We are two individuals, sister-in-laws, and friends who are striving to thrive and be our personal best as well as making our surroundings a better place to live! Connected by faith, family, friendship, photos, and writing, we just want to share our journey with you!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Banana Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies

So I am on another healthy cookie mission (not that I don't LOVE the healthy kind, but I think when I start baking more and more healthy recipes you really do transform your taste buds and start enjoying more raw and natural ingredients for what they are). I love oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and so I took my hand with these banana oat chocolate chip cookies.

Ally's Banana Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies

-3 ripe bananas (use 4 if you want a strong banana taste)
-2 1/2 cups rolled oats
-1 cup chocolate chips (if you use vegan chocolate chips these will be vegan cookies!)
-1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (I used a little more than a 1/3 cup to soften up the batter)
-1 Tbsp vanilla extract
-1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
-1 Tbsp ground nutmeg
-1 Tbsp ground flax seed

Method: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Stir in oats, chocolate chips, applesauce, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and flax seed. Mix well and then allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drop tablespoons full onto ungreased cookie sheet (or parchment lined if you prefer). Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly brown.

These cookies are delicious, but don't expect a sugary deliciousness. The chocolate chips add some sweetness, but they aren't at all as sweet as most cookies. It is hard to tell when they are done as they don't change shape in the oven. If you want a little sweeter cookies but would like to try and keep them healthier, then try adding some stevia or agave nectar to the batter. My recipe made 20 medium sized cookies. You could also switch the chocolate chips for a dried fruit (dates, cranberries...)... but I've never been much of a dried fruit gal :)


Fresh Cafe and Pizza!

It's been a while, but I've been leading a busy life working, spending time with friends and trying to organize my home. I went out to lunch today at Fresh Cafe in Winnipeg (on Corydon Ave). I've been there before, but I haven't gone there enough with respect to how amazing it is! They are committed to using mostly organic fruits, veggies and food in the dishes they serve.

They have amazing juices (my friend Alison got a glass of orange juice that tasted exactly like drinking an orange), smoothies, shakes and lots of other beverages to choose from (I got a soy chai latte... it was a little windy/chilly out today, so it was a perfect comfort drink). They have a few things available to grab and go (sandwiches, muffins, and delicious Tall Grass Prairie cinnamon buns). They serve an amazing breakfast (eggs, french toast, homemade muesli, yogurt, fruit, spelt toast...) and a fantastic lunch. They have a wide variety of choices that range from those including meat, vegetarian options and even vegan options. My friend opted for the grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup and she loved it. I had the butternut burger with a fresh salad. It was unbelievably fantastic. I was completely full after lunch, but I wasn't too full. The burger was not overloaded with ingredients, but enough to make it perfect. The menu said that it was made of walnuts, pumpkin seeds, roasted garlic "aioli" tomato thyme chutney, pickled onion and sprouts. And it was vegan! Mmmm :)

I know... where's the picture? I'm apparently not an avid blogger (but I will get there!)... and now I just have even more motivation to go back there to snap a pic! Anybody in the Winnipeg area should enjoy a meal there!

I also included a few pics of my favourite frozen pizza! It's Amy's No-Cheese Roasted Vegetable Pizza (with a little Organic no-salt sweet and sour sauce on top). I normally add a few extra veggies on top while it bakes, but I was just too hungry to wait, so I just had it as is, and as is... it's amazing!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chickpea Burgers

So as I said earlier, I have been waiting so long to get a food processor... and I finally got one! Food processors are so expensive (most are $200 - $400), but Jayanna was tipped by someone that there was a great one that works great at Wal-Mart for only $70. Jayanna bought it attested that it did work very well, so I went ahead and got our family one! It really is a must-have item if you're looking at not only eating healthier, but if you want to eat less processed and more vegetarian/vegan meals.

Almost all the recipes I've wanted to try for both baking (think: carrot muffins) and for cooking (think: any vegetarian patty) and other delicious things (this delicious fruit yogurt cheese dip or yummy yummy hummus!) requires a food processor. There are some things you can try finding already ground (we found ground almonds for our almond burgers) or you can grind yourself (making guacamole can be done this way since avocados are so soft), but if you're going to be trying lots of these kinds of recipes then you might as well shell out and get a food processor.

I'm sure there are more features on more expensive food processors, but this one works great. Let me say, my first time using it was a little hilarious (think: chickpea mush on the floor, on the food processor, on my dog and on the fridge), but I think it takes a few times to figure out the best way and most efficient/less messy way to do it (which order to put things in, which blades to use).

The first recipe I tried was a recipe for Chickpea burgers. I love veggie patties and I have about a thousand recipes (black bean patties, lentil patties...), so I just chose a random one with ingredients and I had and off I went!

Ally's Chickpea Burger Patties (Gluten Free!)

-1 can chickpeas (any bean you'd like)
-1 cup oats (use more oats to make pattie easier to mold)
-2 small peppers (I used orange peppers as they were the closest in the fridge!)
-1 cup spinach
-1 carrot
-1/4 cup flax seeds (or sunflower seeds)
-Sea salt to taste
-Dill (I added quite a lot of cumin and cayenne)

Method: Put all ingredients in a food processor until properly mixed. Shape into burger patties on a baking sheet (I used parchment paper) and bake at 375 F for 15-20 minutes per side.

