Friday, 30 January 2015

Cinnamon Avocado Bread


Did you know that avocado is a berry?  Avocados range in size, so if you are using them in a recipe or trying to determine the serving size, avocadocentral.com provides a handy chart for nutrition information.  Avocadoes are very high in monounsaturated fats, which are heart healthy fats that increase high density lipoprotein (HDL) levels ("good cholesterol") and reduce low density lipoprotein (LDL) levels ("bad cholesterol").

Avocado makes a great substitute in recipes that will achieve a buttery texture.  Lauren and I both love to bake with avocado.  Check out Lauren's Fudgey Black Bean and Avocado Brownies recipe for a chocolatey treat!

Note:  This yielded a little less dough than my usual bread recipes, so you could use a small loaf pan, but I used my regular 9x5 loaf pan and the slices were just a little smaller than usual.  Because the loaf was a little smaller than usual, I adjusted the baking time to 35 minutes (down from my regular 40 minutes for loaf recipes).  Also, I used 1 tbsp of cinnamon, but if you want a strong cinnamon flavour, you can add more.

Serves 12

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 small avocadoes, pitted and mashed
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk (dairy, almond or coconut)
Canola spray, for greasing

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a loaf pan with canola spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and brown sugar.  Mix dry ingredients until uniform.  Make a well in the centre, and add mashed avocadoes, vanilla, eggs and milk.  Stir wet and dry ingredients together just enough to combine without over mixing.

Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from oven and allow to set in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and move to cooling rack.

Nutrition

Calories 120
Fat 4.2g
Carbohydrates 18.1g
Fibre 1.8g
Sugars 6.3g
Protein 2.8g

Sunday, 25 January 2015

French Toast Casserole



Weekend breakfast is one of my favourite times. I love sleeping in and having a nice cozy breakfast and a cup of coffee. This  casserole is great because you can do the work the night before and all you need to do is wake up and put it in the oven! Nothing like the smell of warm fresh bread and cinnamon first thing in the morning! 

Ingredients
8 slices of cinnamon raisin Ezekiel bread, cut into chunks
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch salt
1/4 cup maple syrup
4 Tbsp raisins
2 Tbsp pecans 

Directions
1. In a large bowl combine the eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, maple syrup, and combine together.
2. Add the bread chunks, raisins, and pecans and combine.
3. Spray a 9x9" baking dish with cooking spray (I used Trader Joes coconut oil spray) and add the mixture. Place in the fridge for 2-8 hours (i.e. overnight)  
4. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. 
5. Let cool, then cut into squares and serve with maple syrup, toasted coconut, crushed almonds, fresh berries, or whatever toppings you'd like! 

Garlic and Lemon BBQ Chicken


One of my favourite things to do on a Sunday afternoon is to prep a bunch of food for the week. This allows for easy weekday lunches that are healthy and portable. One of my favourite things to cook in batches is chicken, because of its versatility - it can be added to everything from salads to pastas. 

Ingredients

4-6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, 
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
pinch salt and pepper
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped

Directions

1. In a large bowl mix all ingredients together and cover with foil for 2 hours in the fridge.
2. Preheat the bbq, and grill chicken until cooked, approximately 15 minutes. 
3. Let cool and cover in a tupperwear container for the week! 

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Slow Cooker Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Soup

You can never go wrong with roasted red peppers and goat cheese! Usually the soups I make are meals by themselves, but this soup would pair well with sandwiches, foccacia bread, or a flatbread. Typically, cauliflower doesn't hold up well in the slow cooker, but it is blended in this recipe. I used Russet potatoes as the thickener and goat cheese for added protein and a creamy texture. I chose to use low sodium vegetable broth to make a vegetarian version, but you can use low sodium chicken broth if you prefer.

This soup reminded me of my favourite pesto recipe, Chili Pepper and Basil Pesto, and I think it will be a perfect recipe next time I need a vegetarian/gluten free recipe for a potluck!

Serves 8

Ingredients

2 Russet potatoes (about 750g), peeled and diced
1 head cauliflower, chopped into large florets
6 roasted red peppers (one 500mL or 300g jar)
4 stalks green onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Fresno chilis, finely chopped (or chili pepper flakes, to taste)
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Black pepper, to taste
4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 cup water
130g goat cheese
Fresh basil, for garnish

Directions

Place diced potatoes on bottom of slow cooker pot. Add cauliflower florets, green onions and garlic on top and season with herbs and spices. Lay roasted red peppers on top and pour vegetable broth and water on top. Cover and cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.

