Sunday, November 21, 2010

Xmas lattes

When the holiday season arrives, no one is more excited than me. Seasonal treats are everywhere and challenge one's dietary willpower.
A certain coffee chain offers delicious holiday drinks which are hard on the pocketbook and the digestive system as they are rich with sugary syrups.
Thanks to an early Christmas gift from an amazing woman named Yvonne, we can indulge in our own artisan lattes thanks to our new nespresso machine. These drinks are cafe-quality and don't require sugar - but one cannot be blamed for wanting to add a sprinkle of cocoa powder or even perhaps a shot of Baileys!
Customized and made with love, this is the perfect way to start a chilly winter morning.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kale Chips: Easy, Fast, Crunch, Yum!

Look at that brilliant green! I'm an adoring fan of that emerald green seen only on a lovely leaf of kale, but my insides get nervous at the thought of digesting the pretty thing. Lots of chewing required and sometimes it still doesn't get digested properly. But what if we could take the moisture out of the kale, and break down the fibres, and turn it into a crispy yummy snack? Enter the baked kale chip!

Recipe for Baked Kale Chips
- Take 1 head of kale out of the fridge; turn oven on the 300F
- Wash your kale leaves well and dry with a tea towel. Remove them from stems and rip into potato chip sized pieces.
- Take 2 baking trays and line each with a tablespoon of olive oil. Throw the kale on and start to massage the oil into every leaf.
- Now season to your liking. A sprinkle of sea salt and pepper, have some lemony Mrs. Dash? A handful of paprika?
- Place in oven for 20 minutes or until kale is crisp but not dark brown, nor is it soggy in the middle. You may turn with tongs after 10 minutes to ensure an even crisping.
- Dry out for at least 30 minutes. Store in airtight containers with a paper towel in the bottom to eliminate sogginess.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dinner Planner for Week of October 4th

MONDAY: Lamb Ale Sausage and new potatoes in fry-pan with green (pea and leek) soup
TUESDAY: Shrimpy rice pilaf with sauteed zucchini and red peppers
WEDNESDAY: Spinach and cheese pizza with veggie soup
THURSDAY: Baked fish, brown rice mixed greens or broccoli
FRIDAY: Veal in oven roasted veggies and cheesy cauliflower

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Zucchini Treats

I do appreciate zucchini though I'm not a huge devotee of the slightly mushy vegetable. This week I had a couple of extra zukes sitting around in my crisper and I decided to do something yummy with them. If I weren't so lazy, I'd have put them to better use. I've seen talented hands turn zucchini blossoms into delectable treats before my eyes; now that's a dish I'll never attempt on my own.

First off for this lazy chef was to try and replicate the deep and delicious chocolate zucchini bread that local folk sell at our farmers' market. Theirs is very yummy but definitely contains too much sugar. This is the recipe I made, but put in just 2/3 cup sugar in total, along with a couple of teaspoons of honey. Thanks Inspired Taste bloggers!

Since there was extra grated zucchini left over from the cake, I decided to make zucchini fritters. I don't have a recipe for this. You simply mix together grated zucchini with a flour-egg mixture sufficient to hold the patties together. Try a 2:1 ratio: 1 cup of grated zucchini with half an egg and 2/3 cup of flour, with a pinch of salt, pepper and nutmeg. Shape into patties and fry in a little bit of olive oil and butter. Now that's a taste of autumn!

Dinner Planner for Week of September 20th

Rainy days mean more cooking, so here's what we have planned for this week.

SUNDAY: Shake n' Bake chicken, brown rice and broccoli
MONDAY: Beef bolognese spaghetti and rapini
TUESDAY: Japanese ramen miso soup with shrimp, corn and baby bok choy
WEDNESDAY: Fish with grilled polenta and green beans
THURSDAY: Vegetarian Lasagne with Swedish meatballs on the side
FRIDAY: Mac n' cheese with backyard kale and broccoli

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dinner Planner for week of September 13

For this week of fall-like weather it's all about the heavier meals.

Monday: Fresh roasted veggie pasta with Greek salad
Tuesday: Grilled salmon, new potatoes and sauerkraut, asparagus
Wednesday: Japanese ramen noodle soup with shrimp, baby bok choy, tofu and peas
Thursday: Burgers and yam fries with fresh veggie on the side
Friday: Vegetarian pizza + meatballs

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dinner Planner for Back to School

Monday: Chicken Pot Pie with green beans
Tuesday: (lunch: egg salad sandwiches veggie juicebox) Shake n' Bake Chicken with Broccoli
Wednesday: (lunch: leftover broc with humous, cheese sandwich) Veggie Lasagna with Chicken
Thursday: (lunch: pb, j and banana sandwiches) Crab Cakes, sauteed leeks and broccoli soup
Friday: Pasta with cauliflower and meatballs, carrot and cukes on the side

Saturday, August 28, 2010

So Easy, a Kid Could Do It

As soon as your child can sit up and talk, it's time to get them thinking about food preparation. Young children love to help and it's a great way to get them involved in making a variety of foods, that they are sure to eat, once they have "made it" themselves.

