Tag Archives: Making Life Good recommends

Recipe: Banana chocolate chip walnut bites

I love sweet treats and sugar. I may the only fitness and wellness professional to publicly share this feeling. There is a spectrum of healthy sweet treats and indulgences. I have been working with some gluten free banana bread recipes lately and decided to make these coconut flour bites in a silicone mini muffin mold. There is a much higher likelihood of success in gluten free baking if smaller pans are used. I have enjoyed these little treats that are low in sugar and high on taste as a bit of fuel on the go to keep me going between meals.

3 very ripe bananas, mashed

2 eggs

2-3 tablespoons melted coconut oil

1 tablespoon or less honey or to taste

1/2 cup coconut flour

2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips

2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together bananas, eggs, coconut oil and honey. Add coconut flour. Stir together with a wooden spoon just until blended. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts. Spoon batter into mini muffin mold. Bake approximately 20 min or until tops are slightly brown. Cool and enjoy. Keeps in an airtight container for a few days refrigerated.

Taste Experiences of 2015

There were many awesome taste experiences throughout the year in 2015. Here they are in no particular order:

Baklava from Patisserie Royale-after reading a glowing review in the Globe and Mail for the fine pastries at Patisserie Royale, I insisted our family go and buy a box right away. These pastries have become a new family tradition and we all particularly love the pistachio royale for the layers of crispy lightly honey soaked buttery deliciousness. http://patisserieroyale.com

Squash soup at Foxley-Just as the weather started to turn cool, the special at Foxley one night was squash soup with coconut milk and it was so incredibly delicious, I had to make it again myself! I am developing the recipe to share. 207 Ossington Avenue, Toronto

Harira soup in Morocco-I tried to have many samples of harira, a traditional Moroccan soup while in Marrakech this year, but didn’t manage to have as much as I liked to see different styles. However, I did develop a vegetarian recipe I quite enjoy. http://www.vivianlaw.ca/recipe-moroccan-chickpea-and-lentil-soup-harira/

Dinner at Al Fassia-this restaurant run by Moroccan women comes highly recommended by several sources and the dining experience is fabulous. From a delicious cocktail to all the plates of extremely tasty moroccan food. Must try if ever in Marrakech.

Lemon mousse at Cava-We first tried this dessert late summer and declared it a winner with the flavours of tart lemon mixed with a little jalapeño jelly, heavenly! www.cavarestaurant.ca 

String Chaat at Pukka-a friend introduced me to this salad early this year, as she thought I may be able to recreate it. I was able to identify the delicious threads of apple, carrot, cabbage and rice crisps in a nicely spiced dressing. However, I have only gone back to Pukka to eat it again and would recommend it everyone. www.pukka.ca

Big Mac bao at Dailo-These mini asian style ‘big macs’ are the delightful work of chef Nick Liu, who serves these at the upstairs bar of his great restaurant Dailo. They come complete with special sauce and mini frites. http://dailoto.com

Banh Mi at Baguette and Co-These delicious vietnamese sandwiches were discovered by chance when we took our relatives to High Park and the little sign of this sandwich shop caught my eye. We later stopped for some sandwiches and they are fantastic! The owner explained that their specially sourced bread makes all the difference. 1643 Dupont Street, Toronto

Laurent Perrier Rose-One night in June, a couple friends and I attended a tasting event of sparkling wine. One standout for us was the Laurent Perrier rose for it’s lovely pink sparkly delicious enjoyment!

Andale salad-I needed lunch while waiting for a flight at the San Francisco airport and was pleasantly surprised by the Andale salad, which consisted of slow roasted chicken, black beans, avocado, salsa, lettuce, cilantro, lime, mango and cheese in a tortilla bowl. This salad left such an impression, I have started constructing my own version ever since I had it in May.

Carnitas bowl at Cantina Grill-Another airport food discovery. While waiting for a connection at Denver airport, I stopped in for an early lunch at Cantina Grill and just didn’t know what to order. The lady behind the counter suggested I have the carnitas bowl and was it ever a great recommendation! The mix of romaine lettuce, rice, pinto beans, carnitas, cilantro, jalapeño, lime was the perfect satisfying lunch. Rick Bayless has a great technique to make carnitas on your own. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kATDHi2M32Y This all in one bowl is one of my favourite food discoveries of 2015, found at an airport!

