Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

Hello All!

It looks as though fall is well underway (at least here in Calgary, where some day’s it’s apparently even winter), and when the cool weather hits I can’t help but want to make delicious, homemade soups! There’s just something about a nice, hot bowl of healthy soup on a cold day that brings my spirits up. Can anyone relate?

Last weekend was Thanksgiving here in Canada, and it was also the first time in 30 years that I have not been home for the holidays. It was admittedly a little tough to be away from my friends and family back home. However, some new friends here in Calgary were kind enough to invite me to my first Friendsgiving, which was wonderful! The food was absolutely delicious, and the company a true delight as well!

Fav things
All of my favorite things: Muskoka Howling Wolf coffee, a Butternut Squash from Mom’s Garden, and pumpkin spice cookies πŸ˜‰

My family was sweet enough to send me a care package though with some of my favorite things, and of course my winter coat and mittens for the colder days. My mom decided to grow butternut squash – a favorite of mine – in her garden this year, and I was surprised to receive one of her beautiful squash’s, all the way from Ontario, included in my care package.

Although I occasionally mix it up, there is one thing that I truly love to make with butternut squash: SOUP! My Creamy Butternut Squash Soup recipe is one of my all time favorites, and I feel a little bad for not sharing this delicious, healthy recipe with all of you sooner. Oops! Alas, the time has come for me to divulge the secrets of my infamous butternut squash soup! I hope you enjoy it πŸ™‚

Butternut Squash Soup
Creamy Butternut Squash Soup drizzled with real maple syrup and garnished with pecans!

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled cut into approx.1” cubes
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 large carrots, peeled & diced
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled & diced
  • 2 apples, peeled and diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • Β½ tsp. Himalayan pink salt or sea salt
  • ΒΌ cup olive or coconut oil
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut (or cashew) milk
  • 3 Tbsp. raw honey or real maple syrup (optional)

Method:

  • Heat olive or coconut oil in a large soup pan over medium high heat. Add in onions and sautΓ© about 5 minutes or until starting to soften. Reduce heat to medium, add in minced garlic and ginger; continue to sautΓ© about 3 minutes more, stirring often.
  • Add carrots, sweet potato, cinnamon, and nutmeg into pot, stirring to combine and sautΓ© about 2 more minutes. Add in butternut squash, apple, and vegetable broth so that vegetables are covered to the top with liquid (add a little water if need be) and season with salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium high.
  • Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until all veggies are soft. Turn off stove. Using an immersion blender, puree soup in pot until thick and smooth in consistency.
  • Gently stir in coconut milk, and honey or maple syrup, if desired, for a little more sweetness. Season with extra salt, pepper, and cinnamon to taste and if needed.

Notes:

  • Special equipment: Immersion blender. Alternatively, soup can also be transferred to a regular blender to puree and then poured back into pot. However, allow soup to cool a bit first if doing this for safety as it will be very hot.
  • This recipe is gluten and dairy free, and vegan.

 

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Banana PB Chia Pops

Hello beautiful people!

Here in Ontario, Canada, summer has arrived! The kids are out of school and the weather is hot! When the warm weather rolls in I seem to find that my craving for delicious, cool treats revs right up too, and I don’t think I’m the only one with this dilemma. Who doesn’t want a tasty, cold treat in the midst of a hot summers day?!

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, the problem with a lot of these tasty cold summer treats is that they’re packed in processed sugars. Sure, they taste great, but the effect of all that processed sugar on your brain and body isn’t quite so lovely. Fortunately, there are still tons of great ways to make fresh, nutritious summer treats while avoiding the processed sugars and other unhealthy compounds (eg. preservatives) found in many frozen treats.

The recipe I’m sharing with you today is a great one for kids and adults alike. It’s gluten and dairy free, plus oh so rich, creamy, delicious, and nutritious! These pops are easy to make and the kids can certainly help out with making them too, or even give it a try on their own with adult supervision.

Chia PB popsicle 2

Getting kids involved in the kitchen and teaching them how to prepare food is an important step in establishing healthy eating patterns throughout life. The more experience and confidence kids can build about how to choose and prepare their food, the more prepared and able they’ll be to make healthy eating choices as they grow. After all, as research suggests, we’re more likely to give something a try if we feel we have the skills and knowledge to succeed.

To make these treats you’ll need a blender and popsicle molds. Preparing them takes about 10 minutes, plus at least 5 hours to freeze, so it’s best to let them sit overnight. This recipe makes approximately 6 medium sized pops.

