting comeback. (I still don’t know what to make of that.)

But something that needs to go away already is the useless practice of calorie counting. But. BUT. You’re going to say. And I’m going to wiggle my finger in your face because Nuh huh.

The control that calorie counting offers is more of an illusion, because it allows too big a room for unhealthy practices to be justified. “I’m 300 calories short for the day! This means I get to have a slice of chocolate velvet cake deep fried in butter stuffed with lard.” You know what I mean. If at the end of one day you discover you have consumed a smaller amount of calories than what your goal is it will be easier for you to convince yourself it’s totally fine to snarf down a bag of chips, raid the leftover cake, or finish the extra big chocolate bar. And it’s not.

I honestly believe counting calories sets you up for failure, because there is no specification about the quality of said calories. Two hundred calories of cookies is not the same as 200 calories of raw veggies. You know which one is the smartest option and yet, given the chance by having “spare space” in your calorie count for the day, you’ll choose the unhealthy sugary shit. You know I’m right.

Besides, tell me the truth: Do you really want to be a slave to counting that shit every day for the rest of your life? Do you think it’s  healthy mental practice to obsess about amounts and counts of this or that? Do you honestly want to be that person that brings their motherfucking scale to parties and reunions? Please don’t be. Those people suck the fun right out of getting together with friends.

BUT. You’ll argue. That’s what they do in The Biggest Loser, and they lose a lot of weight! And you’d be correct. But what you don’t see much of in the show is the kind of food they eat. They aren’t limiting their caloric intake and still consuming crap foods. They have a team of people showing them how to eat, when to eat it, how much to eat… it’s television and it’s in the show’s best interest that these peeps lose a lot of weight, and fast. Ratings, babeh. Their meals consist mostly of fresh food. REAL FOOD. Food that is alive and in turn gives life, because that’s the food that allows the body to shed unnecessary weight.  My guess is that thorough nutritional explanations aren’t what most of the population would describe as enthralling TV entertainment, and this is what they don’t show us much of that. Seriously, if you think they lose weight by pure magic of the brutal workouts they’re subjected to, you’ll be highly disappointed. It’s been proven time and time again, you can even repeat after me: You cannot out-train unhealthy eating habits.

You cannot out-train unhealthy eating habits.

You cannot out-train unhealthy eating habits.

YOU CANNOT OUT-TRAIN UNHEALTHY EATING HABITS.

Basically this means you can kill yourself in the gym, on the treadmill, or run your dog to the ground, and the changes in your body will likely remain insignificant for as long as you keep eating the same shit you’re still eating.

And this brings us back to the calorie conundrum. You’re right in that there are amounts of nutrients the body needs for optimal functioning, so how can we know how much to have of what? I’m glad you asked.
Enter the Calorie Control Guide, from the geniuses at Precision Nutrition.

FOR THE GUYS:

                                     FOR THE LADIES:

Click on either picture to be taken to the full article, with more reasons why counting calories sucks and to access printable versions of this guide. It’s very simple to remember! Everything you need is… wait for it… in the palm of your hand. Ba dum tss.

It’s “Steakhouse Good”, The Husband Said: Grilled Marinated Shiitake

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Is it still grilling weather in your region? You can say so if it is. I won’t be jealous nor will I wish torrential rains upon you. Promise.

During this past summer something was decidedly off with my cooking: I managed to ruin entire meals on the grill, on the stove, and in the toaster oven. Husbando was rooting for me to break the record and char something in the microwave already. Har har.

With this dish I finally got it right, though. A grilled shiitake mushroom so juicy and flavorful that, in the hubs’ words “it’s really good. It’s, like, steakhouse good.” Now if only I could get the kid to overcome her aversion of edible fungi.

And why shiitake, you ask? Because they are a fabulous! Regarded as medicinal by the Chinese for thousands of years, these humble looking ‘shrooms pack an amazing amount of iron, B-vitamins, and minerals. They also support cardiovascular health and they help our immune system. Add to this that an estimated 100 compounds in the shiitake mushroom work together as anti-tumors, and we have a winner.

I chose to serve my mushroom accompanied by the veggies I would add to a burger (lettuce, tomato, red onion) but I skipped the buns, and grilled asparagus and fresh baby carrots completed the meal. Shiitakes are fleshy in a very meat-like way, which makes them excellent stand ins for burger patties or steaks.

