Thursday, 28 February 2013

Cookbook Challenge #3 and #4

I've been diligently perusing my cookbooks for new and untested recipes.   Heres what I cooked up last week:

CBC #3: Pork and Beans from Art of the Slow Cooker (by Andrew Schloss)

I got a slow cooker for Christmas a few years ago and Briana gifted me this book.  I probably don't use my slow-cooker as much as I should, but in the winter I try to get it going at least twice a month.  I used it more when I was still skiing - nothing beats coming home from the hill & having a nice big pot of chilli or bone-warming soup waiting for you!

I find a lot of books try to really fancy up the slow-cooker.  I'm sure it can deliver some really delectable gourmet meals, but for me its forte is the homey, comfy foods.  And what could be homier that pork and beans?

This recipe was easy & tasty.  I had Wheezer's "Pork and Beans" in my head for several days after eating it.  As per usual with the slow cooker, it made enough to sink a ship, so the freezer is now stocked up!

CBC #4: Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Red Bell Peppers, Paneer and Cashews from "Vij's Elegant & Inspired Indian Cuisine"

In addition to learning a new recipe, I also learned that this is how you spell Brussels sprouts and that they are, in fact, named after Brussels, Belgium.  I always thought they were brussle sprouts - no capital B and no s.  This lead me to look more into the name, and what do you know - they are thought to have originally be cultivated in Belgium as early as the 13th century.  A little cabbage education for me and maybe for you too.

Let me say that I don't particularly love Brussels sprouts.  But I do LOVE Vij.  Vij's in Vancouver is probably my very favourite restaurant in the world.  If anyone can make Brussels spouts taste amazing, Vikram Vij is the man.  Briana and Ted cooked this meal while I was in Toronto, and I was thinking "Wow - Brussels spouts Vij-style are really good.  Maybe I can convince Derek to try them."  His enthusiasm for Brussels sprouts rivals his enthusiasm for eggplant, turnip and "that white broccoli."

I was too lazy to make my own paneer, so with the store bought version, this dish came together in about 10 mins.  I paired it with chicken with garlic & cashews (from my fav Bonnie Stern book, but inspired by Vij), rice and naan.

I pumped up the Brussels sprouts in a big way, singing their praises & Vij's too, but to no avail!  Derek managed to avoid even a single leaf of the sprouts, though he did enjoy the rest of this dish.  I thought it was super yummy, though I would say the paneer is more the star of this one, rather than the sprouts.  Maybe I am also still slightly biased against the poor old Brussels spout.

Coming up this weekend: we are having friends over for brunch I am tackling not one, not two, but three new recipes!  I know they say you should not prepare a new meal when you entertain, but when else would I try them?  Besides, my friends are adventurous!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Goldilock's syndrome (how to be "just right")

My belly continues to grow, seemingly by the day!  Baby Rufus is a very busy little one; he/she is constantly rolling about, kicking and having a dance party.  Its a pretty surreal feeling to have all this action happening inside.  Most of the time I love it & it makes me feel even more excited and connected to Rufus.  I'm less thrilled when my bladder is being used as a trampoline, but thats all part of the package!

I was warned that I would start to have my belly rubbed & touched by strangers.  I do get the odd belly rub here & there, but no stranger has been bold enough, thank goodness.  I don't wear this shirt out of the house, as it would clearly invite belly-molestation.

Channelling Buddha, week 23
One thing that does surprise me somewhat is that people I don't know will not hesitate to tell me what they think of my size.  I've been told that I am too big and that I am too small.  The other day someone marvelled that I am "so much bigger than Kate (Middleton)", despite the fact that by rough calculations, she is due approximately 6-8 weeks after me!  I don't mind the comments because I feel good, am keeping active & my doctor is happy with the way things are going... but I find it surprising nevertheless.  When else do virtual strangers feel its OK to pass comment on your body?

I am a big proponent of staying active while pregnant, as all of my pregnant patients know.  The benefits to mom and baby are irrefutable.  There is even some evidence that the maintenance of a healthy weight in pregnancy can reduce the risk of the baby developing diabetes when he or she is an adult!  Talk about long-term benefits to avoiding the jelly doughnut that's calling out!  