Chia PB popsicle 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 3 Tbsp natural peanut butter, smooth or crunchy (or other nut butter if you prefer)
  • 2 Tbsp raw, unpasteurized honey
  • 1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk (I prefer cashew or coconut)
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds

Method:

  • Place banana, peanut butter, honey, vanilla and milk into a blender. Mix until thoroughly combined and pureed.
  • Gently fold in the chia seeds.
  • Pour the mixture into popsicle molds. Place in the freezer and allow to sit for at least 5 hours, or overnight is best.
  • When ready to serve, remove pops from the mold; close your eyes, take a deep breath, think of one thing for which you’re grateful, then ENJOY!

I hope you enjoy this tasty and nutritious summer treat. It’s the perfect guilt-free way to indulge in something yummy this summer! πŸ™‚

Wishing you much health and happiness,

XO Julie

 

Strawberry Ginger Mint Lassi

Hello wonderful people!

Here in Ontario the weather has been heating up and this weekend is about to be no exception! I don’t know about you, but when the warm weather rolls in my craving for yummy, cold treats seems to roll in with it. Unfortunately, most ice creams and frozen treats are full of processed sugar, among other not-so-nutritious additives, which of course gives them their classic yummy taste. However, these tasty treats are also accompanied by the many downfalls of processed sugar consumption, such as “sugar crashes” and increased inflammation.

Fortunately, I have some great news: It’s absolutely possible to have a delicious, sweet, and nutritious frozen treat without all of that processed sugar! As some of you may know I do love my sweets, but I am particularly sensitive to sugar and especially it’s effects on emotional and mental health. As such I put considerable effort into exploring alternative options for treats that will be both nutritious and tasty!

Strawberry Ginger Mint Lassie 2
Strawberry Ginger Mint Lassi

One such creation is based on the “Lassi”, which is not dissimilar to a milkshake. Lassi’s are easy to make and adaptable based on the ingredients you have. The one I’ll be sharing with you here features strawberries, ginger, and fresh mint, but you could easily substitute in a different type of fruit, or leave out the ginger and/or mint if they’re not your cup of tea.

What really helps improve the nutritional value of this particular recipe is that rather than using ice cream, I used plain non-fat Greek yogurt, which gives the Lassi a creamy texture plus lots of protein, without all of the fat and sugar found in ice cream.It’s important to use plain Greek yogurt, as flavoured ones are again full of added sugar.

To sweeten my Lassi, I’ve used local raw unpasteurized honey. Why is using unpasteurized honey important? When honey is pasteurized the process removes the nutritional benefits of the honey, such as antioxidants and vitamins. Thus it’s best to use unpasteurized honey in order to gain the most nutritional benefit from it.

Strawberry Ginger Mint Lassie 3
Strawberry Ginger Mint Lassi

Ready to make this tasty and nutritious dessert? It only takes about 5 minutes to prepare. For 1 serving you will need…

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 2/3 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup milk of choice (I prefer cashew or coconut)
  • 5 or 6 fresh mint leaves
  • 1″ ginger, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 Tbsp raw, unpasteurized honey (or real maple syrup)

Method:

  • Place all ingredients into the blender and combine until thoroughly mixed. Garnish with mint if desired.
  • Close your eyes, inhale, think of one thing for which you’re grateful, and ENJOY! πŸ™‚
Strawberry Ginger Mint Lassie
Calvy enjoying some lounge time + my nutritious, yummy, Strawberry Ginger Mint Lassi!

I hope you’ll enjoy this sweet treat as much as I have!

Until next time, wishing you much health and happiness πŸ™‚

XO Julie

Mango Chai Overnight Oats + Trip to BC

Hello wonderful people!

I’m back! πŸ™‚ In the midst of travelling, a move, planning a trip to Europe for the summer, and finishing my masters degree, things have been a bit hectic to say the least. Things are coming along well though and just about finished up.

A month ago I visited beautiful British Columbia again – this time I was mainly in the Vancouver area and it was lovely. We took the Ferry over to Vancouver Island and checked out Victoria for a few days before returning to Vancouver. The Ferry ride was fun and the view from the observation deck on the ship was stunning.

Vancover Ferry Ride 2016
Taking the Ferry to Vancouver Island

In Victoria was visited the Victoria Butterfly Gardens, Butchart Gardens, and the Fisherman’s Wharf. While it was all spectacular, visiting the wharf was my favourite part as we enjoyed fresh fish and chips, and most excitingly of all came face to face with wild sea lions, which I adore!