The recipe will make about 6 large patties (I made 12 large patties because I doubled the recipe). When flipping the patties it is best to use a very thin metal spatula, otherwise they will break apart. It took about 20-22 minutes/side as my patties were quite large. After they are done let them cool a little until removing them from the pan (they will harden a little more and be better formed). Serve on a whole what bun (with hummus, mustard and Organicville agave nectar ketchup!), alone or even crumbled into a salad!

I also made some sweet potato fries to go with (I have been craving these so much lately and I love the home made kind)! I know most people make them with a little bit of oil sprinkled on them, but I thought if you're making them on parchment paper there is no need for oil... and I was right! I made these at 400 F with no oil and they were delish! Next time I'll make them really thin (I love them crispy and even burnt. Mmm :)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

D is for Desserts! YUM!

It's been a few days since my last post! I was hoping to have my A-Z list completed by May 15th and I still am optimistic that it will with a few extra posts on days that are less busy! I've had a crazy busy week completing my last practicum and visiting with Dan's parents (wish you were here too Ally)!!! Anyways, I've been doing Hot Yoga (I did 4 days in a row and since then I have gone every other day...except I went yesterday and today so two days in a row and let me tell you - it's the way to go)!!! I am so proud of my hubby because he went today too!!! He had been once a long time ago, so it was like his first time...and he LOVED it!!!! So between yoga and running I'm feeling good! Exercise has given me the energy to balance a very busy schedule! But let's face it...sometimes when we're winding down from a busy time or visiting with family/friends, it's nice to have a great dessert!!!! MMM!

The other night, Oma, Papa, Noah and I all shared a slice of delicious vegan chocolate cake! I bought it from Planet Organic but have made the same cake for Dan's birthday last year and also ordered it from Planet Organic, for Noah's first birthday party last summer! It is incredible and anyone who likes chocolate cake, vegan or not, will LOVE this cake! It's delicious!!! The icing especially is incredible...mmm! So if you're in the area and feeling like a small slice of indulgence (without the tempting leftovers), stop at Planet Organic for their vegan chocolate cake! *NOTE: Ask the staff there if they have any special events coming up where they offer discounts because today they had 10% off your entire grocery bill!!! Plus free coffee and cosmic cookies! WHOOHOO!

The last time I made a vegan chocolate cake was for Valentine's Day! I wanted to make something special for Dan and I thought that something chocolaty would be decadent!!! Topped with strawberries, the chocolate cake that I made was quite romantic and we enjoyed every last bite! A little went a long ways and we had leftovers that I wish we had shared with friends because we ate a LOT of cake that week!!!!

Unfortunately I didn't take pictures but I have the recipe for this vegan chocolate cake if anyone is feeling in the mood for some baking! It's from The Kind Diet! The recipe calls for coffee which you can add or not add if you don't want that slight espresso taste...I don't drink coffee (I'm a tea lover), but I do enjoy the odd coffee/chocolate combination taste in a good quality dessert...so when I made this cake at Valentine's Day, I did put coffee in it! I think that I will make the cake for Noah's birthday this year instead of ordering one and I obviously won't add the coffee!!!!

So here is the recipe for Alicia Silverstone's Chocolate Coffee Cake (she calls them brownies):

Makes 8" or 9" Square Pan
Preheat the oven to 325'F. Oil a square baking pan


3/4 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cups of brown rice flour (I used spelt flour)
1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. of baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. of baking soda
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups of maple sugar
3/4 cup of almond milk
3/4 cup brewed coffee (optional)
1/2 cup of canola oil
1/2 cup of toasted walnuts * I never knew how AMAZING toasted walnuts were and what a difference it really makes to toast them first....but you MUST do it because they are delicious and add an extra deliciousness to this cake/brownie!
*To toast walnuts, spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and place in the oven that's been pre-heated to 350'F . Toast in the oven for 8-10 minutes. While they are toasting, stir a couple of times. The walnuts are ready when they are slightly browned.

1 1/2 cups of dark chocolate chips (non-dairy)
1/2 cup of Earth Balance butter

ift the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Add the sugar and stir.

In a separate bowl, stir together the almond milk, coffee, and oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir to mix well. Stir in the toasted walnuts.

Pour the mixture into the pan, and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cake has completely cooled, make the icing. Melt the chocolate chips and butter together in a double broiler until completely smooth. *I didn't have a double boiler at the time so I took Alicia's suggestion and put the two ingredients into a stainless steel bowl that was placed over boiling water.

Pour the warm icing over the entire cake, smoothing it out over the surface. Chill in the fridge until the glaze has set, about 1 hour. Cut into pieces and serve! I served ours with strawberries and it was amazing!

Unfortunately because I made this for Valentine's Day, I didn't take a picture (we ate it too fast!!!), but if you make it, please send some pics in so that everyone can see how delicious it looks!!!! I will take pics the next time we make this...maybe Mother's Day?!!!! (I'll get Dan to make it for me!!)

Friday, April 23, 2010

C is for Chickpeas! Roasted Chickpea Recipe!

