Happy 4th of July!

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Wishing all our American neighbours a wonderful Independence Day! Loved this tribute to the flag.

Doh!! Sorry to all, that’s what I get for trying to post from my phone. Here is a picture of the flag that I thought was great!

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Empty your plate, or don’t.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who while growing up heard the constant admonition to “clean your plate”, or “you better eat all your dinner” followed with any variety of warning (there are starving children in _____) or threats (no dessert). I was not allowed to waste any food. As a parent I have tried not to do that to my kids, not because I’m a better parent, just more aware of how that can effect a person. I serve smaller servings, I’d rather them ask for seconds, though that is admittedly rare to happen with most veggies, so there may be a small amount of nagging at those times, but…I am still guilty of wanting a cleaned plate. It took a long time for me to get over the “wasting food” that seemed hard-wired into my brain. So instead of forcing them to eat all that was put in front of them, I would eat it. Again, I’m presumming I’m not the only person with a history of cleaning more than one plate when the family meal is done.

Well a year or so ago I read a passage that went something like “if you are eating food that your body doesn’t need, it is still food that is being wasted“. This was a lightbulb moment for me, and it changed the way I approached those dinner plates, at least for the most part.

And now, confession time: I was at a Scrapbooking Crop today with my 9 yr old and I seemed to forget all about that. She had taken chips that she didn’t want. So when I went to clear her plate I ate them. Perhaps it was because I didn’t want her “wasting” food that someone else had paid for. Or because she had taken to much and I didn’t want people thinking she was wasteful, or perhaps I was just being mindless. It doesn’t matter, I ate them. And then, I ate the cookies, and then a few brownies…remember way back when I said I was an all or nothing girl?

So, so much for being off the sugar. But the good news: I came home and did my 1km run and I had a salad with chicken for dinner.

What do you think about “wasting” food? Will you re-think what gets scraped into the garbage now? I’m not saying to be wasteful – there are a ton of socio-enviromental-economical reasons not to waste food, I’m just saying that if it’s not needed for fuel for your body, then think twice about putting it in there! A little tip I’ve learned, if I am serving something new and I am not sure if the kids will eat it, or if we are out at a family pot luck, I wait to serve myself until they are done. There have been many times where I didn’t need to take a serving because there was enough left behind by the younglings.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

This is a favourite in our home and makes it’s way to every holiday meal, and many others throughout the year. It is fairly quick, exceptionally simple and can be made ahead of time. Perfect for a dish to add to your holiday table.

The ingredients:

  • 2-3 sweet potatoes – I’m not sure about weight, sorry! I eyeball them and depending on their size I plan for about 6-8 cups.
  • 2-3 limes
  • That’s it!

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The steps:

  • Wash the sweet potatoes and place in an oven at 400
  • Cook for 45-60 mins. This will vary depending on the thickness of the potatoes. If you can pierce them very easily with a fork they are ready. The skins will swell and I turn the oven off and let them sit for about 15-20 mins. Then you can just slip the skins right off.
  • Cut the potatoes in about 1 inch thick pieces, this will make it easier to mash them. They should be soft enough to mash with a fork.
  • A trick with limes is to roll them with the palm of your hand prior to cutting them. This breaks the lime up inside and makes it easier to juice.
  • Add the juice of 2-3 limes depending on how much you like the flavour. Start with 1 and add more as needed.

 

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The Finished Product:

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Sometimes I’ll add cashews for some crunch. These are a great alternative to mashed potatoes. The original recipe I hunted down after having this at a relatives included honey! I find the potatoes are sweet enough without adding any extra sweetness, and the lime makes them less “heavy” feeling. Enjoy!!

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!

Feeling Punchy

Today we introduce the first of our recipes. Our hopes are to introduce you to options to substitute current items in your pantry and to give you ideas to inspire you, so that you may get out there and try new things and, knowing your own personal and family interests and tastes, encourage you to make some of your own creations.

Every family has unique tastes. Belive me, I know. I’ll be introducing four healthier drinks (mix them in a bowl with a ladle and we can call them punches) to try. In our family the range is Izzy who loves them all to Dana who doesn’t like any of them. My hopes are that you will find one that you like, maybe, even one you can come to love.

