Meal Plan - Week of March 29

Another week is upon us - week three of gluten-free, dairy-free, casein-free, etc.-free for me. I'm catching up on a couple of things I didn't make last week. Sadly I have to take Eat, Drink and Be Vegan back to the library, but I'm excited to be making some more things from Veganomican and reFresh and will be doing reviews for those two books very soon! While you're here, be sure to enter my giveaway! Contest closes April 8th at 11:59pm. I may also do some baking this week, but I'm not sure what to make yet. I'll be sure to post about it later in the week if do!

Sunday
Pork chops with herb-scalloped potatoes (Veganomican) & steamed cauliflower

Monday
Samosa baked potatoes (Veganomican) with side salad

Tuesday
Quick Protein Salad (reFresh)

Wednesday
Holiday Wraps (reFresh) with split pea soup (Eat Clean Cookbook)

Thursday
South of the Border (brown rice) pasta & chicken (WW Best Eats)

Friday
Pizza (ground chicken, pesto & veggies with cheese on one side for Joey on gluten free pizza crust) with a side of veggies

Saturday
Dinner out

Be sure to check out more meal plans at orgjunkie.com 

Book Review - Eat, Drink and Be Vegan


I LOVE this cookbook

I borrowed Eat, Drink and Be Vegan by Dreena Burton from the library to give it a shot before I committed to purchasing it. I've been a follower of Dreena's blog for awhile and her recipes always appealed to me. 

Everything I've made from this cookbook has been easy to make, had a comprehensive ingredient list that was easy to assemble, and everything tasted brilliant and received both the Joey and Ashley seal of approval. Recipes that I've made include: Thai Coconut Corn Stew, Lemon Garlic Pasta, Cashew-Basil pesto pasta, and the Cashew Ginger Tofu. You can read more detailed reviews of these recipes in my latest weekly menu recaps (here and here). I know that they're all recipes I will make again (especially the cashew ginger tofu - man, that was awesome!!)

I like that recipes were labelled "wheat free" when applicable and many substitution ideas were given. I've found a lot of great recipe ideas in vegan cookbooks since the beginnings of my elimination diet and this one has been no exception. I only wish that the cookbook had more pictures and that the nutritional information had been included. Other than that, it's love. I've asked Joey to buy it for my birthday and I'm looking forward to have a copy to call my own!! 

Weekly Menu Recap - Week of March 22

Week two of my elimination diet is coming to an end. We had some great dinners this week that turned into some awesome lunches!! I didn't get to the samosa baked potatoes (Joey and I were both out later after work and so I had some toast with edamame for dinner) and the pork chops have been put on hold until tomorrow - so I'll tell you all about the herb scalloped potatoes next week! 

Joey said he is a little tired of "mealy" things, but he enjoyed everything this week. I also think I'm going to plan our meat dishes a little better as we went a few days without meat in our dinners and the carnivore inside my darling fiance was crying a little. Stay tuned for my meal plan tomorrow!

Eat Clean Chicken with rice (Eat Clean cookbook) 

 I mentioned this recipe in my Clean Eating post.(Be sure to check out the giveaway!) It was a really simple recipe, but the spices added to the rice added lots of flavor. I also loved the addition of the edamame to the veggies. We used the leftover rice over the next couple days as it certainly yielded quite a bit.

Lemony-cashew basil pesto over brown rice pasta (ED&BV)
This is the recipe that made me want to throw away my blender! (Sidenote - sadly I did not win the Vitamix... does anyone have a spare lying around that they would like to donate to me??) Despite my blender woes, this recipe was quite delicious and made for a great lunch the next day. In the end Joey and I decided that we preferred the lemon garlic pasta that I made last week, but it was a close call. 

Marrakesh Curried Stew (reFresh)
Can you see the steam in this picture??? This was even better the next day. The flavors on the curry really melded together and it was quite delightful and hearty. The chickpeas were a nice addition and I really liked the raisins and think it would be good with some chopped apricots as well. 

Cashew Ginger Tofu (ED&BV) with asparagus & corn & edamame salad (Veganomican)
I've been afraid of tofu for awhile and this was my first time making it but we both loved it! I'm going to do a review of Eat, Drink and Be Vegan this week, but I'll tell you now that I love this cookbook! The sauce on the tofu had incredible flavor. I served it over a bit of brown rice pasta. The corn and edamame salad was a really nice side dish as well. I will definitely be making this for BBQ's this summer! And how can you go wrong with asparagus? This meal was awesome and probably our favourite this week. I am no longer afraid of tofu and I look forward to making it a part of our weekly meal plans!


