Zucchini Bread Recipe

Finding easy to prepare, portable and nutritious snacks is challenging. Healthy food is not always easy to find on the go.  If you are on-the-go and trying to stay healthy, it’s important to pack healthy snacks that will help support your energy levels throughout a long or busy day. It’s when we get tired and are low on energy that we can fall into the temptation of not so healthy food choices and break with the routines and strategies we worked so hard to set in place for ourselves. Look no further than this empowered version of Zucchini Bread to help you stay motivated and on track with your healthy eating habits.

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The combination of fibre, protein and healthy fats in this recipe make this a snack that will give you sustainable energy to power you through any day. This is a great addition to back-to-school lunches to start the school year strong!

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Key featured ingredients that make this an “Empowering Eat” include zucchini, walnuts, and flax seeds.

Zucchini is the feature ingredient here, obviously. Like many fruits and vegetables contains nutrients and antioxidants which support good health. Zucchini is also a source of lutein and zeaxanthin which can protect our eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration.  While it is a bland tasting vegetable (so you won’t taste it in this recipe at all–I promise!) zucchini provides moisture to the recipe and a way to sneak an extra serving of veggies into your day!

Flax Seeds are a fabulous nutritional powerhouse. It always amazes me how there is so much goodness contained in so small a package! Flax seeds provide plenty of fibre and omega-3 fatty acids which may help reduce heart disease risk. The fibre in flax is responsible not only for supporting intestinal functions but may also lower blood-cholesterol. Flax seeds also have lignans which is a phytonutrient which may protect our bodies from certain cancers. Find out more about flax seeds here.

Walnuts are a source of heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fatty acids. Healthy sources of fat are essential in our diets for many reasons such as promoting healthy skin and hair, and supporting the integrity of cell membranes. Like other nuts walnuts also provide a source of plant-based protein and some fibre.

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I’ve used a variety of different flours to give variety and provide texture and contribute unique nutritional advantages to this recipe. All these flours are gluten-free. You could alternatively substitute other types of flours as long as the volume is 1 cup. Amaranth flour may be new to you. It’s available in most bulk food stores. Amaranth is an ancient grain growing in popularity for many reasons. It is higher in protein than other grains and is a source of fibre while not having an overly strong ‘healthy’ aftertaste, so it blends well into this recipe.

 

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Instead of a loaf pan you could also make this in an 8×8 glass baking dish and have zucchini bread squares.

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Summer Squash Salad Recipe

Summer may be almost over, but summer squash is available well into September so I took advantage of that fact to create this recipe. This is a simple but tasty and easy to prepare salad. It is rich in a variety of different vegetables and features quinoa, a well-known super-food and plant protein powerhouse.

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Summer squash and quinoa are the stand-out ingredients I find in this recipe.

The benefits of summer squash are that, like many fruits and vegetables, it is low in calories and provides a good amount of fibre, vitamin C, and potassium. Zucchini is a specific summer squash and a great source of the carotenoid pigments lutein and zeaxathin which can protect our eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration. Did you also know zucchini is the most popular type of summer squash available?

Quinoa is an incredible source of high-quality plant protein. It is one of the few plants that is a complete protein source (i.e. contains all the essential amino acids). It also offers riboflavin, vitamin E, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and fibre.

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This recipe can make a stand-alone meal on its own or try serving it as a side dish with a grilled chicken breast. What’s even better is how quick to serve and portable it is. It is a great option for packed lunches. Because the recipe yields a good number of portions you can make it at the start of the week and enjoy for several days. Perfect for meal planning!

Summer Squash Salad Recipe

Power Fruit Popsicle Recipe

Popsicles are a fun and refreshing summer treat. I created this recipe to upgrade the traditional versions, which are mostly just a lot of sugar in water, by using wholesome, real food ingredients.

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Berries are a nutritional superstar and one of nature’s richest sources of antioxidants. Like many other fruits and vegetables, berries are a good source of Vitamin C and because of their small size and large surface area they are an excellent source of fibre.

The four berries I used in my recipe were blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries.

Blueberries are probably the most researched berries and are renown for their antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins, which can protect the body from cell damage which may lead to aging and certain diseases. Pectin, a type of fibre found in blueberries, may help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and is good for the functioning of the digestive system.

Raspberries contain pectin and quercetin, the latter may slow cancer growth.

Blackberries may have the highest antioxidant content of any berries!

Strawberries are the berry with the highest Vitamin C content!

Using coconut milk and coconut yogurt (or another type of yogurt) gives these popsicles a little more substance and additional nutritional benefits. If using a dairy-based yogurt, you will add calcium to your diet. Calcium is important for bone health.

