Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus

With all the cakes and desserts I’ve been posting lately, I figured I might as well level my blog out by posting another recipe for vegetables. This one is quite simple, similar to the popcorn broccoli that I’ve been making for a while now.

I find the easiest and best ways to have vegetables are not to fool with them too much. Of course, I do enjoy the odd way-too-time-consuming vegetable dish such as maple-butter carrots, or scalloped potatoes, but I honestly can’t think of more than a handful of times I’ve bothered cooking that way. Mr. Cake’s family steams their vegetables, usually with no salt at all, and I tend to prefer that.

However, when I want a bit of a treat, I tend to lean towards adding just a smattering of bacon or cheese to my vegetables (rather than boiling them in broth or roasting them with just a drizzle of oil, which is what I usually do). Or butter, like I do with broccoli.

This recipe was inspired by the time we decided to order groceries online from a local organization in Edmonton that sold things like local bacon. We kept ordering local bacon and I had to find things to do with it. We have since stopped ordering after a little fiasco with a whole bunch of bug eggs being sent in our organic brussels sprouts (yes, there are times I am willing to try organic — unfortunately, sometimes it ends that way, and I feel that is my punishment), but we still do, of course, buy bacon.

And as long as we have bacon, we will hopefully have..

Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus:

  • A 1.5″ bundle of asparagus (4-8 spears, depending on size) per person
  • 1 slice of bacon per person
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • toothpicks
  1. Preheat oven to 400*C.
  2. Trim about 1-2″ off the end of the asparagus. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil, some salt, pepper, and separate into individual bundles.
  3. Wrap with bacon, securing each end with a toothpick.
  4. Bake for 12 minutes.

Nutritional info per bundle: 76 calories, 5g fat (1.5g saturated), 8mg cholesterol, 4g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 1g sugar, and 5g protein

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What I Learned After Losing 44lbs

The first time I decided to lose weight, as explained in my post “Why Being a Holistic Nutritionist Isn’t for Me” , I went totally gung-ho and ate only as much as I worked out. Then I upped it a mere 1.5x, lost 40lbs in 3-4 months, and got down to a weight in which I need to be hospitalized for. I could chalk it up to being 16 and stupid, inexperienced, or genetically predisposed to an eating disorder, but I’m going to simply leave it as it was: something that went much, much too far.

There is positive determination, and there is negative determination. That was certainly negative.

However, this does not mean all weight-loss journeys are negative. The second time around certainly started as one, but that’s simply because mental illness was still there. Mental illness and then some.

Why did I gain weight again? I got depressed. Not only that, but I discovered I had an auto-immune thyroid. Sleeping a lot is generally semi-normal for me, but sleeping 17 hours a day to function is totally not normal. So I went to a doctor and found out my TSH (Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone, naturally occurring in the body) was elevated. They started me out on 50mcg of Synthroid and everything was supposed to be okay. It wasn’t. I didn’t feel any different whatsoever. Then I wanted something more ‘natural’ and started Erfa. Things changed, but in the absolute wrong direction. My TSH swung from 5.5 to 0.3 in a little over a year. I went from hypothyroidism to hyperthyroidism. Instead of sleeping a lot, I was anxious all the time and could not sleep whatsoever. Instead of being sluggish and depressed, I was constantly moving and could not stop thinking. It was just as bad as the other side of the spectrum, except instead of feeling lifeless, I was feeling ‘cracked out’.

Then my doctor and I made the decision to stop all my thyroid medication and oddly enough, it sorted itself out. (A word to the wise: I do NOT recommend you stop or tweak your medication all by yourself if you have something wrong with your thyroid, as it can have dangerous results). This phenomenon surprisingly happens in about 30 – 70% of patients, depending on the severity. My thyroid is still auto-immune, as the antibodies often still remain, needing to be periodically measured throughout the rest of my life.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, being the only thing I had to worry about — as I was twice suspected for hyperparathyroidism as well, which often requires surgery), during the entire fiasco, I managed to gain about 40lbs, and was too distracted to do anything about it until everything was sorted out. Not only was I getting blood tests every 2-3 months, but I was also working full-time, doing college, and had moved 500km shortly after I was diagnosed.

When I finally decided to do something about it, a year and a half after my original diagnosis, it was like taking my training wheels off.

