Caribbean Style Rice & Beans

IMG_0621

 

Ingredients:

  • Long Grain Rice – 2 cups; thoroughly rinsed until water runs clear
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 2 tbs
  • Red Onion – 1/2 medium; diced
  • Garlic Cloves – 4-5; minced
  • Mushroom Caps – 4 small; sliced
  • Bell Pepper – 1/2; diced
  • Fresh Bay Leaves x 2
  • Fresh Thyme – 1 tbs
  • Vegetable broth bouillon cube x1
  • Coconut Milk – 19oz can
  • Water – 3 cups
  • Red Kidney Beans – 190z can; drained & thoroughly rinsed
  • Creole Seasoning – 4+ tbs
  • Salt & Pepper – a few dashes

IMG_0614

Instructions:

Heat a large sauté pan or skillet with on medium/ low heat. Wait a of couple minutes for the pan to heat up, then add the 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. After the oil has time to heat, toss in the red onion and minced garlic. Shortly after, include the bell pepper, mushrooms, and fresh thyme. Stir it all around and add a dash of salt and black pepper.

IMG_0615

Now its time to add the long grain rice that you have washed extremely thoroughly. Even it all out then pour 3 cups of water into the pan. The coconut milk is then added along with the vegetable broth bouillon cube, 4+ tablespoons of creole seasoning (I love this seasoning so I don’t hold back), and the rinsed red kidney beans. Finally, add the 2 fresh bay leaves and bring it to a simmer.

IMG_0616

Cover and reduce heat, stiring freuquently to prevent burning, adding water if necessary. It takes about 20-25 minutes for the rice to cook and water to evaporate, at which point you’ll be left with a creamy rice thats not only delicious and nutritious, but also free of animal products. Do not forget to remove the bay leaves prior to serving.

IMG_0620

Creole Seasoning Blend: 

  • 2 tbs Onion Powder
  • 2 tbs Garlic Powder
  • 2 tbs Dried Basil
  • 2 tbs Dried Oregano
  • 1 tbs Dried Thyme
  • 1 tbs Black Pepper
  • 1 tbs White Pepper
  • 1 tbs Cayenne Pepper
  • 5 tbs Paprika
  • 3 tbs Salt

creole seasoning

In a small bowl, combine all of the above ingredients. Store in an air tight container.

You may be able to find this seasoning already made up at your grocery store, likely in the international isle. I did not have such luck, but easily picked up all the herbs and spices at bulk barn.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Is it necessary?

Having little money/ being broke ever since I left home has forced me to put things into perspective in terms of what is necessary when it comes to my personal fitness.

Things were simple when I first started exercising about 12 years ago. I worked out at home and scaled back my calorie consumption. I wasn’t paying for a gym membership and I was consuming little calories that came from food my mom bought. I dropped -too much- weight and found myself having to re-evaluate the angle I was taking.

I later joined a gym located around the corner from my house. It was one of the half dozen weight rooms ran by the city of Brampton in their recreational department. In addition, I eventually smartened up when it came to nutrition — or so I thought.

Fast forward a little futher and I am paying for a gym membership and have begun picking up my own groceries; because eating copious amounts of lean chicken and turkey with rice and broccoli is the only way to get fit (rolls eyes so hard they almost fall out). A couple of decent chicken breasts are easily 10 bucks; which adds up mighty quick when that is the bulk of your diet.

My time spent on fitness websites were at an all time high, gawking over all the amazing physiques telling myself I will look like that one day. Heck! I may even compete. Before I could even think about that however, I needed supplements, lots of glorious supplements!!!

Of course whey protein was the first to be added, then branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), followed by L-Arginine, Beta Alanine, creatine, and caffiene. I even wrote a post about it all. My once zero dollars spent on supplements easily became 100-130$ every 4-5 weeks.

Wake up call

At the end of fast tracking a second diploma in early 2016 I found myself with a lot of debt, and jobs that paid me little or offered few hours. I couldn’t spend money unnecessarily without it coming back to bite me in the ass. There were days where I had to decide to put gas in my car or groceries in my fridge. I remember pulling to the side of the road one afternoon and cried as I fought anxiety and tried to figure out how the hell I am going to keep it together.

At this point my purchasing of supplements days were long gone. After 3-4 years of taking supplements I had no choice but to put it to rest until I was in a more stable financial situation. My days of eating chicken and turkey breasts were also behind me. Meat had always grossed me out, I just got it in my head that it was the best way to be lean and fit. Now, without a bunch of money to waste on dead carcasses; I began eating more beans, lentils, rice, pastas, and even bread.

Funny thing is, my strength did not deteriorate; if anything it increased. Is it possible the supplements weren’t doing much and I simply wasn’t giving my body what it needed from food? Yes, yes it is. Is it also possible that eating a plethora amount of animal products isn’t the optimal diet for a weightlifter? Yes ma’am, thats what I have come to believe.

Now I know this post comes with no hard core facts, just personal opinion. Take from it what you may. Im simpy suggesting you don’t waste your money on a bunch of supplements. If anything supplement your deficiencies, while considering the time of year. For example, I take Vitamin D3 drops in the fall/ winter because of the lack of sunlight.

