Playing Favourites: Thai Kitchen coconut milk

Thai Kitchen premium coconut milk

I’ve never been to Asia. I’ve never even wanted to go to Asia. Then, Johnathan spent three months backpacking through Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, and the Philippines last year, and informs me that I must go back with him someday, that it was gorgeous (especially southern Philippines), and so perhaps one day I shall actually travel to Asia.

I do know that I like Asian food. That is, I like the North American versions of Asian food: sushi (though I’m still not brave enough to try real raw fish sushi: I stick to smoked salmon and crab and deep-fried shrimp and vegetarian rolls), Thai curry, Indian curry á la British pub, Thai food of any sort, Chinese buffet… you get the idea.

Since doing the Whole30 earlier this year, coconut milk, which was for me previously only an ingredient in Thai curry, has become a staple. While avoiding dairy for two months, I began to put coconut milk in my coffee, and lo and behold I no longer enjoy half and half. Go figure. Coffee is a staple for me, ergo so is coconut milk.

Coffee with coconut milk

But not just any coconut milk. The Whole30 taught me that not all coconut milks are created equal.

For instance, many cheaper (and often imported from Asia) versions of canned (canned is the best) coconut milk contain sulfites, which is an additive that has what the Whole9Life people call “potentially nasty side effects.” It is often used as a preservative, but you can usually find versions of whatever you’re looking for (dried fruit, balsamic vinegar, etc.) that either doesn’t have preservatives or uses something more natural instead.

In the case of coconut milk, the premium version (don’t even look at the low-fat version: you want full fat, and besides, it’s cheaper!) of the Thai Kitchen brand uses something called guar gum as a stabilizer, not a preservative.

If you’re thinking about removing dairy and/or adding some good fat to your diet, grab a can of this coconut milk and add it to your coffee, tea, smoothies, curries, baked goods, etc. And let me save you the trouble of reading all of the labels of all of the other varieties you might find in your local grocery stores: Thai Kitchen is the best, with the fewest and most trustworthy ingredients.

And yes, they really should compensate me for this post. 😉

 

Edit: The National Post posted a story (from @TheAppetizer) that breaks down the discrepancy between “coconut water,” “coconut cream,” “coconut milk,” and other products with similar names. Check out the delicious-looking recipe for Coconut-Lime Pulled Chicken Tacos!

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On my way with Couch to 5K

(Sometimes ya just gotta lay down a cheesy rhyme. The title of this post fills my quota for a while.)

Get Running home screen

Six (or seven-ish) weeks ago, I started the Couch to 5K running program. C25K is an interval training program designed to take people from couch potatoes (or at least people in poor shape) and turn them into runners a little bit at a time over the course of nine weeks.

The first week, you run for a minute, then walk for a minute and a half, eight times over. The next week you run for one and a half minutes, then walk for two, six times over. This pattern advances each week. At the end of the fifth week, you run a solid twenty minutes without walking!

My next run (Week 6, Run 2) will consist of two ten-minute runs with a three-minute walk between them. Then by the end of the week, I will run for twenty-five minutes straight. This time keeps increasing each week, so that by the end of week nine and the end of the program, I will be running for thirty minutes.

Thirty minutes!beginning of workout

Did I mention that it was only a handful of weeks ago that I was only running one minute at a time? And huffing and puffing and absolutely positive I wouldn’t make it through the session?

This isn’t meant to be a brag post, but rather an inspiration post. If I can do it, so can you.

No, really. I have never been a distance runner. I have kinda faked it a few times, but there was very little substance in those escapades.

Like the time in Grade 6 or 7 when another girl named Sarah and I were the only two people signed up for the 800-metre run during the Track and Field event at elementary school. We made some kind of friendly decision to keep (a rather slow) pace together until the last 200 metres or so, when the other Sarah very easily increased her pace and won. The race was never mine.

Or the times I have kept my runner friends company while foolishly attempting to simultaneously keep up a conversation.

