Kale Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing

I’m crazy for kale! Who isn’t these days?

Kale is taking the food world by storm and almost everyone is using this hearty, healthy green in various things like salads, juices, stews and smoothies!

It’s a nutritional powerhouse and beneficial to your health in many, many ways. If vitamins can be packed and labeled, they’d very much look like kale. From a range of vitamins and nutrients such as C, B, A, iron and even protein, the benefits offered by just one cup of this relatively infamous veggie can trump a lot of other foods combined. Anti-inflammatory, packed with anti oxidants, immune building and impressively fiber and iron rich, this fighting disease leaf is a force to be reckoned with.

Kale is one of the best vegetables for your health that you should happily have everyday. But let’s face it, raw kale isn’t as easy to consume directly like spinach. Sometimes known as “crazy lettuce”, this tough leafy green needs to be tamed in order to fully enjoy its deliciousness.

In this delectable salad, the key is to massage your fibrous kale for a few minutes and let it sit marinated in lemon juice. This simple rubdown step can deliciously transform this green from being bitter and strong to becoming silky and smooth. Pair it with a kick butt lemon tahini dressing and you’ll have one heck of a nutritional and healthy dish that’ll have you forgetting about those Caesar salad days.

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KALE SALAD:

Massaged kale, raw

Rinsed and soaked organic chickpeas

Diced cucumbers, raw

Diced bell peppers, raw

Chopped broccoli florets

Finely minced red onions

** 1 small pouch of Natera natural hemp seeds

LEMON TAHINI DRESSING:

1 lemon, juiced (about 2-3 tbsp)

5 tbsp of organic tahini (also known as sesame paste)

1 clove of garlic, pressed

1 tbsp of organic raw apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup of water (add less or more depending on desired consistency)

Optional: 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

Add dressing ingredients in a Magic Bullet or blender and mix thoroughly. Pulse well.

Toss with salad ingredients. Combine well until there is not a naked kale leaf left! Sprinkle hemp seeds/hearts and devour.

Honest to Goodness Morning Power Protein Smoothie [Vegan, Sugar Free]

Drink to your health – right in the morning! 

One of the best things to have right after a well rested sleep is a delicious, healthy green smoothie loaded with nutrients. They give you a boost in energy, supply a radiant amount of nutrients, help improve skin conditions, reduce sugary cravings, assist in effortless weight loss and provide you with the daily dose of vegetables and fruits your body needs. While green smoothies and juices are all the hype these days, there are ways to get the most out of your daily dose of uplifting nourishment.

Steadily start your engine by swapping your dead, sugary, unhealthy breakfast with a pre-chewed living greens smoothie after your tall glass of lemon water or morning green tea. This way, your body reaps the benefits of the bio-available nutrients it has offer while preserving your delicate digestive fire.

The other day, I learned a fantastic habit to get the most out of my daily smoothies. Chew them! Digestion starts in your mouth, so by activating salivary enzymes by “chewing” your smoothie, you are basically letting your digestive organs know that food is on its way. Saliva is secreted when you chew your food, so by chewing your smoothie, you’re helping an important part of the digestive process by lubricating the sugars that essentially helps them break down easier in your stomach. Let’s face it – bloating can suck! So try chewing your smoothie instead of gulping it down in one sitting.

I’ve made this recipe almost everyday this week! It’s easy, quick and absolutely tasty. As you probably know from my previous posts, I keep on a low sugar, low glycemic diet in which I consume much more vegetables than I do fruit. The first tip to making a nutrient dense smoothie (or juice) is by keeping the greens-fruit ratio roughly 4:1. Leafy greens provide a substantial dose of calcium, iron, disease fighting phytochemicals and phytonutrients. You don’t necessarily want a sugar laden smoothie as it defeats the overall purpose. Frozen cucumbers is a great way to add some wholesome sweetness to your smoothie without having to use sugary fruits like bananas or mangoes.

A second important tip is making sure you get an adequate amount of protein combined with healthy fats. This is very important especially when you’re having your smoothie for breakfast or as a meal replacement. Raw almond butter and hemp seeds stow healthy fats including immunity and brain boosting Omega-3 fatty acids. Along with the vegan protein powder (whether it’s pea protein or brown rice protein), this smoothie is packed with the essential protein your body needs for daily fuel, growth support and maintenance.

Get the right energy you need by starting your day off with a smoothie bang!

An Ode To Smoothies – Recipes like this:

Banana-Free Smoothie 

Raw Alkaline Detox Blend 

Super Warrior Smoothie

Healthy Detox Model Blend

Easy Everyday Green Blend

Model-Friendly Milkshake

Drink Your Greens

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Ironic isn’t it? I don’t drink alcohol but I love using my tall Carlsberg glass for my smoothies! Who needs alcohol anyway when you can have a succulent and beneficial drink instead? 

What you’ll need:

Half a large local cucumber (frozen, cut into slices)

3-5 packed cups of organic baby spinach (or leafy greens of your choice!)

