Tuesday, 29 November 2011

1st Step is Admitting: I have a pumpkin addiction...

The beginning of fall marks a very exciting time for me, PUMPKIN!!! Pumpkin Spiced tea at Tim Horton's comes out, Pumpkin Chai at David's, Pumpkin soups at restaurants, pumpkin smells, pumpkin decorations, and my excuse to make as many things out of pumpkin as possible! It's best to eat fruits and vegetables with the seasons right? So, there we go, pumpkin is definitely a fall fruit :)

As I felt winter creeping in a few days ago (IT SNOWED) I suddenly had to urge to preserve some fall left and go crazy with the pumpkin at breakfast time. I opened a can of pumpkin puree (I love fresh pumpkin but the chopping part always leaves me with bandaged fingers :( ). So, that morning I used canned and began the pumpkin frenzy! Pumpkin Teff Pancakes, Pumpkin Pie Smoothie and Pumpkin Chai Tea :) mmmmmmmmmmm Only later, to make some delicious Pumpkin Coconut Soup :)

Honestly, I am still not pumpkined out. Can you make pumpkin a verb? I think in my case, yes! Not only is this squash super-duper delicious, it has tons of nutritional benefits as well. It is loaded with vitamin A, antioxidant carotenoids (especially beta and alpha-carotenes known to be an anti-inflammatory agent and to slow the aging process, respectively), potassium, vitamins C, K, and E, and lots of minerals including iron, potassium and magnesium.

Pumpkin also provides about 3.5 grams of fiber for half a cup serving. Not to mention, a full cup serving only has about 40 calories, so for those weight conscious people, it's guilty free indulgence (provided the source is not from from pumpkin pie).

Without further ado, RECIPES :) (All three recipes are vegan and gluten free!)

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie-of-Life (Gluten Free and Vegan)

2 ice cubes
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 frozen banana
1 Tbsp chia seed
Pumpkin Pie Spice to taste (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice or cloves)
1 scoop Vegan Vanilla Protein Powder
1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened Almond Milk)
1 Tbsp bee pollen (optional)

Place all ingredients into a blender or Magic Bullet in order listed. Blend on high until smooth, let set a few minutes for chia seeds to bulk up. Sprinkle with bee pollen and enjoy :)

Pumpkin Spice Teff Pancakes (Gluten Free and Vegan)

1/2 cup Teff Flour
1/8 cup Tapioca Starch
2 Tbsp Ground Flax Seed
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup warm water

1 Tbsp of oil to cook pancake in (I used coconut oil)

Mix all dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl (Teff flour, tapioca starch, flax seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, baking powder, and baking soda).
Once mixed, add vanilla, pumpkin and water. I used a fork to stir with and achieved the perfect consistency.

Warm a skillet on medium heat with oil in it. Place approx. 1/4 cup of batter on skillet and level out with the back of a spoon.

Wait for bubbles to appear and flip pancakes to other side. Cook for another minute of two on this side.

Top with maple syrup or almond butter or even apple butter tastes delicious on these pancakes!

Comforting Pumpkin Coconut Soup (Gluten Free and Vegan)

1 onion diced
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil (or other light tasting vegetable oil)
2 cups of reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1 can of coconut milk
1 can of pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cummin
1/2 tsp ginger
Salt and pepper to taste

Warm oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until onion is soft and golden in color.
Add remaining ingredients, stir and simmer over reduced heat for about 30 to 40 minutes.

Option: Add cooked quinoa to the soup to bulk it up and adds protein as well :)

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Fitness Photography

The middle of November marks a strange time in the fitness center in Fredericton, NB. People jogging in layers of sweatsuits and pulling 3-a-day workouts is not uncommon. Then one day, people that you have seen consistantly for months appear to have gone down south and sunbathed for weeks. The air is filled with odors of A5 35 and protan, ahhhhh it's time for the NB Bodybuilding and Figure Championship again!

If you have read my "About Me" page, I talked about the same competition I was in 2 years ago. I said I would never do it again, but for the last two years I have been involved with the photography side of things instead.

This year I did a shoot with a couple I have known for a few years, Victoria and Steve. They were both competing and thought it would be a great time to get photos done together and separately. They were such amazing models and I had a fantastic time working with them! Victoria is a registered massage therapist and she suggest we do the shoot at her clinic, a very old, historic building in downtown. It was so perfect!

Here are some of my personal favorites, enjoy!

Oh, by the way, Victoria placed 2nd in her division (Figure Model Short) and Steve got 3rd in his division (Men's Classic). YAY!!! So happy for you guys, talk about hot couple!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Tea, tea, tea I LOVE TEA!

