A Better Butter Chicken

With warmer temperatures here for good (I hope), my family's cooking focus often turns to the BBQ. But last week we had a couple of cooler days that made me still long for something warm and comforting from the stove.

Indian-inspired dishes are something I get a craving for every now and again. It's a great way to spice up the ordinary chicken, fish or veggie meal. Too often though, recipes and restaurant options are heavy-laden with butter and cream…ingredients that don't sit well with my tummy or health and fitness goals.

So I got playing around in the kitchen and ended up putting together this AH-MAZING version that gets its inspiration from Trish Magwood's Mock Butter Chicken. Thumbs up all around for this one - adults and kids alike! Feel free to play with the spices if your household prefers something on the milder or hotter side.

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp cayenne, more or less to taste
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds (omit in the case of nut allergies)
  • 2 lb (or 4 breasts) boneless, skinless chicken breasts chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 of a head of cauliflower, broken into pieces
  • 1/2 red pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas

Preparation:

  • Melt coconut oil in a large heavy pan, over medium heat. Add ground cumin and fry for a few seconds or until fragrant. Add onion and fry until translucent. Add garlic, ginger, garam masala, cayenne, coriander and ground almonds. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes or until fragrant.
  • Add chicken pieces and toss to coat with onion and spices. Fry, stirring frequently until chicken is almost cooked through.
  • Add tomatoes and coconut milk; bring to a boil, stirring often.
  • Reduce heat to low and add cauliflower pieces, red pepper, chickpeas and green peas. Stir to combine. 
  • Simmer on low heat for an hour (if you have the time for flavours to meld), or until cauliflower is tender.
  • Serve over brown basmati rice with a side green salad or steamed broccolini for a complete meal.

Serves 4 with leftovers for a whole additional meal (freezable) or 6 without leftovers. To make vegetarian, substitute tofu for the chicken or use a whole can of chickpeas.

Why It Can Be Okay to Indulge This Christmas...

If you are on any social media sites you most certainly will have read one or more headlines or articles on what not to eat during this upcoming Christmas season. Every nutritionist, fitness expert and their mother seems to have a list at the ready of all the things you must avoid in order to not gain weight this season. And let's not forget the advice to replace those Christmas cookies with a kale & almond milk protein shake. Seriously? Do these people actually believe what they write?

As a health coach, it might come as a surprise to you that my advice to my clients is the exact opposite. I'm not a believer in forbidding yourself from your favourite Christmas cookie or that special holiday dish your mom always makes. I mean, aren't the holidays supposed to be about joy? For many of us, a part of that joy comes from those special treats. And in many ways food has become the enemy. We have literally taken the emotional and social enjoyment out of meals by counting calories and slicing and dicing our food into fat grams and ingredient lists.

I wholeheartedly believe that our meals give us physical sustenance but that they should also feed our souls. There is nothing better than spending time laughing, conversing, and connecting with loved ones around a table. In a day and age where many of us don't make or have time for this on a regular basis, Christmas can provide that much needed down time to make meaningful meals happen. There should be no room at your table for guilt.

Too often we get so down on ourselves about not eating the way we are "supposed" to eat over the holidays that it can make you feel like a failure. And that can easily cause you to feed those feelings of guilt with more treats to make yourself feel better…which actually does the opposite. 

I am not saying that I support gorging yourself on every treat and at every holiday buffet table you belly up to. No. What I am saying is that it's okay to allow yourself those small indulgences ~ just make sure that they are worth it. Think quality over quantity. Give yourself room to savour grandma's secret recipe gingerbread cookies because they bring back warm happy childhood memories. And then skip the mindless nibbling at the chip bowl. 

Remember, you are in control. Just because aunt Cindy sets out a tray of jalapeño poppers doesn't mean you have to eat them. Decide what's worth it and forget the rest. Often, allowing yourself a few minutes before digging in can really help. One great trick is to consider how you will feel after eating an item. If you know you will feel guilty, then it's probably not the best choice and you should save that indulgence for something that's really worth it. 

It's also really important to keep active during this time. Because of travel, stress and an extra heavy "to do" list, many people scale back on physical activity. This combined with the added indulgences, can lead to weight gain, an overall feeling of guilt and in some cases illness. The best way to enjoy this time of year is to practice moderation and to remain active in one form or another each day! 