My Bug made most of this cake above. It's a much less sweet version of a recipe for sweet potato cake I found on a great but now defunct food blog.

Okay, so I helped by reading the steps, measuring the amounts, placing the pan in the oven and doing most of the cleanup. But she did quite a lot, right down to mixing the icing and drizzling it over top of the cake. And she had a great time!

If you try the recipe, know that I doubled it to make it fit into a Bundt pan, and I used only half the sugar it calls for, then added three sachets of Stevia powder.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Beat Boredom with Online Inspiration

I'm determined that my addiction to the Internet will make my life better, not merely waste all of my spare time. I'm always on the lookout for articles, websites, apps that will help me cook better meals for my family, and this Recipes for Health mini-site fit the bill.

Here you'll find a collection of healthy recipes which are beautifully photographed. You can search for recipes in a variety of ways but my favourite is to click on the photo of the food you're planning to cook. Scroll down to the left-hand side of the page to choose by ingredient or theme (e.g. burger alternatives, Lunchbox fixes).

Simply smart, healthy and delicious.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fructose Speeds Cancerous Growth

My nutritionist education at the Canadian School for Natural Nutrition was an almost unending refrain about the health risks and dangers of eating processed foods, while espousing a return to the foods we were designed to eat. As each year passes since my graduation, I see more and more mainstream articles finally switching their focus away from fatty foods and towards the evils of processed sugars.

A sea change is coming. We're going to finally see the medical establishment admit that there is little to no evidence (in the last 50 years!) that eating a naturally fat diet causes disease and obesity. And we'll see a focus shift to the mounting evidence that manufactured foods are harming our bodies.

This Globe and Mail article links the consumption of fructose to increased growth of pancreatic cancer cells. The article states "While it's widely known that cancer cells use glucose to fuel their growth, last week's findings were the first to link fructose to cancer growth."

In my studies, I came across a lot of theories positing that for example, processed sugars in the bloodstream will lower the immune response, but very little scientific proof. To-date, few researchers have set out to study that processed sugars like High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) are detrimental to one's health. Who would fund these studies? The non-existent Union of Fruit and Vegetable Growers or America? And what type of scrutiny and backlash would such a study face, from the HFCS industry, the soda companies, manufacturers like General Mills whose breakfast and convenience foods are laden with processed sugars?

We need more academics and scientists to pursue independent research without financial backing by large corporations, if we want to find out the truth about how our modern diet is affecting our health. In the meantime, do your body a favour and cut processed sugars out of your diet; substitute if you must, with a more natural sweetener, like Stevia or honey.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dinner Planner for Week of August 9th

Running out of ideas for meals, this week, I again went to Epicurious to check out their Weekly Dinner Rush feature. That helped a bit. I could eat salads all week long, but this doesn't exactly work for the kids. Here's what we're eating this week:
Monday: Herbed Salmon (spread with mayo and dill before putting in oven) with brown rice and green beans
Tuesday: Takeout sushi
Wednesday: Rotini and Rapini with tomato meatball sauce (using ground buffalo)
Thursday: Leftover meatball sandwiches with Greek Salad
Friday: Chicken Pepperonata (Polish pinjar red pepper sauce), garlic couscous with peas and fresh red pepper strips with dip
Saturday: Shrimps on the Barbie with Caesar salad

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Quinoa Salad


Had a visit over the weekend with my friend Kevin who is the picture of health, and stole a peek at his lunch. I decided to make some version of his salad this week. So this is what I came up with:
- quinoa
- chopped tomatoes, cukes, yellow peppers
- olives and feta cheese
Mixed it with an olive oil vinaigrette and put it on a bed of baby lettuces from the garden. Another yummy summertime meal!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Dinner Planner for the Week of July 18th

We've been away and busy as often happens in the summertime. Consequently, I've not been planning out our meals, and so we haven't been eating as healthfully as I'd like. I'm trying to get back on the wagon, if only to make grocery shopping more pleasant and easy. Here's what we're planning to eat this week:

SUNDAY: Lunch - Tuna Caprese Salad (mozzarella, Roma tomatoes, tuna and basil);
Dinner - Big Salad a la Chez Gladines which means lots of lettuces, a fried egg and Roquefort cheese if you have it.
MONDAY: Stuffed Chicken breasts with asparagus and brown and wild rice on the side.
TUESDAY: Salmon on the BBQ and Greek Salad on the side.
WEDNESDAY: Quinoa salad with feta, grape tomatoes, olives and peppers and cukes.
THURSDAY: Make your Own Pizzas. We're having a choice of veggie bologna, capers, peppers, sundried tomatoes, asparagus, olives and lotsa mozzarella cheese
FRIDAY: Lamb sausages on the BBQ with warm lentil salad
SATURDAY: Lunch - Salmon or Crab Pockets;

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Summertime, and the Drinking is Easy!

