Immune System Boosters

Immune Boosting SupplementsThere are 18.5 days until my children go back to school.  I’m counting the days, not because I’m so eager to get rid of them (we’ve had such a fun summer!), but because it’s 18.5 days until they are immersed into the perfect storm of germs > the classroom.

I try not to think about how often their desks have been washed (ever?), or the railings that they seem intent on clinging to with their bare hands every time they walk down the stairs.  I will not even imagine the lunchroom germs (shudder)!  Instead of letting my paranoia take hold, it’s time to bring out the Immune System Boosters and get ready for whatever comes our way.

We’ve gone a bit off course with some of our healthy habits during our summertime of wild fun.  And even though the adventures aren’t quite over, it’s time to get prepared for what’s around the corner.

Immune Boosting Supplements

These are my go to supplements for general health and an immune system boost all year long:

  1. A good probiotic.  I switch between a few different ones, but my current favourite for the kids is Udo’s Super 5 Plus Lozenge.
  2. Vitamin D3.  The one we are currently taking is by CanPrev and it also contains K2.  I give the kids a half dose (2 drops).
  3. Extra Vitamin C.  I’m giving them an extra dose of C each day leading up to school and will also do so at the first sign of any cold or sore throat etc.
  4. A whole food concentrate.  This has replaced our multi-vitamin and greens powder.  Juice Plus makes a great gummy for kids that contains 30 different fruits, vegetables and grains.
  5. Omega 3.  After trying several, we take NutraSea fish oil by Ascenta.  We all like the flavour and I see good results with consistent use.

Add all of that to some good sleeps, plenty of fresh fruits and veggies (it’s harvest season here – so this part is easy right now), lots of water and good old fashioned outdoor play – and I think we have a recipe for immune boosting success.  I will let you know how it goes!

Happy back-to-school.


Caramelized Onion Hummus

Caramelized Onion HummusOh hummus, you are saviour of sandwiches, best friend to crudités and one of my personal heroes.  I prefer to use a hummus dip for snacking because I just find it a cleaner eating option – especially if you make it yourself.

Between my children and I, we seem to have found a favourite dip that we can go through in one sitting together.  Fontaine Santé makes this incredible caramelized onion hummus that we all love.

But alas, dipping our carrot sticks can get a bit pricey and I’d prefer to have a hummus without canola oil in it  – so I set out on a mission to create my own version.  The result isn’t really much like theirs, but delicious nonetheless.


Chewy Oat Granola Bars

Chewy Oat Granola Bars
My kids love those chewy granola bars, the ones that are actually candy masquerading as health food.  I can’t bring myself to buy them, so this is our compromise.  These bars make a great snack – they really fill you up and provide sustained energy to get you through the day.

This is just a guideline – switch the ingredients to match your own taste.  I use whatever dried fruit we have on hand and every once in a while I substitute half of the oats for quinoa flakes for an even chewier bar. Sometimes we crumble them over yogurt parfaits for breakfast – delicious!


Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potato Topping

Comforting Shepherd's Pie with Sweet Potato/Parsnip ToppingThe winter of 2013/2014 will be forever in my memory as the one where winter came to Toronto.  It came as snow, it came as rain and way sub-zero temperatures, and it came as an ice storm that found us sheltering inside our cosy house with my family (cats and all) while listening to tree branches crash down around us.

The super-cold temperatures this winter have left me craving serious comfort foods.   After an evening of shovelling the driveway or mastering the toboggan hills, it’s just the dinner you want to come home to (unless you’re my husband and it’s kare kare you’re craving – but that’s a whole other story).


Gingerbread People

Gingerbread PeopleDo you have a favourite holiday tradition?  My fave holiday is Christmas and what I’ve grown to love most is Christmas Eve.  Our family heads down to the market for an early breakfast and we shop for ingredients for our dinner that night.  The market has such an amazing energy on Decembers24th, it’s festive in every sense of the word.  Our Christmas Eve wouldn’t be complete without baking some tasty treats to leave out for Santa as he makes his rounds.  Ending our day by making these gingerbread people has become a tradition in the last few years.

The heavenly scent of gingerbread cookies baking puts a smile on my face anytime of year.  It’s like a big, warm hug for your senses.


Community Supported Agriculture – My First Delivery!

Contents of CSA delivery - Cooper's FarmAre you familiar with the butterfly effect?   You know, the one where the butterfly flaps its wings and a couple of weeks later a hurricane results?  I’m pretty sure there’s also such thing as the “schoolyard effect”.  In this case it’s the one where someone mentioned this great, big corn maze one day while we were waiting to pick up our children – and then two days later I’ve purchase my very first CSA share.