Here are some things I learned during the process:

90% of the time, the only person stopping you from doing anything is yourself. That’s right. I have read a lot of forum posts and websites where people lament that because they have thyroid problems, the weight won’t come off, and it never will. Many of these posters end up simply giving up after such a conclusion. This saddens me. In fact, I believe it delayed my decision to lose weight. But then I decided to try anyway. At first I went about it completely wrong (not tracking my food at all, just going to the gym 3x a week without a specific plan in mind), but ended up losing 8lbs the first couple months anyway. This kick-started a whole lifestyle change and the realization that no, it wasn’t impossible, and I needn’t make excuses for myself based on either worse cases than mine, or people who wanted to make excuses for themselves (note: I’m not saying a medical condition is an excuse, but in most cases, it is controllable; I’ve been there. In others, it isn’t. That’s when you go to your doctor).

It doesn’t fix everything. A lot of people have a vision in their mind of themselves becoming skinny and suddenly popular. Or that fitting into anything they want will suddenly fix every problem they have. Sorry to be a bubble buster, but that’s not going to happen. I still have days where I am absolutely overwhelmed and burdened by the pressure of my homework, chores, errands, and living arrangements. I still have wide shoulders (always have, always will) and a larger bust (spoiler alert: weight loss will shrink your proportions, not completely change them), so I will probably never look good in most sleeveless or strapless things. I never have anyway. That’s life.

It’s not a test. You don’t need a 100% grade. When you start to diet, you look at the future with agony. Endless months  of eating less than you’re used to, exercising, being exhausted and slaving over your body, measuring, counting, etc. In reality, it really isn’t like that. Yes, some people may take things way too seriously and not even have cake for their best friend’s or spouse’s birthday (or even their own birthday), but that’s totally not necessary. Heck, I recently took an entire week off of dieting, just for the heck of it (and yes, there was cake !), and immediately went back on track. Was there any downsides to that? Maybe I delayed my ‘goal’ by a week (I don’t even have a concrete goal anymore; more on that later), but I didn’t gain any weight, go on a binging trainwreck, or anything of the sort. So yes, you can have a cheat day or even a break without negative consequences if you go about it properly (such as not treating it like an eating contest). I know the “it’s a lifestyle, not a diet” thing is completely overused, but it’s true. You’re not being graded on it, so “good enough” is absolutely fine in most cases (as long as you’re not prepping for cardiac surgery or anything), if you’re still getting progress.

Your goals will eventually become obsolete. When I began losing weight in July of 2014, I wanted it all gone, and quickly. I wanted to be down at least 40 of the 60lbs I wanted to lose by January; no ifs, ands, or buts. When that didn’t happen (I had lost 35 by January), I was surprisingly calm about it. Why? Because a part of me knew my goal was unrealistic, and I was happy that I had learned something about my expectations. The heavier you are, the easier it is for you to lose weight. I could lose 4-6lbs a month easily when I first started, sometimes up to 8. Now I am lucky to lose 3. The closer you get to your goal, the harder it will be. Sometimes, you realize that your original goals were a bit stupid in the first place. When I started, I was obsessed with being 120lbs for some reason (borderline unhealthy for my height, 5’7.5″). Now, I am quite content at just under 136lbs, and my goal is to gain muscle and shed fat. I don’t really care if I get to 120lbs now, because I might need to be heavier than that to have an athletic physique. I’m still losing weight just to see if I’m happy with it, but I expect to stop eventually. There are many women my height who lift weights and are 135-145lbs, so I might even have to gain weight once I’ve lost more fat. I know it’s been said time and time again but weight is just a number. It does not measure your health.

Another thing I’d like to add is that you’ll probably make mistakes, and you’ll probably regret them. When I first started losing weight, I parked my calories at 1200 and didn’t exercise at all. I wasn’t losing weight fast enough so I tried varying between 900-1250 calories to ‘trick’ my body. That stopped working too. Now I eat between 1300-1500 calories a day and exercise about 6 days a week (and not excessively either, between 10 and 45 minutes a day). It’s working slowly, but it’s definitely working. The difference is that it feels a lot easier, probably because I’m not sitting on my butt all day and starving. My biggest regret was that I actually didn’t eat enough in the beginning (that seems to be a trend with me, huh?) but this time, I corrected it. Starting slow is extremely hard for those with a really high motivational drive, but sometimes you need to listen to the advice everyone keeps trying to tell you. There are reasons for it (aka screwing up your hormones and metabolism, which is why I now believe in taking a week off every now and then — my next one will probably be in May).

