Cumin Carrots

Here’s an interesting and exotic side-dish. I was inspired to create this recipe from my trip to Morocco.  This dish is bright with the sweet tang of of lemon and earthy from the rich dark tones of cumin. The sweetness of the carrots nicely balances the tartness of the lemon juice. It’s like lying in the grass on a summer day. This definitely makes for a great summer side dish!

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Carrots are a vegetable and the leading source of beta-carotene in the North American diet. Beta-carotene is a carotenoid which is converted after it is eaten into Vitamin A in your body. This adds to your body’s daily Vitamin A requirements. Vitamin A is essential for the function of the retina and therefore effects the health of your vision. Carrots are also a god source of fibre which is important for the functioning of your digestive system as well as lowering unhealthy cholesterol levels. In addition, carrots, like many fruits and vegetables, contain potassium, an electrolyte that helps regulate acid-base balance in the body, is involved in normal muscle contraction and nerve impulses as well as proper functioning of the heart and kidneys. Potassium may also help with lowering blood pressure thus preventing hypertension and the risk for heart attack and stroke.

Cumin is a spice. Spices have been valued for their ability to add flavour to food for centuries. Cumin’s earthy notes give this dish a distinctive and exotic flavour. Not only do spices like cumin add flavour to dishes (without unnecessary calories, fat or salt) but they also may be the source of antioxidants which are important for the maintenance of healthy cells with the reduction of free-radical damage.

Garlic is a member of the allium family with a host of reputed health benefits. It has been used medicinally for many centuries. Alicin is a compound found in garlic which is responsible for its strong taste and aroma. Alicin may function as an antioxidant which could possibly be one of the reasons garlic has been credited with so many medicinal properties.

Onions are also a member of the allium family of vegetables and a rich source of phytochemical which may reduce the risk of some cancers.

Lemons are a spectacular source of Vitamin C, which is a water-soluble vitamin and may reduce the risk of cancer as well as act as a cold-fighter and immunity booster. Vitamin C enhances iron absorption and is crucial to collagen production, which stabilizes connective tissue. Lemons also contain limonene, a phytochemical which could possibly block abnormal cell-growth which suggests anti-cancer benefits.

 

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Braising is a healthy cooking method. It is a moist-heat slow-cooking method. You start with browning the food you are cooking and then adding a small amount of liquid and simmering or steaming the food, covered, until it is coked. You can braise meats, chicken or vegetables. It is a very versatile cooking method. One of the reasons it is such a good way to cook food is that all of the cooking liquid is reabsorbed back into the food while it is braising. This means that any nutrients that were lost into the cooking liquid are reabsorbed back into the food so you still get all of the nutritional benefits of the food!

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Cumin Carrots

This is a great side dish. It goes really well with roast chicken!

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Maple Macadamia Energy Bites

Put a little spring in your step with these energy bites! These snack balls are full of a mix of ingredients to give you a delicious and sustaining energy boost. These gluten-free and vegan treats are sure to help you get your day off to a successful start or give you that little pick-me-up to help you power through even the toughest afternoon slumps!

What’s even better is that this recipe is so fast and easy to make. They are really portable and make a great go-to snack when you are on the go!

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Macadamia nuts are a source of both protein and healthy fats. Protein helps keep you feeling fuller for longer. The healthy fats in Macadamia nuts are called mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) which are important because of their effect of improving your cholesterol profile and lowering triglyceride levels which lowers  your risk for heart disease and stroke. Eating healthy fats is also important for the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins in your diet. In addition, macadamia nuts contain trace amounts of magnesium, calcium, iron, copper, chromium, manganese and zinc.

Maca is a root that comes from South America. It is said to help balance hormones, increase energy, improve stamina and athletic performance and promote mental clarity. Maca powder is available from many bulk food stores or at health food stores. A little goes a long way that’s for sure!

Cashew butter (or any nut butter) is another great source of protein and healthy fats (more MUFAs!) for long lasting sustainable energy. I felt that peanut butter would have been to be overpowering so went with cashew butter instead. I also made a batch with peanut butter pecan butter which was very good too.

Maple syrup is a natural sweetener and contributes to the unique and distinct flavour combination in these bites. As well as energy it is also a source of antioxidants.

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maple maca energy bites

Uncovering the History and Mysteries of Pumpkin Pie Spice

It seems like everyone can’t get enough of Pumpkin Pie Spice. Pumpkin pie is a favourite fall desert but its signature spice has permeated into all other sorts of products like lattes, cakes, muffins and scones to name a few. It may appear a modern fanaticism but it is truly rooted in a history and in mysteries that go back centuries.

Spices have always been very important. Originally from India and the Orient, they have an infamous reputation for being exotic and valuable. There have been wars and obsessions over spices for centuries. In fact it was because of the war over spices, which was a reason for the search for better routes to the East, that the Europeans originally discovered North America, without which there would be no Pumpkin Pie Spice.

