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Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Night Dinner

It's the end of the week and I'm sure we are all more than ready for the weekend.  The last thing you might want to do is come home on a Friday night and cook a big dinner.  That's how I felt today!

But nonetheless, I resisted the urge to make some unhealthy food choices.  I opened the fridge to see what was available, knowing that just because a meal is healthy, doesn't mean that it can't also be quick and easy to make.

Grabbing a block of tofu and a few vegetables, I quickly chopped them up.  As the oil was heating in the pan I grabbed a few spices.  Normally I would saute some garlic but I was all out - gasp!  (That rarely happens in my house!)  Thankfully I keep non-irradiated, organic garlic powder from Frontier Herbs in my cupboard.  The veggies and tofu went in followed by the spices & tamari sauce.

Within twenty minutes total, I had a delicious and nutritious meal.  Who needs pizza delivery??

Checkout the recipe below:

Simple Tofu Stirfry
Serves 3-4

1 block tofu, extra-firm, chopped into 1/2" cubes
1 medium carrot, sliced on the diagonal
1 large stalk celery, sliced on the diagonal
1/3 green pepper, chopped
1/3 red pepper, chopped
2 large mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 tbsp. wheat-free tamari sauce (can substitute Bragg's)
3 tbsp. grapeseed oil (can substitute olive oil or coconut oil)
1/4 cup water

Heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add carrots and tofu.  Stir, then add garlic powder, tamari, and water.  Cover and reduce heat to medium.  Let sit for 2 minutes.  Uncover, turn heat back to medium-high, then add celery.  Stir for 2 minutes.  Add green and red peppers.  Stir for 1 minute.  Add mushrooms. Stir for 2 minutes (or until all vegetables have reached desired tenderness - I like mine a bit crunchy).  Remove from heat and serve as is.

Or, if you're feeding additional people or perhaps want some leftovers, make a side of rice or some rice noodles and serve a smaller portion of the stirfry as a topping.

ENJOY!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Super Smoothies!

Many people are daunted by the idea of making smoothies or juicing - it takes too much effort, too much to clean up, I don't know what to mix together, I don't own a juicer, and the list goes on.  I fully appreciate this apprehension as it often comes when trying anything new.  But once you incorporate it into your daily routine, it becomes like second nature.  Seriously.

All you need is a blender and a juicer.  There are many fantastic juicers on the market that go for exorbitant prices - and believe me, they are worth every penny.  But if you're on a budget, you can get a juicer for around $50, such as the Hamilton Beach Health Smart juicer (featured in the picture).

A juicer comes in handy when trying to juice "hard" vegetables, such as carrots and beets, as well as vegetables with a lot of cellulose (an indigestible fibre) such as celery.  But even if you're not ready to take the step and purchase a juicer, you can still reap the benefits of raw fruits and veggies through your blender.  It just means you'll need to focus on more leafy green ingredients and fruits.

Why should I juice or make smoothies?


We need a tonne of raw fruits and vegetables in our diet, and for most of us, it's very difficult to consume the optimal amount on a daily basis.  By juicing or making smoothies, you're taking a large quantity of fruits and vegetables and compacting it into an easily digestible form.  Also, it's important to remember that most of the nutrients within a plant are found within the plant's cells.  We need to break open these cells to access the nutrients.  This takes A LOT of chewing if we were to eat them!  Juicing and blending speeds up the process for us by breaking open the cell walls of the plant - this is also why it's important to consume juices/smoothies within a few hours of making them.

There are many fantastic recipes for juicing and smoothies, but the great thing about juicing and smoothies is that it is really hard to go wrong!  And even if the end product is not quite the way you'd like it to taste, there's always a way to fix it by adding in another ingredient.  Case in point: this morning I opened my fridge to see what I had available to juice.  The choices were slim but I threw in some carrots, cucumber, kale, a banana, and a peach.  I also squeezed a lemon on top for good measure.  Served in a wine glass no less.

Every morning I drink a smoothie or I juice.  It's part of my daily routine and it really is EASY!  Even if I don't have the time or the ingredients to juice, I will throw a few fruits and some leafy greens into the blender with some almond milk or water.  Within a few days you will start to feel a difference in your energy, sleeping habits, mood, and overall sense of well-being.