Butterfly conservatory 2016
Victoria Butterfly Gardens
Buschart Gardens 2016
Beautiful Butchart Gardens
Fishermans Wharf 2016
Adorable sea lion at the Fisherman’s Wharf in Victoria

My final day in Vancouver was spent hiking at Deep Cove in the rain – what a wonderful experience!

Deep Cove Hiking 2016
Hiking in the rain at Deep Cove in Vancouver

Back in Ontario now, the weather here has been quite variable. Warm during some weeks and rather rainy and cool during others. Lately temperatures have been more on the cool side, however it looks as though beginning next week the warmer weather will be coming and hopefully sticking around – come on summer!

With my busy schedule it’s be ever more challenging to eat well consistently and to choose healthy, nutritious options that taste great as well. Fortunately, from the literature as well as my own experiences I understand the importance of maintaining a healthy diet for optimal physical and mental health.

One of my favourite recipes to prepare for breakfast or lunch is overnight oats. There are tons of variations one can explore and these can be prepared quickly and easily. Oats can be purchased gluten-free, and I prefer to use almond, cashew or coconut milk to avoid dairy. Oats are high in fiber, low in sugar, and filling. When combined with protein powder (as I have done here using Vega Vanilla Chai Protein Powder), overnight oats will help you maintain energy levels and fullness throughout the day and to avoid the sugar crash that accompanies many processed cereals.

Mango Chai Overnight Oats 1
Mango Chai Overnight Oats

For 1 serving of Mango Chai Overnight Oats you will need a 250 mL mason jar (or other glass container); it takes 5 minutes to prepare.

Mango Chai Overnight Oats

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tbsp quick or large flake oats
  • 1 Tbsp Vega Vanilla Chai Protein Powder
  • 8 Tbsp cashew milk (or other nut milk)
  • 2 Tbsp mango, fresh or frozen 1/2″ chunks
  • 1 tsp pecans or walnuts
  • 1 tsp unsweetened coconut, shredded

Method:

  • Place oats and protein powder into jar and mix with a spoon. Add in half of the milk, mixing to combine. Add in mango and stir in gently, then add in remaining milk and stir gently.
  • Top with nuts and shredded coconut. Place lid on jar, then put mixture into the fridge to sit for at least 4 to 5 hours, or over night. Enjoy! πŸ™‚
Mango chai overnight oats 2
Delicious Mango Chai Overnight Oats

I hope you’ll enjoy this tasty and nutritious treat πŸ™‚

Until next time, wishing you health and happiness!

XO Julie

 

 

 

 

Butternut Squash, Kale and Caramelized Onion Lasagna

Hello wonderful people!

Here in Ontario it appears that winter was not quite ready to move on, as we got one more cold spell and even some snow over the weekend. The forecast is calling for a few more days of cold, and then the temperatures are expected to start to rise again, thankfully! Spring and summer – you’re welcome to make an appearance any time now!

Although I tend to hide inside on these these chilly, snowy days and don’t get to enjoy much of the outdoors, one perk is that I do find myself spending a little extra time in the kitchen trying to come up with fun new recipes. I love running my culinary “experiments” on days like these, and it’s even more exciting when the result of the experiment is actually a tasty one haha!

Take for example the recipe I’m sharing with you today: my Butternut Squash, Kale, and Caramelized Onion Lasagna – a delicious and healthy vegetarian dinner option. I wasn’t sure how this would go and whether the ingredients would come together to compliment one another, but fortunately they did. This lasagna is packed with fresh and nutritious veggies, and black beans for some extra fiber which aids digestion and helps you to feel full for longer. I used Blue Menu brand whole wheat lasagna noodles (more fiber – yay!), along with low sodium pasta sauce, and finished it off with a bit of herbs, spices, walnuts, and cheese.

BN squash kale onion veg lasagna 1
Butternut Squash, Kale, & Caramelized Onion Veggie Lasagna

This recipe is relatively easy to prepare, delicious and filling (with all that fiber!), and will keep well for about 4 to 5 days if stored in an air tight container in the fridge. It does take a little more time to prepare – about 1.5 hours – but I assure you, it’s totally worth it! As always do try to use fresh, local, and organic ingredients when possible to get the greatest nutritional benefits from your food.

