Food Choices & Parenting

So this is the thing, there is one thing about parenting (well, there’s many but hear me out) if you don’t have kids, don’t give me parenting advice. 

Uh huh, yes that’s the way I feel.

So I work hard to teach good values to my son, I concentrate on his nutrition and his lifestyle choices because I want the best for him. I believe the best for him is to be informed, so at his young age (8 years old) he knows where food comes from, and what is what. He has always been vegetarian by choice I have never ever told him not to eat meat, nor animal products. In fact he isn’t fully vegetarian he does eat/drink dairy and chicken as well as fish. He just isn’t fan of red meats, pork, other poultry, etc.

Anyway I have told my child that McDonalds is not a safe option. Most of its food is full of crap, lacks nutritional value and its loaded with sodium and other not so great ingredients. Their chicken nuggets are nothing but a combination of pink slime and flour. Therefore as from last year we banned McDonalds. We do other fast foods… ok we do only Chick Fil A occasionally, but hey that counts.

I have given my son the knowledge and the capacity to decide whether something is healthy or not. If he is out and about with someone else but me, and he really wants a “Happy Meal” he is by all means free to decide.

But, here is the beauty of it all. My son was with my mother. She picked him up from afterschool daycare and he said he was really hungry and wanted to go to Chick Fil A. Since McDonalds was closer my mother offered him McDonalds to which he declined and explained why. “McDonalds is not healthy, and it has yucky food” *proud grin* so my mother took him to get his Chick Fil A.

It was his choice.

So I tell this anecdote to a friend mostly because I am proud of my parenting skills (at least on this subject) and he says “but why do you do that to him! He is only a kid… kids can eat McDonalds” “meals come with a toy!” – say what? First, no. It is not ok for kids, it is not ok for anyone, it is maybe ok for your dog! OK! Second, do not question my parenting decisions. Third… NO! LOL and as far as for the toy Chick Fil A gives out books and board games with their meal, yes, far more useful than a plastic little toy.

I am wrong here? I am not a food Nazi, my kid is free to eat meat (yet he doesn’t want to because he doesn’t like the idea of killing animals nor the idea of dead meat, flesh and blood) he is free to eat cookies (and as a matter fact he eats too many of those) and ice-cream, and many other treats. But he is a healthy child, who rather drink a Mango Smoothie from Panera than an Icee from Target (even if he does have those occasionally)

I involve my child in cooking, so he knows where things come from. And he often asks me what is plant based and what’s not. He helps me from baking cookies to deseeding pomegranates (one of this favourite things to do.. . lol, easily amused like his mother I guess)

Anyway rant over. Am I wrong for giving my child the knowledge needed to make well thought eating decisions?

I don’t think so.

OnixJ

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Cauliflower Pizza Crust

It’s Pizza Time !

So I didn’t do much meal planning this week with the whole back to school back to work chaos. And I was improvising last night with whatever I had in my fridge. The kid suggested Pizza! Sure why not! I remembered I had seen a cauliflower crust pizza on Pinterest a few days before, and since I had a good healthy cauliflower in the fridge I took it upon me to make my Paleo Friendly Pizza.

Here is what I used:

Crust:

1 medium cauliflower

2 table spoons of flaxseed meal

2 table spoons of flour (it can be coconut flour)

Egg whites (about 2 eggs or 4-5 table spoons of egg bitters)

Salt, Oregano (for seasoning)

First grate or process your cauliflower in a food processor. It will look similar to couscous once it has been grated. Then cook this as you would cook couscous, add salt. Steam in a pan for a few minutes until tender; careful not to overcook you don’t want it to be too mushy. Set aside to cool.

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Once cooled add flaxseed meal, egg whites, flour, oregano and check to see if It needs more salt.

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Line some parchment paper on a pizza pan or cookie sheet and place the mixture. Distribute evenly. You can make one big pizza or a few small ones, I went for the small ones just because it is easier to eat and kid friendly.

Put in the oven (preheated at 400F) until crust is golden.

For the topping:

You need some tomato basil sauce or marinara sauce.

Cheese (if you are vegetarian/vegan and don’t consume cheese you can always use a substitute)

And I Used spinach but really you can add whatever you want to your pizza.

Take the golden crust, add your toppings and put back in the oven for a few minutes until the cheese melts and it starts looking like a pizza.

TA-DA!

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Pizza time!

January is Family Fit Lifestyle Month!

Family Fit Lifestyle Month!

