Breakfast of a Wannabe Champion

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This is how I’m starting my morning (well after my hot water and lemon) how about you? Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. For me it also sets the tone for my day. If I have started off well with a hearty nutritious breakfast than I, personally, am more likely to be successful. If I start the morning with a muffin or Danish, even a bowl of cereal, I’m heading for a horrible day. Mood wise, energy wise and I know that most of my choices to follow will be crappy as well.

I hear some people complain they can’t eat first thing in the morning. Breakfast literally means to “break the fast”  if you aren’t hungry within an hour of waking, odds are you’ve eaten too close to bed time. Sometimes I will push past that hour. It will usually be in regards to a scheduled workout time but that’s a personal choice and I know how my body reacts to different foods around different types of exercise. I’ll be touching on that later this week.

For now, here’s a bit of advice. Start your day with a big glass of water and/or a hot water with lemon. Your body has been working hard while you sleep to detoxify so let’s help it out by flushing the system. The lemon and hot water are a great way to support your liver function. Give yourself an hour before hitting the caffeine, and try to go black! There is evidence leaning towards black coffee helping boost metabolism and athletic performance. If you don’t drink coffee-don’t start! But if you do, try to ditch the sugar and dairy.

Here’s hoping you all find a way to Get Movin today!

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Slow Cooker Apple Cinnamon Walnut Steel-Cut Oatmeal

After having a talk one morning after bootcamp about make ahead breakfasts, and overnight breakfasts I decided to do a little research and see what I could come up with. I found so many great recipes out there so I promise you, after some family experiments, there will be more to come. For now, I really liked the idea of the slow cookers. It’s nice to be able to have one less things to worry about in the morning. Or if you are like myself, this is also fantastic for shift workers. Come home in the morning, mix up the ingredients and wake up in the afternoon to the lovely smell of cinnamon and apples and a warm bowl of oatmeal.

The Ingredients:

  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups of milk
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 cup of uncooked steel-cut oats (we like Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • butter – enough to coat the slow cooker pot
  • 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon (you may like to start with less and add more to each individual bowl)
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt

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The Steps:

  • Coat the inside of the slow cooker with butter. Just enough so the oatmeal won’t stick. Some people suggested cooking spray, but I prefer butter.
  • I combine all the ingredients in a bowl stirred them up and carefully poured them into the crock pot, the pouring was probably the biggest challenge!
  • Cook on low for approx 7 hours on low.

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Already to go!

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7 hours later, a warm and wonderful start to the day!

Things to Keep in Mind:

The cooking time may vary depending on the style of the crock pot. The first time you make it you may want to make it during the day so you can keep an eye on it. This will re-heat nicely. You can add a little milk and warm it in the microwave. Add different garnishes to your taste. Think raisins, a little maple syrup, try different types of nuts. Many recipes advised to add the nuts later. I actually like them as part of the cooking process. They soften a little, which I find a much more pleasant experience in this oatmeal then hitting a hard “crunch”.  With the milk this almost has a rice pudding consistency. If all you’ve ever had is instant oatmeal – you are in for a bit of a surprise. If you are not a fan, give it a few tries. I’m sure once you get used to this it will be hard to go back to the synthetic over-sweetened taste of the instant packages.

 

Breakfast Quinoa your kids will (probably) love!

Here are 4 breakfast quinoa recipes to try. They take a little bit of time, but no real work to make. If you have 25 mins in the morning, put the quinoa in the pot and let it cook, then add your “flavours”. You can put the pot on before you start making lunches, or before you go wake the kids. You know your morning routine, work it into it, I guarantee you’ll enjoy the change. I believe you can probably make this ahead of time and then re-heat it (add a bit of liquid) if you choose, I just haven’t tried that yet.

I’ve made two quinoa “bases”, you just add the ingredients you would like. The possibilities are endless. Think dried fruits, seeds, homemade jam (watch the sugars you add) and nuts.

