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I made this amazingly easy energy bar recipe last week and my family loved them…so did my clients!
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I had to share because if your household is anything like mine, having quick, nutritious and nutrient dense snacks on hand are a must.

Let me know what you think.

Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Raw & Vegan – Ginger Nut Energy Bars
3 cups of raw nuts (I used cashews but you could try almonds, pecans or macadamia nuts)
2 cups of pitted medjool dates
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cardamom
pinch of sea salt

Place nuts into your food processor fitted with the “s” blade and process for about 60-90 seconds or until finely ground. Then add the dates, spices and salt. Process again for another 60-90 seconds or until dates are completely ground and the mixture is starting to form a ball. I added 2 TBSP of coconut oil to the mixture to make it stick together more but this is optional.

Press mixture into an 8X8 inch pan and refrigerate for 4-5 hours. Then cut into bar shapes and individually wrap for an easy snack on the run. Rolling the mixture into balls and then in shredded coconut also works well. Enjoy!

Recipe compliments of “Nourishing Meals” by Alissa Segersten & Tom Malterre.

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My family LOVES lentils. They’re one of our favourite legumes because they taste so great, they’re cost effective and you can use them in so many dishes. Lentil patties, vegetarian lasagna, vegetarian Shepard’s Pie, various casseroles and the list goes on…

A bag of green lentils (not cooked or canned) cost $2-4 depending on where you shop. One bag of lentils could potentially make enough meals for a family of four (eating lentils once a week) for a month! They also provide a great source of protein, fiber, vitamin B6, iron and magnesium. Combined with rice, lentils are a complete protein meaning that they provide the body with all essential amino acids (building blocks of protein) making them an ideal protein source.

lentil rice
I made this casserole for the first time a few weeks ago and everyone loved it. It’s so simple to prepare yet so amazing! The one thing to note is the cooking time (2 hours 20 minutes).

Recipe:
Curried Lentil and Rice Casserole
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 TBSP finely chopped fresh ginger
1 TBSP finely chopped fresh tumeric, or 1 TSP dried
2 TSP curry powder
1 TSP ground cumin
1 TSP ground coriander
1/2 TSP cinnamon
2 TSP sea salt
4 carrots, chopped
1 1/2 cups French Lentils or black beluga lentils
1 cup long grain brown rice
5 cups water
1 cup coconut milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and onions, saute for 5 to 6 minutes. Add ginger, tumeric, spices, and salt. Continue to saute for another 2 minutes until fragrant.

Place onion-spice mixture into a large casserole dish. Add carrots, lentils, rice, water and coconut milk. Mix together well. Cover and bake for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, turn oven temp up to 425 degrees F. Remove cover and cook for another 20 to 30 minutes to let excess liquid cook off. Stir and serve.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

This recipe is compliments of the cookbook called “Nourishing Meals” by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre. I use this cookbook at least once a week. It’s $24.95 and can be found at most book stores.

If you have not eaten lentils lately this is a great weekend meal. The bonus is you will have leftovers for the work week ahead!

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The holidays are here. The smell of fresh baked apple pie, turkey roasting in the oven and the warmth of the fireplace remind me of my childhood. Without a doubt, my favourite things about the holiday season are connecting with family, enjoying delicious food, and spending as much time as possible skating or skiing in the great outdoors.

We all know soon enough, whether or not we want to admit it, the new year is just around the corner. No matter how you choose to spend your holiday season, or what new year’s resolutions you decide on, here are a few tips to get through the hustle, bustle and stress that this season inevitably brings.

1- We should treat others as we would like others to treat us. I know this is a cliche, but it holds true. Christmas is a time for re-connecting with family and friends and we all know too well that this time of year can be more stressful than we would like. Take a deep breath, count to ten, and do your best to enjoy the holidays.

2- Get out and embrace the abundance of winter activities available to us here in Canada. Engaging in physical activities like cross-country or downhill skiing, skating, tobogganing and long winter walks are a great way to boost your spirits, get fresh air and burn calories.

Snowshoeing in Squamish

3- Taste everything that the holiday season has to offer, but do it wisely. Moderation is a wonderful thing. Don’t deprive yourself of the things you long for all year, just indulge in small portions.

4- Take time for yourself. There’s so much hype around the holidays that it is easy to forget to breath, relax, laugh and love. Take a bubble bath, curl up with a blanket and a good book, practice yoga, go caroling or enjoy a Christmas movie or T.V. special with family or friends.

5- Have an eco-Christmas. Encourage all family members to exchange gifts that are baked, handmade or reused. Wrap presents in newspaper and re-use gift bags. Support local, fair-trade businesses, and products that aren’t disposable or require batteries. This cuts down on unnecessary waste and saves the planet along the way.

