7 Of The Best Healthy Buys at Costco

Look no further to find 7 of the best healthy buys at Costco from The Professional Mom Project

If you’re like me and trying to take better care of yourself and eat healthier, then you know how expensive it can be. Superfoods are not only super healthy but super costly too.

I already spend a lot of money on groceries every week due to rising prices and living in a big city. In an effort to still eat well and try to save money, we take the long trip to Costco every now and then to stock up on the healthy buys that we love.

Honestly, I don’t like Costco. The parking lot is always a disaster and it’s so huge and busy almost all the time. I also don’t understand  why some people seem to eat every meal of the day at the sample bars across the store. It’s as though these shoppers have never seen food before!

Despite my dislike for the big box behemoth, they do have great deals on healthy foods.

Here are our favourites:

Top 7 Healthy Buys from Costco

1. Quinoa

Quinoa one of the best healthy buys from Costco - from The Professional Mom Project

I always thought quinoa was a grain but is in fact a seed! It is very healthy and according to Wikipedia, for every 100 grams it has 120 calories, almost 3 grams of fiber, close to 2 grams of fat and almost 4.5 grams of protein. Quinoa is gluten free and easy to digest.

Quinoa is quick and easy to make and is very versatile. You can use it instead of rice as we do with our honey baked chicken and sweet and sour tofu or you can make a great salad by adding chopped veggies and a simple vinaigrette to cooked quinoa.

At the grocery store a teeny tiny box of quinoa is around $6 (at least in Canada). At Costco you can get a huge bag of quinoa for around $15. It’s more than triple the amount and lasts for a while as long as you store it properly.

2. Chia seeds

Chia seeds - another list item on the best healthy buys from Costco by The Professional Mom Project

If you’re not familiar with chia seeds then you should make their acquaintance. Chia seeds have no discernible taste but when you put them with a liquid they create a gel that is healthy, full of fiber and loaded with protein.

According to Wikipedia, for every 100 grams, chia seeds have 436 calories, 34 grams of fiber, almost 17 grams of protein and close to 31 grams of fat. Much of this fat is made up of omega 3 fatty acids which are said to have health benefits. While the calorie and fat count seem super high it’s important to remember that a small amount of chia seeds go a long way.

I like to use chia seeds in my smoothie every morning (I add about one tablespoon) and I love making chocolate chia pudding. Especially since I can’t eat yogurt or milk.

I also like to bake with chia seeds and use them in vegan gluten free muffins and chocolate granola.

Like quinoa, in the grocery store chia seeds are very expensive for not a whole lot. That’s where Costco steps in and you can buy a big bag of chia seeds for a much more reasonable price.

3. Almond butter

Almond butter - one of our best healthy buys at Costco

I’m not sure why but whenever I go to the grocery store almond butter is so expensive! I like using it in baking and cooking so I use a fair bit and it’s painful to spend $10 on a small jar.

By purchasing it at Costco I don’t feel as guilty about using it to make muffins, cookies and banana bread. One of my favourite gluten free, egg free and dairy free recipes that uses almond butter is Chocolate Covered Katie’s Unbaked Cookie Dough Bars – so yummy!

It’s also an excellent replacement for peanut butter since it has slightly more vitamin E than peanut butter along with more calcium and magnesium. If you have a peanut allergy make sure that your almond butter is peanut free (I’m not sure if Costco’s is peanut free).

4. Vega Protein and Greens

Vega protein and greens one of my top healthy picks from Costco

As I mention above, I like to make a smoothie in the morning so I can just make it quickly and run out of the house. To add extra protein and vitamins to my smoothie I add Vega Protein and Greens. Buying Vega at the grocery store or health food store it can be quite costly. A little while back Costco started stocking it and since I can’t pass up a good deal I always purchase it there now.

Costco also has a number of other protein powders but Vega is my favourite since it’s vegan, GMO free and contains some “greens” as well.

5. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil one of the best healthy buys at costco

I admit, I’ve joined the coconut oil bandwagon. I know there is a fair bit of controversy about whether or not coconut oil is healthy. The argument is over saturated fat vs. medium chain triglycerides. The saturated fat isn’t great for you while many people argue that the MCTs are super healthy because your body metabolizes them differently. I’m not sure about these various claims but I believe that everything is ok in moderation including coconut oil.

Typically I use coconut oil in baking – including my delicious chocolate granola. Like many of these healthy buys, coconut oil is also very expensive in the store. I’ve seen some places charge $55 for the same container that Costco carries for way less.

6. Pure Maple Syrup

maple syrup one of the best healthy buys at costco

As a Canadian girl I love my pure maple syrup! This isn’t Mrs Butterworth or Aunt Jemima pancake syrup. This is the real stuff made from the sap of   a maple tree. It’s quite labour intensive to make so 100% pure maple syrup can be quite expensive.

We use it on our waffles and pancakes and I use it in baking as well. It’s a healthier alternative to white sugar since it contains antioxidants and some vitamins and minerals.

Similar to coconut oil, in moderation it’s a great item to have in your kitchen.

7. Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

Our Costco has amazing healthy buys on fresh fruit and vegetables. They’ve started offering a great selection of organic produce at excellent prices.

I try to go on Friday (if I’m working from home) to beat the crowds and get our fruit and vegetables for the weekend. That way I know we’ll be home to get a head start on healthy eating over the weekend.

Where do you find your healthy buys?

 

How to Help Your Preschooler Transition to Kindergarten

Tips on how to help your preschooler transition to Kindergarten from The Professional Mom Project

It’s almost that time of year again. The end of summer always comes too quickly… Fall can come as quite a surprise when your children are getting ready to make the transition to Kindergarten and full time school for the first time.

The summer before we sent R to Kindergarten I was nervous. I was anxious about him starting school, making new friends and getting into a routine. I remember googling all kinds of questions about how to make the transition to kindergarten easier on both him and us.

Going to a new school is difficult for everyone especially if you’re a child that likes routine and is happy in your current school.

There are a few things we did to help him with the transition to Kindergarten and I hope these suggestions can help your children as well.

Ways to Make the Transition to Kindergarten Easier for Your Child

Start Preparing Your Child Early

We started talking to R about his new school very early on so that he’d get comfortable with the change. We asked our family to get excited about the transition to Kindergarten as well. All of this exuberance built a bit of “hype” around the idea so that he would look forward to the first day.

Excitement and enthusiasm are contagious. All the fuss we were making rubbed off on R and he got excited to start in his new school.

Get Your Child Familiar with the New School

The spring before R started Kindergarten his school hosted a number of events so that the little ones could become more familiar with their new surroundings in a stress free way.

A few months before Kindergarten started, we took R to his new school for an orientation. That morning, the kids and parents were given a tour of the school and the Kindergarten classrooms. After our tour, R went into one of the classrooms and was paired up with a current student who showed him around the class. Once the incoming students were comfortable, the parents were asked to go into the auditorium and let the little ones have a chance to familiarize themselves with the classrooms.

R really enjoyed this experience. He loved playing with the new toys and the older kids. He started off with us, but then was comfortable enough on his own to hang out in the class without us there.

If your school offers a similar program you should definitely take your child. The more familiar your child can become with his or her surroundings before starting school the better.

As a side note, it is very cute to see 5 year old kids mentor 4 year olds. It’s also a great experience for the 5 year old children. R was a mentor this year and told us all about how much fun it was.

We also found out about a summer camp that runs out of R’s school. To get him comfortable in the building and learn his way around, we enrolled him in the summer camp for the month before school started.

By attending camp in his new school, R became accustomed to the layout, the classrooms and all of the facilities (plus he had a great time at camp!).

Set up Play Dates

Are any of your friends or acquaintances sending their kids to the new school? If so, set up those play dates! That way the kids will come to school having friends already. As a result, they will be excited about seeing their friends on the first day rather than being nervous about going to a new place.

Getting to know the other parents is also helpful for us moms and dads. I know I always feel more comfortable in places where I know people and that includes my son’s school.

Request Classmates

As a follow up to creating play dates, see if you can request that your child be placed in class with other kids he/she might know. Usually schools let students choose a couple of potential classmates. While it might not work, there’s no harm in asking.

Get yourself ready – Lunches

Making the transition to Kindergarten isn’t just a big change for your child but it means a different routine for you as well.

Before R attended Kindergarten I never had to worry about lunches or snacks since his daycare provided everything. Also, the pick up and drop off times were flexible.

At his new school, I have to make lunches and snacks and follow a new schedule for drop off and pick up.

To get yourself ready for all of these changes I suggest figuring out these logistics ahead of time.

A few weeks before school starts make a list of any items you may need to purchase. R’s school is “garbage free” so all of his food needs to be brought in reusable containers. Personally, I use Sistema and Take and Toss containers for food and Contigo water bottles. We have so many food containers that I now have a drawer in my kitchen to keep them all in one place.

I also suggest that you start thinking about what you’ll make your child for lunch. For ideas you can follow my “school lunches” Pinterest board. None of the actual lunches that I make R look like these but they are helpful for inspiration.

R’s typical lunch is very simple. I usually include a sandwich, some veggies (carrots and cucumbers), lots of fruit, cheese, yogurt and a treat.

Get Yourself Ready – Label Everything

My child is like any other five year old. Sweet as can be but super forgetful.

So that you don’t have to buy your child a whole new wardrobe after he looses everything during the first week of school, make sure to put labels on all of it. We label his clothing, shoes, food containers etc. If it goes to school with R it has a label.

While this didn’t prevent him from loosing a sweatshirt and two Blue Jays baseball caps, I think the labels in everything else prevented them from getting lost.

Get Yourself Ready – Planning

If your child’s new school is anything like R’s, there will be loads of PTA events, parent teacher nights and school concerts to attend. Lucky for us, many of these events are included in a school calendar that is distributed in the summer.

To make my life (and E’s life) easier, I like to go through the calendar and put all of the key events into my phone and send invites to E. I also put events on our kitchen calendar. Having all of these reminders keeps me organized so I can remember all of the events and special days. It’s also helpful to know that we’ve got many of the key dates in our calendars at the start of the school year and can plan around them as necessary.

