5 Easy at Home Workouts

easy at home workoutsIf one of your New Year’s resolutions is getting in better shape but the time and expense of a gym just doesn’t appeal to you – I have the solution for you with these 5 Easy at Home Workouts.

I get it, you’re a busy mom/ parent on the go. There are days when you are just happy you’ve had time for a shower and something to eat, let alone a little exercise. It’s also winter – and I don’t know about where you live, but right now it’s freezing and snowy outside! So though I love being outdoors and enjoying winter when I can – the reality is we tend to hibernate in winter. We don’t get out as much, and we tend to be less active in general.

easy at home workoutsFor me, I love things that I can do at home. Because though I do go to a gym and enjoy it, I also love the option of being able to get a workout in without having to go anywhere. Cause honestly sometimes you just don’t have the time to pack your bag, get in the car, drive to the gym… you get the idea. But you do have 10-15 minutes.

And truly 10-15 minutes can do wonders for your overall health, well being and exercise plan. You do not need a lot of fancy equipment to get the blood moving and the heart pumping or to notice the results of your efforts. Plus it’s easy, and I don’t know about you but I love easy. If it’s easy it makes it more of a reality that it is going to happen.

I also like variety. I don’t always want to do the same thing everyday so I like to have options to choose from when I want to switch it up. These 5 Easy at Home Workouts offer a variety of options that are more than just weights and constant repetitions. They are short and great for getting up and moving. They are also easy to do with or involve the kids if you want to. It can even be contagious! My daughter does my 5 minute yoga routine with me most mornings and now does her own periodically throughout the day!

5 Easy at Home Workouts

Easy 10 Minute Workout – Simply using your body and a chair, this workout routine provides 8 strength training exercises to strengthen and tone.

easy at home workouts

Mini Trampoline Workout – Move to your favorite tunes with this low impact workout. I love this idea as you just cue up enough music for the length of time you want – 5 minutes, 10 minutes, etc. and then you jump and move and play. That’s it! Easy. Yes you need a mini trampoline but they are inexpensive. They are also portable and fit just about anywhere.

easy at home workouts

Fun Hoola Hoop Exercise Routine – I think this my favorite one. Even though I am terrible at using one, the laughter and joy from doing this would be beneficial in itself. Besides they say practice makes perfect and if no one is watching you (another benefit of doing it at home) then there’s no need to be self conscious. Give it your all!

easy at home workouts

 

5 Minute Yoga Routine – This has become my cornerstone in my daily routine. I do it each morning and I love it because it is only 5 minutes. It’s easy, it gets me moving and if on the odd occassion I don’t do it first thing like usual, I can easily fit it into my day somewhere else. Because it’s only 5 minutes! Don’t worry if you haven’t done yoga before. Krista takes you through all the moves in the video.

easy at home workouts

 

Easy at-home Exercises – 10 minutes, your body and a couple of soup cans. Voila! Easiest at home workout ever.

easy at home workouts

So before you decide to throw out the idea of getting more exercise this year pick one of these workouts and give it a try. If one doesn’t appeal to you try a different one. It’s only a few minutes, it’s easy and you’ll be thanking yourself later.

Regardless of which one you choose, and you could even do a combination, you’ll easily reap the benefits of regular exercise in the comfort of your own home. Tone, strengthen and relieve stress.

Plus there’s no financial investment. You don’t even need workout gear, you could simply do them in your pyjamas (seriously I do it – who’s watching). The biggest thing is to be consistent, even if you only do it once a week but do it consistently it’ll make a difference. So go for it! Make exercise easy and have fun with it. I’m off to play with my hula hoop…

Sogo for a Run

Sogo SquirtsMy son completes his last lap around the designated loop in Fish Creek, completing 10 laps easily without losing breath or stamina. Nine weeks ago he could barely do 3 without being short of breath and collapsing on the ground. Endurance, which he has definitely built up over the past 10 weeks, is only one of 4 components in the Sogo Adventure Running Program for Youth.

A little tentative when we began, my son was unsure if he even wanted to participate in this program. “It’s running Mum, that’s boring.” But I suggested we go and check it out as there was more than that, not committing him one way or the other so he agreed.

After the first night watching the other kids zoom through the forest, jumping over obstacles and balancing clothes pegs, he was in and couldn’t wait to get started.

Sogo Adventure RunningSogo Adventure Running is an outdoor running program for youth ages 3-18, that runs each Spring and Fall, offering 4 levels of skill and age based programming. It is based on the Canadian Sport of Life Long Term Athlete Development model and is a great way to get kids out there and active!

It has four components, endurance, speed/power, strength/agility and navigation, 2 of which are done each week on a rotating basis. I was so impressed the first night with the obstacle course the kids did I wanted them to set up an adult program for me!

