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Posted by karen
karen's picture

Next to my passion about food (cooking, eating, working), I love fitness, a.k.a. cardio stuff: running, cycling, hiking, rowing. This love affair supports one another: they're joined at the hip. For my goals and abilities it's a compatible marriage - takes work but worth the effort.

 
Boosting that regime to endurance training for an ironman distance triathlon - is - another - story. 
 
It's NOT MY STORY. I hate competitive swimming, the training's too all-consuming, and I'm not that crazy.   
 
This is Tammy Slauenwhite's story.
 
http://www.realfoodmatters.ca/sites/realfoodmatters.ca/files/L1010149.JPG
 
 
I met Tammy almost five years ago - the two of us were thrashing our way around the buoys in Fancy Lake - surrounded by other triathletes, some absolutely flying doing the front crawl.  
 
We were both new comers to the Bridgewater Triathlon Club. Tammy was making the move to add to her personal trainer portfolio and I had just made a move across the country and wanted to meet active people.
 
Both of us met our objectives.
 
Fast track to the present. With a log book bulging with short races, several half-marathons, and two half-ironman distance races, Tammy is gunning for the big one.
 

What motivated her to commit to this??!!

- an ironman distance triathlon is on her bucket list
 
- the first ever EPIC Dartmouth is scheduled for the 2012 Maritime race roster - in Halifax, an hour-plus from Tammy's home
 
- a charity route was a registration option (fund-raising for $1200  in lieu of  paying $395). Her charity of choice was PRO Kids, an organization that matches youth and children in need with community-based recreational activities. Great fit.
 

Why aren't we all signing up??!!

 
Because last week alone was an 18-hour training week. (With still four months until race day, I'd be afraid to check what's coming down the pike in the training program.)
 
To see how that looks in the trenches, check out  her facebook page: TamFit (Tammy Slauenwhite) is taking on EPIC Dartmouth for PRO kids, which will also provide information re: donating to PRO kids.
 

I wanted to know what a typical food-day looks like. From hitting the floor to hitting the sack.

- protein and fruit shake
- eggs with greens and salsa or oatmeal
- fruit and nuts
- salad greens - with some of these: veggies, unsalted nuts, seeds, chicken or beef or beans
- yogurt and berries
- veggies and protein (chicken, beef, fish, eggs)
- nuts, yogurt or hot milk
 
- other "whenever" - raw veggies, fruit, nuts, dates, sometimes home made peanut butter cookies.
- post-workout favourites - dates, nuts, thick protein shakes with banana, berries, yogurt, milk 
- on the bike and the run - water, oranges (and oj), dates, bananas, homemade gel
 
Here's the gel recipe, previously posted. Recipe tweak: finely chop the dates and soak for an hour before making for smoother blending.
 
 
 
The program:  eating every 2-3 hours. "I allow my body to tell me. I don't like to go hungry and I don't like to get bloated so I tend to eat really small amounts at a time." 
 
There's an obvious absence of grains, and Tammy's response to that: "since I cut back on wheat and grains I find my body less bloated and to fill up that space I find I eat more fruits and vegetables which I REALLY need - they have vitamins and minerals I need." 
 
Looks like clean eating to me.  And to date, this is what works for her. Tammy admits that consuming enough veggies and fruits is a challenge. Preparation, shopping (she likes to go organic if available) - along with the protein foods, the total food bill adds up.  Not to mention that she has a teen-age son who also has a healthy appetite - sometimes for different food than what's on her plate which adds time in the kitchen.
 
Tackling an event like this is close to a full-time job commitment. To show support - besides get in a good long run, it's been great fun logging the miles with Tammy and friends. Her program says long runs are slow - yes! - but the time flies as we chat about food, fitness, family and more.
 

I admire Tammy's drive (and her fitness level) to go for such an ambitious dream. The inspiration she wants to share?

"Women my age [almost 40] can do the things they aspire to. It's not too late! Go for it."

Her wish for race day:

- not to be injured

- to be fueled properly (and stay that way) so she's not feeling hungry

- to have energy to be upright and smiling at the finish line

I wish you the best of days, Tammy. 

Speaking of hunger, it's time to fuel up myself after today's 17km  - a beautiful "rave run" by the Atlantic. 

I've made a huge salad of greens, carrot strips, green onions, avocado, cauliflower florets, nuts, toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds and popped amaranth. The dressing - Creamy Tofu with Dill - is delicious, nutritious and reminds me of my grand-daughter, Brienne, who made it for many of our salads last summer. Do give this a try.