Pumpkin pie spice (or just Pumpkin Spice as it seems to be more commonly called now) is a signature American spice blend. There is no set discovery of the first mixing of Pumpkin Spice. That is destined to be a mystery hidden in the sands of time. However, it is known that this spice blend has its heritage with the pilgrims. We say it is a mixture of “warming” spices. Pumpkin is a food found the New World. So the creation of is an example of the interaction of Old World meets New World.

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What makes this signature spice blend? The spices in pumpkin pie spice are cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice. Cinnamon will always be featured in the greatest amount and quite a lot more than the other spices. Next, ginger and nutmeg are featured in second highest amounts with cloves and allspice being featured in the lowest amount. This is because cloves and allspice are fairly strong and pungent spices and will not be as pleasing in large amounts as cinnamon, ginger or nutmeg. The precise amounts of spices may vary but the proportions in relation to one another of the other spices will remain similar.

You can buy the spice already premixed or you can by individual spices to create and customize your own special blend.  Spices should be stored in air-tight containers in a cool, dry dark place for up to 6 months.

Here’s a quick recipe for Pumpkin Spice. Simply mix all the ingredients together.

  • 4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp allspice

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Not only does this spice mix add flavour to your cooking and baking but they also provide hidden benefits to your health. Spices add flavour which reduces the need for extra sugar, salt and fat to recipes helping you to cook and eat healthier. There is some research into the antioxidant activity of spices which contributes to keeping us healthy by reducing free-radical damage to our bodies – protecting our cells and reducing the risk for many diseases.

Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake

Still looking for the perfect holiday desert? Look no further! Cheesecake is one of the world’s most popular deserts! It’s a hallmark to any desert table. From simple beginnings the evolution of a basic cheesecake has morphed into the creation of multitudes of variations in flavour combinations. Cheesecake is thought to have originated in Ancient Greece. And almost as soon as the recipe was born so too began the quest for the perfect cheesecake – a universal endeavor the spans countries, continents and centuries. The Romans are said to have brought cheesecake to the rest of Europe. From there is spread to the Americas.

Regrettably, this delicious dessert is a lost hope for many, owing to various food allergies ad intolerances. That’s why I created this recipe. This ‘cheesecake’  can be made gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo-friendly as well as vegan so it is more inclusive than most other cheesecakes could ever be. There’s more to it than that. With the tweaks I’ve made not only does this cheesecake taste rich, delicious and creamy but it is also high in protein, contains healthier fats and is more nutrient dense than the standard cheesecake.

 

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Some ingredients to highlight that make this an empowering eat are:

Pumpkin is a vegetable very high in cholesterol-lowering fibre and rich in Vitamin A which is important for maintaining normal vision and keeping the immune system at its best. Pumpkin adds texture to this cheesecake – without extra fat and calories.

Almonds, pecans and walnuts are all nuts which give the graininess to the crust. Nuts are a source of healthy polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fatty acids which are good for your heart and may help reduce the risk of developing heart disease. They also are a vegan source of protein and source of fibre.

Flax seeds add texture and a heap of nutrients to the crust. Flax is a source of omega-3 fatty acids, important for heart health, and fibre which helps achieve healthy cholesterol levels.

Cashews are the major ingredient in the filling, providing creaminess and texture. Cashews, like other nuts, are a source of vegan protein as well as fibre. In addition, cashews are rich in Vitamin E, magnesium and zinc.

Coconut milk is a dairy-free milk which gives creaminess to the cheesecake but keeps it vegan friendly.

Maple syrup is a natural sweetener used to give flavour to the filling. It is a source of antioxidants, which are important for helping the body cope with free-radical damage and may help reduce your risk for disease such as cancer and heart disease. Maple syrup also contains important minerals like zinc and manganese which keep you healthy by boosting your immune system.

 

There are several ways you can make this cheesecake. You can use a spring form pan for a traditional cheesecake.

You can also use a square 9-inch baking dish and cut up the cheesecake into squares and make cheesecake bars.

If dairy is not an option you could use a plain Greek yogurt instead of the non-dairy alternative.

If you want to be decadent, try drizzling with a spoonful of maple syrup then sprinkling with walnuts. You can also us a dollop of yogurt on top to replicate whipped cream.

Adding a sprinkling of cinnamon over-top is a really great addition too!

Sunbutter cookies

Roasted Beet Hummus

This hummus is striking! Both for its flavour and vibrant colour. Hummus is a popular dip found commonly found in Middle Eastern cuisines. Traditionally made from chickpeas, tahini, olive oil lemon juice and garlic, there are many variations made by introducing additional flavouring and ingredients.