Are you ready for your kids to make the transition to Kindergarten?

One Dish Chicken Quinoa Bake with Vegetables

 

One Dish Chicken Quinoa Bake with Veggies and Cashews. A simple and healthy meal from The Professional Mom Project

Finding yummy, healthy and easy to make dinners now that I’m on a gluten free, dairy free and egg free diet has been difficult. After telling a friend about my challenges finding an easy and yummy weeknight meal to make, she told me about Fit Foodie FindsCashew Chicken Quinoa Bake.

We tried the dish using Lee’s original recipe and it was great. Personally, I like tweaking recipes around a bit and changing up the sauce, adding different (and additional veggies) etc. That’s what we did with this dish and it is delish!

While it takes some time to bake in the oven and the casserole dish gets very sticky, clean up is otherwise quick and easy. Also, since your protein, veggies and carbs are in the casserole dish it’s a one dish meal – perfect for nights when you’re tired and don’t feel like cooking (which is me many nights ;))

Ingredients for the One Dish Chicken Quinoa Bake

Ingredients for the One Dish Chicken Quinoa Bake from The Professional Mom Project

Veggies of choice: we’ve used snow peas, broccoli, red peppers and shiitake mushrooms
4 chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup of uncooked quinoa
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 inch of peeled fresh ginger (minced)
3 tablespoons of gluten free Tamari sauce
3/4 cup of gluten free Hoisin sauce
1 1/4 cup vegetable broth
Handful of cashews – I prefer unsalted

Instructions to Make One Dish Chicken Quinoa Bake

Vegetables for One Dish Chicken Quinoa Bake from The Professional Mom Project

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and spray your rectangular casserole dish with olive oil spray.

Cut up your veggies of choice into bite sized pieces. We’ve used snow peas, mushrooms, red peppers, broccoli etc

Cut up your chicken into bite sized pieces as well.

Quinoa in a Casserole dish - One Dish Chicken Quinoa Bake The Professional Mom Project

Spread your uncooked quinoa in the casserole dish sprayed liberally with olive oil spray.

Veggies and quinoa - One Dish Chicken Quinoa Bake from The Professional Mom Project

Spread your cut and washed veggies on top of the quinoa.

Chicken veggies and quinoa in the One Dish Chicken Quinoa Bake by The Professional Mom Project

Then place the chicken pieces on top of the quinoa and veggies.

Sauce added to the One Dish Chicken Quinoa Bake by The Professional Mom Project

Mix together the sauce ingredients in a medium sized bowl (ginger, garlic, Tamari sauce, hoisin sauce and vegetable broth). Once it’s well combined pour the sauce on top of the quinoa, veggies and chicken.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes (uncovered). After 45 minutes add the handful of cashews to the top of the dish and place back in the oven for 10 minutes.

One Dish Chicken and Quinoa Bake The Professional Mom Project

Double check that the chicken is cooked and your amazing one dish chicken quinoa bake is ready!

One Dish Chicken Quinoa Bake from The Professional Mom Project

If you like this recipe, you should also try my  Honey Baked Chicken and Sweet and Sour Tofu.

Our Top Tips for Visiting Disneyland with a Four Year Old

Our Top Tips for Visiting Disneyland with a Four Year Old! From The Professional Mom Project

E and I recently took R to Disneyland. We had a great time and having been there and done that, here are our top tips for families considering the trip:

Where to stay

We looked into staying on the Disneyland property but found that it was very expensive. I don’t think it’s necessary to spend the extra money since Anaheim has a number of more reasonably priced options that are close to the theme park and just as lovely.

We stayed at the  Anaheim Marriott. Our first room wasn’t great but the second room they gave us was fine for three days. It was a bit on the small side (especially when you add in a third bed), but we didn’t spend much time there so it was ok.

The facilities at the hotel are great. There is an extensive gym (because who doesn’t want to spend half an hour on the elliptical machine after spending the day running around Disneyland?) and a busy pool in the hotel courtyard.

How to get to Disneyland

We rented a car in Los Angeles so we could drive to the park everyday and come and go as we pleased depending on how R was doing. After investigating a bit further, we realized that might not be the best way to go about it. We found out about ART – Anaheim Resort Transportation and decided to use this service instead.

There’s a stop right outside the Marriott and it is a very quick ride to the Disneyland gates. We bought a three day pass and it allowed us to go back and forth to the hotel as much as we wanted. The pass is $12 (US) per day per person and $3 (US) per day for each child (kids under 3 are free!). This is pretty reasonable since the Disney parking doesn’t allow in and out privileges and is pretty expensive.

Our first night there we decided to visit Downtown Disney for dinner. Downtown Disney offers free parking  and several dining options so we figured we’d check it out. DD is an outdoor mall with restaurants, a variety of shops and a busy atmosphere.