Butternut Squash, Kale, & Caramelized Onion Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 12 whole wheat lasagna noodles (I use blue menu)
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 4 to 5 cups), peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 large red onion, sliced vertically
  • 4 cups fresh kale, washed and chopped (use spinach if preferred)
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 (19 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed (I like the PC Blue Menu kind)
  • 1 (650 mL) jar low sodium pasta sauce
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1.5 cups Asiago or mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 3 Tbsp chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp olive oil

Method:

  • Drizzle a rectangular (13 x 9 x 2 inch) baking dish with about 1/2 tbsp olive oil and set aside. Preheat oven to 375*F.
  • Soak lasagna noodles in cold water for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl gently stir to combine black beans and ricotta cheese, set aside.
  • In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat and add in onions. Saute for approximately 10 minutes, or until beginning to soften. Add in butternut squash and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium, cover and continue cooking for about 10 to 15 minutes stirring occasionally, or until the squash begins to soften and is slightly brown.
  • Add in kale and garlic, sage, oregano, and parsley, stirring gently to combine. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook about 5 minutes more or until kale is slightly wilted. Remove from heat.
  • Layer 1: Pour 3/4 cup (about 1/3 of jar) of pasta sauce into baking dish, smoothing out to cover bottom of dish. Arrange 4 lasagna noodles over the sauce, then top with 1/2 of the veggie mixture, then 1/2 of the ricotta cheese black bean mixture.
  • Layer 2: Cover with 4 more noodles, 3/4 cup pasta sauce, then remaining 1/2 veggie mixture, and 1/2 cheese black bean mixture.
  • Layer 3: Cover with 4 more noodles, then remainder of pasta sauce. Sprinkle Asiago or mozzarella cheese over top, then walnuts, some fresh ground black pepper and a sprinkle of parsley.
  • Bake covered for about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and uncover. Bake for about 5 to 10 minutes more, or until top is slightly brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
  • Smile, think of one thing for which you’re grateful, and ENJOY! πŸ™‚
BN squash kale onion veg lasagna 2
Slice of delicious & healthy Butternut Squash, Kale, & Caramelized Onion veggie lasagna with a side of greens + simple olive oil & balsamic vinegar dressing from The Pristine Olive

I hope you’ll enjoy this hearty and healthy veggie lasagna as much as my family and I did; It’s the perfect meal for a chilly day, and is sure to warm and fill up your bellies and hearts, too!

Wishing you health and happiness,

XO Julie

Apple Walnut Olive Oil Cake

Hello everyone – I’m back!

Does it ever feel great to be back at writing here on my blog. I wish I could tell you that I was off on some exciting adventure during my absence the past few weeks, however I was instead merely sucked into the oblivion that is marking and writing up my masters thesis. Fortunately, that’s nearly all done now so I can get back to doing what I love – sharing healthy recipes and wellness tips with all of you!

As it’s the holiday weekend and sweets are a mainstay for times such as these, I was looking for a healthier option for dessert. The original recipe for the one I’ll be sharing with you today came from the February 2016 issue of “alive” – Canada’s natural health and wellness magazine. My version is slightly different from the original with respect to the ingredients I’ve used, but it’s nonetheless absolutely delicious!

I always get excited when I give a recipe “experiment” a try for the first time and am pleasantly surprised to find that it’s turned out wonderfully. This was the case for my Apple Walnut Olive Oil Cake. For this recipe, olive oil replaces traditional butter to give you a boost of healthy fats. I get my olive oil from the Pristine Olive Tasting Bar in London and the one I used for this particular recipe was their “Picholine” olive oil.

Apple Walnut EVOO cake 2
Healthy Apple Walnut Olive Oil Cake

I used apples for this recipe as I had some on hand, but you can sub in pears or other seasonal fruits you enjoy as well. I replaced regular flour with a combination of gluten free brown rice and coconut flours, sugar with raw local honey from Clovermead Apiaries, and dairy milk with Silks original unsweetened coconut milk. The top is garnished with apple slices, walnuts, and a pinch of granulated maple syrup sugar (I didn’t even know that was a thing until recently) that my wonderfully thoughtful mom brought home for me the other week. The result: a healthy gluten and dairy free cake that’s both savory and sweet.

maple syrup sugar
Granulated Maple Syrup Sugar

Here you’ll find ingredient measurements for both a smaller sized cake (6 x 2″), which serves about 2 people, as well as a large cake (13 x 9 x 2″). As always, do try to use fresh, local, organic ingredients when possible to obtain optimal health benefits.

