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Monday, January 7, 2013

Neat Things I Learned On My First Day Of Naturopathic Medical School

Well it is back to school for me! I have been waiting patiently for my turn to go back and today finally came. The main thing I learned is that I am going to be extremely busy. There is a lot of content to absorb and it blows my mind a little bit that I am going to know all this stuff by the time I graduate. Unlike undergrad, I feel like I will be gaining useful knowledge that I have a keen interest in so that should help. Though I also have a baby now. There are lots of moms in my school though, and if they can do it, so can I. And I will as I have already invested heavily in this career and I am simply too cheap to throw that money away.

I still have a stress headache. I wish they gave me some material to start on. Something to focus my energy on right now. I learned a bunch of general facts from my Botanical Medicine prof. that I found very interesting.  I think Botanical Med. will be a favorite of mine, I love the subject, I have used herbs on myself with a great degree of success and I quite like the prof. It is the reason I decided on Naturopathic Medicine.

The placebo effect is basically when a percentage of your test population reaches the desired outcome (ex. is cured) by taking a fake treatment like a sugar pill. Generally in studies, the placebo effect is viewed as a problem, something we correct for. I learned about the placebo effect in a different way today. If you take a step back from the standard thinking and realize that the placebo effect cures some disease than it is a good thing. Helping the patient should be the most important goal, if placebo can help that it should be used.

Some remedies and treatments in the naturopathic world might be powered by placebo, but so are a lot of conventional medications. I don't have sources for any of my info here because I just picked it up from lecture (and I am adding the odd fact I know from elsewhere) but it was mentioned in class that Prozac made 40% of patients feel better. 37% was attributed to placebo. Hmm. I'd rather take a sugar pill and avoid the side effects personally.

The placebo effect can be heightened by some weird things. More side effects and more invasive procedures seem to increase the placebo effect. Preforming fake surgery can cure a patient better than perhaps a fake pill. Big pills work better than little pills, red pills work as better sleeping pills, blue pills are more sedative, etc. Lots of neat psychological effects.

We learned that health authorities are quick to ban herbal treatments which is unfortunate. Kava Kava is an herb that was linked to 5 cases of drug induced hepatitis. There was minimal investigation and it was banned. Tylenol is the leading cause of liver failure (I read elsewhere that it is responsible for about 2000 deaths per year in the US following the recommended dosage, not sure if that is via liver failure or something else) but it is not only on the market but it is over the counter.

The last thing I will mention as I am going to fall asleep at my computer (this must be ripe with spelling errors) is that he stated that there will always be a place for drugs and surgery and I completely agree. I don't think there are many plant medicines that will cure a gun shot wound or a collapsed lung. But the priority should be to provide the patient with the safest, most effective option and botanical medicines tend to be safer and are incredibly powerful. Now I must go to sleep.

 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I'm Learning To Coupon And It Has Been Great

I'm going back to school in January. I am very excited but the cost is a bit overwhelming. I have saved up a good chunk of change over the last few years but with tuition at $20,000 per year for four years not including books and medical equipment, I am a little short. So I have taken up couponing and it has been going surprisingly well.

For the month of November I have saved a total of $77 by using coupons. I have also signed up for a whole pile of freebies which are starting to trickle in. Since I have started couponing I am more aware of prices and what deals are actually honest deals so I have been saving money in that respect too, though I have not tallied how much.

This new hobby is forcing me to be a bit more organized than I accustomed to being. I have a few hundred coupons now so I have to sort them so I can find what I need quickly in the store. I have always made a grocery list and planned out my meals but now I will consider the flyers, coupon match-up sites and the coupons that I have. I go to a few different stores so my lists have to be organized a bit differently. I have even made a spread sheet on Google Drive that allows me to track my savings and my mail in rebates.  I would hate to send in a rebate and never see a return. I systematically check the coupon sites everyday for new offers.

Couponing is causing me to be more thrifty in general. I have a greater restraint when it comes to purchases. I don't want to go to all the trouble to save a few bucks then blow it on something. I feel better about cooking a meal every night because I know it is a fraction of a meal out. I've been reading the nutrition information more as I am looking for more nutrition for my dollar as opposed to more mass. This is especially the case with baby food.