I found it hard to narrow down my choice for a favorite food which starts with the letter C because there are just so many! I love cucumbers, cinnamon (which I am slightly obsessed with), chia seeds, coconut, chamomile, cocoa, COSMO COOKIES (recipe in one of Ally's past posts)...really there are just so many!
What made my mind up was the decision to make Roasted Chickpeas which are a delicious and nutritious and easy snack! My friend Nikki always has these to snack on and I've always been interested in making them...and now I finally have! I can't believe it took me so long to make these because they are DELICIOUS! I feel like I'm eating chips or something when I eat these! But I feel great after!!!
Chickpeas, also known as Garbanzo Beans are so cute and versatile! They are amazing in stir-frys, salads, hummus, and by roasting them, you get a satisfying snack!
Be creative with the spices and seasonings you choose to marinate them in...I chose spicy and savory this time but I hear that they taste amazing sweet (think cinnamon and maybe something crazy like a splash of brown rice syrup)!!!
One cup of Chickpeas has 269 calories, 4 grams of Fat (0 grams of saturated and 0 grams of Trans Fats), 11mg of sodium, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 12 grams of dietary fiber, 8 grams of sugar, and 15 grams of protein. Chickpeas are also a good source of Folate and Manganese as well as containing iron!
Really this recipe is so easy you can do it while multi-tasking the other zillion things that you have to do! *I am currently writing this blog while my chickpeas are in the oven!!!!
So here is my Roasted Chickpea Recipe:
1 - 14ounce can of organic chickpeas/garbanzo beans
2 tbsp. olive oil
sea salt to taste
chili flakes (to your liking)
1 tsp. of cumin
(be creative and add any seasoning that sounds appealing to you!)

Pre-heat the oven to 450'F/230'C. Pour the chickpeas out of the can and drain through a strainer. Place chickpeas onto a towel and pat dry. Place the chickpeas into a bowl and pour the olive oil and spices in as well. Mix with clean hands. Pour onto a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes (check several times because you want them to be browned and crunchy but not burnt)!
I hope that you enjoy this recipe and let me know if you experiment with different flavors and how they work out for you! BTW...I just ate the entire bowl of chickpeas while writing this!!!! Haha!

The Simply Bar

I was running a few errands the other day and stopped in at The Bulk Barn. I was picking up some organic chia seeds, Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk and a few other things and saw these things called The Simply Bar. Like I said, I'm not big into buying pre-made things, but I think it's handy to have a few things that can be quickly heated up and made into a meal (like the dairy-free organic burritos I blogged about earlier) and I think it's handy to have a few things that need no preparation (something you can throw in your purse and have when you're out running errands or after a run or workout). There's a lot of hype about energy bars, but there's also a lot of artificial ingredients and preservatives. So even if the calorie, fat, sodium, carb and protein count look acceptable that doesn't mean that it's great for your body.

That is why I was intrigued by this bar. I know a lot of people love Larabars because they have more simple ingredients and less preservatives than most energy/meal replacement bars and when I looked at The Simply Bar it seemed great too. Who wants to buy a food that contains about 25 ingredients for something that doesn't seem that complicated and most of the ingredients are words you can't even pronounce and have no idea what they are? Well I certainly don't.

It says the ingredients are: Soy Crisps (Non GMO Soy Protein, Tapioca Starch, Salt), Organic Agave Nectar, Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Fair Trade (Fair Trade.... woohoo!) Cocoa Mass, Raspberries, Canola Oil.

Not bad, eh?

There are different flavours of bars, and the ingredients vary a little with each flavour (ha ha I would hope so), but they all seem to be pretty great ingredients for something that is already made and packaged. It also has 140 calories for each bar (up to 160 for another flavour, but most are 140) and a great 16 grams of protein and 20% of your daily value of Iron! So all in all, not bad.

This flavour is Cocoa with Raspberry and had only 2 grams of fat, is milk and gluten free and is VEGAN! All the bars looked vegan except for the chocolate peanut butter one (which is the 160 calorie bar... and I bought it, so I will let you know how it is when I try it!). This one tasted OK. It smelled delicious, but didn't taste as good as I hoped. It didn't overpower with cocoa taste, which was great (healthy!) and the raspberry flavour was just slight (which was great, like a raspberry after taste), but the bar almost tasted chalky? That might be because they did use Cocoa and we're all used to the artificial and unhealthy, but delicious, chocolatiness of most bars. So, I'm willing to give it another shot. I'm going to taste the other flavours and let you know (I think I bought one with some lemon in it and maybe one with some coconut? I will let every one know!).

I hope everyone has a BEAUTIFUL evening... and enjoy the outdoors!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

My hubby is studying for an exam so I have to write a quick post, but I wanted to say HAPPY EARTH DAY to everyone!!!
I had the privilege of spreading my passion for the Earth with the children I work with today at school. I brought in an amazing book that I found called
We are Extremely Very Good Recyclers - the characters were created by Lauren Child. This children's book is so amazing! I read it to the kindergarten class and they LOVED IT! They all got really into it and then we had a great discussion about the environment and it was really wonderful! The book is about a boy and his younger sister who wants to 'throw away' things that she doesn't need or want...her brother teaches her about recycling and then they get their school involved in recycling and they end up planting a tree! I really recommend this book!

After the book, we took the kiddies outside and played some reduce-reuse-recycle games and face-painted the Earth, 'Happy Earth Day', hearts and animals on their faces! It was so much fun! The weather was gorgeous and it really was so amazing to share something that I am passionate about with the kids! I really hope to encourage the schools I work in to start composting programs and recycle plastics!

Within our family, I started celebrating Earth Day early by going to Hot Yoga and using my stainless steel water bottle (no plastic), and I went for a long walk with Miss Maggie (our dog)...after a healthy breakfast, Noah and I went to Dan's Farm and brought our veggie scraps to feed the goats and rabbits!