I loved the fact that my son was getting outside each week on a regular basis, rain or shine, and playing in the outdoors (as he spends far too much time on electronics). He was active, with his peers and really challenging himself. I also loved that we got to enjoy and explore different natural areas in Calgary, as the locations rotated every few weeks.

Sogo Adventure RunningHe looked so vibrant and alive after each class. We would often leave in a rush to get there; he would say he was tired and didn’t want to go, but once we got there he got right into it, literally glowing and happy afterwards.

I was also pleased to be part of Sogo Squirts (3-5 year olds) pilot program last spring with my younger son and daughter, as I am a strong believer that when you introduce things to kids at a young agethat it sticks with them. An active foundation is so important for children. This program had the same components but was set up through games and activities for their age. Both my younger children loved looking for the orange and white flags and punching their cards on their navigation course.

This unique program is part of the Foothills Wanderers Orienteering Club and with registration allows youth to participate in their Family Fun nights on Wednesdays, where kids get to put their skills to work!

I was so pleased that this low cost, active program (all you need is a pair of running shoes) was available to all my children and I look forward to participating again! It is an experience like no other!Sogo Adventure Running

For more information on Sogo and registration go to their website sogoadventurerunning.com

Kids Healthy Cooking – How to get your Kids Eating Vegetables

get kids eating vegetablesIt is amazing how many kids do not like vegetables. Or if they do, they like only one, like carrots, or cucumbers, but otherwise that’s it. I know many parents experience this struggle of expanding their children’s vegetable palate. That’s why getting creative to get kids eating vegetables is key.

In our Mini Chefs class last week we created vegetable flowers. This is a great way to get kids eating vegetables – it is fun, offers them diverse food colors and creates a pattern, which are all proven ways to get them eating. The ‘flower’ was a combination of celery, radish, carrot, cucumber, spinach, and grape tomato (lots of colors).

veggie flowerWhen we were creating our vegetable flowers, many of the kids told me right away which vegetables they did not like. Though I acknowledged it, I encouraged them to make the flower anyway and then they could eat the parts they did like and leave the rest (not forcing the kids to eat what they don’t like, but acknowledging and encouraging is another way to get kids eating vegetables, and a variety). I praised and encouraged them as they were creating, telling them how much I liked the ‘grass’ they had made or the ‘petals’ on the flower. When we were done, all the ‘flowers’ were unique. Similar to the example but with their own creative flare!

Then of course we ate them and some of the kids not only ate the parts they liked but branched out and tried something new. I had to laugh when I watched two girls each try a spinach leaf and heard them exclaim “oh this is so yummy!”

This is why cooking with your kids is such a great benefit! It gets them involved, creative and gives them opportunities to try something new. Making food fun, will encourage them to try it out and maybe, hopefully expand their palates. It also is an opportunity to teach them about nutrition and why we need balance in what we eat.

IMG_6922Also that day we made Tuna Melts, which is one of my favorites! It is a simple quick recipe and great to do with kids. All you need is bread, tuna, Veganaise (or your favorite mayonaise) and cheddar cheese. This recipe is a great one for kids to practice stirring and spreading (the tuna). Parents of course should do the opening of the can, cutting and using the oven as these tasks need to be closely supervised with small children.

Again we had a few kids who said they didn’t like tuna, but I encouraged them to at least try it. For some kids, it could simply be the Veganaise (mayo) that they don’t actually like. I remember when I was little I did not care for mayonaise at all. It wasn’t until I was much older that I actually liked it. If you think this may be the case, you can either change your mayo choice (not all mayos are created equal) or you could leave it out and not mix it in your tuna – though this would leave the tuna a little dry the melted cheese on top could help with this. Experiment, let your child taste the items separately to determine what part they don’t care for and then adjust from there.

Cooking with kids is always an adventure and getting kids to eat vegetables just makes it that much more interesting! But recognizing and praising them for what they do and trying new things definitely puts them on a path to enjoying their food and exploring new recipes!

Tuna Meltstuna melt with Daiya cheddar

Ingredients:

Slices of bread

1 can of tuna

Veganaise (or choose your favorite mayonaise)

Slices of Daiya cheddar (or regular cheddar)

Mix tuna with Veganaise. Start with one to two spoonfuls of Veganaise and mix. Add more if needed to taste, you do not want the tuna to be dry, but you don’t want it sopping wet. Spread tuna on slice of bread. Place cheddar slices on top of tuna.

Place on a cookie sheet in oven on broil. When cheese has melted it is ready to eat! this only takes one or two minutes so make sure you keep an eye on it. Take out of oven and let cool slightly, then eat and enjoy!

