Category Archives: Healthy food

Recipe: Creamy Hummus

Hummus is a great healthy snack to have on hand at anytime. Being so busy balancing school and work, I had to set a goal to prepare food for myself, otherwise it is a diet of too much pizza and other takeout. Hummus is really helpful to have on hand as a satisfying small meal.

Hummus can easily be purchased at any grocery store, however, homemade from scratch is so much better. The key is cooking the chickpeas yourself, which delivers superior taste and texture. I have no idea how to make tahini, so I buy jars of tahini. I have no attachment to organic tahini, I use both types. In my experience so far, the tahini that is made from imported ingredients and sold in ethnic shops makes for a smoother hummus.

Here is the original recipe that inspired me to write and share another hummus recipe:
https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/creamy-hummus-with-cumin

Creamy Hummus

For Chickpeas: 1 cup dry chickpeas (soaked overnight in water with 1 tsp baking soda)

2 cloves garlic, jalapeno(whole with top cut off), bay leaf, 1 sprig rosemary(optional)

After chickpeas have been soaked overnight, rinse in a strainer and place chickpeas into a pot with water covering by about 2 inches. Add garlic, jalapeño, bay and rosemary. Bring water and chickpeas to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer until chickpeas are soft, 30-45 min. Discard garlic, jalapeño, bay leaf, and rosemary. Drain and rinse chickpeas, reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid.

For Hummus:

1 clove garlic, slivered

Juice of 1-2 lemons and 1 lime

1/2 cup tahini

Cooked chickpeas(approx 2.5-3 cups)

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp sea salt

Place lemon juice and garlic in food processor and allow garlic to sit in the lemon/lime juice for about 5 min to soften the bite of the raw garlic. Add tahini to lemon juice and garlic, 1/2 of the salt, process until smooth. Add chickpeas, cumin and remaining salt, process until smooth, stopping to scrape sides of the bowl as needed. Check that the texture of the hummus is smooth and creamy. If it seems thick, add a little cooking liquid to improve texture. Adjust salt and or lemon juice to taste, enjoy with crackers, vegetables, in a sandwich or in a bowl as a sauce garnish. Hummus will keep in the fridge for up to a week. This hummus also freezes well.

 

 

 

Bringing your lunch to school or work

School started after Labour Day and this term I need to bring lunch 3 times a week. I can now relate to parents and the difficulty they have with their children in what to put in that lunch box, as I am that picky kid!!! I refuse to eat microwaved food, warm soup in a thermos is unappealing, only some sandwiches are ok, so it seems like there are not many options to bring. Sometimes I don’t feel like prepping food and want a fresh hot meal…there is no such thing around the school, so it is absolutely necessary for me to bring a lunch! I have meditated on the lunch idea and have the following observations and suggestions:

-Involve the child and allow them to choose the container in which they bring and eat their food in. I find this has a huge impact on how appealing I find my lunch, since my ideal is a white plate. However, there are transport and weight considerations when bringing a lunch, so the right container makes it all better. There is also the lunch box or bag- I have a Spongebob lunch bag

-Ask them to choose what leftover dinner foods they find appealing for their lunch. Food that is prepped at dinner time is a timesaver for packing lunch.

-Most importantly, find out what healthy food the child is enthusiastic or excited to eat. Involve them in preparing the food they want to eat. Many will try for pizza and other foods most parents find unhealthy. Those are not options. If you have a picky eater who is an aspiring food critic, it is time they learn some food prep skills. Mom or Dad are not short order cooks!

Here are my current packed lunch ideas that are edible room temperature, and are fairly nutritious to provide energy for focus:

greek salad with romaine lettuce, cherry tomato, cucumber, green onion, fresh oregano, parsley, grilled haloumi cheese, olive oil and lemon juice

roast turkey with kale salad, and roasted sweet potato

quinoa salad with fresh herbs, and green veggies, boiled egg

I also pack fruit and a small sweet treat to round out the meal. Best wishes for lunch prep and healthy eating!

 

 

Recipe: Carrot, mint and date salad

My trip to Morocco was a unique experience in terms of culture and food. I will never forget the meals that came with many plates of salads, one of which was carrot salad. I am not a fan of raw carrots at all. However, once cooked and seasoned, I like carrots enough. This salad is inspired by the salads I had in Morocco and more recently by the opening of my friends’ restaurant Atlas.

5-6 carrots, peeled and sliced thick

1 tablespoon olive oil

sprinkle of cumin to taste

juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon

honey to taste

handful of chopped fresh mint

5-6 pitted dates, chopped

Bring salted water to boil in a medium pot. Add carrots and boil for 6 minutes or until desired tenderness. Drain.

