Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Vapour Rub

Have you ever watched that show My Strange Addiction?  Yeah me neither.....but did you see the one episode where the woman would eat tubs of Vick's Vapor Rub?  She said that she loved the smell so much that she had to eat it........I guess it makes more sense than eating the stuffing out of throw pillows.....did you see that episode?....yeah me neither.....

But it got me thinking of all the damage that petroleum jelly is doing to her body.  Petroleum jelly (ie. Vaseline), in some form, can be found in every house.  From chapstick to creams to vapour rubs to sexual lubricants.  We think it moisturizes, protects, and lubricates......and we think it is safe.  Do you even know what Vaseline is?

A Brief History of Vaseline

The raw material for petroleum jelly was discovered in 1859 on some of the country's first oil rigs. Workers disliked the paraffin-like material forming on rigs because it caused them to malfunction, but they used it on cuts and burns because it hastened healing.  Robert Chesebrough, a young chemist, took the unrefined black "rod wax", as the drillers called it, back to his laboratory to refine it and explore potential uses. Chesebrough discovered that by distilling the lighter, thinner oil products from the rod wax, he could create a light-colored gel. He later patented it and open a factory in 1870 in Brooklyn called Vaseline.

TA-DA!!  Yes it is the by-product of the oil drilling process!!

Why is that ok for you or your babies? How is that safe?

Well there are some real dangers -

  • It may shock you to know that despite the unquestionable popularity of petroleum jelly when it comes to dealing with dry skin, this compound is not really a skin moisturizer. On the contrary, petroleum jelly acts as a barrier when applied on the skin, and by itself, it has no moisturizing properties. What it does is, it reinforces the moisture that is present in the skin by trapping it within.
  • Petroleum jelly forms a layer on the skin, it does not allow the natural toxins to escape from the skin. So, it may actually hamper the rate of elimination of toxins in the form of sweat and sebum.
  • Petrolatum's varied and unregulated manufacturing procedures make it very vulnerable to contamination. It is both unregulated and untested.
  • The European Union's Dangerous Substances Directive (UNECE 2004) lists petrolatum as a "probable human carcinogen" and is banned for all personal care products.
  • There is no way to know if the ingredient is high or low in the carcinogenic PAHs. PAHs, or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, are common contaminants in petrolatum.
  • PAHs are also known to cause reproductive and developmental toxicity, endocrine disruption, persistence and bioaccumulation
  • The product is banned for use in cosmetics in both the European Union and Canada - but not in America.
  • Most auto mechanics are warned that longterm exposure to petroleum products can cause skin cancer. But we are told it is safe to put on babies
  • It is made from fossel fuels!!
  • Studies reported by the Chemtox website show the side effects of toxic petroleum ingredients as "causing significant attritional effects to the nervous system and immune system after prolonged exposure. Illnesses identified in the medical research include adult and child cancers, numerous neurological disorders, immune system weakening, autoimmune disorders (and more)."
So I like the feeling of Vavour rub as much as the next person....and Bea loves it.  She is also the person in the house that is most likely to have a cold move into her chest (Astragalus Tea helps clear that out) and a good rub on her chest does help her sleep but there is no way I am smearing refined 'rod wax' on my little girl......so here is what I did.

How to make Home Made "Rob Wax' Free Vapour Rub

1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp grated bees wax
25 drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil
20 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
10 drops Rosemary Essential Oil
15 drops Cinnamon Essential Oil (optional)
The cinnamon oil is what creates the warming effect.

Melt the coconut oil and bees wax in a small pan over medium heat. Remove from heat and add olive oil.  Let it all cool down to warm but not cool enough to start to harden.  If it is too hot it will destroy the beneficial properties of the essential oils. Add the oils and pour into container.  Because of the low content of bees wax, making it rub into the skin easier, it needs to be kept in the fridge or cool place.  It won't melt to a liquid but be too soft depending on the temp of your house.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Roasted Bussel Sprouts

Everything is yummy cooked in bacon and onions....EVERYTHING!!