1 1/2 cups of unsweetened almond milk (or 1 cup of almond milk +1/2 cup of filtered water if you don’t want it too creamy)

1 tsp of organic raw almond butter (I love Dastony’s sprouted almond butter for this!)

1/2 a scoop of vanilla vegan protein powder

2 tbsp of raw hemp protein (Natera’s Natural Hemp Protein works great)

1 tsp of grounded flax or chia seeds

Optional: sometimes I like my morning smoothie a little bit tangy sweet, so I add half a cup of FROZEN sliced raspberries!

Blend the cucumbers, baby spinach and almond milk first for 1 minute. Add in protein ingredients and flax/chia.

Blend some more. Keep a bit of the smoothie chunky so you retain some of the needed fiber which you can then “chew” during consumption.

Chew, drink and feel powerful!

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? 

Raw Protein Nib Bars [Vegan, Sugar Free, Grain Free]

But where do you get your protein?” is one the many commonly asked questions when I’m talking to someone about my plant based diet and lifestyle. Whatever “diet” you may be on be it vegan, vegetarian or the funny named flexitarian, if you care about a healthy one, want to increase your muscle mass, or gain/lose/maintain weight, then you know that a clean, full and sustainable protein source is vital. My answer to the question: protein is a non issue for me as high quality protein is quite abundant in a lot of plant foods!

How much protein do we need on a daily basis? Well, the RDA recommends 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram or 0.36 grams per pound. This can fluctuate base on your activity levels and desire to gain more muscle mass. Our bodies use sufficient protein to support optimal tissue health, immunity function, growth and maintenance of lean body mass during activity, muscle recovery and overall vital body preservation.

So we all know the importance of adequate protein as well as good fats and vitamins and minerals sourced from plant based foods. However, having an active lifestyle while living in a very fast paced society, it can be a challenge to prepare healthy smoothies, juices, complete meals and snacks to fuel my days. Let’s face it guys – counting your calories and carbs, making sure you’re getting the proper amounts of protein and vitamins can be a pain and time consuming! Especially if you’re a vegan/vegetarian since we’re often told to be more mindful of our protein intake. But regularly consuming a variety of whole foods and nutritious snacks, you won’t need to play diet mathematician! Though there aren’t many plant based friendly, sugar free/low sugar products catered towards protein density on the market (yet), the best option is to always make your own! All you need are the best of the best ingredients, a set time during the week and a little bit of arm work. It’s definitely worth it and you’ll feel more at ease knowing exactly what you’re putting into your body.

So when Raw Green Organics provided me with their RAWJUVENATE Organic Vegan Protein powder in vanilla for an original recipe on my blog, I knew I could not just make an easy peasy smoothie. Of course, it’s definitely delicious enough to throw in smoothies and other energy beverages or even just milk – that is how it is mainly used, yes? But variety is the spice of life and there are many yummy and fun ways to incorporate protein into your everyday ritual. Like these moist, luscious good-for-you bars I’m about to share with you. One of the best parts about these bars is that you don’t feel like you’re eating anything “healthy” – they’re that good! It’s as if you’re eating raw cookie dough but without the added nasties. There’s also no need for unnecessary protein supplements because these bars have you covered! Thanks to my new favourite vegan protein powder, they’re naturally rich in protein, high in healthy Omega 3-6-9 fatty acids and certified organic! A perfect base to the protein bars and actually, they make em taste….better! I’ve found that many commercial protein powders contain a whack load of refined additives, added sugar and sometimes make my recipes taste dry and chalky. This was especially apparent in some brown rice protein powders I’ve tried as well. But Raw Green Organics locally sources all of their organic ingredients so that we are compensated with only high quality tasting products.

Their Organic Vegan Protein powder is naturally derived and made with organic yellow peas, organic sacha inchi protein, organic hemp protein and organic flaxseeds. The formula was carefully formulated to appeal to those on the vegan diet as well as those with the common food allergies and is 100% free from lactose, dairy, whey, gluten, wheat, sugar and soy. Each serving (about 2 tbsps) provides about 15 grams of protein and supplies a balanced fatty acid and complete branched-chain amino acid profile. These serve as important fuel sources for our muscles during times of stress and exercise.

Hold up! What is organic sacha inchi? Also known as the Savi Seed, sacha inchi is a plant that’s grown in mountainous regions of South America like Peru. It’s been used for thousands of years but you will most likely start to see this popping up more and being developed for commercial purposes and benefits for health products like this protein powder! Nutritionally, it’s impressive profile is very similar to hemp in that the plant offers a wide variety of EFA’s and high complementary or standalone protein content. There are sources that state sacha inchi is one of the most nutritionally complete foods you can include in your diet because of its vast beneficial benefits because the seeds are rich digestible protein content and contain about 25% of Omega 3’s by weight alone. Like chia seeds and maca powder, sacha inchi is definitely another “superfood” we can benefit from particularly if the indigenous peoples have been consuming it for energy for centuries! Another naturally vegan plant based protein source we can add to our list which also gives the extra health boost needed in these protein bars! Mmmm.