There are a lot of misconceptions about being active in pregnancy, but the experts agree that regular moderate exercise through the entire pregnancy is a good thing.  A few years ago there was a well-publicized story about a woman who completed the Chicago Marathon just days before her due date and went on to start labour a few hours after she finished.  According to the reports, this was a woman who was fit and active before her pregnancy and who undertook her training and running with the guidance (and permission) of her medical professionals.  From the side-lines, she received cheers & encouragement, but also had people tell her that she was "killing her baby!"  Hers is an extreme example - the average woman is not going to be marathon-fit at 39 weeks gestation, but if woman exercises within the limits and guidelines recommended by her doctor, then even a marathon can be safe for mom and baby.

I dreamed of running through my entire pregnancy, but my body only allowed me to go to about 24 weeks.  But there are still lots of options out there, and I'm actually starting to enjoy swimming!  For me its not just about the health benefits, but it also feels good to keep active.  Also, I figure since I am preaching to my patients about exercising, I should probably "walk the talk"!

Running at 23 weeks

Spinning at 27 weeks
What does scare me is the media attention on the celebrity moms & the nit-picking of their pregnant and post-delivery bodies.  Every pound they gain is flashed across the pages of magazines and everyone has an opinion as to the appropriateness of their weight.  When they remain stick-thin throughout or sport a bikini 2 weeks after delivery they get celebrated for looking so good & so sexy.  I'm all for keeping active & healthy, but this type of attention on the "sexiness" of skinny celebrity moms only contributes to the growing problem of distorted body self-image.  There is even a term for the increasing and worrisome trend of pregnant women dieting and exercising aggressively to avoid weight gain: pregnorexia. 

I personally will be interested to watch the media attention on Kate Middleton as she starts to advance through her pregnancy.  (Although, in an ideal world, I wish for the sake of celebrities that they didn't have to live their life out in the public eye, but that's not going to change anytime soon!)  She has always had an intense spot-light on her weight, and this will only increase as she starts to grow her belly.  One supposes that she is a woman who will have top-notch maternity care & it seems likely that she will gain the recommended amount of weight.  Am I being too optimistic when I hope that the media portraits her as a healthy and reasonable pregnant woman, & doesn't focus on that fact that she's "too thin" or "too fat"?  We shall soon see!

Belly shot of the week: 28 weeks.
Too big?  Too small?  Just right!

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Another hard-core centenarian

In a quick follow-up to my blog posting from yesterday, I thought I'd share this story.  I'm sure many of you remember Fauja Singh, who completed the Toronto Marathon in 2011 at age 100.  How awesome is that?  He was denied a Guiness World record as he couldn't produce a birth certificate.  This weekend he'll be hanging up his running shoes after his last race, a 10km in Hong Kong.  Good luck Mr Singh!

CBC article: 101 year old marathoner

Friday, 22 February 2013

104 years young

After visiting Briana & Ted in Toronto, I continued my winter vacation in Winnipeg.  February is a time for annual celebration in Derek's family as his Grandfather Jaring has his birthday on February 11. Jaring turned 104 this year.

Happy Birthday Jaring!
Derek & Jaring
To say that Jaring is a remarkable man would be a huge understatement.  The first time I met Jaring he was 98 and I thought for sure someone had made a mistake - he was fitter, stronger, and sharper than most 80 year olds I've met!  He was working on a Saturday edition of the New York Times Crossword puzzle!  In my line of work, I see a full spectrum of people of all shapes, sizes and ages, and I'm telling you - Jaring is truly amazing!  How many 104 year old swimming champions do you know?  Jaring holds multiple master's swimming world records, even though he didn't start swimming competitively until he was 78!

 In the master's, you compete against historical records, and when he turned 100, he was eligible to swim for the 100-104 records.  In 2009 we went out to Winnipeg to cheer him on.

Pre-race visualization.  Look at that focus!
I felt very lucky to be a part of the birthday celebration & the swim competition.  Much of Derek's family lives in Winnipeg & it was fantastic to meet them all & to see how much everyone draws strength & inspiration from Jaring.