Clean Eating + My First Giveaway!

Tosca Reno is an amazing woman.

After having three children and weighing over 200 lbs for most of her adult life, she decided to turn things around in her 40's. She lost a lot of weight, changed her eating and started appearing on the covers of magazines and is now the author of 6 books and promotes the concept of clean eating to everyone who will listen. I think she's incredibly inspiring!

I was first introduced to the concept of Clean Eating through the magazine with the same name. I started singing the praises of this magazine to friends and fellow members because it aligned itself incredibly well with Weight Watchers and after making a few of the recipes I was hooked! I haven't gotten a subscription yet (I really need to do that...) but I'm always watching for the newest issue. 

The publishers of the Eat Clean series were kind enough to send me the books to review. (Big thank you to Wendy - the package seriously made my day!) I started by reading The Eat Clean Diet book which covers the basics of the clean eating philosophies. It is an easy read with lots of lists, tips and pictures. The basic principles of clean eating are as follows:
  • Eat 5 or 6 small meals every day, eating every 2-3 hours
  • Combine lean protein and complex carbs at every meal
  • Drink at least 2 L (8 cups) of water each day
  • Never miss a meal, especially breakfast
  • Carry a cooler full of Clean Eating staples to get through the day
  • Avoid all over-processed, refined foods (especially white flour and sugar), saturated and trans fats, alcohol, sugary colas and juices and calorie dense foods that contain little to no nutritional value
  • Consume adequate healthy fats each day
  • Choose fresh fruits and veggies for fiber, vitamins and enzymes
  • Keep your portions in check
The book goes into detail on each of these principles, gives the reader tonnes of tips and lists on things like dining out and superfoods. It also provides the reader with a number of recipes. (My only beef with the recipes is that they didn't include the fiber = problematic when calculating Points) I want to try the fritatta, roasted garlic and sweet potato soup and the parchment baked chicken. Clean Eating utilizes a lot of the Filling Foods and many of the recipes will work with the Simply Filling Technique.

My favourite part of the package was The Eat Clean Diet Cookbook. The cookbook contains over 150 different recipes that embody the clean eating way of life. The recipes are easy to follow, include the nutritional information for easy Points calculation and there are beautiful pictures of many of the recipes as well. There are also icons throughout the book to indicate recipes that are wheat-free, vegetarian, vegan fast etc which makes it easy when you're flipping through and trying to decide what to make!

The first recipe I tried were the sweet potato fries. I've made them before, but used the spices recommended in the book and they turned out great! They were sweet and spicy all at once and had a good crunch (without being burnt). Sweet potato fries make me feel like I'm eating junk food!

This past Monday I made the Eat Clean Chicken & rice. This was a simple but incredibly tasty way to prepare chicken with rice and vegetables. I loved the use of fresh thyme and rosemary while cooking the rice and it made my kitchen smell amazing! (Joey even came upstairs to see what was cooking) I used a bit more liquid than was recommended to cook the rice and the recipe yielded quite a bit so there were a lot for leftovers for lunches. I used organic carrots, broccoli & edamame and the veggies really shone in this dish.

I also intended to make the split pea soup this week but unfortunately that didn't happen! I will make it this weekend or early next week because I have all the ingredients ready to go!

I'm really happy with the recipes I've tried so far and I'm looking forward to more! Next up on my agenda will be "Spring in a Bowl" (yummy sounding soup with spring veggies), Moroccan chicken and Lentils, and some clean eating guacamole. I highly recommend the cookbook! For those of you with little ones, Tosca has also written a book called The Eat Clean Diet for Families and Kids

I love Tosca's story and I find myself gravitating more and more towards clean eating. Since doing WW my eating has really changed a lot, but I have found that lately with my food sensitivities I'm really getting back to basics and have cut out a lot of the processed stuff that I used to eat before and my body is thanking me for it!. 

Now for the moment you've all been waiting for -- my very first giveaway!!
I've got copies of the Eat Clean Diet Workout, Workout Journal and the Butt Book to give away to one lucky reader! Both the Workout book and journal are filled with tips and motivation to help you tone your body and make improvements to your physique and health. The Butt Book helps you to tone your tush with specific exercises, some clean eating recipes and tips and answers from Tosca. She has an amazing body and has been featured on the cover of a lot of magazines, so I feel like she knows what she's talking about in the workout department!!

