Healthy Homemade Banana Protein Bars

As a new mom, I’m all about fast, convenient and satisfying food! I discovered this insanely delicious recipe while very pregnant in full on “nesting mode”, experimenting in the kitchen in the days leading up to my delivery.

Baby girl was over a week late, so there was a lot of time spent distracting myself and making food to fill up our new chest freezer in the garage. Baking healthy delicious treats that were freezer-friendly became somewhat of an obsession! This one is a winning recipe I’m excited to share! High in protein and healthy fats, it will satisfy your hunger AND your sweet tooth – without a sugar crash later.  It’s vegan and gluten free. Make it! You will be happy you did.

Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup gluten free rolled oats, ground into a flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder ( I use Vega or Genuine Health)
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 6 Tbsp water
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9×9 baking tin.
  2. Combine chia seeds with 6 Tbsp water and stir. Set aside and allow it to form a gel-like “chia egg.”
  3. Place rolled oats in a small Magic Bullet or blender and process into a flour.
  4. Now combine the chia egg, oat flour and all remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Mix well. The dough batter will feel thicker than a traditional banana bread dough, closer to a cookie dough consistency.
  5. Spread batter into the greased pan and bake at 350 F for approx 25 minutes until edges start to pull away from the sides.
  6. Allow to cool before cutting into squares! This will take willpower 🙂  Store in a tupperware container in the fridge or freeze in freezer bags for a rainy day!

Healthy Chocolate Peppermint Truffles

Sometimes you need chocolate, and that need gets even more real as the holidays approach! Here’s a healthy truffle recipe that’s easy, delicious and absolutely guilt-free. Think of these as fancy peppermint flavoured “energy balls” to get you through  your holiday to do list.  Vegan, gluten-free and full of fibre and healthy fat to keep  you going all day long. Take a breather and enjoy these little balls of happiness!

Makes 15 to 18 truffles

1 cup pitted dates
1 1/2 cup raw almonds
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon organic peppermint extract (not mint extract, peppermint is the way to go)
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup unsweetened cacao powder, plus additional for rolling

Soak the dates in a bowl of warm water until they soften up a bit, about 10 minutes. Drain the dates and place them in a food processor with the almonds, coconut oil, salt, peppermint extract, water, and cacao powder. Process for one minute or until the mixture forms up into a ball.

Remove the “dough” from the food processor and form 15 to 18 small round truffles with your hands. Sprinkle additional cocoa powder on a flat surface and roll each truffle in the chocolate until well coated. Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to set. Remove from the fridge and top each truffle with powered icing sugar if desired for extra fancy flare ( or if you’re trying to impress guests!). Feel free to omit the decorative sugar topping too. It will be sweet either way! These can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer for several weeks. Don’t store with the powdered icing sugar. Save that for right before serving 🙂

Watermelon Mint Mocktail Recipe

Here’s something to sip on! Enjoy this recipe by Belle Holistic Nutritionist, Laura De Sanctis! 
With summer comes fresh seasonal fruit and usually cocktails on the patio or on a rooftop. The problem with many of these summery drinks, is that they are packed with sugar or artificial sweeteners and food dyes.
What I love about this mocktail recipe is that it’s super hydrating and only uses a few seasonal ingredients. The mint leaves, which I call nature’s gum, adds that extra kick of flavour. I use mint more than just as a flavouring agent, but because of it’s nutritious and healing benefits. Mint helps aid in digestion, alleviating symptoms such as IBS, dyspepsia and indigestion. It also acts as a natural antibiotic and is anti-fungal.
What’s a summer drink without any watermelon? Watermelon is one of my go-to fruits for the summer. It’s one of the most hydrating foods with over 90 per cent water.  That’s right, 90 per cent water!!!
If you’re looking to whip up something this summer that’s quick and easy to make, healthy to serve, and packed with flavour (minus the alcohol, artificial sweeteners and colouring agents) try this easy mocktail recipe.
Watermelon Mint Mocktail Recipe
Ingredients:
2 cups of organic watermelon (packed)
8 mint leaves
2 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice
2-4 ice cubes
Directions:
*Blend all ingredients on high until smooth and enjoy!
*Another option is to use the recipe above, to make summer popsicles. Include all ingredients mentioned above except for ice. Place the liquid in a popsicle stick tray and freeze until solid.
*Nutritional tip: Watermelon is one of the most hydrating foods with over 90 per cent water. Eating hydrating foods such as watermelon and cucumber are great for weight loss and detoxification.
Another benefit of watermelon is that it’s packed with lycopene, which is a great-anti-inflammatory. Lycopene also gives watermelon it’s reddish-pink colour.
About Laura De Sanctis 
Laura De Sanctis is a Holistic Nutritionist, speaker, health blogger and international health and wellness ambassador.  She aims to provide individualized care and assessments to all clients, and bases her treatments around sensible and holistic dietary and lifestyle advice.
Laura is a Holistic Nutritionist with Belle Nutrition, and specializes in coaching women on digestive wellness, detoxification and post-pregnancy weight loss.
She also conducts educational and corporate seminars, speaking on topics such as the importance of overall nutrition, gut health and mindful eating. We’re lucky to have her on our team!