Hello dear bloggers and readers. Happy New Year!! I want to dedicate my first post of 2014 to “Family Fit Lifestyle”. Yes! January is the month in which we all make those hard to keep resolutions and start loving our bodies once again (after all the indulgence over xmas)

Staying fit and healthy is a lifestyle choice and it doesn’t have to be hard if you commit to make small changes to your everyday life. Eat more veggies; drink more water and stay active. Sounds easy enough right?
So how to do this with our super busy schedules, long commutes and lack of time to even prepare a homemade meal?

Homemade doesn’t have to be complicated and doesn’t mean to slave over the stove for hours. Prepare your meal plan weekly so you know what to buy at the store. Get the kids involved in the preparation of healthy snacks and salads; they will be more willing to eat them if they helped you prepared. My little trooper loves to deseed pomegranates with me (I think he enjoys that more than eating them lol)

Learn with them. There are a few cool little books out there such as “All About Vegetables w/ Robbie the Rabbit Coloring & Activity Book” A 16 page educational & entertaining coloring book features great story lines with fun, creative characters ready to teach fun and valuable lessons.
Find that and many other books here: http://www.healthpromotionsnow.com/products/all-about-vegetables-w-robbie-the-rabbit-coloring-and-activity-book_239819.aspx?guid=9103

Don’t keep sugary snacks in your cupboard, it will lead to temptation. Instead fill your pantry with cereals, nuts and stuff like pure maple syrup and honey for those craving moments. Fill your fridge with a variety of fruits and veg but don’t buy too many as they might get spoiled fast and you end up wasting money.

Some kids (like mine) don’t like the tasteless water. Spice it up adding some fresh lemons and raspberries or lemons and mint to water. It makes it entertaining and more appealing and also tastes great! You can also get them in the habit of drinking green tea with lemon (add some honey) it is full of antioxidants and it’s also better than soda.

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As for exercising? According to People’s Trust “a recent report from the Surgeon General states that between 15 and 25 percent of school children in the United States is overweight, placing them at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Only about half of all Americans aged 12 to 21 exercises regularly.”

Get a jumping rope and revive those childhood memories while you make new memories with your kids. You don’t even have to go outdoors if it’s too cold. Also if it’s too cold outside play interactive video games on the Wii or the Xbox that make you move around instead of sitting in front of the TV.
480sGet yourself a gym ball! These things can be so fun and can help you move around and work those muscles. Replace it for your normal chair and see how you straighten your back and abdomen. Let the kids enjoy the fun too. See who can stay on the gym ball the longest and reward with a healthy treat.
And as soon as it warms up head outdoors! Nothing beats to be outdoors. Jogging, cycling, soccer or even just a walk along the park.

Stay fit and eat healthy!

Xoxo
OnixJ

Onirigi! LunchBox

So I was looking for new alternatives for my son’s vegetarian lunch boxes and a good friend of mine gave me an idea! Onigiri!

Oni what you say?
O-nigiri (お握り or 御握り; おにぎり?), also known as o-musubi (お結び; おむすび?), nigirimeshi (握り飯; にぎりめし?) or rice ball, is a Japanese food made from white rice formed into triangular or oval shapes and often wrapped in nori (seaweed).

Don’t you just love having “international” friends? So to make this yummy balls you need two key ingredients.

  • Sushi Rice or Japanese Rice
  • Nori (Seaweed)
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I had this sushi kit hanging around in my kitchen. You can buy Japanese Rice and Nori at almost any supermarket.

Those are the basics. The onigiri is meant to be filled with fish such as tuna or salmon, but I filled mine with broccoli to be safe with my very “non used to Asian flavours” child. I mean yes he loves won-ton soup and lettuce wraps and other westernized Asian food, but he isn’t too familiar with real Asian flavours. If he likes the broccoli ones perhaps ill venture into a salmon or tilapia (yes not to Japanese I know) I guess you can play around with it to suit your taste buds.

Traditionally, an onigiri is filled with pickled ume (umeboshi), salted salmon, katsuobushi, kombu, tarako, or any other salty or sour ingredient.

Ok so this is very simple. You cook the rice as per instructions and you let it cool down for a little. Japanese rice is very starchy and sticky so you will need to wet your hands before you handle the rice with your fingers. Or you can use a plastic bag but I found it easier to handle with my bare hands.

There are different shapes of onigiri. Common shapes include:

  • Triangle: A low triangular prism.
  • Tawara:A round pillar shape.
  • Round: Similar to the shape of Gouda cheese and Kagami mochi.
  • Ball <—- easiest
  • Square: A low Rectangular parallelepiped shape.
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I had previously cooked the broccoli, added a little salt and pepper.

So to make rice balls onirigi you take some rice and spoon it into the palm of your hand. Then you make a little ball, and you make a small space in the middle to scoop your filling. Then you add more rice to the top to “close it” and start moulding it with your hands.