We had dinner at Uva Bar and Grill. Uva is right in the middle of the outdoor mall so there’s lots of stuff going on around you. The food was mediocre at best, but sitting outside on a beautiful night and watching the people go by was fun.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel to chill out and get ready for the next day…

Exploring California Adventure

California Adventure During the Day

R loves all of the Disney Pixar movies – Planes, Cars, Monsters Inc etc so we decided to start at California Adventure. I had also read that California Adventure is a bit smaller and less busy than Disneyland.

We started off by waiting at Radiator Springs Racers. In hindsight, I would suggest getting a Fastpass since the line was very long. It was a fun ride but R got scared when Frank the tractor pops out of the dark with his red eyes and smoke stacks. It was startling, but not scary per se. If your child is skittish or sensitive, you might want to tell him/her beforehand.

Radiator Springs in the Ultimate Guide to Disneyland by The Professional Mom Project

The rest of our day was spent walking around the seven different “lands” that make up California Adventure. Some of R’s favorite rides/attractions included:

  1. Mike and Sully to the Rescue
  2. Redwood Creek Challenge
  3. Toy Story Midway Mania
  4. Disney Jr Live on Stage (although he was disappointed that Miles from Tomorrowland wasn’t a part of the show) and
  5. Pixar Play Parade

Pixar parade - Top Tips for Visiting Disneyland with a 4 year old by The Professional Mom Project

Personally, I was really impressed by the Redwood Creek Challenge. It’s a set of wilderness challenges based on the movie Up. The kids have the opportunity to rock climb and zip-line as well as solve mini puzzles. At the end they get a pass book with stamps and a Jr Wilderness Explorer sticker.

R had never zip-lined or rock climbed before and having the opportunity to do both in a safe and supervised environment on equipment that was the perfect size for him was great. He was so proud of himself when he finished the rock climbing!

R also had a ton of fun walking around the park meeting different characters from Red the Firetruck to Flick the ant from A Bug’s Life.

A Bug's Life - Top Tips for Visiting Disneyland by The Professional Mom Project

California Adventure at Night

That night we had dinner at Flo’s V8 Cafe in Radiator Springs. It was a great experience for R since he was so familiar with the setting from the first Cars movie. The food was ok. R was fine, but Disneyland should increase the number of vegetarian options available for those of us who may not want to eat burgers and fries every night.

Flo's V8 Cafe - Top Tips for Visiting Disneyland with a 4 year old by The Professional Mom Project

After dinner we walked around and waited for sunset when all of the neon lights light up (just like in the movie). Once they light up the buildings, there’s a party with performers, dancing, characters etc and it’s lots of fun.

After the party we went to the World of Colour fireworks at Paradise Pier. We picked up a Fastpass beforehand so we’d be sure to get a spot. We spent a while waiting for the show to start and the fireworks were amazing.

Fireworks at Disney - Our Top Tips for Travelling to Disneyland from The Professional Mom Project

The show is very loud and if your child is sensitive to noise you may want to bring noise cancelling headphones. R was bothered by how loud it was so we left before the end.

We made our way out of California Adventure, caught our ART bus and went back to the hotel ready for a good night’s sleep.

Disneyland

Disneyland During the Day

Welcome to Disneyland! Our Top Tips for Travelling to Disneyland with a 4 year old from The Professional Mom Project

The next day we went to Disneyland. Since R had a few meltdowns at California Adventure, we decided to bring the stroller. Despite the fact that he plays every sport and runs around the entire day, I think between the excitement, waiting in line and walking everywhere he was zonked.

While bringing the stroller was a schlep for us, it was a better option than dealing with meltdowns at the happiest place on earth. Plus, it offered some excellent storage space for all of the stuff we had to carry around.

E and I enjoy the occasional roller coaster but we weren’t sure if R would like them. We took him on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain. Much to our surprise, R had an awesome time on both roller coasters. He wasn’t scared at all and laughed the entire way. It’s amazing, sometimes kids can really surprise you.

He also adored the monorail. I think he would have been happy if we’d just gone around the park on the monorail several times. He loved looking at all of the rides from above and seeing all of the people.

Toontown - Our Top Tips for Travelling to Disneyland with a Four Year Old from The Professional Mom Project

Toontown was awesome because R got to visit Mickey in his Mickey Mouse house. As we expected, the lineup was very long to meet the big mouse but we waited and R met Mickey with a big smile on his face.

As we were walking around mid afternoon our munchkin fell asleep in the stroller. We knew we made the right choice bringing the stroller along and thank goodness we did.  R was so tired that he slept for two hours in the middle of all of the noise and activity of Disney. We decided to stay at the park and walk around with him so that he’d keep sleeping and have a good rest. Had we gone on the ART we would have woken him up and he likely wouldn’t have gone back to sleep.

Later that afternoon we took it easy going on some smaller rides and watched the Mickey and the Magical Map show.

Disney knows kids. They have such a variety of things to see and do there’s something for everyone no matter how they are feeling. If you’re tired you see a show, if you have energy you go on Space Mountain…

Disneyland at Night

After a very full day we went to the Carnation Cafe on Main Street USA for dinner. It was simple and did the trick.