So how did I save so much last month?
1. Check the websites everyday. Here are the sites I frequent. Some just have coupons or freebies but others have a wealth (ha ha pun) of information. I have a thrifty folder on my bookmarks bar for extra convenience.
http://www.munchkinsandwich.com/free_stuff_Canada
http://womenfreebies.ca/
http://canadiancoupons.net/
http://thehealthyshopper.ca/
http://www.mrsjanuary.com/
http://www.canadianfreestuff.com/category/coupons/
http://www.freestufffinder.ca
http://smartcanucks.ca/
http://www.savealoonie.com/
http://www.canadiansavers.ca/

2. Ink and paper cost money so I try to only print the coupons that I intend to use or give away. Once I have my coupons I organize them by category so I can find them quickly in the store and compare easily to other coupons in the same category. I don't have a coupon binder yet but I suspect my organization will change when I do. I check the flyers and match-ups (found in many of the above websites) to find what is on sale. The best case scenario in Canada is to use your coupon on something already on sale to get it for free. Most places in Canada will not give you overage (money back when your coupon exceeds the price) except maybe Walmart. Doubling, like on Extreme Couponers, also does not happen here. Maybe someday, a girl can dream.

3. I separate the coupons I plan to use and put them in the front of my coupon case for easy access in the store.

4. As I shop I place the coupon with the items in my cart so I can place everything together on the belt at the cash.

5. As the coupons are being applied I watch the display at the cash to ensure they turn out correctly. I have almost been burned by this. I once bought something for $5 with a completely free coupon and the cashier didn't apply it. I called her on it before I left the store and it was corrected.

6. I keep the receipt and enter the savings on my spreadsheet when I get home. It is very satisfying to keep track of how much you have saved.

This process has been time consuming but it is getting easier and faster with experience, and not much experience. I have some rules to protect myself which I will share here. Coupons are released by corporations with the intention to have you spend your money on their products. If you do, they win. If you purchase something you don't really need, they win and you lose. Couponing if done improperly,
can cause you to lose money.

My rules that hold me accountable.

1. Never buy what I don't need, unless it is completely free and I could find a use for it (like the food bank, shelter etc.).

2. Don't overbuy goods that will expire unless there is a realistic plan to preserve them.

3. If an offer sounds to good to be true, it is. Couponing requires you put your contact info out there so you my receive unsolicited offers. Be firm and say no. I received a call offering me a ticket in a sweep-stake for $25000, in addition to a diamond watch, in addition to 3 free magazine subscriptions for two years, etc. No company would offer all this out of the blue as they have nothing to gain. This means there was a catch and one can be sure the catch will cover the expense of all these "gifts".

4. Always be on the look out for scams. Stores can be slimy at times. I have seen tickets that will say something along the lines of "50% off, now $1.50" then I look behind the ticket and the regular price is $1.50. Sometimes they don't even cover the regular price when they do this so it is easy to see they are lying.    It is a good idea to get a sense of what the regular price is. Stores will increase their regular price a week or so before posting a deal that in reality is hardly a deal at all.

5. I always read the coupon fully and carefully. Check expiration dates.

6. Be aware that some stores are more expensive than others. The sale price at a Loblaws or a Metro is often more than the regular price at a No Frills or a Food Basics.

I'm still learning the ropes with couponing but it is quickly becoming a hobby I love. I get so much satisfaction  from saving money. Now I must go and work on some very substantial money saving opportunities, scholarships, the ultimate coupon :)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cheap, Easy Storage Solution: Hanging Kitchen Utensils Up

My kitchen drawers are few and small. They are so narrow that I cannot even fit a cutlery tray in any of them. I love my kitchen gadgets so I have a storage problem on my hands. Then I saw this on pinterest, the solution to my problem. I have the same weird doors. Instead of buying hooks I rigged some up with jewelry wire.