On the starting block at Pan-Am Pool.  

Swimming for the record

That weekend he swam to world record times in 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle and 50m backstroke.  3 world records in 1 day!

Other than Jaring, I have met a small number of centenarians through work.  Whenever we have a patient in their late 90s or over 100 come in to the office or hospital, nurses and doctors alike say the same things: "Can you believe this woman is 104 and she is so with it?", "Can you believe that this 98 year old man lives independently?", "I can't believe this patient is 100 years old and takes no medications!!!"  I don't believe that these are coincidences at all - whether its genes, healthy lifestyle or a combination - you don't get to your 90s & 100s unless you are healthy, both mentally & physically.

Jaring has developed an acronym to share the secret of his longevity: GEDS.   GEDS stands for Genes, Exercise, Diet and Spirit.  Well, we can't do much about the genetic lot we are given, but having a healthy lifestyle with good exercise, balanced diet and positive spirit is something that we all can and should do.  At work I am often sitting across from patients who are looking for prescriptions as easy solutions to their problems, when what they really need is a change in lifestyle.  It sounds simple, but when we look after our minds and our bodies with healthy choices, we reduce our risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, cancer, depression, anxiety and we live longer, happier lives.  It sounds simple, because at the root of it, it is simple!!  We may not live to see 104, but every small choice we make about the way we treat our body has enormous impact on our health and longevity.

It doesn't mean you can't have a giant piece of delicious ice cream cake on your birthday....

Mmmm.... birthday cake!

Jaring at his 100th Birthday, sharing the secret of GEDS with us

I am inspired by Jaring and think most people who meet him feel the same way.  I wish I could bottle up some of the joie de vivre that he inspires and use it to motivate positive change in some of my patients.  For now, I will just hope that sharing his story & trying to keep healthy myself will help!

Happy 104th Birthday, Jaring, and we can't wait to see you back in the pool going for the 105+ records!

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Saturday morning bake-fest: CBC #1 and #2

We awoke to a pretty grey & rainy (i.e. typical February) day in Squamish.  I decided it would be a good day to start the Cookbook Challenge (otherwise known as the CBC.)

I think I am a decent cook - I like to try new things & most of the time I seem to put together tasty meals.  As for baking, my track record is not as good.  I wouldn't say I'm terrible, but I have almost as many misses as I do hits.  I think it might be because baking involves precision - its actually just chemistry in the kitchen - whereas cooking allows a bit more latitude with the instructions.  I have never really been a great "details" person.  If I stick to chocolate cookies & muffins, I am golden (I get lots of practice with these as they are Derek's favourite!), but the idea here is to branch out.

My mom is a great cook & baker.  We grew up eating the most amazing cookies, pies, brownies and cakes.  I remember birthday cakes shaped and decorated like Big Bird & Holly Hobby.  We always had homemade cookies in our lunch-boxes, and I'm embarrassed to say that I went through a phase when I would trade these for Oreos and the other store-bought junk my friends had in their lunch-box.  I thought they were so lucky!  If I could go back to my childhood I would eat all my homemade goodies.  And I would take all my naps, thank you very much!

I want to be a better baker so I can also fill my family's lunch-boxes with goodies.  So for the Cookbook Challenge today, I tackled two new baked goods.

CBC #1: Double Chocolate Brownies from Bonnie Stern's Essentials of Home Cooking

OK, this is probably the most used book on my shelf.  There are food stains & splatters in every section from appetizers to desserts.  The recipes are delicious and easy to prepare; many of my favourite meals come from this trusty book.  It was not that easy to find a recipe in this book I haven't tried.  But I haven't made the brownies.  In fact, I have never made brownies, which is sort of surprising as I am married to a chocoholic.

I wish I could report success here, but I can't.  Bonnie specifically instructs me to be careful not to overcook my brownies; they should be crispy on the outside, moist in the middle.  I kept checking and checking and ended up leaving them in way longer than she recommended... but they still came out uncooked in the middle.  Finally I thought I had it right, so I removed them & let them cool.  I am sad to report, however, that they were closer to chocolate lava cake than brownies.