This one goat 'Danny', gets so excited when he sees us coming and today he actually jumped the fence and tried to follow us when we were leaving!!! I had to 'save the goat' and put him back into the barn :( I wish that we could have a goat named Danny! Noah and I enjoyed a picnic together and this evening, Dan took Noah and Maggie to the park while I blogged and took a lil' break!

There are so many ways in which we can make this World a better and safer place to live. By cutting back on your intake of dairy and meat, you are reducing your ecological footprint and the demand for such products. You are also taking a stand for what's right and saying that you won't consume a product that is from an animal that was treated in an inhumane way. We can't place blame on industries for having all these products because we as consumers are creating the demand for such products. Every time we buy something that's better for our bodies and better for our planet, we are increasing the demand for a healthier tomorrow. I have to believe that every small change will lead to big change. I choose to believe that by spreading awareness and the word about health and ways in which we can be friendlier to our planet, we will be paving the path to CHANGE. My husband just reminded me that whenever we buy a product, it's like casting a 'vote' for that product. Let's choose better products to support! Here are 5 ways in which we can all make small changes that will really lead to big results!

1. Drive less. Walk or ride your bike to work or around town one more time than you usually would! Enjoy the scenario and the feeling that you will get by knowing that you are not only being active, but you are also reducing your ecological footprint and inspiring others to do the same! * Please watch "Crude", which is an eye-opening documentary about Chevron's oil debauchery in South America. It really pays to become aware of the products we choose.

2. Buy local, organic produce! When you support local farmers, your produce is the freshest and has retained the highest amount of nutrients then products that come from overseas. When you turn your back on pesticides and genetically modified foods, you are taking a stand saying that you are CHOOSING to eat REAL, fresh foods. If everyone does this, the usage of pesticides and herbicides and genetically modifying food will dwindle (this is my hope). When you buy local produce, it hasn't taken a truck, freight, huge amounts of oil to arrive at your dinner table. It's the way to go!

3. READ! Take time out of your day...15 minutes even to read books that enlighten and interest you. Books about being green, books about good and healthy food, fitness and relationships. This will all help us to feel our personal best and make the best decisions. When we feel good about ourselves, we are more likely to really focus on making the best choices to protect our planet and the people and animals that live here.

4. Don't use plastic! Plastic is harsh on our bodies since it's laced with chemicals (even when it says BPA-free, there are other toxic chemicals that are still present in the plastic), and it's hard on the environment as doesn't break down easily. One of the best wedding presents that Dan and I got was from Ally and she gave us these amazing Pyrex glass storage containers! It makes me feel so safe knowing when I store leftovers, baked goods, our lunches or dinners, in these containers, the food will not be absorbing gross chemicals! The bonus is that you can actually SEE what you put into the fridge or onto your shelves...everything looks more exciting and prettier when you can see what's inside!!!

5. Don't be afraid to post something that you believe strongly in! I have decided that if I inspire one person to make a small change, then I have done what I set out to do! I am not afraid of what people might think because all that matters is that I share what I believe in and what I am passionate about! I find inspiration in so many of my friends, family and complete strangers! My really good friend Delaney introduced me to this site: http://www.care2.com/
Delaney is one of those amazing, beautiful people that is just so sweet and passionate about the lives of animals and the environment. She inspires me always and together we have cried and laughed over many shared stories. I now frequently sign petitions, watch and read different documentaries and stories to increase my awareness so that I can be a part of spreading the word on the good and not-so-goods out there!

Lastly, I would like to share 5 documentaries that I really feel passionate about and think that you would benefit by watching them!
1. Sharkwater
2. America the Beautiful
3. Food Inc.
4. Crude
5. Flow: For the Love of Water

Happy Earth Day Everyone!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

B is for Berries and Bikram!

I have been wanting to do Bikram Yoga for a long time. I tried a free trial a year ago with my hubby and have done it here and there in the past and LOVED it but it's just too expensive for our budget right now :( My friend Nikki is getting married May 15th and we thought it would be fun to do the 2-week pass at this newish location leading up to her big-day! We kept meaning to do it but we both lead very busy lives...so finally this week we decided that it was now or never! We are both the highly motivated, competitive, determined type and so when we signed up for the 2-week pass we decided to do it everyday for 2 weeks to see what changes and effects it has on our bodies, minds and souls! The only time that worked for both of our schedules was the 6am class!!!! BRUTAL! Especially since Noah has me up throughout the night still....anyways, because we had committed to each other, we didn't back out and yesterday morning we met at the studio at 5:45am! We completed our first class leaving a pool of sweat and feeling energized for the day! I was surprised by how much energy I had despite the lack of sleep I had. I did have a slight headache during the day because of all the water I lost...for those who haven't tried Bikram (aka hot yoga) before, it's a 90 minute class, in which you complete a series of 26 exercises, each of which is performed twice. The room that you perform this type of yoga in is HOT! Ideally it is 105'F with 40% humidity! The first time I tried Hot Yoga, I didn't think that I would like it but I was wrong! So I have completed two 6am Hot Yoga sessions in a row now (yesterday and today), and I am determined to keep up this 2-week trial to really see the full benefits! So far, I am really enjoying the benefits that include, increased flexibility, increased energy and a heightened sense of true appreciation and gratitude! I'll keep you posted about how the rest of this 'journey' goes!
I am writing this journey not to necessarily encourage you to try Hot Yoga specifically...just to try something new that you've been interested in for some time! Following through is something that hasn't always been easy for me and I'm really proud of myself and the commitments I've made and achieved over the past year!
You are the most important person, and when you take care of yourself and your dreams, only then can you fully appreciate, love and take care of everyone around you!