One of my New Years resolutions for 2013 was to try foods I have always claimed to not like.  I have never been a really picky eater (does being gluten free, dairy free and mostly sugar free count as picky?  I think not) but there were a few things that I tried as a child, didn't like and just stuck with. Mushrooms were one of these things and over the last few years I have slowly been introducing them into my diet.  It wasn't a flavour thing but a texture one....I always thought they had the texture of a kitchen sponge or a bug body.  The thing is I always liked the earthy flavour of them and would happily eat the beef in mushroom cream sauce pasta one restaurant job would make as a staff meal.  There was a salad at my favourite Italian restaurant - Salad Fungi - that I loved!!  Very thin ribbons of mushroom breaded and deep fried topped a pile of greens.  So why did I still claim to not like mushrooms?? In these two meals the texture aspect had been removed by either pureeing them or breading and deep frying.  I needed to get brave. The last year as been a clincher.  I have been buying mushrooms regularly and incorporating them into almost every meal....every day....period.  I got over the texture problem pretty fast. 

I have big plans in food for the coming year.  My goal is introduce offals (sooooo good for you).  I will start by letting Bob at The Beech Tree Pub make me this. I have always said that everyone would probably eat everything and enjoy it if it was prepared and cooked properly. I need to start this mind opening experience by eating it cooked properly .... I don't think I can 'do it' if I am dealing with the meat myself or if there is any possibility of screwing it up.  I want the kids open to eating these cuts (which I think over time will be some of the only affordable cuts available with any regularity) and with our already limited (and limiting) diet I really shouldn't be leaving out whole groups/cuts/possibilities because of a possible 'ick' factor.

I have taken on the very few unlikable/unknown vegetables first.  Trying to find ways I would like them.  Brussel sprouts are one.  Ocra is another. My childhood memories of brussel sprouts are of horrible mushy cabbage like fart balls and ocra small hairy bags of snot and seeds.  A challenge was presented when I found a 2 lbs bag of brussel sprouts on sale. Challenge accepted.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts                                                              Preheat oven 400
2 lbs brussel sprouts trimmed, cutting larger ones in half
8 slices of bacon (preferably all natural sugar free), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup 1/4'd brown mushrooms
1 tsp dried or fresh thyme
Salt and Pepper

Toss all the ingredients in a roasting pan making sure the bacon is evenly distributed.  It is the fat rendered from the bacon that everything else is going to be cooked in.

Roast until the bacon is crisp and brussel sprouts are tender.  Eat with a roast or grilled meat.

Review: I really enjoyed this and will be making it again.  The brussel sprouts weren't mushy at all but slightly crispy.  They also got sweet during the roasting process.

Do you have a brussel sprout recipe I should try?

**I will be getting allergy tested for Clams, Oysters and Mussels soon because I have a feeling I would love them but I always been worried I was allergic after one weird experience.  Fingers crossed I'm not.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Salad Nicoise

With babies, there is a period in between spoon feeding puree foods and efficient finger food eating that is particularly troublesome.  It is usually during this period that the little nuggets figure out that throwing food on the floor is fun....this I loathed.  I hated that all the effort I had made to feed them these beautiful meals was thrown on the floor.

It also made our dog very fat.

I figured out very quickly that coordinating our meal times so the whole family ate together kept them better focused on the task at hand, and kept less food hitting the floor.  Also feeding them essentially the same meal we were having not only got them eating better but lowered my general stress level when it came to preparing food.

It might seem strange but this was one of my 18 month old twins favourite meals.  Big Daddy and I ate the salad and they ate the salad ingredients.  What toddler doesn't like green beans, potatoes, boiled eggs and tuna?  My guys also loved bits of olives (and Gabe loves tomatoes).

This is also one of those meals that I often make when I find I have left over beans and potatoes from meals earlier in the week and every time I do make it Big Daddy asks why we don't eat it more often.

There are a million variations on the classic Salad Nicoise and I have tried many of them.  They are all good and almost all deserve a blog post of their own (and if I am still doing this in 20 years I may need to do that) but here I give you one with ingredients you probably have in your house and probably the most family friendly version

It's not much of a recipe but here you go

Salad Nicoise

Fresh washed lettuce leaves, broken up
Boiled Potatoes (leave out for Paleo)
Boiled Eggs
Steamed Green Beans
Olives (preferably 'Nicoise' Olives)
Canned Tuna

**Trick - if you are making this from scratch, boil the potatoes and eggs together and steam the beans on top - voila, one pot

Arrange on plate

One of the yummiest parts of this salad is the dressing.  I like to use ingredients that intuitively go with the other ingredients (why make things complicated)

Shallot Dressing
2 shallots, finely minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 tbsp lemon juice
7 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dried mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the shallot and garlic in 1 tbsp of the olive oil over medium heat.  Allow to brown but not burn. Remove from heat and set aside.  In a small bowl mix together the lemon juice and mustard powder, slowly drizzle in the remaining oil.  When cooled add the now caramelized and sweet shallot/garlic mix into the dressing. Don't be stingy when dressing the salad

Monday, 11 March 2013

Vegetable Stock and Curry Sweet Potato Soup

We have now come out the other end of 'tag you're it' stomach flu.  I always think I have somehow managed to avoid what ever the kids have brought home but oh how the mighty do fall.