Creamy Tofu with Dill Dressing

1 1/2 cups soft or silken tofu

1 shallot, finely chopped

6 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

4 tsp. dried dill

1/2 tsp. Herbamare

1/4 tsp. black pepper

2 tsp. maple syrup

Mix everything in a blender (I used a Magic Bullet) until smooth and creamy. Makes about 2 cups - delicious on salads or as a dip for veggies.

Mmmmm goodness.

 

Posted by karen
karen's picture

I routinely follow about half a dozen blogs, others I check out occasionally, and the surprises are those discovered through curiosity or Web-wandering rabbit trails.

One of my wanderings landed me at the recipe for chunky monkey muffins - and that trail led to two quick-track baking sessions.

First time around I forgot to add the almond butter. Voila! Fudge brownies that had to be eaten with a fork.

Better texture and improved flavour the second time - using all the ingredients.

My recipe tweaks: used organic coconut oil, the chocolate option, toasted the nuts before adding them to the top. Needed about 20 minutes to bake.

Pretty yummy, and fast if you get it in one try!

Visit the rest of this motley mix for busy people - living healthy, living active.

 
My daughter home-schools her three (beautiful, intelligent) children, writes, lives with her adventuresome husband - and cooks delicious, healthy food. She's fine-tuned how to come up with the goods but spend less time in the kitchen. Her blog overall is targeted to young creative Moms but this post is brimming with practical time-saving tips, menu ideas and applies to busy cooks in any stage of life.
 
The "domestic divas" offer a wealth of wisdom about cultured foods - and a whack of other topics. This instant breakfast porridge recipe is a zinger for athletes, camping, packing in lunches, traveling - and of course, breakfast too. 
 
Have you recently walked by (or to) the coolers stocked with sports drinks? Their brilliant colours have to be be the first red flag they can't be all that good for you. An RHN colleague (and author) has recipes to make your own - they might even give you the leading edge you're looking for! 
 
If you are a walker, runner, weight lifter, cyclist, swimmer, hiker: a window washer, gardener, painter, carpenter, secretary: or anyone who moves muscles --self-massage techniques  could well lengthen the time span between professional tune-ups. (This isn't a family blog promo, but my son-in-law's site is worth checking out.)
 
 
If you follow some favourite nutrition-fitness blogs, do tell!
Posted by karen
karen's picture

Last week I spent Valentine's Day with my sister who lives in Alberta. For the record, we both have husbands who are our "true loves" but infortunately neither of them were there. In reality, her husband was as close as the other side of town, in the hospital (poor guy - the good news, he's since been discharged) - and my husband was at our home on the other side of the country. 

 
Us two girls needed a pick-me-up.
 
True to our personalities, my sister went out and bought us a rose (you can see a bit of it in the photo above) - I got busy in her kitchen. 
 

I was bent on making us a treat which didn't mean tossing aside good nutrition.

 
I found in the basement a dust-covered box containing a Donvier ice cream maker.
 
In the freezer were some frozen strawberries from last summer's pickings.
 
In the cupboard was a Magic Bullet blender, coconut milk, honey and vanilla extract (from Jamaica, no less!).
 
In my memory was a simple recipe I've often made from Whole Food Nutrition.
 
 

The recipe: strawberry-coconut ice "cream" without dairy and refined sugar.

 
I made a small batch as her Bullet wasn't a full-size blender (and really how much treat did the two of us need?!) but doubling the amount would have fit fine into the ice cream maker.
 
-- 1 can full fat coconut milk (check the label to ensure there's no added sugar)
 
-- 1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries (other fruits like blueberries are equally as yummy)
 
-- 2-3 Tbsp. honey (could substitute with agave nectar or maple syrup)
 
-- 1-2 tsp. vanilla (I coaxed about 1 1/2 tsp out of the Jamaican bottle)
 
Place ingredients into blender and blend until smooth and creamy. To take good care of my sister's Bullet I stopped and started a couple times, but mixing doesn't take very long - especially if you have a stronger machine like a Vitamix. 
 
 
You can pour this immediately into the Donvier's frozen cannister but I let the blender and contents sit in the fridge and chill for about half an hour before doing so.
 
This type of ice cream maker requires turning the paddle about every minute or so - it was ready in 20-25 minutes.
 
 
Scoop it out of the cannister and into another container: let it sit in the freezer for about an hour before serving. It's okay to chill longer of course, but can get rock solid and has to sit out for quite a while before you can scoop it.
 
 
Honestly, this is the stage I could sit down and spoon up! Creamy, smooth, punched full of strawberry and coconut flavours.
 