20131113-112809.jpgAnd there! it is so simple! you can cut the Nori in any shape you want and simply “stick” it to the rice, it will hold. Add a little water if it doesn’t (just a tiny bit to your fingers)

20131113-112822.jpgMy friend suggested to make salmon onigiri and serve broccoli as a side dish. I guess as an adult you can add other flavours and even some soy sauce on the side. I used the broccoli onigiri  per se as a side to the accompany the faux sushi rolls, fruit and veg I had prepared for my son’s lunch box.

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Faux Sushi rolls filled with micro-greens and carrots. Cucumber and pepper salad (no dressing) and yoghurt pretzels with grapes.

OnixJ

OnixJ Giveaway!

Hello lovely internet people! I have decided to throw a little giveaway. I was book shopping over the weekend and I found some very cool cookbooks. I know, I know, with the use of Pinterest and so many other digital ways to find free recipes online, who uses cookbooks?
I am a little old school, so I DO! and I have one for you, for FREE! just by participating on this little giveaway.

Prize: Fix- it and Forget About it Kids’ Cookbook by Phyllis Pellman Good.

cookboolkThe book features 50 family and kid friendly recipes to make in a slow cooker. Each recipe includes a full-colour photo of the finished dish. Each recipe gives clear step-by-step instructions. Each supplies a list of ingredients and a list of equipment needed to complete the prep. “This is one friendly and engaging way to bring your children into the kitchen with you,” states Good. “When they help to fix a meal that they and their family enjoy, they’ll be back to make more.” Fix-It and Forget-It Kids’ Cookbook includes Fruity Waffle Topping, Cheesy Egg and Broccoli Breakfast Casserole, Big Juicy Burgers, Super Spaghetti Sauce, and Chocolate Covered Pretzels. Plus 44 more “may-I-have-another-helping” favourites.

Click here to participate
Kids’ Cookbook Giveaway

Get “Cracking”: The Fun way to Eat Brown Rice

Ok so, have you struggled with brown rice? I have. It takes ages to cook and it isn’t starchy like the white version. Not even my otherwise healthy options son has been able to eat brown rice with joy. So why bother right? WRONG!

riceBrown rice is whole grain rice. It has a mild, nutty flavour, and is chewier and more nutritious than white rice. According to The World’s Healthiest Foods, the process that produces brown rice removes only the outermost layer, the hull, of the rice kernel and is the least damaging to its nutritional value. The complete milling and polishing that converts brown rice into white rice destroys 67% of the vitamin B3, 80% of the vitamin B1, 90% of the vitamin B6, half of the manganese, half of the phosphorus, 60% of the iron, and all of the dietary fiber and essential fatty acids. Fully milled and polished white rice is required to be “enriched” with vitamins B1, B3 and iron – yes they take it away to add it back again – makes no sense to me, but hey!

So adding some brown rice in your diet might be a good idea. I found one yummy way to do so! By making brown rice and quinoa crackers! super easy, and healthy this wholefood little gem might win the heart of many white rice lovers.

Heres how:
you need…

1 cup of cooked brown rice

1 cup of cooked quinoa

2 table spoons of chia seeds

2 table spoons of flax seeds

A Pinch of salt, a pinch of pepper and as many herbs you like.

You can either cook the rice and quinoa together or apart. I did mine together just to save time. I added a little bit of salt and cooked as per packet instructions.

20131106-133420.jpgOnce cooked set aside to cool for a few minutes. Then put the rice and quinoa in the food processor until you make a paste. add a little water if needed, but you want it to be like cookie dough. Then combine this mixture with the chia and the flax seeds and season to taste. I left mine plain because I wanted to keep it simple for my little 7 year old boy. This way he can have them with some vegetables, tomato sauce, BBQ sauce or cheese as a snack at school. But you can add any flavour you want.

20131106-133428.jpgGrease a cookie tray with some cooking oil (vegetable, canola, olive) or use parchment paper. I used the cooking oil spray and it worked out fine. Extend the mixture with your hands and flat it out with a rolling pin to a very thing layer. Make sure its compact or it will crack.

Put in the oven for 15mins or until it starts to brown. Take out of the oven and immediately cut into desired shape/size, I kept mine very rustic. Let it cool and there you have it!

Lovely, home made, healthy brown rice and quinoa crackers! Serve with hummus, cheese, pepper relish, or any topping of your choice. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I based this recipe on one I found online, I just can’t remember from where or whom.

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There’s What in my Fries?

Ok so we all know McDonald’s isn’t exactly well known for being healthy, but we are also all guilty for falling for its greasy paws now and then.

