Big Batch Vegetarian Chili

When it starts to get cold, and there’s a chill in the air, there’s nothing like having a warm hearty bowl of something tasty. This is a very basic chili recipe which is easy to make, filling and perfect for meal prep or batch cooking. It’s also vegetarian and vegan friendly. Check out the recipe as well as tricks and tricks below!

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Not only does this recipe have spices to give it flavour but several key ingredients boost the nutritional power. All these ingredients are plant-based.

Tomatoes are a good source of dietary fibre, potassium, iron. Like other fruits and vegetables, tomatoes are source of antioxidants. Tomatoes are one of the major sources of the carotenoid lycopene. Lycopene is of particular interest because it may possibly reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers. Cooking tomatoes actually enhances their lycopene content.

Sweet Peppers are a good source of Vitamin C and dietary fibre. They give some colour and added flavour to this recipe.

Capsaicin is a phytochemical found in chili powder and paprika. This is the compound that gives peppers their spiciness. Capsaicin has been widely studied for many different properties which include boosting metabolism and decreasing the risk of some cancers.

Beans and lentils are an incredibly good source of fibre. They also are a vegetarian and low-fat source of protein. This combination of nutrients it was makes them very sustaining. Not only is fibre filling the soluble fibre in beans and lentils may also help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol. Folate and B Vitamins are also found in beans. Some other minerals can be found in beans and lentils including potassium, magnesium, selenium and iron. Iron is of particular importance for anyone following a vegetarian or vegan diet to try and incorporate into their meals.

Recipe Suggestions: Serve topped with some crushed whole grain tortilla chips, diced avocado, shredded cheddar cheese, or even low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt!

 

Tips and Tricks

When batch cooking sometimes it is easy to get bored of eating the same thing over again. Here are five variations or hybrid recipes for the basic chili recipe. You will never get bored of batch cooking this recipe when you have these easy variations to mix up your meal plan!

Tex-Mex Casserole – Mix basic chili with cooked rice or quinoa. Pour into a baking dish and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Broil in oven until topping is golden brown and cheese melted.

Taco Salad – Start with a base of your favourite salad greens. Layer with chili, chopped avocado, shredded cheese and tortilla chips.

Chili Pie – Put chili into a baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Top with either a batch of cornbread or mashed potatoes, or sweet potatoes. Bake in 350 F oven until cornbread is baked or potatoes are golden brown.

Chili Stuffed Peppers – Clean bell peppers and chop off their tops. Cook peppers in boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove and stuff with chili then top with shredded cheese. Bake, covered, in a 350 F oven for 30 minutes until cheese is melted.

Chili Pasta – Use the chili as a pasta sauce for whole grain pasta and top with grated cheese.

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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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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!

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.

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.

Roasted Beet Hummus with Veggies

 

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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