That night we watched the Paint the Night Parade. It is a truly fantastic show. Between the music, special effects and the colorful lights everywhere it was a very memorable experience for all of us. I hope Disney keeps this attraction around even after the Diamond Jubilee.

Mac the Truck - Our Top Tips for Travelling to Disneyland with a 4 year old from The Professional Mom Project

Elsa - Our Top Tips for Travelling to Disneyland with a four year old from The Professional Mom Project.com

We had a great time at Disney and are looking forward to going to DisneyWorld sometime soon or heading back to Disneyland!

Top Tips

Here are our quick tips for visiting Disneyland:

  • Bring healthy snack options. There are some places where you can find cut fruit and veggies but they are often few and far between. As appetizing as the massive turkey leg looks, I don’t think I could eat that a couple of days in a row…
  • Bring baby wipes. I’m not a very particular person when it comes to germs, but there are so many people who visit Disney on a daily basis and I just think it’s wise to have a quick way to clean your hands if you can’t make it to the washroom.
  • Bring an extra change of clothing for the kids. Clothing gets soaked on certain rides, sometimes kids don’t make it to the washroom in time – for a whole host of reasons I suggest bringing an extra set of clothing including socks and underwear.
  • If your child is like mine and likes to rest, bring that stroller. No one is taking it. Everyone has their own and you’ll be happy if your child gets grumpy and can take a short nap.

What are your favorite tips for visiting Disneyland?

How to plant a simple and beautiful container garden

Learn how to plant a simple and beautiful container garden. Take a look at this step by step guide from The Professional Mom Project.

When I was a little girl I enjoyed spending summer afternoons gardening with my dad. We would plant flowers in the front and back yards and create container gardens to brighten up the front porch and back deck.

Shortly after E and I purchased our house, I started gardening. I find that flowers brighten our home and enhance the curb appeal. Seeing the beautiful blooms when I walk up to the house instantly brings a smile to my face.

Personally, I find the potted flower combinations available at garden centers or Home Depot to be rather expensive. Rather than purchasing them, I choose to plant my own because I like the idea of being able to pick my own flowers and colors.

Creating a simple and elegant container garden just takes a few easy steps and you’ll have beautiful flowers all summer long (just remember to water them).

What you’ll need:

getting ready to plant a container garden

Soil – choose a potting mix
Plant food – choose one specifically for flowers
Small shovel
Gardening gloves
Watering can
Containers to put the plants in (make sure they have at least one hole in the bottom for drainage)
Flowers

Step One:

Decide where you’ll be placing your container garden when it’s finished. This step is important so that you can choose the proper pot size and the right types of flowers. Different flowers thrive in different conditions and you’ll need to consider these conditions.

If your location is sunny for most of the day, choose plants that require “full sun”. Some “full sun” loving flowers include petunias, calibrachoas, begonias and geraniums.

If your location is very shady, look for plants that grow in the shade such as impatiens, lantanas and ferns.

Our front porch is very hot and sunny in the afternoon but cool and shady in the morning. After a fair bit of trial and error in previous years, this year I decided to focus my search on “full sun” plants.

It’s also a good idea to choose plants of varying heights with different propensity to spread. I usually choose one taller flower and one plant that will spread across the pot and hang down (such as ivy). I find this adds interest. You can also decide whether to plant flowers that are all the same colour or a variety of colours. This year I chose to go with a bright and fun mix of pink, yellow, light green and purple.

Ready to plant an easy container garden

For my container garden I chose zinnias, hibiscus, sweet potato vine and lobelia (I think those are the little purple ones). The zinnias are tall and the sweet potato vine and lobelia will spread nicely as the plants grow. I also decided on a square black pot since it matches the style of our home and porch railing.

Step Two:

Create a mock up of your planter to see where to place the different flowers. In my mock up you can see that all of the plants are still in their containers so I can change them around to see how different options will look.

container garden mock up

Step 3:

When you’ve decided where to place your flowers in the pot, fill up around half of the pot with potting soil. Then spread the plant food on top of the potting soil.

potting soil prepared for the container garden and with plant food sprinkled on top

Step 4:

Once the new container is prepared, take the flowers out of their small containers carefully. I find the best way to do this is by turning the flower upside down, holding the stem of the flower between your fingers and then gently squeezing the plastic and taking the plant out of the pot.

When the plant is out of the pot, gently separate the roots a bit at the bottom. Then place the plants in the container where you ultimately want them to be.

Gently separate the plant roots before placing the plant in the planter

place the plants in the container garden pot

Once you’ve placed your plants in the pot fill the rest of the pot with the remaining soil. Make sure to check all of the different corners to see if they’re full. Once you’ve filled up the pot with soil, give the plants a good watering so they can settle into their new home.

Keep a close eye on your container garden. Depending on how hot and dry your location is you may need to water your flowers once a day to keep them healthy and happy.

Do you enjoy planting? What are your favourite flowers to use?

My Favorite Easy Sweet and Sour Tofu

 

For an easy and healthy dinner look no further than this yummy sweet and sour tofu recipe from The Professional Mom Project!