But people can change, so it seems. I am on my way to becoming a runner (don’t want to jinx it by jumping to any peremptory conclusions).

runner wannabe

If you are interested in doing the Couch to 5K, here are the things I would recommend you consider:

  • Get the Get Running app (who wouldn’t want a lovely British-accented voice telling you when to walk and when to run?). $2.99 from iTunes.
  • Podrunner Intervals playlist by Steve Boyett (free on iTunes for those who like to run to music). The electronic beats speed up when you’re supposed to run and slow down when you’re supposed to walk.
  • Legit workout clothing. Chafing is unpleasant. Just sayin’.
  • Start when the weather is going to be steadily nice, so that you don’t feel the need to run in miserable weather before you actually enjoy running. That said, I still have no idea whether or not I will stay disciplined once I have built up my endurance…

I have to credit several friends for inspiring me to get running: Gina, Robyn, Sarah (not the same one I ran the 800 with), Michelle, Elena, Vanessa, Brianna, Jacque, and others that I am sure I am forgetting (sorry!).

Are you inspired yet? Get running!

Why 54 days are better than 60.

54 days

55 days plus a 3-day weekend ago, I embarked on a bit of an extreme diet journey. Extreme from the perspective of most of us who have gotten used to relying on refined carbohydrates and artificial sweeteners and the convenience of processed and fast foods. Normal if you think of how food used to be for most of the history of humanity.

I did what is called the Whole30 diet, which rules out grains and all grain products, dairy, sugars and all sweeteners including honey and maple syrup, legumes, and common preservative and additives such as lecithins, sulfites, MSG, and carageenan. Few people would be able to do the Whole30 all the time. It’s meant as a sort of nutritional reset, a time for your body to heal from all the non-natural stuff you’ve been pumping into it for your entire life. It’s not your fault–it’s our culture’s fault.

After the success of my first month, I boldly decided to do two. My friend Erika did, after all, and she had inspired me to try the Whole30 in the first place.

Something went wrong in my calculations, and I put yesterday in my calendar as the last day, Day 30, time to celebrate! Last week, I began to get excited. I could finally eat some cheese! Dig into the chocolate that has been accumulating in my candy jar, taunting me! Check to see if the bottle of wine I opened before all this started is still remotely good!

Having just come through about 10 days of academic zombie madness, where avoiding that chocolate was an exercise in self-control I didn’t know I had, the idea of finishing became very very enticing.

I could finally relax my Kaiser-esque food regime, buy cheaper food, eat some of the convenient-and-less-nutritional stuff in the freezer, have dinner with someone without a long list of I-cannot-eats.

I got excited, and I began to count on yesterday being the last day. Then, the night before last, I realized my mistake. Yesterday was not day 60, it was day 54! Oh no! A sort of despair started to settle in as I thought about having to forgo that bottle of wine I had promised to share with my BF’s parents on the weekend, about not being able to enjoy the potluck dinner with friends we are attending on Saturday.

And I started to think about what it really means to quit at Day 54 rather than Day 60.

It means I went without grains and sugar and dairy and legumes and preservatives for 54 days!! It means I’m running 20 solid minutes tonight! It means I have lost weight! It also means I have spent so much time shopping and planning and cooking and packing meals and washing the resulting dishes. I have spent so much money on vegetables and meat, money that I didn’t really have. It means I have little patience left for waiting for a sip of wine, a taste of chocolate, a bite of cheese.

It means enough.

sanity restored

I was on a mission to get “wholly healthy.” I didn’t get all the way there, but I got 54 days and 5 weeks of Couch to 5K closer. I learned a lot about food and cooking and spices and oils and myriad ways of making vegetables into something yummy and crunchy.

Now, for me, “wholly healthy” means backing off of the strict diet. Relaxing my boundaries a bit, a little at a time, finding a balance between what I have learned and what my real life is. Taking some time away from the stove and giving it to some of the people in my life. It means enjoying those things that I have always loved, albeit with much greater moderation than ever. It means learning how to say “No, thank you” to a second helping of whatever delightful carb is offered.

It means greater sanity. And sanity, for me, sometimes feels too thinly spread across the fabric of my life. I will take more sanity over 6 more days without cheese or chocolate, thank you very much!

Fresh Ink: “Real Food: An Exercise in Subjective Ethics”

real food

The final issue of this year’s mitZine (alternative student publication I contribute to) hit stands today, and you can find my article about the ethics of real food on page 23: April issue of the mitZine.

Oh, and PS, I got an honourable mention for contributor of the year, two years in a row. I’ll take it!

honourable mention

Results of the First Whole30

I finished the Whole30

 

I officially finished my first Whole30 on March 22nd, so I weighed myself that night. Since I historically weigh myself in the morning, I stepped on the scale the following morning, too.