BERRIES! By far, my favorite fruits are berries! I have loved raspberries since I was a child and grew to love blueberries a few years ago...my current love affair with berries is centered around blackberries! OH MY! If you haven't had them heated, dusted with homemade (or Natures Path Hemp Granola), cinnamon, coconut, wheat germ and almond milk....you are missing out!!!! That is my comfort late-night snack!!!! It's almost crisp-like...mmm! Delicious! Right now I buy my blackberries from a local farm which has them frozen from last summer! They are local and not sprayed with pesticides...the added bonus is that they end up being more economical then berries you would buy at a large grocery store (and tastier)...
Since berries are so sweet naturally, you don't need to add any sweeteners to them! One cup makes the perfect snack or dessert! Noah LOVES all berries but especially frozen blueberries when he is teething! They instantly calm him and don't have artificial or high amounts of sugars like popsicles. He also loves the smoothies that Dan and I make!
Making a smoothie is the perfect idea for those picky eaters because you can hide so many amazing superfoods in one cup!!! I add any or a combination of the following to our family's smoothies: spirulina, chlorella, flaxseeds, chia seeds and Udo's 3-6-9 oil.

The following recipe is a fun way to indulge (without the guilt), in a very-berry dessert!

Berry Kanten (recipe from The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone):

1 pint fresh or 1 cup of frozen and thawed berries of choice (one or a combination of your favorite berries)
4 cups of apple juice (or any juice you like)
1 tbsp. of fresh orange juice
Pince of sea salt
3 generous tbsp. of agar agar (a sea vegetable which makes liquids set like Jell-o)
A few drops of ginger juice (squeeze the juice from freshly grated ginger)

Slice the berries thinly, and arrange them in an 8"x 8" heatproof glass dish or baking dish.

Combine the apple juice and orange juice in a saucepan over med-heat. Add the salt and agar agar. Bring to a boil, and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring often to make sure the agar agar doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. Simmer until all the agar agar has dissolved. Stir in the ginger juice and pour over the berries.

Allow the kanten to cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate, uncovered, until chilled and set, about 2 hours. The kanten is now ready to serve or may be covered and kept in the fridge for up to 4 days.

*If you would like to turn this into a fruit 'pudding', increase the agar agar to 4 tbsp, let the kanten set completely, and then whiz it all in a blender with 1 tbsp. of tahini.


A day of food!

I thought I would bring you a snapshot of some of the food I'm having today! In general I always start my morning off with oats, and today was no exception (recipe in past posting). Generally though, I like variety for the rest of my food in the day. I'm always finding new recipes, new ways to cook and combine food and new food to buy! One day I'll be having steamed greens with braggs and hemp hearts and the next day I'll have a veggie wrap or salad... or anything else! I love soup, but I am pretty picky when it comes to soup. I love my mom's Butter Soup (no butter in it, that's just the name) or my mom's Borscht (mmm), but I generally don't love other soups. I really want to find a great recipe for a sweet potato/yam/squash soup, but they all involve food processors, so I will have to wait for that one.

That's why I bought this pre-made Organic soup. I really try to make my own food, but we are all in a hurry and often in lack of food processors, so I think it's important to at least have a few ready to eat meals handy. And if you get ones that organic they are usually much more healthy made and with healthier and less processed ingredients. This soup was really delicious and I toasted a little bread to dip in it... yum! I love all the organic ingredients too. I think it could have used a little something extra though... spice?

I've also always wanted to try these 'Green Monsters' that everyone in my healthy blog world talks about. A Green Monster is a general name for a healthy shake/smoothie made with spinach and often banana, and a few other ingredients. Most of the ones I've seen have looked very green, but I added some blueberries to mask the green and only used about 1.5 cups of spinach (most people use 2-3 cups). This was amazingly delicious though! I thought it would taste... well... you know... green? You did taste a little spinach, but mixed with the banana it tasted so amazing, just like what a healthy smoothie should taste like. Next time I'm going to add even more spinach, because it gave it a great flavour... and I'm not scared of a little spinach :)

Ally's Blueberry Green Monster

1.5 - 3 cups spinach
1 mashed ripe banana
0.5-1.5 cup almond, hemp, rice or soy milk (I used unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze... mmm)
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
Blueberries (as many as you feel you want to add)

Put this all in a blender and blend away!

There are a lot of other things you could add, or not add, to a Green Monster. I've seen a lot of recipes with pumpkin and even a peanut butter/chocolate version... so check them out online!

This is the dinner I made up to eat at work. I love taking a salad to work because it not only fills me up and keeps me full, but it takes a while to eat, so you almost feel like you're getting more! I really wanted to add some protein in this by adding some chickpeas to the salad, but unfortunately our can opener went missing overnight... dun dun dun....

So instead my salad consisted of romaine lettuce, red bell pepper, cucumbers and artichoke hearts with my healthy salad dressing! I also packed a little bit of fresh delicious strawberries... mmm!

I will have to find some protein when I get home from work! I hope everyone has a delicious day!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The First of Jay's A-Z Series!

I decided that instead of wonder over what our future holds (re: if Dan gets into med-school this year which would mean a big move; or, if we will begin re-applying and remaining in Vic for another year), I am going to focus on things that I am really passionate about: This blog, my family, & our health...I am going to combine that by creating an A-Z list of my favorite foods, talking about why they are so desirable and also putting up a favorite recipe to try that involves that certain food! Noah is learning the alphabet right now and loves singing the ABCs. When trying to think of a fun count-down, he really inspired me to use the ABCs!!!