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If the natural sweetness is not enough for you, consider adding a natural sweetener like a tablespoon of honey to the recipe.

For a slightly different taste and a more interesting version add a teaspoon of cinnamon.

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Greek Chicken Souvlaki Recipe

Chicken souvlaki was one of my favourite items to order in Greece. Souvlaki literately translated means “meat on a stick”. Being gluten and dairy intolerant it is challenging for me to find menu options but chicken souvlaki is gluten and dairy free so this was one of my staple orders when I was in Greece.

They originally made souvlaki with pork and beef, but as these are red meats, and red meats may cause greater levels of inflammation in the body compared to white meats like chicken breast, making souvlaki with chicken has its advantages.

 

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Chicken souvlaki is also a very versatile dish. You can serve it alongside a Greek Salad or in a pita with a variety of toppings like olives, tzatziki, tomatoes, peppers etc.

I had an interesting experience at a restaurant in Athens where I ordered chicken souvlaki. My meal came to my table skewered into half an orange which they set on fire to keep the chicken warm (see photo below). It was quite surprising when my waiter brought that to my table and set it down before me!

Athens Chicken

Another meal idea inspiration is chicken souvlaki with roasted vegetables. It’s a great combo because you can roast the vegetables and cook the souvlaki at the same time! Prepare your vegetables (just drizzle some cut up vegetables with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and a little garlic powder) and put them in oven 10 min earlier than the chicken because they take a little longer to cook (about 35 min). When it’s time to put the chicken in the oven give the vegetables a shake. When you turn over the chicken souvlaki again give your vegetables a shake to ensure even cooking. There you go! A 2 for 1 deal meal ready in 35 min!

Chicken Souvlaki and Roasted Vegetables

I love how simple this recipe is to make! You just marinade and grill the meat. If you don’t have a grill or a barbeque, you can always roast the skewers in the oven at 350 F for 25min instead. In fact, baking and grilling meats are a healthier way to cook meat vs. frying for example. Furthermore, the ingredients that go into souvlaki marinade (lemon juice, olive oil and garlic) will not add extra calories, fat or sugar like barbeque sauce or other marinades might but they still combine to give the meat an incredible flavour.

Greek Chicken Souvlaki

 

Traditional Greek Salad Recipe

Greek Salad has to be one of the most iconic dishes known to the culture both within Greece and around the world. I really looked forward to having this dish when I was in Greece. In all seriousness, almost every meal I had while there featured a version of it! In Greek the word for Greek Salad is “horiatiki” which means “village salad”.

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Cool, crisp and refreshing this dish is super simple to make but there is something so satisfying in it. It is also full of healthy and empowering food combinations that taste good and are good for you too! With only some basic ingredients (no lettuce is not one of them!) you can have a substantial side dish perfect to accompany many main dish options (check out my recipe for Greek Stuffed Eggplant or chicken souvlaki). It’s always best to pick the freshest ingredients for flavour and nutritional benefit.

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Here are some key ingredients that make this salad health and nutritious and tastes amazing.

Cucumbers are one of the lowest calorie vegetables because of their high water content. This also makes them a great hydrating food.

Tomatoes are a popular vegetable for a variety of different cultures and cuisines. One of their greatest claims to fame is that they are a great source of the plan pigment “lycopene” which possibly helps prevent heart disease. Like many other fruits and vegetables, they are a great source of vitamin C and potassium. They are also a good source of fibre.

Red Onions are low in calories and like other types of onions provide a variety of nutrients such as fibre, vitamin C, potassium and some phytochemical which may raise levels of a protective enzyme which in activates and eliminates cancer causing agents.

Green Pepper provide vitamin C and are a good source of fibre.

Olives & Olive Oil are signatures for many Greek dish. These are ingredients embedded not only in the cuisine but in the very history and culture of Greece. Olives and olive oil are a source of mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) which are healthy fats found in our diets that may lower the risk of heart disease and reduce levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. They also contain vitamin E which is an especially powerful antioxidant.

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What I love especially is how easy it is to make this salad. The vegetables are roughly chopped so they can be thrown together quickly.

It’s recommended to serve the salad in a shallow dish and don’t mix the dressing into the salad before you serve it. Put all the vegetables in the bowl, drizzle with the olive oil and vinegar and layer with the feta cheese.

Traditional Greek Salad

 

Greek Stuffed Eggplant Recipe

Do you know the power of a family meal? There is nothing like the feeling of coming home to a home-cooked meal and enjoying good food with people important to you. On my recent trip to Greece to spend time with my family. While I was there, I had some incredible home-cooked and traditional Greek meals. I dedicate this recipe to my cousin, who made this very meal for me my first night in her home in Greece.