Grilled Marinated Shiitake

4 Shiitake mushrooms, de-stemmed and clean

Asparagus

Baby carrots

Any veggies you want for accompanying your mushroom: lettuce, tomato, onion, zucchini, peppers, etc.

Soy sauce

Sea salt to taste

For the mushroom marinade:

1/4 C of Extra virgin olive oil

1/4 C of freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp dry rosemary

salt and pepper to taste

Mix up your marinade and place the clean mushrooms in it. Leave them there for 30 minutes to an hour, making sure you flip the mushrooms once so they soak equally on both sides.

In the meanwhile, prepare your asparagus by cutting off the lower ends and shaving off the tougher stems. Place them in tin foil and drizzle lightly with a bit of soy sauce and sprinkle with sea salt. Wrap up the tin foil.

You may want to put the asparagus on the grill a few minutes before you add the mushrooms, since we want to make sure everything cooks at the same time. The mushrooms will need no wrapping, just place them directly on the grill.  The ‘shrooms will cook very quickly, needing at most maybe 3 minutes on each side; you don’t want to overcook them and thus cancel out the nutrients!

Since it goes so fast, be vigilant. Be very, very vigilant. Unless you want to end up like me, cussing like a sailor because you managed to burn dinner again.

I’m Back and I Bear Gifts Of Triathlon Inspiration

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I haven’t been on the ball lately, but I swear I have a really good reason.

Yes, a cuddly reason…

A sweet and snugly reason that has flipped my world upside down.

Her name is Era and she was born on September 16th. For the longest time my mind had no room for anything other than cooing and loving this little bundle of cuteness, but I’m finally catching up on my sleep and getting the hang of having a tiny baby all over again, after over a decade of last having an infant around. Thanks for sticking around while I figured this out!

And now back to business. Of the non-cuddly but very inspirational kind.

Let’s meet bad girl Harriet Anderson:

This lady was 74 years old when she competed in the 2009 Ford Ironman World Championship. SEVENTY-FOUR cheesuschrist. And you see her arm up with the red tie? That’s because missus there broke her clavicle falling off on the bike portion of the race, and still managed to finish the race on time. This means she completed the remaining 32 miles on bike and an entire goddamn marathon with a broken collarbone. Are you feeling like a total wuss yet? I sure am.

She began competing in her fifties and has been relentless since. She’s badass and I want to be like her when I grow up. I’m not even kidding.

Now click over here and read her full story, you won’t be sorry. Hard core chicks, yeah!

Cranberry Walnut Salad With Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette

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You may have noticed a lack of posts lately and all I can do is blame the summer. It’s busy and hot and I’m pregnant and hot which means I don’t want to even look at the stove, let alone have to cook on it.

There has been a lot of grilling going on but I suck at grilling and end up burning half the shit, so no blog-worthy pictures there.

BUT today it hit me that I haven’t shared with you the salad that has been my main mid-day sustenance for the past few weeks. It’s fresh, flavorful, filling… and fucking fantastic (so many ‘f’s. I just had to.)

I was introduced to this salad a couple of months ago at a breastfeeding course with fellow doula friends. It was a potluck get together with lots of good stuff to eat, and we all at some point swarmed this salad until it was gone. I even tried pulling my I’m pregnant so you should totally leave that for me card with no success: The salad was gone before I could go back for (ahem) fourths. Bitches.

So of course I had to email my friend and ask her what this yummy greenness was all about. Today I ate an entire head of romaine lettuce by myself in this salad. I’m waiting to start growing roots on my feet any moment now.

I must apologize for the lack of photo editing. My laptop got sent back for fixing and I’m barred from installing any software into my husband’s computer. Like, infect the man’s laptop with a virus ONCE and suddenly your downloading privileges are nonexistent. Sheesh.

Cranberry Walnut Salad With Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette

Salad greens (spring mix or all lettuce. I used romaine.)

Feta cheese

Apple chunks (optional. I didn’t have any, but I highly recommend you add some)

Dried cranberries

Walnuts (toasted or raw)

Dressing
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
Shake together in small mason jar.
Do I really need to tell you how to assemble this? I figured. Just toss it all together and enjoy the goodness.