Vegetable Flower

Ingredients:IMG_6930

Cucumber slices

Celery

1 grape or cherry tomato

1 radish

2 spinach leaves

8 baby carrots

Wash all vegetables. Slice cucumbers, radish and 2 pieces of celery (one big and one small) to make stems of flowers. On a plate place 2 pieces of celery. At the top of the big piece arrange cucumber slices into a flower shape. At the top of the small piece of celery arrange the radish to make petals of flower. Place grape or cherry tomato in middle of the cucumbers to form center of big flower. Place two pieces of spinach on either side of big piece of celery to make leaves. Line the bottom of flowers with baby carrots to create ground/ grass. Take a picture of your creation! Enjoy plain or with your favorite dip.IMG_6925

Missed last week’s kids healthy eating recipe? Click for Yogurt Parfaits and more great tips on cooking with kids

Looking for more creative fun ideas to get kids eating vegetables? Check out these great ideas 

Next week Kids Smoothies – 3 delicious recipes, one with chocolate! how can you go wrong?

Orange Cranberry Smoothie

IMG_6830I woke up Christmas morning this year feeling very excited! I felt like a kid all over again, the magic and anticipation of Santa and Christmas morning were very present. I didn’t sleep much, and by 5 am I was literally ready to get up and open presents. I seriously considered going and getting my parents up ‘for old times sake’ like when we were kids and getting up at 3 being told to go back to bed, then 4 then 5 and finally my parents would give up about 6.

I had the pleasure of sharing Christmas this year with both my parents and only me. No kids, no siblings, no in laws, just us, which is a rare and special occasion. It is not often that such an opportunity occurs and I felt that this in itself was a gift. Christmas Eve we watched a movie and my Mum and I sat up late talking and sipping gingerbread martinis. At midnight we toasted and wished each other Merry Christmas. We peeked outside, and experienced a calm beautiful evening. The snow gently falling and a peacefulness in the air, truly a unique energy that was not present earlier that day (or on Christmas morning when I popped outside either). It really was like in the movies, that magical energy, and presence there.

IMG_4491One of the things I love to do over the holidays is experiment with different festive recipes and on Christmas Eve I had already been thinking about trying a Cranberry smoothie of some kind Christmas morning. I googled a number of recipes and found some good ones, though undecided which one to try.

When I woke in the morning (or should I say finally got up around 8) I bounced out of the spare room wishing a Merry Christmas! Mum was at the sink, Dad dressing in red and I was moving towards the tree. Quickly with coffees or waters in hand we began a lovely ritual of opening gifts and sharing. After gifts Mum went to the kitchen to make brunch – a fabulous Impossible Quiche with Daiya smoked gouda, spinach and mushrooms and I proceeded to make the smoothies. I had decided to take the elements of some of the recipes I found that I liked and combine them, adding some of my own ingredients and creating my own. The result was fantastic! A smooth creamy, flavorful smoothie that we all socked back quickly, expressing how much we enjoyed it. I loved the added greens myself, which darkens the pink looking smoothie slightly but gets those greens in there without even tasting it! The added benefit is that cranberries themselves are considered a super food and are high in vitamin C, E, fiber as well as providing benefits such as improved immune system, antioxidant and decreased blood pressure.

When I arrived home after Christmas I made it again for the kids and they all loved it! Matthew who hasn’t been drinking many smoothies these days, tasted it said ‘Oh that’s good’ and drank the rest quickly. Chloe asks me every day since she tried it for one and has expressed that it’s her new favorite. Even my ex husband tried it the other day and said it was good (this is a big thing btw, as he is not really a smoothie guy and particular about tastes). I was quite pleased with the results and I think I drove my parents a little crazy that first day I made it when I kept saying throughout the day how good it was and how impressed with myself for creating it. Well it was good!

So if you’ve got a festive theme going over the holidays or simply want to try out a great new smoothie recipe, give this one a go! If you find it a little tart for your tastes just add more stevia when making it. Then come back here and comment telling me how you like it!

Orange Cranberry Smoothie

2 bananasIMG_6831

1 c. frozen cranberries

1 c. un sweetened almond-cashew yogurt

1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. orange juice

1/2 of 1 g packet of stevia

handful of spinach* (optional)

Put all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth. Garnish with slice of orange and a few cranberries if desired. Pour into 8 oz glasses and serve.

*if you would like a bright pink smoothie do not add spinach as it will darken it. I love tossing in that bit of green as it is a great way to get those greens in a quick and easy way. And you don’t even notice it’s there!

