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.

 

Advertisements

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

Matcha-Turmeric Anti-inflammatory Smoothie

Happy “Matcha Monday” All!

I hope that everyone had a lovely weekend and wonderful Valentine’s Day! Here in Ontario the weather was quite cold and we got a LOT of snow. Fortunately I was able to keep warm and got to enjoy some family time over the weekend.We did some baking, and I made us enchiladas for dinner Sunday night.

After dinner we got cozy and put on the new James Bond – “Spectre” film that recently came out. I’m a pretty big James Bond fan, particularly of the Daniel Craig “James Bond” (he just does it so well – and looks great doing it hehe!). I did however, also enjoy a few too many not-so-healthy sweets over the weekend, which I’m feeling the effects of a little bit today. But all-in-all it was a pretty great, relaxing weekend.

Matcha turmeric smoothie 3
Today’s “Matcha Monday” Recipe: Matcha-Turmeric Anti-inflammatory Smoothie Bowl

You may already be aware of the mounting evidence suggesting that sugar has numerous negative effects on both physical and mental health. However, if you’re just learning about this now and would like a little more information, this article by Authority Nutrition does a nice job of briefly summing it up.

In short, sugar is linked to inflammation (as it tends to increase activity of pro-inflammatory mechanisms in the body), which appears to underlie many disease states, particularly those chronic in nature, enhancing their severity. Inflammation has been implicated in everything from diabetes, to heart disease, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and cancer, to name a few.

So sugar enhances inflammation, which fuels chronic disease states, yet sugar is almost everywhere, or so it seems. How can we counteract it’s negative effects? Obviously, a key first step is reducing and limiting ones intake of highly processed, high-sugar food and beverage items.

An optimal approach is to try consuming mainly fresh, local, and organic foods when possible, and to minimize your consumption of processed items. But consuming some processed food can be tough to avoid, thus it’s critical to pay attention to the nutritional information provided on the packaging. Nutritional labels give you a breakdown of what’s in the product and the ingredients that were used to make it. I appreciate how confusing ingredient lists and nutrition labels can be; to better understand them check out this article which walks you through how to read and make sense of all that info.

Another way to minimize the detrimental effects of sugar, but still satisfy your sweet tooth, is by using natural sweeteners such as raw honey or real maple syrup. For instance, raw unpasteurized honey has some scientifically validated beneficial health properties, such as antioxidants and the ability to reduce some pro-inflammatory cytokines. More on this can be found here. However, be mindful of the fact that even these natural sweeteners should be consumed in moderation.

Matcha
Matcha Green Tea

Additionally, there are several spices and other herbal compounds that have shown efficacy for antioxidant properties and reducing inflammation. One of these is of course matcha green tea. I go into more detail about matcha’s health benefits in my Maple Matcha Latte post from a few weeks back.

Another natural anti-inflammatory is the spice Turmeric, from which curcumin is derived. Considerable scientific evidence has demonstrated that curcumin exerts anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body via its ability to regulate a range of inflammatory mechanisms, such as pro-inflammatory cytokines (Borre et al., 2014; Kulkarni et al., 2009; Lopresti, Hood, & Drummond, 2012). For more information on the health benefits of Turmeric (and curcumin) check out this article by Authority Nutrition.

turmeric
Organic Turmeric Powder

Alright, now that I’ve given you a little background on how sugar and inflammation can threaten your health, and a few ways to counter this with natural compounds, I’d like to share this nutritious, anti-inflammatory smoothie bowl recipe I came up with: the Matcha-Turmeric Anti-inflammatory Smoothie Bowl!

Matcha turmeric smoothie 2
Matcha-Turmeric Anti-inflammatory Smoothie Bowl topped with chia seeds, One Degree Organics Brown Rice Cacao Crisps, shredded coconut, slivered almonds, & mint.