I highly recommend that you get out there - juice, blend, and feel amazing!  Feel free to contact me if you are interested in some smoothie / juicing recipes to get you started.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Release You Inner Child

Some of you may know that not only am I a holistic nutritionist, I am a yoga teacher as well.

With summer shining it's bright face upon us, I am starting to incorporate a few more breaks and pauses between poses because of the heat.  One of my favourite resting poses is "balasana" - more commonly known as Child's Pose.

There are many variations to child's pose and I encourage my student to find whatever position is comfortable for them, at that given point in time.  The point of the pose is to allow the body to surrender, so which ever way that works best for you: do it!

Surrendering the body means we allow ourselves to completely relax - from our scalp down to the tips of our toes.  It also gives us a chance to focus on our breath.

I typically tell my students to draw their breath all the way into their lower back and hips, and upon exhaling let all of the stale breath and energy to flow out.  Then, one day, one of my students approached me after class and said, "I don't want to sound dumb, but I don't understand what you mean when you say draw the breath into the lower back, because I breathe into my lungs."

This was not a dumb question! (Which I, of course, assured the student.)  It's true, we breathe into our lungs.  But the oxygen that we take in travels to every single nook, cranny, and cell within our body.  It doesn't stop at the lungs.

By using intention we can actually bring more oxygen into a certain place within our body.  See, feel, and hear your breath moving to a specific place.  This will bring more energy and will allow us to move deeper into the pose.

I run a children's yoga program and a huge part of children's yoga is imagination and creativity.  When I ask them to draw their breath into their lower backs, inevitably I see fifteen little backs rising towards the sky.  Children are so in tune with themselves, which is something that we tend to lose as adults.

So perhaps this summer - amidst all of life's business - you might like to try and release your inner child.  Breathe a little more.  Relax a little more.  Live a little more.  Love a little more.

And remember, it's called "Child's Pose" for a reason.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Raw Food 101

Get Ready to RAWk!

With summer just around the corner there are so many delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables that are coming into season.  I get so excited when I think about all of the colours and flavours!  With such an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, summer is the perfect time to incorporate RAW food into your diet.

RAW Food Isn't Just for Rabbits

Many people associate RAW food with eating salads or carrot sticks and celery.  Technically speaking, RAW food simply means any food that hasn't been heated above 115 degrees.  There's some disagreement about the exact temperature, but most people believe anywhere from 105 to 118 degrees.  This means that you can still enjoy warm soups and heated food in the winter, while still eating RAW!

RAW food is for everybody!  This doesn't mean that you need to eat RAW 100% of the time, but it is something that you should incorporate into your diet on a regular basis.  RAW foods contains active enzymes (which are unfortunately destroyed when we cook food).  These enzymes help with every single chemical reaction that happens in your body.  We're only born with a limited amount of these enzymes, so it's important to supplement your body with them.

Interested in learning more?   Join me on Sunday, June 10th from 1:00 - 3:30pm and learn how to make some fabulous dishes including spaghetti Bolognese, kale chips, flax crackers and ranch dip as well as a chocolate cheez cake. Mmmmmmm....

Spots are limited so register soon!


Friday, May 11, 2012

Hooray for Hemp! (And a Hemp Pesto Recipe)

Packing 10 grams of protein and 2.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids in only 3 tbsp of seeds, hemp truly is a hero!  The protein in hemp seeds contain all 10 essential amino acids (the building blocks of our cells), and the omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation in our bodies.


Another type of fat found in hemp seeds is an omega-6 fatty acid called gamma linolenic acid (GLA) which helps with cardiovascular issues, healthy cholesterol levels, and hormonal balance.


Hemp is also rich in iron, vitamin B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B6 (pyridoxine), folate, magnesium, and zinc.  All of these vitamins and minerals play various roles in helping our body maintain healthy digestion, energy levels, muscular functioning, and boosting our immunity.