Apple Tart at Chabrol-This is a new discovery and I managed to share an apple tart with friends and family three times within a week. The house made puff pastry is light and crisp underneath layers of thin sliced perfect sweet tart apple topped with lovely calvados sabayon. Truly the best ever and masterful work by chef Doug Penfold. 90 Yorkville, Toronto

 

Step up your Indoor Workouts

Mid to late November is the perfect time to organize and step up our indoor workouts. I notice that time seems to speed up during these last few weeks of the year. My advice is to consciously step up your exercise routine now to prevent an unnecessary new years resolution.

I must admit to low attendance at the gym myself since I have been running outdoors for over 8 months and so enjoy being outside. It is a major adjustment for me to create an indoor work out routine now. I feel such resistance to going inside to work out it seems ridiculous, considering I am a professional fitness trainer! However, this is the purpose of this piece, to share motivation to get moving more at this crucial time of year-it is absolutely necessary!

Make an appointment with yourself for yourself to head to the gym now. Your body will thank you, as you are guaranteed to feel better in every way and your waistline will expand less or remain the same over the holidays. Plus, you can enjoy yourself more while you are taking care of yourself, and start the new year with the right habits already in place. Making Life Good recommends stepping up your workouts in November and really enjoying the holiday season!

Relax and improve your posture

A relaxing pose that helps improve your posture

A relaxing pose that helps improve your posture

Posture is a concern and priority for many people. My friend Dr Blessyl says your posture is like a physical calling card you exhibit to the world. Stand tall and feel confident. Regular life has us sitting at a desk, driving a car, looking down at a cell phone, which tends to round our shoulders forward, which easily creates tension in the neck and shoulder areas and can also impede our breathing.

The relaxing pose featured in the photo above is borrowed from restorative yoga and can be practiced anywhere you can lie down with a rolled towel placed across your upper back underneath your armpits. If you find that your neck is extending back too far back or you feel uncomfortable, try placing a small folded towel underneath your head to improve your alignment. You can also bend your knees and have your feet flat on the floor if your lower back is not comfortable. The important point is to feel comfortable and at ease.

Just about everyone I have taught this pose to finds it relaxing and beneficial, as the position reverses shoulders that are rounded forward by opening through the chest, heart and arms, which also affects the heart and lung meridians according to the traditional chinese medicine map of the body. Physically being in an open hearted posture helps us to be more in tune with ourselves, since the heart can be considered the centre of our personality. In addition, the gentle back bend in the thoracic and lumbar spine helps the accessory muscles of breathing to relax, which can bring our breath pattern to a more optimal relaxed, effortless state.

Taking the time to relax in this position can also benefit your posture through gentle stretching across the chest, shoulders and arms and relaxation of the traps and neck-areas in which so many of us experience tension. Since this position is comfortable, you can easily remain in the pose for more than 5 minutes or as long as you wish. With consistent practice, you may experience improved breathing and posture, which makes life good!

 

A Taste of Morocco: Orange, date and mint

On a recent trip to Morocco, I noticed that there was an abundance of oranges. Seville orange trees, fantastic fresh orange juice at breakfast, and offerings of sliced orange topped with cinnamon as a dessert option (which I did not order, as pastries beckoned). Dates were also widely available in many varieties. Mint tea was a beverage of choice for refreshment of the palate and to aid digestion. Orange, date and mint, tastes of Morocco.

Looking through recipes when I came home, one that immediately appealed to me was a date and orange salad in Plenty More, and of course it was almost featured in an episode on Morocco. I made my own version of the salad with sugar snap peas, orange, dates and mint, which was tasty, but I felt I would prefer the orange, date and mint on its own…possibly as a healthy dessert

I really enjoyed the pure flavour combination of fresh orange, chopped dates, fresh mint and a dash of cinnamon as a refreshingly delicious dessert. Here are the preparation guidelines for a single serving (multiply as needed for additional servings)

One orange

1-2 dates, chopped

5-6 fresh mint leaves

dash of cinnamon

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Slice the top and bottom off the orange, then remove the skin following the curve of the orange. Slice orange across the segments and arrange on a plate. Top with chopped dates, sprinkle cinnamon to taste, then top with chopped fresh mint, and enjoy.