 Each hook is 18 cm of wire, folded in half then molded into a hook. They take no time to make and cost less than a penny each. The door has slits so the hooks just nestle into the slits. Now I have a bit more room in my drawers.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Healthier Version of General Tao Tofu


Healthier Version of General Tao Tofu

My husband and I love General Tao tofu from vegweb.com. This is such a great recipe on it's own with no modifications. We have made it countless times but not so much lately. The fried tofu is not so healthy and I have been trying really hard to get back to a healthy life style. Fortunately I figured out how to prepare it a great deal healthier so I will post the modifications here. The baked tofu turned out so well it was difficult to stop munching on them on their own.

Tofu Component

  • 1 package of extra firm tofu, cubed
  • 1 1/2 T tamari
  • 2 T mirin
  • Sprinkle of Salt and Pepper
  1. Mix the last 3 ingredients in a shallow dish. Mix cubed tofu so it is completely coated and marinate for a few hours, mixing every so often.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake in a pre-heated oven (400 degrees) for 20 minutes. Turn over and bake for 5 more minutes.
Seasoned Baked Tofu
Sauce Component (originally from Vegweb but slightly modified)
  • 3 T oil
  • 1 T ginger
  • 1 T garlic
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 2/3 cup vegetable stock
  • 3 T sugar
  • 2 T tamari
  • 1 T rice wine vinegar
  • 1-2 T cornstarch mixed with 2 T water
  1. Add first 4 ingredients to small sauce pan on medium heat and fry until garlic is soft (about 2 minutes).
  2. Add next 4 ingredients and bring to boil. Add cornstarch-water mix and mix in to thicken. Remove from heat. 
Bringing It All Together
  • rice noodles
  • vegetables (I used snap peas here but many vegetables would work)
  1. Cook rice noodles according to package. Throw some vegetables into the boiling water. Drain when ready. 
  2. Put rice noodles on plates and top with baked tofu. Pour sauce over top and serve :) 

Make your Towels and Drawers Smell Great


Make your Towels and Drawers Smell Great
This was a quick easy project with lasting results. All you need is one of those scented packets that you can get at Pier One, coffee filters and some ribbon.


Simple open the scent packet, divide the contents between about 10 coffee filters and fasten each one with some ribbon. I put a bunch of these in between my towels to make them smell nice. I also put some in various drawers. You could use these in cars, shoes, anywhere you want to smell nice.



Quick and Easy, Vegan BBQ Tofu on Kale Salad

Quick and Easy, Vegan BBQ Tofu on Kale Salad

This is a great weekday meal. It was super fast, I had everything on hand and it incorporates a lot of kale which is just so good for you. I find it difficult to get enough greens, especially raw greens, but this is a great way to eat a whole bunch. The BBQ tofu idea is not my own, I saw it on Health.Happy.Life. I just used store bough BBQ sauce to make it easier.


Salad

  • a bunch of kale, de-ribbed, ripped into small pieces and washed
  • 2 carrots- shredded with a vegetable peeler
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 ts salt
  • 1/2 lemon
Mix the kale with the salt and lemon juice. Squish it in well with your hands. This is an important step as it really breaks down the kale fibers making it less chewy and more enjoyable to eat raw. Mix in carrot and pepper. 


Simple Kale Salad

Tofu

  • extra firm tofu
  • BBQ sauce

Prepare as directed here. Allow to cool a few minutes before adding to salad. Serve on top of the salad and enjoy.
Easy BBQ Tofu

Vegan Mushroom 'Chick'n' Stroganoff

The picture does not do it justice, this turned out to be a really good. My husband was definitely a fan. I wanted to make something similar to a beef stroganoff we used to make with mushroom soup. Mushroom soup is not vegan so I substituted this with a mushroom "cream" sauce. I decided to cut up meatless chicken strips instead of using fake beef because I don't like fake beef but you could substitute it in if you prefer. Meatless chicken breast would be better but it was sold out. I get the President's Choice brand from the frozen meat section because it is priced much better than other brands and it tastes good.