This smoothie has a naturally sweet taste from the pineapple (or mango if you prefer), a creamy texture from the avocado, undertones of matcha, and a touch of spice from the turmeric and cinnamon. Here’s how to make it:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 3/4 cup pineapple, fresh or frozen (or mango)
  • 1 cup coconut or almond milk, unsweetened (add more if needed)
  • 1 Tbsp raw, unpasteurized honey or real maple syrup
  • 1 tsp matcha
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Optional toppings: shredded unsweetened coconut, One Degree Organics Brown Rice Cacao Crisps, almond, pecans, walnuts, chia seeds, mint.

Method:

  • Place the first four ingredients in a single serve mixer (such as a Magic Bullet) or blender. Add in honey, matcha, turmeric, and cinnamon.
  • Blend until the mixture is pureed and thoroughly combined.
  • Pour into a bowl (or leave in a travel cup if you’re on the go) and top with your favourite healthy toppings.
  • Smile, think of one thing you’re thankful for, and enjoy! πŸ™‚
Matcha Turmeric smoothie 1
Even Calvy wants in on this delicious and healthy Matcha-Turmeric Anti-inflammatory Smoothie Bowl!

I hope that you’ll enjoy this nutritious, anti-inflammatory smoothie! It’s a great one to start the day with as it will fill you up thanks to the fiber from the avocado and pineapple, and keep your energy levels up too. The anti-inflammatory properties are a wonderful way to help your body re-establish homeostasis (ie. balance), particularly after a night out enjoying some sugary cocktails or after eating a few too many yummy sweet treats.

Wishing you health and happiness,

xo Julie

 

Cashew Crusted Cod & Mushroom Kale Quinoa

Hello Lovely People!

I hope you’ve all been having a wonderful week. Mine has been a productive yet hectic one between meetings with students, and writing a manuscript for submission to a scientific journal presenting my findings from a study I did on the effect of oxytocin on pro-inflammatory cytokines and sickness behaviour. With any luck (finger crossed) it will get accepted and published.

We’ve been getting a lot of snow here in Ontario and the temperatures have dropped again so it’s pretty chilly. I recently decided I’d like to learn how to snowboard, and having acquired a snowboard and boots from my wonderful aunt I think there will finally be enough snow on the ground for me to go out and give it a try. Should be interesting… dun dun dunnn lol.

Calvy hasn’t been enjoying the weather much. He loves to get outside and play. So with all of this snow he mostly lies around and sleeps, has a few rowdy spurts here and there throughout the day where he bolts around like a maniac, and snacks. He will be happy when spring is here and he can spend all day outside, hunting leaves and such heh. Oh to be a cat.

Calvin + Little Dragon 2016
Calvy and his bff, Little Dragon, relaxing inside on a cold winter day

I’ve been keeping on track with my Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide fitness program which I recently started, and so far I’m really enjoying it. I like that it’s challenging yet quick (each workout is only around 30 minutes), as this approach compliments my busy schedule very well. Another plus is that it can be done at home and requires minimal special equipment, which I really like as I’m not a fan of going to the gym and prefer to do my workouts alone. I’m certainly feeling (and starting to see) the results of this program!

My healthy eating has been right on track too. Interestingly, I find this healthful practice much easier to be consistent with than I do exercising. My assumption is that since I’ve already established the habit of healthy eating and cooking for myself, it has become ‘second nature’ to now engage in healthy dietary practices. Not to mention coming up with fun, nutritious meals is a great break from all the writing I regularly do, especially lately!

As you may have noticed I mostly stick with vegetarian-type dishes because well, meat doesn’t really appeal to me. But occasionally I do like to enjoy some fish or seafood. One awesome recipe that I love to make which isΒ  quick and delicious, yet healthy is Cashew Crusted Cod with Mushroom Kale Quinoa!