As far as I can tell, I have lost about 4 or 5 pounds in my first month, but there is so much more to the list of benefits I chalk up to my nutritional reset:

  • I no longer feel like a stuffed sausage in my clothes. I had been bursting out of all of my underwear and jeans, but no more! It feels so great!
  • I feel good. All the time. Except when I go too long without protein.
  • I have lots of energy. I no longer “flag” in the evening.
  • I don’t have that afternoon “slump” I used to have. Some days I still feel a bit of a psychological need to drink some (black decaf) coffee in the afternoons, but I don’t lose energy midday, which means that I don’t have the need to binge on sweets or caffeine!
  • I took up running. I started the Couch to 5K program a few weeks ago, and I really enjoy it! I’ll be blogging more about that experience in the future.
  • I have the motivation to do regular ab workouts. The battle against belly flab is ON!
  • I have learned so much about food. I have realized that poor nutrition is the culprit for so many of life’s difficulties (poor energy, disease, obesity, high blood pressure, inflammation, etc.), and combating it is easy! It seems tough at the beginning, but, once you get the hang of it, it’s easy. Anyone could do it.
  • I have (almost) eradicated cravings for refined carbs, aka poison. The Hartwigs (the creators of Whole30) say that the only way to slay the sugar dragon is to starve it. My dragon isn’t dead yet, and unfortunately this past weekend breathed some life back into him, but he won’t survive much longer. If he knows what’s good for him, that is.
  • My would-be chronic tailbone pain bothers me much less. I didn’t notice this one until last week. 12 years ago, I fell and injured my tailbone. About 5 or 6 years ago, I started experiencing what became a constant irritation or inflammation in my tailbone that has made long trips and long days of class very uncomfortable, and in some cases unbearable without Advil. Over the last couple of weeks, I stopped taking Advil, and noticed that I wasn’t nearly as bothered about sitting as I used to be. Hmm.
  • Potential for reduced PMS symptoms…? I have a slight suspicious hope that my sometimes mama-bear-like PMS symptoms have been reduced with the addition of awesome nutrition. I don’t know if it’s true – only time will tell, but I will continue to hope.

There you have it – my results! I unfortunately didn’t take a first-day picture, so I didn’t bother taking a Day 30 picture. Perhaps I’ll remedy that for my second Whole30, which starts today.

Speaking of which, if you’re interested in what I eat on the Whole30, check out my Whole30 Eats section in the menu bar.

Click here for Whole30 Eats

Drop-down menu

Cheese and Bread and Chocolate, oh my. AKA: I fell off the horse for 3 days.

Crack, aka pizza

Crack, aka pizza

I finished my first Whole30 last week. Thursday was the official day 30, but I continued the diet through Friday.

Then, to be able to celebrate my friend’s birthday on Saturday and celebrate finishing the Whole30 with my boyfriend on Sunday, I took a two-day diet break. I pretty much fell off the wagon for two days: On Saturday I had a muffin for breakfast (tried two but couldn’t even eat the first one), and cream in two coffees.Then, my body was freaking out, so I gave it two bananas and a whole bunch of raw veggies. It didn’t get any protein until around 5:00 pm. Bad scene, not to be repeated.

Dinner on Saturday was a delightful catered party spread that included homemade salsa and tapenade and fruit and veggies and meats and artesanal (sp?) cheeses and wraps with goat cheese and sauces and crackers and… SOOO good! Definitely worth “falling off the wagon” for. Or horse. I started with horse, I had probably continue with horse.

The bite-sized finger-food party grazing spread was fantastic. I had been in touch with the caterers beforehand to make sure I wasn’t falling off the horse for a meal full of deep-fried food and breads and sugars, etc. But no, of course no. These people are way too classy for that.

I also tried a couple of the signature drink, The Justin, named in honour of the birthday boy. After no alcohol for a month, I felt like two was enough, and what with a glass of punch besides, I started having a major thirst issue and couldn’t drink enough water.

But I’m pretty sure it was the dessert that caused the painful pangs in my belly the next morning. Justin’s mom is the dessert queen. I do not exaggerate. In all honesty, she is the Martha Stewart of our region, but dessert is possibly one of her brightest stars.

