Watermelons and Birthdays

watermelonI used to hate watermelons. Every summer I would inevitably find myself in a situation where people were passing around the watermelon and I would let it go by. “You don’t want some?” someone would ask. “No thanks. I don’t really like watermelon.” Their eyes would widen and bulge a bit with a look of “What’s wrong with you?” I would shrug.

It tasted like water. Nothing special. Boring.

I also used to consume a lot of sugar. You may not think the two were linked, but they were.

We used to go out to eat a lot, too. In Montreal, eating out is the way to socialize. I used to eat out at least once a week (after church with friends), sometimes two, three or four times a week. Once we got married, we always went out after church with friends. Sometimes it was twice a week. We enjoyed being culinary tourists of our own city.

A year and a half ago I cut out sugar. About a year ago we decided it was best for Willy to start his Masters. You may not think those two things are linked, but they are.

Last month we celebrated my birthday. We drove to Kitchener, I got my free Starbucks drink, and we went out to Red Lobster for lunch. It was my favourite birthday ever. In some ways, it wasn’t anything special, yet it was.

It was special because I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve had Starbucks this summer. It was special because we rarely eat out these days as we had to make financial adjustments to help pay for Willy’s masters. It was special because we got to do the things that are somewhat normal for us back in Montreal: sit, drink coffee, read/write alone together and go for lunch! (I don’t know why I love eating out so much but I do! Yum.)

This week, as I found myself enjoying several slices of watermelon I realized how much more I’m enjoying life with less. Less sugar, less eating out, less shopping, less consistent indulgence in rich things. When I do get to have them, they’re so much better! I enjoy and appreciate them more.

Honestly, I’m surprised. I never imagined these two changes would impact my enjoyment of life so much. That was never really the intention. I never imagined overconsumption would lead to boredom. I thought I was just doing a lot of what I enjoyed!

Do you have a similar story? Or maybe the complete opposite experience? Have you ever done a lot of what you loved and found you loved it less?

Zevia review (part 2) + Giveaway

Shortly after I posted my first review of Zevia vs Krisda, I received a reply on Twitter inviting me to try more flavours of Zevia, for free.

zevia-twitter

 

Obviously, I took them up on it, since a can of the stuff costs $1 at the local grocery store. I requested Cherry Cola, Black Cherry, Dr. Zevia, Ginger Root Beer (say what?), Gingerale and Cream Soda. As I was emailing back and forth with Kipling (their digital marketing manager), she explained something that was pretty helpful and very fair:

“We understand many people come to Zevia because they want to “replace” their bad soda with healthier Zevia. Sometimes this leads to frustration because our Cola doesn’t taste like your old brand. We’re certainly not trying to mimic the competitions’ flavor, but we know there is an expectation that our Cola taste like some other brands!”

I did expect this! I realize now it’s not very realistic.

zevia6

Back to the testing. Now, I didn’t sit down and drink them all side-by-side again, and I didn’t have Krisda to compare it to this time. It’s not a scientific study, people! But I think it is helpful to know that I enjoy these drinks more and more when I’m not drinking actual diet pop. These drinks taste better when your tastebuds are expecting the Stevia/Erythritol combo. You can taste the flavour more (though the sweetner is still evident, but that’s true of diet pop, too, we’re just more used to it).

Ok, enough with the disclaimers.

Zevia (accidentally, or super creepster-like) got a big point because the drinks arrived on my birthday (yay!).

The first one I tried was Cherry Cola. Right off the bat, I liked it more than the Zevia cola. In fact, I really liked it. The stevia taste was still there, but I’m pretty sure (but again, wasn’t testing it right side-by-side) that the cherry cola flavour was more evident than the cola.

cherry-cola

 

Next, I tried the Black Cherry. I brought it to the Versteeg Picnic. I forgot to take a picture. I was a bit surprised Zevia had Cherry Cola and Black Cherry. They’re pretty different because I didn’t really like the Black Cherry (go figure).

Next, I tried the Ginger Root Beer. I had no idea what it was going to  be like. Gingerbeer? Rootbeer? I found it started off more like rootbeer and ended with a bit of ginger. You might not even notice if you didn’t know that’s what it was called. I liked it fair enough.