There are four different ways you can win:
  • Leave me a comment and tell me how you employ any of the clean eating principles into your daily routine 

  • Leave a comment with your favourite Clean Eating recipe

  • Post about this giveaway on your blog, link to my post and then leave a comment to let me know

  • Add yourself as a follower or subscribe to my blog and then post a comment to let me know

You'll receive one entry for the contest for each way that you enter. Please be sure to include your email address (or if you have a blog make sure it's visible there) The contest will close at 11:59pm on Wednesday April 8th (my birthday) at which point I will use a random number generator to choose 1 winner. Contest is only open to residents of Canada and the US. I'm so excited to be doing a giveaway!! GOOD LUCK!

Some inspiring reads...

Check out this slideshow on Glamour.com today on "16 Ways I Learned to Love My Body". It features some incredibly inspiring quotes from some of my favourite bloggers and really hit home with me today.

And while you're at it, check out Lindsay's post about letting the scale affect your mood/day/week/general wellbeing.

You are all amazing, beautiful people and I hope these two articles remind you that you are so much more than just a number on the scale.

Blend Away

Last night was the final straw with my "blender". I use quotations because that thing I've been using to blend really isn't doing it's job as well as it should be. I've been contemplating a Vita-Mix for a few weeks now. These things are AMAZING and I have been drooling over the website almost every day!!! You can actually cook soup from raw ingredients in 5 minutes! You can make ice cream! Smoothies! Nut butter! IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES!!! But they also come with a hefty price tag and that has been the one thing stopping me from making the purchase...

This morning I saw that the lovely Brilynn over at Jumbo Empanadas is giving one away!! Yes, she is giving away a Vita-mix after singing its praises on her blog. Wish me luck!!

Meal Planning & Grocery Shopping - the Ashley way!

Since I started meal planning, grocery shopping has gotten a lot easier! I've always been one to make a list, but meal planning for the week makes it a lot easier to figure out exactly what I need. I wanted to give you some tips on how I do my meal planning and weekly grocery shopping trip:
  1. Figure out your week - this might seem like a weird first step in grocery shopping, but it's an incredibly important part of meal planning as I learned during my show. The amount of prep time you have each day/night to cook is really going to dictate what your menu looks like. When I was rehearsing and performing in my show I relied heavily on my crockpot. Now that the show is over I've got more time at home to prepare meals. You want to determine when you and your family members are going to be home, any activities you have planned or any dinners out you may have scheduled.

  2. Scope out your kitchen - get a sense for what's in your fridge, freezer, pantry and cupboards. This will help when you're going through the recipes and determining what you need to pick up at the store(s). Are you out of basics (milk, flour, frozen fruits/veggies etc.)? This is a good time to figure it out. 

  3. Get out your cookbooks - or recipe cards or start surfing the net and figure out which recipes you are going to make. This is going to help you figure out what you need at the store and it also helps to keep things interesting throughout the week. Are you going to stick to old favourites? Or try something new? It also helps me to figure out if I'm going to have enough leftovers for lunch so I'll know if I'll need to plan to make a soup or something else to fill the void. I usually do this on Sunday morning while I'm eating breakfast. I pull out my cookbooks and start reading!

  4. Write it out - I usually start with an 8.5x11 sheet of recycled scrap paper and fold it in half. On one side I write Sunday - Saturday and on the other side I have my grocery list. As I decide which recipes I'm going to make I write them in under the chosen day (sometimes the days I make things change, but I generally try to stick to the plan) I then write in the items that I'm going to need on the other side of the piece of paper. I usually list them by type of item - fruit/veg, protein, liquid or dry goods/pantry - so they're easier to find on my list when I'm in that section of the store.