In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, honey and cumin. Add cooked carrots and dates, toss together gently and top with mint. Enjoy slightly warm or at room temperature

Recipe: Banana Chia Pudding

This summer my good friend K offered me a chia pudding cup. I never got around to eating it, so I asked her what it was made with and she said banana. The next time I came across some ripe bananas, I figured I would make my own banana chia pudding. I had full fat coconut milk on hand, so I mashed the banana, added coconut milk and Coconut Dream to make my chia pudding. I swirled in some strawberry jam as sweetener and found a tasty snack, or breakfast or alternative to yogurt. Chia seeds also have the added benefit of aiding digestion by moving through the intestines. I prefer whole chia seeds. However, this week, I showed a client how to make this pudding and found she had only ground chia seeds, so we made pudding with just banana and added coconut water as liquid with a touch of cinnamon plus maple syrup to sweeten. Quite pleasant tasting…

I am not going to include a photo of either forms of pudding as they actually look a bit like barf. Think of chia pudding as an alternative to yogurt or a tasty medicinal digestive aid, so give it a try. This is so easy to make that I will suggest you create your own recipe to suit your tastes:

3 tablespoons whole white chia seeds

1/2-1 whole mashed ripe banana

1/4-1/2 cup coconut milk (from a can)-optional

1/4-1/2 cup non dairy milk of your choice or juice or coconut water

Mash banana in a medium bowl, stir in chia seeds, add liquid to create a pudding like consistency. Refrigerate for an hour or overnight, When ready to serve, stir again and add more liquid for desired consistency. Sweeten with jam, maple syrup or honey. Top with granola, nuts or fruit and enjoy,

Recipe: Shortcakes for summer

I have loved strawberry shortcake since childhood. There are differing versions, spongecake layers versus biscuit like shortcake. I have taken a liking to the simplicity of the biscuit form of strawberry shortcake as a delicious summer treat that happens to be low in sugar. I feel it is best to make your own whipped cream with organic whipping cream. Here are two recipes I make regularly with ease and great results. The first recipe was first seen in the the Globe and Mail from Lucy Waverman many years ago. The second recipe is gluten free adapted from the Coconut Diet Cookbook.

Simple shortcakes

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar, plus a little extra for sprinkling if desired

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup whipping cream

Preheat oven to 400F. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl, mix well. Add whipping cream and stir together with a spoon just until the mixture resembles a ball of dough.

Shape dough into a ball with your hands and press into a disc on a lightly floured surface, flatten to 1/4 inch thickness.

Use a round cutter of your choice (2-3inches) and cut dough into rounds, placing onto a baking sheet. Gather scraps of dough and cut until finished. Brush with tops of the rounds with the dregs of whipping cream and sprinkle with a touch of sugar if desired.

Bake for 20-22 minutes or until tops are golden. Let cool slightly, slice in half and top with whipped cream and strawberries, enjoy!

Makes 4-6 shortcakes depending on the size of cutter you use.

 

 

Coconut Shortcakes (gluten free)

 

1/3 cup melted coconut oil

6 eggs

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

 

Preheat oven to 400F. In a medium bowl, whisk together coconut oil, eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla. Add coconut flour, mix together with a spoon until a batter forms. Pour into muffin tin or silicon baking cups filling just over halfway. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 10-15 minutes before slicing in half, serving with whipped cream and strawberries.

 

 

 

Recipe: Roasted Squash soup

I had some roasted squash soup as a special at Foxley in the fall. It was so delicious, I set out to make some myself the very next day. The recipe has taken some practice and I did ask chef Tom Thai for tips-the key is to rest the squash after it was roasted. The kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass impart such a nice balance with the rich coconut milk above the delicious roasted squash base.

1 buttercup squash

1 butternut squash

1 apple, peeled, cored and diced

1 onion, chopped

2 tablespoons coconut oil

handful of kaffir lime leaves

1 stalk of lemongrass, cut into pieces

4-6 cups vegetable stock

1 can full fat coconut milk

butternut and buttercup squash ready for roasting-2 types add depth of flavour

butternut and buttercup squash ready for roasting-2 types add depth of flavour

Wash the squash in warm water thoroughly. Usually squash are hard to cut through, so I throw them in the oven for 10-15 minutes whole to soften. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (soften up the squash as well).

Cut squash in half, scoop out seeds and rub with a little coconut or olive oil. Roast squash in a baking dish for 45-60 minutes. Leave in oven to ‘rest’ for a couple hours or until cool.

Depending on the softness of the squash, you can scoop out the flesh in chunks or peel the skin and cut into chunks.

In a large pot, heat coconut oil over medium heat and saute the onion and apple until softened. Add the squash, vegetable broth, lime leaves, and lemongrass. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the lime leaves and lemongrass. Puree with an immersion blender. Season with salt and stir in coconut milk until blended. Enjoy!