Healthy Hot Chocolate

Here’s a great little recipe compliments of Belle Nutritionist Laura De Sanctis! 
Cold weather in Toronto got you craving hot chocolate?  When the weather gets cold and it’s a snow storm outside (think #snowTO), nothing feels better than curling up with some hot “healthy” cocoa, staying inside and watching Netflix.
Instead of having a conventional hot chocolate made with cow’s milk, here’s a healthy alternative that won’t make you feel guilty, bloated or gassy, especially for the lactose intolerant people. I promise!healthy-hot-chocolate-photo-2-via-tumblr
Ingredients
1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp of maca powder
1/2 tsp of ground chia seeds (optional)
2 tbsp of cacao powder
1-2 tsp of coconut sugar
Directions
Heat up almond milk and bring to a boil.
Pour almond milk in a cup, stir in maca powder, cacao powder and coconut sugar.
Enjoy!
Nutritional tip – Maca powder is a healthy root grown in Peru.  It helps boost energy and balances hormones. Also, try making your own almond milk, free of nasty additives like carrageenan. It’s easier and cheaper than you think. Here’s a homemade all natural almond milk recipe to try! 
*I’ve also swapped out conventional white sugar (simple sugar) for coconut sugar, which is low on the glycemic index – meaning it won’t create such a high spike in blood sugar. This keeps insulin levels stable, which is key for a healthy metabolism and weight.
Stay warm out there! For more info on Belle Nutrition programs, click here! 

Is Almond Milk a Scam?

Everyone seems to be on the non-dairy milk train right now.   Including yours truly.  I’ve had a hate-on for cows milk since 2003, when my first naturopath explained the results of a food sensitivity test, saying “cows milk is for baby cows, and your body can’t digest it since you’re not a baby cow.”  

You don’t say. Well, that stuck with me and since then I’ve preferred rice milk, hemp milk, soy milk, and now, my favourite of all: organic almond milk. We’re talking 3 cartons a week from Costco kind of love.  Smoothies, chia pudding, baking, granola topper, coffee creamer; almond milk  is used for it all in our house.

I’ve come to realize this is rather excessive, and not nearly as healthy or “organic” as originally intended.

See, commercially processed almond milks contain added thickeners and stabilizers. Most commonly used in the food manufacturing business is carrageenan, which is a type of polysaccharide obtained from red algae. Carrageenan’s known side effects include digestive distress characterized by excessive gas, bloating, diarrhea and fatigue.

Carrageenan is a controversial additive.

Although it is considered safe by the FDA, some scientists have raised questions about the potentially harmful effects of widespread carrageenan consumption. (You can read a review of the research, published in 2001, here.) The FDA denied a petition to re-examine the safety of carrageenan and it is still an approved ingredient in organic products. 

Some brands have now put a big “carrageenan free” label on their cartons, so you buy those brands thinking you’re a savvy informed shopper. BUT, it turns out you’re still getting scammed.

A handful of almonds in a carton…

The problem is that most almond milk contains hardly any almonds. As Business Insider put it, If almond milk closely resembles any beverage, it’s a glass of water and a multivitamin.” If you’ve ever wondered how almond milk can be so low in calories – about 30 calories in a cup, compared to 160 calories in a serving of almonds – it’s because it’s mostly water… not almonds.  This leaves almond milk almost completely devoid of the most beneficial part of almonds  — protein.
Almond Milk

Ok so we now know commercially processed almond milk sucks. However, if you can’t digest dairy, or just don’t like consuming it for ethical reasons, you still need a non dairy milk option. The good news is that homemade almond milk is super easy to make, much healthier, richer in real nutrients, additive-free AND a fraction of the price.

Now I’m buying big bags of raw natural organic almonds instead of the processed stuff.

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Making almond milk at our recent Elevate Retreat in Muskoka!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup raw all natural almonds (soaked in water overnight, or at least 8 hours)
  • 4 cups water (or 3 cups if you like thicker consistency)
  • 1 -2 dates (depending on the sweetness you prefer)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of sea salt

DIRECTIONS

First discard the water that the almonds were soaking in overnight. Then blend all ingredients in a high powered blender. Vita-mix or BlendTech works great. A regular blender just might not pulverize them as much. Then strain the frothy mixture through a cheesecloth, or nut-milk bag. Your almond milk will keep in the fridge for about three days (give it a stir before drinking). Also, don’t throw away the leftover pulp; it can be added to smoothies or even baked goods for added nutrition. One benefit to consuming almonds this way is that they’ll be soaked before you eat them. Soaking helps to get rid of the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, which can interfere with the function of your own digestive and metabolic enzymes.

