A Hearty Fall Soup

I love walking through a fall forest, even when our west coast November rain is pouring down and the trees are shrouded in mist. Actually I sometimes love it even more because the forest leaves are glistening with dewy rain drops and transformed into a mysterious, enchanted forest.

An afternoon spent in this kind of weather, however, calls for a big bowl of warming and soul soothing chicken soup.

I happen to have an easy and tasty recipe for our cold, snowy and, in Vancouver, damp Canadian winter. It’s not fully home-made (packaged chicken broth instead of bone broth) but close enough and is 100 percent comfort food.

Soul Soothing Easy Chicken Soup

  • one package organic vegetable or chicken broth
  • one chicken breast, sauteed and cubed
  • 1/4 head cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 2 red peppers
  • handful cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 onion
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • cubed tofu, optional (I like this to add extra protein)

Bring to a boil in saucepan, then simmer for about 15 minutes.

Serve.

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A Perfect Parfait

In my last post, I promised you a yummy, low sugar, dessert recipe.

Well, this one is more of a breakfast or snack item but it is definitely low sugar, nutrient-packed and very delicious.

A Perfect Parfait

  • fresh berries of your choice
  • Greek or plain, full fat probiotic yogurt
  • Homemade granola (recipe below)

Layer items, or as in pic below, arrange in a bowl and top yogurt with a drizzle of dark chocolate syrup for extra yumminess.

Homemade Granola

  • 2 cups raw, whole rolled oats
  • ½ cup raw nuts
  • chopped ¼ cup raw seeds (sunflower or pumpkin seeds are great)
  • ½ cup unsweetened dried fruit of your choice
  • 2-3 tablespoons maple syrup or raw honey (or a combo of both)
  • 2 tbsp virgin coconut oil
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large pinch fine sea salt

Recipe: Preheat the oven to 300º F. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Done.

Sweet Enough

Recently I was thinking about why I started this blog. It began a couple of years ago as a way of chronicling my attempt to cut sugar out of my diet. I actually did cut it out for quite a while, and it felt really, really good. Then, slowly but surely, I started to take feeling good for granted and sugar quietly crept back into my diet. It started with ketchup (I’m an addict), next it was the odd sugary cocktail and then, before I knew it, I was back to square one. The white stuff found its way back into my coffee, dark chocolate rested on my kitchen counter, a big bottle of maple syrup resided in my cupboard and I found myself chowing down on a few cookies at work almost every day. Blechhh. Let me tell you, it’s a slippery slope into a big, sugary…hmm, I’m not sure where the slippery slope leads to but it’s somewhere unhealthy with too much sugar.

Now it’s time to get back on track. I’m planning a bunch of difficult and epic hikes this summer and to do this, I need to be on my game. And being on my game doesn’t include spiking my blood sugar, messing with my hormones and aging my skin with sugary treats.

It’s been a little over a week since I’ve been back on the bandwagon and I feel great. I’ve been here before and I know how amazing it feels to live sugar free.

What I’ve been giving up:

  • Refined sugar in all forms
  • Maple syrup
  • Honey
  • White bread, rice and pasta
  • All desserts (obviously)
  • Condiments with added sugar
  • All alcohol except vodka/soda and dry wine

berries

What I’ll be gaining:

  • Clearer skin
  • More energy
  • Tighter body
  • Healthier teeth
  • More vitamins in my system (sugar is an anti-nutrient that sucks up vitamins, most notably the b’s)

Whenever I start to get a craving for something sweet, I whip up a sugar-free, fruit sweetened smoothie or make myself a big bowl of fresh berries or mixed fruit. Then the craving’s gone and I’ve had a big helping of anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals.

I’ll be posting some yummy, naturally sweetened recipes soon, so stay tuned!

mixed fruit

Nigella’s Watermelon, Feta and Mint Salad

WATERMELON SALAD I love fresh mint. I love fresh mint so much that when I buy it at the market, I walk around carrying it in front of my face so I can sniff the tantalizing, minty aroma while I shop. Instant aromatherapy.

And, usually when I buy a big bunch of fresh mint, I either make mojtos with it or keep it in a mason jar, filled with water, on my kitchen counter, so the entire room smells minty fresh. But, oddly enough I don’t use it in many food recipes; my raw, vegan pea soup that I made a few weeks ago was the first.

So, I was perusing bad-girl chef, Nigella Lawson’s website the other day when I found this amazing, minty watermelon salad recipe and decided that it was time to do something with mint other than smelling it, drinking it and decorating my kitchen with it. 

Nigella’s Minty Watermelon Salad

  • 4 limes
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1.5 kilograms watermelon (sweet and ripe)
  • 250 grams feta cheese
  • 1 bunch fresh flatleaf parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh mint (chopped)
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 100 grams pitted black olives
  • black pepper
  1. Peel and halve the red onion and cut into very fine half-moons and put in a small bowl to steep with the lime juice, to bring out the transparent pinkness in the onions and diminish their rasp. Two limes’ worth should do it, but you can find the fruits disappointingly dried up and barren when you cut them in half, in which case add more.
  2. Remove the rind and pips from the watermelon, and cut into approximately 4cm / 1½ inch triangular chunks, if that makes sense (maths is not my strong point). Cut the feta into similar sized pieces and put them both into a large, wide shallow bowl. Tear off sprigs of parsley so that it is used like a salad leaf, rather than a garnish, and add to the bowl along with the chopped mint.
  3. Tip the now glowingly puce onions, along with their pink juices over the salad in the bowl, add the oil and olives, then using your hands toss the salad very gently so that the feta and melon don’t lose their shape. Add a good grinding of black pepper and taste to see whether the dressing needs more lime. Hava Negila! The taste of Tel Aviv sunshine!