  5. Head out - I make three stops when I do the grocery shopping. This may seem like a lot, but the three stores cover my needs and allow me to get the best deals possible. 
  • Bulk Store - We have a cute little bulk/health food store very close to our house and I love it! Here I pick up herbs & spices, cereal for Joey (he likes to make his own "raisin bran" with bran flakes and raisins - it's incredibly cost effective), stuff for baking, dried beans, brown rice pasta, nuts, canned goods and larabars ($1.69 each which is the cheapest I've seen in Toronto so far) They also have a great selection of teas and nut butters and today I actually bought tofu there because it was cheap! 
  • Health Food Store - I feel so lucky to live so close to The Big Carrot, because I love it there! Here I get bread, meat, dry goods, soy & almond milk, oils & sauces and sometimes fruit and veggies. They also have a wonderful take away counter where they make amazing vegetarian food and list all the ingredients. 
  • Fruit & Veggie Stand - I try to buy organic as much as possible and I love one particular fruit & veggie place near me because they often have tonnes of organics and local produce for low, low prices! The price of their regular produce is amazing and the quality is great. Today I got cauliflower, 2 pints of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, 3 green peppers, 1 red pepper, celery, zucchini, asparagus, and 5 lemons for $19.06 and about 40% was organic. 
After I stop everywhere I need, I head home and put it all away. It's quite a task, but I always feel very accomplished when I'm done, and I know that I won't be halfway through making a recipe one night and realize that I don't have a particular item. 

Do you have any tips for meal planning and/or grocery shopping?

Weekly Menu - Week of March 22


Week one of the elimination diet was very successful! I learned a lot and tried a bunch of new recipes. Last week I discovered tofu (I tried some on Wednesday and then again on Saturday afternoon) For some reason I had this idea in my head that I did not like tofu. I think I had had a bad experience with some not-so-firm tofu at some point and based my judgement on that. This week I'm going to try cooking tofu for the first time and I'm excited!! 

Next weekend I should be ready to do a couple of cookbook reviews and the long-awaited giveaway. Any idea what it is?? I'll give you a hint: it has something to do with one of the cookbooks I'm using this week, but it isn't the cookbook itself....

Sunday
Eat Clean Chicken with rice (Eat Clean cookbook)

Monday
Lemony-cashew basil pesto over brown rice pasta (ED&BV)

Tuesday
Marrakesh Curried Stew over brown rice (reFresh)

Wednesday
Samosa stuffed potatoes (Veganomican)

Thursday
Cashew Ginger Tofu (ED&BV) with roasted asparagus & corn & edamame salad (Veganomican)

Friday
Pork chops with herb scalloped potatoes (Veganomican) with steamed cauliflower

Saturday
Dining out - Brian Regan show with Joey

As always, be sure to check out lots of other meal plans over at Orgjunkie!

Weekly Menu Recap - Week of March 15

Thai Coconut Corn Stew (Eat Drink & Be Vegan)
This is soup is amazing. It's got a lot of flavor and wonderful texture. Both Joey and I really really enjoyed it and Joey definitely went back for a second bowl. It was amazing in my lunch the next day also. I'll definitely be making it again!! I was also excited as I was finally able to find some lemongrass! It added yummy flavor to the soup.

Lemon Garlic Pasta (made with gluten free pasta) (ED&BV)
This had to be the most surprising meal of the week. I chose this recipe because it looked fairly simple and I knew I wouldn't want to be cooking anything complicated after my belly dancing class. As I was making it, it didn't look too impressive and I wasn't sure that it was going to be very good. I warned Joey... "it's a very simple dish" and he was a little concerned. When we both tasted it, we were amazed - it was delicious!! The flavors were simple, but they worked really well together and it was creamy!!! Joey enjoyed it with a special bun on the side and I had some gluten free toast with Earth Balance. It was an awesome meal and the leftovers were great as well!  With all my sensitivities I wasn't sure what I would be able to have on pasta, so this is a keeper. I will definitely be making this again!

Pork chops with squash & brown rice
I had Joey put the squash in the slow cooker, which is the easier way to make squash. I didn't use any sweetener or anything on it, but the squash came out amazing! I seasoned the pork chops with some thyme and rosemary and it was a nice simple, yummy dinner. 

Steak with sweet potato fries 
I put Joey in charge of the yummy organic steaks that I had picked up and he did a great job! We love sweet potato fries in our house and they were delicious! I seasoned them with some chili powder, paprika and cinnamon. A great Friday night meal because it felt like "junk food", but wasn't at all!!


Back to Basics

I want to start this post by saying that this is based on my personal experiences and opinions - I'm not trying to judge or bash granola bars or convenience foods, because I have certainly eaten my fair share! This post is a reflection of my recent paradigm shift with my own eating

A few weeks ago I came across this post on Kelly the Kitchen Kop. The post intrigued me and opened up some really interesting dialogue. It also led me to Courtney's blog "Losing It" and we exchanged some really thought provoking emails on this topic.