Today is the first day (A) so I will talk about a food that starts with the letter A! For each day that follows, I will concentrate on a new food beginning with the next letter of the alphabet! The last day of this series (Z), just happens to fall on May 15th...the day we potentially find out our immediate future (Dan getting accepted). At the end of the day, we really believe that what's meant to be will be and we have done everything we can and now it's really out of our hands. So we have faith, we have family, our health and food!!! So life is good!
I also want to give a shout out to my beautiful, smart and amazing sister-in-law Ally who also may find out on May 15th if she gets into the University of Manitoba med-school (May 15th is the first day that the first applicants find out...so really you can find out anytime after that date)...she is one of the most dedicated, hardest working individuals I have ever met and I am so proud of her and inspired to do better always!
So if you can, say some prayers for Dan and Ally and wish them luck! Really, we're proud of them always and know that when it's meant to be, they will make two amazing doctors who will without a doubt, bring their passion of health into their practice and influence many people to be their best and healthiest!

A is for Avocado!

Avocado used to be a fruit that I despised! I grew up eating a pretty bland diet and had never really had a huge variety of foods so my taste buds were beginners when it came to experimenting. I still remember how much I despised avocado when my friend Amy gave it to me for the first time years ago! I remember thinking that it was way too fatty and I would never enjoy it!!! How wrong was I?!!! Over the course of experimenting, I fell in love with avocado and it's a love that Noah and I both share! Between the two of us, we eat between 1/2 and 1 avocado/day! My husband used to be in love with avocados too until a trip to Mexico a few years...one minute he was devouring some delicious guacamole and the next he was in the hospital! Allergies can develop at any time in your life (scary), and Dan, who never had an allergy growing up, is now allergic to avocados and kiwi!!! Poor guy!
Avocados are loaded with monounsaturated fats, specifically oleic acid which is great for a healthy inflammation response. I notice personally when I eat avocados daily, that my skin looks clearer and much more vibrant than when I fall off the 'avocado band-wagon'! Avocados are rich in the detoxifier glutathione which helps cleanse the body of oxidized fats (oxidized fats are dangerous)! Avocados also contain Potassium which is used to aid in kidney, heart and adrenal function. Potassium is also used to treat high blood pressure and water balance in the body (good for exercisers). Avocados also contain chromium which helps control blood sugar levels by helping insulin to work efficiently.
Mostly it seems to be recommended to eat 1/4 avocado/day. I eat between 1/4-1/2 on average. The high good fat that's in avocados, leaves you feeling really satisfied and healthy after eating some!
There are many ways in which you can turn an avocado into something even more magnificent! I love making home-made guacamole and using that on anything and everything!

Jayanna's Insanely Delicious Guacamole:

5 Avocados, halved, pit and skin removed
3 cloves of garlic
1 red onion, chopped into small pieces
1 roma tomato, chopped into pieces
1 lime

Place the first four ingredients into a food processor and pulse until they make a chunky yet smooth guacamole. Scrape into a bowl and squeeze a lime over. Mix and serve immediately. Leftovers should be placed in an airtight container in the fridge. Even though the avocados will brown, they are still safe to eat for up to 3 days! *If you don't have a food processor, no worries! Just mash all the ingredients in a bowl to the consistency of your liking!

I also just made this 'chocolate pudding' using avocados for Noah a month ago. It was a great success! Another parent told me about this and then I searched around for a yummy recipe! This is so decadent and rich that you only need to have a little taste!

'Chocolate' Avocado Pudding (I got this recipe from the following website - http://www.greenandcrunchy.org/2009/11/raw-vegan-chocolate-avocado-pudding-scrumptious/

Serves 2
-one ripe avocado, pit-removed
-2-4 tbsp. raw organic cacao powder (regular cocoa powder or carob powder would work too)
-1 tsp. of vanilla
-sweeten according to your tastes: a splash of agave, or 1/2 dozen soaked dates, or drizzle with pure organic maple syrup
EXTRAS: Chia seeds, hemp hearts, berries, sliced bananas...be creative!

Noah loves his with hemp hearts or berries! MMM!

Northern Adventure!

I just wanted to fill everyone in on my weekend full of adventures! In October my friends and I took off South of Winnipeg and had an adventurous day! We explored an abandoned brick factory and a field full of abandoned old classic cars. We ended the day eating marshmallows and hotdogs over the fire at my friend Melissa's country home. So we decided to do weekends right again... we went on another adventure! This time we chose the direction North (I guess we'll need two more adventures to complete this... more fun!). We headed to Winnipeg Beach and had a picnic. We weren't able to stay for as long as we wanted (my friend Aaron had to be back in the city early), but we still made it a great time.

My healthy addition to the snacks/food... some of my pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (recipe on my past post), mini oranges and some delicious edamame beans! (Unfortunately a cookie and an orange lost their life in battle that day... they both got squished during an impromptu jumping photo shoot on our picnic blanket)

Of course some water in a reusable container (no bottles!) to stay hydrated!

Enjoying some healthy strawberries during the day! (Thanks for the snack Melissa!)

Yes, this is April and Melissa is wearing shorts! (It really was amazing out... but shorts?... and yes, you are seeing right, that is a huge chunk of ice in the water behind her)

Aaron and Melissa attempting to skip stones (Melissa and I never got the hang of it).