Easy, if you have good drink recipes, that is.

A Mexican vegetarian restaurant nearby had a sandwich board outside advertising their delicious white wine sangrias. This inspired me to make better use of our habitual leftover wine. Confession time: the hubby and I are cheap drunks and often get through only half a bottle of wine in an evening. So we will finish the remaining wine, one, sometimes even two days later.

This weekend I decided to jazz up the leftovers by turning them into summery white sangria. Here's what I did to make sangria for two:
- half a bottle of pinot gris
- half a lemon, half an orange
- 3 shots of rum
- 1 Tbsp agave (or honey, maple syrup, or that evil white stuff if you must)
- 1 cup of lemonade
- sprigs of sage and mint from the garden (at least the herbs are thriving in this cold, wet weather)

Chop the fruits and squeeze their juice into a glass pitcher, then throw them in. Add in rum, sweetener too and stir it up. Finally add in white wine and juice. Let stand in fridge for several hours.
Remove from fridge and add herbs (unless you like a more savoury drink in which case add them in at the beginning).
Serve with ice and enjoy responsibly!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Big Salt Wants You!

It's been while since I've gotten on the blog soapbox. It's easier at times to just write about ways to incorporate healthy food into your diet. But whenever I hear that a multinational company is going on an offensive to maintain its false appearance of caring about consumers' health, I need to write a rant.

You've probably been hearing bad things about salt; in the media, from your doctor. But if we buy less salt, then the "poor" companies who produce salt will lose profits. That's why one of the latest grocery trends is to sell you "exotic salts", to make sure you keep buying their product. Even members of my own family, with whom we've discussed the perils of too much sodium in the diet, once again have salt on the table. "It's sea salt! Good for you!"

No salt - other than a very tiny amount each day - is good for you. We don't eat it in nature, it poisons our palate and keeps us coming back for more, and it's everywhere. Unless you make your own food from morning 'til night, do not put salt in your food. I can assure you, it's already there in dangerous amounts. You should consume less than 1 teaspoon total salt each day. All processed foods contain salt, so check your labels. You may be eating far above the recommended total of 1800 mg each day.

But do take a look at this article which exposes the manipulative Cargill company for trying to win back our salty loyalties. Or rather, our pocketbooks. You may recall, this is the same Cargill that tried to defend its honourable reputation after its tainted frozen burgers killed people.

The article
really exposes how the food companies care most about making large profits, and having low expenses: "Making deep cuts in salt can require more expensive ingredients that can hurt sales. ".

The food manufacturers also want to hook you on their products and make sure you cannot ever do without them: “Once a preference is acquired,” a top scientist at Frito-Lay wrote in a 1979 internal memorandum, “most people do not change it, but simply obey it.”

Examples like this one are terrifying; the manufacturer explains how when they remove salt from their food, it turns out to taste horrible: “Salt really changes the way that your tongue will taste the product,” Mr. Kepplinger [V.P. of Kellogg] said. “You make one little change and something that was a complementary flavor now starts to stand out and become objectionable.” Makes you wonder what they are feeding us in those shiny boxes. In my nutrition schooling, we read of lab rats who lived longer off the boxes which processed cereal came in, than actually eating the cereal, where they died within weeks.

Read and be forewarned. I see a not-too-distant future where we are all cultivating our own gardens, and by extension our own true health.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dish of the Day: One Dish Dinner

Sadly, those of us in Vancouver have suffered recently with some very poor weather. It has been rainy and cold for weeks. It's almost June, but there's been only 3 days of sunny and warm weather (above 19 C). Yes, yes, I know it's been hot out East. Please, please send it our way!

For those of us whose stomachs are linked to the weather, it's not been all about the salads lately, rather the focus is still on warm food. Here's something I threw together the other night which was both quick and nutritious.

One Dish Mac n Cheese

- Boil macaroni in salted water. When five minutes remain in the cooking, add vegetables of your choice (e.g. kale, green peas, green beans, broccoli florets, etc) to the boiling water.
- Drain the dish into a colander
- Add the protein of your choice to the colander (e.g. tofu, cut up wiener, chopped boiled eggs, cubed ham, chopped chicken)
- Into the saucepan from which you drained the pasta, add in a tablespoon of butter and 1/4 cup of whole milk and heat over low heat. Stir in grated or shredded cheese and whisk to combine so it thickens and becomes a cheese sauce.
- Add the drained pasta, vegetables and protein and warm and serve.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Dish of the Day: Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

Look at this sweet little scoop. Pretty in Pink!!