Phytic acid, which is found in the coatings of nuts, is an “anti-nutrient” responsible for leeching vital nutrients from your body. Phytic acid also blocks the uptake of essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc.

So, happy homemade almond milk drinking! Here’s to your health.

xo

 

10 Best Healthy Smoothie Recipes

Smoothies are a fantastic and convenient way to pack a bunch of nutritious goodness into one delicious glass.  They’re ideal for busy people who want to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Satisfying, fast and easy – adding smoothies into your regular kitchen repertoire will be a game changer for your health.  Quench your cravings! The ultimate breakfast of champions! Stabilize blood sugar levels! Get your antioxidants! Seriously I need my own smoothie infomercial. These healthy smoothie recipes were all created in my kitchen with taste and nutrition being the priority. FullSizeRender (6)

The thing is, I still hear from people  who “don’t like” smoothies because they don’t turn out. They report chunky, brown sludge that no one in the family will consume.  Usually this comes from either combining too many of the wrong ingredients, having an old worn out blender or using too little liquid. Folks, consider this your smoothie rescue intervention. Here are 10 of our most popular tried and tested fool-proof smoothie recipes! They were all first posted on our Belle Method Instagram account and got lots of great feedback!

Make ’em. You can thank us later!

(Note: these were all made with a Nutri-Bullet as you can see in pictures. About $89-$99 at Bed Bath and Beyond, Walmart etc. You can also invest in a Vitamix or Blendtec if you’re serious about upping your smoothie game!

1. BASIL BEAUTY BLAST: Basil is currently growing like crazy in our garden so here’s a solution: blend it! Basil herbs are full of phytonutrients and high in vitamin A ( anti-aging!). Recent research also shows that basil may help treat arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases. Adding garden fresh cherry tomatoes and hemp heart omegas will give your skin a glow!

INGREDIENTS: 7 fresh organic strawberries, 1/2 cup peeled chopped cucumber, 4 cherry tomatoes, 1/2 cup frozen mango, 1 tbsp hemp hearts, 1 tsp chia, 4-5 medium to large basil leaves. Blend with water or coconut water and enjoy!

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2. KALE-SAURUS SMOOTHIE: Craving some green kale goodness in your life? Celebrating St Patty’s Day? Here’s a tasty healthy option. Note: I like using baby kale versus the larger leaves because they’re easier to digest. Another option is to use lacinato kale versus curly kale. Lacinato or “dinosaur kale” is softer and less fibrous in your smoothie.

INGREDIENTS: 1 chopped pitted peach, 5 organic strawberries, 1/2 banana, 2/3 cup plain yogurt (I used vegan coconut yogurt because of diary allergies, but plain greek yogurt could work for you too), blend with almond or hemp milk to taste.

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3. SUPERFOOD SPRING-IN-A-CUP SMOOTHIE: Creamy with just the right amount of sweetness. This recipe includes raw organic bee pollen (available at most health food stores). Bee pollen is loaded with enzymes for digestion, can help with seasonal allergies, boosts your immune system and cleanses the liver. Get some now!

INGREDIENTS: 1 chopped mango ( or 3/4 cup frozen), 1 cup chopped peeled cucumber, 1 banana, 1/2 avocado, 1/2 cup strawberries or raspberries, 1 tsp chia seeds, 1 tsp organic raw bee pollen. Blend with non dairy milk and enjoy!

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4. CREAMY CHLOROPHYLL MINT SMOOTHIE: The ultimate green power drink! Chlorophyll is the green pigment in plants that facilitates photosynthesis. We all know dark leafy greens are healthy – that’s largely because of the chlorophyll they contain. Cooking greens destroys their chlorophyll, so you can supplement by adding a liquid version (available at most health food stores). Try this cancer fighting, blood cleansing, breath freshening, iron boosting recipe!

INGREDIENTS: 1 banana, 1/2 avocado, 3/4 cup peeled chopped cucumber, 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, 1 orange, 1 tbsp chlorophyll. Blend with water or coconut water and enjoy!

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5. STRAWBERRY PROTEIN “MILKSHAKE”: This protein and omegas packed treat will fuel your brain and keep you going for hours! Subtly sweet, filling and guaranteed to please even the fussiest of eaters!

INGREDIENTS: 1/2 banana, 1/2 avocado, 1 cup frozen strawberries, 1 tsp flax seeds, 1 tbsp all natural peanut or almond butter, 1 scoop vanilla vegan (try Sun Warrior, Vega or Genuine Health) protein, 1 tsp honey. Blend with non-dairy almond, hemp or coconut milk and enjoy!

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6. PARSLEY DETOX SMOOTHIE: Parsley is waaaay underrated! Beat the bloat and drink this. This immune boosting garnish boasts many benefits including: natural diuretic to flush water retention, blood pressure regulation, high in folic acid, digestive aid and natural breath freshener.