Not as good as sharing the day with my life-long Valentine (another story - how I still have the Valentine card my hubbie gave me in elementary school!) but this hit the spot for an occasion when "....all you need is love..." wasn't quite enough :)
Posted by karen
karen's picture

Cleanse, re-junevate, re-energize - these can be the rewards when you want to:

-- allow your body to get back on track after periods of high stress or indulgent eating (been away for a vacation, on a cruise?!)

-- jump start a weight loss effort

-- prepare for a seasonal transition

-- are ready to get back on balance with a healthy life style

This workshop focuses on a food-based cleanse: an informal evening of information in the form of handouts, recipes and tasting.

There's still room - but space is limited so don't delay if you're interested. 

If you live too far away to attend, workshop material is available online.

 

BiBimBap

03 Feb 2012
Posted by karen
karen's picture

Bee-bim-bap(rice).

Please join my fast-track-taste-tour through the Orient.
 
Growing up in a family of seven, eating out in a restaurant was a rare occasion - like maybe four or five times a year we had a Chinese food treat at The Seven Seas. Egg rolls, chicken balls, vegetables covered in a gelatinous sauce, chow mein noodles, dry ribs, stir-fried rice. We ordered the dishes for our "special of the day"!
 
Fast forward. My husband and I made more frequent restaurant visits and we adventured into other Orient options: Beef Noodle Satay Soup from Vietnamese Oriental Noodle House became a favourite. Later, our daughter and son-in-law introduced us to sushi and the fresh cuisine of Japan.
 
Then in 2005 for three months we were privileged to host a Korean house-guest/boarder  - who loved to cook. Shopping with Joon, stocking up for his culinary specialties, was like taking kids to the toy store. Then watching him work his magic for food presentation, and later eating his fare...it was the best of times.
 
Joon taught me how to make BiBimBap. I love this dish because it has a variety of veggies, it's not heavy - and once in a while I love a fried egg. It's a meal in a bowl that's nothing like the one-pot dishes we're used to.
 

Here's how you make it.

 
Cook a pot of rice as you normally would - in a rice cooker or on the stove. (When I was outnumbered by Joon and my husband it was white rice - now I make brown.)
 
While rice is cooking, prepare your choice of the following toppings (about 4 -6, not including the eggs). Some of the prep can be done ahead of time or round up the troops to help - guests come in handy to join in the work, and the fun.
 
-- carrots - sliced into tiny julienned strips, or grated slivers, 2 - 3 inches long
 
-- red or green cabbage - finely sliced
 
-- package of fresh bean sprouts
 
-- green onions - cut on the diagonal
 
-- tofu - cubed or sliced, lightly sauteed in mixture of soy sauce and sesame oil
 
-- fresh, or re-hydrated wild mushrooms - thinly sliced, lightly sauteed or not
 
-- English cucumber - sliced into 1/4" thick slices and lightly sauteed in a little olive oil
 
-- zucchini - cut in half from top to bottom, sliced and sauteed in a little olive oil
 
-- spinach - left in fresh leaves, or lightly wilted with sea salt
 
-- thinly sliced minced beef - lightly fry in hot pan with bit of sea salt until cooked
 
 
-- eggs - cook sunnyside up (or to your preference) at the very last, just before eating.
 
 
-- kimchi - purchased from reputable source or make your own - here's how. 
 
-- soy sauce, sesame oil, hot chili sauce - or gochujang - Korean traditional hot chili paste
 

To Serve:

Scoop up a mugful of hot rice and tip it out in the middle of a wide-mouthed cereal bowl or small serving bowl. Around the perimeter of the rice, using chopsticks or a spoon, serve up  amounts of the toppings, reserving the "peak" of the rice for your egg(s). (Sorry, my photo doesn't show any rice, but it's there under all the toppings.)
 
Sprinkle on a bit of soy sauce, sesame oil and your choice of hot sauce.
 
Using chopsticks (or fork), stir everything together and eat up - adding extra bits of toppings and rice as desired.
 
Look for BiBimBap on the menu of your favourite Oriental restaurant. It will have its own variations -  more ideas for your own healthy BiBimBap experience.
 

Eye on Iodine

09 Jan 2012
Posted by karen
karen's picture

Have you ever been told you're high maintenance? Nutritionally, we all are - to sustain and maintain health, our body's daily requirements cuts a lengthy list - water, carboyhdrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals. But unlike the image of "more is better", only small amounts of some things are needed: more accurately, sometimes just a trace.

The mineral, iodine, is one such example. My alert to its significance came after reading a friend's blog with her iodine story, and more recently, a chat with my niece about her  markedly reduced pain from (benign) breast cysts - since using iodine supplementation. 