Photographer unknown

If you were to walk into my kitchen it would be pretty evident that I am well... ok, obsessed, with tea! I really cannot get enough different types, from bagged to loose, sweet to spicey and all types: black, green, rooibos, herbal and oolong. Ahh tea!

My go-to spot for picking out new teas is David's Tea. They have hundreds of different teas to choose from, with some of the most amazing and original combinations I have ever seen. It never fails that I leave David's Tea without at least 2 new cans of tea that I just "had to have"!

My favorite, perfect for loose tea (from David's Tea)

I say, there is a tea for every emotion. Or, a tea for every day.. or maybe a tea for every minute... lets just say there is never too much tea. Besides the amazing comfort and deliciousness of a warm cup of tea, there are so many amazing health benefits associated with various types as well.

Chinese medicine has been using tea as a primary source of treatment for over 5000 years. Using Chinese herbs is one of the longest lasting forms of medicine, and it has been said that the knowledge of their healing power is China's greatest gift to mankind. The science behind Chinese Herbal Medicine takes year and years to fully understand, but generally speaking, tea provides so many health benefits, including:

-Boosts Immune Defenses
-Increases metabolism
-Keeps you hydrated
-Contains antioxidants
-Protects your bones and teeth
-Can help prevent cardiovascular disease

Some people enjoy tea for pleasure, some of therapy and others, a combination of both. Yes, some "good-for-you" teas taste absolutely horrible, but works. While others offer the best tasting concoction of herbs and leaves imaginable.

All of the types available can make it very hard to understand what each is best for. I'll summarize so you are aware of what you are buying, or should start incorporating in your daily routine.

Health Benefits of Various Tea

Teas Derived from Camellia sinensis plant:
-Green: Contain highest level of flavanoids (antioxidants), prevent various forms of cancer, prevent arteries from clogging, help with weight loss, reduce cholesterol, lower risk of stoke and reduce risk of neurological disease.
-Black: protect lungs from harm caused by cigarette smoke, and reduce risk of stroke.
-White: has most anti-cancer properties compared to other forms of tea.
-Oolong: lower bad cholesterol and help with weight loss.
-Pu-erh: benefits similar to oolong, but tea is processed differently.

So, how do I pick tea, since they are all so healthful, I base mine on the yummiest flavour!

Right now I am drinking a loose tea from David's Tea called "The Glow", which is made to give your skin a well.. glow! It's ingredients include rooibos, rosehip, nettle leaf, oat straw, rose petals and cinnamon (Ayurveda's complexion saver)! Every girl (or boy) loves glowing skin, but the best part is that is tastes like yummy apple crisp!!! Mmmmmm, I just took my last tablespoon out, time for a David's Tea trip!

My other current favorites include: Organic Creme Brulee (rooibos) from David's, Higgins and Burke Pear Green tea, Empire of Tea's Plantain Coconut (rooibos) and Tim's Pumpkin Spiced Tea (rooibos).

Wow, I just talked a lot about tea, I really could keep going.. but I will stop. It is a 100% guarentee I will be talking about tea for many posts to come :) YAY!

Did this make you want to brew a cup? I hope so, I'm going to make another, and why not, because I forgot to mention, ZERO CALORIES! haha It's a guilty free snack!


Em :)

Monday, 21 November 2011

Hypoallergenic diet hurdles..

I am about 2 months in doing a hypoallergenic diet. It has definitely has its ups and downs, but if I truly find out what is causing my body all this stress and discomfort, it will be worth it.

I started out 2 months ago by cutting out all of the most common food allergens. What a lengthy list:

-Gluten (wheat, barley, rye, spelt, oats)
-Dairy (cow, goat, sheep)
-Shellfish and canned fish
-Peanuts, cashews and pistachios
-Red meat
-Nightshade vegetables (peppers, eggplant, tomatoes)
-Coffee/tea (anything caffinated)
-Alcohol of any form
-All sugars and sweeteners, natural or artificial (except Stevia)
-Hydrogenated or vegetable oils

... and the list goes on.

At first, I wasn't too scared of cutting out all of these foods because I don't eat a lot of them to begin with. Also, I have gotten used to a restrictive diet and have a lot of self-discipline in that way. As time went on however, I found it harder and harder to be so optimistic about the strict diet. I missed bananas and peanut butter more than I thought I would. I stuck to the diet for 3 weeks, making sure my body was completely clean and detoxed before re-introducing the possible allergens.

I had to feel completely rid of any symptoms I have been feeling for years. That way, I would be completely accurate with noting the reactions I was about to induce on myself.

Once the three weeks was up, I was more scared than excited to begin introducing. For the first time, in a long time, I felt amazing! Symptoms that I did not realize were reactions to food were gone. I was living with a lot of symptoms I thought were normal. Apparently, not so. Introducing the potential intolerable items to my diet again meant that I would have to suffer through the symptoms I had just gotten rid of. Oh well, for the greater good right?