Auto-immune diseases and all I actually fared pretty well.  Everyone else in the family spent at least 12 hours actually tossing their cookies along with 5-6 days of iffy tummy, cramps and general aches and pains....I just stuck to the 'iffy' portion of the program....but it was very iffy.

Now that we are all back on track, all have our appetites back, I am back in the kitchen and cooking again. It was nice to sit down this week and make a meal plan and feel excited about food again.  This week also marked 2 months of being dairy free.  I will admit to small quantities of butter and twice I have had a small amount of cheese. Once accidentally and once because there was literally nothing on the menu at the hockey rink while we watched Big Daddy play that I could eat and I was starving - the only thing that had no gluten was a ceaser salad if I asked them to hold the croutons.  That being said, I am now at that tipping point where I should start to see/feel/notice the difference/change/improvement.  I will report back at another time.

I decided this week to make vegetable stock instead of chicken or beef.  I am big believer in healthy protein everyday but also a big believer of consuming as many vegetables as possible and make sure the kids understand that vegetables are part of every meal.  This is a nice way to get even more....and very quickly.  This is vegetable stock in just a few minutes.

Vegetable Stock

2 onions, grated or finely diced
3-4 large carrots, grated
3-4 celery stocks, grated
1/2 cup brown mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp peppercorns
2 tbsp olive oil

Put the kettle on.  While waiting for it to boil saute all the vegetables, garlic, herbs and peppercorns in the olive oil in a stock pot of medium heat. Stirring occasionally, let saute for about 5 minutes or until the veg have softened slightly.

Pour in the kettle of boiling water (approx 8 cups) in with the vegetables. Bring the whole thing to the boil and then turn it down to a simmer.  Let simmer, uncovered for about 10 minutes or 20-30 minutes if vegetables are cut in larger chunks, strain and use, or let cool. refrigerate or freeze.

I used my stock (or at least some of it) right away.  I have been trying to steer our diets more and more towards a Paleo menu but without being incredibly strict or making meal time a drag for the kids.  If there is anyone in the family that needs to eat this way it is me but I feel really strongly that I am teaching my kids with every mouthful what food is, portion control, nutrition, health and what should be on their plate.  We also talk about nutrition, whats healthy and whats not, regularly.  This will arm them, when they do start having their own spending money, to be better able to make smarter choices. With this knowledge I don't believe they will binge on junk as soon as they are out of my sight.

This recipe is adapted from a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe to be healthier and Paleo friendly

Curry Sweet Potato Soup

2 tbsp coconut oil
1 lg onion, diced
a knob of ginger, peeled and minced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp garam masala
2 tsp curry powder
3 lg sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 tin of coconut milk
a handful of minced cilantro
the juice of one lime
salt and pepper
enough stock to cover, approx 6-8 cups

In a soup pot, saute the onion in the olive oil over medium low heat.  Once softened add the garlic, ginger and spices.  Stir to combine and heat through, about 1 minute.  Add the sweet potatoes and stock and bring to a boil.  Decrease heat to simmer and let cook until the potatoes are tender.

Now blend the soup until smooth.  If you need to use your blender wait until the soup is cooler but if you have a stick/hand blender you can do it right away.  Blend until it is very smooth. Add the can of coconut milk, cilantro and the lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.