All in all, weight loss is a marathon, not a 100 meter race. Some people want to lose it all in a juice fast, but that’s extreme and often potentially dangerous. So come prepared, try to approach it with a level head, and accept that there are things you didn’t anticipate that might just slow you down. That doesn’t mean you need to quit, that just means you need to rethink your approach. There might be people ahead of you in the marathon, there might be some behind, but none of that should effect you. You’re running your marathon for you, remember that.

Boston Banana Cream Pie

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Sunday was Mr. Cake’s birthday. And for Mr. Cake’s birthday, we made unhealthy cake.

I know what you’re thinking .. “Omg but you just did a poor review of a government diet! And you could’ve done reduced-sugar this and organic that and replaced some of that butter with <blank> and used this ‘lighter’ ganache recipe and ..”

And I know that. But Mr. Cake doesn’t like that, and I’m not going to force him to eat it.

Also, it’s his birthday. It’s not like he’s going in for heart disease surgery or anything (in fact, Mr. Cake is a whopping 5’7″ and 133lbs. Even I’ve got 1/2″ and 4lbs on him 🙂 ).

I believe in eating in moderation, and moderation means birthdays! Woo!

(And Valentine’s, apparently, because I made a cakey thing for that too. Whoops).

I also believe in people doing what they want, to an extent. Mr. Cake stands 8 hours a day and walks 45 minutes a day. I’d say that’s enough. I like a half hour run and lifting weights about 10 mins a day. It’s no excuse, but as long as you’ve made a good habit of something, one ‘off’ day every few months isn’t going to ruin anything. In fact, I just recently had a week off of ‘dieting’ (I use the term loosely because I was eating at my caloric maintenance, right now I’m slowly losing about 1/2lb a week so my muscle will show). Then again, I subscribe to the bodybuilding ‘hivemind’, which some say is unhealthy, but I say is a-okay if you want to put on muscle and protect your heart while being quite active. There is still a lot of controversy as to whether eating 1g of protein per pound of lean bodymass can cause kidney or liver troubles, but so far I have seen little evidence of it as long as you’re not on a zero-carb diet (which obviously I am not if I am still eating cake once a month, lol).

I also made cookies, because screw it. He likes cookies, I like cookies. Most people like cookies. And believe it or not, I made my own peanut butter for the cookies, too. I recently bought myself a Vitamix just after Christmas and wanted to see if it actually CAN make peanut butter in 1.5 minutes flat. It can. The peanuts I used cost 84 cents for 3 1/2 cups, and made a $3-4 jar’s worth of peanut butter 🙂 (not that it’s going to pay off the $500 blender right away … but I had fun regardless!).

So if it’s ever YOUR birthday and you want to make some Boston Banana Cream Pie, well, here it is 🙂 :

(Sorry for all the smiley-faces in this post! They kind of do that on their own. Creepy!)

cake8

Boston Banana Cream Pie:

Cake:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  1. Preheat oven to 350*F. Grease and lightly flour a 9″ pan.
  2. Beat eggs for 4 minutes on high. Add sugar, and beat another 4 minutes on high. You want a result that looks almost like soft peaks. Fold mixture into flour and baking powder. I find it’s easiest to use a spatula to do this.
  3. Heat milk and butter in saucepan until butter is melted and milk is scalded. Add to rest of batter, stirring constantly.
  4. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cake should be golden and ‘spring’ to the touch.

Filling:

  • 1 1/4 cup milk (using a higher fat milk, like whole milk … custards have trouble ‘setting’ with low-fat options, and may get watery as a result)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • pinch of salt (1/8 tsp)
  • 2 sliced bananas
  1. Combine sugar, flour, salt, and milk in saucepan.
  2. Cook on medium until bubbling, then for 2 more minutes (I suggest using a whisk so the mixture doesn’t clump).
  3. Temper egg in separate dish and add to pan. Cook for 2 more minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, stirring in butter and vanilla.
  5. Set aside bananas for assembling cake.

