Recipe: Quinoa Hot Cereal

quinoa cerealQuinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is like rice, but a little more nutty. It was a staple in the diet of South American Indians (who considered it a sacred food) for centuries, but only arrived in North America in the last 30 years or so.

What’s powerful about it is that it’s a full protein – unlike other vegetarian proteins that do not have all the amino acids. That makes it a great choice for vegans who might be worried about their protein intake. For everyone, though, it’s delicious, and contains lots of manganese and other nutrients.

I use it where I would use rice.  Because it’s gluten free, it also makes a great substitute for couscous in a couscous salad..

As a breakfast, it’s a very yummy alternative to oatmeal.  This one’s a recipe for the crock pot.

  • 1 ½ cups quinoa – rinsed well
  • 4 cups water – you can use rice, soy or almond milk for a creamier texture.
  • 1 cup chopped dried fruit like raisins, dates, apricots, cranberries, etc. of your liking (or leave this out if you don’t like it)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

Toss everything in the crock pot (that’s the beauty of crock pots!), and cook on low heat all night. Add honey or some maple syrup in the morning if desired, and enjoy!


PS – The photo is from The Vivacious Vegan – a great source of info and recipes!

31 Days and Counting: Finding the Value of Daily Exercise

icytaraI don’t always make resolutions, but at the beginning of each New Year I do take the time to reflect about the past year of my life and think about what future actions I could take to make my coming years better in some way.

Although we are an active family and I’m committed to exercise and a healthy lifestyle, I decided to stretch myself more this year. On January 1st, I committed to exercising at least 30 minutes per day for the next 365 days.  The exercise can be anything that is consistent and sustained for at least 30 minutes – walking, running, yoga, x-country skiing, biking or any other moderate activity. It doesn’t have to be intense, just daily.

I set this goal for a number of reasons, but there is one reason that stands out: The busier life gets, the easier it is to have the things we do to support and maintain our health get further and further down the list of priorities.  By setting this goal and committing to it every day (as opposed to a certain number of times per week), getting my 30 minutes in is one of the first things I think about when I wake up.  I consciously make time in my schedule to make sure it gets done.

After completing my first 31 days I realize how many days in the past I would have missed an opportunity to get outside, breathe fresh air and move my body and blood.  Not because I didn’t have the time, but because I didn’t use my time for this critical part of healthy living.  We all have 30 minutes a day to walk, but there are plenty of days when your life gets a hold of you and the day is over before you’ve had a chance to even think about exercising.

I already feel stronger and healthier. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re wondering whether it’s worthwhile, here are a few more benefits:

  • You’ll sleep better (and so will your kids if they join you!)
  • You’ll reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and almost every other non-congenital condition on the planet
  • You’ll improve your mood and stave off seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • You’ll likely notice a change in your body in terms of your body fat and how your clothes fit
  • You’ll boost your immune system and reduce your likelihood of colds and flus

If you’re interested in jumping aboard my 365 days of active living, I encourage you to do so – there’s no need to wait until next January. Recruit a friend. Buy an iPod and use that 30 minutes to learn a language, listen to books, download a great podcast on active living,  or groove to your favorite tune. Or just use the time to disconnect, de-stress and enjoy some solitude.

Only 334 more days to go!


Book Review: Healthy at 100


In Healthy at 100, John Robbins explores the lifestyles of four of the world’s longest living cultures: the Abkhasians of Southern Russia, the Vilcabambans of Ecuador, the Hunza of Northern Pakistan, and the Okinawans of Japan. The cultures all share an extraordinarily high number of centenarians, and a low incidence of most of the chronic diseases of Western culture.

The essence of the book is an effort to discover what these four long-living cultures have in common. While the discoveries may not be entirely surprising, they way they’re delivered is inspiring nonetheless – this was an insightful read.

Some of the common traits among the cultures that Robbins uncovered during his research include:

Plenty of Moderate Exercise

These are active people, in terms of their lifestyle. Three of the four cultures, in fact, live in mountainous terrain. The daily exercise that they get simply from going about their lives is very high.

High Vegetable Diet

Robbins is a big proponent of the vegan lifestyle, so he may be showing his bias, but all of the cultures ate a diet extremely high in vegetables. Many added dairy or small amounts of meat or fish, but their diet was predominantly plant-based, and in most cases seemed to be moderately low in overall calories.

Love and Connection

Each culture fostered strong familial and communal bonds, with multi-generational homes, and close interaction among people. Even as the elders of society age, they stay engaged with their communities through these close connections. That engagement keeps the older members of society mentally and physically healthy even into their advanced years.

Healthy Attitude Toward Aging and the Aged

This is clearly Robbins’ core message, that our attitude towards the elderly in our culture, and towards our own aging, plays a dramatic role in how well we age physically. By marginalizing the older members of our society and viewing our own aging as a curse, rather than an increase in wisdom and life experience, we reduce our expectations of the elderly, and in doing so speed up their decline.

I listened to the audio version of this book early this year, and the simplicity of the “secrets” of aging well resonated with me. The biggest downside? It’s a little sad that many of these happy, healthy cultures are losing their simple, natural edge as the world changes.


PS If you’re interested in other cultures, you might want to join Amanda and Terry from the clinic as they share stories, photos and videos from their mission trip to Senegal, Africa. The presentation will be at The Collingwood Public Library on Wednesday, February 24, 6-8:30 PM. Admission is free, and so are the snacks!