I don’t remember the last time I had Cream soda but it was my favourite flavour as a girl. Two guesses why (it was pink and tasted like it!). While I was sad it wasn’t pink when I poured it (my first guess was the gold can), it was good! I really enjoyed it. Though I still partly can’t deal that it isn’t pink or at least clear. Sigh.

cream-soda

Last up was the Gingerale. I’m glad I saved it for last because I ended up having it on a day I had an upset stomach, which, if you know me, is frequent. I consume a decent amount of Gingerale when I’m sick, but often it’s hard to find the diet stuff. Now I don’t need to! Plus it’s got Vitamin C in it (all of the drinks do).

zevia_12_giveaway

So there you have it. Guess what? I’ve hooked you guys up with a giveaway. Zevia is going to give 5 vouchers for a 6-pack each. That means five of you can win! The only entry that is mandatory is leaving a comment. Note that Rafflecopter uses Javascript, so for you iPad/iPhone users, you might find it tricky.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A Tale of Two Colas

2colas

Cutting out sugar has been a key part of me functioning better in general. I sleep better, my energy is more consistent, and I don’t have random nausea anymore. Cutting out sugar has been harder in certain areas than other. Pop is one of them.

I’m a Pepsi girl. Always have been. Growing up, everyone in my immediate family preferred Pepsi, except my dad. I used to drink so much of it I couldn’t taste it anymore. Since going off sugar a year and a half ago, I was naughty and went through a bit of a diet pepsi binge. I wasn’t supposed to have aspartame, you see, mostly because it’s pretty much edible cancer. BUT I LOVE MY PEPSI. The day before I did this taste-test, I drank the last diet Pepsi in my in-laws’ fridge and, boy, was it good. It didn’t taste watery like I used to think diet Pepsi tasted. It tasted full and juicy.

A few months ago I saw listed on the Krisda sweetner box I buy that they also had pop. I had to try it, but I wasn’t able to find it until this week. Around the same time a friend told me about Zevia. I happened to find it on the same day at Zehrs.

I’m afraid none of these stevia colas taste as luscious as my Pepsi.

For this review, I’m going to do my best to describe the taste and make references to other colas in order to help you figure out what you might like. For some reference (since we tend to compare flavours based on the last similar thing we tried), the last cola I drank was President’s Choice caffeine free diet cola. I had it the day before this test. Earlier that day I had a Caffeine-free diet Pepsi, which tasted like heaven compared to the Krisda I had had the day before. Ok, yes, I drank a lot of pop this week. I’m trying to wean off hence this taste test.

I was really hoping I would love one of these. Verdict? Nope. So without further ado, here it is.

Zevia

Zevia Carbonated Beverage (stevia/erythritol, 60mg caffeine, 45mg vitamin C)

  • Clear, light taste. Stevia flavour very evident.
  • Could be confused with a root beer taste.
  • After awhile it tastes more and more like fizzy root-beery stevia.
  • Not a big fan.

Krisda

Krisda Natural Soda (stevia/erythritol, 20% Daily intake of Vitamin A, C , E, and no caffeine)

  • Tastes more like coke than Zevia.
  • Still, very, very light tasting.
  • The stevia/sweetner flavour is less evident than Zevia.
  • As you drink it, it still keeps the faint cola taste.
  • Mostly just tastes like fizzy semi-sweet water.

Who wins?

To be honest, they don’t compare very well with even regular diet colas from both brand names and store labels. The taste is so weak in comparison.( I did try the Zevia gingerale once and found it fairly comparable to other gingerales). The Zevia had a taste that endured better, even if the taste wasn’t much like cola, but Krisda has more vitamins and actually tastes like cola.

If I were looking for a soda that has what a regular pop does (ie: caffeine and fizz), then I’d choose Zevia. But if I’m just looking for cola and fizzy refreshment, Krisda would be the one I’d reach for. However, I really don’t like either and will probably choose can of Starbucks Refresher (sweetened with erythritol) instead.

Smoothies and Secrets

8-smoothies

These are my actual smoothies!

Today was day 10 of the smoothie challenge. So far, I’ve had good smoothies and some bad smoothies. I’m quickly realizing that it’s pretty easy to throw a smoothie together when you have an immersion blender.

A friend asked me today if I feel better after having daily smoothies. I don’t really notice a difference, but maybe that’s because I also haven’t stopped eating chips? Probably has something to do with it. BUT I’m getting more good stuff in my body at the same time. Some days the only veggies I’m getting is red pepper on the pizza I’m eating, which we all know is BAD. So for the last 9 days, I’ve been getting my fruit and veggies in liquid form and that feels good.

On the other hand, I haven’t ran once this week which doesn’t feel as good. Also, the Habs lost that series. Boo.

So far I have two favourite recipes. The first one was on the first day that I put together:
day-1

Tropical Lagoon

  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1c chopped spinach
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1c coconut milk
  • ~1/2 can  chopped pineapple + juice
  • 1T flax seed

The second one I found from the Health Is Happiness blog. SO SO YUM. Definitely the top favourite. It’s a must try.