Since doing WW, my eating habits have changed significantly, but I've definitely made changes to the changes since I've joined - especially in the last few weeks. I posted the following on the 20's board the other day:

...For me, my mentality with eating on WW has really changed since I started. In the beginning I was just happy to count Points and figure out what I could budget each day/week. I would stock up on fun 100 calorie packs and enjoyed eating a variety of WW products (especially the ones I would stockpile when I visited the US) I remember getting really upset at DF after one trip because he commented that I brought back a lot of "junk food". My response was that I wanted to have treats that I could eat. Sweets have always been my weakness, so by choosing the 100 calorie version of something it was my way of justifying that I could have it.

With my diagnosis, visits to the naturopath and the more I read about food and nutrition, I have really changed the way I look at food and the way I plan my meals. Especially now with my elimination diet, I've cut out mostly all processed foods and focus on making wholesome nutritious choices. Because of all my sensitivities I'm no longer able to eat a lot of the things I used to eat, but even if I could again I don't think I would go back to that.

When WW launched the Momentum plan, I really noticed that they were starting to focus more on this concept as well. While they still offer a ton of convenience foods, there is much more focus on the Filling Foods for all members.


I asked the gals for their opinions and thoughts on the topic of WW + Real Food and many of them had some really interesting and insightful things to say. It really proved to me that I'm not alone!


Kim - Now that I'm nearing my weight goal, I find myself focusing more and more on the health aspect of this journey, just as much as the pure weight loss aspect. It's no longer enough for me to be losing weight, or to look skinny...I want to feel healthy, and know that I am making the best choices for my body. I want to feel fit and healthy. Maintaining a healthy weight is certainly a part of that, but so is making the smartest food choices, and exercising regularly.


Similarly, I'm not going to cut down on exercise to speed up weight loss. I would rather lose more slowly while feeling good about my lifestyle. Ditching the granola bars is just one step in this journey, and I don't mean to imply that no one should eat granola bars or convenience foods (and I hope no one takes it the wrong way!). But for me personally, I want to work towards clean and wholesome eating. I'm by no means perfect, but this is the ultimate goal I'm working towards, nutrition-wise.


Another Kim - AMEN! That's EXACTLY what I did when I started, I was heavily dependent on the 100 calorie snacks. Now, I have slowly eliminated them and am much more satisfied with whole foods that I make, regardless of whether they are slightly higher in points value. You hit the nail on the head!


Jess - Yeah it would be great to have everything come pre-packaged in little x calorie packs but personally I don't want to fill myself with whatever is in them and I don't particularly find them all that appetizing or filling.

Another Jess (my favourite youtube star) has been focusing on choosing whole grains, nuts, fruits and healthy oils as much as possible, rather than choosing processed/convenience foods.

Other people commented that they lost less when the relied heavily on 100 calorie packs and convenience foods. Others said that (like me) they had started to make a change after a diagnosis of an illness or disease. It also seemed that many of the Lifetime members who had commented on the post had started to make a similar shift.

In defense of the 100 calorie packs - they can be great for satisfying cravings of sweet or salty things. They are pre-portioned for moderate consumption and can definitely help people survive their cravings without splurging on a billion points. To quote Judith Thompson in Lion in the Streets "We all need treats" - but might it be better to splurge a little bit more on some good quality dark chocolate or a homemade baked good without refined sugar? I realize that everyone is different, but it's definitely something to think about.

If you do find yourself consuming a lot of 1 Point bars and 100 calorie packs, I would just take some time to ensure that you're getting in your Good Health Guidelines and trying to choose Filling Foods as much as possible. We all know that there are a million different ways that one could spend their Points in a day... the possibilities are endless! At the end of the day, we want to make sure that we're getting in the good stuff before the not-so-good stuff most of the time.

It has been really interesting to talk to other people about this topic, especially those doing Weight Watchers. With my recent changes in eating I have so many different things that I'm trying to be cognizant of in my eating and meal planning - food sensitivities, Points - not to mention enjoyment of my food!! I read a ton of food blogs (some of my favourites include: Carrots n Cake, Heather Eats Almond Butter, VeggieGirl, Care to Eat, Chocolate Covered Katie, Eat Live Run, Gluten Free Girl, Kath Eats Real Food - just to name a few) and I really enjoy reading about these writers' passion for good food. Usually they post meals consisting of wholesome, nutritious foods made with amazing produce, whole grains, low-fat dairy or soy, healthy oils and lean proteins - the basis for good nutrition and healthy eating - and indulge on yummy treats that help to keep them satisfied. Amazing.