Tips for all of the recipes:

  • If you start with cold ingredients (soda and juices) there will be less chilling required and therefore less ice to water down the flavours, and less fizziness lost while it chills in the fridge.
  • When adding a fruit to the drink ensure it has been washed prior to freezing (cranberries), and consider –  in the case of the orange slices – buying organic. Often in the cases of oranges, because the skin is peeled, we don’t have to be as concerned with pesticides, waxes and colourants. However, because we are using the slices with the skin on in this drink, this would be a good time to consider purchasing organic. If not purchasing organic than, ensure that the fruit      has been scrubbed and rinsed well.
  • Read your labels when purchasing the juices you will use. While I would normally encourage limiting or excluding juices all together from your diet, these drinks are still treats and used to help us celebrate an occasion. I used POM, Oasis Deliciously Yellow and Oasis Cranberry, They are the lesser of many evils. With the exception of a natural food store, I don’t know if you can find a cranberry juice that doesn’t contain a juice blend – cranberries are exceptionally tart and not really a fruit whose juice you would normally drink on it’s own. Avoid juices with the words “cocktails” and “juice drink” which are generally nothing more than sugar water with concentrated flavouring, and sometimes not even natural flavouring!
  • All of these recipes can be easily doubled.
  • I have used Club Soda, you can use Sparkling Mineral Water if you prefer. Perrier, etc, just don’t use a flavoured one. Tonic Water is not the same and will increase the sugar. Also, don’t be concerned about the sodium in Club soda. Most  have less in one cup than orange juice does (Compliments brand has 15mg/250mL)

On to the fun….

The ingredients:

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The tools:

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The help!:

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The results:

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The first is as close to a true “ginger ale” that I think you will find. It is also the only one with sugar added that is not naturally occurring in the juices. I have added a splash of cranberry juice for colour, it is optional. Also, this is using fresh ginger so add to taste, and remember ginger can add a heat if too much is used. This is where I have to be careful, because in the last six months I have fallen head over heels in love with fresh ginger.

Ginger (and Cranberry) Fizz:

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Ingredients:

1L of Club Soda

4-5 slices of candied ginger (can be found at the bulk barn)

1.5-2 tablespoons of fresh grated ginger

1 cup of cranberry juice

1 cup of frozen cranberries for decoration

Steps:

¼ the candied ginger slices and macerate them in the punch bowl or pitcher that you plan on using with a small amount of the club soda. (see pic below)

Add the club soda

Peel and grate the fresh ginger, start with a little and add to taste (see pic below)

add the cranberry juice (optional)

stir gently

add the frozen cranberries, these are for looks and to add a chilling factor that doesn’t melt so they are totally optional

Chill for 30 mins, add ice as needed prior to serving

The candied ginger:

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Cut and with the club soda, I mash it a little to soften it, and release the ginger flavour and the sugar off the pieces

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The fresh ginger peeled and grated

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Pomegranate Punch:

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This is by far the easiest of the recipes, it is also possibly the one that would require a special palate as it is a little tangy.

Ingredients and steps:

1 L of Club Soda

1 c of POM

Seeds of ½ a pomegranate (optional, are for looks but are entirely edible) If you are not familiar with fresh pomegranates, see how to choose one here.

Stir gently

add ice

Your done!

If it is too tangy mashing the pomegranate seeds gently before hand will help a little. This one looks neat served in a tall pitcher as the seeds will travel up and down with the air bubbles.

I enjoy Club Soda and POM so you can try this and tweak it before ever introducing it to the family. Also if you are going to have an alcoholic punch, this may be your best choice. A sweeter white wine, may complement it as it will tame the tanginess and you still have the benefits of the antioxidants found in the pomegranate juice and seeds.Just be warned, if you add the wine, limit your intake. There’s nothing like a glass or two of any alcoholic beverage to weaken the resolve and tempt the palette to try other “tasty” dishes that may be in close proximity to the punch bowl 🙂

How to seed a pomegranate:

Be warned: don’t attempt this while wearing white!!

Wash and with a sharp knife slice it in half

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You can now break apart the halves, turn them upside down and tap the skin with the back of a spoon, this will help loosen them and knock many of them out. You will still have to pick through them to loosen some though.