Beets are the key feature ingredient that give this hummus it’s rick colour and earthy flavour. Beets are a source of many antioxidants, rich in folacin and other nutrients. You can read more about the benefits of beets in this previous post.

Chickpeas are an important ingredient in hummus. They are a great source of protein and fibre which promotes satiety.

Olive oil is a source of mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which are healthy dietary fats that may have a role in reducing the risk of heart disease.

Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds. Tahini provides protein and is a source of many minerals like calcium and magnesium, which are important for bone heath, as well as iron.

Garlic not only adds to the flavour of this hummus but also adds antioxidants that provide protection against free radical damage and have antibacterial properties. It may reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer as well as lower cholesterol.

The spices in this recipe are cumin, coriander and allspice which intensify the earthy flavour of the hummus.

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Hummus is a great portable snack to have with chopped up vegetables or crackers. It would make a very appealing appetizer (especially for holiday entertaining!).  You can also use hummus as a spread for sandwiches or in wraps.

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Sunbutter Crunch Cookies

It always seems that summer comes to a close far too soon! More and more there are signs that remind us daily that fall is on the way but then the sun comes back and it’s like summer never left! I love sunflowers (and sunflower seeds – but we’ll get to that later!). They are a joyous reminder of the long slow golden sunsets of late August and truly are one of the most radiant and resplendent of flowers.

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Sunflowers are a plant native to North America. Their cultivation and consumption have traveled an interesting and rather circuitous route from North America to touch Europe and Russia and back to the Americas again! You can read more about that here.

Now for the interesting part – why sunflower seeds are so spectacular!

One of the most important nutrients you will find in high amounts in sunflower seeds is Vitamin E – a tremendously powerful antioxidant. Vitamin E may help reduce the inflammatory processes which can lead to certain chronic diseases. In it’s role as an antioxidant, it has also been found to protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation, decreasing the buildup of up plaque in artery walls, which can lower the risk for coronary artery disease.

You will also get folate, a B-vitamin involved in functions with preventative effects for disorders, birth defects and heart disease, and Vitamin B6, needed for a lot of essential reactions in the body, many of which relate to energy production and metabolism.

Sunflower seeds are a nutrient dense source of some important minerals such as iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc.

  • Iron is an integral part of hemoglobin – the protein that carries oxygen in the blood. The iron in sunflower seeds is called “non-heme” (from non-animal sources) iron which is not as well absorbed and utilized as “heme” (from animal sources) but remember every little bit counts!
  • Magnesium works with calcium to help maintain healthy strong bones. It’s also important in several other functions such as the conversion of carbohydrates, fats and protein to energy and functioning of nerves and muscles.
  • Selenium is a trace mineral which may work as antioxidant with Vitamin E to protect the body from oxidative damage. Selenium is also needed for the functioning of the thyroid gland.
  • Zinc is involved in enzymatic reactions throughout the body, supporting the immune system by preventing colds as well as preventing the macular degeneration.

Sunflower seeds also provide good amounts of protein and fibre which help with satiety and weight management among many other important functions!

Linoleic acid, found in sunflower seeds, is an essential poly-unsaturated fatty acid. “Essential” means the body cannot create the compound on its own and therefore it must be consumed in the foods we eat. Linoleic acid is also important because as a precursor it is involved with blood clotting and blood pressure.

Clearly sunflower seeds are a force to be reckoned with!

I’ve had this idea for this recipe playing around in my head almost all summer. Now that craziness of July and August have subsided, with the international travel and world fitness expo convention over,  I’ve finally found time to bring this creation to life!

There’s a warmth and depth to these cookies – just like the sun. With these cookies you get a double dose of the goodness of sunflower seeds because the recipe has both sunflower seed butter and real sunflower seeds!

They are a great grab and go snack or perfect to stick into anyone’s packed lunch for nourishment any time of day. They would also go well with a hot cup of tea or a tea latte – perfect for a crisp autumn day!

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All-Canadian Energy Bites

Oh Canada! We’re celebrating 150 years today. In honour of Canada and for Canada Day I created this recipe, drawing inspiration from several traditional Canadian sourced ingredients to celebrate the “tastes of Canada”.

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Being a natural source of energy and providing many important nutrients make these little treats the perfect little snack any time of day. However, I particularly enjoy having them to refuel after a good workout.

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Maple Syrup is one of the most classically Canadian ingredients ever! Canada is the world’s foremost producer of maple syrup and most of that comes from Quebec. The process of making maple syrup is quite intensive which is why it is rather expensive and should be valued even more. Maple syrup is a natural source of energy and sweetener. In addition to its unique flavour, it is also a source of antioxidants which contribute to overall health. A little goes a long way though that’s for sure!

Flax Seeds are a great source of anti-inflammatory Omega 3s as well as fibre.