Serves 3 (makes 3 – 8 oz servings)

A Coffee Smoothie…yes!

warm capuccino-saidaonlineThere’s nothing like a good cup of coffee. That fragrant aroma wafting through the air, the warmth of your mug as you gently lift it up and breathe, pause, then take a sip. Ahhh…I love coffee. And lately I have been drinking a lot of it. Well a lot for me, comparatively to other people I really don’t drink much at all. I drink maybe a cup a day, and there are some days none at all, but for a girl who used to drink one cup of decaf maybe once a week, a full caffeinated brew every day is a lot!

It’s all those fantastic flavored coffees that have done me in, toasted coconut, cinnamon pastry. But they don’t come in decaf and it is the caffeine that sends me flying, high on energy and sometimes a little shaky, probably not so good for me. Yet when the german chocolate cake is calling…

IMG_4721Luckily there’s a smoothie for that 🙂 Yes a way to still get my coffee fix, cause really I think what I am looking for is the flavor, and make it a more healthy choice and experience. It consists of all kinds of good things, like flax seed, cacao, honey and almond milk, with that little splash of coffee to finish it off.

It is quite yummy and satisfying. In fact, I made it for a friend of mine a couple of years ago, an avid coffee drinker and an avid smoothie avoider, and he loved it! He now enjoys them regularly. I also shared it with my mother this past weekend who is very much a smoothie drinker and loves her coffee, so it wasn’t really a hard sell, but she loved it and immediately asked for the recipe.

The recipe is quite simple, combining all the ingredients in the blender, mix and ready to serve. It can easily be made ahead and drunk later in the day, or right away, as I am sure you will not be able to wait.

Chocolate Mocha Smoothie

3/4 c. unsweetend almond milk

2 tbsp. cacao powder

1-2 oz. coffee (you can use decaf if you prefer, or any flavored coffee that you feel goes well with chocolate)

1 tbsp. flax seed oil

1 tbsp. vegan protein powder

1 tsp. honey

optional: 2 ice cubes (this thickens up your smoothie if prefered)

Put all ingredients into a Vitamix blender. Mix until smooth. Enjoy!

The Benefits of Human Touch

benefits of human touchYears ago I was writing for a site called Suite 101, it was a great site with a variety of articles on a wide range of topics. I penned many articles there, of which my absolute favorite has always been the one on the Benefits of Human Touch. How we it is essential in our lives and how important good touch is to our health and survival.

Lately I have heard a lot in the news about touch, from the girls hockey teams in Ontario creating new rules for coaches around touch, to the things that are acceptable in classrooms as well as in our homes. It has reminded me how important this topic is. With the continued use and growth of electronics we continue to become a ‘touch phobic’ society, where the most innocent touch can be misinterpreted and looked upon as bad.

In today’s world, we need to teach our kids the difference between good and bad touch, as well as to not be afraid to hug and touch our children. As people in general, we need hugs, or pats on the back, because some of us are very very lonely; and gestures like those can really make all the difference.

My original article is below, to learn, to share, to teach, to recognize how important this sense is to us and how to nurture it appropriately.benefits of human touch

The Need for Touch in the Development of Healthy Adults and Children

Scientists have shown that the amount of body contact (touch) plays a vital role in people’s mental and physical development as infants and in our happiness as adults.

Touch is the first sense to develop in the womb and the last sense to leave in old age. It is essential to the health and well being of human’s emotional, physical and mental development. It is so vital in fact that therapist and author, Virginia Satir, stated that human beings need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 hugs a day for maintenance and 12 hugs a day for growth.

A “Touch Phobic” Society

benefits of human touchIn today’s world, technology has reduced the amount of physical contact that people have with each other on a daily basis. With automatic bank machines, online shopping, internet, email and voice mail people can make appointments, dates or decisions without ever actually talking to or seeing another person. Those subtle contacts with others, once common on a daily basis are gone.

In addition, it is more common to hear about situations where touch has been used negatively or inappropriately. The news reports on child abuse cases, sexual harassment suits, and rapes. Parents are teaching children to be wary of strangers, and to be selective in how and what to touch. Though this is beneficial to keep children safe; this has created a society that has become “touch phobic” where the simplest and most innocent touch can be easily misconstrued as sexual, or inappropriate.

Dr. Barnaby Barratt from Santa Barbara Consulting and Healing highlights in his article on Nurturing Touch that “affectional touch is highly beneficial so long as it is experienced as “appropriate” to the situation, and does not impose greater intimacy than is desired, or is not part of some interpersonal “power play.” Touching should neither be coercive nor manipulative. It should be purely giving, and never used as a means to an ends, for example as a maneuver to get someone into unwanted sexual relations.”

Due to the overload of negative touch, society has become very guarded. When people are touched in any form it is often perceived as bad, or inappropriate. Unfortunately this change in perspective has denied people the simple opportunities to enhance their development and one of the key elements needed to thrive and grow.