I'm in love with my new Cuisinart compressor ice cream maker, the ICE-50BCC. It makes frozen treats in minutes. We really love our ice cream in this house but it's often so heavy and I assumed too sugary. I wanted to try and make a healthier version. I'm learning, however, that the heavier cream recipes make the more delectable ice creams. Think Safeway ice cream versus Haagen-Dazs. The Safeway stuff is lower in calories, and is much less indulgent-tasting because it's just milk and flavouring. The higher-end ice creams that taste super-creamy and heavy tend to be made with custard. They start off with heavy cream and egg yolks which is slowly cooked and cooled before being made into ice cream. Hence the heavier taste.

I like that creamy mouth-feel, but not the heavy feeling in my stomach afterward. So I'm working on that. I'd like to try keeping in the eggs, but maybe losing all that whipped cream; it's just too rich. Or experimenting with other thickeners, such as seaweed products.

Here is a recipe for a very light and fruity frozen yogurt. I'm going to try it again with a higher fat Greek-style yogurt. I think you can get 12% or higher nowadays and that might make it creamier.

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
- Take 1 box of strawberries (generally a quart) and slice into small pieces and cover with 1/3 cup of berry sugar (fine granulated).
- Let stand on the counter for about an hour and stir with a spoon occasionally to bring out the juices.
- Then place in food processor with a full tub (e.g. 750 ml) of plain yogurt; NOT non-fat. I used Astro's 7% Balkan yogurt. Puree. Sprinkle in 3 single-serve packages of Stevia, 1/2 tsp ground cardamon and 1 tsp of fresh lemon juice.
- At this point, you can strain through a fine mesh sieve - which I had to do because otherwise this would not all fit into my ice cream maker - to get out the seeds. This takes a long time so be patient.
- Pop it back into the fridge covered in plastic wrap for an hour (or more, the more the better) to chill.
- Put in your ice cream maker and follow directions for frozen yogurt. I'm not going to recommend you pour this into ice cubes or anything - that has never worked for me. Use an ice cream maker for best results.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Dish of the Day: Quesadillas

Spring is most definitely here in Vancouver and today actually felt quite summery. The Farmers' Market at Trout Lake was the first to open this weekend; a couple more weeks and the outdoor pools will be open too.

We hit the jackpot at the market this morning. Not only were there herbs aplenty for adding to my newly-planted garden, but a few vendors had brought some fresh produce. We made a melt-in-the-mouth Greek salad for dinner with the juiciest peppers, baby cukes and tomatoes I've tasted in a long time. I had leftover roast chicken and wraps, and a ton of cheese, which meant that quesadillas were inevitable. I try to keep them dry on the inside - adding salsa can make them too wet - and I load them up with toppings on my plate. Here's a quick "recipe":

1. Chop your protein (tofu, chicken, whitefish) into small thin strips. Place these on one half of the wrap.
2. Thinly slice some tomatoes and lay on top of the protein.
3. Sprinkle on chopped green onions, chives or whichever fresh herbs you have.
4. Over top of this all, sprinkle your favourite shredded cheese.
5. Fold the bare half over and place into a non-stick skillet (no oil required).
6. Cover with a lid and leave fro 2-3 minutes on medium heat.
7. Using a large spatula, flip the wrap over in the pan to heat the other side. Replace cover.
8. When you're sure that the cheese has melted and both sides of the wrap are warmed and slightly browned, remove from heat and cut in half (as shown on plate).
9. Serve with guacamole/chopped avocado, sour cream, salsa.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Dinner Planner for Week of April 5th

Here's the plan for this week. Feelin' lazy!

MONDAY - Veggie pizza again, leftover homemade celeriac soup and sauteed chard with olive oil and garlic. [lunch: leftover turkey sandwiches and veggies and dip]
TUESDAY - Broccoli tuna quiche, a one-dish wonder! [lunch: leftover chard with lentil soup]
WEDNESDAY - Pan-fried sole with brown rice and green beans [lunch: last night's quiche and squash and yam soup]
THURSDAY - Big salad: organic greens, hard-boiled eggs, artichoke hearts, green beans, chick peas, green onions and bell peppers and hummus and pita [lunch: whatever the cafeteria's serving with brown rice on the side]
FRIDAY - Roast chicken with green salad and garlic bread [lunch: egg salad, hummus and cut-up veggies]

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dish of the Day: Green Soup

The other day it was cold, and the fridge was full of green veggies just begging to be eaten. I decided to make some Green Soup. I am a lazy cook, and this is fast one-pot wonder. I forgot to add in little pasta stars to make the soup more fun for the kids, but they loved it anyway.