The ingredients:

For a plain quinoa:

  • 1/2 cup of quinoa
  • 1 cup of milk
  • “flavour” #1: brown sugar and real maple syrup or
  • “flavour” #2: 1/2 diced apple (or 1 tsp of apple butter) and cinnamon

For a chocolate (yep chocolate for breakie!) quinoa:

  • 1/2 cup of quinoa
  • 1 cup of chocolate almond milk (I’m sure you can use soy, rice or even cow’s milk)
  • cocoa about 1 Tbsp, you can add this to the pot after it’s cooked.
  • “flavour” #1: 1/2 ripe banana mashed and honey or
  • “flavour” #2: almond butter (you can probably use natural peanut butter as well, I just didn’t have any on hand)

The steps:

  • Place the quinoa and milk of choice in a pot and heat until almost boiling, cover and reduce to medium/low for about 10-15 mins. Then I usually turn the heat off and leave it on the burner until the liquid is absorbed. I did find using the milk that you have to keep a bit of a closer eye and stir it a few times to keep from sticking.
  • Divide into bowls (this makes about 3 servings) and add “flavours” to taste and stir! You can add the flavours right to the pot after cooking, but I found making the quinoa as a “base” allows each of the kids to personalize their own bowl.

Trying to get our kids to kick cereal has been an ongoing battle that I have somewhat given in to. This is a great alternative and this time of year it is nice to be able to send them off with a warm breakfast that I know isn’t going to cause a spike in their blood sugar and bring them crashing down just in time to be cranky with the teachers in school. Quinoa is considered a protein, not a carb so it will also help keep you fuller longer.

The most popular flavour in our house was the apple and cinnamon, followed by the chocolate with almond butter (my personal favourite). My notoriously picky 9yr old, who refuses to give up instant oatmeal actually said she would prefer the maple and brown sugar quinoa! This was a break through, because I have tried to add maple and/or brown sugar to so many things over the years (steel-cut oats, plain oatmeal) to no avail. So, needless to say, I am over the moon about this one! Funny enough, no one in our family liked the banana and chocolate. I included it here, because many of the recipes I researched in trying to come up with a breakfast quinoa included bananas, so I thought someone out there must like it!

Mix it up! I would love to hear what combinations you come up with, and how your family enjoys it!

No Stuff Savoury “Stuffing”

I came up with this recipe this year for Thanksgiving as I was mid-way through an elimination program to see if I had any food sensitivities when the holiday fell. My mom makes an amazing stuffing, the woman can’t make a turkey to save her life, but her stuffing is top shelf! However, it is “old school” and contains processed pork sausage, summer savory, bread, mashed potatoes…a lot of things I was avoiding, and that I am continuing to avoid. Also, she wasn’t coming to visit, so I didn’t have to worry about offending her and I’m pretty much the only one in the family that eats stuffing, so I was able to tweak this recipe to just the way I liked it. Turns out, hubby and the kids thought it smelled so good they were willing to try it, and loved it. It is gluten and dairy free. I have toyed with the idea of adding pine nuts. I think they would be a nice addition. It is not a very “sticky” stuffing, and there are a fair number of ingredients, which strays from my standard basic recipes – but you have to break your own rules every once and awhile 🙂

The ingredients:

  • 1 lb of lean ground pork or veal (as high a quality you can afford), you can try lean chicken or turkey if you prefer, I think the pork works well with the apple, cranberry and savoury flavours.
  • 2 apples – I like Gala
  • 6 small brown cap or baby portabella mushrooms
  • 1/2 craisins – optional
  • 1 1/2 tsp sage
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp paprika

The steps:

In a deep pan – this is for the most part a one pot dish, another reason why I love it!:

  1. If you know the source of the meat (organic, free range, antibiotic free) and you won’t need to drain the fat, then you can mix the meat and spices before browning; if not, brown the meat and drain it well without adding the spices yet. One of the things to be aware of is that in factory farmed meat (poultry included) the antibiotics and toxins are stored mostly in the fat of the animals (which is often the case with us as well!). For my family, the bigger reason for me draining the fat is to remove as much of these toxins from our foods as possible, not just because the fat isn’t that good for you!
  2. While the meat is browning you can chop the mushrooms and apples. I chop them a little finer than in the picture. It’s a way to sneak mushrooms into the kids!
  3. While the meat is draining (I put it in a strainer or on a plate with paper towel) add the mushrooms to the pan with a touch of olive oil over medium heat after a few minutes you can add the apples. Allow them to cook about 5 mins, until the apples have softened a little.
  4. Add the meat back to the pan and add the spices. Mixing well until they are all combined.
  5. Add the craisins, if I was going to add pine nuts, I would probably do it now as well.
  6. Allow to cook on low for about 20 mins, until the craisins are a little puffy, I still like the apple to have a bit of texture to it – we don’t want applesauce* (yet)
  7. Enjoy!