Melissa has no legs!

Our first activity! Melissa and I played.... that game? You know... the game with the velcro pads and a tennis ball? Just think back to your childhood and you'll remember :)

Croquet action shot!

Winners! Well I won... the second round (ha ha, I may have lost the first round).

We had an awesome time on our adventure. Has anyone else taken an adventure lately?

Sorry about my lack of new recipes. It was my plan to buy a food processor this weekend and try out a few of the recipes that I've been saving up for that... but as you can see that didn't happen. It will happen in the next few days though... so stay tuned!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Weekend Dinner Feast!

Just wanted to share a few photos and recommend one of the easiest and most delicious dinners that everyone will enjoy! I had my mom over and Dan, Noah, Grandma and I all gathered around our tiny table for a feast! It was so delicious and so much fun! I made the Almond Burgers from The Thrive Diet (Ally has previously posted the recipe), but I added onions and extra garlic (YUM), steamed greens with hemp hearts and Braggs, and served yam fries which I made with oregano, 1 tbsp. of coconut oil, pepper and garlic! I baked the yam fries at 350' for about 15 minutes and then turned them over and baked for another 5-10 minutes. Everything was delicious and the condiments complimented the food so well! My favorite store-bought ketchup by far is Organic Ville Ketchup. It is gluten-free, uses agave nectar instead of adding a ton of sugar and doesn't taste like it's loaded with salt! For 1 tbsp. you are looking at 20 calories, 0 grams of fat, 125 mg of sodium, 4 grams of carbohydrates (3 grams sugars), 0 grams of protein.
I spread lentil hummus on my bun and topped it with ketchup, mustard, cucumbers, tomato, spinach and avocado! It was so creamy and all the flavors complimented one another so well! It was ridiculously filling and I was left feeling soooo satisfied after the busy day we had!
Really the burger is enough to fill you up but if you're having family over and you want to let go and enjoy yourself and eat over a longer period filled with goodness and great conversations, then add the yam fries and steamed greens! Enjoy!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

P is for Protein!

I had someone ask if they could get enough protein without buying the supplements that I had listed. I will try my best to answer! Keep in mind, I am not a Nutritionist (although I wish I was sometimes!!!), and the knowledge that I've gained (which is an ongoing process), is from reading, knowledgeable friends, and my own research! I have been studying nutrition and fitness leisurely for more than ten years but there is really so much debate and so much information to sort through the facts and so that's why I can only make suggestions as to what I believe to be true!

I believe that you can definitely get enough protein in your diet without consuming supplements! In fact, I think that you should rely heavily on getting 90% of your nutritional needs met by eating whole foods. I just posted my favorite supplements that I find have given me added energy and benefits that make taking them worth it!

That being said, I eat a lot of my protein (vegan based), from whole foods. Here are a list of foods which contain protein for vegetarians/vegans: Beans (black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, pinto beans), Edamame Beans, Tofu, Hemp Hearts, Wheat Germ, Protein Powders (Hemp, soy or brown rice), quinoa, nuts and seeds.

Here is the nutritional information for some of these:

Hemp Hearts (a favorite of mine which I sprinkle on anything and everything! I put them on my salads, oatmeal, greens, veggies, yam fries, stir-frys...you name it!
Nutritional Value for 5 Tbsp. (I eat about 1 tbsp. with my meal/snack and probably consume about 3-5 tbsp./day)
20 grams of protein
5.9 grams of carbohydrates
314 calories
25.9 grams of fat *only 2.7 grams is Saturated Fat and there is 0 grams of Trans fat. From this there is 19.6 grams of Polyunsaturated fat (good fat) - broken down to 14.9 grams of Omega 6 and 4.7 grams of Omega 3. 3.5 grams of Monounsaturated Fat.
37% Iron

Wheat Germ (Wheat germ is so inexpensive and you won't notice it at all when you add it to your dishes, whether it be salads, soups, stews, oatmeal, etc. I add Wheat Germ into Noah's pasta sauce or the brown rice noodles to boost the nutritional value! The nutritional value is per 100grams but I would say that I sprinkle 1tbsp. over my dishes/time).
Nutritional Value per 100 grams:
360 calories
28 grams of protein
10 grams of fat *1.5 grams is Saturated and 0 grams is Trans Fat
10mg. Sodium
47 grams Carbohydrate
14 grams Fibre
45% Iron
4% Calcium
Relatively high in thiamine, vitamin E and trace minerals.

Tofu *there is much debate over whether tofu is good or bad. Some males are terrified away from tofu because of the higher estrogen levels but what my doctor said was that you would have to consume TONS to really have your hormonal levels affected. Keep in mind that people in China and Japan have and continue to consume tofu daily in their diet. I personally am scared only when a product is genetically modified! So my family (including the two males that live in our house!), eat tofu which says on the label non-GMO and Organic, to ensure that we are getting the best quality. We eat tofu and/or soy products probably 3-4 times per week and from what I have read, that is absolutely fine!