So I get my son from school and bang! I’m running out of gas so I have to stop at the next gas station ASAP. The gas station happens to be right next (literally attached) to a McDonald’s. My little veggie muncher says “Mami I’m hungry! Can I get some fries?” He is very clever to tell me this while I am in the middle of a fight with the gas pump card slot, so I agree.

I get him large fries because I know already that more than likely I will be tempted to have some too. And we munch away on my way back home.

Suddenly it hits me and I start to wonder how bad can these seemingly innocent potato fries be? If you do a quick online search you can find that McDonald’s fries are more than just potato, vegetable oil and salt.

French Fries:
Potatoes, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, natural flavor (beef, wheat and dairy sources), dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate (to preserve natural color). Cooked in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (may contain partially hydrogenated soybean oil and/or partially hydrogenated corn oil and/or partially hydrogenated canola oil and/or cottonseed oil and/or sunflower oil and/or corn oil). Contains derivatives of wheat and dairy.

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Beef? Do they even let vegetarians know that? This is a first to me. And why would fries need beef “natural flavor” anyway?

A large portion of fries from McDonald’s are a whooping 500calories, and suddenly after eating half of the portion I feel like a need an extra 20min of cardio today. (Lol, ok maybe not but really? 500?)

I rarely eat at fast food restaurants and the more I understand nutrition and how the things we put into out body affects us the less I am tempted to go the fast food path. I recommend everyone to know precisely what it is that you are eating, Our Body Is our Temple! treat it like one. I for once know McDonald’s remains at the lowest level of the food chart for me, not even their salads are smoothies are appealing to say the least.

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Oh and by the way, if you want to achieve lovely home-made french fries like the ones at fast food restaurants but al natural, all you need is to soak and blanch your potatoes. Blanch you say? I am not a fancy chef you say? OK.

First, cut your potatoes (with or without skin) and let them soak in cold water for about an hour. After an hour, drain and dry properly making sure you pat them down carefully to remove all the excess water from them. (you are going to fry this potatoes you want to avoid water).

Second, blanching your potatoes just means to fry more than one time. Heat your oil at approx. 350f and fry your first batch in very hot oil for about 2 min.   Take them out, put aside, drain any excess oil and let them cool down – they are still raw at this time so you need to  fry again. Once you have done this step, drop them in hot oil again and let them cook further until golden brown. You might need to bring the temp down for the second fry.

Season, and there you have it! crunchy on the outside, soft in the inside french fries. No horrible oils or “natural flavors” added.

Until next time!

OnixJ

Vegetarian on a Budget! Croquettes

So, here I am thinking ummm what to cook for dinner tonight? I open the fridge I see some fresh veggies and some containers with leftovers. I know! I’ll make some croquettes!

So here is what I found in my fridge:

– Left over lentil soup (lentils cooked in a vegetable stock, with onions, red peppers, carrots, and spices)

– Left over quinoa soup (quinoa cooked in a vegetable stock, with celery, onions, plantain chunks, and carrots)

– Spring Onion (2 stalks)

– Orange mini peppers (sweet, not spicy) x 1

– Fresh Baby spinach (chopped, 1 cup)

I drained the soups of any liquid and combined, smashing the vegetables (carrots, plantain) with a fork. I chopped the spring onions and pepper and added to the mix. Don’t add the baby spinach yet, as ill go mushy.

I also added:

– 3 table spoons of bread crumbs

– 1 table-spoon of flour (any type)

– 1 table-spoon of flax seed meal

– 2 table spoons of egg white

I combined all the ingredients and I ended up with a fairly consistent mixture. Then I added the chopped spinach.

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I made small balls covering slightly in flour to prevent them from sticking and also to give it an extra crisp.

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I stored the balls in the fridge for 15mins or so and then shallow fried them in olive oil.

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And there you have it! Quinoa and Lentil Croquettes that don’t hurt the pocket and that your little vegetarian monster (or anyone) will love!

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I am Not a Vegetarian…(yet) But…

Let me start by defining the two concepts that tend to get mixed up.

veg·e·tar·i·an

A person who does not eat     meat, and sometimes other animal products, esp. for moral, religious, or     health reasons.

veg·an

A person who does not eat or     use animal products.

I cannot say I am fully vegetarian. I do still consume some meats such as chicken and fish and other derivates such as yogurt and cheese, but I am making a thoughtful and well researched effort to move to a plan-based life… Let me tell you why.

My son is nearly 8 years old. He has never ever wanted to eat red meat. Oh and I tried, I did try for a long time to make him eat spaghetti Bolognese cut into tiny little toddler friendly pieces. I tried with hamburgers and meatballs, but he simply didn’t want to. The very thought of meat made him feel queasy and sick. He was a good eater of all things green. Peas and carrots were his favourites, and from age one he would eat raw garlic, onion and cucumber while I was cooking supper.

