Easy Peasy Tuesday Spiced Tacos (Vegan, GF/WF & Healthy)

So yesterday was Tuesday. If you’re like me, a Tuesday can (at times) feel more challenging than a Monday.

Maybe you’re feeling a little sluggish still from the weekend? Or maybe you’re overwhelmed by the lack of time you think you have? Or in my case, you forgot to meal prep on Sunday, forgot to buy stock up on produce and left having to figure out quick, healthy and delicious lunch ideas for the week…(doh!) this was yesterday also known as, you guessed it – Tuesday.

Now what’s one of the most popular and appreciated dishes to devour on a Tuesday? (Not referring to the ghastly “Toonie Tuesdays” at KFC!)

Answer: Taccccoooosss! (Arriba!) 

Beloved by all, many tacos are stuffed of refined and processed ingredients and nonessential meat grease. These easy peasy tacos I’m about to share with you are downright healthy in comparison. They’re nutritious, shockingly satisfying and just enough flavor to get you through the day!

The best part? Super easy to make and you can whip it up in a mere few minutes with just a handful of simple yet heart-healthy ingredients. You can improvise on the vegetables too – a little fresh organic corn would work great added in or some cooked beans if you’re in the mood. I prefer to keep it light at lunch so I kept these tacos to a few of my favorite greens, onions and ripe bell peppers. Certified easy peasy. 

However, the key to the overall taste is in the way you season and saute those veggies. One of my go-to spices is the infamous cumin powder. Ground cumin, or seeds, is a favored spice native common to regions of Asia, Africa and the Mediterranean. Now used worldwide, cumin not only adds a punch of exotic and savory flavor to almost any dish (IMO) but it actually has some surprising nutritious content that our insides would favor. It contains a wholesome antioxidant called curcumin, along with other elements, that provide health benefits. Some include its ability to aid in digestion and related issues, improve immunity, support heart health and can help treat and fight an assortment of conditions such as insomnia, anemia, skin and respiratory disorders, bronchitis and that pesky common cold.

Cumin is considered a low sodium herb and spice so by adding cumin flavor to your food, you essentially will use less salt and other high-sodium seasonings during cooking and at the table. Consequently, by reducing the unnecessary sodium in your diet, you help prevent and/or lower high blood pressure – FYI!

A little less salt please, a little more sprinkles of cumin!

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What you’ll need:

2 cloves of garlic, crushed and then minced

1 tbsp of cumin (organic without fillers if possible!)

1/4 tsp of ground black pepper

1/2 medium onion, chopped

Pinch of ground oregano

Pinch of turmeric

Pinch of chili powder

Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional if you don’t want it that spicy)

Organic EVOO

Chopped bell peppers (not the green ones!)

Broccoli florets

Zucchini, sliced into thin strips

Raw baby spinach (keep this raw for your tacos!)

Sprouted organic corn tortillas (always buy corn and corn products organic!)

Heat a tablespoon (or two) of EVOO in a large saute pan on medium high heat. Add the chopped onions and minced garlic for a few minutes until nicely browned. Lower heat to medium if needed to avoid burning. Spread veggies of choice (except spinach) on the pan and sprinkle spices evenly. Stir and let sit for a minute or two until lightly browned. Lower the heat to low and let gently cook for a few more minutes while you heat up the tortillas in another pan or skillet.

Remove both pans from heat. Assemble and add baby spinach. And serve with homemade sugar free salsa and sliced lemons!

Enjoy your Tuesdays. x

Choose Organic!

Organic Week is approaching us in Canada and I thought I’d discuss the benefits of buying organic and local whenever possible! Now I know the word “organic” can sound just as overwhelming and “trendy” as the word superfoodbut regardless of your diet, buying organic food is a smart and beneficial priority. Opting to buy even some organic and local foods can be an efficacious choice for personal and environmental health.

So why (try to) buy organic? 

Organic food delivers more nutrition and is higher in minerals and antioxidants than traditional foods. There have been many studies that have been shown that show an increased level of some nutrients in various organic foods. On average, organically grown foods provide roughly 20 percent more iron, 25 percent more Vitamin C and 30 percent more magnesium per serving. Significantly more minerals, vitamins, enzymes and micro nutrients than conventionally grown foods because the soil is handled and nourished with sustainable operations by accountable standards. So by consuming organic foods fairly consistently, we technically can double our overall daily nutritional intake!