INGREDIENTS: 2/3 cup frozen mango, 1/2 banana, 1/2 cup fresh parsley, 2 pitted dates, 1/2 avocado, 1 tbsp ground flax seeds, 1 tbsp hemp hearts. Blend with coconut water and enjoy!
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7. HONEYDEW PEACH SMOOTHIE: This smoothie is a straight up treat. If you’re having a sugar craving, drink this instead! You’ll definitely be satisfied afterwards.

INGREDIENTS: 2/3 cup chopped honeydew melon, 1/2 frozen banana, 1/2 cup raspberries, 1 peach, 1 scoop vegan vanilla protein. Blend with unsweetened almond milk or even just water. Enjoy!
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8. PAPAYA MAGIC SMOOTHIE: This might be the ultimate digestive aid in a glass that actually tastes really good. Papaya contains powerful enzymes to help break down your food. Your belly will thank you for this one.

INGREDIENTS: 3/4 cup chopped papaya, 1/2 cup chopped peeled cucumber, 1/2 banana, 2 tbsp chia seeds, 3/4 cup frozen strawberries. Add coconut water to taste and blend!
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9. CHUNKY MONKEY MACA CHILLER: This smoothie is off-the-hook delicious. And it contains superfoods to pump you up for a marathon, or just your Monday. Either way, get ready for serious energy (and libido!) boosting power. Make sure you get gelatinized maca powder that’s easier to digest.

INGREDIENTS: 1 frozen banana, 1 tbsp almond butter, 1/4 cup raw cashews, 1 tbsp raw cacao nibs, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 2 pitted dates, 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract, 1 tsp chia seeds, pinch himalayan sea salt, 2-3 ice cubes. Blend with unsweetened vanilla almond milk and devour!
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10. BLUEBERRY BLISS SMOOTHIE: Drink this and get super powers! Arugula is one of the healthiest greens out there. In smoothies however it can have a peppery flavour that not everyone likes. This combination takes the edge off and will make everyone an arugula lover! Some arugula health benefits include lowered risk of cancer, healthy bones, and improved eyesight. It has antioxidant properties and is good for healthy skin. It also helps in strengthening the brain, improving metabolic functions, mineral absorption, and boosting the immune system. Arugula is beneficial for weight management as well.

INGREDIENTS: 1/2 banana, 1/2 avocado, 1 nectarine, 3/4 cup organic blueberries, 1 cup arugula, 1 tsp chia seeds. Blend with unsweetened non-dairy milk and fuel your body!

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Want more? Follow us on insta where we post new healthy smoothie recipes every week! If you’re looking for more holistic nutrition coaching, meal planning and complete custom food programs – contact us! We’ve launched Belle Nutrition and would love to help you optimize your health and reach your wellness goals. Here’s to your health!FullSizeRender (4)

 

 

Healthy Chocolate Dessert Recipe

Seriously, this healthy dessert is AMAZING. They’re called “Healthy Pea(not) Butter Cups” and taste like Reese’s Pieces but only better. Thank you to Jesse Lane Wellness for creating a delicious chocolate dessert recipe that someone like me (with a gazillion food allergies) can actually eat and enjoy. They are gluten free, egg free, dairy free and peanut free and they were easy to make! No baking required.  Tastes. So. Good.

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So what’s in them? Well, here’s an idea in the picture below. The ingredients are a bit different from what you might typically use. But don’t let that deter you! Carob powder (helps digestion!), coconut flour, nutritional yeast (super high in vitamin B12!) and sunflower seed butter (a natural mood booster). You might think these flavours would be bizarre together, but they come together beautifully to form a decadent, delicious and incredibly satisfying snack or dessert (or breakfast if you’re feeling frisky and want something awesome to pair with your espresso.) I’m a self-professed chocolate snob, and this does the trick. Using a small amount of organic liquid stevia (NOT Truvia, which is processed) instead of refined sugar is also a great option, especially for those dealing with candida issues. 

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Jesse you have truly outdone yourself with this one. I can’t wait to try the other other healthy dairy-free dessert recipes in your new e-cook book!  High five lady. I’ll be making this one again and again 🙂 xo

HEALTHY PEA(NOT) BUTTER CUPS

Healthy Pea(not) Butter Cups melt in your mouth and are a million times better than the processed sugar laden version. They have a creamy sunflower seed butter center that is nestled in a stevia sweetened carob shell. If you have never tried sunflower seed butter or carob, you will find that they are a match made in heaven.