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Cook beans from dry, skip the cans

Beans were a food I feared for a long time for their gaseous properties. On many occasions when I did eat them, they did not sit well in my stomach. Over the past few years in exploring more plant based foods, I got into the habit of cooking beans myself, because I found the texture to be much better and the beans were much easier to digest when I cooked them myself. In addition, I save the use of a can in doing my small part for the earth for much improved taste and texture- Making Life Good definitely recommends cooking your own beans!

Cooking dry beans is easy. The only skill required is ability to observe boiling water. The first step is to purchase dry beans of your choice from a retailer that sells a good volume of beans, since beans with their long shelf life can get old and less pleasant to eat. Once you have brought your beans home, take 1-2 cups of dry beans and soak in a large bowl of water overnight.

Rinse the soaked beans in a strainer. Place beans in a large pot, cover with an ample amount of water, say 2 inches or so. Bring to a boil for 2-5 minutes, lower to a simmer and cook until beans are the desired tenderness. You can save the bean cooking liquid to add flavour to soups if you wish. Strain the beans and rinse with water if desired. Your beans are now ready to be added to any soup, stew, chili, salad or any other recipe to enjoy.

dry white beans before soaking and cooking then ready to eat after with just a little work

dry white beans before soaking and cooking then ready to eat after with just a little work

 

 

Recipe: Dandelion Greens with Lemon

I developed a surprise liking for dandelion greens last summer in Italy. I ordered the sauteed greens on the menu at a pizzeria, and a plate of greenish grey cooked leafy greens arrived on a plate smothered in olive oil. The unappealing looks were deceiving, as what appeared to be overcooked greens were absolutely delicious. I looked through the leafy greens available at the grocery store and determined I had eaten cicoria, Italian dandelion. I bought the cicoria and tried to lightly saute them with garlic and was not able to replicate the deliciousness I had at the local pizzeria.

I was reluctant to try dandelion greens at home, as they looked a bit different, and I got over my reservations. I also learned that they need to be lightly boiled in salted water to mellow the bitter flavour. Squeezing the cooked greens removes excess water and allows for a better saute. Dandelion greens can be delicious without overcooking, the secret is to be generous with the olive oil and lemon. In addition to being delicious, dandelion greens are a source of vitamins A, C and K, iron and calcium.

Recipe:

1 bunch dandelion greens, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 clove of garlic, sliced

Olive oil to your taste, probably a minimum of one tablespoon

salt and pepper to taste

lemon juice to taste

In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add dandelion greens and return to a boil for a minute or two. Rinse with cool water in a colander. Once greens are cool, squeeze excess water with your hands.

In a medium pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until it starts to brown slightly. Add dandelion greens and cook until warmed through and thoroughly coated with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Yoga is a Work In (continual practice)

I practice some form of yoga for at least a few minutes every day. Any time that you bring awareness to your breathing, your body and the present moment is yoga-connecting with yourself. I view yoga as a work in continual practice, as opposed to a work out.

A work out consists of physical activity that rhythmically moves the body, works the muscles and can elevate the heart rate as the pace of breathing increases-energy moves outwardly as fuel within the body is mobilized and utilized. Yoga consists of postures to be held with focus, even while moving and flowing from one posture to the another-energy is directed inwardly in order focus and be mindful. If your body is a vehicle of sorts, exercise and workouts are like running your car and yoga or other forms of mindful movement is a tune up to ensure that whole system is running smoothly.

Practicing yoga can improve your body and your health, but it is not a work out. Consider it a work in continual practice of tuning into the wisdom your body, so you can watch the benefits unfold. Join me outdoors or at the gym for a work out.