Apple Walnut Olive Oil Cake

Ingredients (small cake):

  • 1 apple (1/4 sliced to garnish top; 3/4 peeled and chopped)
  • 3 Tbsp brown rice flour
  • 3 Tbsp coconut flour
  • 1/8 tsp dried thyme (or 1/2 tsp fresh thyme)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil (high quality)
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp raw honey
  • 1 Tbsp walnuts (or pecans)
  • pinch of granulated maple syrup sugar (optional)

Method:

  • Set the oven to 350*F. Grease baking dish with olive oil and set aside.
  • In a bowl combine flours, thyme, cinnamon, and baking powder, stirring gently to combine. Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl combine olive oil and coconut milk, using a whisk to mix thoroughly. Add in egg, then honey, whisking thoroughly to combine.
  • Slowly pour the dry mixture into the wet mixture, whisking to combine, until batter is smooth with no chunks. Gently fold in apple chunks and walnuts.
  • Pour the mixture into your baking dish, gently smoothing out the top. Garnish with apple slices and walnuts, and a pinch of the granulated maple syrup sugar if desired.
  • Bake for approximately 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
  • Smile, think of one thing for which you are grateful, and enjoy! πŸ™‚
Apple Walnut EVOO cake
Delicious and Healthy Apple Walnut Olive Oil Cake

Ingredients (large cake):

  • 2 apples (1 cut into slices for top; 1 peeled and cubed)
  • 1 1/4 cups brown rice flour
  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme (or 1 Tbsp fresh thyme)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup high quality olive oil
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup raw honey
  • 1/4 cup walnuts (or pecans)
  • 1 tsp granulated maple syrup sugar (optional)

Method: Same as above

I hope that you’ll enjoy this delicious and healthy treat as much as we did!

Wishing you health and happiness!

xo Julie

Strawberry Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

Hello Everyone!

I hope you’ve all been having a lovely week so far. Commitments with work have been keeping me quite busy, thus why I haven’t been posting as often, unfortunately. During hectic times like these maintaining a healthy routine can be especially challenging. However, it’s also times such as these when eating well and making healthy choices becomes most critical in staying balanced both mentally and physically.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but when I start to feel a little stressed I tend to crave a sweet treat, but I know all that extra sugar and processed stuff isn’t good for me and will only serve to exacerbate my stress levels. Luckily, this is perfect motivation for me to have a little fun and try to develop healthier dessert alternatives that I’ll still be able to enjoy.

One of my favourite desserts is my moms “upside-down cake”. It can be made with almost any fruit you like, however my personal favourite is strawberry-rhubarb. I remember as a kid I’d get so excited and look so forward to occasions when my mom would make this cake. The original recipe is of course your traditional dessert situation – that is, loaded with butter, sugar, and refined white flour. Don’t get me wrong, it’s delicious as all-get-out, but obviously not especially healthy.

So, while doing some work last night I found myself really craving this delicious upside-down cake, and I thought to myself: “self, can you make this delicious treat into a healthier more nutritious version?” Turns out I can! See…

upside-down cake 2
Strawberry-Rhubarb Upside-Down cake topped with pecans, raw honey, and shredded coconut!

By following my moms original recipe and subbing in coconut oil for the butter, maple syrup for sugar, coconut and brown rice flour for regular flour, and coconut milk for regular milk, I was able to come up with a recipe for my favourite cake that is a significantly healthier version than the original, as well as being gluten and dairy free!

I seriously debated sharing this one with you, I guess because the little girl in me wanted to selfishly hoard my moms delicious upside-down cake recipe all to myself haha. Fortunately, the adult Julie reasoned that it would be quite inconsiderate to withhold such a delectable and reasonably healthy dessert recipe from you.

And so, I will now share with you my healthy version of my moms upside-down cake! I’ve provided measurements for both a small serving (6 x 2 inch round) for about 2 people, and a full sized (13 x 9 x 2 inch) cake. This recipe works great too with apples, peaches, blueberries, or raspberries. I meant to take a photo of it looking all pretty in it’s dish after it came out of the oven, but it looked so yummy that I started eating it and forgot, so these photos of it already on the plate will have to do heh.

For the small (6 x 2 inch) cake…

Ingredients:

For the Bottom…

  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp real maple syrup, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup strawberries & rhubarb (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice

For the Top…

  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil, softened
  • 3 Tbsp real maple syrup, room temperature
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp coconut flour
  • 3 Tbsp brown rice flour (gluten free)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp coconut milk

Method:

  • Oven at 350*F
  • Bottom: whisk coconut oil and maple syrup together, then spread over bottom of baking dish. Arrange fruit on top and sprinkle over with lemon juice. Set aside.
  • Top: in a bowl, whisk together coconut oil and maple syrup until a smooth paste forms. Add in egg and vanilla, mix well until combined.
  • In a separate bowl, combine flours, cinnamon, and baking powder. Add to the wet mixture, whisking to combine.
  • Add coconut milk 1 Tbsp at a time, mixing it in gently. If the batter is a little too thick and sticky, add a bit more milk. It should be a thick, smooth texture when finished.
  • Pour the cake mixture over top of the fruit. Bake for approximately 40 to 50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
  • Allow to cool in baking dish for about 15 minutes before serving.
  • To serve, top with more fruit, nuts, or whatever else you like, or enjoy as is! πŸ™‚
Upside-down cake 1
A lightened up version of my mama’s Upside-Down Cake – made here with strawberries and rhubarb and topped with raw honey, pecans, and shredded coconut!