To prepare cake: Cut cooled cake in half width-wise (like the photo, you want it to look like a big ‘sandwich’). Spread with half of filling. Top with bananas. Spread with other half of filling (I just flipped the other half of the cake over and spread it on that instead, like a sandwich) and gently replace top. Top with ganache, which I have listed below:

Ganache:

  • 4.5 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used 4:1 mixture Callebaut ‘dark’ and ‘milk’ chocolate chips, but you can use any sort of chocolate as long as it’s not too sweet)
  • 1/2 cup heavy/whipping cream
  1. Place cream in saucepan and gently bring to a boil over medium.
  2. Add chocolate, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth and glossy.
  3. Remove from heat and let cool until just slightly warm.

You may have extra ganache, depending on how good you are at topping cakes. I had about 1/3 left over. It can be used as a dip for strawberries or pretzel sticks if you don’t want it to go to waste. You can also top doughnuts with it, drizzle it on cheesecake or shortcake, or even ice-cream if you’re more of a gourmand.

Tips: Ganache will adhere better to a chilled cake. I suggest putting your cake in the fridge for 10-15 minutes before pouring on the ganache. You can do this while you are making the ganache.

I use a spatula to help the ganache adhere to the centre of the cake, and then kind of turn it around so it spreads by itself. Any ‘thin’ spots can be covered with extra ganache, as long as it’s still slightly warm.

Ganache will not harden right away (takes about an hour at room temperature, or a few in the fridge). Expect it to ‘set up’ like the topping of a good-quality doughnut. That’s when you can safely cut the cake without making a mess! 🙂

Enjoy!

Nutritional info per 1/8 of cake: 423 calories, 15g fat (9g saturated), 109mg cholesterol, 133mg sodium, 65g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 47g sugar, 7.5g protein

The DASH Diet: A Review

A-Little-DASH-Will-Do-You

Astonishingly, it was just recently that I hear about the DASH Diet in an e-mail. It sure has been getting a lot of publicity lately; being posted about on popular websites such as Livestrong, The Mayo Clinic, WebMD, and even our friendly neighbourhood quack, Dr. Oz (I’m not sure I can call a surgeon a quack, but his TV show and websites have certainly been called out on its quackery numerous times).

So, does the DASH diet have any merit, in my opinion?

Yes, absolutely.

It also has its downsides, as does any diet.

The DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is just as it says in its namesake, a diet created for the purpose of preventing and helping to reverse hypertension, aka high blood pressure. The DASH Diet is known for being rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, while being low in red meat, added sugars, and added fats. It’s recommended by both the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, as well as the USDA.

It has some studies associated with it, some of these studies being 14 years old, which is odd, considering the not-until-recently blow-up of the diet on many health pages. One such study says that the DASH diet is even more effective while subsequently lowering sodium intake, leading to a reduction in blood pressure from 7.1 mm Hg in those without hypertension, and 11.5 mm Hg in those for whom it is already diagnosed. Add exercise and caloric control, and you can expect to reduce yet another 2.4 – 5 mm Hg. Interestingly enough, the diet can also be beneficial in preventing bone loss and can decrease risk of kidney stones.

What are the cons, then, you might ask?

Personally, while I think these are extremely good outcomes, and I, for the most part, am a supporter of the diet; I find some of the diet examples to be slightly lacking. Such as this one I found online:

DashDiet

For example, included in each ‘breakfast’ is a glass of juice. As we all know, most juices these days are pasteurized, filtered, and stripped of both their fibre and nutrients; the only benefit being Vitamin-C in the added-back form of ascorbic acid. In that case, you would likely get a similar benefit from drinking Vitamin Water (not that Vitamin Water is healthy for you either), as I highly doubt most people juice their own fruits or vegetables.

I also frown slightly at the addition of ‘jam’ on the whole-wheat English muffin. I know we can’t all be perfect, and not everyone can give up their vices; but why not list double-fruit jam, no sugar-added jam, or fruit-sweetened jam? There are many alternatives out there and you need not necessarily put a combination of pectin and pure white sugar on your bread anymore. Why not just spread your English muffin with low-fat cream cheese and top it with a handful of berries? The diet is trying to be ‘low in added sugars’ but clearly contradicts itself within the first meal of the day!