When cook time is complete, use an immersion blender to puree the vegetables. Add crumbled goat cheese and blend again. Ladle soup into bowls and add fresh basil on top for garnish.

Nutrition

Calories 164
Fat 6.0g
Carbohydrates 21.1g
Fibre 3.5g
Sugars 4.4g
Protein 7.6g

Friday, 23 January 2015

Slow Cooker Thai Chicken

I've always been skeptical of slow cooker recipes that are traditionally cooked in a wok, since the cooking methods are total opposites. Eventually, my curiosity won out and I decided to try one. While it might not be the most authentic way to make a Thai dish, the flavours had a long time to come together, which made a great sauce for the chicken. Vegetables that are often used in stir fries, like broccoli, cauliflower or bok choy, don't hold up well in the slow cooker, so I chose to only use peppers and green onions. If you'd like to add more veggies, celery, carrots or parsnips would also make a good addition to the slow cooker. I served this over brown rice, but rice noodles would also work.

Serves 8

Ingredients

1kg boneless skinless chicken breast
1 red bell pepper, julienne
1 yellow bell pepper, julienne
4 stalks green onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup blanched, unsalted peanuts, finely ground (or use chunky peanut butter)
400mL can coconut milk
2 tbsp chili-garlic sauce
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
Black pepper, to taste

Directions

Place sliced bell peppers on the bottom of the slow cooker pot. Add chicken breasts on top of the peppers. Sprinkle green onions and garlic on top of the chicken.

In a bowl, combine ground peanuts, coconut milk, chili-garlic sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, oyster sauce, sesame oil and black pepper. Whisk to combine ingredients, then pour over chicken breasts. Cover with lid and cook for 4 hours on high.

When cook time is complete, break chicken breasts into chunks with a wooden spoon. Serve over rice or noodles.

Nutrition

Calories 414
Fat 22.2g
Carbohydrates 10.0g
Fibre 2.6g
Sugars 5.1g
Protein 44.6g

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Improve your posture at your desk

This post was a request from my friend Debbie, and Debbie, I'm sorry it took me a month to get around to it, but here it is!

To improve your posture both at your desk and while standing, lifting, walking, etc., it is important to strengthen weak muscles and stretch tight muscles.  To identify the muscle groups that are weak or tight, first take note of the type of posture:

Forward Head posture (heads leans forward)
Trapezius aka "traps"--the large muscle at the base of the neck and upper back
Deltoids aka "rear deltoids"--the muscles of the shoulders, specifically, the back of the shoulders
Latissimus dorsi aka "lats"--the muscles of the upper back

Thoracic Kyphosis posture (head leans foward, mid back hunched, hips pushed forward)
Latissimus dorsi aka "lats"--the muscles of the upper back
Rhomboids--the muscles of the mid back
Pectoralis major aka "pecs"--the muscles of the chest

Lumbar Lordosis posture (abs pushed out, hips pulled back)
Lower back--the muscles at the base of the spine
Rectus abdominus aka "abs"--the muscles of front of the core
Internal and external obliques--the muscles of the sides of the core
Hip flexors--the muscles at the front of the hips

Sway back posture (abs pushed out, tight lower back, hamstrings and glutes)
Lower back--the muscles at the base of the spine
Rectus abdominus aka "abs"--the muscles of front of the core
Internal and external obliques--the muscles of the sides of the core
Gluteus maximus, medius and minimus aka "glutes"--the muscles of the "rear end"
Biceps femoris aka "hamstrings"--the muscles at the back of the thigh

To strengthen the muscles involved with these postural problems, I recommend purchasing a resistance tube if you do not have access to gym equipment.  A resistance tube is inexpensive, easy to use and store, and can be used at home.  It works well for back and shoulder exercises.  Perform 2 sets of 10-12 reps of each exercise.

Stretches can be done at your desk or after your workout.  The chest, back, shoulders and traps stretches can be done seated or standing.  Hold each stretch for 20-30s.


Helpful equipment:
If you've considered or tried using a stability ball to replace your desk chair, you might have run into some problems.  The height of the ball might not have matched the height of the desk, and if it did, it might have been to high for your legs (for your feet to be flat on the floor).  This can lead to leaning, slouching or being up on your tip-toes--which were the exact problems you were trying to correct by choosing to use a stability ball!  A Fit Disc is the same material as a stability ball, but much more compact.  Place it on the seat of your desk chair, then adjust your chair height and armrest height accordingly.  You can work up to using it for greater periods of time over a few weeks by alternating between the chair and the Fit Disc.