The Making Life Good weekly shopping list

I recently realized that for all that I have gone on about eating vegetables and fruit, I have yet to share what is involved on a weekly basis to build and maintain this habit. I actually have an unspoken commitment to myself to buy a variety of vegetables and fruit every week. When I travel, this is one of my first tasks upon arriving at my destination if I have a refrigerator at my accommodation and it is a must do as soon as I return home.

What do I typically buy? My good friend Emily taught me years ago that I ought to purchase in season local produce whenever possible (farmers markets are a good way to go). However, if you know me, I do have a predilection for strawberries, especially with some chilled champagne or clotted cream all year round. Most important is getting into the habit of buying and being sure to consume the fresh produce you bring home. Stocking your kitchen with fruits and veggies you enjoy is sure to improve your health by having healthy choices readily available.

Here is a rough list of what I buy on a weekly basis:

Organic lemons

Organic romaine lettuce

organic black kale

watercress

cucumber

grape tomatoes

green onion

avocados

parsley, cilantro

honey crisp apples, blueberries, pomegranate, oranges (winter fruits)

fresh fruits and veggies of the week

fresh fruits and veggies of the week

 

 

 

Recipe: Moroccan chickpea and lentil soup (harira)

I have seen harira soup mentioned a few times in magazines and cookbooks over the years. I tried it for the first time this spring in Morocco and loved it! I wanted to make it at home and was only motivated to do so as the weather started to cool off this fall. The harira I had in Morocco was made with beef, a bit of rice, served with dates and delicious little sweet crispy fried morsels of dough. I decided to make a vegetarian version, as I felt the spicing was bold and well suited to being a vegetarian soup. I also made the soup with fresh turmeric, an ingredient I only learned of when I took a 9 year friend to Caribbean Corner and she picked up the little roots and asked ‘what’s this?’ Fresh turmeric looks like dirty mini pieces of ginger and needs to be grated on a microplane for this soup. Be careful, turmeric leaves persistent yellow stains! If fresh turmeric is not easily available, use the powdered version. Fresh ginger is another key ingredient (powder will work too). Turmeric and ginger both have anti inflammatory properties. It is also best to use chickpeas made from dry, although a can will work if you desire. Serve this delicious soup topped with fresh chopped cilantro and parsley along with some dates…and crispy moroccan morsels…if I could find them!

1 cup dry chickpeas (soaked overnight in water with baking soda, then cooked until tender, see http://www.vivianlaw.ca/cook-beans-from-dry-skip-the-cans/ )

1 cup brown lentils

1 796 ml can diced tomatoes (puree if a smoother textured soup is desired)

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 celery rib, finely chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped

1 small piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped or 1/2 teaspoon powdered

1 small piece of fresh turmeric, finely grated or 1 teaspoon powdered

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pinch saffron

4 cups vegetable broth

pepper and lemon juice to taste

chopped fresh parsley, cilantro and whole dates for serving

In a large soup pot, melt butter and saute onion, celery, jalapeno and ginger over medium heat until softened. Add tomatoes, vegetable broth, lentils and spices. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and add chickpeas. Simmer for 30-40 minutes or until lentils are tender. Adjust salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Enjoy topped with chopped fresh parsley, cilantro and whole dates.

Delicious vegetarian harira soup, dates are essential

Delicious vegetarian harira soup, dates are essential

 

Making Life Good Eating Philosophy

In all my years as a health, fitness, nutrition and wellness professional, having engaging discussions on how to optimize health and well being have always been my priority as an educator. However, I have always felt that telling a person exactly what to eat was a bit beyond my reach, as there is no way I would be able to follow that advice myself, so leading by example has always been my path. We all know that diets do not work in the long term, but every few months a new program is published and the more restrictive it is, the more popular it can become. We seem to like quick fixes in our culture.

There is a way to improve and optimize your health and wellness through healthy eating choices-it requires a daily effort, which may seem like a lot of work depending on your mindset. I am extremely motivated to eat well, because I love food, enjoy eating and being healthy, so I make a conscious effort to do so on a daily basis. After many years of practice and reflection here is the Making Life Good eating philosophy to keep well:

  1. CARE about how, what, when, where and why you eat. This means cultivating a more conscious and positive relationship to food and eating. We eat 20 times a week, give or take, so it is important that we relate well to this part of our life. Having a good appetite means you are ‘really alive’. How do you eat? In a rush, at a leisurely pace, in conflict with making the right choice or in front of the tv? With your hands or a a knife and fork? What is the food you are eating? Can you know where it came from? When are you eating? All day long, at proper meal times, or odd times of day? Where are you eating? At your dining table, in your car, on the street, at your desk? Why are you eating? Hungry? Happy? Bored? For comfort? Socializing? Hopefully to nourish your body and soul.
  2. Be GRACEFUL. This means taking a moment for gratitude before we eat to notice that we have access to nourishing food and to be mindful and conscious while we eat. When you are in a state of grace, the conflict of I should or should not be eating this or that is not part of the picture. Being graceful is also having a sense of humour about food and life. We sure enjoyed this fried chicken on a stick with frosted flakes one time this summer:

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    Some tasty fried chicken on a stick with frosted flakes in the batter!