Before I was put on my rather limiting gluten, dairy and egg free diet we used to make this super easy and yummy sweet and sour tofu dish often.

We like to serve the tofu with roasted veggies – we’ve tried broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms and Japanese eggplant. You can eat the sweet and sour tofu with the carb of your choice – quinoa, rice, stir fry noodles – they all work really well.

If you don’t like tofu you can use cubed chicken as well. I’d just cook the chicken for a bit longer and make sure that it’s properly cooked through.

Ingredients for Sweet and Sour Tofu

ingredients needed to make sweet and sour tofu

1 block of extra firm tofu (I prefer using organic and non-GMO)
1 egg (beaten)
1/4 cup of corn starch
3/4 cup of brown sugar
4 tablespoons of ketchup
1/2 cup of white vinegar
1 tablespoon of Tamari sauce

Instructions to Make Sweet and Sour Tofu

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a baking pan by lining it with aluminum foil and spraying with olive oil spray.

tofu cut in strips for sweet and sour tofu

Cut tofu into long strips. I find working with tofu strips a bit easier than working with cubes.

tofu in cornstarch for sweet and sour tofu

Place the cornstarch in a large ziplock bag and then add in the tofu. Mix everything up and make sure to cover the tofu with the cornstarch.

Eggs beaten to coat tofu to make sweet and sour tofu

Beat the egg in a medium sized bowl.

coat tofu in egg mixture for sweet and sour tofu

Set up your counter in the following order: tofu coated with cornstarch, bowl of beaten egg and prepared baking dish already sprayed with olive oil spray.

Dip the tofu strips (that have been covered in cornstarch) into the beaten egg and then place them on the baking dish.

egg coated tofu in pan for sweet and sour tofu

Next make the sweet and sour sauce by combining the brown sugar, vinegar, Tamari sauce and ketchup in a medium sized bowl.

Sweet and sour tofu sauce

Once the sauce is well combined, pour it over the tofu and place the tofu in the oven to bake for 25 minutes.

Sweet and sour tofu in the pan ready to go in the oven

The sauce will caramelize and get sticky from the brown sugar. Trust me, this sauce is super yummy. Once cooked you can layer the quinoa/rice/noodles, then mixed veggies and top with the tofu and sauce.

Baked sweet and sour tofu

sweet and sour tofu with roasted veggies and quinoa from The Professional Mom Project

If you like the sound of this recipe you should give my honey baked chicken with quinoa a try!

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free Oh My!

Gluten free, dairy free, egg free

Currently…

As my journey continues I’ve become quite sick of feeling sick. The exhaustion, foggy brain and pain have been really difficult for me the past few months. In an effort to feel better, gain energy and get my life back while dealing with thyroid cancer I sought out a naturopathic doctor to help lead the way.

She is a great doctor but is not replacing my endocrinologist or primary physician in any way. I’m just hoping that maybe with her help I can start to feel a bit better than I have been lately. My primary care will remain with my endocrinologist and GP but if there are some more holistic things I can do to make my life better then I’d like to try and do them.

At my first appointment we talked a lot about my medical history and how I was feeling. Based on what I told her she thought I might have some food sensitivities and that we should check them out through a blood test.

Food Sensitivities

We went ahead with the blood test and I recently got back my results. Apparently I have a leaky gut and am sensitive to gluten, eggs, all dairy, peas, corn and sesame. I’ve been told to go gluten free, dairy free and egg free for the next six months at which point I will hopefully be able to reintroduce some of these foods back into my diet.

The ND told me that within a few weeks I should start to feel better.

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free – What’s Left?

These are going to be difficult changes to make but if they make me feel better it will be worthwhile.

I’ll be focusing on fruit, veggies, gluten free grains, nuts, lean protein and beans. Luckily after having to do the Low Iodine Diet twice, I’ve found some yummy recipes to get myself started including my vegan gluten free chocolate chip muffins (made with oat flour) and my gluten free pasta with avocado sauce.

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free – The Plan

I’m starting out the first week completely dairy free since I think that will be the easiest for me to  incorporate into my life. I’m also going to significantly reduce gluten and eggs but not give myself such a hard time about it this week. Over the next few weeks I’ll gradually move to becoming completely gluten, dairy and egg free.

Another part of my plan will be to make more of my lunches for work rather than purchasing meals that might include items I’m sensitive to. I’m also researching vegan and gluten free websites for recipes to try and figuring out how to replace eggs in baked goods (I tried flax seeds and water in gluten free pancake mix and it worked pretty well). For some much needed inspiration I’ve started a Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free Pinterest Board and I hope this will help with my meal planning.

So much in life is attitude so I’ve decided to take this on as an adventure. We’ll see if it works and if my health improves. It will also be fun to challenge my creativity in the kitchen. We’ll see how it goes and I’ll keep you posted!

Do you have any resources for individuals leading a gluten free, dairy free, egg free lifestyle? Or any favourite recipes? Any help would be awesome!