In addition to this, it lists ‘dinner roll’ as an additive to lunch. What sort of dinner roll? White bread is about as nutrient-dense as cardboard. I’d prefer they specified whole-wheat, whole-grain, or substituted it with a better alternative like Squirelly or Ancient Grains bread; bread that has 5g each of fibre and protein per slice. Then again, it’s not realistic that people will get used to such ‘dense’ bread, or even enjoy it .. but when you’re looking at fighting something that leads to heart disease here, do you really deserve to be half-assed in your examples?

They also have, vaguely, ‘chicken waldorf salad’. That is fine and good, but full-fat mayo straight from the container, stabilized for shelf-storage, is not exactly the best for you either. I feel like this dietary plan is going for ‘good enough’ rather than ‘best’, sadly.

In the dessert section, we see apple crisp. Apple crisp contains fruit, it must be healthy, right? Well, that all depends on how it’s prepared. Some people prepare it like sliced, baked apples with a small smattering of granola. Others prepare it like a calorie bomb with half a cup of added butter and sugar. Frozen yogurt, as well, probably contains added sugar. While it certainly has less fat; why not have it with a side of honey-sweetened low-fat Greek yogurt; or heck, regular sugar-free yogurt? At least then you can control how much sugar is in it. I know I am probably sounding like a dietary nazi, while I myself like to practice moderation; but again, you can’t tell someone that their potentially diet-ruining dessert is suddenly okay, even saving their life.

I do, however, applaud the addition of olive oil for the second day’s dinner; and the more simple dessert. In contrast, I shudder at the ‘smothered in cranberry sauce’ for the lunch of the day. How many sugar-sweetened condiments or additives do we really need to make this diet palatable? Because the cranberry sauce that comes out of a can in the form of a loaf is certainly not something people should be adding to their diet too regularly, nor in ‘smothered’-level amounts.

Also, why the cinnamon raisin English muffin for day 2? Why the obsession with English muffins? Most cinnamon raisin breads/English muffins/bagels are certainly NOT whole wheat. They often also have added sugar. While they are okay to have sometimes (I admit to having some mini blueberry bagels in my freezer at the moment), there are better alternatives out there. I do, however, like that they recommended it be spread with cream cheese instead of jam, as I pointed out the bread itself is already sweet. That I have to give them a thumbs-up on. Perhaps there is method to their madness after all.

How would I fix the diet, though? Well ..

Day 1:

Breakfast

Oatmeal with Applesauce

Whole Wheat English Muffin, Spread with Fruit-Sweetened Jam

Fresh Sliced Pineapple (or Canned-In-Water) mixed with 1/2 cup Low-Fat Cottage Cheese

Lunch

Grilled Chicken Salad

High-Fibre Crackers (such as Wasa) or bread (such as Squirelly or Ancient Grains)

Baby Carrots

Nonfat Milk

Cantaloupe

Snack

Light String Cheese

Kiwi

Dinner

Roasted Chicken Breast

Boiled Sweet Potato

Asparagus

Tomato Spinach Salad with Olive-Oil and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Baked Apples Topped with Frozen Yogurt


First of all, why the cottage cheese with the fruit? Cottage cheese tastes good with fruit, and that way, you don’t have to add sugar to it, like many yogurts already come with.

I put ‘Grilled Chicken Salad’ in for lunch because it is more difficult to screw up a Grilled Chicken Salad than it is to have something already stewing in mayo. Not that I’m saying Waldorf Salad itself is unhealthy – it totally can be, provided you use a reduced-mayo recipe (such as a few tbsp) and/or an olive-oil based mayo. Heck, using plain yogurt in place of mayo would make it an ideal meal for most diets. I simply changed it because some people take things quite literally, and having a Waldorf Salad with 1/2 cup of mayo and a handful of raisins does not make it the best it could be, especially for a diet supposed to reduce the chance of heart-disease. I also replaced the roll with something that has more fibre.

For dinner, I only made a couple changes. I switched the dressing out to specify that it should contain olive oil, as many grocery-store dressings out there these days are made with a soybean oil emulsion, which could certainly be improved upon health-wise. I also replaced the baked potato with a boiled sweet potato, as they have have a significantly lower GI and are full of Vitamin A, of which white potatoes have none. Why boiled? A boiled sweet potato doesn’t have gelatinized starch.