Exercise During Pregnancy? Don’t Mind If I Do

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“Oh, look at that pregnant woman waddle! I bet she walks funny out of muscle soreness from performing series of lunges, squats and deadlifts.” Said NO ONE EVER.

Sad but true, few people would believe this pregnant mom’s waddle walk is at times consequence of physical exercise. BUT IT IS. Sometimes. Other times I’m just being a normal preggo.

So let’s talk about activity during pregnancy. Or its alternative title: I’m pregnant, not dying. Yes I’m allowed to move.

Indistinct to, oh, every expectant woman in the history of the modern western world, I have been on the receiving end of advice suggesting that I should “take it easy” and “rest while it’s still possible” before the baby comes. I’ve yet to understand the logic behind this.

Of course there are situations in which a medical condition makes it difficult or even risky for mum to be active, and I’m not here to argue with that. What’s more, there are moms that consciously choose to not do anything during their baby’s gestation and I find that totally understandable (hey, it is a choice.) But what about the standard, normal pregnancy in which both mom and bub could benefit from activity, and there are no legitimate reasons (medical or otherwise) for passiveness?

I’m a true believer of being in tune with one’s body and following its cues– and if you ask me, everyone should be practicing this, not just pregnant women– but I’ve yet to understand why we feel so compelled to warn mom against doing “too much”. How much is that, exactly?

Childbirth is not only one of the most important athletic events in a woman’s life, it is also one of endurance. It’s like the Olympics but of life, and instead of a golden medal you get a chubby baby to snarfle on at the end of your race. You bet your ass I’m training.

Speaking of Olympics, what about Malaysian shooter Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi, who competed in London at almost eight months pregnant?

My personal logic says that if all is well and in order, and the mom is already used to a certain rhythm of exercise, it isn’t necessary to stop. Some modifications may be suitable, some days may feel not as great… but as long as mom is paying attention to what her body says, no harm is done. Most of all, exercise your common sense.

Here is what I do.

For cardio: Zumba

I’m pleased that I’ve been able to keep up with teaching two hours of Zumba per week feeling great. I was already used to this kind of exercise and have been able to maintain the pace throughout my pregnancy (I’m on week 34 and still going). Not only do my lungs and heart get a workout, it’s dance: it makes me feel happy, energized, alive. I credit this for keeping me in such a great mood and believing I can accomplish my goals. Find your thing, whatever makes you smile, and stick with it for as long as it feels right.

Now, in my Zumba class there’s a lot of hip movement, a lot of booty shaking, and a lot of whining down. Add all this to the weight of a growing baby on the bladder and things can get awkward. Straight up I can tell you nothing terrible has happened and there have been no accidents, but it does feel kind of funny/weird at times. How do I deal? I got me one of these prenatal support bands.  It sure has helped alleviate some of the pressure thus making me feel more comfortable while I dance, but don’t think you have to shell out the $15 plus shipping for results– it’s nothing more than a wide strip of elastic with hooks. That’s it. Make it yourself and even better because you’ll set the hooks to close exactly where you want them to.

For flexibility: Yoga

During pregnancy there is a release of relaxin, a hormone our wise body produces to make our joints stretchy and limber in preparation for birth. Relaxin is the reason we need to be careful not to over stretch. It’s a matter of paying attention to how our body is feeling, and remembering that this isn’t the best moment to attempt twisting into a pretzel for the first time.

As much as I would love to go to a prenatal yoga class, truth is the budget doesn’t allow for that right now. The good news is, there’s still a way to get our yoga in. Video, baby! I follow Shiva Rea’s Prenatal Yoga video in the comfort of my living room and frumpiness of my pj’s. I find this video very easy to follow, even for a beginner, as it clearly explains modifications for women in second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

*Many thanks to Angelina, Amy and Christine, all whom in one way or another made it possible I have this video now. Teehee!

For muscle strength: Strength training

Squats and I are like BFFs now. Word. Hey, I figure I’ll be doing my share of squatting at the moment of birthing my baby, so might as well get all the practice I can get.

For obvious reasons I can’t do situps, but I keep my core in check with planks.

For upper body strength I mostly go for dumbbells. I love dumbbells. Bicep curls, triceps kicks, shoulder press, chest press (with plenty of breaks and attention to how I feel– lying on our back isn’t the most recommended thing during the third trimester), upward rows… the possibilities are endless.