Check out the FAQs.
 

What does iodine do?

-- helps metabolize excess fat
-- necessary for physical and mental development (why it's so important for women of childbearing age and children)
-- produces thyroid hormones that regulate the body's metabolic energy

What's the scoop on how much, too much?

-- no significant danger of iodine toxicity from a natural diet
-- small risk of chronic iodine excess, but care should be taken with supplements - excessive amounts can reduce thyroid function, possible effects are a metallic taste or sores in the mouth, diarrhea, vomiting 
-- worst case deficiency - goiter disease: the thyroid gland doesn't have enough iodine to manufacture hormones and as the cells are trying to trap more iodine they swell, eventually causing the whole gland to enlarge
 

What contributes to iodine deficiency?

-- increased exposure to toxic substances that displace iodine, e.g. radiation, fluoride
-- iodine-deficicent soil
-- replacing iodized sea salt with white sea salt -a product processed to make it 'free flowing' and is not abundant in minerals
--inadequate dietary intake
-- thyroid function may slow down with aging
 

Possible symptoms of iodine deficiency.

-- fatigue
-- brain fog
-- extra weight that just won't "get lost"
-- hair loss
 

Natural food sources for iodine.

-- seafood (carefully check your sources for possible mercury toxicity)
-- sea vegetables - seaweed like nori, wakame, dulce. Kelp is the most common for high iodine and is also rich in other minerals and low in sodium. 
-- vegetables grown in iodine-rich soil (higher probability in areas closer to the sea as compared to inland) - garlic, onions, mushrooms, spinach, lettuce
-- iodized salt or unprocessed sea salt - be aware not to overdo these, although sea salt does have less of an effect on blood pressure than processed table salt
 
 
 
Kelp as a supplement.
-- is most often sold as a powder or in a liquid form to add to drinking water
-- it is rich in iodine, the B vitamins and also a source of other minerals and trace elements
-- reported to be beneficial to brain tissue, sensory nerves, blood vessels
-- used in treatment of thyroid problems and may protect against the effects of radiation
 
 
Seafood and sea vegetables are staples in Japanese cooking - a good way to eat healthy, usually lighter meals, and a food source for iodine. My daughter and her family, who got us hooked on sushi (which is easier to order in a restaurant than to make at home), came up with the simplified version below.
 

Roll-Your-Own (Maki) Sushi

Sushi works best with white rice. Not a food I normally recommend but for this recipe I'm compromising for the upside of getting more sea vegetables in your family's diet. You can make a pot of rice as you normally would, or if you want to - and have time for - making "proper" sushi rice, you can use the following method. To be honest, I've only gone as far as mixing in the vinegar mixture - hats off to you if you get to the cooling part!
 
2 cups sushi or short grain rice
2 cups water, plus extra for rinsing rice
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp agave syrup
1 Tbsp sea salt
 
Place rice into a bowl and cover with water. Rinse at least 3 times or until the water is clear. Put the rice and 2 cups water into a pan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Once it begins to bowl, reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 15 mins, remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.
 
Combine the rice vinegar, agave and salt in small bowl and mix until dissolved. Transfer the rice to large bowl and add the vinegar mixture. Fold gently but thoroughly to combine and coat each grain of rice with the mixture. Transfer to a large flat baking pan. Fan the rice with a piece of cardboard while turning gently with a fork until it has all cooled. It's easier with 2 people! This will make it shiny and slightly sticky - which is the trick you're trying to achieve.
 
So that's it for the rice.
 
The other ingredients:
nori sheets
tamari sauce and wasabi for dipping
 
And your choice of the following:
finely julienned slices of carrots and cucumber
sliced fresh mushrooms and/or your choice of rehydrated "wild" mushrooms
chopped green onions
avocado slices
small slices of tofu
finely sliced pepper
pickled ginger
black sesame seeds
smoked salmon or canned tuna (non-vegetarian option)
 
Now for the eating...
 
Cut the nori sheets along the perforated markings, than again in half, so you have pieces about 1 1/4" x 3 1/2". These pieces will be your individual sushi rolls. Fill your plate with a spoonful of rice and whatever other fillings you want. Use the nori pieces either as a scoop or base for the rice, then put your other selected fillings on top and roll as much as you're able - dip in a bit of tamari sauce and wasabi and enjoy! With everyone building and rolling, dipping and eating, it's not a tidy affair - but delicious. Take your time - share an eating experience and good conversation around your table.
 