What follows is not a recipe, just a quick easy way to turn veggies into a delicious soup in 30 minutes. You can use any leafy greens,

Green Soup
This is best with 3 or more different vegetables, to provide a richer flavour. I used:
- 1 bunch of kale, or chard
- 2 large leeks (just the white stalks, chopped into rounds)
- 1 russet potato peeled and cubed
- 1 sweet potato, cubed, peel on
- 1/2 head of garlic, cloves peeled
- 1/2 cup leftover asparagus
- 1 veggie bouillon cube
- 2 tsp Better than bouillon chicken
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup milk

- Wash the kale and leeks well. Take the large bony stem out of the middle of the kale and rip the leaves into pieces. Chop potatoes and cover with the wet kale.
- Put your olive oil in the bottom of a large stockpot and bring to medium heat. Throw in your garlic, then add your chopped leeks. Stir once a minute, and keep on the heat for about 5 minutes.
- Throw your leafy greens and potatoes into the pot. Add in your dry (veggie) boullion cube now too.
- Add enough water so that vegetables are floating a bit. For a stockpot filled with vegetables, add about 3 cups of water. If it's 2/3 full, try adding 2 cups of water. You don't want to throw any water away, as there will be lots of nutrients in this water once the veggies have boiled in it.
- Bring pot to a boil and let simmer (a gentle boil) for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Remove from heat and let cool slightly - especially if you will mix in a blender
- use a hand mixer or a blender to puree the soup completely. You'll now add in the wet bouillon, any fresh herbs and just enough milk to bring a creaminess to the soup. This is now the time to add in any previously-cooked veggies to the soup.
- Place pot back on the stove and bring to a boil and then immediately shut off. Serve hot.
- If your soup is quite wet, and so you cannot add milk you could either boil the soup for another 15 minutes with the lid off to get rid of some of the water; then add your milk. Or, serve with a dollop of sour cream, which when stirred in will make the soup very creamy.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dinner Planner for Week of March 29th

This week's weather report is full of rain, so for us, that typically means lots of soups and warmer meals.

MONDAY Baked salmon (rubbed with 1/2 tsp mayo), brown rice and broccoli [lunch: leftover homemade pasta shells with turkey bolognese and kale]
TUESDAY Rosemary lamb with pita and greek salad [lunch: leftover broccoli added to Amy's Lentil Vegetable soup, w/ multigrain toast]
WEDNESDAY Pork tenderloin with mixed frozen veggies and butternut squash soup
[lunch: leftover greek salad with chicken salad sandwich]
THURSDAY Veggie pizza (we buy Dr. Oetker's Spinaci) with sauteed shrimp and salad greens [lunch: leftover soup, leftover pork sandwich with spinach leaves and pesto]
FRIDAY Japanese chicken curry with carrots, potatoes, and fresh cucumber slices [lunch: shrimp salad with hard-boiled egg and crackers and cheese]

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Snack of the Day: Carob Bars

I modified a recipe I found online and we're gobbling it up. I felt the original had too much sweetener in it; after all, carob powder is pretty sweet on its own. I also wanted a crunchier texture and felt that just plain oats was too boring/limiting for this type of snack. This is now a recipe that you can vary each time you make it, and is an inexpensive way to make homemade granola bars. The Bug is proudly saying "I made it", and it's true, she helped measure out and add the ingredients when the pot was no longer on the stove.

Rich Carob Bars

- 1/3 cup milk
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup carob powder
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup peanut butter, or almond or cashew
- 1 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
- 1 1/2 cup your favourite low-sugar crunchy cereal (Bran nuts, Fibre 1), I used Kashi GO LEAN which is definitely not sweet (not the Crunch version)

1. In a saucepan over medium heat, add milk and butter until melted. Then add in carob powder and honey and whisk together with a fork. Bring this to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes. It will resemble molasses.

2. Remove saucepan from heat, and add vanilla and the nut butter.
3. Now add in the dry ingredients and stir well to combine. Spread evenly into a greased 8 x 8 inch pan. Use a piece of parchment, foil or whatever you used to grease the pan to pat down the top your bars so that they are flat.
4. Chill and eat!

Most homemade granola-type bars need to be kept in the fridge because they don't contain the same stabilising and preserving agent that commercial bars do. Cut them into squares and store in the fridge in snack bags so they're easy to pop in your lunch, or your mouth.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dinner Planner for week of March 21

This week's Dinner Menu is all about using up what's in my pantry. We've got a lot of stuff in the fridge and freezer (bought when items we like went on sale) and it's now time to start using it.