I switched the dessert out to baked apples because a baked apple does not have as much surface area to be loaded with frozen yogurt, and it is more difficult to get as much butter and added sugar into a baked apple as some people add to their apple crisp. Then again, I could be wrong. However, this was a risk I was willing to take in this case. If it were me, I’d add a good recipe for them too, just so people know what amounts are appropriate to use.


Day 2:

Breakfast

1 Orange

Wheaties® with Skim Milk Topped with Ripe Raspberries

Whole Wheat English Muffin with a Schmear of Light Cream Cheese

Lunch

Turkey and Light Swiss Cheese on Whole Wheat

Topped with Romaine Lettuce Leaves

Clear-Broth Vegetable Soup

Snack

Nectarine

Handful of Almonds

Dinner

Whole-Wheat French Bread Dipped in Olive Oil

Grilled Salmon with Lemon Pepper

New Petite Red Potatoes

French-style Green Beans, Dusted with Crushed Hazelnuts

Hearts of Romaine Lettuce Spiked with Grape Tomatoes, Olive Oil Vinaigrette

Very Berry Sundae

(Strawberries, Blueberries, and Blackberries on Light Vanilla Frozen Yogurt)


Well, it’s not the best it could be, but it’s certainly better. Why swap out the minestrone? Minestrone is often made with white pasta. While not necessarily evil, especially because it usually doesn’t contain that much pasta (but some recipes or brands certainly do), with how many carbs are already being added to the diet (such as breads, cereals, starches with the potatoes) — adding minestrone seems a bit unnecessary.

As for the salmon, many barbecue sauces contain a high level of sugar, even worse than ketchup. A well-prepared piece of salmon does not need to be covered in sugary sauces to make people like it. A dash of lemon pepper keeps things simple, without the sugary condiment. I also swapped out the Italian Bread for Whole-Wheat French, which is generally easy to find in supermarkets these days.


Keep in mind, however, all these recommendations came from a diet book, which had its own recipes. Hopefully the recipes it provided already had my suggestions in mind; lowering added sugars and fats and nixing optional ingredients such as the raisins some people add to Waldorf Salad.

Unfortunately, I have seen some diet plans online that are just as bad, such as this one:

DashDiet2

Corn flakes are already a simple carb. Why have them in there, and why add sugar on top of them?

Why fruit cocktail? That stuff often has tons of sugar.

Why dried fruit? Why flavoured yogurt? Sounds like they’re recommending the stuff with sugar in it.

And why chocolate milk? 2 squares of dark chocolate may be higher in fat and lower in protein, but they have 6g sugar as opposed to 24g, with the added benefit of antioxidants.

As a lot of research has shown, replacing fat with sugar is no better for us either.

So, in summary, while at least we are getting somewhere with nutrition on a national level, I believe we still have quite a ways to go before the USDA quits ‘chasing their tail’.

Thanks for reading!

Popcorn Broccoli

brocolli1

A little while ago, whilst surfing the bodybuilding.com forum (I love that website way too much), I saw someone raving about how they slathered their broccoli in butter, baked it, and that it ended up tasting like popcorn.

“Pffffft.. hah!” I told myself, “That’s impossible!” These starving fitness fanatics are probably just confusing one food for another in a haze of post-workout hunger.

Broccoli tasting like popcorn? Yeah right.

But then I got thinking. Well .. I need better ways to make vegetables. Ways that will make me actually eat them. So I tried to recreate the mythical popcorn broccoli. And boy did it work.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this broccoli is not popcorn. What it is though, is quite mythical in itself. The broccoli wilts slightly and caramelizes. It gets ever-so-slightly crispy on the edges of the crown. It has kind of a sweet, savoury, and buttery thing going on, all while retaining the natural ‘bite’ the broccoli has if you leave a bit of stalk on. If that’s not your thing, you can totally popcorn-ify just the crown if you’d like something that melts in your mouth. Because sometimes, chewing is for chumps (probably why I drink at least one smoothie a day, actually).