If you're not quite ready to go with the sushi, start your Japanese cooking with this simple condiment. Gomasio fills your kitchen with a wonderful nutty, toasty aroma when you make it. I dare you to try resisting eating it directly out of the spice jar! Thanks to Kira from Food Works Nutrition for this recipe, and one for sushi rice.

Gomasio

1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
1 tsp. Celtic Sea Salt (or other unprocessed sea salt)
1 Tbsp. dulse flakes (readily available where I live on the Atlantic coast - yeah!) 
 
Roast the sesame seeds in a pan at a low heat until they are just starting to pop. Take them off and let cool for 5 minutes. Add the salt and grind in a clean coffee or spice grinder. Don't grind them so much that it turns into flour - which I found out happens very quickly, mine almost got to that point. You want it to have texture. Add the dulse flakes, put in a glass jar with a lid and refrigerate. (My husband took a deep whiff of this - he loved the smell and the answer to his question what we'd sprinkle it on? "Anything and everything.") 
 
(Note: the material on Real Food Matters is not meant for medical diagnosis or treatment. For health concerns, I recommend you see your physician or health practitioner.)

 

Posted by karen
karen's picture

We're in that window between holiday weekends.

Digesting a huge meal can be taxing on your body. Consuming back-to-back a few of these indulgent meals (that often include food choices and combinations that you don't usually eat), can make you feel right out of balance - bloated, craving certain foods, a sense of being "fuzzy" and out of control, short on energy.
 
Crammed social calendars and the excitement - and exhaustion - of hosting guests can add to a feeling of overwhelmed.
 
If this is you.... 
 

Here are a few tips - nutrition-wise and otherwise - to help you on the rebound.

 
Get out in the sunshine - let some of that glow shine on your face and in your eyes.
 
Give your body a chance to recuperate by fasting for a day.
 
If you can, squeeze in a day of consuming only juices or blended smoothies to help your body recover and get back on track.
 
Give yourself a day of just fresh fruits and vegetables
 
Exercise - just 20 minutes a day is better than nothing. Even better, no matter what the weather, get outside to play and exercise.
 
 
Read a good book, light a candle, soak in a hot bath, brew a cup of tea, play a board game or enjoy conversation with a friend: go off-line, turn off the television.  
 
Make a comforting curry dish. The healing, warming spices - ginger, cinnamon, cloves, chilies, cayenne and turmeric - are a yummy alternative to other feast flavours.
 
Get good quality sleep, give yourself permission to take a nap during the day.
 
Drink plenty of water - flush out the excesses and rehydrate after eating food saltier than normal. 
 
 
If your hospitality door is still revolving, your guests are probably as ready as you for more simple fare.
 
Serve the following nut roast with a large leafy salad, and a curry lentil soup. Everybody wins.
 
 

"Crank's" Nut Roast

1 medium sized onion
1 oz butter
8 oz. mixed nuts: peanuts, walnuts, cashews, etc.
4 oz. whole wheat bread (gluten-free bread can be substituted)
2 c. veg stock
2 tsp. yeast extract (Marmite)
1 tsp. mixed herbs
 
Chop onions and saute in butter until transparent. Grind nuts and bread together in a food processor or coffee grinder (bread crumbs stop the nuts from getting gummed together in a ball), until quite fine. Heat the stock and Marmite to boiling point, then combine all the ingredients together and mix well - the mixture should be fairly slack. Turn into a greased shallow baking dish, level the surface, sprinkle w/few breadcrumbs, and bake in the oven at 350F for 30 minutes or until golden.
 
(This makes quite a small loaf - amounts can be easily increased. Thanks to my good Scottish neighbour, Fiona, for sharing this old recipe from the UK.) 
 
 
Talk to you soon - Happy New Year! 
Posted by karen
karen's picture

This last post before Christmas is all about the sweet finish. If your house is like ours, desserts are a special treat - saved for occasions that are also special. 

It's been several years since I stopped buying - and drinking - egg nog. Nutnog is the alternative I've been waiting for. 

Cashew Nutnog for four (or more)

Cover 1 cup* cashew nuts with water and soak overnight.
 
In the morning, drain the cashews, rinse well and put in blender.
 
Add:
3 cups fresh water
1/3 cup maple syrup (or substitute with honey, agave syrup or 4-5 Medjool dates)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 - 1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
couple dashes of sea salt
 
Blend for at least 1 minute, until thoroughly blended.
 
Chill (will thicken up when it gets cold). Shake well before serving. 
 
Serve in pretty goblets and sprinkle liberally with more grated nutmeg.
*If you like your nog thick and creamy, use another 1/2 - 1 cup nuts.
 