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I promise – it tastes better than it looks 🙂 Couldn’t get a very good picture.

Some variations:

As I said earlier this is not a very sticky stuffing. In fact it can be quite crumbly. I like it with homemade Cranberry sauce or I am sure it would be good with applesauce as well. We’ve also had it for breakfast with scrambled eggs. My husband mixes it with the Roasted Veggies. Another option is to stuff a small acorn squash, or as I promised in yesterdays post – the bottom half of a butternut squash.

The steps:

  1. Cut your squash in half and seed it
  2. Roast face down on a cookie tray in a 400 oven for approx 20 mins.
  3. If you can pierce the skin of the squash – it’s done.
  4. Plate and “stuff” them with the savoury stuffing.
  5. Enjoy!

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Roasted Root Veggies and Squash

One of the great things about fall and winter veggies are the beautiful colours, textures and flavours that you can find in the squash and root vegetable families. It really is a great way to “eat a rainbow”.  This is a super easy starter recipe that as you get more comfortable making, you can jazz up with your own flavour additions. I’ve chosen acorn and butternut squashes, beets, parsnips and red onions. The prep time is a little bit more involved then some veggies, but there will be enough for at least 1 if not 2 nights of leftovers. It’s also makes a great addition to a Christmas dinner!

The ingredients:

  • 1 acorn squash
  • top half of a butternut squash
  • 4-5 small onions (I found small red ones, Vidalias are nice and sweet as well)
  • 3-5 beets
  • 3-5 parsnips
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground pepper

This is an area you can play with, if you love parsnips add a few more, don’t like onions, don’t include them. PLEASE though, TRY something new. My husband has finally found a way to eat squash – and it’s in this recipe.

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Aren’t they pretty?

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400
  2. Wash and peel the parsnips and cut them into approx 1” pieces
  3. Wash and peel the beets. Be warned – they will stain – A LOT.  Quarter the beets and put them into a separate oven safe dish and cover the dish with foil. I put them into a separate dish for 2 reasons. I love the flavours on their own, I don’t add anything to them, and once they are peeled and cut they will “bleed”, so if you don’t mind pink parsnips feel free to add them into your main dish.
  4. Cut your acorn and butternut squashes. They will need to be seeded and peeled (I use a veggie peeler on the acorn squash). If you’re only using the top of the butternut squash you will not need to seed it. I will have another recipe for the bottom half later this week. Cut them into 1” pieces.
  5. Toss the parsnips and squash pieces with olive oil,sea salt and fresh ground pepper.
  6. Peel the outside skin off the onions. If they are on the smaller side than you can leave them whole, if they are larger than a golf ball I would cut them in half. Add them to the dish.
  7. Leave dish uncovered and put in oven for approx 30-40 mins turning gently half way. The beets will need 40-50 mins depending on size so I will often throw them in as the oven is heating up.
  8. A fork inserted easily into them and you know they are done. Don’t cook them until they are mush!

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Acorn squash cut in half and seeded.

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Veggies tossed with olive oil, sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

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Out of the oven and ready to be served.

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The beets. Sweet and delicious, enjoy them hot or cold. They make a great addition to a salad, especially with feta.

A few tips:

The root veggies can take a little longer, but hold their form nice. An option is to throw them in for about 10 mins and then add the squash to the dish. Or slice the squash a little larger then the root veggies. Of course you can always make this two seperate dishes as well. Try adding fresh rosemary or tarragon to change things up. They work great as part of a breakfast dish with eggs as well!

Breakfasts of Champions

This is a season, when even more than usual, we always seem to be rushing. If your mornings are hectic, and that is a common excuse for skipping breakfast, here are three simple & quick, on the go breakfast options and 3 others for when you have a few more minutes in your day.