Ingredients

  • 10 "chicken strips" baked according to the package
  • 1/2 large yellow onion or 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 3 T oil
  • 4 T flour
  • 1/2 vegetable stock cube
  • 1 cup almond milk (plain)
  • 3-4 servings of pasta, a long flat noodle is best
  • 1 package of mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 fresh sage leaves (or ground sage to taste)
  • squirt of lemon
  • sprinkle of dried dill
Directions
  1. Bake the "chicken" according to package directions.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of starchy pasta water
  3. Add oil and flour to a small sauce pan, heat on medium and stir. Add 1/2 stock cube and combine. Slowly add the soy milk a little at a time. Stir well each time to avoid lumps. Continue to stir until thick then remove from heat.
  4. Add 3 T oil to a walk and heat on medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until limp. Add garlic, stir until browned. Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Once the mushrooms have reduced in size, add cream sauce, sage, salt, pepper, a squirt of lemon juice and the pasta water. Remove from heat.
  5. Chop up "chicken". Mix pasta and chicken into the sauce and serve. A sprinkle of dill over the dish serves as both a garnish and adds a nice flavour. Enjoy!



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Touching and Seeing Sensory Activity

Image courtesy of posterize /FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Today I brought my little guy a few crayons and an extra large piece of paper. He explored the crayons a bit, licked them and tried scribbling on the paper. He tried red and green. After scribbling for a while he discovered he could rip the paper. He really enjoys ripping paper. I have to watch him carefully but he was good about not eating the paper. I also ripped the edges off the paper to prevent paper cuts. I don't think he is ready to write letters with the crayons but it is a good way to work on colours. I bought triangles crayons so it is easy for him to grip. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Home Schooling! Sensory Activities for my Little Man

Now that my little guy is a one year old I have been thinking a lot more about his education. Though I do intend to put him in preschool soon I will be supplementing his school learning with some home school learning as well. I have been excited about teaching him things since I learned I was pregnant. Because he is so young I have mostly been reading to him up until now. My approach is evolving to include a few more things now.

The Alphabet
To teach him the Alphabet I have been doing the following...

  1. Reciting the alphabet and singing the alphabet song.
  2. ABC day App on Blackberry
  3. Dr. Seusss ABC book
  4. Foam Letters ($1 at the Dollar Store) he plays with them and I tell him which ones he's playing with.
  5. Flash Cards . These were also $1 at the Dollar Store. I will spread a few out on the floor and encourage him to pick out a specific letter. He has done it a few times. 
Auditory Activities
  1. Piano- he smashes the keys mostly. He really likes making noise. After a while I will play a not a few times and then he will play that note. I say the note name as I play it.
  2. Sing Songs- we have been doing this since he was born. At baby group, songs really seem to hold his interest.
  3. Toys- most of his toys play music or make some sort of sound. 
  4. Listen to different instruments online- http://www.dsokids.com/listen/instrumentlist.aspx
Visual Activities
  1. Pet Store- a great place to see fish, birds, rodents, cats and sometimes dogs. The little man loves animals. He can say catee and doeee. His only other words are mama and daddy so animals seem pretty significant to him.
  2. TV- unfortunately. I didn't want to be one of those TV families but we kind of are. He watches some cartoons in the morning. 
  3. Toys- lots of his toys are bright and colourful. Some even light up.
  4. Books- he looks at the pictures as I read them.
  5. Blackberry ebooks by ickypen. These are great. I downloaded both to my playbook. If he is too excited to eat or sleep we listen to this book and he calms right down. The app reads the book so this would be an auditory activity as well.
  6. Walks at the park. He gets to see lots of neat stuff outside and some horses at the stable. We often hit up the dog park to watch the dogs as well.
  7. Fish, frogs and snails in a giant fish globe.
Touch 
  1. Texture Sampler. I gather a bunch of objects with different textures and let him touch them all. If safe to do so he can explore the object in his mouth as babies do. I watch him very closely to make sure he doesn't eat anything he shouldn't.
  2. Food- I give him different food textures to play with and squish in his hands. We have tried purees, fruit chunks, smoothie, cheerios, rice crispies, water, etc.
Smell
I haven't done much with small. I think I will try putting essential oils on cotton balls and sew them into socks as mentioned here.

Taste I don't worry about. He gets to try lots of different tastes and he puts everything into his mouth. 