Greek stuffed eggplant,  also known as melitzanes papoutsakia. The translation of papoutsakia is actually “little shoes” which I think is rather cute, and so is this dish!

It is a very filling dish and one or two eggplants will be more than enough to satisfy you!

Not only does this meal taste incredible, but there are so many good things about the ingredients! Check out the nutritional benefits that some ingredients offer:

Eggplant is a very high-fibre vegetables which is one reason this dish is so filling! Owing to their purple colour, eggplants are high in anthocyanins, the blue-purple pigment with antioxidant properties which can help protect cells from free-radical damage.

Onion are a vegetable low in calories but which provides moderate amounts of fibre, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and potassium. Onions are also a source of a phytochemical which may raise levels of a protective enzyme that inactivates cancer-causing agents in the body!

Tomatoes are highly nutrient dense providing fibre and many vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C and potassium. The red pigment “lycopene” which gives tomatoes their colour which may act as an antioxidant in the body to reduce the risk of some cancers, and cardiovascular disease.

Olive Oil must be the most iconic of Greek cuisine ingredients. Olive oil is a source of mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) which may lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Olive oil is a staple in any Mediterranean diet and may be one reason for lower rates of chronic diseases observed in those who follow a Mediterranean diet. Olive oil is a source of two powerful phytochemicals which may protect against breast cancer, clogged arteries and high blood pressure.

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There are some variations you can try with this recipe. You can top your eggplant with cheese or a slice or two of tomato.

Whatever meat you choose, look for lean ground meat as it is lower in less healthy fats (the olive oil we use in this recipe will still provide with fat – which is important for good health – but a much healthier fat). If you really want to make something special, try substituting ground lamb for ground beef in the recipe below.

Of course, you can always make this meatless by swapping the ground beef for a can of lentils, rinsed and drained.

This recipe goes great paired with a Greek Salad!

Greek Stuffed Eggplant

Sharing some of my favourite photos from Greece below to make this even more authentic!

 

 

Chocolate Covered Almond Butter Stuffed Dates

Summertime brings to mind hot sunny afternoons and tempting frozen treats. Rather than reaching for an ice cream sandwich try making this recipe! These Chocolate Covered Almond Butter Stuffed Dates are refreshing, delicious and nutritious. They almost remind me of a Turtles chocolate caramel ice cream bar.

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Dates are one of the sweetest fruits and a real treat, but with some significant nutritional benefits as well. They are a rich source of fibre which is important for overall health, helping to control blood sugar and reduce blood cholesterol as well as help you feel full for longer which can support achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight. They also supply good amounts of potassium, an electrolyte which is important in the body’s acidity/alkalinity balance as well as normal muscle contraction, nerve impulses, blood pressure regulation and, last but not least, heart and kidney function. Dates also contain some iron.

Almond Butter is a source of protein as well as healthy fats. The healthy fats found in almonds are important for keeping hair and skin healthy, transporting fat soluble vitamins and providing energy. In particular, monounsaturated fatty acids may reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and improve overall cholesterol levels in the body. Almonds are a rich source of Vitamin E, one of the most powerful antioxidants found in our foods. Vitamin E helps counteract the oxidative damage caused by free-radicals in the body which can lead to numerous conditions and diseases such as coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis which can lead to heart attacks. Almonds also have more fibre than almost any other nut!

Dark Chocolate contains several important minerals including: copper, which helps in red blood cell formation and the construction of blood vessels and connective tissues and several neurotransmitters; iron, an essential part of hemoglobin found in red blood cells that allow them to carry oxygen to where it is needed by the cells in the body; and zinc, which may protect against macular degeneration. Cocoa butter which is a component of chocolate is comprised of oleic acid, a heart healthy monounsaturated fatty acid. The cocoa in chocolate provides flavonols which may lower the risk of heart disease and improve cognition. Phytochemicals called catechins are also provided by cocoa and these compounds act as antioxidants to protect against heart disease and some cancers. When choosing chocolate go for anything above 70%. The higher this percentage the higher the concentration of cocoa, however there is a trade-off in flavour as the higher the cocoa content the more bitter the chocolate will taste.

Chocolate Almond Butter Stuffed Dates

Quick Tip: While easy to make they have to be frozen twice and the freezing process does take some time. I stuffed the dates with the almond butter one night, dipped them in chocolate and froze them the next night and they were ready by the following day.

 

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!

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.