Try to remember, that taking the time to eat, sitting down and being conscious of what and how much you are eating is a big part of being successful in creating a healthy lifestyle…but sometimes, we hit the snooze button one to many times, our to-do list doubles over night or it’s just “one of THOSE days”. On those occasions, hopefully these are some ideas that will help you to start your day fueled properly so that though the morning may start crazy, it doesn’t completely derail the rest of your day.

As is the case so often, planning ahead is a big part of succeeding. A habit in our family is to always have boiled eggs on hand. We usually do a dozen up at a time. You can find tips for boiling eggs here.

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5 mins and your out the door:

Option 1:

  • 1-2 boiled eggs
  • Apple
  • ¼ cup of cashews or almonds

Option 2:

Spinach Smoothie:

  • 2-3 handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1/2-1 frozen banana cut into slices. (I like to peel them prior to freezing, if I’ve got the time I’ll even cut them up, freeze them on a cookie sheet and then put them into a container or Ziploc baggie).
  • ½ an avocado
  • 1 cup of cold water (or more to taste)

Blend well

*If you find it challenging to get protein into your diet you can add a flavourless or vanilla flavoured whey protein powder into this shake. I don’t like to use a lot of protein powders, but sometimes there is a place for them, just don’t become dependent on them for your main source of protein. If weight loss is part of your goal, it’s easy to drink too many calories and still not feel satiated. The best way to get protein ultimately is from a food source.

This is also a great shake to introduce around St Patricks Day to kids as it is the one time of year most of them are willing to try something green! Increase the banana a little, and a little less spinach to start. Before you know it they may be willing to drink them on a regular basis!

 Option 3:

  • ¾ cup of plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ pint of berries
  • 2 tbsp of hemp hearts

You can even turn this into a smoothie by blending it with a bit of water, which is a great option in the winter with frozen berries.

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And if you have 10 minutes  and time to sit down, you can whip up any of the following:

Option 1:

Breakfast “Burritos”:

  • 6” whole grain wrap (we like Dempster’s Ancient Grains)
  • 2 eggs scrambled
  • a small amount of grated cheese about 2 tbsp – optional
  • salsa to taste

*you can even line the wrap with some baby spinach, or toss some in the pan with your eggs, try adding avocado to increase your healthy fats. Another one that is usually popular with kids.

Option 2:

Steel cut oats (I like Bob’s Red Mill brand, I make up a pot and have porridge all ready to go for several days. It keeps well in the fridge and I can take a serving add a bit of water or milk and warm it up. 20 mins of cooking equals 4 x 1 min breakfasts!)

  • Make as directed and add
  • 1tsp-1tbsp of almond butter
  • ½ cup of blueberries (if using frozen, thaw first)

or

If trying to wean your kids (or yourself) off of instant oatmeal and you like peanut butter and jam sandwiches a great option for flavours is:

  •  1tsp-1tbsp of natural peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp of homemade “jam” – 2 cups of frozen strawberries, ¼ chia seeds. Allow berries to thaw, then mash with a fork until desired consistency. Mix in chia seeds and let stand for 15 mins. Will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Option 3:

  • ¾ cup of cottage cheese
  • ¼ cup of walnut pieces
  • ¼ cup of raisins
  • Cinnamon to taste

I cannot stomach cottage cheese, I have tried a multitude of ways over the years and with the exception of lasagna :), this is the only way I can take the texture.

We hope you can find something here that pleases the taste buds. If you find yourself just not hungry in the morning look at what you are eating before bed. You may be taking in too much, too close to bedtime so that when you wake up your body is still full and unable to send the proper signals. If snacking at night is a problem, often not being hungry in the morning goes hand in hand. If you’ve had dinner and find yourself munchie a few hours later have a glass of water, or a warm cup of tea. Try and find a hobby to keep your hands busy. Night time snacking can be a challenge for us all…so perhaps we’ll leave that to another post 🙂

As always, feel free to comment and let us know what you think. Do you have any “go-to’s” for busy days? Here’s hoping you all start tomorrow right!

“If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and qive up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it” ~ Michael Jordan