Monday, April 7, 2014

the inconvenience of convenience (or, a few more favourite things, wellness edition)

Hello again!  Whoa, last week was a BUSY week for me!  But definitely busy GOOD as opposed to busy bad - I will hopefully be writing a post in the not too distant future to fill you in on what I was up to last week. (In the meantime, you can check out the latest photos in my instagram feed if you want to go looking for clues). :)

Well, as I told you a few weeks back, there was a very good possibility that you hadn't heard the last of my "favourite things" - I just didn't think I'd be back this soon with another installment.  This time, however, rather than fashion accessories, I'm going to wax enthusiastic about some very functional items that are near and dear to me - because not only do they do what they're supposed to do SO well, but they assist me (and possibly you!) on the road to wellness.

Yep, you heard me, wellness.  Sorry, I know it's one of those terms that you're probably sick to death of hearing - but if you've been paying even the slightest bit of attention to this blog, you've read my story, and you know that after many years of unconscious consuming (food and otherwise) the proverbial lightbulb went on, and I realized that the time was NOW to start taking positive action towards a more healthful way of living.  While I learned that for me, a primarily plant-based diet was key, I also came to learn that the things I had typically been using to prepare, store, and eat/drink my food could potentially be contributors towards ill health.

Now is probably a good time to say that I prefer to take a positive stance in this blog - so hopefully, there won't be too many doomy and gloomy posts about why you shouldn't be doing certain things, and more about the GOOD stuff.  However - sometimes you do need to know the bad in order to emphasize the good, so I might have to be a Debbie Downer once and a while.  Also, I'm not being compensated in any way to endorse the items I'm about to sing the praises of - I'm truly just writing about them because I use them, I believe in them, and I love them!

So let's start with the lovely Jennifer Lawrence, shall we?

Jennifer Lawrence in "American Hustle"

Have I got your attention? :) Who saw American Hustle?  I did, and I LOVED it.  (Maybe you had to have lived through the '70s/early '80s to fully appreciate it, but I thought it was brilliant).  Anyway, if you've seen it, you'll recognize the above clip in which Jennifer Lawrence's character defies her husband's instructions to NOT put "metal in the science oven" (i.e. microwave oven).  Of course, when she does what she was instructed not to do, the oven explodes, and in her defense, she retaliates by telling her husband that she doesn't want something in her house that causes fires and "takes all of the nutrition out of our food".  Now, I'm not so sure that would have been something people were concerned with back when microwaves came on the scene - as I remember it, the first microwave that came into my house was hailed as a miracle oven, doing everything from melting butter in a split second to cooking a roast in a fraction of the time a conventional oven would - all in the name of convenience.  In fact, I distinctly remember my mother once cooking an entire roast in a plastic dish pan (!!) - before the advent of "microwave friendly" cookware.  We were in awe!!  Yep, nutrition (or lack of it) was the last thing on people's minds.  

As it happens though, Jennifer's character was spot on - microwaving food can deplete food of its nutrients. For example, when broccoli is steamed conventionally, it loses about 11% of it's beneficial antioxidants. However "nuke" your broccoli (seriously, just the fact that microwaving food coined the term "nuking" should be enough of a deterrent) - and your broccoli loses up to 97% of its antioxidants.  So you're left with...essentially empty, flavourless,  food.  And then there's the practice of heating pre-packaged foods in a microwave that are usually sold in plastic containers (Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine, anyone?)  Of course, this is decidedly NOT a "healthy choice" at all - it leads to the release of a myriad of known carcinogens into your food.  Even if all you use your microwave for is to pop popcorn, this has been known to release an extremely harmful chemical called diacetyl into your lungs. (Click here if you want to read more about that). But enough with the doom mongering!!  What you really want to know is, how am I supposed to heat up last night's leftovers at work, when all I have in my office kitchenette is the (now dreaded) microwave oven?  

Well, fear not, because I'm here to tell exactly what you can do!  Any guesses?  You think I'm going to recommend this, right? 

Well, actually, that's not a half bad's definitely a step in the right direction. still have to warm up your food at home in the morning before you run out the door to work - and I don't know about you, but I've never packed anything in a thermos jar or mug that's supposed to remain piping hot that didn't open up to reveal my food/drink at a tepid temperature at best.  Talk about lunchbag letdown. :( So what's my solution you ask? The brilliant little Crock Pot Mini!!

I was introduced to these adorable little wonders by a classmate from my CNE program (thanks Melanie!), and it has been something I've used consistently ever since the day I bought it.  I've used it for breakfast - just throw in some oatmeal, a little almond milk, frozen fruit, cinammon, honey or maple syrup, and plug it in - and in less than 30 minutes, you've got a delicious (and fragrant) breakfast that'll make you the envy of the office.  Got a delicious homemade soup or chili that needs reheating for lunch?  Plug it in at 11:30 a.m., and by noon, you've got a piping hot, flavourful, but most of all, healthful lunch, ready to enjoy - no nukes needed!!  All in one compact container.  Well actually, it's two containers - the outer shell that actually does the heating, and the inner container, that fits inside the outer one - just like the normal size crock pot:  

Bonus - the inner container has a separate lid - so you can store your lunch in it in the fridge the night before, and pop it in the main compartment to take to work the next day.  As easy as grabbing one of those toxic pre-fab freezer meals on the way out the door, and SO much better for you. 