I'm on the look out for other sensory activity ideas. If you have any ideas, I invite you to leave suggestions in the comments section. As I come up with or find more I will post them. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Asian Inspired Warm Black Bean Noodle Salad

Asian Inspired Warm Black Bean Noodle Salad
This is what a had for lunch today! It was a nice, light and healthy salad. I cheated a bit by using bottled black bean sauce. If you are a purist you could probably substitute in any type of sauce.

Ingredients

  • large hand full of thin Asian noodles (the kind that cook in 3 minutes)
  • black bean sauce
  • Flax oil (for omega 3's)
  • sesame seeds
  • Lettuce
  • red pepper
  • green onion
  • peanuts (a kick of protein)
  • salt n' pepper
Directions
  1. Cook up the pasta and drain. Mix in a bit of black been sauce (not too much as the noodles are thin and easily flavoured), flax oil and some sesame seeds. Leave aside to cool a bit.
  2. Line your bowl with lettuce leaves. Chop up the red pepper and green onion. 
  3. Place your noodles in your lettuce bowl and top with the red peppers, green onions, peanuts, a few more sesame seeds and salt n' pepper. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Get More Out of Your House Plants

I really like having plants around. I heard a study recently that said having plants around you has a de-stressing effect so I am squeezing as many plants into our place as I can. Maybe it will counter the stress inducing effect of the constant highway noise of the 401.

I am fortunate enough to finally have a bright apartment where plants grow well. In the past our places were too shady to grow anything or the windows would not accommodate them. Though decorative plants are nice, and I have a few that serve only that purpose, I like my plants to earn their keep and save me money.


 
I have a row of cabbage growing in our bedroom. The blue tones in the cabbage incorporate really well  with the rest of the room which has blue accents and pillows. And while the cabbage looks good in the room, we do still intend to eat the mature plants and then start again.


In the living room, we have eight pots of herbs. I was buying a lot of fresh herbs for cooking and I hated how pricey they were and how quickly they went south in the fridge. Now if I need some fresh herbs I can just harvest a few leaves from my mini garden. It should save me about $3-7 per week.



I purchased six of these as potted plants which cost $12.00 in total. I grew one from seed (takes forever) and since I use so much cilantro I tried buying a bunch from the produce section, snipping off some roots and planting them. It worked too. So if you don't have potted herbs at your grocery store, you can try just planting some roots.



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Relief For My Teething Cutie

My little kiddo has been having some trouble with his teeth coming in. He seemed rather drawn to sucking on cold stuff so I dampened some of his tiny face cloths, rolled them up and froze them. Now when he seems to have teething pain I give him a frozen cloth and he can suck on it and kind of bite it a bit and that keeps him happy.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Room Divider with Storage

We have an "open concept" apartment which basically means we don't have enough walls. My husband needs an office area so we rigged up this fancy room divider so he can have an awesome little alcove which I totally use during the day (I'm on his computer right now :). This is not the cheapest DIY, there is an initial investment of about $60 for the skinny bookshelves and about $30 for the wallpaper but you can choose cheaper paper. We could have just purchased a room divider for $70 but then we would not have had the excess storage that this project brings. Gotta put DVD's, CD's, computer games, books and RC cars somewhere. It's pretty messy in the back but it is tucked away so I don't mind it.

Here's how to make your own...
1. Purchase and assemble some skinny bookshelves. We got ours at Canadian Tire. You could do this with any kind of book shelf , even thicker ones.
2. Buy some wallpaper that you like and a piece of foam board if you want a gap between the book cases (costs $1.00 at the dollar store).
3. Position your bookshelves where you like them and measure any gap between the two. Cut out your foam board to fit in between the book shelves.Tape in place.
4. Cut your wallpaper to fit. If you need two sheets, attach them where they meet in the centre on the back with some sturdy tape. I used electrical tape but there are better tapes out there. Then tape the paper to the back of your shelves. You could probably use a spray adhesive if you have some.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Meal and Grocery Organization: Free PDF Organizer!