Children and Touch

benefits of human touchA child’s first and most important teacher is his sense of touch. It is the first sense he develops in the womb at only 8 weeks. Babies need it to survive and grow, and this need remains with us throughout our lives.

In the 1940’s, Doctor Fritz Talbot discovered on a visit to a children’s clinic, the connection between touch and babies ability to thrive. Babies that were being held, touched, and mothered were thriving when all other medical possibilities had been exhausted.

This need for touch is especially true with premature babies. In one study, premature babies who received gentle daily massage thrived better and had a 50% more daily weight gains than those that were untouched. In addition, these babies had a more efficient metabolism and were released from the hospital six days earlier.

For young infants and toddlers touch is a main source of learning about the world around them. They use their mouth and hands to explore and learn what things are and how things work. It is a key factor in their development as a child.

Benefits of Human Touch

benefits of human touchThe benefits of human touch to a person’s health are phenomenal. Touch can reassure, relax and comfort. It reduces depression, anxiety, stress and physical pain; and can be healing. It increases the number of immune cells in the body, and has powerful affects on behaviour and moods. Touch can be used as a form of alternative healing in the form of touch therapy.

In the video Touch the Forgotten Sense produced by Max Films, a study was conducted where women who had been sexually abused were introduced to a good form of touch by receiving massage therapy. A masseuse of the same sex gave the massage, and this helped the women perceive touch as more positive. They also found that the massage reduced their stress level and depressed mood. This introduction of “safe touch” helped these women begin to become comfortable again with being touched.

In the same video, another study was conducted where researchers asked people who had spent no longer than fifteen minutes in a library how they rated their experience in the library. People who had brushed hands ‘accidentally’, with the planted librarian reported a more enjoyable time. In a similar study, people who were touched by their waitress, a brush of the hand, or a gentle touch on the shoulder, said they had a more enjoyable dining experience and left larger tips for the waitress as compared with those people who had no contact.

These studies also demonstrate that we don’t need to consciously notice the touch in order to reap the benefits. Of those that were touched in the library study, not all of the people remembered being touched, but still reported a more pleasant experience than those that weren’t touched at all. People use their sense of touch automatically and may take it for granted on a daily basis. Yet people really notice when there is a lack of it.

Positive Touch Benefits Everyone

benefits of human touchTouch is vital to the positive health and development of all human beings, regardless of age. Humans need to touch and be touched, just like they need food and water. It is a way of communicating, lifting their spirits, and experiencing happiness in their lives. Without it people experience sadness, loneliness and isolation. It is important to have this physical contact in people’s lives, yet in today’s society many people are removed from benefiting from it due to negative associations with touch or lack of someone to share touch with.

This is why people have started seeking other forms of human touch in their lives such as attending a Cuddle Party, going for a regular massage, or experiencing other forms of healthy touch.

Everything Chocolate

IMG_4653Rich dark chocolate melting in your mouth, delighting the palate as it brings your tastebuds to life and activates natural soothing in the brain, making us feel oh so good.

Chocolate dating back to the Aztecs and Romans, has long since been considered an aphrodisiac, a treat associated with love and romance. Women love it, men crave it. Not only is it a popular gift, but a popular treat as well.

It’s no wonder that during the week of Valentine’s Day, a holiday long associated with love and romance, 58 million pounds of chocolates are sold, being the third largest holiday in sales of this popular treat (Halloween being first with Easter as the second).

The good news is that chocolate is actually good for you, as it contains fat, produces natural opiates which soothe nerves and make us feel good, as well as natural chemicals that lower your risk of cancer and heart disease (sounding pretty good doesn’t it?) Chocolate provides even more health benefits when made with cacao instead of cocoa, both derived from the same bean but processed differently, creating a superfood (cacao) that is rich in vitamins and minerals (getting better and better all the time).

IMG_4647Chocolate is also one of those things that goes with and can be used in just about anything, creating a myriad of delights for the palate to enjoy, a sensation of pleasure and joy in our human experience.

Since I have discovered how to make my own chocolate at home, (ready in about 10 minutes this really is a quick simple and easy way to make chocolate), we have not only been able to enjoy more chocolate in our home, but also enjoy lots of great things around the holidays.

For instance, this Valentine’s Day, we will enjoy heart shaped chocolates, Chocolate Dream Pie, Chocolate Truffles and if the spirit moves me, I may even make Chocolate Cupcakes with chocolate icing of course (even better these recipes are sugar free and dairy free). I love doing it up around the holidays and seeing what kind of fun things I can create; and the kids look forward to it!