If you often cross your legs, you might want to consider placing a step stool under your desk to put your feet on.  This keeps your feet flat, and your knees and hips pointing forward, while reducing the urge to cross your legs, which can restrict circulation.

Tips:
  • Set a timer on your phone or computer to remind you to get up and walk around or stretch at regular intervals.
  • If you work in a multi-floor office building, set your default printer to another floor so you walk a set of stairs to collect your printouts.
  • Perform stretches during phone meetings.
  • Drink water or tea throughout the day to stay hydrated--it will also make you get up regularly to visit the washroom.

I hope these tips help!  If you have any specific questions about exercise or stretch technique, feel free to leave a comment!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Cranberry Banana Bread

This bread is the perfect mix of sweet and tart! Fresh or frozen cranberries cut the sweetness of a typical banana bread. Cranberries are high in fibre (5.1g per cup), vitamins C and K, and manganese. They are in season from September to December, but frozen cranberries can be purchased year round.

Serves 12

Ingredients

1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 tbsp honey
3 tbsp water

1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 bananas, mashed
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
Canola spray, for greasing

Directions

In a small saucepan, combine cranberries, water and honey. Bring to a boil, over medium heat, stirring frequently. Cranberries will split when cooked, after approximately 4 minutes. Set cranberries aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon and stir together.

In a small bowl, mash bananas and coconut oil together. Add bananas to dry ingredients. Add vanilla extract, egg and milk and stir. Fold in cranberries.

Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to set in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack.

Nutrition

Calories 151
Fat 5.1g
Carbohydrates 25.1g
Fibre 1.5g
Sugars 11.3g
Protein 2.2g

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Tacos


I found a handy spice blend infographic (scroll down through the article to view it) that I took a screen shot of and copied and pasted the screen shot into Word to print out a full page version to keep with my spices. There might be a faster way to do that, but I'm not nerdy enough to know what it is. I used the Taco Seasoning blend for my pulled pork, but adjusted the amount for what I needed to make a rub.

Makes 10 6" tacos

Ingredients

1kg boneless pork blade roast
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup water
Canola spray, for greasing
340g tortillas (10 6" tortillas)
Toppings: Salsa, sour cream, shredded cheddar, avocado or guacamole, fresh cilantro

Directions

Grease slow cooker pot with canola spray. Cut strings off of pork and place in slow cooker. Combine spices in a small bowl and mix. Cover all sides of pork roast with spice rub. Add lime juice and pour water over pork. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or medium heat for 6 hours.

Remove lid and shred pork with two forks, discarding pieces of fat as necessary. Assemble tacos and enjoy!

Nutrition (per 1 taco with toppings)

Calories 325
Fat 12.4g
Carbohydrates 18.6g
Fibre 3.7g
Sugars 0.9g
Protein 34.6g

Monday, 5 January 2015

Spicy Coconut Lime Chicken Drumsticks

I've been craving chicken drumsticks lately (I love dark meat chicken).  I was thinking about how great the Roasted Sweet & Spicy Chicken Legs were, and that I needed another unique chicken drumstick recipe on the blog.  My boyfriend and I made these for dinner last night and they were a winner!  We served them with wild rice and roasted brussels sprouts (my favourite vegetable).

You can use any type of breadcrumbs, but Panko stay very crispy and provide a crunchiness similar to a deep fried breading, even though these are oven baked.

Serves 6

Ingredients

12 chicken drumsticks, skin on
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp chili flakes
Juice of 1 lime
2 eggs
Canola spray, for greasing

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease with Canola spray. In a medium bowl, combine eggs and lime juice then scramble.  Combine coconut, breadcrumbs, chili flakes and lime juice in a second bowl and mix.  Dredge each chicken drumstick in egg, and roll in coconut breadcrumb mixture.  Place each drumstick evenly spaced on the baking sheet.  Place in the oven for 40-45 minutes, turning chicken legs over halfway through.

Nutrition (per 2 drumsticks)

Calories 263
Fat 12.1g
Carbohydrates 8.3
Fibre 1.8g
Sugars 1.1g
Protein 28.6g