Buying and eating organic also means avoiding and lessening your chance of chemical absorption. There are a cocktail of chemical poisons and pesticides that can be found in commercially grown foods in today’s society. More than 600-1000 active synthetic chemicals are registered for agricultural use in North America that produce about 45,000-55,000 different pesticides. More than 90 percent conventionally grown produce is guaranteed to contain pesticide residue. Most of them have been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency prior to extensive testing for long term effects on our health. When we are exposed to a number of different toxic chemicals, that are most likely carcinogenic, for over a long period of time, we put ourselves at risk for adverse health issues such as cancer, birth defects, mineral deficiencies, hormone system disorders and other diseases. To dramatically reduce our exposure to these harmful. choose to buy locally organic foods that contain much lower concentrations of chemicals whenever possible. Purchasing locally grown food doesn’t always mean chemical or pesticide free unfortunately. The pesticide residue some organic produce sometimes come from the soil that previously sustained conventional farming, pesticide accumulation from neighboring farms or other environmental factors. But certified organic produce is always grown with absolutely no chemicals and pesticides! Better for your body and the planet in the long run.

Eating fresh organic produce also means a decreased intake of food additives such as MSG, food colouring agents, artificial ingredients, growth hormones and antibiotics. Your body will also thank you for providing it with food that doesn’t contain any genetically modified organisms (GMO) and hasn’t been put through irradiation. Popular grocery list items such as apples, strawberries, spinach, almonds, soybeans, and corn that aren’t certified organic and locally produced are contaminated with an alarming rate of GMO, with repercussions beyond our own understanding! Did you know that GMO foods do not have to be labeled in North America? How do we actually know what we’re eating if the government chooses to conceal it from us? Why is everything else labeled and deemed safe to consume but GMOs are kept hidden ingredient lists? Instead of labeling items as “non GMO” or “organic”, shouldn’t that be the natural thing to assume they are and label them when they aren’t? Since the organically grown food supply is not permitted to be genetically modified in any way, choosing to go organic is the only option to steer clear from ingesting genetically modified foods and having to play the ingredient guessing game altogether. 🙂

Sustainable organic food also tastes a lot better! I can’t imagine the amount of times I’ve bitten into a strawberry that wasn’t organic and it tasted like plastic! Not to mention how ginormous they were to begin with. Strawberries shouldn’t be the size of tennis balls. As a matter of fact, they’re actually quite small, sweet and absolutely lush! And if you compare the non organic, non local strawberries to strawberries that aren’t, you’ll not only notice the difference in size, but also in taste – big time! Organic produce tends to taste better and fresher for the most part. Well balanced soil means better produce which means better tasting nourishing food for us! And since most organic food is locally produced, it doesn’t need to travel as far as most conventional foods do. Because they’re picked closer to their peak ripeness, it allows the natural rich flavors to be more delicious and potent. Besides, is it really necessary be eating strawberries imported from Mexico when we’re capable of growing them here? *And by here, for me, it’s Canada! 😉 

There’s a myriad of exceptional decent reasons why you should always try to choose and eat organic whenever you can! Aside from avoiding chemicals and better taste and better quality, you’d also be supporting local economies and farming communities, help preserve our ecosystems, reduce pollution, protect our water and soils and preserve agricultural diversity. While there are some expensive organic items on our shelves today, there are ways to eat organic and local without breaking your budget. You can shop at bulk stores, food coops and/or local farmers’ markets like The Stop @ Wychwood Barns and Evergreen Brickworks which are two of my favorites in the city! If you’re a meat eater, you can maximize your plant consumption and swap for plant based protein options that are definitely less expensive like organic dried beans, nuts and more nutrient dense greens like kale, collard greens and broccoli which are actually affordable to purchase organic!

Some other simple guidelines you can gradually follow that will help you make the healthiest and safest choices:

  • Read the labels that are accessible on all of the foods you buy and learn about the ingredients.
  • Eliminate one conventional processed food product that you normally grab and buy it organic! Non organically grown apples, carrots, seeds and soft fruits are some of the most heavily pesticide sprayed products. If apples are usually on your list, opt to buy them organic. And if that’s not convenient or accessible, it is important to thoroughly wash the skin with apple cider vinegar to reduce pesticide intake. Remember, companies invest big money in chemicals that are resistant to rain drops! So soak, scrub and repeat!
  • Look for Non-GMO options for particular foods like grains, corn, soybeans, beans, nuts and frozen produce.
  • Buy local whenever you can! Try to stay away from produce that’s grown in countries that requires two plane rides! 😉 (It always makes me happy to see a product that’s in my case, 100% Canadian and local.)
  • Focus on buying produce that’s in season. You can freeze summer fruits and vegetables if you live in a country with a not so pleasant winter season.
  • Choose who your money goes to. Buy from companies that are committed to providing you the best worthwhile quality food…