There was an entire table full of desserts that she had made. Cupcakes. Cheesecakes. Pies. A gigantic red velvet black forest trifle cake. Chocolate. Peanut butter. Strawberries. Skor. Caramel. Whipped cream. HEAVEN!!!!

I couldn’t help it. If the dessert was going to kill me from the insides out, I was going to die with the best dessert in the world on my lips. So I tried at least a bite from three desserts, including a whole (small) slice of pecan pie. Mmmmmmmm!!! I didn’t even have the presence of mind to take a picture of that plate of goodness, such was my eagerness to devour it.

Yesterday morning, for a few minutes, I felt cramp-like pangs in my belly. Then I got up and added cheddar and sriracha  to an otherwise Whole30-compliant omelette, and cream to my coffee. Ahh dairy, I’ve missed you! In the afternoon, I ate leftover braised cabbage, aware I would be sinning majorly that night.

Knowing I’d be going another month without any kind of grains or dairy, I decided to pile on another layer of dirty eating and make pizza for my celebratory dinner with Johnathan. Caveats? I put lots of veggies on mine, and made the dough and sauce from scratch. Both involve non-kosher ingredients. It was a cheat or bust kind of weekend, I guess.

Then I proceeded to deviate further and I ate an absolutely heavenly leftover cupcake from the party the night before, and then one my most favourite awful foods: a Cadbury Creme Egg.

Oh, and full disclosure: I had 2 glasses of wine with my pizza.

By now, all the Paleo people are cringing. Sorry, guys.

As much as I enjoyed all of those flavours that I had missed and will continue to miss, I was glad to get back to the strictness of the Whole30: I’ve gotten used to feeling great all the time, and all the cheese and chocolate and cupcakes in the world can’t give that to me.

Pushing the reset button

Today was supposed to be the first day of my second Whole30. It started well, but when dinner-time hunger pangs hit, I felt the need to not waste the two pieces of leftover pizza in my fridge. So I had to strike the attempt and postpone Second Whole30, Day  until tomorrow.

This second edition of the Whole30 is going to be even more hard-core than the first: no Fudge Babies. Less fruit. Less almond butter, less smoothies.

I’ve been inspired by a great opportunity which I will tell you about tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, I’m excited to get my good sleep back and lose the residual tailbone pain…

Locality: Huron Good Food Box

I picked up my first Good Food Box yesterday! Okay, my friend Hayley picked it up for me on Thursday, but I picked it up from her.

I’m excited to a) get more involved in my community, b) pay less than supermarket prices for produce, c) get better than supermarket value for produce, and d) eat locally-grown produce!

My box this month includes: red potatoes, apples, a cucumber, carrots, a coleslaw mix of chopped cabbage and carrots, a large turnip, a bag of mixed onions,  and some Weth mushrooms.

Good Food Box

A booklet with information and recipes was included, too.

I’m really impressed and I can’t wait to start eating this food!

Recipes, etc.

Do a Good Deed

And, as a bonus, I learned that you can purchase a Good Food Box for people that can’t necessarily afford one. Hayley told me that there was a month when she wasn’t able to pick up her box on the distribution day, and found out later that it had been donated to a family who had not eaten for a few days. Chances are, that family would have been forced to survive on Kraft Dinner and pork & beans before Hayley’s unwitting gift.

Do a good deed: buy a Good Food Box for your family, and one for another family if you can!

Distribution Sites and Payment Information

You can currently order and pick up your Good Food Box in Bayfield, Blyth, Clinton, Exeter, Ethel, Goderich, Grand Bend, Hensall, Seaforth, Vanastra, Wingham, and Zurich.

One box costs $15 cash (no cheques).

For April, order and pay for your box by Friday, April 6th, and pick it up on Tuesday, April 17th.

In May, order and pay by Friday, May 4th, and pick it up on May 17th.

For more information, visit the Huron Good Food Box website, “Like” them on Facebook, email them at goodfood@huroncounty.ca, or call the Infoline at 519-482-3416, extension 2244.

 

Challenge: Can you do without sugar for one week?

no sugar

Just say no.

Before I embarked on the Whole30 nutrition journey, I hardly ever read labels. I thought label-readers were obsessive calorie-counting control freaks too concerned with numbers to enjoy food (no offense, calorie-counters that I know!).

Before I started reading labels, I had no clue how prevalent sugar is in food items that we would consider staples. It comes in so many forms! Dextrose, sucrose, glucose, the list goes on.