Broccoli used to be my second or third favourite vegetable (with salad and brussels sprouts being the winners). Now it is my favourite. And I hope this recipe can do the same for you!

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Popcorn Broccoli

  • 2 broccoli crowns, chopped into large, bite-size pieces (broccoli will shrink to about half its size after baking)
  • 2 tbsp butter or oil (I use 1 tbsp of each)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • dash of onion and garlic powder
  1. Preheat oven to 400*F.
  2. Mix oil and/or melted butter and spices in a bowl, and stir to combine. Add broccoli and toss until evenly coated.
  3. Place broccoli on non-stick pan and bake for 15 minutes.
  4. Flip broccoli, reduce heat to 375*, and bake for another 10 minutes.
  5. Enjoy!

Nutritional info per 1/2 recipe using salted butter: 147 calories, 12g fat (7g saturated), 30mg cholesterol, 319mg sodium, 9g carbohydrates, 3.5g fiber, 2g sugar, and 4g protein

Nutritional info per 1/2 recipe using oil: 167 calories, 14.5g fat (2g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 238mg sodium, 9g carbohydrates, 3.5g fiber, 2g sugar, 4g protein

Nutritional info per 1/2 recipe using 1 tbsp of each: 157 calories, 13g fat (4.5g saturated), 15mg cholesterol, 280mg sodium, 9g carbohydrates, 3.5g fiber, 2g sugar, 4g protein

— By the way .. in the back of the photo is pork tenderloin dusted with cinnamon, nutmeg, and white pepper. If you’d like some of that, just cut a tenderloin into 3 pieces, moisten the meat with olive oil (I do this using my hands — just pouring oil on my hands and rubbing the meat, then I wash my hands later), and dust with cinnamon, nutmeg, and white pepper. Then you bake it uncovered at 400*F until it has an internal temperature of 145* (took mine about 20 mins). I like to cover this with a bit of mandarin orange salad dressing. The sweet spices go well with it. Consider this your reward for reading to the very end of my post 😉 you little trooper, you.

Is Organic Food Necessary?

Generally, whenever you try to bring up the organic vs. conventional argument, people will put their fingers in their ears and go “La la la la la la! I’m not listening!” or “I don’t really pay attention to that kind of stuff” or spout something about you having to eat organic or else you’re a cultist pet sacrificer or something.

However, have any of you objectively thought long and hard about it? Is organic food really necessary?

My opinion is both yes and no.

Yes, because in one of my past posts; I have pointed out evidence that it can uncover techniques for more eco-friendly farming practices. These are practices that all farms could be using and that everyone could benefit from. Would we have discovered them without organic farming? Eventually. When people are willing to pay more for their produce, I’m guessing that gives the producer a lot more leeway to being careful about the growing methods they use, and I like that.

With that, though, comes the almost religious-like transcendence of making a good decision. Some people seem to get a ‘spiritual high’ from it. That can be a good thing in its own right, except when said people proceed to nay-say anyone who does otherwise; calling them “shills” and “sheeple” and that they’re poisoning their children if God forbid, they ever let a conventional morsel pass their or their family’s lips. Some people think that by eating organic, they have become a deity. Others are more cool about it and have their favourite organic granola bar but don’t frou-frou those who still eat Kraft Dinner from the pot, because that’s their choice, and they understand that. However, this argument is not solely about people being judgmental about food, so let’s try and set that one aside for now.

Interestingly enough, there may in fact be more nutrients in organic food. Other studies say it’s not enough to make a difference in blood plasmaOne study says it may have lower levels of organophosphorus pesticides, but then again, I don’t tend to trust studies that come from ‘3 days of parents keeping a food diary’, because that doesn’t seem like an isolated scientific experiment to me. People can say or write just about anything in a loosely controlled study. Still, it is intriguing nonetheless.

Organic crops may have up to 34% less yields than conventional. Not a good thing when the world is currently increasing in population by about 80 million people per year. Thankfully, population growth is on the decline, which may give us time to think about how we can fix that.

Organic milk may have a more favourable fatty acid contentand organic pork may have more fat marbling, a lower pH, and redder meatThese studies also point out that there are numerous factors to consider when it comes to different nutritional content of animal products, so the results may not always be the same. Some of these factors can be implemented by conventional farming as well, such as removing synthetic amino acids from feed.