The best thing about hemp is that it is so easy to incorporate into your daily diet!  You can find hemp seed butter, hemp seed protein powders, hemp seed trail mixes, and so much more in local health food and grocery stores.


Even simple hemp seeds can be "hidden" into your daily eating patterns.  Just one bag of hemp seeds will go a long way to improving your health: sprinkle them on your toast, cereal, salads, pastas, rice-dishes.  Add a handful into your muffins mixes.  Stir them into your soups or sauces.  Throw them on top of a pizza.  I add a few tablespoons into an omelet instead of cheese, because they provide a really creamy texture.  Toss a bit into a shake or smoothie for added creaminess.


Hemp seeds are versatile, and even though I use them in so many different ways, I have to admit that my absolute favourite way of using them is in a pesto recipe, where the hemp seeds replace pine nuts.  Not only is this more cost-effective - it actually tastes better, and is more nutritious!


This pesto recipe is thick and creamy.  I put it on top of pastas, use it as a sandwich spread, dip veggies in it, spread it over baked chicken - it is incredibly versatile.


Enjoy this hemp pesto recipe!  Feel free to add in even more basil than what the recipe calls for - not only is it delicious, it is also a digestive, an anti-bacterial agent, high in chlorophyll and high in anti-oxidants.



Pesto Alfredo Sauce
Makes approx 3 1/2 cups

2 cups hemp seeds
1 cups olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 lemons, juiced
1 cup basil (firmly packed), chopped
sea salt & pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients in blender.  Slowly increase speed until on "high" or "puree."  Blend until creamy and smooth.




Friday, January 13, 2012

Three Cheers for Cauliflower!


It's time to start focusing on the "flower" in "cauliflower"! This delicious cruciferous vegetable sometimes gets a bad rep - it's most common usage is either to be dowsed in a cheese sauce, or to be hidden amongst cheese and bread crumbs in a casserole.

But this is no way to treat a a vegetable that provides us with these nutrients:


(Source: http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=13)

"The World's Healthiest Foods" by G. Mateljan












Cauliflower is nutrient dense! It contains a large amount of sulforaphane and isothiocyantes, which help the liver to produce enzymes that neutralize toxic substances. It's rich in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant. An easy equation is: cauliflower IN to the body = free radicals & toxins OUT of the body.

Another health benefit of cauliflower is that while it is nutrient rich, it low-calorie. Cauliflower steams in just 5 minutes, and can be added to mashed potatoes in order to lower the calories while increasing the fibre.

One of my favourite ways to cook cauliflower is in a soup. My "Cream of Cauliflower" soup creation is a little deceptive, because it doesn't actually contain any cream or fat! It is both low-fat and vegan. I must say, however, a big fan of healthy fats, and I usually drizzle some flax or Udo's Oil on top of my Cream of Cauliflower soup just prior to serving.

This recipe is designed to be very simple, using only the most basic of ingredients. If time allows, try adding in some asparagus, some sauteed onion or a left-over boiled potato or two for creaminess. The more time you have, the fancier you can get! My recipe, however, provides a quick and nutritious meal for when time is short but you don't want skimp on nutrition or flavour.

I recommend serving this soup with a simple salad loaded with nuts or seeds.

Here's my recipe! Enjoy!

Cream of Cauliflower Soup
(makes 3 - 4 servings)

2 - 3 heads medium-sized cauliflower
2 bouillon cubes (I like Harvest Sun, Yeast-Free Vegetable Cubes)
2-3 cups water
2-3 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
parsley, finely chopped, as garnish (optional)
Flax, or Udo's Oil, as garnish (optional)

Chop cauliflower in florets and place in a pot with bouillon cubes, water, garlic, and bay leaves. (NB. Bouillon cubes and water can be substituted for 2 -3 cups of home-made soup stock).

Bring to a boil and boil for 5 min. Turn off heat and let cool slightly.

Remove bay leaves. Strain, and save extra liquid. Place cauliflower and garlic in blender. Puree, adding extra liquid as needed until desired consistency is achieved.

Dish into bowls. Add Flax or Udo's Oil, if desired, and garnish with parsley.

