Monday, August 26, 2013

Another Green Smoothie

This one kind of tastes like Orange Julius to me, but it has been a while! Don't be afraid of vanilla and kale together, somehow it works!

Green Julius Smoothie- Serves 1
1 cup kale or spinach, or more if desired
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp spriulina or chlorella if desired

Some of the highlights of the nutritional info, without the chlorella:

241 calories, 9 g protein, 125 mg calcium, 2.27 mg iron, 3.72 mg zinc

A Note on Sweeteners

I had planned to write a very scientific article on sweeteners, complete with references and a riveting conclusion. Unfortunately, in researching both scientific and popular literature I was filled with the feeling I so often have in the field of nutrition. There is no absolute answer. So I have come up with a few sweet rules to simplify things.

The following sweeteners were a part of my research:

Agave Syrup
Barley Malt
Coconut Sugar
Date Sugar
Maple Syrup
Raw Sugar (also called Turbindo Sugar)
Rice Syrup
Sorghum Syrup
Yacon Syrup

In general, all of these alternative sweetners are somewhat less refined than white table sugar. The ratios of fructose and glucose vary, as do the glycemic indexes. There are studies showing negative results with high and even moderate consumption of glucose and fructose, but often it is difficult to apply to humans. Generally, the studies are done with mice and the diet is very controlled with a very specific amount of the sugar in it's most basic form (ie: just fructose and 25% of the diet).

Some studies on humans encouraged consumption of a drink that contained high amounts of varying sugar, usually with a prescribed number of drinks per day. I feel like we already know that sweetened drinks are to be enjoyed in moderation, not several times a day- we know that is harmful. Let's move on and study something else. These controlled studies aren't often applicable to daily life.

Let's take agave for an example. Recently it has come under fire because of the high fructose content. This is why it has a lower glycemic index (Fructose is absorbed differently than glucose, and it takes longer to be absorbed), and the reason glycemic index doesn't give us a full picture of the health benefits of a food. Studies of diets high in fructose show that it contributes more to heart disease risk factors such as blood triglycerides, and may not signal to the body that it is full the way other foods do.

But other research done with high fructose products, consumed in normal amounts, showed no increase in risk factors. Further to that, nearly every recipe I have come across that contains agave nectar, and other alternative sweeteners, is a "healthy" dessert recipe, and includes other beneficial things like whole grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruit etc.

Another recent study showed that "Safe" amounts of sugar in the diet also posed health risks. They called this 25%. I don't think 25% of our diet should come from added sugar!!

Therefore, we need to take research on anything sweet with a grain of salt (salty and sweet, yah!)

So here are my sweet rules- if you want more details, references etc. please get in touch with me- I have many! (a great place to start:

Sweet Rules to Live By

1.. Learn to enjoy foods that are naturally sweet- like fruit
2. Don't drink your sugar- wean yourself off of sweetened coffee, tea and any other beverages. Water with lemon? Learn to love it!
3. Don't buy foods that are already sweetened, make your own- then you're in control of the sugar in your diet. Buy plain yogurt, look for recipes with low sugar and other healthy additions like nuts and seeds or recipes sweetened naturally with banana, dates, raisins vs. a sweetener
4. Use any of the above sweeteners, and a variety of them because they're good for different things, but use moderation (think very small amounts)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mini Fruit Crisps

We've had the opportunity to pick a few blackberries in the last few weeks. It's hard work, the thorns are crazy and you come back bloodied with a couple cups of fruit for your efforts. It isn't like the coast here, bushes aren't lining the shore bursting with berries, so to make anything substantial is heartbreaking! (6 cups of berries for a pie? That'd be hours of work before even starting on pie.)

Enter mini crisps. The world of ramekins is wonderful and I strongly suggest you pick up a few at IKEA or somewhere else. (mine were $1.99 each). The other benefit to a mini dessert is you can eat it and be done with it. You don't have to eat dessert all week! (although that's not always a bad thing). These crisps are healthy enough to enjoy for breakfast.