 
(Nutrition notes: among other things, cashews boast magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc. And - they have a lower fat and higher carbohydrate level than most other nuts!)
 
This nutnog can also be made with raw almonds or Brazil nuts: but the "milk" will have to be strained in a fine mesh bag to remove the pulp before adding the other ingredients. (The pulp can be saved to use for baking or adding to hot cereal breakfasts.) The how-to can be viewed here.
 
A perfect partner with the nutnog is the following banana cake: gluten free, moist and delicious. This recipe came from my daughter-in-law; it's a standby treat in her GF house.
 

Banana Cake - gluten free 

3 cups almond flour
3 eggs. beaten
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. gluten-free baking soda
2 ripe bananas, mashed (enough to make 1 cup)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
 
Spread in lightly greased 9-inch square pan. (Use liner paper if wanting to remove the whole cake.) Bake at 350F for about 35-40 minutes.
Test for doneness, cake will be moist but you don't want it soggy.
 
Let cool, cut and enjoy.
 

The following offering is a simple, elegant, light dessert my son-in-law prepared for a feast many Christmas's ago. Its presentation is as impressive as your flair.

Wine Baked Pears

4 ripe pears, preferably Bosc, with stems, washed and dried
2 cups fruity white wine - I like to use a  local pear wine - or a Reisling is very tasty too
1/4 cup honey
4 cinnamon sticks
4 bay leaves
4 strips orange zest
 
optional: roasted walnuts or pecans garnish
                ricotta cheese or thick plain yogurt
 
Preheat oven to 400F.
 
Cut a thin slice off the bottom of each pear so they will stand upright. Arrange the pears in a large pie pan. Whisk wine and honey in small bowl until well blended; pour over the pears. Add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and orange rind to the wine mixture around the pears.
 
Put the pears in the oven, basting every 15 minutes until they are wrinkled and tender - 45 minutes to 1 hour - depending on the type of pear used. If planning to use the nut garnish, toast them in a separate dish in the oven for about 10-12 minutes. Don't forget them!
 
When baked, remove pears from oven to cool. (By now your house will exude a spicy, heady fragrance.)
 
To serve: use slotted spoon to transfer the pears to shallow dessert bowls. Drizzle the wine mixture over the pears and garnish with the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and orange zest. If using, sprinkle with toasted nuts and serve with ricotta cheese or yogurt.
 
Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.
 
 
For many of us, Christmas is about families, traditions - and memories. I miss my Mom. In January it will be 6 years ago since she died and, except for her last Christmas, Mom was always a vital part of preparing for the feast(s). When my generation encouraged her to let us do more of the work, she was happy to allow that - but she set the hospitality standard for me. I'll always be grateful for her expression of giving from her kitchen and I'd like to chat with her about that - and other foodie things - once in a while. This is one of those "whiles." 
 
Mom's Scottish background ensured shortbread was included in her holiday baking. She wasn't a total purist, using only one recipe that came from her great-grandmother :) She'd often try new recipes with different proportions of butter (always used butter), flour, sugar and flavourings. Now that I'm the Nana, wishing to share and continue our heritage traditions, I too am trying new shortbread recipes.
 
Except I'm looking for recipes using gluten free flour, and sweeteners other than refined sugar. I've also included the optional coffee flavour. This summer my 8-year-old grand daughter liked this variety from a coffee place/bakery/restaurant in Lunenburg. (I think it was her "legal" opportunity to enjoy the flavour of coffee :) Since I'm experiementing I thought, "why not"? I'll do coffee shortbread this year to honour my Swedish Dad who still enjoys a good cup of coffee.
 
I dared not mess with a butter substitute. Not yet, not this year.  And maybe never. I think there are some things that are best left alone, left in the recipe and enjoyed once or twice a year. The one ingredient I forgot when I made this, but included in the recipe, is the almond or vanilla extract.
 
If you're familiar with baking with gluten free flours, you don't expect most baked goods to have the same texture as when you use wheat or spelt or another "conventional" flour. And that holds true for this shortbread too. The texture isn't the same but they are still melt--in-your-mouth shortbread:  a very acceptable substitute if you or your holiday guests are not able to eat gluten.
 

Shortbread - gluten free, does have butter and coconut sugar

 
1 1/4 cup butter, cold
1/3 cup organic coconut sugar
1/2 tsp almond or vanilla extract
optional: 1-2 Tbsp. instant coffee powder -according to how strong a flavour you want
 
Put in food processor the dry ingredients,  the cold butter cut into rough chunks, the extract and the optional coffee. Process until ingredients cling together.
 