For a full (13 x 9 x 2 inch) cake…

Ingredients:

For the bottom…

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup, room temperature
  • 2 cups strawberries & rhubarb (or fruit of choice, fresh or frozen)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

For the top…

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, softened
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup, room temperature
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk

Method: same as described above. Cooking time may be slightly longer.

I hope you’ll love this lightened up version of my mom’s delicious Upside-Down cake as much as I do! πŸ™‚

Wishing you health and happiness,

xo Julie

Anti-inflammatory Turmeric Latte

Hello everyone!

I hope you’ve all had a wonderful weekend. I’m going to keep this post short and sweet, but I really wanted to share with you this tasty and healthy turmeric latte recipe I came up with.Turmeric makes for a particularly healthy addition to your diet, because it has multiple anti-inflammatory effects. This is really helpful for reducing inflammation in your body, which can be caused by multiple factors, but of relevance here mainly diet and stress.

Speaking of which, I recently published a post discussing stress, how it works and what it does to the body. Here’s my post on Stress plus a delicious Anti-inflammatory Pineapple Turmeric Smoothie Bowl recipe, in case you happened to miss it.

 

Anyhow, back to turmeric. As mentioned, turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory, from which curcumin is derived, and it’s especially effective in reducing inflammation. Curcumin exerts anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body through its ability to regulate a range of inflammatory mechanisms, such as the enzyme indolamine (IDO), which is expressed in various types of immune cells and is activated by pro-inflammatory cytokines. IDO also plays a role in depression as it affects synthesis of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter central to mood regulation (Lopresti et al., 2012; Sompayrac, 2012). Importantly, curcumin has been shown to inhibit the activity of IDO, and to reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines (Lopresti et al., 2012).

turmeric
Organic Turmeric Powder

Another great resource for learning more about turmeric and curcumin can be found from this article published by Authority Nutrition.

Okay, so perhaps you’re wondering how to get more turmeric into your diet? Turns out there are a lot of simple, healthy ways to do so. There are several turmeric supplements now available in health food stores and online. The one I personally use is this particular type from Thorne research, which I selected because it was shown within the research to be effective and it’s had several positive customer reviews online, but there are many other good options available as well. Bottom line, before selecting a supplement be sure to do your own research so that you’re able to make an informed choice.

Another way to get more turmeric into your diet is simply by eating it. This is where my easy and delicious Anti-inflammatory Turmeric Latte recipe comes in. Good news is that you don’t even need a fancy frothing machine to make this one; a Magic Bullet or other single serve mixer will do the trick!

Turmeric latte 2
Anti-inflammatory Turmeric Latte

To make one serving, here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup coconut milk (or milk of choice)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 Tbsp raw honey
  • pinch of nutmeg (about 1/8 tsp)

Method:

  • Pour milk into a small pot over medium-low heat. Add in remaining ingredients, whisking to combine.
  • Once mixture is warm (do not boil), carefully pour into your Magic Bullet (or some type of single serve blender) and blend for about 30 seconds. This is what makes it frothy!
  • Carefully remove the lid and pour slowly into a mug. Garnish with more cinnamon or nutmeg if you like.
  • Pause to think of one thing you’re grateful for, smile, and enjoy! πŸ™‚
Turmeric latte
Deliciously healthy Anti-inflammatory Turmeric Latte

You can feel good about drinking this particular latte knowing that the turmeric will help to reduce inflammation in your body. What better way to kick off a new day than with a healthy latte that is good for your body and mind? Best part is that it tastes great too!

Wishing you health and happiness,

xo Julie

 

Stress + Anti-inflammatory Pineapple Turmeric Smoothie Bowl

Hello and Happy Friday, everyone!