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Mike and Mike’s Organics carries a variety of diverse nutrient packed finds such as nuts, seeds, dried fruits and fresh produce that’s good for you, nature approved and organic! All of their products meet the rigorous standards and handled according to strict procedures in order to be certified organic. This ensures that the quality of their products are deemed safe to consume for everyone. They carry a delicious line of good-for-you healthy munchies that you can happily choose from: raw organic almonds, pine nuts, cashews, trail mixes, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, walnuts – you name it! And all bursting with natural nutrition, quality taste and sustainable substance. Everything you would want (and more) in fresh valued food! Use them in salads, homemade baked goods, savory dishes, or soak ’em then eat ’em raw as healthy delicious snacks! They are all so unbelievably convenient and reasonably priced too (from as low as $3.99 to $8.99 depending.) If you care about your food just as much as I do or starting to make the change, Mike and Mike’s Organics is on your side.

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Organic Select will now be marketed as Mike & Mike’s Organics. Here’s a sneak peek of their new and upcoming brand! Same quality taste only now in a new fresh seal packaging. Easy to open and favorable for any time of the day! You’ll see their latest collections at your local store very soon. 🙂 

I admit, I don’t always buy organic. It can definitely be a challenge at times especially when it comes to eating at restaurants, the limited selections at our stores and of course, the cost of organically grown food. But when I do, I choose companies like Mike & Mike’s to help me out and I buy certain products organic whenever I can like spinach, frozen berries and corn. 🙂 The hope is that when we do start buying more organic food, that prices will eventually decrease. But this is all up to us – the consumers. The choices we make today as consumers not only affect our health but have a profound impact on tomorrow’s future. The best way forward it is to expand our enquiring minds, continuously question the food we feed ourselves today, reclaim our health by simple ways like choosing organic and voting with our dollars.

Do you vote organic? 

LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO EAT BAD POPCORN! (So make your own + reasons why!)

Who wants to share a big bowl of popcorn with me?

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One of my favourite snacks of ALL TIME is popcorn! Alright, alright. I admit – I’m a little bit obsessed. Alright, alright – I can be ADDICTED. While I try to maintain a “in between” carb diet (this means I don’t deprive myself of carbs on a low carb diet but stick to eating only complex and low GI carbs as much as possible), popcorn has a special place in my stomach….er, I mean heart. For me, it’s a simple yet filling snack and can be relatively nutritious. Whole grain, high in fiber and anti oxidants and low in calories, it can be an ideal healthy snack option.

But not all popcorn is made healthy! Unfortunately, consuming microwave popcorn and movie theatre popcorn (sorry folks!) definitely don’t fall under the healthy snack status which we all believed them to be. Believe it or not, conventional highly processed non organic popcorn is considered to be one of the most contaminated foods with harsh pesticides and chemicals.

Corn kernels and butter aren’t the only ingredients in microwave popcorn! Ever wonder why “natural and artificial flavors” are listed on the package as so called ingredients? Because companies don’t want to tell you what chemicals they’re actually using. It’s been said that the when the bags lining (teflon coating particularly) goes through cooking process in the microwave, it causes an unwanted harmful chemical to form called perfluorooctanoic (aka PFOA). This has been identified to likely be a type of carcinogen which has been linked to cancer, cardiovascular disease, infertility and thyroid problems, and other potential health risks. And it’s not even a real ingredient!

Another issue is that it contains an artificially added chemical called diacetyl. Diacetyl is used to enhance the butter flavorings most commonly found in microwave popcorn bags. Apparently, factory workers that worked in manufacturing this product became ill from with scarring of the lungs that the condition was named ‘popcorn lung’. So inhaling a bag of popped popcorn means inhaling this additive. Plus, the labels in popcorn don’t generally include all of the many other chemicals (including diacetyl) that go into the flavorings. So the combination of the microwave (which I’ve ditched now for almost 6 years) and the chemicals in the bags, these alone make it a surprising health risk to be concerned about and definitely worth ditching.