MONDAY Roasted garlic and Asiago fresh pasta from Old Country with leftover roasted chicken and rapini, in olive oil and garlic sauce.
TUESDAY [lunch: salmon salad from the weekend and leftover celeriac soup] Homemade beef burgers, with boiled rapini and asparagus
WEDNESDAY [lunch: hamburger patty with salad] Pan-seared haddock with kale and Annie's Naturals Whole Wheat macaroni and cheese
THURSDAY [lunch: kale mac n' cheese] Chicken strips homemade purple sweet potatoes and fresh veggies (note: cook Butternut squash in oven)
FRIDAY Whole wheat gnocchi, spinach and butternut squash in turkey bolognese sauce

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dinner Planner for Week of March 14th

I'm starting a new feature called Dinner Planner which will list my own Dinner Menu Planning for each week. To cut down on grocery costs I've been planning weekly dinner menus on the weekend based on what's arrived in my vegetable bin and what's on sale at my local grocers. I try to make two or three meals out of what I cook by making extra some nights, such as grilling an extra chicken breast to cut up and use in pasta the next day.

Hopefully this will give you some ideas about how to come up with a variety of nutritious meals from week to week. I always have some form of protein on the plate with starch taking a much smaller role. Starches are always whole-grain. With my family's meals, I always ensure the vegetable portion takes up a third or more of the space on our plates.

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday - Roast chicken with purple potatoes and collard greens
Monday - Make your own pizzas with whole wheat pita and leftover chicken, bell peppers, olives, artichoke hearts, tomatoes and cheese [lunch: chicken salad on multigrain, green salad]
Tuesday - Snapper with basil butter, brown rice, asparagus, fresh tomato slices with basil leaves and olive oil
Wednesday - Free range ground beef meatballs with whole wheat spaghetti and red chard [lunch: egg salad sandwich and asparagus steamed in silicone steamer at work]
Thursday - Turkey dogs and leek and pea soup [lunch: last night's pasta with added green peas]
Friday - Veggie stir-fry with bell peppers and snow peas [lunch: turkey weiners and brown beans and raw veggies and dip]

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Free Java Won't Buy My Loyalty

McDonald's is offering free coffee for the first two weeks of March and I took the bait the other morning. Their coffee isn't bad. Their cups are a bit odd. Doesn't it look like the cup is smiling up at you? I feel a bit odd locking lips with my cup each time I take a swig.

I suppose the idea is that if they're going to rival Starbucks and others for your morning coffee dollars, they need folks to know that they have good coffee. And they seem to. But I want to choose my milk, and have an option besides white sugar to sweeten my coffee. Also, I know that McD's is trying to "healthy up" to win back customers who've been conscious of their waistlines. But even their breaded chicken breast nuggets and healthy salads are not enough for me to want to really eat there. I can find better fast food. Not to mention, there are plenty of local businesses to support with less contentious histories.

While I appreciate the campaign and I did enjoy the coffee (though not the guilt I felt slinking out of there), I think I'll stick with my favourite choices: Starbucks, Hazelmere Organic beans, and the little Portuguese cafe up the street on weekends.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dish of the Day: Kale Bake


This scrumptious recipe goes out to my good friend Jen C!

Recipe for Kale Bake

Serves four as a side dish
1 large bunch kale, stems removed and washed in a large bowl of water; make sure leaves are ripped into small pieces
1 large bunch of fresh spinach chopped and washed 2 times in a large bowl of water, or 1 block frozen spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 eggs
¼ cup of whole milk
1/3 cup sharp cheese, grated or chopped
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the water comes to a boil, add the kale and boil for 4-5 minutes. If using fresh spinach, add this in the last 1 minute of boiling time. If using frozen spinach, add at the same time as the kale.
2. Transfer to a colander, rinse with cold water, then drain and squeeze out as much water as possible. Using a sharp knife and fork, ensure the greens are chopped into small pieces, not clumped together, or they will not mix well with the eggy mixture.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Generously oil or butter a 8” x 8” glass pan or glass pie dish.
4. Beat the eggs with the milk in a bowl, and then stir in the cooked vegetables, herbs, and cheese. Add in 1 Tbsp of the olive oil and then salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and scrape it all into the baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top, and drizzle on the remaining olive oil.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until firm and starting to brown on the top. Serve hot or warm.
This will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Adapted from Martha Shulman

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Portion Control: What's a proper serving look like?

By now, most people know that they should be eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. But what does that actually look like? And what is a portion of protein? Is it different if it's animal or vegetable protein? How much should we eat at each meal?

Here's a website that clearly shows you what these items need to look like on your plate, and gives many examples of proper portion sizes. When we read labels at the grocery store, we see serving sizes but don't often know what those sizes would look like.