I plan to enjoy the next few weeks to the fullest. Having almost healed completely from my slipped disc, I plan to skate, ski and walk outside as much as possible. I also look forward to connecting my fiancee’s family, laughing and cherishing the delicious food that comes along with Christmas.

I hope your holiday season is filled with light, laughter and love. I look forward to the new year and all that it has to offer.

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My son Griffyn just turned a year old last month. He has been a terrific little eater from the time we introduced him to pureed foods six months ago. He appeared to be curious about the idea of eating what my wife and I were eating right from the go. Although he gobbled down the purees he was far more intrigued by what we had on our plates and soon started enjoying just about everything: coconut curry, rice salad with finely shredded kale, salmon, tuna and even refried beans with chilies!

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Getting proper nutrition and a wide variety of foods into his diet continues to be my mission. Although he loves many strong flavours I didn’t think he would go for, getting adequate vegetables into his diet remains our biggest challenge. The good news is that an infant’s nutritional requirements are not a daily value, but weekly. This explains why certain days children eat a lot and the next day they appear disinterested altogether. Their bodies can make up for a loss the very next day or two so it’s not something parents need to stress over.

A good rule of thumb for infants and toddlers is don’t push food on them but rather introduce it and allow them to decide if they like it and how much they want to eat. Always follow their cues. When children are forced to eat everything that’s on their plate they grow up with this mentality which can lead to overeating and bad food associations as adults. Below are a few ideas on how to increase your child’s veggies while still making eating a fun and enjoyable daily adventure!

* everything and anything mashed on toast
My son loves toast. If he won’t eat his steamed carrots, yam or zucchini, I mash them and put them on toast. A bit of coconut oil and steamed veggie really hits the spot.
* pancakes made with shredded vegetables
Another great way to sneak vegetables into their day while making it fun too.
* veggies mashed in yogurt
No matter what mashed vegetable you have if you add a bit of fruit and mix it with yogourt they just might eat it!
* finely mincing vegetables into canned salmon or tuna
I mix celery, apple, green onion, and raisins with a little Dijon mustard and fish.
* smoothies are another terrific option
A few kale or spinach leaves blended with some fruit and milk are a great snack. Pea protein powder is another great addition as it provides up to 35% of their daily iron intake and is easy to digest.
* fresh pressed juice
If you have a juicer or access to one, make fresh juice. My little guy loves carrots, apples, cucumber, ginger and a touch of spirulina (a blue-green algae loaded with nutrients found in health food stores).
* veggies dipped in hummus
Steamed carrots or cucumber slices work great for dipping.

Lastly, make meal time about socializing, enjoying food, giving thanks and never use food as a reward. If you’re able to create an environment that is relaxed and engaging your child will grow up with these ideals and hopefully meal time will not be as much of a battle.

What types of foods do you offer your toddler? What kinds of veggies do they like most?

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coconut_oil
Coconut oil has become a staple in my home over that past 7 years. Its health benefits, versatility and flavour far outweigh that of any other healthy fat that I’m aware of. I learned about this amazing oil while living in Nelson years ago and have had a tub in my bathroom and kitchen ever since. To say that I couldn’t live without it may sound extreme, but wait until you hear about all the ways I use it!

There are two main types of coconut oil: expeller pressed, which can be used for anything as it is odorless and tasteless, or virgin that has a coconutty flavour that’s great for cooking, baking and skincare. Always ensure you use food grade for optimal quality.

The main health benefits of coconut oil:
* Anti-inflammatory
* Antimicrobial
* Antifungal
* Antiviral
therefore it helps with…
* Improving nutrient absorption
* Killing candida fungus
* Reversing Alzheimer’s
* Type 1 & 2 diabetes
* Hypothyroidism
* Promoting weight loss
* Strengthening the hair
* Providing athletes with a natural source of energy
* 3.5 Tbsp daily can help enrich a mother’s breast milk

My favourite things to use coconut oil for in the kitchen:
* frying eggs
* drizzling on popcorn
* using in place of butter for greasing baking pans
* replacing butter or other oils in baking recipes
* frying fish or chicken
* spreading on toast to replace butter
* melting and adding to smoothies to give it a creamy, oily texture

My favourite cosmetic uses of coconut oil:
* Skin moisturizer – I use it on my face and body
* As a sun screen – it’s naturally SPF 4!
* Soothing skin after being in the sun or after a scrape or bite
* Massage therapy – I use it on my 5 month old every evening after the bath
* An all natural lubricant – the non-coconut smelling option is best

I hope this list is reason enough to purchase your own tub of coconut oil! And I bet there’s even more ways and uses for this magnificent oil, please share yours in the comments below.