You can serve it like this or top it with a bit of Vegan Sour Cream

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Self Regulation

I finally calapsed under the family pressure to get the stomach flu/bug this household has been dealing with this week.  I heard all the cool kids are doing it so I had to take a serious look at myself and decide "am I really too cool for this?" the answer was a resounding "NO!!".  As always with these things, the kids were not only in good spirits during it but were over it pretty fast, even jumping on our backs to play every time we bent over to mop of their puke. As usual, us parents didn't fare as well.  Big Daddy who has a stomach of steel, only started feeling 'normal' yesterday, after 5 days of yucky guts and about 12 hours of actual puking.  My version of it just feels like a long drawn out 'gluten' recovery.  When I get 'glutened' it is a low grade fever, headache, cramping, tired, nauseated few hours, 12 hours max.  I am now working on day 4.......I have been lucky and not actually puked but have felt so bad a few times I almost wish I would.
So because I am not eating, or cooking much right now, I thought I would tell you about a parenting talk I was lucky enough to go to recently (before barfest 2013) 
As a Parent Council Chair (I am a 'Co'-Chair) at the twins school, I was invited to see Dr. Stuart Shanker speak to teachers and parents about Self Regulation.  I went into it knowing nothing about this but was really impressed with this approach.  I wrote up a little report on the event for the council and I thought I would share it with you as well.

Dr. Shanker is a Distinguished Research Professor at York University, Past President of the Council for Early Child Development, and Canada’s leading expert on self-regulation. He is author of many books but the talk was about his book 'Calm, Alert and Learning: Classroom Strategies for Self-Regulation. Read more about him here

'Self Regulation' is how a child efficiently and effectively can deal with stress and recover

It has always been known that a child's IQ was determined by genetics and while that fact remains to be true, there has been a lot of research into childhood success regardless of IQ.  Studies have shown great success in the foretelling of a child's success in life through a simple 20 minute test.  This test, done on children as young as 5 years old, can determine the trajectory of the child's life in job, $, marriage and relationships with eerie accuracy. (more on that test and the study can be found here) but Dr. Shankar's talk was about how to change those outcomes for children that don't test 'well'

Part of the answer was found in tests like The Marshmallow Experiment (youtube video that is really funny)  What isn't shown in this video is that 70% of the kids ate the marshmallow.  Only 30% were able to wait.  This video is fairly recent but this test was first done in the 1930s with the same 30/70 results. The kids from the 1930s testing were then monitored for life and they found

The 30%ers
-All graduated high school and went on to higher education
-had almost no incidence of depression, anxiety, or obesity.
-these are the kids that tested 'well' in the 'Life Trajectory' testing

The 70%ers
-higher incidence of depression, anxiety and aggression
-higher incidence of divorce
-these are the kids that tested 'lower' in the 'Life Trajectory' testing.

So how do we change this?  Well, they think the difference for these kids is 'Self Regulation' or as in the Marshmallow Test, part of Self Regulation is self control......all of which can be taught, thus changing the life trajectory for these kids!!!

As I mentioned before, Self Regulation is the child's ability to deal with and recover from stress.  Well these same Drs are saying that our kids are in the 'most stressed out generation yet'. Apparently blood testing of the stress hormones in kids shows that our kids are 5 times more stressed out than children during the height of the Great Depression!!  That is A LOT of stress hormones.  We all know how stress makes us feel so imagine how hard it is for kids who haven't completely developed their pre-frontal brain (the part of the brain that thinks long range/consequences/logical)?

Although current tests show there is still a 30/70 split what they are finding is that the 70% kids are having much more severe reactions to this extraordinary amount of stress.  The 30% are better able to handle stress no matter the quantity.

What is stress?

Stress is anything that causes the brain to burn more glucose (it's fuel)
The body's reaction to stress is for the brain to ask for stress hormones.  When the stress hormones are dumped into the system the heart starts racing, hands and feet get cold (circulation is re-prioritized to muscles of flight), the tubes of the ears narrow making it more difficult to hear (maybe they aren't ignoring us!) and the pre-frontal brain shuts down (there goes any chance at reason)!!!

This is the Sympathetic Nervous System (the gas peddle) running at top speed.  What should happen is the Parasympathic Nervous System steps in and put on the brakes but with chronic stress the 'brakes brake' and never slow down the system causing a 'allostatic load'

4 Clinical Signs of Stress
1. Kid has a fight or flight response inappropriately (reacts when there is nothing to react to.  
2. Kid has a over reaction to a slight stressor
3. Kid can't calm down after a stress event
4. Kid's behaviour is volatile

Other signs to look for
- Child is crabby in the morning (hasn't recovered from stressful event)
- They show signs of anxiety or are aggressive
- Child has trouble paying attention, doesn't engage or doesn't listen.