Making your own chocolate is very easy, all you need is cacao butter, cacao powder, vanilla and natural sweetener of your choice (such as honey, pure maple syrup, etc.) I have a detailed post on how to make chocolate, as well as one on possible additions or variations you could use to flavor or fill your yummy chocolates.

IMG_4655This chocolate mix is also great for making Chocolate Dipped Strawberries (simply dip fresh strawberries in warm melted chocolate before it sets) or using it for Chocolate Fondue.

Other chocolate delights I have discovered, whether it be for Valentine’s Day or other, are Chocolate Macaroons (could shape them into little hearts for Valentine’s), Chocolate Pudding (one with chia seeds, one simple chocolate), Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Waffles, Hot Chocolate, Chocolate Smoothies and even Chocolate Marshmallows! And I love that they are all dairy free and naturally sweetened! On holidays, like Valentines, I often have a hard time picking only a few things to make 🙂

IMG_4658So now you know, you can live guilt free this Valentine’s Day and enjoy your chocolate; or you can venture out and make your own for yourself or to share with others (but you may not want to). Of course with anything, regardless of how good it is for you, everything in moderation (I know I just took all the fun out of it – but here’s the thing you can make MORE or try a new chocolate recipe, another version of chocolate).

So enjoy your chocolate with a great big smile this Valentine’s Day, and if no one gives you any, go get your own, it’s ok 🙂

*The majority of these recipes can be found on my blog or I have linked them to the appropriate site for you. Just click on the name and it will take you to the recipe. Enjoy!

Coconut Curry Chicken with Pineapple

IMG_3328I love barbequing! I love how it’s little dishes, less mess and usually very delicious! In fact, I enjoy barbequing so much that we usually bbq year round! Regardless if it is -30 or plus 30 C. (Thankfully it is not usually -30 C around here in the winter, but it is often below zero).

I know! You are probably thinking that this woman is crazy; but I’ve been out there in my winter boots flipping burgers or tending the steaks. Breath coming out in white whisps as it floats into the air. I never worry about the weather forecast or if it is ‘barbeque’ weather, as it is always barbeque weather for me!

It wasn’t until recently though that I actually learned to barbeque. Yes we were barbequing year round but it was my husband who was doing it. In fact I had never even made something as simple as the burgers! I would always mix the ground turkey or chicken and make the patties but never actually cooked them myself. I have no idea why I did this. Perhaps I thought it was the ‘mans job’, or perhaps it was just my way of diveying up the jobs, regardless up to a couple of years ago actually doing the cooking on the barbeque was a whole new thing to me.

Barbecue-gaz-1They say bbqing is an art and I would agree. Certain meats need lower temperatures and longer times, while others do better on a medium to high heat. I learned a little from my Dad and remembered what he said to do as I watched him barbeque over the years. And I did a little figuring it out myself. Overall I am a very good barbequer and I sometimes even take over that task when I am at my parents house!

The one thing about barbequing though, especially if you do it as often as I do, is variety. I believe there is more to barbequing than just burgers and steaks, so I like to explore other recipes are and what other things you can do. I have found that the barbeque has way more options for cooking on it then I originally thought, expanding my repertoire of dishes quite a bit. (Did you know you can do pizza on the barbeque? I did try it once, not so successfully mind you, but it can be done!)

A lot of barbeques these days come standard with rotisseries as well, which opens up a whole other path of options for you, such as roast chicken, roast or lamb. My mouth just waters at the thought of it….

One of my favorite recipes that I have discovered for the barbeque is Coconut Curry Chicken with grilled pineapple. Originally from Clean Eating Magazine, it is really easy, very moist and tastes delicious. It only takes a few minutes per side to cook and voila! dinner is ready. Just add rice and a nice salad (or other vegetable) and you have a complete delicious meal. The only trick is it does require a little bit of pre-planning as you need to marinate the chicken for a couple of hours before cooking it on the barbeque.

The kids love it and my oldest usually gobbles up two chicken breasts on his own (yes he may be a growing boy but he can also be a bit of a picky eater, he will not eat things he doesn’t like no matter how hungry he is). I find the pineapple slice on the top really makes it, the flavors going very well together.

So whether you feel like barbequing tonight or saving this recipe for warmer weather, you’ll want to give this tasty coconut curry chicken a try. Completely dairy free, sugar free and gluten free, it is a dish that will be enjoyed by all.

Coconut Curry Chicken with Pineapple

4 boneless chicken breastsIMG_3324

**1 1/2c. coconut curry marinade

1/2 c. unsweetened coconut

4 fresh pineapple rings

Place chicken in a large ziploc bag. Add coconut curry marinade and seal, squeezing out as much air as possible. Refrigerate for 2-6 hours.

In a non stick skillet, heat coconut on medium heat until lightly browned. Transfer to a plate to cool.

