Sunday, 22 February 2015

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

This is my new favourite avocado recipe! There is a peanut butter version in Averie Sunshine's cookbook, Peanut Butter Comfort. I've been meaning to try this one for some time now, and I was actually surprised at just how close it tastes like regular chocolate pudding/mousse! Next time I make chocolate cake, this will be the frosting!

I used pure maple syrup for this recipe instead of agave nectar for two reasons:
1.  Maple syrup is sweeter than agave nectar by volume, so you can use less maple syrup to achieve the same sweetness.
2.  Maple syrup has fewer calories by volume than agave nectar.
You can use either for this recipe, maple syrup is my personal preference, and of course, it is a local staple.

This dessert is high in potassium (450mg per serving), low in sodium (6mg), high in fibre and monounsaturated fats, and is vegan and gluten free. For even more fibre and nutrients, try making layered fruit parfaits!

Makes 2.5 cups

Ingredients

2 soft, ripe avocados
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

Directions

Slice avocados in half and scoop out the fruit with a spoon into a food processor. Add cocoa, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt. Blend all ingredients, stopping to scrape down sides as necessary, for about 2 minutes, until smooth.

Nutrition (per 1/6 of batch)

Calories 190
Fat 13.6g
Carbohydrates 19.5g
Fibre 5.6g
Sugars 10.8g
Protein 1.9g

Cupcakes with Chocolate Avocado Mousse frosting:
Whole Wheat Chocolate Avocado Cupcakes
Almond Orange Cupcakes (gluten free)

For cupcakes:
Nutrition (cupcake icing, 24 cupcakes)

Calories 48
Fat 3.4g
Carbohydrates 4.9g
Fibre 1.4g
Sugars 2.7g
Protein 0.5g

If you like this recipe, check out other avocado recipes on our blog:
Cinnamon Avocado Bread
Fudgey Black Bean and Avocado Brownies
Chocolate Avocado Brownies

Monday, 16 February 2015

Slow Cooker Shredded Jerk Chicken

I've been craving jerk chicken for some time now, so I decided to give it a try in the slow cooker. I used boneless skinless chicken breasts, but you can use boneless skinless thighs as well. The spices came together beautifully! It was a great mix of sweet and spicy. If you don't have allspice on hand, you can substitute for 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ground cloves.

Serves 8

Ingredients

1 kg chicken breasts
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp water
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp chili flakes
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Pinch cayenne pepper
Black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup water

Directions

Place chicken breasts in the bottom of slow cooker pot. Pour 1/2 cup water into bottom of pot. In a small bowl, combine all other ingredients and whisk together. Pour mixture over chicken. Use the back of a spoon to spread spices and herbs to coat chicken. Cook for 4 hours on high. After cooking time is complete, break chicken breasts up with a wooden spoon.

Nutrition

Calories 229
Fat 6.2g
Carbohydrates 2.5g
Sugars 1.5g
Protein 40.2g

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Baked Chicken Parmesan

Chicken Parmesan was my favourite dinner when I was a kid. I wanted to make a healthier version to serve alongside my favourite veggie--garlic roasted Brussels sprouts! I cut back on the breading by brushing the chicken breasts with olive oil rather than dredging with flour and egg, and baked them instead of frying.

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 800g)
3/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
Canola spray, for greasing

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with tin foil and spray with canola.

Pour olive oil into a small bowl. Pour breadcrumbs into a separate bowl. Brush each chicken breast with olive oil, then dunk in breadcrumbs to coat. Place chicken evenly spaced on baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from oven and flip chicken breasts over. Put chicken back in oven for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven, then top each chicken breast with 2 tbsp each of marinara sauce and mozzarella. Return pan to oven and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes, until chicken is fully cooked.

Nutrition (per 1 Chicken Parmesan breast)

Calories 577
Fat 21.1g
Carbohydrates 19.9g
Fibre 1.7g
Sugars 4.0g
Protein 75.7g

Monday, 9 February 2015

Slow Cooker Mushroom & White Cheddar Soup

After making the Slow Cooker Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Soup, I wanted to try recipes for more veggie and cheese soups.  I decided mushrooms, cauliflower and white cheddar would make a tasty combination.  It reminded me of fondue!  You can use any white cheeses you like (parmesan, gouda, etc.), and if you like, you could replace 1/4 cup of the vegetable broth with dry white wine, like in this similar recipe from closetcooking.com. Cauliflower adds thickness to the soup, so when it is blended, it can replace heavy cream.  It is my new favourite soup ingredient!