 

How to Choose the Perfect Summer Camp

how to choose the perfect summer camp for your child

How to Choose a Summer Camp for your Child

I love camp! I think summer camp is an amazing opportunity for kids to get outside, explore new activities and make new friends. When I was a kid I was lucky and was able to spend most of my summers at a variety of different types of summer camp.

My parents sent me to arts camp, sports camp and general day camp where I had the opportunity to swim every day, explore nature and meet new friends.

As I grew up I went to sleep away camp for a number of years and then became a camp counselor, swimming instructor/lifeguard and unit head (at a day camp) looking after over 100 kids and 30 counselors as a part of my unit.

E and I started off by sending R to camp for one month last summer (when he was 4). He had so much fun, met new friends and learned new skills. This summer he’ll be going to day camp for the entire summer.

Camp has so many benefits but it is difficult to choose summer camp for your child. Do you want to send your child to a camp that is small or large? Urban or rural? General or specialized?

There are many factors to consider and hopefully this post will help you choose the perfect summer camp for your family.

Accreditation

When checking out a new camp one of the first things I would do is see if the camp is accredited. For example, in Ontario the Ontario Camps Association reviews camps and determines whether or not the specific camp meets the OCA’s specific standards.

While nothing is foolproof, having an accreditation can provide some comfort knowing that the camp in question meets a certain set of criteria.

Location

Where is the camp located? Depending on the experience you’re hoping your child will get you’ll need to consider the camp’s surroundings. In Toronto we have camps that are set in urban spaces or an oasis in the city. The further out of the city you go the more of a farm like experience you’ll get.

Is the camp close enough to your home or work to drop off your child? If it’s not close enough, does the camp offer transportation?

If the camp you’re looking at has bus transportation, you’ll need to consider if there’s an additional cost. In Toronto many of the bigger camps include transportation in the cost, but sometimes it is only to a depot rather than a home drop off and pick up.

Bus depots are often less expensive but can be a bit of a hassle since there will likely be many campers and their families waiting at each stop. Also,  if the bus is late you’re stuck waiting at the bus depot for it.

Home pick up and drop off is likely a bit more expensive or an extra cost but it is super convenient. One thing to consider though is how long the bus ride will be for your child each day. This will depend on how big the bus is and how far away you live from the camp.

Age of your child

Some camps are known to be perfect for smaller kids. These camps might have facilities specifically designed for smaller children such as little kid sized sports equipment or a swimming pool with a large shallow end. While other camps might specialize in certain activities that are appealing to older kids.

Before deciding on where to send your child check the demographics of the campers. How old are most of the kids who attend? How many cabins or groups of kids will there be around your child’s age?

To find out this info you can take a look at the camp website and call/email to ask.

If your child is young, find out how many kids are in each group and how many counselors there are. The ratio of counselors to children is super important to make sure the kids are properly cared for.

I would also look into the age and experience of the counselors who will be taking care of your child. Are they 14 year old junior high students who will be on their iPhones all day or is there a mix of more experienced camp counselors along with younger ones.

General or specialized

Most programs for smaller kids are general in nature exposing children to lots of different activities, sports and arts/crafts. As kids get older many programs can get more specialized focusing on specific sports, dance, theater or science.

Since R is still little he’ll be going to a general camp for most of the summer where he’ll swim, play different sports, learn about nature and do arts and crafts.

Personally, I think a general camp experience is great for most kids. During the school year so many children are over scheduled with extra curricular activities that it’s nice to give them a chance to explore different things. You might find that your child develops a new found passion for making bead bracelets or Popsicle stick houses 🙂

If your child is older, he/she will likely have an opinion on the type of camp he/she goes to but I think it’s great to mix it up and still provide some of that general free form camp experience.

Cost

Camp can be super expensive or very reasonably priced depending on the camp. Private camps are often more expensive while camps run by your city or community organizations are likely less costly.

When cost is an issue I’ve found that the month of August is often less expensive than July since families tend to go on vacation in August. Therefore one option might be to send your child to a less expensive camp in July and a more specialized camp in August.

In addition, you can also see if any subsidies are available. Many camps offer them to make sure everyone can get a chance to attend. Also if you send more than one kid to the same camp they often give significant family discounts.

Word of mouth

Word of mouth is the best way to find out the real deal about a specific camp. Ask your friends, family and your child’s teachers if anyone can suggest a camp or knows about the specific camp you’re considering.

While making all of these inquiries you might find out about another camp of interest or decide to send your child to the same camp as his/her friends. When putting cabin groups together, camp administrators will often ask if your child has any friends or family attending as well. If they do, the camp will most often put the kids who know each other together in a group. This is very helpful if your child is shy or not that comfortable in new situations.

Choosing the right summer camp for your child is a big task. There are so many things to consider when making this decision. I hope this post has helped you in figuring out how to choose the perfect summer camp for your child.

 

Checklist for choosing the perfect summer camp for your child

Did you go to summer camp when you were young? Are you sending your kids this summer?

We’re not done yet. Living with thyroid cancer

Living with Thyroid Cancer

Cancer sucks. There’s no way around it.