Mini Blackberry Crisps (or any fruit)

1/2 cup of fruit per ramekin (or fill the ramekin a little over half way)
1 tsp sugar mixed with 1/4 tsp cornstarch per ramekin
Per Ramekin Topping Mix
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 tsp whole spelt flour or any flour (easy to make gluten free- choose quinoa or millet flour)
1/2-1 tsp ground chia seeds
2 Tbsp chopped nuts
1 1/2 tsp butter/Earth Balance/coconut oil
1 tsp brown sugar
pinch of salt

Fill each ramekin half way with fruit. Sprinkle fruit with sugar/cornstarch mix.
In a small bowl combine topping ingredients. Sprinkle over fruit, then press down. Place ramekins in a pan to catch any fruit dripping out and to make handling easier. Bake at 350F for about 1/2 an hour until the top is browned and fruit is bubbling. Cool a little before serving. Good with soy milk, ice cream, coconut milk etc.
 Fill ramekins halfway with fruit
Sprinkle with sugar/cornstarch mix
Sprinkle topping mix on top and press down

Place in a pan to catch any fruit drips.
Bake until browned on top and fruit bubbles out.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

My week

Well, another week of training under my belt. The half marathon is just under a month away. This week was another hot one in Kelowna. I did my shorter runs in the morning, on the treadmill. Because we were spending our weekend in Vancouver, I switched a run for a ride on the bike trainer, then ran two beautiful mornings in Vancouver. There's something special about running on the Sea wall in the morning, with so many other people out and about too. One of my runs felt amazing! I seemed fast (for me), and most importantly, almost effortless. The next was a little sluggish.

We drove home Sunday, so I did my long run Monday. It was a holiday, so I'm lucky to have my husband home so I could run off for two hours! My run is now up to 18 km. I ran 3 km uphill, then 7 km downhill and finished on the flats. The boys met me at the beach and I recovered in the lake with a smoothie (almonds, soymilk, cocoa powder, cinnamon and lots of ice.) I didn't feel as great as I would've liked, but after two big runs in Vancouver and walking non-stop for two days, my legs were done.

Even two days post long run, I was still hurting a bit! But the rest of my runs this week weren't too bad. I moved my "magic mile" to next week to up the quality of it.

In other news, we're still loving summer, loving the beach, and I'm loving the freedom school holidays have given us. The boys are best buds, and fall will be tough on them! Thankfully, it's early August still, lots of summer to be had still. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Zuchinni Day- August 8th! (aka Sneak some zuchinni onto your neighbour's porch day)

I have a GIANT muffin recipe for you. Lower in sugar and fat then most zuchinni chocolate muffin recipes, and huge to use up whatever is in your garden, or what was on your doorstep this morning!

7 scant cups flour (whole wheat works well)
1 cup cocoa
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
salt (a couple pinches)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cup oil (I used half coconut, half canola)
6 eggs/egg replacer
3 cups milk of choice
4 tsp vanilla
4 cups shredded zucchini
chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix dry ingredients together. Mix wet in a separate bowl. Then add zucchini to wet ingredients. Add wet to dry, fold in chocolate chips. It will be really dry, but as the zuch bakes, it releases moisture. I'm going to try it with six cups flour next time and see how it goes. Made 24 big muffins and one loaf. Muffins take around 25 minutes, loaf around an hour. Check with a toothpick to see if done.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Harvest Time

Seems like harvest is all summer long here! We started with cherries and apricots. Now corn and beans and tomatoes are coming in. Peaches, nectarines and plums too. Well, almost everything is out at the Farmers' Markets now.

I love preserving food, knowing we'll have locally grown, organic produce all winter long. We do huge days of canning, freezing and drying. But we also work on a smaller scale when we only have a little. We had excess kale so we put aside a few bags to freeze. And I was gifted a giant zucchini so I baked with some, froze the rest. It got me thinking that many people don't have time or the knowledge to put food by. Of course, getting 50 lbs of tomatoes and spending a weekend preserving it would be great, but if you can't, the effort is still worth it. Here are some tips:

1. For a family of 4- but a dozen cobs of corn instead of 6 for each week they're at the market. Cook it all (3 minutes in boiling water is all you need.) Eat what you normally would, then cut the kernels off the other cobs and put aside a few bags for winter.

2. Buy an extra bunch of kale or spinach at the market. Cut off the stems, chop it to desired size, and put in bags to use in smoothies and other recipes calling for frozen spinach (go ahead and use kale instead).

3. Get a few extra tomatoes, chop them and freeze in bags. Thaw them when you want a tomato sauce. Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil, then add pureed tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil and oregano. Simmer until reduced to desired consistency. It takes a while. Do this on a winter weekend day. It will keep in the fridge for a week after cooking, so you can use it on any week day following.

4. For any fruit, buy an extra pint, bag, basket....whatever. You can rinse and dry on paper towels, pit, chop, peel as needed, then bag and freeze for smoothies, chia jam (thaw, mix with chia, let sit overnight, enjoy on pancakes, oatmeal...), whatever .

Just buying a few extra things each week will add up over the course of the summer, and won't dominate your weekends.

What tips do you have to preserve the harvest?