Category Archives: Healthy food

Vivian’s downtown Toronto lunch picks

After a cycle class recently at the Toronto Athletic Club I found myself stepping in and giving food recommendations to an out of town guest who needed some healthy food soon. That gave me the idea to share my picks for lunch in the downtown core.

My favourite spot is the hot table at Mcewan for the variety of absolutely delicious food. It is the best self serve hot/cold bar I have tried yet. I like to fill a box with whatever catches my fancy. Their jerk chicken is the best! I much prefer getting there before 12pm, as the selection is best with a shorter line to pay. As  lunch hour goes on, the selection dwindles.

TD Centre 66 Wellington St W http://mcewan.mcewangroup.ca

I have really enjoyed Greenbox ever since it was introduced to me by a friend this summer. The grab and go boxed salads are delicious. I also enjoy the variety of bowls they serve. The recipes are developed by the owner and I recently tried the hazelnut energy ball, all very good!

200 University Ave https://greenboxexpress.ca

Assembly Chefs Food Hall is another interesting option. Think of it as a food court with great food. Little Dailo is always a good choice

111 Richmond St W https://www.assemblychefshall.com

Forno Cultura has the most delicious cookies and sweets(I love the pistachio amaretti and apricot pastry) The grab and go sandwiches are hearty and tasty

First Canadian Place 100 King St W https://www.fornocultura.com/#first-canadian-place

I also enjoy Copper Branch as an option for tasty vegan food. The fries are particularly good here.

199 Bay St https://eatcopperbranch.com

Recipe: Lemon Poppy Seed Mini Muffins

A classmate at school introduced me to these delicious lemony bites, a healthy treat. It took some repeated experiments and here is the recipe I like most:

2 eggs

Juice of 2 lemons or slightly more, depending on size and juice

2-3 tablespoons honey

Zest of 1 lemon

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, lemon juice, honey and coconut oil. In a small bowl, mix together coconut flour, poppy seeds, baking soda and lemon zest. Add flour mixture to liquid ingredients, mix with a wooden spoon until blended. Spoon into a silicone mini muffin pan. Bake for around 20 min or until tops of muffins are light gold. Allow to cool and enjoy. Optimal lemon flavour is usually the next day. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

 

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