  3. PREPARE your own food at least once a week to start. I have never wished to impose on anyone’s eating habits, and this is my one exception. If you want to be healthy, you must make it your habit to develop the skill to prepare your own meals, at least sometimes. It is the best way to learn better habits and take care of yourself. Get good at making your favourite breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  4. ENJOY your food by involving all of your senses whenever you eat. Some of us are more visual, some have more of a sense of smell, and others are super tasters. Tune in to what speaks to you. I personally prefer eating on white plates that appear full and when I need to pack a lunch I use a spongebob lunchbox (it makes me smile and kids laugh). Plus, many days I have some idea of what I will be eating, so I look forward to it with much enthusiasm!
  5. EAT REAL FOOD. Once you become more aware and care about what you eat, real food is the most appealing for how it tastes, nourishment and satisfaction. Always best to have vegetables, fruits and the right mix of grains and proteins for you. Minimally processed and packaged real food.
  6. OBSERVE and LISTEN to your body. You are the absolute best judge of what foods work for you and your metabolism, so developing awareness to how your body responds to food you eat is critical to being healthy. Check your energy level, digestion and general well being after every meal to learn what works best for you. This is a daily practice and will help you discern what is best for you to eat.
  7. SHARE food. Eating is a human need that can create great connection with others. I take every opportunity I can to share great food with everyone around me, as it brings me great joy to share delicious experiences.

The practices listed above involve constant learning and work, which is well worth the effort for feeling and looking your best all the time, making life good-

Salad meals…we make our own

I have always wondered how a person could eat a salad for lunch or dinner, as it has always been an unsatisfying meal for me. I have ordered salads from all sorts of restaurants and specialized ‘healthy’ food places to feel disappointment in having a salad as a light lunch, never mind as dinner. A UK trainer friend shared the nutrition and healthy lifestyle tip of learning how to make your favourite food very well as a way of motivating yourself to cook. In my case of having a salad for a meal, the idea always sounded good, but it never worked until I started making lunch salads myself.

After a year of getting into the habit of having salads for lunch on a regular basis, I maintain it is best that you make your own to suit your own tastes, nutritional and digestive needs.  Salads are a great way to enjoy raw foods, in other words, natural, whole foods with the only processing being chopping. Selection of the raw foods makes a difference in digestion and energy levels when you pay attention, as every person is different. Here are some salads I have found be  satisfying meals:

pear arugula salad

Arugula and pear salad

Arugula pear salad with honey, shaved cheese and pecans: The combination of sweet, tart pear with the bite and slight bitterness of arugula is a classic combination. Dress the arugula leaves with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Then top with sliced pear, a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of honey then shaved grana padano cheese and pecans.

mixed green salad with slow cooked chicken, avocado, mango, cilantro and lime

mixed green salad with slow cooked chicken, avocado, mango, cilantro, lime and a sprinkling of string cheese

Mixed green salad with slow cooked chicken and mango: This salad is a fusion of several sources of inspiration. I ate the most delicious Mexican taco salad with slow cooked chicken at the San Francisco airport this year and I came home and wanted to make my own slow cooked chicken right away. Chili infused macadamia oil is a discovery I made in Hawaii a few years ago then mixed together with cilantro and lime from a farmer’s market for a most delicious, fresh salad dressing. This salad of chopped romaine and any other mixed greens on hand, is topped with green onion, sugar snap peas, cucumber, avocado, cilantro. Dressed with salt, pepper, a drizzle of chili infused macadamia oil, a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice, tossed and topped with slow cooked chicken, fresh mango pieces and a sprinkling of string cheese (just happened to have it on hand from a Lebanese store).

Greek salad with grilled halloumi

Greek salad with grilled halloumi

‘Greek’ salad topped with grilled halloumi cheese:

A Greek friend explained to me years ago that a greek salad is dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and oregano. I have taken creative liberty with this concept and my greek salad consists of romaine lettuce (other greens if available), green onion, cucumber, cherry tomato, chopped olives, fresh mint, parsley and oregano, seasoned with salt and pepper, drizzled with olive oil, a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice, tossed and served with grilled halloumi cheese.

I hope the salads I mention above look appealing and inspire you to create your own. What the salads have in common is a slightly longer list of fresh ingredients with flavour and the technique of salting the salad greens first (a key step in bringing out the flavour of the greens), drizzling with oil then citrus juice. Also works the same way with any other type of dressing. The possibilities in making your own salad combinations are unlimited in your choice of greens, other veggies or fruit, protein sources, flavourful  toppings like fresh herbs, cheese, olives, crunchy toppings like nuts or seeds. Enjoy!