Enjoy!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mmmmm, Mangoes!

I was hosting a dinner party last week and bought two mangoes with the idea of using them as a topping on the salad that I was serving. The salad was great – tart and sweet at the same time – but I only ended up using one mango. I thus found myself in a predicament: what to do with the other mango?

I must be honest: I am not a huge fan of eating mangoes on their own, so simply munching on my mango was out of the question. Throwing it in the compost bin was also out of the question, for those who know me know that I absolutely abhor food waste.

Alas, it seemed that my lonely mango was destined to end up in the “fruit bag” – the large bag in my freezer that receives all the peaches, pears, apples, and bananas that are on the verge of going bad. Periodically I defrost the bag, puree, and create a batch of spelt/kamut muffins sweetened only with these fruits. However, I wasn’t convinced that the intoxicating

ly sweet and exotically flavourful mango would pair well with the rest of the fruits in the “fruit bag.” Surely there must be something I could do with the mango?

The answer came to me the following evening. Roasting, sweltering, positively melting in my un-air conditioned house, I had visions of freezies, popsicles, and ice-cream dancing in my head. However, freezies and popsicles contain refined sugars and food-colouring, while ice-cream is dairy-based – all no-no’s in my household and thus all absent from my freezer.

Rather quickly, an idea began to form in my head – why can’t I make my own popsicle using my lonely mango and some other healthy ingredients? I threw open my fridge door and I assessed the ingredients available. A little of this and a little that (recipe to follow!) went into my VitaMix and I yielded a thick, creamy, and sweet concoction that settled itself quite neatly into six popsicle moulds.

As the popsicles were freezing, I began to research mangoes and was quite intrigued by what I learned. Mangoes have been used in South Asia for several thousand years, and were only later exported eastward to East Asia and westward to India, Africa, Spain, Brazil, and Mexico. Not only is their cultivation vast, but their use in cuisine is vast too!

Unripe and sour mangoes are often used in chutneys, while ripe mangoes are typically eaten fresh. Ripe mangoes have additional uses in many cuisines such as South Asian “mango lassi” (ripe mangoes mixed with yogurt and sugar) and curries. Mangoes are also a popular additional to ice creams, sorbets, gelatos, and many other non-frozen desserts. Mangoes also mix well with tomatoes, onions, mint, chilli peppers and a bit of olive oil to create a sweet and spicy salsa.

Something that tastes so good must be unhealthy, right? Wrong! Mangoes are rich in a variety of phytochemicals and nutrients. The fruit is rich in pre-biotic fiber, vitamins A, B6, C, E, & K, polyphenols, carotenoids, quercetin, potassium, copper, pro-vitamin A and several amino acids. These are just to name a few!

While mangoes are a power-house of nutrients, those who are on a restricted-sugar diet should enjoy mangoes in moderation. Despite the immensity of nutrients, the sugar content of mangoes is quite high. Like all fruits, the sugar content in mangoes is fructose, which is far better that refined sucrose. Yet fructose, like all sugars, should be consumed in moderation. Eating mangoes with a bit of low-fat plain yogurt will give the flavourful taste of mangoes, while balancing the sugar with a bit of carbohydrate and fat. By doing so, we won’t cause such a huge spike to our blood sugar levels.

Prior to this little experiment of mine, mangoes were never on my priority list at the grocery store. However, the more research I did, the more I came to realize not only the nutrient value but also the diverse uses of this fantastic fruit. My family will certainly be enjoying m

uch more mangoes in the future!

Creamy Mango Popsicles

Ingredients:

1 ripe mango, peeled & diced

2 cups coconut milk (I use So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk, not the kind from the can; if you are using canned coconut milk, use 1 cup coconut milk & 1 cup water)

2 tbsp. raw agave nectar

2 tbsp. chia seeds

Add all ingredients to a high-powered blender. Puree. Taste, and add additional agave or coconut milk to taste. Pour into popsicle moulds. Freeze, and enjoy! (Note: If there is any left over after all moulds have been filled, throw a few ice cubes into the blender and enjoy as a smoothie).

Namaste!