If you look around on WebMD's Portion Control Plate, you will see examples of typical serving sizes. Sure that cake looks none too evil according to the label, but that's only if you eat a piece of cake the size of a deck of cards. I usually take bites that are the size of a deck of cards. And especially look at the Grains section for a visual on what a typical serving of pasta looks like. It's a baseball, not a football. This means that when you have a large dinner plate of pasta, you are exceeding the recommended serving size by about 300%.

Companies have been making ever larger portions while only posting rather modest serving sizes on their labels. Look at this gigantic cinnamon bun above. I just had to snap a photo of it; it was ginormous! I am a tall woman with fairly large hands and this bun was about the size of my head. Whomever bought that bun likely did not eat it in several modest portions. It would be eaten at one sitting, just like all those enormous muffins folks buy at Starbucks, McDonald's and everywhere else nowadays.

This means that even if we're reading labels, we are probably getting fatter by consuming far more calories than we think we are. It pays to eat a moderate amount of food: better for your digestion, better for your fat cells, and better on your pocketbook. Unless you're an athlete, you don't need enormous amounts of food at one sitting. And if you're reading this blog, it's pretty likely that you know where your next meal is coming from, so it's very unnecessary to stuff oneself at each meal. Make sure that you read your labels and understand how much food they refer to, before putting it on your plate.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Eating for Heart Health; Are You Up for the Challenge?

One of yesterday's health headlines caught my attention: "Heart Strategy Could Save Canada Billions". The article goes on to explain that the Conference Board of Canada and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada have released a Heart Health strategy that demonstrates how to reduce the incidence of stroke and heart disease between now and the year 2020.

What are their recommendations? They seem ridiculously obvious:
- reduce smoking
- Increase the number of Canadian children and adults eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables
- Increase the number of Canadian children and adults who are physically active each day
- decrease obesity rates

If March's federal budget approves money for this strategy which was proposed last year, I hope we will see a lot of healthy changes, such as new food labelling laws which show what's actually inside processed foods so that people ca nmake informed decisions. But real change starts at home, doesn't it? When we go to the grocery store, we have to read what's on the labels of any processed food (i.e. anything besides meat, fruit or fruits and vegetables). We also have to get better at eating 5 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. This is tough! I thought I did a good job, and consider myself to have a pretty good appetite. But I took inventory of what I ate yesterday which was only:
2 servings of whole grains
2 servings of fruit
3 servings of vegetables
2 servings of dairy
2 servings of protein

This is actually not very much food for someone my height, age and level of activity, which explains why I am often snacking before bed. Most importantly, this is not enough fruits and veggies; it falls just on the edge of the recommended 5-10 servings. I can do better; I just need to put my mind to it. We all can!

I challenge you to take stock of what you're eating for a couple of days to see what you're taking in. Check out the Canada Food Guide for more information on what constitutes a serving of each type of food. I'm not a huge fan of the Food Guide, which considers apple juice (boiled, processed, sugary syrup separated from its natural fibres) to be a serving of fruit. I also don't like that they still recommend a diet that's mostly starches and complex carbohydrates. However, it's a good place to go to get a clear picture of what "eating 5 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day" really means.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Organic Groceries Deliver Inspiration

We've finally signed up for Spud, a home delivery grocery company which features a lot of local organic foods. This means that each week we will have fresh, organic produce delivered to our home, and I'll need to come up with ways to cook with it.

Tonight I took a prepared Asiago and Artichoke dip and added half a bag of fresh spinach which I'd boiled for a minute, then chopped and squeezed to get rid of the water. I popped it in the microwave for 30 seconds and we ate this with sliced red peppers, carrots and tortilla chips.

The main involved a shrimp ring I found on sale at our regular grocery store. With tails removed I added them to a frypan full of chopped green onions, garlic, red pepper and fresh crimini mushrooms, in a little olive oil.

I can't argue that we'll be saving the planet with home delivery of groceries; after all, I usually walk to the grocery store. But it's nice to have fresh food just appear on your doorstep, without having to lug it home, or stand in line to pay. Most of all, the weekly harvest box of assorted fresh, seasonal vegetables are ones I wouldn't normally choose, so I'll get a chance to try out some new and different dishes. This little tub of food is going to give me a whole lotta inspiration!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dish of the Day: Nachos


For the Golden Globes, we wanted to eat in front of the TV and have an easy meal. Nachos were a perfect solution, and a nice cool weather meal.

Recipe for Oven Nachos
- half a package of nachos (try Que Pasa made with good oils and low in sodium)
- no more than 1 cup of shredded cheese
- 2 small bell peppers diced
- handful of cherry or grape tomatoes chopped
- handful of chopped green onions
- 1/2 package Yves Veggie Ground Round (Mexican or Original) or 1 cup cooked ground beef or turkey

Oven to 350. Spread all ingredients on a baking sheet and place in oven for about 10 minutes or until cheese melts.
Serve with chopped avocado, salsa, sour cream and fresh chopped cilantro or parsley. Eat while it's warm. The above amounts serves 3.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Should You Eat Powdered Greens?