I said later on in the post on the 20's boards that if you had told me four or five years ago that I would be getting excited about things like broccoli and almond butter, I would have thought you were crazy. Times have certainly changed, but so have my lifestyle, health and weight. Do I miss reaching for a Peanut Butter Bliss bar, 100 calorie pack or just a regular cookie once in a while? Sure. But I know that I'm doing a great thing for my body and I think that that is worth more than all the cases of 1 Point bars in the world.

Confessions of a Shop-a-holic

Yesterday I had the pleasure crossing the border with my dear friend Lori for some shopping in Amherst, New York! We've gone many times before, (usually every three months or so) but this was a special trip because of my food sensitivity results. In the past I've been excited to visit the Weight Watchers Center to pick up some of the products we don't have in Canada as well as shop for a large quantity of snacks at Target and Wegmans, but with my most recent lifestyle change that was not going to be feasible.

I started my day with a bowl of brown rice cereal with almond milk and some beautiful organic berries.
The cereal got soggy sort of quickly, but the berries were bursting with flavor. Sunday was such a beautiful day to do anything, but a wonderful day for a drive! The last time we crossed the border it has been foggy, cloudy and raining so the glorious sunshine was a refreshing change. It was a smooth drive all the way over (Lori's GPS system "Tom" made sure that he got us there) and there was only a short wait at the border crossing. Luckily I had brought along a Pecan Pie larabar to tie me over until lunch. 


We started off the day at Target.
I love that place. Target makes me really happy and I often walk out with a few bags of stuff. I didn't find any clothes this time around but did walk away with some amazing deals on other stuff. Organic Cotton Sheets - $50! New yoga mat -$9! Yoga block & strap - $9! New yoga pants - $21! I got a little bit sad while walking around the grocery aisles. Normally I would be stocking up on cool 100 calorie packs and Fiber One products, but I got over that quickly as soon as I focused on the other wonderful things I had purchased. I reassured myself that I would find lots of great things later on...

Our next stop was the Boulevard Mall.

Most people make that assumption that we go New York to hit up the outlet stores but that is not the case. We've never actually gone to the outlet stores together nor do we feel like we need to. Before we go I often print off a bunch of coupons for the stores in the mall and we're usually pleased by the fresh selection they offer our Canadian eyes!

Since Sunday was my first "official" day of the elimination diet, I had done some research to find a restaurant where I could eat. Lori and I have always had trouble eating in the States because she is a vegetarian and I look for things that are WW-friendly. We've never gone hungry but I wanted to be prepared due to my new way of eating. I searched 'gluten free Buffalo' and came across this site, which directed me to a list of restaurants that had gluten free options. I chose Carrabba's Italian Grill because it also had some vegetarian-friendly options for Lori!

Carraba's has an entire gluten-free menu

I had determined in advance that I would have Chicken Gratella because it seemed to work with my other sensitivities. I started with a salad.

I asked for my dressing to be put on the side (realizing fully that I wouldn't be eating it because it had vinegar and potentially other things that I can't eat) I picked out the tomatoes (can't have) and olives (don't like) and topped it with some of the olive oil with herbs that had been left on the table. When our server let us know that the vegetable of the day was green beans, I realized that I had a problem. I can't eat green beans. So I opted for just mashed potatoes. 

Ummmm... Ashley? Mashed potatoes usually have milk, butter or cream in them

I had been so focused on selecting a gluten free entree that I had forgotten about some of my other sensitivities. My meal arrived with three scoops of cream-laden mashed potatoes and my chicken was coated in black pepper.


Oh dear, I forgot about the pepper.

I tried to scrape most of the pepper off and despite the dairy, I decided to have some of the mashed potatoes. It was day one and it was an educational experience for me. The people at Carraba's were lovely, the food was very good and they were really accommodating to my requests.

Since we were all fueled up, our next stop was TJ Maxx.

For my fellow Canadians - TJ Maxx is kind of like Winners, but usually better! I almost always walk out of there with something fabulous and well-priced! (Last summer - Liz Clairborne boots for $15!!) This time my sights were set on a fantastic Michael Kors handbag.