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In the end you’ll have approx 1 cup of seeds. They are tasty, juicy and with a bit of crunch when you get to the centre. Toss on a salad those that you don’t use. As you can see, some people have a hard time resisting 🙂

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Cranberry – Orange

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Ingredients and Steps:

1L Club Soda

2 cups Cranberry juice

1 cup Oasis Deliciously Yellow

1 orange

Mix the juices, add the club soda, chill, add ice and thinly sliced orange slices prior to serving.

Pineapple – Orange

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1L Club Soda

1- 1½ cups of Oasis Deliciously Yellow

½  Fresh Pineapple or to taste

You can choose to slice and freeze the fresh pineapple prior to making the punch so that it can be added afterwards in place of ice or add the pineapple to the club soda and juice mixture, be sure it is chilled or to add ice prior to serving. See how to choose a pineapple here and tips on cutting one here.

So there you have four options. None will taste as sugary or as bubbly as the punch many of us are familiar with. The Cranberry – Orange was the favourite in our house and probably most imitated the traditional punch. The pomegranate (minus alcohol) would be a fine treat to have, especially if you are trying to kick the pop habit. The pineapple – orange was enjoyed by the family, but I found it too sweet personally. My favourite, and Dave’s second favourite was the “Ginger Fizz”.

Let us know what you think. Do you like the recipes? Are you wiling to brave them? Have you tried them or tweaked them? Do you have a healthy alternative that you offer guests?

Stacking the odds

Welcome to Monday! How did your weekend fare? Did you make conscious and intentional choices? How is your healthy choice working for you so far? 

Three weeks from today is Christmas Eve. Have you started thinking of what kind of dishes you will be serving or eating? Over the next two weeks we will start introducing some great recipes. Some will be options to substitute common favourites and some may become new favourites all on their own! But for now, let’s discuss….the delicious (and dreaded) buffet and pot luck. 

The beauty of a pot luck is there will always be something you like…because you will bring it. Jump in early and offer to bring the veggie or fruit tray, don’t get stuck with buns and butter! Even better, if you are hosting, YOU are in control! Create a menu early on with healthy but easy suggestions. You know your guests. For those who are receptive, offer the veggie or fruit tray. For those willing to put in a bit more work here are is a “pot luck” friendly, though not necessarily “Christmas” type recipe. It’s a great chili that I’ve done in the slow cooker (try topping it with avocado, trust me!). There will probably be those items that should be avoided. It’s almost a guarantee. You will have to decide, what is worth eating. So lets discuss a few tips. 

When at a buffet or pot luck remember you do have choices. Those choices can start before you even get to the party. 

  • Don’t arrive hungry! Whenever possible or practical, eat before hand. If you arrive starving you are setting yourself up for a challenge in avoiding bad choices. 
  • If the plan is to eat at a buffet restaurant, or it will be a sit down pot luck at a friends house, puruse the choices before hand whenever possible. A restaurant will possibly give you more options, plus the knowledge of the wait staff to quiz about questionable ingredients. It’s hard to ask someone how they have made something and then not eat it, without offending them! 
  • Eat what you recognize…wait…eat what you recognize as being as close to it’s natural state as possible. Veggies should be raw or steamed, avoid sauces. Chicken and fish should be broiled or steamed. Roast beef can be a good choice minus the gravy and trim away visible fat. 
  • When the odds are stacked against you – stack your plate! The more veggies on your plate, the less room for unmentionables. Remember though to try and get all your carbs from vegetables and fruit, whole grains if they are available, skip the rice pilaf and mashed potatoes, and include a protein and healthy fat (avocado, nuts, olive oil and even olives) to round out the meal.
  • Ditch the booze! Tomorrow we have an easy punch recipe you can mix up that isn’t as heavy as most on sugary pop and juices but will let you feel like you are part of the celebrations. When in doubt – drink water! It’s never a bad choice. If you need an easy out, offer to be the designated driver. You will be performing a great service and saving yourself the the need to explain why you are choosing to abstain.
  • Enjoy yourself! Try not to stress to the point that you lose focus on why you are there. To connect with friends and family and enjoy each others company.

“Live your life each day as you would climb a mountain. An occasional glance towards the summit keeps the goal in mind,but many beautiful scenes are to be observed from each new vantage point.”– Harold B. Melchart