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A good quality protein bar can be convenient fuel, whether it’s post strength training workouts, during long hikes with friends or for easy breakfast morning grabs. Making these raw high protein bars is an excellent snack option that will keep you satisfied and help maintain your healthy regime. These bad boys are raw so baking is not required here. This definitely helps to cut down time while giving you more time to enjoy your happy, active life!

These homemade protein bars are raw, vegan, dairy free, soy free, corn free, grain free, wheat free, yeast free, preservative free, sugar free and packed with vitamins and minerals!

Keep them individually wrapped and cool in the fridge for a convenient way to grab, go and nourish!

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What you’ll need: 

2 tbsp of organic virgin coconut oil

3 tbsp of unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or other non dairy milk of choice)

1/4 cup of granulated xylitol (or raw coconut sugar but it won’t be sugar free!)

1 tbsp of non alcohol vanilla extract

3/4 cup of Organic Vegan Protein Powder (Vanilla flavor is my favourite!)

3/4 cup of 100 % almond flour or almond meal (to make it nut free but still grain free, try coconut flour or buckwheat flour – taste will differ a bit)

1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of raw organic cacao nibs

1 tsp of organic cinnamon powder

Optional: 1 tsp of maca powder, carob powder or chia seeds for an extra kick!

Melt the coconut oil in a small pan or bowl. Whisk in almond milk, vanilla, sweetener, and cinnamon until well combined. Add the dry ingredients. Taste and adjust the sweetness if necessary. If it’s a little too dry, add a tiny bit more oil or 1 tsp of nut butter! Do not add more coconut flour or protein powder as they set and dry out when chilled. Fold in cacao nibs and mix.

Using your hands, grab mixture and press down on parchment paper. Shape into a 1/2 inch thick rectangle. Place in fridge to set. Cut into bars, eat and conquer the day!

 

Raw Zucchini Pasta w/ Chunky Vegan Sauce!

I’ve been wanting a spiralizer for quite some time now. But I just don’t have the counter space for it since my gigantic handy blender and can’t- live-without juicer takes up most of it up. Maybe the answer to this is getting a bigger kitchen? 🙂

So as a kind (and surprising!) gift, Tina from Classic Chef sent me the very popular Zyliss Julienne Peeler for my cooking needs. It’s the handy little device that can shred vegetables and fruits into decent strips. I haven’t tried using a spiralizer yet, but this one seems to be doing the trick perfectly well. It’s easy to handle, small enough to store away and pretty good quality. You don’t need to spend big bucks on spiralizing tools either since this gadget is easy on the wallet (approx 10 bucks!)

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So what’s the deal with wanting to tatter my food up anyway? For one, I try to keep my dishes grain free (gluten free as well) so this means cutting out carbs when possible and sticking to whole plant based dishes. This doesn’t mean I deprive myself of the awesome-ness of the psuedo grains like organic quinoa, buckwheat or the occasional whole grain brown rice! However, it’s easy to eat more of these carbs as the main part of the dish and then subconsciously eat less vegetables. So moderation and balance is key. Whether you want to lose some stubborn weight, improve your blood chemistry, increase your energy levels or get more vitamin intake, making some meals grain free can help you to achieve that. This means filling the place of (hopefully gluten free) breads, pastas and brown rice dishes with a favourite vegetable like zucchinis and sweet potatoes and preparing them in the same delicious way.

Pasta is one of my favourite dishes EVER. If I could eat it everyday, I would. Oodles of noodles and a rich creamy tomato sauce always hits the spot. I’m sure it does for a lot of people too! I’ll usually make it with organic brown rice pasta or Explore Asia mung bean noodles and both would do the trick. Of course, too much of a good thing is never good. So thanks to my handy dandy Julienne peeler, I am able to shred vegetables like zucchinis and cucumbers to pasta shaped noodles. So not only do I cut the carbs and calories down by a heck of a whole lot by making it grain free, I also get more doses of healthy greens onto my plate. The key to not compromising the taste of this grain free pasta dish: a kick ass flavorful chunky vegan sauce to go on top of the zucchini noodles!

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Vegan, grain free, wheat free, gluten free, preservative free, soy free, protein rich delicious-ness! 

As they say in Italy: Buon Appetito!

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What you’ll need:

Spiralized or peeled zucchini – try to keep it raw to take in full plant based enzymes

Sauce

2 cups of organic crushed tomatoes

1 cup of sodium free chickpeas or soaked/cooked garbanzo beans

1/2 cup of chopped bell peppers

1 cup of diced dinosaur kale

1 tsp of 100% tomato paste

1 tsp of dried oregano

1 tsp of dried basil

1 tsp of coriander

1 tsp of dried thyme

1 tsp of organic coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup of yellow onion, minced

Black pepper and himalayan salt to taste

In a small pot, heat oil and diced onions for a few minutes until golden brown on medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 5 minutes or until softened and translucent. Add chickpeas and mix well. Coat the tomato paste and crushed tomatoes over. Let cook for a minute or two. Throw over all spices. Combine well. Lower heat. Add bell peppers and kale and stir. Adjust to taste.

Pour sauce over peeled zucchini noodles and top with cracked black pepper. Devour.

 

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