I hope that you’ve had a wonderful week. Mine has been pretty hectic with trying to finish the manuscript I’ve been writing for submission to a scientific journal, but I’m almost there. During busy times like this I find it can be especially challenging to keep on track with eating nutritious food and maintaining good health, but I also know that it’s during these times in particular that eating well is essential. How so? Here’s a quick physiology lesson to explain:

When you’re stressed, your body releases stress hormones such as corticotropin releasing hormone and cortisol, which influence the body and the brain (Molina, 2013). You’ve probably heard of the “fight or flight” response; this the innate reaction to stress that our body undergoes when it experiences a stressor, whether real or perceived. The result is a rapid change in physiological and cognitive processes such as increased heart rate, widening of the pupils, narrowing of focus to direct attention towards the perceived threat, and behavioural changes (Nelson, 2005). This is the acute stress response.

Stress-Response-
The body’s response to stress (source: google images)

The purpose of the stress response is to help promote survival by helping to focus ones energy and attention on the threat. Generally, this system has worked quite well throughout history, helping us to avoid danger and to survive. However, in many current societies we are now subjected to significantly more stress, particularly of the psychological and social nature, compared to ever before. This results in a state of chronic stress whereby the body is constantly flooded with more stress hormones than are necessary, and for a longer period of time. The longer this continues, the more negative effects there are on an individuals body and mind, and the more likely they are to experience detrimental effects to their physical and/or mental health.

Stress curve and phases 3
The stress response (source: stress & health)

 

Another issue with stress is that it increases inflammation in the body. As I’ve discussed before, inflammation has now been implicated in numerous illness and disease states, especially those chronic in nature. From obesity, to diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression to name a few, inflammation seems to be a key factor driving these conditions. The main point to take away from all of this is essentially:

Chronic stress = increased inflammation = increase risk for disease

Fair enough, but you might be thinking “stress is a fact of life. What can I really do about it!?” As it turns out there is actually quite a bit you can do to help manage stress and reduce inflammation in your body. A first step is simply accepting that you CAN do something about managing your stress, followed by seeking out strategies and developing healthy and effective ways to cope.

The most effective strategies involve managing stress from a holistic perspective. That is, addressing both psychological and physical aspects of stress. This can involve things like practicing meditation and yoga, which I’ve personally found to be really helpful, to maintaining a healthy diet and consuming particular supplements.

For more tips on how to manage stress psychologically, check out this brief article from the American Psychological Association, along with this one from Simply Psychology. Choosing to educate yourself on how stress affects your body and mind gives you more control in making informed decisions that will nurture optimal health.

As far as dietary supplements go there are numerous that have been suggested. However, one in particular, the spice curcumin which is derived from turmeric, appears to be especially effective in reducing inflammation. Curcumin has anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body via its ability to regulate a range of inflammatory mechanisms. For instance, the enzyme indolamine (IDO) is expressed in various types of immune cells and is activated by pro-inflammatory cytokines, and plays a role in depression with respect to serotonin (a neurotransmitter central to mood regulation) synthesis (Lopresti et al., 2012; Sompayrac, 2012). Moreover, curcumin has been shown to inhibit IDO expression and activity, and to reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines (Lopresti et al., 2012). What you can take away from this is that:

Turmeric (curcumin) is a potent natural anti-inflammatory and can easily be incorporated into ones diet

turmeric
Organic Turmeric Powder

Many curcumin supplements are now available at health food stores and online. The one that I personally use is called Meriva-SR, and it has a potent slow release formula. I chose this one because it was shown within the scientific literature to be effective, and after reading numerous customer reviews I was confident in it’s efficacy.

There are of course other ways to integrate turmeric into your diet. It can be used in a wide range of recipes, but one of my favourites is this Anti-inflammatory Pineapple Turmeric Smoothie recipe I came up with!

Pineapple turmeric smoothie bowl 2
Anti-inflammatory Pineapple Turmeric Smoothie Bowl (topped with chia seeds, shredded unsweetened coconut, and pecans)

As always, try to use fresh, local, organic ingredients when possible. For one serving of this delicious smoothie you’ll need:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen pineapple
  • 1 cup coconut milk (or milk of choice)
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp raw, unpasteurized honey

Method:

  • Place avocado, banana, and pineapple into your blender (I use a single serve Magic Bullet), and add enough milk just to cover the top of the mixture. Add in spices and honey. Blend until smooth.
  • Leave in a cup if you’re on the go, or pour into a bowl and garnish with your favourite toppings for a delicious smoothie bowl breakfast.
  • Smile, think of one thing you’re thankful for, and enjoy! πŸ™‚
Pineapple Turmeric smoothie bowl 1
Yummy and Nutritious Anti-inflammatory Pineapple Turmeric Smoothie Bowl

The avocado and banana give this smoothie a creamy texture, plus healthy fats and fiber from the avocado, while the pineapple adds a sweet tropical flavour. To be honest I was skeptical when I first tried making this as to whether it would taste any good, and I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious it actually was!

