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.

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

Maple Matcha Latte

Maybe it’s the Canadian in me but I love maple syrup! And not the fake stuff – ew. I’m talking about the real 100% pure maple syrup. Yes, it’s a bit more expensive compared to the fake “maple flavored” syrup (that’s actually loaded in highly processed sugars and quite bad for you), but I assure you it’s worth it to invest in the good stuff!

Real maple syrup can not only be used as a natural sweetener, but it also tastes great root veggies like carrots and beets, on squash or brussels sprouts, and who doesn’t want an excuse to enjoy pancakes or waffles? heh I know I do!

Maple Syrup
100% Real Canadian Maple Syrup

I’m sure I mentioned this at least a dozen times but I also love matcha! It’s fun to experiment with it and see what kinds of cool tasty recipes I can come up with. Sure, not all might turn out great but I could also end up creating the next great thing! From talking with friends and family I get the sense that many people often view cooking and making meals as a chore. And I’m sure that’s exactly how it feels if you’re not willing to have fun with it. Rather than seeing it as a tedious task though, try viewing making your next meal or snack as an opportunity for culinary adventure!

This might sound silly, but hear me out. If you’re doing something you enjoy you’ll be more likely to do it and doing something you enjoy facilitates positive mood states. Studies have shown that a positive emotional state allows individuals to be more creative thinkers and to find what they’re doing more enjoyable.

So, next time you enter the kitchen ready to try a new cooking experiment consider this: sure, your experiment might not turn out great – this is always a possibility. However, it could also turn out to be the next amazing recipe that all of your family and friends are asking for and can’t get enough of. There’s only one way to find out!

Anyhow, coming back to matcha. It’s delicious and has an abundance of health benefits, which you can learn more about here. However, I wanted to make sure these weren’t just biased claims or anecdotal evidence, so I took a look through the published scientific journals. Here’s what I found:

Experiments have demonstrated evidence supporting the positive health benefits of matcha. For instance, in a recent study by Xu and colleagues (2016) published in the journal of Food and Function it was found that matcha significantly lowered blood glucose levels, HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, and oxidative stress caused by a high-fat diet. The authors concluded that “Matcha has beneficial effects through the suppression of the blood glucose (BG) accumulation and promotion of the lipid metabolism and antioxidant activities. Moreover, the water-insoluble part of Matcha is suggested to play an important role in the suppression of diet-induced high levels of lipid and glucose” (Xu et al., 2016). Pretty cool eh?!

Matcha
Matcha Green Tea from David’s Tea

So now that I’ve given you some of the science behind what matcha does and have hopefully convinced you of how awesome this stuff is, I’d like to share a fun recipe I came up with!

Matcha lattes are one of my most favourite beverages out there and while playing around in my kitchen I discovered I can actually make them at home from scratch, and I don’t even need one of those fancy frothing machines! All it takes are the ingredients, a small pot, and a single serve blender such as a Magic Bullet (a hand mixer or immersion blender might work too but I haven’t given it a try).

Maple matcha latte 2
Maple Matcha Latte in my favourite Turtle Mug heh

Here’s how to make 1 serving of my (oh-so-Canadian) Maple Matcha Latte:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp. real maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. matcha
  • 1/4 tsp. real vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Method:

  • Combine coconut milk, maple syrup, and vanilla in a small pot over medium heat. Whisk in cinnamon and matcha. Continue stirring and heat to desired temperature.
  • Transfer mixture into a single serve blender (such as a Magic Bullet or Ninja) and blend for about 30 seconds. This is what will give it that nice frothy texture on the top.
  • Pour into a mug, garnish with cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa, or whatever else you like.
  • Smile and enjoy! πŸ™‚
Maple matcha latte
Maple Matcha Latte garnished with cinnamon

This healthy, dairy free treat is so yummy and complements any morning, or chilly evening for that matter, perfectly. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do!

Wishing you health and happiness!

xo Julie