Sun Kiss Smoothiefav-smoothie

  • 1 orange
  • 1 mango
  • juice of 1 lemon (about a 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup cashews, soaked for 30 mins
  • 1/2 vanilla pod, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup water

Am I a freak that I have a hard time eating my veggies? Are there other people out there like me? Comment and let me know!

No Bake Sugar-free Chocolate Cheesecake

cheesecakeMy husband and I are away from home so frequently that I have learned to become pretty adaptable wherever I am. I’m rarely home-sick for our apartment or even Montreal, anymore. When we were in the US this summer for four weeks, I did get home sick for Canada. As soon as we were across the border, I was fine. Four weeks seems to be the max I can endure away from my country.

The one thing that happens every time I’m away from home, is that I get home-sick for the food we love. The wheat-free and sugar-free food we love. Both our sets of parents are always very accommodating when they cook for us, but finding sugar-free things is not easy, which is why I always end up making things from scratch.

While we were visiting my in-laws for Christmas my mother-in-law made a No-Bake Chocolate Cheesecake that looked so yummy. I’ve been looking for a good no-bake cheesecake recipe, so I gave this one a shot. It calls for bitter-sweet Bakers chocolate squares, so I knew it would be easy to sub in unsweetened chocolate and then add more natural sweeteners.

bakers

Last night I gave it a try. I’m very glad I did! It was glorious. I haven’t had a cheesecake in 10 months?

So if one of your goals for the new year was to eat healthier or you’ve finally resolved to go sugar-free, then here’s a recipe to try. I use NuNaturals powdered stevia, xylitol and agave (you can use honey instead, but if you’re concerned about glycemic index impact, then use more xylitol or stevia).

Ingredients

  • 1/3c chopped almonds, toasted, or use a graham cracker/butter crust like I did.
  • 2 packages (250g each) cream cheese softened,
  • 1t powdered stevia
  • 1/4c and 2T agave nectar
  • 1/4c and 1T xylitol
  • 6 squares unsweetened bakers chocolate
  • 1 envelop unflavoured gelatin, or 1/4t tapioca starch
  • 1c whipping cream, whipped

Directions

  1. Grease an 8 1/2″ springform pan.
  2. Sprinkle with almonds or press your graham base in the bottom
  3. Beat the cream cheese in your mixer until smooth. Add 1/2t of the stevia, 1/4c of agave and 1/4 xylitol.
  4. Melt chocolate in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave starting with 1 minute, then reduce to 30 seconds. Once there are smaller chunks, just stir until it is smooth. Add the 2T agave, 1T xylitol, and 1/2t stevia. If the chocolate isn’t sweet enough for you, keep adding sweetener until it is in small amounts.
  5. Sprinkle the tapioca starch in 1/4c cold water in a microwave safe dish. Let sit 5 minutes, stir a few times to incorporate.
  6. Put tapioca water into the microwave. Cook for 10 seconds, stir, then 10 seconds again, stir, then 5 seconds. Mixture should turn clear and glue-like. Let sit to cool.
  7. Mix chocolate with cream cheese until fully incorporated.
  8. When tapioca is warm, mix thoroughly into the cream cheese mixture.
  9. Whip the whip cream, then fold into the cream cheese until fully incorporated. Pour into the pan and put in the fridge for 2-3 hours.

Tip: if you use the gelatin instead of the tapioca, it will be less firm.

I LOVE THAT MASTER MIX: Sugar Free/Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

As soon as those biscuits were a hit, I knew I needed to try the recipe for the cookies using the master mix. They looked good going into the oven, they looked good coming out of them, but boy, can I just say: HOLY SMOKES. They were so good. So sweet, so non-wheaty. I haven’t had a good cookie in 10 months! I’ve tried to make a few but they’ve all just been busts.

These are wins! Major wins. My husband loved them, too, which is a really big win. Now I’m scheming for Christmas aka How Many Baked Goods Can You Eat In One Week And Not Die?

It’s basically all I can do to not eat the entire batch in one sitting, which is especially hard when you know you’ll get no sugar rush because there’s zero glycemic index impact!

Thanks to Ginger Lemon Girl for these recipes.

Ingredients

2 ¾ cups MASTER MIX
½ cup palm shortening, Crisco, or butter (I used Crisco)
1/2 c more fiber stevia
1/3 c Erythritol
2 eggs
1 teaspoons vanilla
2-4 tablespoons water
dark chocolate chips to taste

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350.
  2. Cream sugar with shortening/butter.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla. Stir in master mix.
  4. If needed, add 2-4 tablespoons of water until you get a stiff (not crumbly) batter.
  5. Fold in chocolate chips.
  6. Drop by tablespoons onto baking sheet. Flatten cookies slightly with the bottom of a glass or the palm of your hand, as they will not spread.
  7. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen 1″ cookies.
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