I was to introduce one item at a time, consuming it  for at least 2 meals of the day, and do so for 3 days straight with no reaction, or stop if I notice any reactions.

I am not half way done the list and have already discovered a lot about my diet, my body, and what I have been doing to it over and over again. My diet was always so restrictive without gluten, eggs or dairy I never thought I would have more allergic reactions. I did not want to be told I had, yet another food to cut out and also, I did not know what I should even be suspecting. Ignorance is never the answer though, right? I knew there was something else that was harming my body.

Now, I am by no means an alcoholic, or "wino" of any sorts (at least not 360 nights of the year hehe), but, the first thing I chose to introduce was red wine. I have been skeptical of it in the past, but this beverage is a "No! please don't let me react to this!!!!" item. I consumed my "two", greatly anticipated, servings of red wine during dinner with a good friend (she was excited to share my first introduction experience). The next morning was a complete nightmare, as expected... ughhh it was confirmed, no more red wine. I realized a while ago that every time I had red wine, the next day I would feel like the world was crumbling beneath me. That morning, I experienced anxiety beyond what I could imagine, shaking, nervousness, heart palpitations, the list goes on.  Now, this has happened a few times before.  I suspected red wine but, I did not connect all the various times I experienced this kind of reaction to make a sound conclusion. Looking back, nearly every time I can remember drinking red wine it has been the exact same reaction. Red wine is OUT, but I am planning to test other sulfite containing food later on.

The testing continued with black coffee, peanut butter, canned fish (tuna), mushrooms, corn, and now, with soy.

Results thus far:
-Red Wine: -ve
-Coffee: +ve
-Peanut Butter: +ve
-Tuna: +ve
-Mushrooms: so-so
-Corn: -ve
-Soy: -ve

YAY! haha So, three more items to throw onto my "food intolerance" list. :( At least I am learning... right??

As much as this has been a struggle some days, especially finding quick snacks or meals on the go, I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who suffers undiagnosed, chronic illnesses. There is always a reason behind any symptom you may have. Sometimes, it just takes being proactive and not totally relying on your medical doctor to tell you why. My naturopathic doctor is the genius who has lead me along this healing journey. She has provided me with more answers, solutions, remedies and hope then I have had in a very long time. Now, you do not necessarily have to be under the care of a doctor to do this diet, just make sure that you are extremely regimented with it, and take a lot of time to get in tune to your body. I have often been labeled as someone who is ridiculously in tune to my body. I do not think that I have a whole lot more intolerances than the average person, I believe that I recognize my body's reactions and feel them more intensely than most. For example, I know of people who have had gastric pain their whole life and just got used to the feeling thus, dismissing its cause. Again, ignorance is not an answer.

On a yummier note, to help matters during these past few months I have been making some pretty interesting meals. All of them have turned out quite good, if I do say so myself :) (except the burnt buckwheat porriage...)

I may as well share one! What is a post without a recipe, after all!

Savory Roasted Sweet Potato Rounds

-1 sweet potato (medium size)
-2 Tbsp olive oil
-1-2 Tbsp chopped garlic (I love garlic, so I use 2 Tbsp)
-1 tsp Parsley
-1 tsp Paprika
-Black Pepper (to taste)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Chop sweet potato to yield ~1/3 inch thick round medallions. I usually vary how thick I cut the sweet potato to have some crispier and some softer slices.
Throw the sweet potatoes into a large bowl. Coat with olive oil and toss to cover. Add spices, varying amounts to preferance and again, toss to coat.

When sweet potatoes are equally covered in spice mixture, spread on a baking sheet and put in the oven.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes, turning once, or until potatoes are golden and tender.

Serve and savour! These simple gems are great on their own, or try dipping in old fashion Dijon mustard :) mmmmmmmm droll...



Saturday, 5 November 2011

Tattoos and Green Smoothie-of-Life

There are so many varied opinions regarding tattoos, what is yours?

Myself, I cannot get enough and love them all. IT IS ART! I love all art styles because they are a personal form of expression. Art is not meant to fit a specific criteria, it is as unique as the artist creating it. Tattoo artists are some of the most talented artists I have ever seen. Not only are they creating beautiful art, they have the added pressure of permanently altering another human's skin. The individual sitting in the chair has hired the artist to use their skin as a canvas.

Photography I did for my friend Kim, I plan to do a lot more tattoo photography :)

My feelings on tattoos: Your body is a canvas, when you die you leave it all behind, but how you wear it throughout you life should portray your inner self. Therefore, if you are a more conservative person, and do not understand tattoo art, then a tattoo would not be suiting. On the other hand, there is the tattoo-canvas that cannot seem to get enough ink. They appreciate that their tattoos with be with them for as long as their lungs breathe. Then, there is everyone else who falls somewhere within these two degrees.