Summer and Strawberries

Home-made strawberry ice creamThe end of school, camping and strawberry picking – those are the three things that traditionally signal the beginning of summer in our home.  Lucky us, we experienced them all this past week.  It took us less than an hour to fill our berry baskets, but we will be enjoying those ruby-red nuggets of berry goodness for months to come.





Superfood Finds at Costco

When Rick and I first got married we received a Costco membership as a present.  Having no need for industrial sized jars of Nutella or 12 packs of smoked oysters (and still don’t), we let the membership expire without much thought.  12 years, two children, and an opportunity to split a Costco membership with my sister have transpired since that time.

I was a reluctant customer at first – the odd bag of quinoa here and a large jar of almond butter there (which are glass jars now, yay!)  Then I found frozen, organic blueberries; ultra-light camping chairs and Roxy t-shirts; hemp hearts and coconut oil; and the list goes on.  Even so, I have been slightly embarrassed to fess up to some of the more environmentally conscious people in my life – surely there must be something wrong with shopping at Costco.  I’ve tried to find out what that might be, but I’m coming up short.  From what I read, they are a pretty ethical company.  They seem to treat their employees well, there’s less packaging than in most stores, and I don’t think you can even buy a bag to put your things in if you wanted to.


Vegetable Stock


Roasted Vegetable Soup - with home made soup stockI wrote most of this article from the oral surgery waiting room, as Rick had his wisdom teeth removed.  Thanks to the unsuspecting man who hadn’t secured the hotspot on his Android, my wait was a productive one!   If I remember correctly – the recovery from having your teeth yanked can be a long one – and the likelihood of soup in our near future is high.  What better base to start from than home made vegetable stock?

This was one of my goals for this year – stop buying soup stocks and start making them.  In the past 3 months I’ve only bought one carton, and have made many litres – hopefully a healthy habit has formed enough to stick.

Why  make your own stock when there are plenty available at the grocery store, you may be asking.  The real answer for me is more about what a home made stock doesn’t have in it – way less sodium than most store bought, no questionable ingredients (from “natural flavour” to MSG to sugar – who needs that stuff?)   And, it’s way less work than you may think.


Indulgent Green Smoothie for Mom (or Dad)

Indulgent Green SmoothieAre you an emotional eater?  I would have never classified myself as one, but this morning a light bulb went off for me and I discovered that I absolutely make food choices based on my emotional state.  And judging by the many websites out there devoted to emotional eating, I’m guessing that if you’re not, you know someone who is.

Let me set the scene for you.  At 7:15 this morning my day was running smoothly.  Kids and myself out of bed – check; dressed (them at least) – check;  breakfast and lunch making proceeding according to plan – check.  7:21 am:  daughter on floor having a meltdown because of some arbitrary thing that didn’t go her way and is now proclaiming the world and her mother are out to get her; son complaining that he only likes green apples and not red ones to be puréed and placed upon his oatmeal and is now refusing to eat the oatmeal but managing to smear it all over his library book nonetheless; me lying back in bed in the fetal position with door closed before I completely lose it on them – check, check and check.


The Benefits of Meal Planning

Planning our meals for the weekThis is a conversation that I’ve had many times with my friends and family.  It goes something like this:  “I don’t know what I’m going to make for dinner tonight, I have food in the freezer but I forgot to defrost it.  I’m so tired of cooking, I never know what to make and I spend so much money on food.  How do you get your kids to eat well and try new foods?”

The answer:

“We sit down together, pull out some cookbooks and magazines and create a meal plan for the week.  Then I know exactly what to shop for and I’m not scrambling at the last minute.  They eat it because they helped to choose it.”


2013: Looking forward to the year ahead

Culinary ChristmasThe new year officially starts for me on the day my kids go back to school.  I can finally say Happy New Year to you!  I took a little bloggy vacation this Christmas – deciding to instead focus on having fun with the family.  I’m hoping that you all had a super celebration, no matter what you did this holiday season, and that you have some fab things planned for 2013.

This is going to be the year that I make home-made bagels, vegetable and chicken stock, train for a half-marathon and renovate my home (and I will forgive myself if I fall short on any of those goals)!

I have some great new equipment, that I was given for Christmas, to work with:  a set of 10 Williams Sonoma glass mixing bowls (so luxurious), a new ice cream maker and my very own grain mill attachment for the mixer.   Some incredible kitchen adventures are in store for us!