Yes, it does take about a half hour to heat to optimum temperature - but as long as you don't find plugging something into a wall outlet 30 minutes prior to lunch an arduous task, this is as easy as it gets, people!  And you don't have to be an office worker to enjoy its benefits either - I've used it at home to warm up small portions of food as well.  I LOVE it! (P.S. - I've also seen these for sale in Canada at Kitchen Stuff Plus - but the cheapest I've seen them is at Target for $16.99). :) 

In keeping with the movie any of you remember this famous scene?

Dustin Hoffman in "The Graduate"
It seemed so innocent (and humorous!) at the time.  But unfortunately, the advice being given to Dustin Hoffman's character in that scene from The Graduate was sadly prophetic, and not funny in the least - and today, only 10% of the roughly 300 millions tons of plastic that is produced globally every year is recycled, and seven million tons of it ends up in our oceans.  Steps are being taken to to begin to solve this problem - did you read the news lately about the bylaw passed in San Fransicso, outlawing the sale of plastic water bottles on city property? It may be a small step towards combating what is an GARGANTUAN problem, but it's still a positive step towards eliminating the buildup of plastic on the planet that will take eons to decompose, if ever. And then there's the effect of actually drinking the water that's in the plastic bottles - I won't reiterate the reasons why you should avoid drinking out of plastic here, you're probably more than aware (but in case you're not, here's a good place to start).  The only alternative, in my opinion?  Good old fashioned glass. There are several options out there - sometimes I like to use the ever-versatile and inexpensive mason jar to transport my beverages and snacks:

But one of my favourite re-useable glass bottles is made by LifeFactory:

They come in a virtual rainbow of pretty colours, and are available as baby bottles, right up to a 22 oz. adult size. The (removable and washable) silicone sleeve makes them all but indestructible, but they are still glass, so take reasonable care.  You can get them with sipper lids (on the left, above), or there are also some with built-in straws. They're fun, pretty, and functional, and you guessed it, I love them!! :)

Last but not least - for all you fellow smoothie drinkers out there...what's the easiest way to drink your nice thick green smoothie?  Through a straw, right?  But what are most straws made of?  Yep, you got it - plastic. (I can't remember the last time I saw a paper straw, come to think of it).  Well, never fear, because there is (literally) a mom and pop company out there that is saving the world, one GLASS straw at a time!!  They are awesome, and their name is Strawsome!

If you're craving a green juice right now, you can click here :) 
(Also available in Canada through Upaya Naturals - and I've also seen them for sale by the checkout at the Organic Garage).  I know, some of you are probably thinking "whoa, she's taking this glass thing a bit TOO far now...." (believe me, I thought the same thing when I first learned about them) - but think about it - plastic straws are only contributing to the environmental plastic problem - they're polluting the planet too - AND, where's the health benefit of drinking anything out of a glass vessel if it's only being delivered into your body through a piece of plastic?  Wouldn't you rather have your very own, pretty, re-useable glass straw to slurp up your favourite bevvy? (I'm  talking ANY kind of beverage people - these look great in a margarita glass too!) I even use mine to drink my water with (I find it easier to get in my recommended 6-8 glasses a day that way). Yes, sometimes I get strange looks, and even once, I was told it looked like a crack pipe (which probably says more about the person who made that observation than me) - but I can assure you, although I live in the GTA - (Greater Toronto Area), I have absolutely nothing in common with Rob Ford. :)

So there you have it - hopefully I've introduced you to some new products that might be of interest to you, without bumming you out in the process.  (That said, if you actually want to be bummed out, by way of making some informed opinions about the products we use without thinking of the consequences, I would highly recommend reading Slow Death by Rubber Duck, by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie).

On that cheery note, if you're still with me, thank you for reading!!  Happy Monday, all, and have a wonderful week! :)


  1. I LOVE THIS POST!!!! excellent information!

    OH HELLLLL!!!!!! CRACK PIPE STRAW!!!!!!!!!!! OHHHHH NOELLE that TOOK ME OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! we were meant to be friends! where have you been all my life! DIED!

    i have been a whole food advocate, non-microwaving, plastic hater, green smoothie drinker and a card carrying vegetarian for 20 yrs. hahahaha seriously though this is all true!

    i love the little lunch crock pot! i would need... NEEEEEED that if i was still working out of the house. i used to have a little hot plate to warm my lunch and it would drive my coworkers crazy... just throw it in the microwave!!!! you're sooo weird!!!!
    yea yea you all just wait and see who the weirdo is. emhmmmm.

    have not seen american hustle. wil put it on my list!

  2. Great post! I've never seen the straws before but I'm familiar with crockpot and water bottle! Thanks!!

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