I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, but close enough, and it was melt in your mouth, refreshingly delicious. A perfect light, summer dinner.

WATERMELON SALAD 017

Oh, and the health and beauty benefits of mint:

  •  Juice from fresh mint can soothe and calm skin that’s itchy or infected. You can also use it to help heal bites from mosquitoes, wasps and bees.
  • Mint contains vitamin A and helps to strengthen skin tissue, reduce oily skin and clear acne outbreaks.
  • Mint also helps upset or inflamed stomachs. When you feel sick to your stomach, drinking a cup of mint tea can soothe your tummy.

And watermelon:

  • Fights dehydration. Made up of 92% water and full of important electrolytes, watermelon is perfect to munch on during hot summer months.
  • Watermelon is also great for your skin because it contains vitamin A, and a high water content to keep skin soft and hydrated.
  • Watermelon and watermelon juice have been shown to reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery time following exercise in athletes.
  • Contains a ton of health giving vitamins, minerals and antioxidants but is incredibly low in calories.

 Mint and watermelon. Tastes amazing together and has a ton of health and beauty benefits too! What’s not to love?

 

Raw Vegan-licious Pea Soup

raw peasI’ve been experimenting with a bunch of raw recipes lately, which is making my blender work over-time and my taste buds very happy.

This raw soup is one of my faves. I made it for the first time last Sunday and thought it was perfect for patio dining. Add a fresh, crunchy salad, a chilled glass of white wine and, presto, an uber-healthy, vegan-licious meal!

 Raw Vegan Pea Soup

Ingredients
2 cups fresh, raw sugar peas
150 ml organic coconut cream
100 ml cold water
1 small onion
2 sprigs fresh mint
3 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
spritz of fresh lemon juice
1/2 avocado
1 tsp. pink Himalayan or sea salt to taste

Place above ingredients in blender and blend thoroughly. Chill and serve.

You can also find this recipe and others like it on foodgawker.com

raw vegan soup

I remember, around age three, peas growing in the back garden. Pinching them from their pods and popping them in the mouth was my first realisation that food came from somewhere other than a shelf.” – Caitlin Moran

 

Hiking, Biking and Granola

So, I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but I am coming out of the most “slack-off on fitness” winter/spring that I can remember.

I’m not sure why my complete lack of motivation happened. I’ve been going pretty hard at my part time marketing courses so that could be part of it. I’m also a fairweather runner and biker and have been known to hibernate like a bear in the winter. And, on top of this, I was also worried that my disappearing motivation was just my age. Is this what happens at 51? I wondered to myself as the sluggish months continued…Happily I can say “hell no!” since my desire to move by body and challenge myself has come back in full force. Yes!!

So, after a winter of running 2-3k once a week and trying to sprint with my dog, who btw is not a runner or a sprinter…

I only run if a coyote is chasing me or there's a squirrel in front of me.

I only run if a coyote is chasing me or there’s a squirrel in front of me.

…I’m realizing that I need to tweak my eating habits to support my increased activity. And I’ve found that clean eating and big, healthy breakfasts are the best way to do this.

During the week I make old fashioned oatmeal, add some fruit and berries and take it to the office in a large mason jar to get me through the morning but on the weekends, I want something a little special. I want hippie girl granola. Delicious, nutritious, crunchy granola, mixed with berries and fruit and homemade, probiotic yogourt or almond milk. Now that is good fuel.

And, out of all the recipes I’ve tried, this one is my fave. Add a little hemp, chia, or any other delicious superfood and you’ve got it made!

Laurel’s Happy Hippie Granola

  • 4 cups regular oats
  • 1/2 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup oat bran
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup dried blueberries

Mix above ingredients together and bake in a 350 degrees oven for approximately 30 minutes or until oats are golden brown.

granola

 

Bitchin’ Bananas

It’s Throwback Thursday and I’m California dreaming again…about frozen bananas.

photo (6)The first time I tasted a frozen banana was in Balboa Island, Orange County about four years ago. I was a little obsessed with “The Real Housewives of Orange County” at that time (yes, embarrassing but true), so visiting Orange County (the home of my dysfunctional, slightly alcoholic, drama queen housewives) was super exciting for me.  I loved being in their neighborhood and secretly hoped my friend Tammy and I would run into one as we toured around the OC.

But, I digress. I’m supposed to be writing about bananas, not housewives….

The astonishingly delicious frozen banana I had on Balboa Island was dipped in a sweet, milk chocolate and covered in fluourescently bright candy and chopped walnuts. It was sublime. “How do we not have these in Canada?”, I thought as I chowed down on my banana while soaking up the California sun.

Lately frozen bananas have been dancing in my mind again and I’ve been experimenting with a healthy, clean, vegan version of the treat I discovered in Southern California.

So, below is the recipe I concocted to duplicate all of the frozen banana yumminess but without all of the bad stuff:

 Laurel’s Bitchin’ Bananas

  • two large bananas
  • raw cashew butter
  • a hunk of 80% dark chocolate

Slice the bananas into .5 inch little circles, put a dollop of cashew butter in between two slices, like an oreo cookie and place in freezer.

While the banana chunks are freezing, heat the dark chocolate on a double boiler and when it starts to lightly bubble, dip the cashew banana chunks in the hot chocolate. Place back in freezer.

bitchin bananas

Serve frozen, just out of the freezer.

Bet you can’t eat just one.