Prep time: 10 minutes | Chill Time: 2 hours | Serving Size: 6 large or 12 small butter cups

Carob Shell Ingredients:

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted

1/2 cup carob powder, sifted

15 drops liquid stevia

1/4 tsp vanilla

Sunflower Seed Filling Ingredients

3 Tbsp sunflower seed butter

1 1/2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

1-3 Tbsp coconut flour

1/4 tsp powdered stevia

Pinch salt

Directions:

1. To make the carob shell, whisk the melted coconut oil, carob powder, stevia and vanilla together in a small bowl.

2. Pour a third of the carob shell mixture into a muffin pan lined with paper or silicone liners and place in the freezer to set.

3. While the base is hardening, make the filling by stirring together the sunflower seed butter, nutritional yeast, 1 Tbsp coconut flour, stevia and salt. Depending on the consistency of the sunflower seed butter you are using, add additional coconut flour until the filling becomes a wet dough.

4. Remove the muffin pan from the freezer and roll the filling into balls. Place a ball into each base and flatten it into a smooth disk.

5. Top with the remaining carob shell mixture and freeze for 2 hours to set.

6. Store in the freezer in an air tight container and serve cold.

 

3 healthy snacks you can’t live without

Was there anything better than snack time after school?! My mom would sometimes pick me up after high school swim team practice with a bag of still-hot bakery fresh cheese pizza bagels, and I’d devour two in the car before dinner, no problem.  Bring it on. Twenty years ago I was a lean, mean 14-year-old garburator.

Those days of consequence-free carb consumption are gone, along with my motivation for swimming one hundred laps of the butterfly stroke to balance out the bagels.  Today it’s all about healthy, gluten free (found out I was celiac in my late twenties) digestive-friendly snacks that are easy to prep and that the whole family will enjoy. Whether you’re paleo, vegan, dairy-sensitive or just trying to avoid the vending machines and drive-thru’s, there’s something here for you.

Black Bean Brownies: Don’t let the name fool you. These fudgey chocolate delights are packed with fibre and omegas and will satisfy the most discerning of snackers, even the chocoholics and those who “hate beans.” Puh-lease. Make a dozen in your muffin tin and see how fast they go! Thanks to Minimalist Baker for this recipe! vegan-brownies 2

Ingredients
  • 1 15 oz. can (~ 1 3/4 cups) black beans, well rinsed and drained
  • 2 large flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flax + 5 tbsp water)
  • 3 T coconut oil, melted (or sub other oil of choice)
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder (the higher quality the better)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • heaping 1/2 cup raw sugar, slightly ground or pulsed in a food processor or coffee grinder for refined texture
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Optional toppings: crush walnuts, pecans or semisweet chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly grease a 12-slot standard size muffin pan (not mini). Make sure you’ve rinsed and thoroughly drained your black beans at this point.
  3. Prepare flax egg by combining flax and water in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse a couple times and then let rest for a few minutes.
  4. Add remaining ingredients (besides walnuts or other toppings) and puree – about 3 minutes – scraping down sides as needed. You want it pretty smooth.
  5. If the batter appears too thick, add a Tbsp or two of water and pulse again. It should be slightly less thick than chocolate frosting but nowhere close to runny.
  6. Evenly distribute the batter into the muffin tin and smooth the tops with a spoon or your finger.
  7. Optional: Sprinkle with crushed walnuts, pecans or chocolate chips.
  8. Bake for 20-26 minutes or until the tops are dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides.
  9. Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes before removing from pan. They will be tender, so remove gently with a fork. The insides are meant to be very fudgy, so don’t be concerned if they seem too moist – that’s the point. Plus, they’re vegan so it doesn’t really matter.
  10. Store in an airtight container for up to a few days. Refrigerate to keep longer.

 

Salmon Avocado Endive Boats

Not just for fancy cocktail parties! This is one grown up snack that tastes so effing good.  Not everyone is a fan of these individual flavours, but something about the creamy avocado and salty smoked salmon balances out the subtle bitterness of the endive…and well, it’s divine. Check out some more health benefits of endives here. endives 2

Ingredients

  • endives
  • smoked wild salmon
  • sliced avocado

Instructions: put together and eat! Also doubles for a great lunch.

 

Celery and “Cheese-Whiz”

Vegan cheese is where it’s at. Don’t laugh or stop reading. I know it sounds horrific. But don’t knock it til you try!  Kids love it, it’s delicious AND full of B-vitamins. Did you know the majority of the population is deficient in vitamin B12? Fact. Don’t let that be you. Put this recipe into your snack rotation! You can have your cheese and eat it too. cheese 2

Ingredients

  • celery sticks (always buy organic as these are part of the dirty dozen with pesticide absorption)
  • 1 cup raw cashews (soaked in warm water for 1hr + , or in hot water for 5 if you’re in a rush)
  • ¼ cup filtered water
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast (SO high in B vitamins!)
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbs. raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. dijon mustard
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Add all ingredients into your Vitamix or high speed blender and blend until thick and creamy. It will be the consistency of stirred cream cheese. This will harden more after it’s been chilled. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Spread on celery, or any veggies for that matter, and enjoy!

 

Happy snacking!!