Press mixture evenly into a lightly greased, paper-lined 9 x 9 pan. Mark into squares or rectangles, prick with fork and bake at 325F for 35-40 minutes. When baked, remove from oven, cut again (it's important to cut while warm,  they'll crumble if cut later), let stand 10 minutes. Lift to a wire rack and let cool. 
 
I've tested this recipe only once so I am hoping to hear feedback and suggestions from any of you who make these. I'm sure you've got some good tweaking ideas.
 
Enjoy your Christmas, friends. God bless your feasting, your fellowship with family and friends - and give you safe travels.
Posted by karen
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This is it. The weekend that launches my season of Christmas hospitality. It's fast and furious, with a dinner for four Friday night and hosting a neighbourhood potluck brunch on Sunday. 
 
This is a "world-away" contrast to a former chapter of my life.  When December was a flurry of celebrations: from the get-go birthday party on the 2nd for my daughter - to a host of Christmas parties connected to all the life-circles of my husband and I and our two children- to our son's birthday on the 23rd. And this event was the starting gun for the marathon of Christmas celebrations that revolved around a community of family - going from house to house - which would wrap up sometime around the New Year. Just recording this makes me breathless. But it was wonderful: a time of sharing, laughter and fun, and of course, eating.
 
Coming from a heritage of accomplished cooks, the food was plentiful and delicious. Taste memories range from the traditional Swedish lutefish and lefse, to the stuffed turkey, a myriad of salads and vegetable dishes - and a "stretch buffet" of sweets and desserts.
 
But just like the jam-packed holiday schedule has changed, so have many of the food choices that are now on our feast menus. 
 
Generally, we now have: more fresh vegetables and fruits, more whole grains, less animal fats, more natural sweets, less refined sugar.   
 
The following recipes I've made this weekend are some healthy holiday eating suggestions you may want to serve at your holiday feasts.
 

Begin with "A Starter" 

Curry Pumpkin Hummus 

2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp.allspice
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. maple syrup
1/4 cup tahini
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 cup solid-pack pumpkin puree
3 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp. sea salt (or Herbamare)
1/4 tsp. black pepper
garnish: chopped pistachios or toasted pumpkin seeds
 
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, allspice, turmeric, cayenne, and maple syrup. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring well.
Stir in tahini and chick peas; remove from heat.
Stir in the pumpkin, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until smooth.
Spoon into a shallow serving bowl and sprinkle with garnish.
 
(Nutrition notes: these flavorful curry seasonings improve circulation - good "flu-fighters". Tahini and chick peas are protein sources - pumpkin supplies vitamin A.)
 
Recipe adapted from "Quick-Fix Vegan: Healthy Homestyle Meals in 30 Minutes or Less" by Robin Robertson

Home-Made Pita Chips - one version GF, one not

Cut whole-wheat pitas (or for gluten free use corn tortillas) into wedges and arrange on large baking pan. Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with a wee bit of sea salt. Bake in 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until crisp: flipping them over half-way through. Not gluten free, but a healthy alternative to nachos cooked in oil. 
 

Quinoa and Roasted Squash Salad - delicious make-ahead salad

1.5 cup quinoa
2 3/4 cups water
pinch sea salt
 
2.5 pound squash - acorn, buttercup or Kabocha - enough for 8-10 cups cut into cubes
3 Tbsp.extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. Herbamare
1/2 tsp.cinnamon
1 cup pecans
1 1/2 cups red onion, cut into slivers
1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1 cup chopped parsley
 
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. good quality balsamic vinegar (I used balsamic fig from this great source in Halifax)
1 tsp. orange zest
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
 
optional: crumbled feta cheese
 
Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and place in 2-quart pot with the water and sea salt. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool completely. (Can be made ahead 1-2 days before you need it and kept in the fridge.)
 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash into quarters, scoop out seeds and cut into equal bite-sized chunks, about 1-inch squares. Place into baking dish, toss with the olive oil, Herbamare and cinnamon. Roast for 35-40 minutes. Stir once halfway through - let cool on the pan.
Place the pecans in a separate small baking dish and slide them in the oven along with the squash. Roast for 10-12 minutes - don't forget them in there!
 
Saute the slivered red onions in a wee bit of olive oil - for about 5 minutes, just until soft and beginning to change colour. Remove from heat.
 
Place cooled quinoa into a large bowl, add the roasted squash, roasted and chopped pecans, sautéed onions, dried cranberries, pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley.
 
Put dressing ingredients into small jar with tight-fitting lid. Shake well and pour over salad. If desired, sprinkle crumbled feta cheese on top before  refrigerating until serving.
 