Turn BBQ on and heat to medium high. Lightly oil grate with olive oil (I find best is to brush on with heat resistant pastry brush). Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry with paper towel. Place chicken on grill and reduce heat to medium low (I find with chicken a little lower heat and a little longer time, keeps it moist and prevents it from drying out). Grill chicken until cooked through, about 3-5 minutes per side.

If you have room on your grill with the chicken place pineapple rings on and cook until lightly charred, about 2 minutes per side. If you don’t then you can do the pineapple at the end quickly once chicken is cooked.

To serve, sprinkle toasted coconut on chicken and one ring of pineapple on top of each  chicken breast.

Serves 4*

*I have found the marinade can easily accommodate 5 or 6 breasts and creates less waste

**Coconut Curry Marinade

2 c. coconut milk

2 tbsp. curry powder

2 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. black pepper

In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients together. Can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days. Can be used on chicken, pork, seafood and vegetables.

The Healing Waters of Rotorua’s GeoThermal Hot Pools

IMG_3460Imagine yourself sitting in the natural waters of a geothermal hot pool, surrounded by lush green majestic trees and a waterfall cascading beside you. Soaking up warmth into your body, healing, relaxing, purifying.

Geothermal hot pools like this abound in New Zealand‘s Volcanic Zone in and around the town of Rotorua. Just a 3 hour drive from Auckland, this elegant, beautiful ‘hot spot’ is tucked in the lush area of the North Island’s east coast, known as the lake district (also including area down to Taupo).

The town itself literally sits in the crater of an active volcano, creating the abundance of geothermal activity in the area. Sights such as geysers, mud pools and hot pools abound. Where the earth bubbles, boils, spits and oozes offering a plethora of unique sights to behold.

IMG_0268You can explore the town and surrounding area, finding many public hot pools to enjoy, some regulated by private parties and charging admission (Blue Baths, Polynesian Spa, Hell’s Gate and Waikite Vallley Thermal Pools), while other spots have been left natural and available to the public free of charge (such as Kuirau Park, Kerosene Creek and Waiotapu Stream).

IMG_0247When we were there, we ventured to Kerosene Creek, as we thought it would be a neat experience to be in a natural environment. We were not opposed to paying to enjoy the waters somewhere else, but thought that experiencing the pool in a natural environment would be a lovely experience. Plus our hostess at the Tuck Inn, where we were staying, a beautiful farm tucked in the lush New Zealand landscape, recommended we go there.

I was a little nervous at first, it was a little off the beaten track and there weren’t a lot of people around. When we arrived at the parking lot, we decided to just get out and take a walk first, check things out, and if it didn’t meet our expectations then we would head back to the Waikite Hot Pools, which weren’t that far down the road.

It was a beautiful spot, lush native bush with the creek running through. You could walk along the path beside the creek, discovering various pools along the way where you could pop in for a soak. We did meet a few other people who were enjoying the waters and I started to relax a little. The best spot was a large pool at the base of a waterfall. Easy to get down to and large enough for quite a number of people.

IMG_3455The kids all wanted to get in, I was still unsure. Was it safe, what if someone came by and grabbed our stuff? Plus it was a little nippy outside, I was not looking forward to stripping down even though it would be warm in the end.

Finally, I decided we might as well. So we grabbed our suits and got everyone changed. Matthew was in first and floating around, then D’Wayne ready to receive the twins once I got them ready. It wasn’t too deep, the twins could easily stand up safely in some areas of the pool. I quickly changed myself and got in with everyone else.

Oh my! It was absolutely lovely. I felt all my troubles and stress melt away almost immediately. The sand beneath my feet was warm and felt good between my toes. You had to be careful though, if you dug your feet in under the sand it could get quite hot, almost burning.

We splashed and played in the pool for 45 minutes, almost having the entire place to ourselves. A few others drifted by, and a few got in towards the end of our time. It was heavenly and so relaxing! We could have stayed longer but we wanted to also check out the mud pool and were getting hungry as well. Everyone felt relaxed yet revitalized and ready for the next adventure.

IMG_0264We hopped out and changed quickly, now that was a little nippy! But felt great! We snapped a few more pictures on our way back to the car, and then ventured off to the Mud Pool.

The Mud Pool was super cool. And was actually only a short 5 minute drive down the road near the Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland (also the home to the Lady Knox Geyser and a plethora of trails and other thermal sites to see). The Thermal Wonderland does have an admission fee, but the Mud Pool is just outside of this area.

IMG_0267It was amazing. Mud literally spurting, spitting and bubbling. The smell is also fantastic! That lovely rotten egg smell of hydrogen sulfide, which is well known throughout Rotorua (though I did find that depending on the area depended on how strong the smell was, some hardly noticable or not so bad, the mud pool was definitely the worst!)