Healthy and Delicious Holiday Recipes

Healthy Twists on 5 Holiday Recipes

January is the most magical time of year in the Fitness Industry.  Mention the phrase New Year’s resolutions to any gym manager and you’ll get a knowing nod: (and perhaps that creepy Dr. Evil tented finger tap) “aaah yesss, January people.” More new health club membership revenue is brought in during the month of January than all other months of the year.  By January 31 new memberships typically taper off, and by end of February we’re back to the 80/20 rule: 80% of those with gym memberships end up paying for the 20% who actually use the facilities.

It’s been happening for decades! This is one of the reasons why we do pre-paid group classes. They are so much more effective than drop-ins.  Why? You’re mentally committed to specific dates and times in your calendar, classes progress in difficulty each week, and you’re accountable to both your teacher and fellow group students – the same group you see for months on end.

But I digress. This is an article about healthy holiday recipes. It’s an article about navigating the eggnog/shortbread/chocolate truffle season like a healthy holiday ninja. Bam! Here’s to avoiding falling into the trap of being one of those “January people” that gyms LOVE.

I am on your side! Without further ado, here are some delicious and easy recipes that will leave you and even the toughest crowd feeling satisfied; just don’t mention the words “paleo”, “vegan” or “gluten free” and they will be none the wiser.

Chocolate Coconut Pomegranate Bark  (vegan, gluten free, paleo)

pomegranate

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz (or about 1 ¼ cup) of Enjoy Life chocolate chips (or other pure dark chocolate) melted
  • ½ cup finely grated coconut flakes
  • ½ – 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • ½  teaspoon finely crushed sea salt

Directions:

  1. Melt chocolate in a double boiler: Fit a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Place the chocolate in the bowl and stir until fully melted, about 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the pot and stir in coconut and half of the pomegranate seeds
  2. Spread out melted chocolate on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Spread with a spatula to just under ¼ inch thick (it does not need to fill the entire sheet). Sprinkle chocolate with remaining pomegranate seeds and sea salt.
  3. Chill for 20 to 30 minutes or until firm. Break or cut into pieces and store in an airtight container, separating the layers with wax paper. This is best served the same day it is made otherwise condensation may form on the surface.

Sugar Plum Crumble  (gluten free, vegan)

 plum crumble

Ingredients:

Filling

  • 2 pounds plums, halved, pitted and sliced (no need to peel – I like ‘em sliced thin)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons arrowroot powder (can use cornstarch if you don’t have arrowroot)
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Gluten-free topping

  • 1 cup gluten free rolled oats
  • ½ cup almond meal or almond flour, lightly packed
  • ⅓ cup silvered almonds or chopped walnuts/pistachios
  • ¼ cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup pitted medjool dates, chopped (this is what makes it amazing!!)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a 9 x 9 inch baking dish, mix together the sliced plums, honey, arrowroot or cornstarch and cinnamon.
  2. In mixing bowl, stir together the oats, almond meal, almonds, brown sugar, dates, ginger and salt. Mix in the melted butter. Stir until the mixture is moistened throughout.
  3. Dollop spoonfuls of the oat mixture over the filling and use your fingers to break up the mixture until it is evenly distributed (no need to pack it down). Bake for 55 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling around the edges and the top is lightly golden. Let the crisp rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Try not to devour in one sitting (this will be a challenge). Delicious for breakfast too!

 

Chickpea Chocolate-Chip Blondies (vegan, gluten free)

chickpea

 

Ingredients

  • 1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter, almond butter, or your fav nut butter
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup, honey or agave nectar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips (can always add more for extra chocolatey goodness!)
  • Sea salt, for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Lightly grease 8 × 8-inch pan with butter or coconut oil
  2. In a food processor, add all ingredients except chocolate chips. Process until batter is smooth. Fold in 1/3 cup chocolate chips and spread batter evenly in prepared pan with a buttered spatula. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons chocolate chips over top.
  3. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and edges are very light brown.
  4. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Sprinkle with sea salt and cut into 16 squares.

 

Banana Pecan Shortbread (gluten free, vegan: adapted from the Minimalist Baker)

pecan shortbread

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup mashed ripe banana
  • 3/4 cup organic cane sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Flour
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Cream oil, sugar and banana.
  3. Add vanilla, sea salt and blend.
  4. Add flour and blend. Add pecans and mix once more.
  5. Transfer to a large piece of parchment paper and roll into a tight log, ~ 2 inches wide. Freeze for 15 minutes to harden.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Unroll paper and slice cookies into slightly less than 1/2 inch discs with a sharp knife. If the dough has become too hard, let it rest for a few minutes at room temp to soften. If it’s too soft, freeze longer.
  8. Place on an un-greased baking sheet. They won’t spread much, so they can be placed close together.
  9. Bake for 18-22 minutes at 350 degrees, or until light golden brown.
  10. Yields about 30 cookies.