Sweetness isn’t inherently bad for us, but we love it so much that we compulsively over-indulge, and that’s when things start going pear-shaped. Literally.

There are many forms of naturally-occurring sugars. Primarily, they are found in fruit, but there is also honey *and maple syrup.

Should you choose to accept this no-sugar-for-a-week challenge, those naturally-occurring sugars are acceptable, but none others. That includes “naturally-occurring” brown sugar and white sugar: cut them out for a week. Especially avoid any artificial sweeteners: become a label-scanner for a week!

But…!

But you have a sweet tooth and you can’t help yourself? You can do it. All you need is some determination, some “healthy” sugars, and some creative ideas.

Idea #1: Make or buy a cocoa, vanilla**, nut (walnuts or almonds), and date blend that looks and tastes pretty close to brownies. The recipe I use is called Fudge Babies. No, they’re not as sweet as the brownies you’re used to, but they’re good! You’ll see.

Idea #2: Cut bananas into bite-sized chunks. Line a freezer-prooftray with waxed paper, and lay the banana pieces on it to flash-freeze until hard. Then store in an air-tight container in the freezer. You can use these just to munch on, or blend them into smoothies, or even a sort of “ice cream” with coconut milk, a bit of vanilla, cocoa if you want, perhaps some pineapple or orange… Yum, right?

I have also mixed some coconut milk and vanilla and drizzled it over banana chunks and then frozen them for some added deliciousness.

Other ideas: Try honey or maple syrup in your coffee or tea, spread honey on your (whole grain) toast, put maple syrup on your oatmeal, and try using fruit juice as a sweetener in a dressing or a sauce.

There really are so many ideas for recipes that avoid sugars–look for some!

This idea comes from the 100 Days of Real Food website. It is listed as Mini-Pledge Week #9. The challenge is also issued by the Miami Herald in this article, where you can read more about the evils of sugar.

So. Can you do it? Will you be brave enough to try?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*Honey: If you can get raw honey, use it. Again: less processed=better.
**Vanilla: Use pure vanilla if you can, or make your own from a vanilla bean.

Also, to clarify: I am not eating honey or maple syrup on the Whole30, but I am not expecting my readers to be that hard core for this challenge. Unless you really do have what it takes…..! 🙂

I DID IT!! I MADE IT TO DAY 30!

I DID IT!!! I MADE IT TO DAY 30!

I made it! I actually did a Whole30 without cheating (though God knows I came close often enough). Yes, folks: no grains of any kind, no dairy of any kind, no sugar/sweetener of any kind, no legumes, no preservatives, no additives…!

This is kind of a big deal for a bread, cheese, chocolate, and wine lover.

And it’s not over: after some celebratory eating this weekend, I will continue on to do another Whole30 (I want an “I’m doing ANOTHER, back-to-back Whole30” badge…) to really kick my bad eating habits.

Meanwhile, there are some posts coming down the pipe that talk about some other aspects of the Whole30 on my life, including the economic side of things, and some health observations I have made. Stay tuned!

Oh – I just remembered! This means I get to weigh myself! I will do that tonight and then post my findings on my Facebook page… if I’m brave enough, that is.

{Running and Paper-writing} Wordless Wednesday

Signs of life in the fields

Signs of life in the fields

Today is record-settingly warm. Hot, even. It’s about 20 degrees (Celsius) warmer than it should be at this time of year. Perhaps the apocalypse is hovering at the edges of our atmosphere.

While meteorologists attempt to decipher crazy weather patterns and most normal people sit on decks and patios and lawns and beaches, I am writing the paper that was due yesterday and won’t be finished before tomorrow. In my defense, I only lose 2% per day, and chances are I’m going to do pretty well on this paper.

I did get out to complete (official) run #6 of the Couch to 5K program, aka the last of week two. It has taken me longer than two weeks to get here, but I’m pretty much on track now.

Anyway, here’s me outside and inside.

A posed selfie on the side of a country road during a walk break

A posed selfie on the side of a country road during a walk break

My running trail

My running trail

"Democracy and Deception:  How Censorship is the Byproduct of the Manufacture of Consent"

"Democracy and Deception: How Censorship is the Byproduct of the Manufacture of Consent" (Don't you wish you could read it?!)