What to do with these half-baked brownies that I was planning to take down to a friend's house this afternoon?  Avert your eyes, Bonnie Stern... I took some inspiration from my university roommate, who used to make this thing she called "brownie in a bowl."  She basically threw together a batter concoction, nuked it for 5 mins and voila - a chocolately midnight snack to help with studying & maintenance of the freshman 15.   I decided to see what would happen if I finished these brownies in the microwave.  Well, I am happy to report, I did manage to salvage them.  They didn't look pretty, but they had the distinct advantage of being in the solid state.  And they tasted yummy!

I know some excellent bakers follow my blog on occasion, so my question is: what did I do wrong?  I am wondering if my use of a glass dish (vs metal) was a problem?

CBC #2: Orange Bran Muffins from "The New Basics Cookbook"

I don't know where I got this book from.  I think it was either gifted to me by my mom, or there is a small chance I stole it from her (sorry, mom!)  It is one of the Silver Palate books written by two women (Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins) with awesome 80s hairdos.  I almost never use it unless I need to discover how to make mashed potatoes, pie pastry or apple sauce.  In other words, I consult it for the basics.  

I love muffins, but the store & cafe bought ones are often disappointing.   I've never made bran muffins before,  so today I tried the Orange Bran Muffins.  

Not much to report here: the recipe was easy & the result was satisfactory.  The muffins were tasty and very moist, though a little greasier than I would like.  They are not as good as the delectable "Rhubarb Strudel Muffins" in Bonnie Sterns book from CBC #1!

Did anyone else get up to baking or cooking this weekend?  

Friday, 15 February 2013

Cookbook challenge

When I was visiting Briana in Toronto last weekend, we stopped in at super cute kitchen store in Kensington Market.   They had a beautiful collection of cookbooks, organized into region and style.  I was drooling over them; I love cookbooks and I love cooking.  But I have many cookbooks already -possibly too many, but that is a matter of opinion.  I do admit there are a few absolutely gorgeous cookbooks on my shelf that, for one reason or another, have not seen much use.  Even among those that I use all the time, I tend to stick to the same true and tried recipes.  For that reason, I love it when friends or family have the same book as I do, as it seems we always gravitate towards different recipes & can then share notes!

I was sharing this conundrum of cookbook underuse with Briana, when she told me about a friend with the same problem, and her nifty solution.  She made a resolution that before the end of the year, she would make a new recipe out of every one of her cookbooks.  Brilliant idea!  Not only will it get me dusting off some of my underused books, but it will help introduce me to new recipes in my go-to books.

I have 46 cookbooks.  So I had better get started ASAP as that means 1 new recipe per week for 2013.

If you see one of your favourite cookbooks on my shelf, please share some of your best recipes with me so I can try them!

My delicious cookbook collection

New recipes or old, one thing that seems to grow and grow and grow is my girth!  I am now officially at the stage where strangers will pass comment on my belly and give it a little rub.  My favourite comment so far has to be: "Is that real?"  Yes it is real, and yes, someone really asked me that.

Belly shot of the week: first day of the third trimester - 27 weeks!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Reverse psychology winter vacation

While many of my colleagues and friends prepare for their winter getaways to to Arizona, Mexico, Hawaii, Jamaica and others sunny destinations, I packed up my long-jons, my down jacket & toque.  Destination: Toronto.  I wanted to make a visit to Briana and Ted before I got banned from air travel and I figured a good dose of true Canadian winter would give me a greater appreciation of how truly un-wintery our west coast winters are.

Walking down a side street in a very quiet Toronto 

Well, I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity to test my theory of winter vacation reverse psychology; I landed at Toronto Pearson airport just ahead of winter storm that was being touted as "the biggest storm to hit Toronto in 5 years!"  With all the media buzz over the storm, I was really hoping it might get named "snowmageddon" or "snowzilla" or some other name that I could get printed on a t-shirt, but all the clever meteorologists must've had the day off, and all we got was "severe winter storm."  Other than the obvious havoc it wreaked on transport (thank goodness I arrived when I did!)  storm didn't seem all that bad, so all the attention was probably a bit of snoverkill anyway.