Some information was referenced from the following website: http://healthimpactnews.com/2011/80-uses-for-coconut-oil/

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I had a question in my inbox about a month ago regarding how to eat healthy on a budget. I know this reader and I are not the only people trying to live a healthy lifestyle without breaking the bank.

Eating healthy can easily be done with a bit of preparation and knowledge. My wife and I plan our meals and make a grocery list before heading to the supermarket. This saves us a lot of time while shopping and ensures we have all the necessary ingredients to make nutritious home cooked meals.

The following tips should help you save money and stay on track with your eating.

1 – Buy in bulk – Shop from the bulk section whenever possible. Things like rice, quinoa, nuts, seeds, flour and dried fruit are all great items to have on hand and buying in bulk is cheaper and eliminates all that extra packaging.

2 – Eat vegetarian as often as you can – Vegetables, organic wherever possible, are far less expensive than meat and go a long way. Staples in our house are broccoli, green beans, carrots, kale, cucumber, onions, yams, potatoes, peppers and garlic. You would be amazed at how many meals you can make with all those veggies and they offer great nutritional value! Be sure to use the “dirty dozen” list to ensure you’re getting the most highly sprayed fruits and veggies organically.
dirty-dozen-list
3 – Avoid highly processed or pre-packaged foods – Making things from scratch at home not only allows you to control every ingredient but it also saves you money. Homemade granola bars (see previous blog), healthy muffins, soups and casseroles are great to make at home and leave you with enough leftovers for a few days to a week.

4 – Buy produce in season – Purchasing seasonal produce is a great way to keep costs low. Don’t buy fruits and veggies that are shipped from miles away; when you purchase locally grown produce that’s in season they’re generally cheaper and you are supporting your local farmers. It wasn’t too long ago that people accepted seasonal scarcity as a fact of life, so the only way you had berries and fruit in the winter was to preserve them or make jams and jellies. I personally think that we need to go back to this way of living.

5 – Buy items that are on special
– Most grocers have monthly or weekly deals. Check out what they have to offer before grabbing your groceries. Although making a list and meal plan is important, so is being flexible once you see what’s on sale.

Heading out to the local farmer’s market is another way to save money, eat locally, organically and seasonally!

What does your family do to stay on track, eat healthy and keep costs low?

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The next time you go to purchase a box of granola or snack bars take a good look at the ingredient list. They are generally loaded with sugar, soy, dairy and wheat; all of which are allergens that most of us could use a lot less of!

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A close friend of mine gave me this recipe that she discovered on the “Winnipeg Hippy Chick” website. I finally have a really amazing recipe for homemade granola bars. More often than not, I opt to make things from scratch rather than purchase pre-packaged. This way I have total control over the quality of the ingredients and can modify things to suit my family’s taste and dietary restrictions.

I have made three different variations of this recipe over the past month and these bars are truly amazing! When you’re trying to care for a newborn and need a quick but healthy snack, these really hit the spot.
**Side note: rolled oats help with milk production so not only is this recipe great for exercise enthusiasts but also for nursing moms!**

The best part about these bars is that there is no cooking required!

Ingredients:
2 cups of your choice of sweetener (maple syrup, brown rice syrup, honey, molasses, agave)
I use half honey and half brown rice syrup

1.5 cups of nut butter (almond, peanut, cashew, sunflower)
I like to use half almond and half peanut butter

4 cups of large flake oats

4 cups of dry cereal of your choice
I use half puffed millet and half Gluten-Free Nature’s Path Heritage O’s

3-5 cups of the following fillers (pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, raisins, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, chia, flax seeds etc…)

Optional: 3-5 Scoops of vanilla or chocolate protein powder
I found the bars pretty dense and filling so I never added any!

Salt to taste – 1-2 tsp.

Directions:
1 – Put your choice of sweeteners and nut butter into a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
2 – Combine the remaining dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
3 – Pour the hot sticky stuff (in the large bowl) over the dry mixture. I do this in phases to ensure the dry ingredients are well coated. Be sure your hands are clean as you will need to mush it all together to fit in into your pan.
4 – Press the mixture firmly (using a spoon dipped in a glass of warm water) into a 9X12 glass or aluminum pan coated with butter or coconut oil to prevent sticking. Get the top as smooth as possible; it takes some work!
5 – Chill in the refridgerator for 2 hours or overnight.
6 – Cut into 2″ squares. Wrap individual squares in wax paper or snack sized Zip-loc baggies and store in a container in the fridge or freezer for longer storage.
7 – Enjoy!

What yummy snacks do you enjoy making from scratch?

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