It’s about labels

Almost everything (and everyone) has a label these days.

The hard part is deciphering the label we are reading. Especially if you aren’t a scientist (which I’m not). Armed with the research wonder capabilities of the internet, instead of logging hours in a library hunched over encyclopedias or micro-fiche (age drop), let’s look at a typical granola bar shall we?

At a quick glance, one would think this to be a terrific lunch box snack or on the go pick-me-up. Only 80 calories. For those counting calories, that must be an acceptable snack calorie quantity. Granola? We’ve been brought up to believe granola is good for us, a healthy, ‘stick-to-your-ribs’ choice. Naturally flavoured? If it’s “natural”, that means it’s good for us right? Let’s put on the brakes for just a second and read the ingredients label, not the box marked Nutrition Facts.

First ingredient: Whole grain oats. Sounds like we are off to a good start.

Second ingredient: Sugar. Hmmmm, a sweetener as a second ingredient doesn’t sound right.

Third item: Vegetable Oil. A blend of canola, palm kernel and palm oil. Hmmmm again.

Next item: Rice Flour. 

Followed fifth by: High Maltose Corn Syrup. We all know this is another type of sweetener.

Sixth ingredient: Cocoa, a real ingredient.

Seventh item: Honey, real too, but another sweetener nonetheless.

Eighth item: Rice Maltodextrin is a fancy name for a type of, you guessed it, sweetener.

Ninth ingredient: Soy Lecithin, everyone’s favourite emulsifier. If you are trying to avoid soy, good luck.

Tenth ingredient: Salt. I like to think of it as flavour’s magnifying glass.

Eleventh ingredient: Milk, whoo-hoo, another real item here, but let’s think about what the cows are eating, because we eat that too.

Twelfth item: Baking soda, another real ingredient.

Thirteenth ingredient: Barley Malt Extract, would be our fifth sweetener. With that many types of sweeteners, how healthy are these things?

Natural Flavour rounds out our list. That alone just sounds suspicious. They can’t even tell me what I’m about to ingest? Natural flavour exists in everything. It could be tomato flavour, beef liver flavour, apricot flavour, earthworm flavour or any other thing under the sun. I’d prefer some clarification before I nibble on this.

Out of 14 potential ingredients, leaving a huge berth of leniency for “natural flavour”, 5 are sweeteners. (The oats and rice flour will convert into sugars eventually too, but we aren’t counting them this way.) A minimum of 36% of the ingredients making up these snack bars are a form of sugar.That doesn’t sound overly healthy to me, but, hey, I’m no expert.

When did our food stray so far away from being real?

Food in it’s real form needs no label. You hold an organic, non-GMO zucchini in your hand, it contains: zucchini. That’s it. No, “may contain corn, wheat, soy, eggs, peanuts” disclaimer. Same goes for any other organic non-GMO fruit or vegetable. You know what you are about to consume. Isn’t that how it should be? I really don’t want to have to research all the unpronounceable ingredients of what I am intending to eat or do some napkin math to add up all the hidden sugars. If I’m hungry, I want to have confidence I am eating something real, something created by Mother Nature and not the Dow Chemical company.

Our chickens and cows and other livestock are ingesting hormones and a slew of chemicals to make them grow bigger and faster. Would it not stand to reason there has to be a trickle down effect with all those chemicals? Our children drink the milk, eat the cheese created from this milk, and consume the meat from these cows. Those same kids are having eggs from these chickens and goodness only knows how many McDonald’s “Chicken McNuggets” (is there even any real chicken in those? I honestly don’t know). Are these chemicals and hormones compounding in our bodies? Then, down the road, when these chemical laden kids have kids, what will their future look like?

Children are reaching puberty at younger and younger ages. Girls are developing breasts and starting menstruation well before the age of 13, which used to be the early end of the puberty norm. Boys are getting their cookie-duster moustaches before leaving elementary school. These young, physically mature, children often have all their adult teeth, with the exception of wisdom teeth, by 10 years of age. 

What has this done to our brains? The brains of our children? We all see the rise in Autism, Asperger’s, Tourrette’s, ADD, ADHD, Early Onset Dementia, Diabetes, numerous Auto-Immune Disorders, Cancer, personality disorders, cognitive impairment and the lists go on and on. Have our food-like products harmed us and these generations? And what about the generations yet to come? Did we do our due diligence and read the labels? Or were we romanced by all the sexy buzz-words the advertising world threw at us? Wooing us into believing 1 calorie soft-drinks were ok? Eating without consequence. Yikes!