I hope you’ll enjoy this healthy delicious smoothie as much as I do. It’s a great choice if you’re having a stressful day and need a nutritious pick-me-up to give you a boost of energy to get you through. Plus, you can feel great knowing that the turmeric will aid in reducing inflammation in your body, helping it to restore homeostasis (ie. balance) more efficiently.

Wishing you great health and much happiness!

xo Julie

 

Apple Pecan Maple Crumble

Hello wonderful folks!

I hope your week has been off to an awesome start! I’ve been trying to finish the manuscript I’m writing which is due by months end for presentation of my research findings in a scientific journal. While I’m looking forward to hopefully having my paper accepted and published, it certainly is a LOT of writing and I’ve had to put extra effort into staying focused.

Keeping on track with my fitness program and healthy eating has also been a little more challenging given the circumstances, but I’m almost there and looking forward to having this manuscript finished and submitted. As for the follow up post on my last piece in which I discussed my personal journey with depression, it’s a coming soon πŸ™‚

The science behind depression is pretty complex and it’s a topic I feel deserves considerable attention. I’ll be doing my best to communicate the scientific information in such a way that makes it approachable and clear. I’m excited to have the opportunity to share such information about depression with you as I feel knowledge helps one to develop awareness and understanding, which fosters acceptance, and counters the stigma that tends to be associated with many forms of mental illness, including depression. So please stay tuned for that post.

Okay, lets talk about food! I don’t know about you, but when I’m under pressure and feeling a little stressed I tend to crave sweet treats. Unfortunately, as I’ve discussed before sugar does some pretty bad things to the body and mind (you can learn more on the specifics of this here), so finding a balance between satisfying my sweet cravings and keeping things healthy has been my focus.

While experimenting in the kitchen the other night, I happened to come up with a pretty darn tasty treat that also so happens to be reasonably healthy, and both gluten and diary free: Apple Pecan Maple Crumble!

Apple Pecan maple crisp 1
Apple Pecan Maple Crumble

This yummy treat is quick and simple to make, and reasonably healthy for a dessert. Real maple syrup replaces the traditional granulated sugar that most dessert recipes call for, or if you prefer honey can be used instead. It should be noted that maple syrup, while a healthier alternative to granulated processed sugar, still contains a considerable amount of sugar which is why it’s best consumed only in moderation. More information regarding the nutritional components of maple syrup can be found from this article published by Authority Nutrition.

So, how does one make this gloriously delicious dessert, you may be wondering? Well… let me tell you! As always, please try to use fresh, local, organic ingredients when possible. This recipe makes about two smaller portions, or one large one.

Ingredients:

For the bottom…

  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored, and chopped into small chunks
  • 2 Tbsp dried dates, coarsely chopped (or raisins)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp real maple syrup

For the topping…

  • 3 Tbsp gluten free oats (or regular if you prefer)
  • 1 Tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1 Tbsp coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 2 Tbsp real maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp pecans, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp coconut, shredded and unsweetened (optional)

Method:

  • Grease two small (or one medium sized) oven safe ramekins with coconut or olive oil.
  • For the bottom layer, combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss gently to combine apples and dates with the spices and maple syrup. Pour mixture into greased baking dish.
  • In another bowl mix oats, ground flax seed, coconut flour, and cinnamon together. Add in melted coconut oil, then maple syrup. Stir with a fork until mixture is thoroughly combined and forms a crumbly consistency. Stir in pecans.
  • Top the bottom apple layer with the crumble mixture. Sprinkle with unsweetened, shredded coconut if you like.
  • Bake uncovered in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown (note: time may vary due to differences in individual oven temperatures, so keep an eye on it and adjust timing accordingly). Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
  • Pause to think of one thing you’re grateful for, then smile and enjoy! πŸ™‚
Apple pecan crisp 2
Yummy Apple Maple Pecan Crumble

Well folks, I hope you enjoy this tasty treat as much as I do. This healthier alternative to traditional fruit crumble recipes is quick and easy to prepare, and aside from the extra sugar from the real maple syrup, it’s nutritious too! This is also a great one for anyone having digestive motility issues, such as constipation, as the ground flax seed and coconut flour are very high in fiber, which helps to move things along the GI tract and promotes gut health.

Wishing you all a wonderfully happy and healthy week!

xo Julie