What causes stress in kids or 'depletes the brain energy tank'
-The buzzing of lights/electronics (we learn how to better ignore these small environmental sounds as we get older)
- Commuting (they pick up on your stress about the commute)
- There is an increase in stress levels for kids who have both parents working or single parent homes (awful I know)
- TV (the noise, violence, over stimulation)
- Video Games (The brain creates opioids when it is rewarded (the same happy 'drug' the brain gives out when we eat certain foods or have sex) The brain will release opioids when 'rewarded' with winning a level of a video game. The body then craves more, creating a stress, creating stress hormones and there goes the cycle)
- Junk Food
- Lack of Sleep (the average kid gets 2 hrs less sleep a night than is recommended for their age group)
- Yelling
- Reward systems for behaviour (I found this one really interesting) Apparently this rarely works and causes a lot of stress for the kid....not to mention the stress it causes us parents. So much for some of those parenting books....

How to help
1. Calm them down.  Don't yell or judge their behaviour
2. Teach what calm is and feels like.  Teach what tired is and feels like
3. Teach or help them find what helps them when they are in that state.  Every kid is different. 

Once a kid is calm, this is when they learn (why schools are trying to integrate this into the program) 

Things that help decrease stress or 'feed the tank'
Reading or being read to
Sports (as long as it isn't too competitive)
Music (not listening to but making, in particular singing because of the addition of deep breathing)
Tae Kwon Do

That is just a very brief summary of what was talked about.  If you what to know more than what I embedded here, there is this website too.


Friday, 1 March 2013

Maple Ginger Glazed Salmon

We have been having lots of play dates lately.  The long winter in southern Ontario this year has forced all the kids indoors and has all us parents dying for some social time.  Our food choices and my restrictions make it so much easier to invite people to our house than go to theirs. Also, and this sounds terrible, but I haven't found the right way around being a guest and being able to stick to our food ideals.  I am always so concerned about hurting feelings that I either eat something I shouldn't OR let the kids eat something I would rather they didn't....or worst case, the food is so bad that my clumsy handling inadvertently hurts their feelings.  The thing is, I don't suffer fools so I think a lot of my friends and assume they just don't know...or understand why we eat the way we do.  The difficult part is explaining the why without it coming across as judgment of what they do.....this is the part I am terrible at and heavily involves their ego so everyone is different.....I chalk up my bad handling to being so passionate.....that or I am just an asshole.

Before a recent lunch date one 5 year old play date told me they only eat hot dogs, pizza and McDonalds.  I thought that a conversation with their parents would uncover their ploy to eat junk and give me some ideas of what I really could serve for lunch that day only to be informed by their parents that that really is all they will eat........

We are in charge of our children's diet.  I know I was blessed with good eaters with healthy appetites and that there are children that even the best intentioned parents struggle to feed. But the short term solution of letting them eat total garbage is not doing anyone any favours. The compromise made to 'get something in them', is a huge compromise of current convenience for their long term health.  These are the years that their taste buds and eating habits are forming.  Not to mention, what is it teaching them to completely cave to their eating whims?
There are some standard "I don't like it"s and often fish and seafood is one of them.  I promise you now - this is a great dish to get your kids eating fish.
Maple Ginger Glazed Salmon
6 fresh salmon fillets
3/4 cup maple syrup
¼ cup soy sauce/tamari
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
Preheat oven at 375°
In a large bowl mix together the maple syrup, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and ginger. Slip rinsed and patted dry salmon fillets into the marinade. Let marinate for a couple of hours in the fridge.  Don’t leave for too long or the salmon will start to ‘candy’.  Although still very eatable and delicious some of the texture of the fish is lost.
Lay salmon out in a baking dish and pour marinade into a small oven proof dish to be baked separately.  Bake salmon till firm - it will flake when pressed with the back of a fork, appox 25 mins depending on the thickness of the fillets. Let the glaze/sauce cook until it has cooked down a little, any bits of ginger and garlic are tender and it has thickened slightly. Serve with the sauce drizzled on top(it is particularly good on mash potatoes)
Best served with a bitter green….steamed broccoli or sautéed spinach because the sweet sauce flavours the greens so much any kid will eat them
TIP: If you do over marinate, BBQ the fish instead of baking.  The ‘candying’ keeps the fish moist. Cook the sauce separately on the BBQ