As for the meat — I honestly believe it’s not good for us humans. Maybe 1-2 times a week; but not every meal, every day. Without getting into the science and health facts, to me eating more plant based foods just makes sense. From my experience I feel better, my skin looks better, and I carry the most muscle mass I ever have, all while spending less on groceries.

What are your thoughts?

 

 

Recipe: Curry Chickpea

Basmati Rice – 1 cup+
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 1 tbsp
Red Onion – 1 Small or Half a Medium; diced
Small Garlic Cloves – 3 Large or 5 to 6 Small Cloves; minced
Bell Pepper (red, yellow or green) – Half; sliced
Salt and Pepper – a few shakes
Curry Paste (red, yellow or green) – 2 tbsp
Coconut Milk – 1 can
Tomato – 1 small; diced
Cumin – 1 tbsp
Crushed Cayenne – 1 level tbsp *optional
Soya Sauce – 2 tbsp
Brown Sugar – 2 tbsp
Lime – 1; juiced
Chick Peas – half a can; drained and thoroughly rinsed
Basil Leaves – 3 Leaves; dried or fresh

Curry Dish
Not the best photo, but I promise it tastes awesome.

I rarely eat meat, and I do my best to limit my intake of dairy products. With that said, while I wouldn’t consider myself vegan, I do try to avoid animal products as much as possible. This leaves me searching for nutritious and satisfying meals that are easy to make and won’t empty my wallet. Thankfully this hasn’t been hard to do and I have managed to master (I think so anyways) a few solid recipes.

The recipe I want to share today is a Chickpea Curry Dish. I have listed the ingredients in the order in which they should be added to a large skillet; except for the rice, which should be cooked separately – ideally in a rice cooker.

I find it easiest to dice, mince, and slice all of the veggies, and have all the ingredients ready to go before starting the cooking process. You can heat up the skillet on medium / low high heat while cutting your vegetables, adding the oil after it has been heated.

After adding the extra virgin olive oil, toss in the diced red onions and minced garlic cloves. Let this fry for a couple minutes, then add the sliced bell pepper. I prefer to use green bell peppers but its completely up to you. Add a few shakes of salt and pepper on top of the veggies and make sure to stir/ flip it around.

Next step is to add the curry paste. Please note the word paste – not sauce! I like to use red – but again it is up to you what colour you want to incorporate. Toss in 2 tbsp and stir it around the pan and the vegetables. Shortly after, add the can of coconut milk and continue to stir until the colour become homogenous.

Toss in the diced tomato and add a tbsp of cumin. I love cumin and it certainly couples well with the curry paste to add even more flavour. On that note, I also recommend adding some crushed cayenne or chilli flakes to add some heat; but how much, if any, is your choice. Afterwards, add the soya sauce, brown sugar, and the juice from 1 lime into the mix. Give it a good stir then finally add the half can of chickpeas (I find a full can to be way too much) and 3 basil leaves. Let this sit, stirring occasionally for 15-20 minutes.

Serve in a bowl with a side of rice and enjoy!

Ginger Powder Helps Type II Diabetes

Ginger Powder Helps Type II Diabetes

Holistic (or natural) nutrition has been an interest of mine for quit some time now. I am currently getting more information on a natural nutrition course which I will likely enroll in come the spring. Here is a brief article regarding a study which used ginger powder as a means to improve fasting glucose and insulin sensitivity in people with type II diabetes.

To help you better understand, or get further information on the contents of this article, here are a three more links:

What is insulin sensitivity – http://www.diabetes.co.uk/insulin/insulin-sensitivity.html

HbA1c – http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003640.htm

Ginger – http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=72

“Healthy Junk”

You cannot out train a poor diet, it’s true. However, it’s impractical to think that you can maintain a “clean” diet for extended periods of time without a couple hiccups along the way. Consistently denying yourself the pleasure of certain foods may lead you to the bottom of that bucket of ice cream, or you may find yourself polishing off that 6th slice of pizza.

In order to avoid a complete binge I’ve had to find ways to satisfy my cravings for junk without compromising all the hard work I have put in at the gym. I have nothing against cheat meals once a week, but I prefer to spread out those not so good calories into snacks throughout my week instead.

There are healthier versions of all different kinds of junk foods, from brownies to muffins, and even cookie dough. Unfortunately these usually take time to put together, and that’s no good because you want something that’s ready to go right now!  Here are a few prepackaged snacks I consider to be “healthy junk.”

1)      Orville Redenbachers Smart Pop! Mini bags

Smart Pop

2)      Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers

Goldfish Crackers

3)      Christie Vege Thins

Vege Thins

4)      Quaker Popped Rice Chips

Popped rice chips

5)      Neal Brothers Blue Corn Chips & Salsa

Blue Corn Chips

6)      Luna Bars

Luna Bar

7)      Kashi Bars

Kashi

8)      VitaTops

VitaTops

9)      Stoneyfield Frozen Yogurt

Frozen Yogurt

10)   Frutarre Frozen Yogurt Bars

Yogurt Bar

Side Note: Each snack contains the following

<200 Calories

0 Trans Fat

<3g Saturated Fat

<600mg Sodium

<10g Sugar

<40 Carbs*

>1g Protein

*40g of Carbs/serving is a little high, the only snack with Carbs greater than 30g is the Blue Corn Chips, the rest contain less than 30g. Also, please be aware that if eaten with salsa, the amount of sodium will increase. Always note serving sizes.