Cashew cod + quinoa
Cashew Crusted Cod with Mushroom Kale Quinoa

Based on ingredients I had at the time I actually adapted my version of this recipe from the original “Almond Encrusted Tilapia” which I found on a wonderful blog called Fit Foodie Finds. I’ve tried the Almond Tilapia recipe and it’s super tasty as well, so if you’re a fan of tilapia please check this one out. However, I for whatever reason seem to prefer the cod-cashew combo (ha! try saying that five times fast). I find the cashews add a little extra sweetness to the cod, and I prefer the taste of cod a bit more than tilapia.

The fish only takes about 10 minutes at most to make, while the mushroom kale quinoa takes maybe about 20 minutes (and can be prepared ahead of time if need be and then warmed up). Equipment wise, you’ll only need some type of food processor for the cashews (I use a Magic Bullet). Alternatively, if you don’t have a food processor you can put your cashews into a plastic bag, wrap it in a dish towel, put it on the floor and stomp on them (yes, I’ve done this before haha). I know this sounds ridiculous, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and this honestly does work (albeit not as well) if you find yourself without a food processor. Not to mention if you’re feeling stressed and agitated stomping on some cashews may help to alleviate these feelings in a more productive way πŸ™‚

Alright, enough chit chat. As always try to use fresh, local, organic ingredients when possible. Here’s how you make 2 servings of my Cashew Crusted Cod and Mushroom Kale Quinoa recipe:

Cashew Crusted Cod

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cod fillets, defrosted (if using frozen)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted cashews, ground
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice, divided (approx. 2 lemon wedges)

Method:

  • Drizzle both sides of cod fillets with olive oil, then coat the side of the fish that’s facing you with ground cashews and a pinch of black pepper. Meanwhile heat coconut oil in a pan over medium-high heat.
  • Place fish in pan with the cashew crusted side down, then top the uncoated side (that’s now facing you) with remaining cashews and a bit of black pepper.
  • Cook fish for about 2 or 3 minutes then flip. Continue cooking for about 2 minutes more, or until fish flakes with a fork and cashew crust is golden brown on both sides.
  • Remove from heat and spritz with fresh lemon juice. Serve hot and enjoy!

Mushroom Kale Quinoa

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups fresh kale, washed & chopped
  • 3 – 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1.5 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice (optional)

Method:

  • Cook quinoa according to package directions, then set aside.
  • Meanwhile heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in onion and saute for about 5 minutes, or until starting to soften. Reduce heat to medium and add in garlic; saute about 2 minutes more.
  • Add in mushrooms, kale, turmeric, a pinch of salt, and pepper. Stir to combine, cover and cook over medium heat stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes,Β  or until the mushrooms and kale begin to soften.
  • Remove from heat, add in warm cooked quinoa, and stir to combine (Note: If you’d like a little citrus flavor, spritz a bit of fresh lemon juice on at this time)
  • Think of one thing for which you’re grateful, smile, & enjoy!
cashew cod + quinoa 2
Yummy Cashew Crusted Cod + Mushroom Kale Quinoa

Here you have it folks: a quick and nutritious meal that’s easy to prepare and oh-so-yummy! This one’s perfect for a busy weeknight, since it won’t take a lot of time to prepare. To make things even easier, try having your veggies prepped in advance and ready to go. You could even cook your quinoa ahead of time, then simply reheat it when adding it to the veggies!

For those of you with little ones, the cashew crusted cod recipe can easily be adapted to make a healthy version of fish sticks for the kids by simply cutting the fish into strips, then prepare and cook them in the same way. This is a much healthier and more nutritious (and better tasting!) option compared to the processed stuff you find in the frozen isle of the grocery store.

On a final note: this meal is also dairy and gluten free! Turns out quinoa is actually not a grain, but rather a pseudocereal seed. However, issues with gluten can come into play when quinoa has been processed in a facility alongside grain products. More on this can be found here. Thus, when purchasing your quinoa just be sure to look for that which has been processed in a grain free facility or that is certified to be gluten free.

Well it’s about time for me to get back to writing up that manuscript. Until next time, happy eating, folks! πŸ™‚

xo Julie