Being organized saves time and money. Taking a bit of time to plan out your meals for the week means you only have to go to the grocery store once and you have everything you need on hand. I like to separate my grocery list by sections so I do not find myself running all over the store multiple times. I have used meal and grocery list templates before but they are normally high in colour and I just don't want to waste colour ink on something like this so I have attached a black and white one. This one is very simple and should not clash with anyone's kitchen decor.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Make Your Own Aloe Juice

I had not planned on making aloe juice when I saw this giant aloe leaf for sale at No Frills. I just saw it and thought it looked neat and maybe I could eat it. I failed to find any good recipes for it so it sat in my fridge for a while until I saw how to make aloe juice on TV. I think it was on Steven & Chris but I don't remember. Though there are a few steps involved none are difficult and aloe juice is good for you. One leaf makes a lot of "juice" so it is pretty economical and there are no stabilizers in it liked the bottled aloe juice. Aloe helps keep your digestive system healthy so be warned, if you have never had aloe juice before it may effect you in some way. I did not notice any affect so my guess is the juice is not too strong.
 
Step 1: Cut off the base and top of the leaf. Trim off the sides as well. Place in a pitcher and let the bitter juice drain out for at least 30 minutes. Discard the bitter juice.

Step 2: Carefully cut off (or fillet) the straighter green bit.

Step 3: Once off, scrape out the innards with a spoon. 

Step 4: Add the jelly to a pitcher and fill with water.

Step 5: Let it sit for 6 hours, I put mine in the fridge for this. 

Step 6: Strain the infused water into another pitcher and it is ready to drink! Keep any excess jelly as you can add more water to that jelly to make more juice. You can reuse the jelly over and over again until it all dissolves away. 

Classy on a Budget: Replacing Some Dingy Closet Knobs

We have doors to our kitchen which I think must have been put there to keep kids out as nothing in the kitchen is baby proof-able. On the doors are some old, dingy knobs that always look dirty and are partially painted. They really take away from the rest of the room.

I took a trip to Lows and found me some nice, new, shinny knobs and screwed those on instead. It took no time and looks a lot cleaner. When we eventually move again I will be taking these with me.
 


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Super Creamy Vegan Beer and Mozzarella Mac and Cheese

Super Creamy Vegan Beer and Mozzarella Mac and Cheese
I have made this recipe twice now and it keeps getting better. The amounts are estimates because I am still working on it and when I am developing my own recipes I don't usually measure. I will next time I make it. This is a recipe that doesn't need exactness so I am going to post it now anyway.

Ingredients

  • pasta (enough for 4 people)
  • 4 Tb oil
  • 5 Tb flour
  • 3/4 cup strong beer 
  • Water
  • 1/2 package mozzarella Daiya
  • Pinch red pepper flakes 
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1Tb nutritional yeast 
Directions 
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile heat oil in separate pot.
  2. Gradually stir in flour. Gradually stir in beer. 
  3. Add a bit of water and stir. Continue to add water and stir until you have a creamy white sauce.
  4. Stir in cheese, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and nutritional yeast.
  5. Mix finished pasta into the sauce and serve with a sprinkle of paprika. 
  6. Eat some awesome mac n' cheese.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Really Easy Tahini Pasta

This is my go to recipe when I want to eat a whole lot of pasta with out going to the trouble to make a tomato or cream sauce. It is a great weeknight meal because it is fast. I usually make a lot of it and have a huge serving.

Ingredients
Pasta (enough for 2-4 people)
1/4 cup tahini
1 T lemon juice
1 1/2 T balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup margarine
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile mix the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. When pasta is cooked mix it in with the rest and your done. Super easy :)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Super Tasty Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Super Tasty Roasted Red Pepper Soup
This recipe involves minimal work and is pretty quick to make. Most importantly though, it tastes really good. This is one of the more flavourful recipes in my repertoire.

Ingredients
1 jar of roasted red peppers
3 cups veggie broth
1 cup orzo (or any pasta you like, or even rice)
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes

Directions
1. Dump the jar of peppers into a blender, liquid and all, and blend. Set aside.
2. Bring 3 cups of broth to a boil and add orzo (or pasta or rice). Cook until tender while stirring frequently. To save time you can add all the seasonings to the boiling broth as the orzo cooks.
3. Once orzo is tender add the red pepper puree. Cook until heated through and serve. Enjoy!