When it comes to taste of organic vs. conventional, there are many similarities (I love the blog I just linked, btw!). Many people may not even be able to tell the difference (and I like how some people get so angry about it that they feel they need a justification; like in the video about the guy rambling about ‘moral choices’, and some in the comments accusing them of being paid actors).

So do organic foods have benefits? Possibly.

Are those benefits worth a mean cost of 68% more  than conventional produce?

That decision is up to you.

Protein Pudding

Protein pudding is a little concoction I have been living off of (well, not literally) when I can’t exactly decide what to snack on. It tastes strongly of protein powder but also kind of like pudding. Because of this, my suggestion is to find a protein powder you really like first before making protein pudding with it. My favourites lately have been Vanilla Caramel Whey HD by BPI Sports and Vanilla Cake by Muscletech Platinum.

Some people may look back on protein powder and shudder (I used to), but I promise you, in the last half-decade alone, protein powder has evolved drastically. It no longer tastes like chalk! In fact, the 2 I listed above taste pretty close to frosting to me. Perhaps that’s because I’ve been eating ‘clean’ long enough to appreciate less-desirable food (well, not less desirable .. but more healthy, really — and ymmv on what ‘healthy’ means), or perhaps it’s because I’ve been used to supplementing with tons of smoothies and powders during my 3 years without meat back in the day. However, those looking to jump on the fitness bandwagon have no fear — there are wonderful websites out there like bodybuilding.ca where you can order samples of protein powders for under $10. And these aren’t just little sample packets either. You can get a 5-7 serving tub for about $10, so you can really see if you like it before you buy a bigger size. They ship from Richmond, too, so it only took like 6 days (and $5 for shipping!) for my order to get to Northern Alberta (and I believe they have another warehouse in Ontario for those on the other side of Canada, but forgive me if I’m wrong). They also have a US website! (which I don’t get as excited about, because almost everything has a US website 😉 ).

No, I’m not affiliated with these guys in any way whatsoever. I just really, really love that website because I am indecisive. I’m so indecisive that I ordered 8 different samples of vanilla-based flavors alone. I wanted to make sure I could have a staple in my cupboard that I am absolutely sure I love. So if you’re tired of the sugar content of RTDs like Boost and Ensure; and you’re tired of the price of Vega ($70 a tub in some places! Ack!), it’s certainly an option!

proteinpudding1

For this photo, I used my good ‘ol faithful, Isoflex Chocolate. It’s nice to find a product you can get locally, and you can find that particular brand in many grocery stores these days. Even Wal-Mart has it! I know a lot of people knock Wal-Mart for having poor quality supplements (and to me, their Pure Protein and IsoFemme powders taste like ass), but it can be handy when you need it. And heck, for those of you who are on a budget, or go there often enough anyway, I fail to see the difference between Wal-Mart and some of the generic GNC-brand stuff that’s 3x the price. Alas, I am getting off topic.

Protein pudding. It tastes kinda like pudding but it has protein.

Anyyyhoo. Here’s the recipe:

Protein Pudding:

  • 1 serving protein powder. Use any you like!
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup milk, depending on the thickness of your protein powder (if your shakes come out the consistency of pancake batter – use more milk, if they come out more like the consistency of milk – use less milk .. some brands are thicker, some thinner, so it’s best to experiment a bit)
  • 1 tsp – 1 tbsp coconut oil, depending on how creamy you like it
  1. Scoop or weigh protein powder in a bowl. Add coconut oil.
  2. IMPORTANT – heat your milk in the microwave for about 15 – 20 seconds. This makes it warm enough to melt the coconut oil, but not hot enough to ‘cook’ the protein powder. If you heat it too much your protein powder could clump as the protein denatures. That was the mistake I made the first time I tried protein pudding (then I tried it cold and the coconut oil stayed solid and became chunky). This is what makes the recipe.
  3. Slowly pour in the milk and stir, stir, stir!
  4. Enjoy!

Note: The nutritional information on this will vary wildly depending on the amount of oil, and types of milk and protein powder you use. Protein powder is generally 100-200 calories a scoop, and milk can range from 40 calories a cup for unsweetened almond, to 160 a cup for whole or goat’s milk. My suggestion is to use whatever fits your goals.