I often get this question: "What about those greens drinks? Should I buy them?" Of course, my answer is usually: it depends.

It depends on:
- which type of "greens drink" you're talking about
- how often you are drinking them
- why you are drinking them?
- when are you drinking them?

The best scenario is to choose a good product, use it occasionally to boost your vitamin and mineral intake, drink it away from meals, as a snack, and heaven forbid! don't mix with any sugar, and only a minimal amount of juice.

There are many powdered greens products out there: such Greens+, Berry Greens, Triple Greens and many others. These are typically freeze-dried, powdered green vegetables and may include "superfoods" such as algae, spirulina, wheatgrass (baby wheat stems). The powder can be added to juice or water and drinking it supposedly gives you an energy and nutrient boost. Some juice companies, such as Odwalla, or Happy Planet's bottled products or Booster Juice or Jugo Juice stores will add freeze-dried, powdered greens to their drinks.

It's always better to eat fresh, whole foods such as broccoli or kale instead of consuming their powdered form, because then you're getting all of the benefits of the food, especially the fibre. However, food science is now pretty sophisticated, and a freeze-dried vegetable can contain almost as many nutrients as the fresh version. Some companies, such as New Chapter, use organic fresh fruits and vegetables and ferment them before freeze-drying to ensure that all the nutrients in the food are fully available before drying them.
What's the fermentation all about? Foods like spinach and kale contain enzymes which prevent their vitamins and minerals from being digested and absorbed unless they are broken down by cooking/fermenting, or eaten in combination with other foods such as dairy. Of course, once you cook a vegetable, you immediately lose some of its vitamins. Fermentation offers a great way to unlock and preserve a food's nutrients.

What about these superfoods? I personally don't like eating any of these green "foods" which humans wouldn't normally eat in nature. Spirulina, wheatgrass and blue-green algae may be mean, green and packed with vitamins, but I shudder with nausea when I drink them. I prefer to stick with greens products, such as Berry Green, which don't include these unusual foods. On the other hand, the company that makes the Greens+ line offers flavours and variations for everyone, as long as you don't mind the taste of spirulina.

While I really appreciate the convenience of juice stores like Jugo Juice, I find that like most companies, they'll sell you cheap ingredients to make maximum profits. Sometimes their fruits are not very ripe, but when they're frozen, and tucked away in a hidden freezer, it's hard for the customer to know. Until you taste them that is. So that's why they mask the flavour of unripe fruits with ice cream or "sorbet" as they like to call it. If you go to a juice store, try to get fresh juices, made from vegetables instead of fruit, and make sure they do not add ice cream or any other sugars.

Eating greens powder could be similar to eating the equivalent of up to 2 servings of organic green vegetables and superfoods. A small amount contains a large amount of vitamins and minerals. And it's a pretty convenient way to get these nutrients: at work, on the go, or first thing on the morning. But remember: a greens drink is not as good as eating those fresh veggies, so if you are able to prepare delicious leafy greens, you should do so, and not depend on powdered substitutes. I'm envious of people who have the time to cook nutritious meals filled with fresh, organic vegetables, because I'm not one of them. As long as you don't depend on your greens drink as the main way to get "vegetables" into your body, then you're doing your body good.

Again, if you want to drink your greens, be sure to choose a greens product that has a wide variety of leafy green and cruciferous vegetables, don't mix it with more than 200 ml of juice, and don't rely on it as a crutch to preparing and eating lots of fresh vegetables each day.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dish of the Day: Super Fast Lentil Soup

Coming home the other day I realised we had practically no food in the house. None except frozen pizza, ugh! So I grabbed a couple of things from the little corner store and made this soup to accompany our spinach and cheese pizza.

Hearty Lentil Soup Recipe - Makes 2 bowls
- 1 can lentils
- handful of grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 2 green onions
- 1/2 bouillon cube
- handful of leafy green vegetables - such as bok choy leaves, spinach, kale, or chard leaves - shredded into slivers
- oregano, lemon juice, ground pepper

Into a soup pot on medium heat, throw the chopped white stalks of 2 green onions, and halved tomatoes in with 1 tsp olive oil. Saute for 3 minutes, then add 1/4 tsp oregano flakes. Add in 1 tsp lemon juice and stir for 1 minute.
Open a small can of cooked lentils (8 oz) and rinse fully. Add lentils to pot along with 1/2 a can-ful of water. Add your greens and 1/2 bouillon cube (chicken or veggie) and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure that the greens get cooked. Remove from heat, add in another tsp of lemon juice, 1 Tbsp chopped green tops of onion and ground pepper to taste. Voila - fresh soup!