Tutorial: Customize a Tiny Chair

I am making a custom desk so I have a place to study in January (going to Naturopathic med. school and I'm super excited). I will have more on the desk later but to go with the desk I have a pretty generic folding seat.
Before...

This is of course too boring so I felt the need to customize it. It is really easy to do.

Unscrew the screws that hold the cushion on. 

Select a pretty fabric and cut a round piece that is about 10 cm bigger than the cushion all the way around.  
Attach the fabric to the cushion any way you like. I just used scotch tape. 
Make sure that the holes corresponding to the screws are accessible either by taping around them or cutting some holes in the fabric.
Then you just have to re-screw the cushion back on and your done :).  




Saturday, August 11, 2012

Small Storage Solution... Gotta Start Somewhere

From this...

To this.
I have a little problem with our new apartment, there is just not enough storage space. We have a small linen closet that houses my cleaning supplies, luggage, towels, bedding, garbage bags, paper products etc... It's not the most organized of spaces so if I can save some space by condensing three boxes of garbage bags into one more verticle box it is worth the time. I put three openings into a cereal box and layered in the bags. Fast and easy and a tiny bit more organized. The closet still has a long way to go.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Improve your Dairy Free Baking with Lemon Juice

I am a bit of a chemistry nerd so lately I have been trying to learn as much about food chemistry as I can find. One little tip that has made a massive difference to my cooking is to add a bit of lemon juice to recipes that contain milk alternatives. It is not enough to replace dairy milk with soy or almond or other milks in any recipe that you want to rise up or get fluffy. Baking soda and baking powder are basic and need a bit of acid to react to so you get some bubble action. Dairy milk is acidic so if you are substituting it for another milk you must also add some acid like a citrus juice or vinegar. I started adding a touch of lemon juice to my pancakes and the results have been fabulous. They are nice and light and fluffy. This trick should work for any recipe that doesn't already contain an acid.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How to Make a Simple Vegetable Stock

I have never been  to culinary school so there is probably a proper way to make stock that I don`t know about but I find this method easy and cheap. I can`t bare the thought of chopping up a bunch of good, edible veggies, boiling them all day then throwing the veggies out. It`s too wasteful. I don`t have the cash to justify that kind of action.

Instead, I keep a big ice cream container (not my ice cream, my husband would eat it a while ago so I saved the containers) in my freezer. When I chop up veggies through the week, I take the best trimmings and add them to the container. Ideal trimmings can be anything really but mine include pepper middles, herb stems, tops of leeks, mushroom stems, celery leaves etc. Be sure to wash well and don`t add anything spoiled, rotten or moldy.


When you have a good pile of veggies, add them to a stock pot with ample water and 2-3 bay leaves. I use the broken up bay leaves because you will not have to fish these out anyway so it is a good time to use them up. Bring the whole thing to a boil then turn down the heat to a simmer. Simmer until half the water has evaporated and your done. You can salt as desired or maybe use some lemon pepper instead if you are avoiding salt.

The stock works well as a soup base. Just add some veggies, water if needed, maybe a handful of sunflower seeds and a few cubes of tofu then boil a bit and your done :)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Quick and easy Breakfast Smoothie

One of my favorite and super easy recipes to make for breakfast is a Banana-Strawberry Smoothie. I like to have some protein in it so I throw in a spoonful or two of hemp seed. Hemp seed is full of high quality protein. It's one of the best sources you can get. I also add ground flax seed which has fiber and omega 3 fatty acids. I choose ground over whole seed because it is easier to absorb nutrients from the ground seed. Also, it is important to choose brown flax seed. The golden flax does not have as high a concentration of omega 3 fatty acids. For a more filling smoothie, you could add half a cup of raw, soaked cashews which will also make the smoothie seem creamier.

To make the smoothie, blend...
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 banana
2 tbsp hemp seed
1 tbsp ground brown flax seed
a few ice cubes

My Super Health Week: Day 1

My Super Health Week was a success in many respects but a failure in the sense that I could not find the time to actually post anything I was doing. I'm still figuring out where to find time with my little one in constant need of attention. He doesn't sleep very much during the day anymore so I have taken to doing multiple tasks with him in a sling. It's perfect, I get to actually clean and set up the apartment and the running around actually tires him out so he'll have a nap in the afternoon. As I have been quite tired I have not been utilizing the night hours as well as I could have been. I am going to make an effort to have the apartment tidyish before I go to bed every night. We'll see how long that goes for.