Briana and Ted bought their house in Toronto last spring and moved in in September.  I saw it from the outside when we came out for their wedding, but now I got to visit and stay in the new place.  It's a cute duplex on a pretty and quiet tree-lined street not far from downtown Toronto.

Briana & Ted in front of their new house

We had a nice relaxed morning and waffle breakfast before heading out into the snow.   We walked to the University of Toronto to use the athletic centre.  My plan was to swim, but I was turned around at the pool deck as it was playing host to a swim competition.  As there was no pregnancy category, I didn't think I had the goods to compete!  So I joined Briana in the gym for a spin.

After our workout, we had lunch at a delicious vegetarian restaurant, Fresh.  From there we took the subway to the Eaton's Centre, where it would appear a large percentage of Torontonians go to spend a snow day.  I went to Indigo to get a book of baby names and I almost fell over when I saw the section on pregnancy & parenting!  Between the Internet and the hundreds of manuals that have been written on these two subjects, its a wonder pregnant women and future parents don't explode from overwhelming confusion!  Life must've been simpler when most pregnancy advice came from your doctor, your mom, your girlfriends & "What to Expect When You're Expecting."  Even naming baby seems daunting when you can't decide if you want a "cool name", a "rock 'n roll name", a "Canadian name" or a "Sci-Fi baby name."  This is serious business.

After a long day out, it was a treat to come home & kick up our feet with other two inhabitants of the house: Winnie & Keido.  Briana made a delicious Indian dinner & I went to bed early, dreaming of a baby named Zaphod Beeblebrox.


Keido & Throckmorton

Monday, 4 February 2013

Skiing the blues

This past weekend we had a few days of sunny warm weather & I took the opportunity to head up skiing for my last day of the season.

We enjoyed some great powder days in Dec, but increasing belly-size lead me to the groomers!
 Its sad to say good-bye to the season in early February, but my body started to rebel against my efforts.  Baby, on the other hand, is loving it!  I get all sorts of kicks while I ski & I'm pretty sure he/she is having an awesome time in there.

Belly shot on my first ski day, around 16 wks

Belly shot on my last ski day, 25 wks

We had great company for our ski day: Chris, Louise and Gail.  All are new moms & they are still rippin' up the slopes, so I know I'll still get some great runs in next season too!

Moms & mom-to-be dropping into the glacier
Saturday Derek & I enjoyed brunch at home & the weather was gorgeous again. Derek ventured out for a bike ride & I decide to go for a hike through Coho Park to the Covenant.   The Covenant is a new-ish mountain bike trail.  I've biked it once or twice & didn't find I could get much flow on it, but its a very favourite running trail for me.  Alas, running is also off limits for me these days, as my pelvic symphysis ligament was threatening to abandon me if kept it up.  So I tried hiking it instead.

The Covenant.  Gorgeous trail for biking, running & walking in Squamish.  Features 2 waterfalls!

The walk/hike was fantastic, but possibly a bit too long for me.  One of the challenges I've been having in this pregnancy is actually admitting that I may have some limitations.  Its easy to get use to our bodies behaving the way we want them too, and its hard to accept that I can't keep running, skiing, hiking and all the other things I love to do.  But I am trying my hardest to embrace the joys of swimming, spinning and slow-walking!

It looks like I may have some company in the pool soon; Derek's ride resulted in a broken big toe, so he's a little laid up at the moment.  I would include a photo here, but I am afraid my filter for medical things is not well-calibrated.  Its hard for me to tell if something is gross or not, because very little is to me!

The last adventure of the weekend was buying some maternity clothes.  I've resisted until now, convinced that I could fit into my regular skirts and dresses.  Throw in a "belly band" and I figured my pants could see me through as well.  It turns out I underestimated my belly in a big way & the need for elastic waist-bands was getting critical.  I put on my first pair of those crazy pants with the huge bib in front & breathed a sigh of relief!!  Actually, it may have just been a normal breath, my first in several weeks.  Why did I wait so long?!?

Belly-shot of the week: 25 weeks & 3 days.
Rocking my first official maternity outfit!