Now what about those big bags of warm, aromatic popcorn that you can’t avoid at the movie theaters? You simply can’t watch a movie without it, right? While popcorn may seem like the snack that may be the only thing that’s not bad for you, well…..hold your butter! The calories specifically in movie theater popcorn have extremely high calorie counts. A large bag from AMC, without butter, comes at a whopping 1030 calories plus 41 grams of unnecessary trans fat! However, don’t forget, most people get butter on their popcorn, and that strange greasy liquid that vaguely tastes like butter actually contains non hydrogenated soybean oil that’s been artificially colored and flavored. Regardless if you ask for no butter, the popcorn is still coated with an artificial buttery flavoring that gives it that vibrant yellow color and heavily cooked in unhealthy trans fat like canola oil and salt. So all of the excess fat could add up and have detrimental effects on your waistline and more importantly – your health!

But it doesn’t just stop there!

To my surprise, some movie theaters apparently buy pre-popped popcorn which are warmed up under heat light lamps as a tactic to cut down equipment costs and time. This increases the theater’s productivity and in turn make more profit. Pre popcorn is also typically made in trans fat oils and flavored and colored with artificial ingredients, often containing MSG. It’s also worth questioning the unknown amount of time the popcorn have been stored for which could only mean that preservatives and additives have been added to increase shelf life.

So what’s a person to munch on while watching the latest flick? How does one avoid the “popcorn mist” and manage temptation?

Smuggle your own. 

The key to healthy and better popcorn is popping it yourself. I pretty much think this is the key to everything, really. It’s super easy to make and you’ll find just as delicious. Since corn is one of the most commonly genetically modified foods in the market with a wealth of health concerns, it’s best to always choose 100% whole organic popcorn kernels. Organic popping corn will be free of pesticides, additives and toxic residues commonly found in conventionally grown corn.

So with that, the more nourishing way to make your own is by air popping it in a really cool popcorn maker or using a stove top oven. What’s the best cooking oil to make it with? Organic extra virgin cold pressed coconut oil of course! And just like the popcorn, you’ll want to make your own toppings. Season it with cracked black pepper, raw extra virgin olive oil drizzle, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, a little bit of turmeric, Himalayan salt, nutritional yeast and my absolute favorite – chili powder.

Happy healthy snacking! x

Super Granol-Oat Nut Butter Bars [Love Grown Foods Style]

Do you love the taste and texture of granola bars but tired of seeing an abundant amount of sugars and refined carbs? Me too, guys, me too.  It frustrates me when I see health bars on shelves that call themselves healthy and nutritious only to read the label/contents and discover it was purely a marketing ploy.  Unfortunately, 99% of the granola bars that my grandma used to give to me for school, ’cause she thought they were better snack options, fall under this category. Some bars contain just as much sugar as chocolate bars! This makes snacking healthy challenging but when in doubt, make your own! I cannot stress this enough.

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I made these soft, chewy, vegan, gluten/wheat free, protein and fiber rich, healthier-for-you DIY bars in less than 15 minutes. There’s no baking required so makes it easier and faster to go right into our tummies!

One of the main ingredients in this homemade granola bar are the oats. Aka granol-oat! Oats, in moderation, is a low calorie grain that helps our bodies stay full longer and aids in sugar cravings by stabilizing blood sugars. They provide high levels of fiber and protein, generally lower in fat and contain unique antioxidants called beta glucans that reduce cholesterol and boosts defenses of the immune system against bacteria, viruses and parasites.

I had the pleasure of receiving a wonderful care package from Love Grown Foods which contained so many delicious and healthy products, one being their Super Oats Chia Nuts and Seeds! Now these oats aren’t like the other traditional oats out there. The nutritional benefits don’t just stop at simply the oats. The super stands for all of the superfood ingredients its loaded with: chia seeds, almonds, quinoa, amaranth, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts. They’re also uncontaminated which makes them certified gluten and wheat free making it appropriate for those with celiac disease to safely enjoy them too!

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From the minute you open the accessible package, you will see and smell the difference. A clean product that not only tastes fresh but also certified non GMO. No sugar or salt added (which makes me the happiest girl) makes it conveniently customizable and versatile for anyone.

Remember those sugary, not really good for you, granola bars we were just talking about? Well, here’s an easy peasy recipe that’s hearty, supercharged and can kick any granola bar’s butt to the curb!

For the Base – You’ll need: 

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp of organic pure unsweetened peanut butter or almond butter

6 tablespoons of coconut oil

1 1/4 cup of Love Grown Foods Super Oats

1/2 cup of crispy brown rice cereal (can omit and add more oats or use ground flax seeds or coconut flakes!)

1/4 cup of ground flax seeds

2 teaspoons of alcohol free vanilla

1 teaspoon of organic cinnamon

2 tablespoons of unsweetened almond milk

Optional: add in chopped almonds or seeds of choice, vegan carob chips, cacao nibs

Melt the nut butter, almond milk and coconut oil on medium low heat in a sauce pan and stir into a creamy batter. Remove immediately from the heat after melted! In a separate bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. If you don’t want your bars too chewy, you can blend or ground the oats into a flour. Pour the melted nut butter mixture onto the dry mixture and combine well.

Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper. Press the mixture down onto the pan with your fingers or a spoon. Put in the frige for about 5 minutes until firm. In the meantime, move onto the topping….

For the Topping – You’ll need: 

1/4 cup of organic coconut oil (melted)

1/4 cup of unsweetened toasted carob powder (or raw cacao)

If your coconut oil is not in liquid form, melt it on low heat. This won’t take long! Stir in carob powder and mix well until topping sauce is made.

Remove the base batter from the fridge. Pour topping sauce making sure it’s evenly distributed. Refrigerate for half an hour or so until firmed up. Cut into desired squares. Best served at room temperature. Keep in an air tight container or individually wrap them in aluminum foil or cling wrap to have as on the go snacks! Keep refrigerated for a week or frozen for up to 2 months.

Alternatively you have the option to bake the base at 300 degrees for 20 minutes. 

 

Raw Crunchy Cacao Almond Protein Balls

#WHATHEALTHYMODELSEAT

The most popular question I get asked about being vegan is “Where do you get your protein?!” I can list a million a one meat less ways that are excellent sources of protein but I’ll let this recipe do the talking. 

One of the things on that list is sprouted brown rice protein. It’s a perfect protein supplement for vegans, vegetarians, lactose intolerants and even meat eaters! I currently have a strong relationship with Heartland Gold’s Sprouted Brown Rice Protein Powder. It’s non GMO and allergy friendly. Here are 5 Fast Food Facts about sprouted brown rice (protein):

  • Helps to promote a healthy balanced sugar as it’s considered to be a low glycemic food 
  • It’s allergen friendly – no gluten, wheat, dairy, sugar, soy and whey!
  • Excellent in amino acids containing all 9 amino acids that are essential to your health and it’s high in iron!
  • Low in calories and carbs per scoop (depending on the brand you get) 
  • It’s a great (and better) alternative to soy and whey protein powders. Some studies have shown that brown rice protein has the same athletic benefits as whey protein. Suitable for someone on a plant based diet who also needs to build muscle and also for muscle recovery and healing!

It has a smooth taste and it’s easy on the stomach. A few years back, I tried Vega’s protein powders and all of their products made my stomach hurt and run to the washroom. I’ve read about many people who complained about it hurting their tummies too and were told that they “would get used to it” after a few uses. I gradually added it to my everyday diet and it still left me with the same results. Maybe it was because of their abundant amount of ingredients mixed together that took a hit at my digestive system?  

So I stopped and gave up on protein powders because of them! 

One of the most popular health snacks right now are raw protein balls. You can buy them (various health brands) or you can make them yourself and control what’s inside of them. I’m always a big fan of homemade. Plus, they’re super easy to make and since it’s raw, they’re easily accessible! So that meant giving protein powders another chance. Heartland Gold’s Non GMO Sprouted Brown Rice Protein powder is a fantastic brand especially if you’ve just started to introduce protein powders into your diet. I bought this one for $15.99 at my local health store in Toronto. 

A great component of this particular protein powder is that it only has one ingredient: Organic Compliant, Sprouted, Non-GMO, Brown Rice Protein Concentrate! With 80 calories per scoop and 16 grams of protein, it’s the perfect addition to your smoothies, blends, hot cereals, pancakes and in this case, protein balls! And the best part? My stomach doesn’t hurt afterwards! Take that Vega! 

Now, let’s get our protein on…..

What you’ll need: 

1/2 cup of pure roasted almond butter 

1 scoop of sprouted brown rice protein (Heartland Gold Sprouted Brown Rice Protein vanilla or unflavoured) 

1 cup of raw almonds sliced in halves (or you can use almond shreds but it won’t have that super crunch we want!) 

2 tablespoons of organic maca powder

1 packet of stevia 

1 teaspoon of organic vanilla extract (alcohol free if possible!)

1 tablespoon of organic coconut oil 

2 teaspoons of organic chia seeds 

1/2 cup of organic almond flour 

1/4 cup of raw cacao powder (you can use carob powder if you want to reduce your caffeine intake!) 

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. You can use a food processor if you have it if anything. Blend thoroughly. Take a spoonful and roll into a ball shape using your hands. 

Take a spoonful and roll in the palms of your hand in a ball shape. Refrigerate and grab when you need one! 

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