Sunflower Seeds are grown on the Canadian prairies. They have many nutrients such as magnesium, iron, copper and zinc and they are one of the best sources of Vitamin E, one of the most powerful antioxidants.

Walnuts are found throughout Ontario and there are many different varieties of nut trees grown in Ontario. Walnuts are a source of protein and healthy fats including important anti-inflammatory omega 3s.

Dates are an exception to the theme here, as they aren’t native to Canada, but they are another great natural source of energy as well as a good source of fibre and minerals like potassium and iron which are important for both general health and exercise performance like potassium and iron.

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Enjoy the flavours of Canada and have a Happy Canada Day!

All Canadian Energy Bites

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Strawberries and rhubarb are one of my favourite combinations! The sweetness of the berries and the tartness of the rhubarb are the perfect match.

Strawberry rhubarb crisp is a timeless recipe. I look forward to making it every Spring when these two foods come into season. It’s a versatile recipe. You can serve it on its own – hot or cold. You can have it as a snack or serve as desert. It also makes a great snack any time of day – easy and quick to eat.

I took my own twist on recreating this classic recipe to empower-it-up, so to speak. Not only does this version taste amazing, it also has some extra nutritional nuggets to make you feel amazing for having some.

You can read up on all the cool things about strawberries and rhubarb in two previous posts.

Oats are a good source of dietary fibre which may improve blood cholesterol and help control blood sugar levels. Oats are also a whole grain and source of B Vitamins and Vitamin E.

Almonds provide extra protein and fibre as well as Vitamin E and heart healthy monounsaturated fatty acids fatty acids.

Hemps seeds are my super special addition. These tiny little seeds are nutrition powerhouses, offering extra protein boost as well as a good dose of Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Not to mention a delightful sweet nutty flavour.

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Note: you can certainly use another type of flour for this. I chose coconut because I like that it adds a little extra sweetness and nuttiness. You could also substitute butter for the coconut oil in the recipe or a different sweetener for coconut sugar.

Almond Cranberry Coconut Bars Recipe

This recipe came into being less than a week ago but what a success it has been already!

At only 100 calories and being gluten-free, dairy-free and all natural there’s so many good things about these little bars. What I’m still amazed by is how incredibly easy and fast they are to make. Literally, they are almost effortless to prepare and there’s no baking or cooking required.

Want to know more? Check out what makes these facts about the ingredients in these bars and why they are a real “empowering eat”.

Almonds are a key feature ingredients. Almonds are a super food, they are a source of many nutrients such as protein, heart healthy mono-unsaturated acids and Vitamin E, one of the most potent antioxidants.

Flax seeds are a functional food (offer bonus nutritional benefits beyond food energy) and are a good source fibre, Omega-3 fatty acids, which may lower the risk of heart disease, and phytonutrients which may lower the risk of developing some forms of cancer. Find out more about flax seed here.

Coconut has become very popular recently. While there’s not a ton of research on all the benefits of coconut, it is still a versatile ingredient and adds very nicely to the flavour and texture of these bars.

Cranberries are another superfood source of antioxidants as well as vitamin C and fibre.

Cinnamon is one of the most popular spices and for good reason. With high antioxidant properties. It also has effects on stabilizing blood sugar levels which is good if you want something that gives you long-lasting stable energy levels.

Honey is a natural sweetener and one of the oldest sweeteners ever used. You could substitute agave for honey if you wanted to in the recipe to make these bars vegan.

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For serving, you can make and take these bars with you on busy days to keep you fueled. They also make a big hit for desert at parties and events.

You can also cut up the bars and freeze them individually. They will keep for longer and stay fresher this way.

Enjoy!

Cranberry Almond Bars

Rhubarb Compote Recipe

As a follow-up to Monday’s post I’ve been cooking with Rhubarb this week.

This recipe for rhubarb compote that I came up with is incredibly easy to make recipe to make and so good. This compote is super versatile. It goes great as an accompaniment to so many things: over oatmeal, with yogurt you can use it to make a parfait, or even on top of pancakes or French toast.

In this recipe, I love the interplay of sweet and sour on the taste buds and the hint of spice gives just a little extra something that makes the flavour pop.

You can look back at Monday’s post to see all the good things about rhubarb. Honey is an all natural sweetener which has been used for thousands of years. It was very highly prized in Ancient Rome. In addition to being a natural sweetener it may provide some antioxidants and antibacterial activity.  You might think it interesting that ginger is included in this recipe. Ginger is often featured with rhubarb, and as you’ll see they make a great pairing. I put cinnamon with everything I can because it’s a great spice, I love it’s flavour, and it has great antioxidant properties as well as effects on controlling blood sugar.

There are suggestions for two different amounts of honey. Personally, I like things less sweet and thought ½ cup was too much but others told me that they preferred the recipe with this amount over the other. You’ll just have to give it a try and decide for yourself!

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