It was love at first sight. I had seen a bag at Banana Republic a few days before in a similar colour, but had wanted a different style. I tried to find it at the Banana Republic at the Boulevard Mall but they didn't have anything left in that colour, so finding this bag was like fate! The bag was priced at a fraction of what it would retail for in stores and I simply adore the colour. Lori found some great workout gear and a fantastic trunk that she is going to use as a coffee table - I wish I had taken a picture as it's super nice!

With the handbag and trunk stored away, we gleefully started the next part of our journey: food shopping.

We made a quick stop at Feel Rite.

Do you find that all "health food stores" have the same smell?? This place smelled just like the Carrot which smells like Noah's which smells like every other health food store I've ever been in. I found some gluten free cookies that worked alongside my other sensitivities and some Better N Peanut Butter. I found the prices to be similar to what we have in Canada and other than those two items there was nothing that screamed I MUST HAVE THIS.

People laugh when I say that my favourite store that we visit in Amherst is Wegmans but it is honestly great!!

Lori and I signed up for the Shoppers Club because I had read about it online. We always go there when we're in the US, so why not save some money too? We were probably in there for at least an hour. Again, I was a little sad about all the things that I couldn't have but they have a fairly extensive natural section with a dedicated gluten free aisle and I was able to find a lot of fun things that I can have. I got some items I had never seen before but also picked up some items because they were just really good prices compared to what I pay here (Puffins - 2/$5, case of larabars - $20) Here is a picture of all my food purchases!

Two varieties of Enjoy Life  gluten free granola, Pamela's ginger cookies, Better n Peanut Butter, sweet coconut thai chai tea, vegan grated topping, Earth Balance spread, ricemellow fluff, corn tortillas, Wegmans soy chips, 2 jars of Dark Chocolate Dreams, Tofu Shirataki noodles, Peanut Butter Puffins, Envirokidz Gorilla Munch, coconut milk yogurt and a whole lotta larabars

Since our Wegmans stop was a little bit long and there had been a number of people crossing the border on our way in, we decided to have dinner before heading home.

Um, what do we eat?

We decided to check out the menu at Applebee's since I recalled seeing that they had a Weight Watchers menu.
They have a number of selections on their menu that are labelled with the WW logo with the number of Points listed (although I just read that there was a lawsuit filed against Applebee's for giving false nutritional information...eek!)

Since I had chosen chicken for lunch I decided to branch out a little bit and select the Steak & Portobellos:

Juicy, flame-grilled 4 oz. sirloin steak topped with sliced, sautéed portobello mushrooms and a savory brown sauce. Paired with steamed herb potatoes and seasonal vegetables.

Learning from my earlier experience, I asked for the entree to be served without the mushrooms and brown sauce and asked that the chef not use any black pepper on my medium-well steak.

It arrived looking like this...
which was perfect! (There was a runny substance on the potatoes that I suspected was butter-based, but there wasn't very much and I scraped it off) It tasted great and my body was very happy that I chose steak. 4 oz was the perfect amount for me and was cooked exactly how I liked it. Lori's Veggie Patch Pizza was a little less successful, but only due to the sheer amount of cheese they used. Overall it was a great way to end the day and it was great for me to utilize some of the knowledge I had gained from earlier restaurant experience.

It was a great day of shopping and a fun way to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon! I know that things will get easier as I get to know the ins and outs of my sensitivities and learn what I need to look for and ask for. Day one really wasn't so bad and now I'm stocked up with some exciting products to make the next few weeks that much easier!

Meal Plan - Week of March 15


Oh lovely readers, I am back on track again and even ahead of schedule with my meal planning. With my show ending last weekend, I needed a day of rest so I didn't have time to grocery shop. With my test results looming I also didn't want to plan a menu that I wouldn't be able to eat. We managed to scrape by on leftovers and things that were hanging around in the freezer and pantry.
This is my first gluten-free, dairy free, sugar free menu so please give me some wiggle room as I try new recipes and figure out what works!! I have a bunch of new cookbooks to try so over the next couple weeks I'm going to be testing recipes from:

I'll be doing reviews of these cookbooks in the next few weeks and I'm also going to be doing my very first giveaway!! So keep reading...

I should also tell you about the new recipe I tried last week amid the craziness in our house - Moroccan Lentil Soup. It was very easy to make and it had great flavor. Joey liked it more than I did and he'll be enjoying it for lunch in the weeks to come because I've still got a lot left in my freezer! It's a hearty soup and lovely for lunch. Another fantastic recipe from the amazing Stephanie at a Year of Crockpotting.