Nutritional Value per 100 grams:
165 Calories
10 grams of Fat *1.5 grams is Saturated, 0 grams is Trans Fat
4 mg Sodium
16 grams Protein
5% Calcium
16% Iron

Edamame Beans
Nutritional Value per 100 grams *I find it hard to eat just 100 grams/serving!
150 Calories
7 grams of Fat
140 mg Sodium
9 grams of Carbohydrates
4 grams of Fibre
2 grams of Sugar
12 grams of Protein
4% Vitamin A
20% Vitamin C
10% Calcium
20% Iron

Nutritional Value for 1 cup, cooked without salt:
269 Calories
4 grams of Fat *0 grams is Saturated and 0 grams is Trans Fat
11 mg Sodium
45 grams Carbohydrate
12 grams Dietary Fibre
8 grams Sugars
15 grams Protein
8% Calcium
26% Iron

Generally speaking, 25% of the calories found in beans come from Protein. 5% of the calories found in beans come from unsaturated fat. 70% of the calories found in beans are from complex carbohydrates.

Quinoa *I love quinoa so much! It has a mild nutty flavor and is so easy to make! It cooks in less than 20 minutes! Fantastic! It really tastes amazing hot or cold (as a salad).
Nutritional Value for 1 cup of cooked quinoa:
222 Calories
4 grams of Fat *0 grams of Saturated and 0 grams of Trans Fats
13 mg of Sodium
39 grams of Carbohydrates
5 grams of Dietary Fibre
8 grams of Protein
3% Calcium
15% Iron

Nuts and Nut Butters (such as organic almond butter, peanut butter, cashew butter), provide protein but also are high in calories and fat. I probably consume between 1/2 to 1 cup of nuts and seeds (mostly pumpkin seeds and walnuts) per week.

I hope that the above nutritional break-downs helps a little. I really can't answer the question generally as to how much protein you should consume each day as there are a lot of factors that go into determining this (such as activity level - intensity, body weight, goals - weight-loss/gain/maintenance, etc.), but I can say that from what I've learned, the best is to try and balance each snack and meal with a protein, carb, and fat.

Personally, I don't sweat about calories or serving sizes because I am just aware and try my best to be mindful and to listen to my body. If I'm feeling a little tired or taking longer to recover from my run/work-outs, I increase my protein and I usually find that my energy levels increase and my recovery times are a lot faster! I feel better when I eat several smaller means opposed to three meals. I just listen to my body - a process that wasn't always that easy! Of course I still have goals that I want to meet and I definitely don't think that I know it all or have reached every goal set...but I'm in a happy place which makes me feel proud and I just want to share my experience and passion with anyone/everyone!

Some advice I've learned about eating protein!
*Cooking protein can make it more acid-forming (our bodies are happiest when in an alkaline-state). You will benefit the most from food that is the least altered by processing and cooking.
*It's really easy and more economical to buy dried beans. If you are going to buy a can of beans, look for products that don't add salt and are organic!
*When we eat food, our body converts protein into amino acids for use. Protein isn't utilized directly. In his book The Thrive Diet, Brandan Brazier says
"We can help our body speed the regeneration process and be more efficient in the fabrication of new cells by eating foods rich in amino acid-one-step foods. This way, the body does not have to expend energy to convert protein into amino acids. Greens have the highest percentage of amino acids per ounce of any food".
*Foods that are rich in Amino Acids include, quinoa, hemp, leafy greens (eg. include spinach, chard, kale, dandelion greens, lettuces), all kinds of seeds (eg. chia seeds, hemp, flaxseeds).
*There really is so much variety to choose from when eating protein-rich, vegan friendly whole foods! The best part is that every time you incorporate these foods into your meals and eliminate meat or dairy, you are being so much friendlier to our Environment because it takes a lot less energy and land to grow these foods then it does to raise animals for consumption...not to mention the cruel and inhumane treatment that animals are often subjected to.

Enjoy and if you have any feedback or more information, please comment!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pumpkin Cookies!

Mmm... I love me some pumpkin cookies. I made some amazing pumpkin chocolate chip cookies in the fall, but I've really tried to only bake healthier recipes... and my recipe, it wasn't close to healthy. Well I finally found one that was healthy and modified it to fit me! Mmm!

Ally's Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Recipe

Prep Time: 30 min
Baking Time: 15 -18 minutes
Makes: 24 (large) cookies

-15 oz pumpkin, mashed smooth
-1 Cup chocolate chips (I used regular chocolate chips, but could use vegan choc chips for vegan cookies!)
-1/4 Cup Rolled Oats
-1/2 Cup Agave Nectar
-1/2 Cup low fat margarine (for vegan recipe use Earth Balance... would have used, but didn't have any!)
-1 Egg (for vegan recipe use 2/3 cup Okara or 8oz Tofu blended... again didn't have any on hand... made too many tofu sesame snacks!)
-1 Cup whole wheat flour
-1 Cup unbleached flour
-2 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp baking soda
-3/4 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 tsp ginger
-1/2 tsp nutmeg
-1/4 tsp cloves
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 tbsp Vanilla extract
-1/2 Cup Flax Meal (optional... but I used it!)


-Preheat oven to 350F

-In a large bowl, combine wet ingredients

-In a separate bowl, stir together oats, flour, flax, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and salt

-Slowly add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Add chocolate chips

-Drop by spoonful onto parchment lined or silicone mat

-Bake at 350F for 15 minutes

-Cool on a cooling rack

These cookies were delicious! They taste a lot like a pumpkin loaf with some delicious chocolate chips. You could add cranberries, walnuts, other types of nuts or choose to add nothing! I made them quite big, so they ended up taking more like 18 minutes to bake. They will be a more soft cookie (like a loaf), so don't expect them too get too firm in the oven. Some cookies don't really need to cool on a rack, but it would be best if these were (there's a lot of moisture in the cookies).