  

Prosciutto Wrapped Arugula Pears (gluten free, paleo)

pear

Ingredients:

  • 1 bundle arugula leaves
  • 1 ripe bosc pear (medium sliced lengthwise)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 slices prosciutto di Parma
  • blue cheese (optional: if you want to get decadent)

Directions:

Place arugula in bowl. Quarter the pear lengthwise and remove the core. Cut into quarters and then in half again. Dress the pear with the juice of 1/2 lemon, thyme leaves, olive oil, salt and pepper. Place a few arugula leaves (and blue cheese if desired) on each slice of prosciutto with a slice of pear and roll up into a tight bundle. Cut each bundle in half, to make 16 pieces.

 

Quinoa Vegetable Risotto with Avocado Cream (vegan, gluten free)

risotto 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 zucchini, cubed
  • handful of green beans, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 2 leeks, diced
  • 2 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 cup green peas

Avocado cream:

  • 1 avocado
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk (optional)
  • juice of 2 lemons

 Directions:

Place the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly with cool water. Place in a saucepan. Dissolve the vegetable stock into the boiling water, and pour over the quinoa. Bring to the boil, lower the heat, cover and cook for another 15 minutes. Place sweet potato and tomatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and roast at 400F for 25 minutes (or until soft).

Make the avocado cream by blending avocado, coconut milk and lemon until smooth, refrigerate until you need it. Sauté the leeks, green beans and peas. When soft add the cooked quinoa and the roasted vegetables. Mix well, seasoning to taste. Serve with the avocado cream and a big green salad.

 

Happy Cooking!

Three Healthy Fall Soup Recipes

It’s that time of year when nothing feels better than cozying up with a mug of tea and enjoying warm delicious bowl of your favourite soup. Soup is amazing. It’s also a godsend to have prepped when the weekday craziness makes cooking healthy meals a challenge.  A large part of success in reaching health and fitness goals is preparation. Taking those 2 hours to prep weekday meals on Sundays has made a HUGE difference in my life.  Making a big pot of soup is a big part of Sunday meal prep. Sometimes you just need a quick meal that’s filling, nutritious and not salad.

Eating more soup also supports weight loss goals. Studies have shown that when people consume a vegetable-based soup before their main dish, they consume up to 20% fewer calories per meal. The reason is simple. Soup helps to fill us up so we eat less. Healthy homemade soups also combine high nutrient density with low energy density – basically we get lots of key vitamins and minerals for relatively few calories.

So let’s get cooking! Here are 3 of my favourite easy and healthy Fall soup recipes. To inspire the cook in you, take a peek at some of the best Seinfeld clips of the infamous Soup Nazi. Makes me laugh every time! Someone didn’t take out the trash? “No soup for you!” Someone didn’t clean their room? “NO soup for you!!”

Happy Cooking! All recipes are allergy friendly – vegetarian, dairy, soy and gluten free.

APRICOT LENTIL SOUP 

Ingredients (serves 8)

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup and 3 tablespoons dried apricots ( don’t put too many as it will be very sweet)
  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 7 cups chicken or veggie stock
  • 4 roma (plum) tomatoes – peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice ( or more to taste)
  • ** Can add 1/2 cup dry quinoa for a heartier meal
  1. Saute onion, garlic, and apricots in olive oil. Add lentils (and quinoa if desired) and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, and season with cumin, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in lemon juice. Puree 1/2 of the soup in a blender, then return to the pot. Serve.

lentil

 

CURRIED CAULIFLOWER SWEET POTATO SOUP

Ingredients ( serves 8-10)

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, cut in chunks
  • 1 onion, cut into chunks
  • 3 cloves garlic, halved
  • 5 cups vegetable stock (more for a thinner soup)
  • 1 (14 oz) can organic coconut milk (avoid conventional as they often add guar gum) 
  • 2.5 tablespoon curry paste (or curry powder) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place the cauliflower, sweet potato, onion, and garlic on a baking sheet, and bake in preheated oven until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Bring vegetable stock, coconut milk and curry paste to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat.
  2. Add the roasted vegetables and remaining spices. Then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer approx 15 minutes.
  3. Carefully puree the soup in a blender until it has reached your desired consistency ( I like it somewhat chunky!) serve, and enjoy!

veggie soup 2

VEGETABLE BONANZA SOUP (serves 8)

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, white part only (from approximately 3 medium leeks)
  • 1/2 head of kale
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 1/2 cups carrots, peeled and chopped into rounds (approximately 2 large)
  • 2 cups peeled and diced potatoes (can sub 2 cups frozen peas for more protein!)
  • 2 cups fresh green beans, broken or cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes
  • 2 ears corn, kernels removed
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup packed, chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  1. Heat the olive oil in large, heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium-low heat. Once hot, add the leeks, garlic, and a pinch of salt and sweat until they begin to soften, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Add the carrots, potatoes, kale and green beans and continue to cook for 4 to 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add the tomatoes, corn kernels, and pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the vegetables are fork tender, approximately 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and add the parsley and lemon juice. Season, to taste, with kosher salt. Serve immediately.