Here are a few more tips on how to have a healthy, happy & guilt-free holiday

  • Practice portion control - use smaller plates and fill them mostly with healthier options
  • Choose the healthier options of dips (hummus, non-cream based, etc.)
  • Arrive at parties having eaten a healthy meal at home first and never skip meals no matter how busy this season makes you!
  • Don't linger near the buffet table




Cleaning House...

So, we let our cleaning lady go. A few months ago, actually. She was wonderful - professionally and personally speaking - but our budget just couldn't handle this expense any longer. And truly, it felt like a luxury to have someone else come in and clean my home. A wonderful, "ahhh" inducing luxury. 

messy house sign.jpg

I was the one who initiated the idea with my hubby. I actually like to clean. There's something very good, therapeutic, gratitude-inspiring, and humbling about "cleaning your own bowl" - so to speak. My challenge is finding the (uninterrupted) time to do so. Anybody with me? Being a typically Type-A, I'm uncomfortable with leaving things half done. But with two young girls, I'm finding it challenging to get it all done in one day. Scrubbing toilets on Tuesdays, floors on Wednesdays, etc, etc., isn't how I like to do it. Because you never really get to stand back and see the fruits of your labour in it's entirety. Know what I'm sayin'? But I'm trying to get more comfortable living with the motto pictured above.

Except for very recently. That was a time when I was racing around like a mad-woman cleaning in preparation for a milestone birthday party where 30 or so close friends would descend on our home. I felt pretty close to "Gale" in this video

As I knelt down to scrub remnants of splattered juice from baseboards and little-girl fingerprints from the walls, I began to reflect on the link between the dirt in our homes and the dirt in our lives. Some of us could really use a deep clean in certain areas of our lives. Myself included.

There are parts of everyone's life that get a little grungy when ignored and it takes getting close to those corners of yourself, kneeling low, leaning in, looking deep to recognize the areas that could use a little spit and polish. For some it might be the dirty habit of missing "just one workout"  that's spiralled into no exercise at all. For others it might be the crud of turning to unhealthy foods for emotional comfort. Some of you may be dirtying up your lives with Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram to fill a void of a lacklustre relationship. Others are stuck in the muck of believing untruths about yourself. Maybe you are not moving forward because you are too caught up in comparing yourself against who you used to be. Some of you feel like you will never get back to the vibrant person you once were. Others are immobilized under a weight of guilt for poor choices that have literally imprisoned you into believing you'll never be any better than those past mistakes. 

As November turns to December which will quickly turn over into January, we will be faced with New Year resolutions. The tendency is to just decide that 2016 will be better. To pledge to be a new you, not repeating the same mistakes from 2015. Yet, in the same way that re-decorating a house without cleaning the dirty parts will eventually leave you surrounded by pretty things but feeling filthy, making resolutions without facing the areas that need work make it impossible to achieve real, lasting progress. As they say….you can put lipstick on a pig...

So while we are still living in 2015, I invite you to take a close look at all the areas of your life. What thoughts and beliefs could use a deep cleaning? What habits need straightening up? What relationship clutter are you living with that needs tending to? For every untruth you've been telling yourself (I'm not strong enough, don't have the will power, not smart enough, don't have the training, etc.), there is a rebutting truth to take its place. For every bad habit you've been choosing, there is a deeper reason driving that behaviour. Won't you lean in, look close, find that reason and then scrub it clean with me? 

 

Citrusy Energizing Smoothie

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This smoothie will take your breakfast from boring to energizing in a snap! Packed with protein, healthy fats, and low-glycemic fruit for a touch of sweetness that even your pickiest eaters will love!!

  • 1-2 generous handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1 orange, peeled
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 2 Tbsps. hemp hearts
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • 1/4 to 1 tsp. maca powder (optional)
  • a couple of ice cubes

 

 

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend to desired consistency.

Serves 1-2

Preparation note: If you do not have a high-powered blender, be sure to layer the ingredients with the liquid and easier to blend items at the bottom.

Superfood Spotlight: Maca

A root belonging to the radish family, Maca is rich in Vitamins B, C, & E and provides a great source of calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, & amino acids. It can boost your libido, helps to relieve menstrual and menopause symptoms, and can increase your energy levels and improve your mood.