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Recipe: Roasted Sweet Potato with Lemon Maple Dressing

Sweet potatoes are supposedly a ‘good’ carbohydrate with a lower glycemic index that most nutrition people will say is a healthy choice. However, I have never liked sweet potatoes very much as a carbohydrate choice on my plate, even as fries, as I generally do not find them to be satisfying. I have experienced some looks of incredulity amongst health conscious eaters when I announce I don’t really like sweet potatoes. I am changing my tune with this recipe I discovered  and made repeatedly the past 3 weeks. I was going to bring this dish for a potluck and it was so delicious I had to keep it for myself!!! This recipe caught my eye in the Ottolenghi cookbook and it is a form of sweet potato I will gladly eat anytime. I believe what converted me was the incredible blend of tastes and textures created with the maple syrup, lemon, sherry vinegar, raisins, chili, parsley, cilantro and pecans that elevate the sweet potato.

The tastiest sweet potatoes, with lemon maple dressing, parsley, cilantro, raisins and pecans

The tastiest sweet potatoes, with lemon maple dressing, parsley, cilantro, raisins and pecans

Roasted Sweet Potato with Lemon Maple Dressing

2-3 sweet potatoes, diced, leave the skin on

Olive oil, salt and pepper to taste

For dressing:

3 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of 1-2 lemons

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

‘Garnish’:

2 green onions, chopped

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1/4 tsp chili flakes

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a rimmed baking dish, toss diced sweet potatoes with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands. Roast sweet potatoes in the oven for approximately 30 min, stirring halfway through to ensure even cooking. Remove from heat before the potatoes become too soft, they require some bite to them to hold up to the dressing.

In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, maple syrup, sherry vinegar, cinnamon, ginger and olive oil. Adjust taste to your liking, as it is best a little tangy. Set aside.

Place chopped green onion in a large bowl. Add the roasted sweet potatoes while they are still hot, and mix well with dressing. Stir in chopped parsley, cilantro, chili flakes, raisins and pecans. Enjoy warm or at room temperature at a later time.

 

 

Recipe: Party Hummus by the Naked Label

Hummus is a snack I like to enjoy occasionally. There are many opinions on what needs to go into hummus to make it great. I posted a highly purist version without tahini a couple years ago. It took me a while to get to this recipe, as I have tested and absorbed so many hummus recipes over the years. I met the creator of this amazing hummus recipe, Briana Santoro by chance in Antigua early this year. She is a nutrition expert who has compiled a great cookbook Get Naked in The Kitchen with nutrition education, healthy recipes  and most importantly the book has my endorsement for great taste! Briana’s video here and others on her site are fun and highly educational:

http://thenakedlabel.com/blog/2014/03/24/best-hummus-recipe/

I watched this video a while ago and finally got around to making the hummus from memory today. It is so delicious I had to write this up right away and call it party hummus! Briana shares some secret ingredients in the video above. This is my version, hopefully I recalled her secret ingredients correctly (watch her video to know for sure) and I’ll add my chickpea and hummus strategies .

I stock only dry beans in my kitchen, as canned beans seem to give me digestive issues, and beans you cook yourself have better taste and texture. Chickpeas can be a bit tricky sometimes to get the right tenderness without losing the skins. Soaking overnight with baking soda really improves the cooking time and texture of chickpeas. In addition, the technique of blending the tahini with lemon juice first makes an extra smooth hummus in my experience.

Party Hummus from theNakedLabel.com

Soak 1 cup of dry chickpeas in a large bowl of water and 1 tsp of baking soda overnight or for 8 hours plus.

Rinse chickpeas, place in a large pot, and cover with plenty of water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook chickpeas until tender, 20-60 minutes or more, depending on your chickpeas. Rinse chickpeas, set aside.

3 tablespoons tahini

juice of one lemon

juice of one orange

1-2 cloves garlic, chopped

3 cups cooked chickpeas

1 tablespoon olive oil

1-2 tablespoons tamari

cumin and paprika to taste

salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, blend together tahini with orange and lemon juice. Add garlic, chickpeas, olive oil and tamari process until smooth. Season with cumin, paprika, salt and pepper, process until combined. Adjust seasoning to your taste, enjoy the hummus with crackers, veggies, or anything else you like for yourself or a party!