 

Chocolate cravings decoded

Life is short, eat chocolate. If that bumper sticker doesn’t exist already, it should!
I’m not talking about the processed sugary waxy stuff. No Mars Bars people! We’re talking real cacao – the stuff that’s got antioxidant powers. You may be surprised to learn that cocoa is actually a FRUIT! Recent studies have shown a link between cacao and cardiovascular health, with reduced risk of blood clots, strokes, and heart attacks. It gets better. cacao
TIP: Did you know that chocolate cravings can be a sign your body is deficient in magnesium? Here’s an article from an MD explaining how magnesium is the most powerful relaxation mineral. Being deficient in magnesium can cause a host of health problems. The good news is that cacao in it’s pure form is an excellent source of both magnesium and iron. I use Navita Naturals brand. Put it in smoothies and try making your own chocolate with this raw vegan recipe:

RAW CHOCOLATE WITH ALMOND BUTTER AND COCONUT FILLING
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
2/3 cup raw cacao powder
5 tbsp maple syrup
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
A dash of Himalayan Sea Salt
Almond Butter (I like raw but you can use roasted for a more decadent treat!)

Directions:
Blend all ingredients together except almond butter until smooth. Pour 1/2 of the chocolate mixture in a pan and put in the freezer for 10 minutes. Once solid, take it out of the freezer and smear almond butter on top, and then pour the rest of the chocolate on top. Make sure your almond butter is room temperature so it’s easy to spread over the chocolate! The more almond butter you use, the thicker your bars will be.
Put it back in the freezer for 30 minutes… Then enjoy! Cut up in pieces and eat right away. As it’s made with coconut oil the chocolate will melt quickly so don’t leave it out for too long.
You can substitute the almond butter for any nut butter you like, and you can also add nuts, raisins, goji berries or pretty much whatever you feel like to the mixture. The sky is the limit! Next time I’m going to make mine with a bit of peppermint oil.

chocolate

SOOOOO GOOD!!!!

Popsicles = Health Food on a Stick

As a lactose intolerant gal, ice cream and frozen yogurt are sadly off limits. Boooo! Store made sorbet and popsicles are non-dairy options, but the ingredients are full of high fructose corn syrup, food colouring and other unpleasant unhealthy additives.

Healthy girl’s solution? Make your own! Gourmet, home-made popsicles have become my newest obsession       (they kinda bring me back to those university bartending days in Montreal). You will need a blender and a popsicle mold. I love the super cute Tovolo molds and picked some up at Home Sense for $9.99!

Here are some popsicle recipes that:

A) You can feel good about consuming

B) Company will be impressed by the flavours and think you’re a bonafide Martha Stewart

C) Children will not realize are actually “healthy” and will be tricked into eating vitamin rich treats

Folks, we call that a WIN-WIN! Here are 3 recipes to try..

Strawberry-Basil Balsamic Pops

STRAWBERRY-BASIL BALSAMIC

3 cups fresh hulled or thawed frozen strawberries

2 Tbsp chopped basil

2 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 juiced lemon

Place strawberries in a glass or plastic bowl with basil. Top with sugar, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. Toss and let marinate for 1 hour.  In blender, puree strawberry-vinegar mixture until smooth.  Mix well and pour into ice-pop molds. Insert sticks and freeze for about 8 hours. (Vinegar punches up the flavor without adding fat, while the strawberries loads these icy treats with all the vitamin C you need in a day.)

 

KEY LIME PIE POPS

2 cups sweetened vanilla almond milk

2 Tbsp sugar

3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice  ( about 4 large limes)

2 teaspoons lime zest

pinch of salt

3 cups coarsely crushed graham crackers

Put the almond milk, lime juice, lime zest, and salt in a bowl and whisk. Divide the mixture between the molds, put in sticks and freeze until solid, about 5 hours. Spread the graham cracker pieces on a large plate. Remove pops and press each side into the graham crackers, coating completely. ( You can also blend the graham crackers into the liquid mixture and freeze the chunks. Dee-lish!) 

BANANA SPLIT POPS

2 ripe bananas

3 tbsp all natural peanut butter ( or almond butter)

1 cup dark chocolate almond milk

1 cup coconut milk ( Thai Kitchen brand is good!)

1/2 cup fresh finely chopped strawberries

Place the bananas, chocolate almond milk, peanut butter and coconut milk in blender and mix on high speed. Gently stir in the finely chopped strawberries. Pour the mixture into popsicle molds.  Put in the sticks and freeze until solid!

If you’re feeling extra naughty, try freezing sangria in those tasty popsicle molds for an adults-only treat!!