April was daffodil month in Canada. The daffodils are a sign that the individuals who wear them support the fight against cancer and those living with cancer.

When I was a kid I always bought a daffodil pin. When I worked in the business district, I would purchase the live daffodils to brighten up my office.

Sadly this awful disease touches most families at some point, including my own. However, I never really thought I would fall into the “living with cancer” category.

I’ve told the beginning of my story (you can find it here) and I was really hoping it would be more of a short story or magazine article as opposed to a chapter book. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re going for a Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows size novel around here.

I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in January 2014 and had surgery in March of that year. To follow-up on my surgery and radioactive iodine treatment that took place in 2014, I had a follow-up “tracer dose” of radioactive iodine in October 2015. This is apparently standard procedure. Patients who’ve had treatment typically need a second full body scan to check if the original radioactive iodine treatment worked.

After my “tracer dose” in October,  my doctor’s assistant advised me that my scan was clear – yay! I was super excited when the doctor’s assistant told me that there was “no evidence of cancer”.

My family and friends were thrilled and everyone said it’s about time we heard some positive news.

A few weeks later (yes, weeks) I received a call from my endocrinologist. He asked me if he’d ever followed up with me after the scan in October. I told him that I had not heard from him, but spoke to his assistant who said my scan was clear.

At that point in our conversation he said, yes, the scan was clear but we received some blood test results and they came back showing a higher level of tumor markings than he’d hoped. Ok, I said, so what does that mean? Unfortunately for me, it looks like there are still some stubborn cancer cells running around in my body causing trouble.

This conversation was very upsetting. I was angry at my doctor – why didn’t he call me earlier and tell me these results instead of his assistant giving me a false sense that everything was ok and I was all done?

I had to go back to my husband, parents, family and friends and explain – I still do have cancer. It’s microscopic but still there.

Now everyone asks me “what can you do about it?” According to my endocrinologist, nothing. There’s nothing I can do right now. This is how it is and for the next little while I have to continue to living with thyroid cancer.

My journey continues. I hoped it would be finished by now after surgery and two treatments. Unfortunately this is unclear. I’ve worked very hard to learn how to live with and deal with uncertainty in my life but sometimes, as with this situation, it can be too much. I’m tired.

Living with Thyroid cancer and uncertainty

I really strive to be a positive person and look at every situation as one where the glass is half full rather than half empty, but I feel like this set of circumstances is particularly difficult to shade with rose coloured glasses.

I’ve followed up with my endocrinologist who has advised me that thyroid cancer is a marathon. Unfortunately for me (and my family) I’m only at the 10 mile mark. Even still, I have no doubt in my mind – I’m going to keep running and try to pick up my pace.

To be continued…

 

Low iodine diet friendly vegan gluten free muffins

 

Perfect vegan and gluten free breakfast option! Healthy chocolate chip muffins that are high in fiber and low iodine diet compatible. See the full recipe at The Professional Mom Project

I’ve adapted this recipe for Vegan Gluten Free Muffins from one of my favourite cookbooks. The recipe is based on Oh She Glows Out the Door Chia Power Doughnuts from Angela Liddon’s Oh She Glows Cookbook.

It’s easy to make these muffins low iodine diet friendly, as long as you don’t add the salt and make your own nut milk using raw almonds. I would also double check that the chocolate chips are vegan and that you are allowed to use them. If not, you can always replace the chocolate chips with blueberries, which would also be yummy I’m sure.

Ingredients to make LID Vegan Gluten Free Muffins

Ingredients for LID vegan gluten free muffins

3/4 cup oat flour
1/2 cup chia seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (don’t add salt if on the low iodine diet)
1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/3 cup maple syrup (pure)
1/3 cup nut milk (make your own if on the low iodine diet)
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips (double check they are allowed if you’re on the low iodine diet)

Instructions to make LID Vegan Gluten Free Muffins

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and place muffin liners in large muffin tins (start with six and you might need a couple more).

To make oat flour (use gluten free) put the oats in your food processor – I use my baby bullet since it’s small, quick and not too noisy.

Process the the oats until you’ve created a flour.

oats for vegan gluten free muffins

ground oats for LID vegan gluten free muffins

Once the oats are ground into a flour, place them in a large bowl and add in the chia seeds, baking powder, cinnamon and salt (if you’re not on the low iodine diet).

Combine the dry ingredients.

dry ingredients for LID vegan gluten free muffins

Once the dry ingredients are combined, add in the wet ingredients: maple syrup, almond milk and vanilla and the chocolate chips. Mix everything together. My “dough” is often very runny but don’t worry it comes out once you’ve baked them.

all ingredients for LID vegan gluten free muffins

When all of the ingredients are mixed together pour the dough into the muffin tin. I used 1/4 cup for each muffin.

LID vegan gluten free muffins

Then bake the muffins in the oven for 22 minutes. You can test to see if they are ready by placing a toothpick in the middle and making sure that it comes out clean.

These muffins are healthy, high fiber and yummy. They usually keep in a tupperware container for a few days.

LID vegan gluten free muffins

vegan gluten free muffins