Recipe adapted from www.nourishingmeals.com
 
 

One favorite has not changed - that's our holiday fruitcake. Gloriously good and gluten free.

 
 
Many years ago my Mom found a recipe for this fruit cake which has become an annual Christmas standby - and sometimes shows up during other times of the year too!
 
Over the years I've tweaked it to suit my family; it has evolved into a delicious gluten free version.
 
This is not the traditional candied fruit, butter-rich kind of fruitcake. It's made with dried fruits, nuts, eggs, flour (I use a GF mix, as mentioned), baking powder, bit of honey or maple syrup and vanilla. You know it's good when even the grandkids say, "it won't be Christmas without Nana's fruitcake."
 
Click here for the recipe for the Healthy Nut and Dried Fruit Christmas Cake.
 
This cake doesn't have to be aged - it'll be a hit (and so will you!) if you squeeze it into your schedule this week.
 
Happy healthy holiday eating!!
Posted by karen
karen's picture

The 2011 calendar will soon be wrapped up. Have you thought about - or made - any nutrition resolutions for your fitness and athletic activities? Maybe they look like these:

-- gearing up for a month-long digestive cleanse and decreasing exercise intensity

-- launching into a vegan diet

-- testing out what eating raw is all about

-- cutting out caffeine for a month

Or maybe your "extreme" resolution is to figure out how to fuel yourself properly while training for your first marathon.

Running happens to be my favourite fitness gig - but whatever the exercise activity, our performance and experience will show whether our eating choices have been left to chance.

Goals are good.

If you've not yet decided, and don't want to be left out of the resolution loop, check out the following list. These all carry a worthwhile nutrition objective - and benefit.

Avoid diet sodas and foods with Aspartame and other synthetic sugars.

-- consuming Aspartame also includes ingesting methanol (wood alcohol) which is a dangerous neurotoxin and a known carcinogen.

-- one of the many negative side effects is the harmful effect on the nervous system

-- synthetic sugars contribute to acidity, a condition which leads to (1) inflammation, and (2) the body creates fat cells to store that extra acid so that, ironically, consistent consumption of Aspartame could add to your weight.

Avoid refined sugar - only a few of the reasons why:

-- refined sugar weakens the immune system by stealing your white blood cells' ability to destroy bacteria 

-- can encourage addiction to eating foods devoid of vitamins, minerals and fibre - when our body really needs and wants those nutrient-rich foods

-- upsets mineral relationships in the body, e.g. messes with the absorption of calcium and magnesium

Eat more greens and veggies for antioxidants, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, zinc, omega 3's

-- a hefty daily serving of greens

-- a generous daily serving of coloured veggies and bright-coloured fruits, berries

-- a hearty daily portion of sulfur producing veggies - e.g. cabbage, broccoli, turnips, onions, garlic, etc.

Make your own power bars and gels.

-- the nutritional value of processed energy bars is often the equivalent of candy bars. Home made bars and gels with nutrient-rich calories are less expensive and easy to make. The recipe for the gel is in my post about dates (you'll have to scroll down a ways to find it).  I shared some of this power gel recently while running with a friend. She's hooked. So much tastier than the gels you buy - and made with real food ingredients.

Protein Bar Recipe

1 cup protein powder (hemp, soy or whey)

2 cups rice bran

1/4 cup cocoa powder

3/4 tsp. sea salt

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup slivered almonds

1 cup shredded coconut

3/4 cup hemp seeds

Mix above and add:

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 - 3/4 cup brown rice syrup or honey

1/4 cup maple syrup

Mix thoroughly and form into balls or press into a pan to cut into bars.

Store in refrigerator or freeze.

This recipe came from a colleague who makes them for a pro sports team. Convinced?

Eat more fermented foods - e.g. sauerkraut, kimchi

-- the healthy bacteria in these foods speed up digestion and assimilation of nutrients

-- fermented foods help reduce sweet cravings (and when you do indulge, fermented foods help digest the sugars)

-- fermented foods contribute to an alkaline state, as compared to an acidic environment, which is responsible for an increase of free radicals and a decrease in the production of cellular energy

-- bonus - you can easily make it yourself, see how to do it here

Log your food intake - what you eat every day and when you eat it.

-- the timing of your food intake affects how you feel when you exercise

-- tracking food you eat along with your exercise performance can be a helpful fitness nutrition tool - especially if you want to notch up your activity for competition

 

I challenge you to choose at least one New Year's nutrition resolution.

You never know what rewards could await you in 2012.

I'd love to hear from you - what are your nutrition resolutions?

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