Thanks so much for checking out my post! Do you know of any other “healthy junk” snacks? Leave a comment!

Healthy and Delicious Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad

Ingredients (I didn't have cucumber on hand, but definitely add it if you can!)
Ingredients (I didn’t have cucumber on hand, but definitely add it if you can!)

1 box of noodles – 375 grams

1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1 can of chickpeas – drain and rinse

3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

¾ Bell pepper (I like to use ¼ of 3 different colours)

1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

½ small-medium red onion

Lemon juice from ½ a lemon

6 green onions

1 tablespoon of sesame seeds

A bunch of spinach

1 tablespoon of dried parsley flakes

½ of a medium sized cucumber

A pinch of salt and pepper

In a large pot bring lightly salted water to a boil and add the box of noodles. Cook noodles on a medium heat for approximately 10-15 minutes or until noodles are tender. While waiting for the noodles to cook, chop up your vegetables. Check and stir the noodles frequently. Still not ready? Make the dressing. Combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Mix it all up until it is well blended. Are the noodles done? Drain it! Add a little bit of olive oil to prevent the noodles from sticking, and set aside to it let cool.

Once the noodles have had some time to cool off, it’s time to add it all together. Mix in the chick peas, vegetables, and then while stirring it all together slowly pour in the dressing. All that is left now is to add the sesame seeds and parsley flakes. Continue to stir until the ingredients are well blended. Voila! Pack it up and toss it in the fridge.

This will make enough for a week’s worth of lunches or dinners, or to bring to a gathering of some sort. Feel free to tweak the recipe any way you like. I use whatever vegetables I have on hand and my measurements are never perfect. I am not a professional chef, but I think this is damn good. Oh, and if you don’t eat meat, this is a great vegetarian/vegan meal that offers complete protein through the combination of grains, legumes, and seeds. Enjoy 🙂

Ready to eat!
Ready to eat!

Good Carb, Bad Carb

Carbohydrates are an important yet often misunderstood macronutrient. I frequently hear people talking about how they have cut carbs from their diet in order to lose weight, as they often get blamed for those excess pounds. The truth is, it’s probably not just Carbohydrates fault, but a combination of poor choices, large portion sizes, and lack of energy expenditure.

Along with fat and protein, carbohydrates are called macronutrients. They are referred to as such because they have caloric value and the body has a large daily need for them. With that said, I personally do not think excluding any macronutrient from the body is a good way to lose pounds. This will just starve your body of nutrients that it needs in order to work efficiently.

It’s simple, and complex! Carbohydrates are composed of single or linked sugar molecules. Monosaccharides (glucose, fructose, and galactose) and disaccharides (sucrose, maltose, and lactose) are considered simple sugars. Monosaccharides are one single molecule of sugar, while disaccharides are made up of two sugar molecules. Complex carbs, which include fibre and starch, are composed of many sugar molecules linked in a long and often complicated carbon chains.

Simple sugars are quickly digested by the body due to its simple structure, and more often than none have little nutritional benefit.  They include such things as white flour, table sugar, honey, and candy, chocolate, pop, jams, boxed cereals, fruits, and vegetables. Although most simple sugars are junk to the body, fruits and vegetables are an exception.

Wheat kernel nutrition
White flour is made from wheat flour by removing the bran and the germ layers. These layers contain natural oils, along with essential vitamins and nutrients.

On the other end, complex sugars such as fiber and starch take much longer to digest and will not cause a great spike in blood sugar. Grains, legumes, potatoes, yams, oats, barley, fruits, and vegetables are awesome sources of carbs that will help sustain energy levels throughout your day.

Without carbohydrates, you’ll find yourself tired, confused, slow, and pissed off. Although fats are the body’s primary source of energy, carbs are needed in order to metabolize those fats. Glucose is the brains primary source of energy, at least 130 grams of it is needed every day just for the brain to function properly! Furthermore, as the intensity of the activity/exercise increases so does the reliance on carbs for energy. In fact, carbohydrates are the only macronutrient that can supply energy for anaerobic (without oxygen) activities, such a sprinting.

So how much do we need?

The acceptable macronutrient distribution range (AMDR) for both males and females is 45-65% of total calories consumed. Factors such as training frequency and intensity, medical conditions, and food preferences will help determine your carb needs. To keep it simple, recreational athletes training 3-5 times a week will require amounts at the lower end of this range.

So long as the bulk of your carbohydrates come from healthy sources, and you have a good balance of healthy fats and proteins in your diet, carbs are not to be blamed for any excess weight you may be carrying. Instead of white, eat whole grain rice, pasta, and breads; try ancient grains such as kammut, spelt, millet, or quinoa (yeah…I know it’s considered a seed). Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, and try to eliminate or reduce your consumption of poor sources such as candy, pop, and jams.

Thanks a million for reading my short article on carbs!