There is a little boardwalk to view the mud pool from, as well as a short trail to take you up above to look down upon the pool below. It was just fascinating.

The mud and hot pools are enough to keep you busy for a number of days. Just enjoying the natural wonders of this area. But Rotorua and the surrounding valley is also rich in Maori culture (the indigenous people of New Zealand) and history, dating back hundreds of years. As a result there are lots of things to experience and see around this, such as The Living Thermal Village, the Buried Village TeWairoa and Te Puia.

Rotorua is so rich in these experiences, we wanted to do them all, but since we were only there for a short time we had to pick and choose a little. Te Puia called to us the most (and turns out has the most fantastic geyser), and was an absolutely fabulous experience! And one that I will share with you in my next post.

It’s Green….eewww

IMG_4568Greens, greens, greens, one of the first things I hear when talking about diet is that we should eat more greens. There certainly is a variety to choose from like spinach, lettuce, kale, chard, dandelion, etc. all fall into this category. They are rich in fiber, vitamins (like vitamin C, K, E), minerals and have many disease fighting benefits.

But honestly, greens are not always that appetizing. Seriously, I can only eat so many salads, so many different ways and then my body is craving something else. A totally different texture and sweetness even. I don’t care how good for you they are, I get to a point when I cannot possible eat another leafy thing. (You’re with me aren’t you?) Salads can get boring even after you have come up with all different kinds of ways to spice them up! Whether it be nuts, dried fruit, salad dressing etc. You need a change!

So how do you get those oh so beneficial greens in on a daily basis? In fact vegetables in general sometimes I can find a challenge. They recommend 5 servings of veg a day and often I get to supper and may not have had even one.

What I have discovered is the magic of smoothies! They are a great way to get all kinds of things into your body in a quick, easy and yummy way. There are all kinds of great recipes and combinations out there that are absolutely delicious. And sometimes you may not even notice the ‘good stuff’ (like spinach) that’s in there because you can’t really taste it.

IMG_4309Every morning I make a delicious tasting green smoothie that includes a bunch of greens and some fruit to sweeten it up. That way first thing I am getting not only some vegetables, but some green vegetables right away! I make it religiously and even my kids love it and enjoy it as well, asking for some when I make it. (Score!) I miss it on the odd day that I do not make it, usually because I am out of some ingredient and haven’t gone to the store yet.

Now there are lots of variations on a green smoothie out there an honestly some of them are not very good. They look a gross colored green when mixed, they don’t taste that great, and though good for you I end up choking it down, trying not to bring it back up. Gross! Who wants to drink that! I don’t care how good it is for me.

IMG_4573I had tried one before that was cucumber, spinach, celery, parsley, lemon, banana and water. It was ok and I drank it, got the health benefits, but honestly it was not that tasty. And seriously if I am going to eat healthy then I want it to taste good to. I am not a believer in healthy having it taste like cardboard, or having to choke it down. Food is supposed to taste good, we are supposed to enjoy our food. It is one of pleasures of being on this planet and being human, food! So I did this first version for a while and then gave up, it just didn’t provide the taste I was looking for. So good for me or not, I ditched it. (Though for someone else this may be totally the kind of taste and smoothie you are looking for! To each his own right?)

It was when I was in Hawaii a couple of years ago that I discovered my recent combination for a green smoothie. Spinach, mint, papaya and more this smoothie not only looked a lovely vibrant green it tasted absolutely delicious! I was sold. I wrote down the ingredients and came home to create my own. I played a little bit with the amounts, got it how I wanted and now everyday I enjoy this yummy, sweet, nice looking green delicious smoothie. I even have both my mother and sister (and sometimes even my Dad and that’s saying something because my Dad is not really a smoothie guy) enjoying this smoothie everyday. Once I shared it with them and they tasted it, they were hooked as well.

Now of course, I am going to share it with you, and I hope you love it! If you’re not a sweet kind of person it may not work for you but give it a go and see. Kids for sure will love it and it is such a fabulous easy way to get in those vegetables and fruits that we may not be getting in daily. Smoothies in general  have endless possibilities…. but that is another post.

Green Smoothie

1 c. spinachIMG_4567

3-4 stems of parsley

1 sprig of mint

*1/2 c. papaya

1/2 c. pineapple

1/2 c. mango

1/2 -3/4 c. apple juice

Put all ingredients in Vitamix blender. Start on low moving up to high. Blend on high for 1 minute or until smooth. Enjoy!

*I usually use orange or yellow papaya as I like it better and find it sweeter; but you can also use red papaya

**vary the amounts of fruit to make it sweeter or less sweet to taste

Makes one glass of yummy green smoothie