So after a while I decided to just let him be. I got criticized by some members of the family “kids need protein” “kids have to eat meat because they are growing” and such. So I went on to educate myself on the subject matter.

I investigated about protein needs and wants and I discovered vegetables and especially leafy greens are full of protein. People used to believe protein was ONLY present in meat, but that is a misconception. As a matter fact Professor T. Colin Campbell, author of the book The China Study  says “There is a mountain of compelling evidence showing that so called “low-quality” plant protein, which allows for slow but steady synthesis of new proteins, is the healthiest type of protein.” Also it has been found that the protein from greens doesn’t have cancer as a side effect, as opposed to red meats.

“Deep-green, leafy vegetables are rich in beta-carotene, vitamins, minerals, protein and fibers. Including leafy greens into your diet will help to boost your metabolic functions, keep you full for a longer time and supply your body with vital nutrients. Broccoli, spinach and romaine lettuce are all examples of protein-rich leafy veggies.” LIVESTRONG.COM

Another source compares the nutrients found on some of these leafy greens against sirloin steak.

Nutrients   present in 100-calorie portions

Broccoli

Sirloin Steak

Romaine Lettuce

Kale

Protein 11.2 gm 5.4 gm 7.5 gm 11 gm
Calcium 322 mg 2.4 mg 374 mg 470 mg
Iron 3.5 mg .7 mg 7.7 mg 5.8 mg
Magnesium 74.5 mg 5 mg 60.5 mg 97 mg
Fiber 4.7 g 0 4 g 3.4 g
Phytochemicals Very High 0 Very High Very High
Antioxidants Very High 0 Very High Very High
Folate 257 mcg 3 mcg 969 mcg 60 mcg
B2 .71 mg .04 mg .45 mg .32 mg
Niacin 2.8 mg 1.1 mg 2.2 mg 2.1 mg
Zinc 1.04 mg 1.2 mg 1.2 mg gm .55 mg
Vitamin C 350 mg 0 100 mg 329 mg
Vitamin A 7750 IU 24 IU 10,450 IU 23,407 IU
Vitamin E 26 IU 0 32 IU 34 IU
Cholesterol 0 5.5 mg 0 0
Weight 307 gm 24 gm 550 gm 266 gm
(10.6 oz) (.84 oz) (19 oz) (9.2 oz)

This table is from the forthcoming revised version of Dr. Fuhrman’s book Cholesterol Protection for Life.

Fact: greens provide protein in the form of individual amino acids. These amino acids are easier for the body to utilize than complex proteins. A variety of greens can supply all the protein we need to sustain each of our unique bodies.

If we choose to eat meat then fine, but we can survive (and thrive) perfectly well without it.

So the more I investigated the more I came to the conclusion that I don’t need to eat meat. Meat consumption is linked to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, cholesterol and a whole lot of things that frankly I can live without. And that is only on the human health and nutrition side of things.

Then we have animal cruelty. I saw the documentary Vegucated, 2011 in which we the public are exposed to a series of images that show us what goes on inside the farms behind closed doors. Piglets get castrated without anesthetics, chicken get their beaks cut and are shoved around like lifeless cardboard (while alive) and cattle gets treated in ways that are far for humane. It is the most horrendous thing I have ever seen.

When you ask my little boy why he doesn’t eat meat, he will say “I don’t want to kill animals to eat them”. The first time he told me this was about a year ago, he was 6 years old. I had never spoken to him about killing animals and I was still unaware of the Vegucated documentary, he got to this conclusion on his own at age 6. It made me think, it inspired me and it made me believe in humanity again.

Then when I try to explain my point of view to my parents I get the “An animal is an animal and we (humans) have to eat”… it fills me with rage and sadness, but unfortunately is the way the majority think. Many rather turn their heads away from the issue and live blissfully not knowing what goes into their bellies and the processes these animals had to endure to end up in our plates.

My body will not be a tomb for other creatures.” ― Leonardo da Vinci.

So in conclusion, I am not saying everyone should live a plant-based life. I am not saying you are cruel and evil if you decide to eat meat everyday of your life. All I am saying is my son and I have made the decision (and he did it before me, I am just following his tiny and inspiring footsteps) to eat less meat.

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Oh may I also say my son is a strong, lean, happy, healthy 7 year old who has never had any health or weight issues, he is an average kid, he just doesn’t eat hotdogs, nor burgers or pepperoni or tacos.

Xoxo

Jihane

OnixJ