Note:  I blended the soup after adding the cheese, which made the immersion blender a little harder to clean, so if you prefer easier clean up, blend the veggies first, then stir in the grated cheese.

Cauliflower is high in potassium and vitamin C, and contains 2g each of fibre and protein per 1 cup serving.  Mushrooms are also high in potassium, as well as copper and phosphorus, which aid in skeletal health and bone density.  Leeks, garlic and artichokes contain soluble fibres, such as inulin, that are classified as prebiotic, which means they promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon.


Serves 6

Ingredients

1 head cauliflower, chopped into large florets
225g white mushrooms, stems removed (but otherwise, leave whole)
8 marinated artichoke quarters
2 leeks, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp onion powder
Black pepper, to taste
4 cups vegetable broth (no salt added)
120g aged white cheddar, grated (about 1 cup grated)

Directions

Place cauliflower florets in the bottom of the slow cooker pot, followed by mushrooms and marinated artichokes.  Season with thyme, onion powder and black pepper.  Add leeks and garlic on top, then pour vegetable broth into pot.  Cook on high for 4 hours.

When there is 10 minutes remaining on the cooking time, remove the lid, stir in grated white cheddar.  Replace the lid.  When cook time is complete, remove the lid, and blend the veggies and cheese with an immersion blender (or see note above).

Nutrition

Calories 158
Fat 7.5g
Carbohydrates 17.2g
Fibre 4.9g
Sugars 6.4g
Protein 9.4g

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Slow Cooker Sweet Potato, Navy Bean & Ham Soup

I have been surprised to find that 'navy beans' has been one of the most popular search terms that brings people to this blog. I love the slow cooker for cooking dried beans, lentils or split peas because they cook for so long, you don't have to soak them the night before cooking. This recipe is similar to the Slow Cooker Ham & Navy Bean Soup, but the sweet potatoes add sweetness that pairs well with ham.

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 cup dried navy beans
2 medium sweet potatoes (about 500g), peeled and diced to 1cm cubes
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 cups diced ham, diced
1 leek, sliced (white section)
3 celery stalks, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Black pepper, to taste
3 1/2 cups no salt added chicken broth
2 1/2 cups water

Directions

Pour dried navy beans on the bottom of the slow cooker pot. Add diced sweet potatoes on top and season with paprika. Add ham, leeks, celery, and garlic. Season with black pepper and pour broth and water in to cover ingredients. Cook for 4 hours on high.

Nutrition

Calories 277
Fat 12.3g
Carbohydrates 41.9g
Fibre 12.1g
Sugars 7.5g
Protein 18.1g

Friday, 6 February 2015

Peanut Butter Coconut Energy Balls

This recipe is similar to the Chocolate Energy Balls recipe, but is a cheaper alternative (buying four kinds of nuts can get expensive). You can freeze these or eat them at room temperature, and they are a great no added sugars snack when you are on the go.

Makes 28

Ingredients

1 cup pitted dates
1 1/2 cups large flaked oats
1 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup water
For coating: 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Directions

Place dates in a food processor and blend them until they form a ball. Add oats, peanut butter, coconut, vanilla and water and blend again, scraping down the sides of the food processor as needed. When the mixture is uniform, scrape out the mixture onto waxed paper. Line a Tupperware container with waxed paper. Pour shredded coconut into a small bowl for coating. Form small balls of peanut butter mixture then roll in coconut. Place in container. When all the mixture is rolled and coated, place in freezer.

Nutrition (per 1 energy ball)

Calories 99
Fat 5.6g
Carbohydrates 9.8g
Fibre 1.7g
Sugars 4.8g
Protein 3.7g

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Strengthen your lower back

A weak lower back can lead to both acute injuries (from a single incident, such as snow shoveling) and chronic back pain (from ongoing postural problems, such as improper desk set up--for exercises and stretches related to posture, see my Improve your posture at your desk post).  Strengthening the lower back will assist in injury prevention.  Begin by incorporating lower back exercises in two to three times per week, taking a day of rest in between.  Here are three exercises you can do at home with no equipment:

Technique tips:

Bridge
  • Keep your head, neck and shoulders flat on the floor to avoid straining your neck.
  • Lift your hips up slowly (balance might be a challenge in the beginning).  When you have your balance, try extending your arms straight up to make the exercise more challenging.
  • Breathe evenly, and hold this posture for 10 to 15s to start, and work your way up to holding for 30s.  Once you have achieved 30s, try the single leg bridge.
Single leg bridge
  • Maintain the technique of the bridge, but slowly extend the right leg, keeping the right thigh aligned with the left.  
  • Hold for 15s on each leg, working your way up to 30s on each leg.
Superman
  • Keep your head and neck aligned with your back to avoid straining.
  • Begin by lifting your upper body off the mat and lightly squeeze the muscles of the lower back.  Pause for 1 second, then lower back down.  Once you have achieved this, try lifting the legs off the mat at the same time as the upper body.
  • Keep your abs pulled in throughout the movement and breathe evenly.
  • Work your way up to 2 sets of 12 superman lifts, then try the sea turtle exercise.
Sea turtle
  • Maintain the technique of the superman, but on each lift up, move the arms from extended forward to the sides and widen the legs.
  • Work up to 2 sets of 12 sea turtles.
Bent knee reverse plank
  • Place your hands directly below your shoulders and feet flat on the floor.  
  • You might find that flexibility limits the chest and shoulders to the fingers pointing outward.  You can work up to placing the hands on the floor with fingers pointing forward (as demonstrated in the reverse plank).
  • Slowly lift your hips up until your core is parallel to the floor.
  • Breathe evenly throughout the hold, and aim to hold for 10-15s to start, working your way up to 30s.
  • When you can hold for 30s, try the reverse plank.
 Reverse plank
  • If you can, place your hands below your shoulders with fingers pointing forward.
  • Place the heels on the floor with legs extended.
  • Slowly lift your hips up until your core is at a 45 degree angle to the floor.
  • Breathe evenly throughout the hold and work up to holding for 30s.
 If you give these exercises a try, let me know how it went in the comments!

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

High Rep Workout 30s & 30RM


It's a very snowy day out there today in Ottawa, so if you're working from home, you might not make it to the gym.  If you have dumbbells and a mat at home, this workout can be done with one set of light dumbbells.  The weight exercises are 2 sets of 30 reps, so this is a perfect workout for dumbbells between 8-15lbs (depending on what you consider light, of course).

I taught this combination in my Indoor Bootcamp class and it took about 30 minutes to complete, or 40 minutes including warm up and cool down.  Take water breaks as needed.

Superset the exercises for 2 sets each as follows:
1.  30s shuffle hops and 30 crunches
2.  30s speed skaters and 30 goblet squats
Short rest (10 to 20s)
3.  30s jumping jacks and 30 push ups (knees or toes)
4.  30s high knees and 30 alternating bicep curls
Short rest
5.  30s fast feet and 30 bent over rows (alternating or 15 on each side)
6.  30s jump rope and 30 lunges (forward or backward)
Short rest
7.  30s side to side hops and 30 alternating shoulder press
8.  30s burpees and 30 stiff legged deadlifts
Stretch

If you give this one a try, please leave a comment to let me know how it went!  If you have a question about proper exercise technique, feel free to ask.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Lightened Up Chicken Wing Dip


In honor of it being Super Bowl tonight, I made the infamous and delicious Chicken Wing Dip. If you've ever been to a party and have tried this dip, you know what I mean when I say it is highly addictive. But with a few simple changes, it can be transformed into a tasty party food that won't totally ruin your diet.

Some tricks:
1. Use light or fat free cream cheese. Since it is just the base, and you will be baking it, you don't actually need the full fat version, like you would in a cheesecake
2. Add an extra chicken breast, this way you get more protein per scoop, and less dip.
3. Add extra Franks hot sauce (more flavour for very few calories)
4. Use light cheese and light dressing - The dip is so favourful you won't even notice

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts, seasoned and baked
1 block low fat or fat free cream cheese
1/2 cup low fat shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheese
1/2 cup Franks hot sauce
1/2 cup light blue cheese dressing (I like the PC yogurt dressing)

Directions

1. Very finely chopped the chicken breasts (I use a Pampered Chef chopper).
2. In a large bowl mix the cream cheese with a mixer. Add in the Franks hot sauce and blue cheese dressing.
3. Stir in the cheese and chicken. Transfer into a baking dish, and cover with tin foil.
4. Bake at 400* for 20 minutes. Serve with baked tortilla chips.