Back to Super Health Week...
Day 1

I started the morning off with a smoothie called "The Charmer and the Kale" from The Raw Food Cleanse by Penni Shelton. I tend to use a lot of recipes from this book as they are very high in fruits and veggies and my husband seems to like them. This smoothie is made by blending the following...

a handful of kale
some pineapple
1 apple
Strawberries
ice and water

Her recipe is more specific but I really don't measure when it comes to smoothies. The morning is too early for measuring.

I'm not going to record what I ate for lunch every day because it is not interesting. Generally I ate leftovers from the night before or fixed a simple salad with some toasted, homemade bread.

For dinner on Day 1 we had a delicious carrot soup from beautiful vegan. The recipe is raw but I brought it to a quick boil to make the onion a little less strong. I added flax oil because I need to eat more flax oil. And that's day 1, now on to Day 2...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Super Health Week Continues

I am typing on a PlayBook and I am not great at it so hopefully I don't make a bunch of mistakes. Yesterday I began the day with a kale strawberry smoothie. It sounds weird but it tastes pretty good.  Unfortunately the recipe I used made 4 cups so I was drinking it all day. At lunch I had more hummus on some whole wheat bread with a few papadoms. Super had an unexpected addition. My husband had some dough rising in the oven which I  forgot about when I preheated the oven. So we had some bread to go along with our salad and stuffed mushrooms. The bread turned out surprisingly good so it was a happy mistake. I am making some more tonight. I'll post the recipes when I am not busy with baby. 

Healthy Reset Week

Fourth Floor Homestead has recently moved onto the eighth floor of a high rise building in a brand new, more urban neighborhood. As a result of this, all of my time has been devoted to moving and cleaning as well as taking care of baby. Healthy eating has not been the priority it should be for the last month. For this reason I have decided to pour some energy into developing an extra healthy meal plan for the week ahead.

The recipes I am including are all high in vegetables and low in processed goods and sugars. Though this is not a detox I will still try to drink lots of water as I have been finding it difficult to stay hydrated. Breast feeding takes a lot of liquid out of you and I don't like the taste of the water here. I am back to buying water unfortunately but I try to buy as big of a container as possible so as to not add water bottles to landfills.

I have been relying on fried foods and sugars to keep my calories up but this reset will force me to find a healthier way of doing that. Perhaps increasing the serving size will suffice, I'll have to experiment a bit. I made a large batch of hummus to snack on through out the day and intend to make lots of snacks. I hope to post the recipes here as I go. Hopefully I'll have the time to do it :)

The hummus recipe I used will be in it's own post. For supper tonight we had this Spicy Raw Vegan Carrot Soup from Beautiful Vegan and toast with hummus. I made the recipe with a few changes, most notably I cooked it. I was hoping to eat it raw but I am an onion wimp and the soup was too spicy for my so I mellowed it with a couple minutes on the stove. The consistency remained the same so the soup didn't cook too much. I sprinkled on some flax oil, paprika, sunflower seeds and cilantro to garnish. I quite enjoyed the soup and would make it again.

Easy Hummus

Hummus is such a blank slate. It's easy to make and there is so much you can do with it. Chickpeas are healthy and a great source of protein so it's a good idea to add them to your diet when you can. This week I experimented with herbs and garlic. I'm going to try to make up a new hummus every week for a while. I am happy with the result so here is the recipe.


1 cup dried chickpeas
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic
paprika
1/2 tsp dry oregano
pinch of tarragon
salt and pepper


a few basil leaves
a small bunch of cilantro


1. Cook the chickpeas in a slow cooker until tender in about 4 cups of water. This takes a few hours. Drain the peas and add them to a food processor with all the other ingredients except the fresh herbs.
2. Blend until creamy. Add herbs and blend until well mixed. Enjoy!