Now onto next week's menu!

Monday - Thai Coconut Corn Stew (Eat Drink & Be Vegan)

Tuesday - Lemon Garlic Pasta (made with gluten free pasta) with salad (ED&BV)

Wednesday - Pork chops with squash & brown rice + Split pea soup for lunches (Eat Clean cookbook)

Thursday - Eat Clean chicken & rice (EC cookbook)

Friday - Burgers (bunless or gluten free buns for me) with sweet potato fries (EC cookbook)

Saturday - Dining Out

Check out lots of other meal plans over at $5 dinners

Does anyone have any ideas for some good gf, df, sf snacks? I've got fruit and veggies and thanks to the lovely Heather I discovered Turtle Mountain Coconut Milk "ice cream" and I'm sure I'll find some stuff this weekend in the states, but I'm just curious if anyone has any favourites? Also, what's the scoop on soy yogurt? Any good brand recommendations?

Everyone who got where he is, began where he was

Before I started doing Weight Watchers in 2006, my eating habits were terrible. I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. This included take out and restaurant food multiple times each week, baked goods and sweets, and eating whatever my father prepared for dinner (often meat and potatoes or pasta with few veggies) I never deprived myself of anything.

When I joined WW my eating habits eventually changed dramatically. It was a challenge, but they did. I started monitoring my portions, eating more fruits and veggies, packing my lunch, eating breakfast - among other things. If you had told me in early 2006 that I would be eating this way I would have laughed in your face. But my desire to be thinner and have a healthy BMI and feel good about my body outweighed the part of me that wanted to go back to my old ways. Have a relapsed from time to time and made not-so-great choices? Of course. But I've never gone back to the way I used to eat.

On Saturday one of my members sent me my title quote after the meeting. She saw it on a billboard for a real estate office as she was leaving the meeting. It really resonated with her and motivated her to begin a new week. Today I passed the same billboard on my way to dance class and it was a great reminder for me.

This afternoon I visited my naturopath and received the results of my food sensitivity testing. This is the list of foods that I am sensitive to:
  • Beans (green, kidney, Lima, pinto and yellow)
  • Cheese
  • Cherries
  • Coffee
  • Crab
  • Cranberry
  • Egg (whites only)
  • Eggplant
  • Lobster
  • Cow's Milk (Casein and one of the whey proteins)
  • Mung bean
  • Mushrooms
  • Pepper (black & white)
  • Pineapple
  • Pumpkin
  • Quinoa
  • Radish
  • Rape Seed (Canola)
  • Shrimp
  • Tomato
  • Wheat
  • Yeast (Baker's and Brewer's)
The test also showed that I have candida and a high sensitivity to gluten.

My blood did not react to the other 88 foods they tested for, which means there's an even longer list of foods that I can eat.

Seeing the list today was pretty overwhelming. It confirmed some of the suspicions that my naturopath and I had, but the list also presented a number of sensitivities that surprised me and made me a little bit sad.

I didn't do this test to be sad about it.

It was a big decision to have this test administered. Not only was it rather expensive but it also meant that I would have to do it. I did it because I want to help my body heal itself as much as I can. I did it because I want to avoid surgery as much as possible. I want to be in control of my disease, I don't want it to control me. By finding out the foods that my body is sensitive to, I don't need to follow a one-size-fits-all diet and eliminate foods that are okay for me.

I started WW eating terribly. I now eat healthy, balanced meals each week, which follow my weekly meal plan. Things have changed so much since August 2006, so I know I can do this. The quote on the real estate office reminded me that I have already come so far. This is only another challenge.

So now I prepare. I will be learning about where these foods hide and focus on what I can eat. Beginning this weekend, I will work to eliminate these foods for the next three months. I will keep a (more extensive) journal to monitor the foods I'm eating and how I'm feeling physically. After the three months I will be able to begin slowly bringing some of these foods back into my life. And if they still don't agree with me, I won't eat them. I am going to listen to my body and do what is best for it. It's going to be hard but I'm going to keep a positive attitude (rather than focus on the fact that I'm no longer allowed to eat cheese, Cherry Pie larabars, pineapple, quinoa or oatmeal)

Dearest readers - if any of you have any words of wisdom, advice, suggestions, resources, or food finds to share with me as I undergo this elimination diet please comment! I can use all the help I can get and I thank you in advance.

Everyone who got where he is, began where he was.

I'm ready to do this and give it my all.