For mental sanity, entertainment, and fun: Random things

Hiking

Fun in nature, fresh air, a workout. Extra points for dragging your friends along.

Swimming

Being so light and buoyant in the water feels ridiculously wonderful.

Rock climbing

Fun challenge trying to keep the body close to the rock wall with a 7.5 month pregnant belly. Totally doable, quite enjoyable.

Canoeing

My shoulders, back, and core really felt the workout with the paddling. Very relaxing once I got over the fear of flipping over.

And when all else fails… walk.
Walk to the post office, to the store, to the library, around your block. You don’t have to act like an elite athlete every single day of your pregnancy, and chances are you will have many days, like I do, in which there isn’t a hint of desire to move. That’s ok, those days have their place, too. When I feel ready to get going again walking helps me start slow and get back on track.

I really want to be clear and say it is not my intention in the least to make other moms feel bad if it hasn’t been possible or desirable for them to stay active while pregnant. Nor do I wish to set a bar for others to compare themselves and decide if they’ve been a better or worse expectant mom than I. This is just my personal experience, so different from my first pregnancy, and we’re each on our individual path to follow with our own lessons to be learned.

I have received many benefits from staying active. Forget about the physical benefits… the mental ones, holy cow! I don’t know how I would be feeling right now if I hadn’t stayed as mobile. It’s as if keeping myself reasonably challenged has lit a spark inside– I feel happy, accomplished, relaxed and peaceful. This process has reminded me to trust my body because it is capable of achieving many wonderful things. I’m very grateful.

For more information on exercise and pregnancy, read Precision Nutrition’s article on How To Exercise During Pregnancy.

Almond Couscous And Persian Salad

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I hadn’t tried couscous until I moved to Canada and I like it because it’s a wonderful stand in for staple grains such as rice. Not in vain has it remained key to the diet of Morocco’s people, as well as in other North African countries. Make sure you get whole wheat couscous though, because like with any other grain the white version is far too refined to be recommendable. The addition of protein in the form of almonds and in combination with the Persian and green salads makes of this a full dirt cheap! meal. Alternatively, instead of almonds you can use chickpeas, cashews or black-eyes beans.

As for the Persian salad, this is one I had for the first time a year ago when an Iranian client took us to a restaurant specialized in traditional foods from his country, in Toronto. In that same place I fell in love with Basmatti rice so you can imagine it was an evening of flavorful discoveries for me. Cool and refreshing, this salad makes a perfect side dish in the hot summer months.

One thing I keep noticing over and over in my desire to eat well is that it is extremely helpful to venture out of our customs, traditions and meal preparing habits. Ethnic food offers a wide array of delicious options that have worked wonders for centuries for other civilizations, and very often they are quite easy and cheap to prepare (and if you ask me, easy, cheap and healthy are the trifecta that describes an excellent meal.)

Also –and this has to be said– when we see the global trends to discover that North America stands among the unhealthiest, largest, most inactive populations… that’s got to make things click. Something is obviously very, very wrong. Apparently today 50% of the people in the U.S. are at real risk of suffering a disease linked directly to their eating habits. That’s half the population of the entire country getting sick and/or dying just because of what they choose to put in their mouths. It’s ridiculous! I’ll pass on that thankyouverymuch, and I’ll stick to eating what people in healthier countries eat.

Almond Couscous and Persian Salad

1 C whole wheat couscous

3/4 C almonds

chopped veggies, as many as you like. I used:

Green bell pepper

Orange bell pepper

Red onion

Minced ginger root

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

Turmeric, cumin, salt, cinnamon, to taste

boiling water

Green onion or cilantro, for garnish

Place the dry couscous in a glass bowl and mix in all the spices and chopped vegetables. Drizzle with the olive oil. Now add enough boiling water to cover 1 cm. over the couscous, stir a couple of times gently, cover and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Garnish with green onion or cilantro.

For the Persian salad you’ll need:

1 English cucumber

1 tomato

1/4 red onion

juice of 1 lime

salt to taste

Make sure the cucumber, tomato and red onion are diced very finely. Bathe in lime juice and salt to taste. It’s better if made at least 1 hour beforehand and left to chill in the fridge.

 

Thai, Japanese, Indian, Moroccan, Ethiopian food… we sure have a world of flavors to discover! I’M ON IT.