On a scale system from 1-100, 1 being the very conservative, blank-canvas-type, and 100 being the not-one-inch-of-uncovered-skin-left-type, I would put myself near the 40s. Not saying I want 40% of my skin tattooed, but a 40 because I absolutely love tattoos, cannot wait to get my sixth one done soon (yes, that's right I have five), but also, I am fairly choosey about what I will get inked. I am partial to black ink, not to say I am against color on other people, just not on me for the time being. I also want my tattoo to be meaningful to me. I am not particularly interested in making sure that others interpret it correctly, or even that they will like it. It is far too hard to please everyone, and I really do not care. Getting a tattoo is something you do for yourself, and you do it because you made the choice and wanted to.

It is your body, do whatever you want with it! If tattoos make you happy (which they do for me), then why the heck not? To this day, I have never regretting a single one, and let me tell you, I have rarely thought for too long about what I was getting. If I really want it at a particular moment, I know I will really want in two months later, and still two years later. I am not about waiting around and not doing something just in case, in the future, I might change my mind.

Life everyday like it is your last, right? Who knows if there will be a tomorrow. Do what you want to do, live in the moment. Every tattoo I have reminds me of that decisive moment, the moment I decided on that tattoo. It reminds me where I was in my life (literally and figuratively), what I was thinking, what I believed in, and how I felt. When I look at one of my tattoos all of those memories come rushing back. Just as the ink on my body, those memories are permanent.

When I am in an anxious moment, or caught up in a snowball of worry and catch a glimpse of the script on my shoulder blade all of that anxiety goes away. That is my confirmation I will never regret getting any of my tattoos. They are my constant reminders of who I am, what I believe in, and my personal directions back to reality and back to happiness :)

What are your thoughts on tattoos? What are some ideas that you have been thinking about? Or what are some really amazing tattoos you have seen?

I may as well share mine... I am proud of them, so feel free to comment! You are 100% entitled to your own opinion, I am just the canvas afterall.

From oldest to newest:

I got these two palm trees when I was 16 years old.

"Be Loved"
Inspired by: Bob Marley, embraced by: me!

Italian idiom: "contro corrente"

Translates to: "Against the Current"


On my shoulder blade:
"Bain Ceol as an Saol"
Gaelic Idiom meaning: Reap Music from Life
"Live life to its fullest, without regret"

Behind my ear (photo to come):
Celtic Trinity Knot

Added text to my Be Loved tattoo, "...gaze in thine own heart, the holy tree is growing there." - W.B. Yeats (My favorite poem).

Left Upper Arm
My little faerie :)

I got the 4th and 5th last when I was in Ireland. I did not buy a lot of souvenirs while I was away, so I thought, this would be the perfect souvenir. I also didn't want to weigh down my luggage or have to claim anything :)

I researched various tattoo parlours in Europe and Ireland, and decided on Zulu Tattoo, not only are they recognized to have the same safety procedures as Canadian tattoo standards, but they also had a pile of celebrities have ink done there! Thought that was pretty cool! They are my favorite so far, for the aesthetic appeal, but as well for the memories they hold.

And now a RECIPE! Because I have a million and want to share all of them, I may as well get them out there with every post :)

My "smoothie-of-life" is something I created when I was first dealing with all of my food intolerances, and was having a hard time finding a breakfast that was nutritious, energizing, filling and on top of all of that, delicious. With eggs, dairy and gluten out of the picture, finding a well balanced way to start my day was difficult. I began throwing random ingredients into my blender that I already knew were full of vitamins and nutrients, from vegetarian protein powder, to spinach, to carrots, to flax seeds, to blueberries and every else in between. I kept trying out different combinations, adding ingredients to change the texture, consistency and flavor.

I felt like I was a mad scientist in my kitchen, and others would probably agree as they saw the concoction I created. I have never had so many funny looks with regards to what I was eating, but I did not care because they made me feel good, gave me energy and the majority of them tasted fantastic to me!

I will post all my successful ones, but first, the basic "go-to" Smoothie-of-Life:

It resembles monster juice, but tastes amazing I promise :)



1 scoop vanilla protein powder of choice (I use Genuine Health's Vegan Proteins+)
1 tsp powdered spirulina
1 Tbsp chia seeds (or ground flax seed)
1/4 ripe avocado
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch of nutmeg
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1-2 Tbsp bee pollen granules

Place ingredients in blender (I use a Magic Bullet), in the order they are listed. Make sure you put the almond milk in last and save the bee pollen to top the blended drink.

Blend until smooth and top with bee pollen.

If smoothie is too thick, simply add some water or more almond milk and blend again for another 20-30 seconds.

Get energized, and nourished for your day ahead :)