We need to turn this around. Now. We need to collectively, as a people, spend our money on food that has ingredients we can pronounce. Food should be the ingredients. Food that we recognize in it’s original nature-given packaging. Invest the time to cook with your family instead of stuffing drive-thru dinners (not to mention all that packaging) down their throats. 

Ironically, and sadly, it is often the wealthy who can afford to eat the food grown in the dirt (read organic, non-GMO, grass-fed, grass-finished, pasture raised) and the lower income demographic who can only afford the food-like products made in the hi-tech factories.

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Let’s reflect on choices (and banana muffins)

If we are lucky, in our lifetime, we meet folks who leave a good mark on us.

I’m going to take you back a few years, ok, a lot of years, to acquaint you with a teacher from Grade 8. Part of our high school curriculum included Home Economics, which was two units each of cooking and sewing and Industrial Education with one unit of electronics, drafting, woodwork and metalwork. Boys and girls had to complete each class. My Home Ec skills were such that I would offer to complete another students IE assignment if they would make a sewing project for me. (I have been known to hem with a stapler.) The cooking portion, well, I’m here to say I passed, but certainly not with any sort of flying colours. Good thing my homework assignments made up for some of my cooking lab outcomes. My blancmange was just scrambled eggs in a custardy-watery soup like base. Seriously though, why make a kid make that for a cooking assignment? I have never since, nor will I ever, make it in my lifetime.

Back to this particular teacher and day 1 of Industrial Education 8. In walks a large man in a plaid flannel shirt. A big human. He stood probably 6’6″. His plaid flannel shirt was tucked in his belted dark denim pants. His slightly oily hair was parted on the side and was starting to show signs of receding at said part. His hair continued downward in an uninterrupted line merging into his beard. Rather a mountain man looking fellow.

He stood at the front of a room of close to 30 13 year old students on this first day of the semester. He introduced himself and asked us to name one thing we had to do. We looked at each other. Hands began to go up.

“Homework?” No, he shook his head. Cheers erupted in the room. We didn’t have to do any homework? Hooray! This plaid guy rocked!

“Feed and walk my dog?” No, he shook his head again. Wait a second.

“Get a job?” No, once more the bearded man shook his head. Hold on here. What did he mean, we didn’t have to get a job? Everyone has to get a job, don’t they?

He replied no to every offering we had. This went on for several minutes. After we exhausted all our thoughts, we watched him turn and write three letters on the chalk board.

D I E

That,” he said, “is the only thing you have to do.” The room fell silent. “Everything else, you do by choice because you don’t like the alternative. You feed and walk your dog because you don’t want him to get sick, starve or die. You do your homework because you don’t want to fall behind in class. You get a job because you don’t want to live on the streets or in your parent’s basement when you are 50. Get it?” Heavy thoughts to lay on a pack of pre-pubescent teens.

That has stuck with me ever since. I do what I do by choice, because I don’t like the alternative.

Ooooh, back to those banana muffins.

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Doesn’t that look good? I mean, look at the texture of that thing.

Paleo banana muffins:

Preheat oven to 375, makes 12 muffins

  • 4 really ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 eggs (room temperature, otherwise the coconut oil will harden)
  • 3/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup banana flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup packed almond flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • handful of chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (optional)

In a large bowl, or stand mixer, beat the bananas with the coconut sugar until well mashed. Add eggs, coconut milk and vanilla, mix well. Add the liquid coconut oil while the mixer is running.

Sift coconut flour and baking powder and baking soda over the wet ingredients. (I like to save a bowl doing it this way. My Home Ec teacher would be cringing at this lack of second bowl and not following the ‘muffin method’ of stirring until just moist. Oh well.) Add the almond flour and banana flour, salt and mix until well incorporated. Stir the chocolate in last.

img_2305My favourite kitchen hack is to use a 1/4 cup scoop to load the muffin batter? dough? which is it? into my silicone muffin pans. Nothing sticks to these things. The pans I have are slightly smaller in size compared to a standard 12-well muffin pan. I sit the two 6-well silicone pans on a pizza pan to give them stability in the oven. Trying to handle flexible silicone muffin pans filled with uncooked stuff is a nightmare, trust me on that one. You have better things to do than clean your oven of some slopped glop.

 

Bake these bad boys for approximately 20 minutes. Test with a toothpick for doneness. Let them cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before unmolding them. Let them cool a little more before you start scarfing ’em back. Not sure how well these freeze, as they usually only last a couple of days around here.

Don’t be afraid of the banana flour making these too banana-y. As far as the chocolate chips go, use whatever makes you happy. Dairy free, cacao nibs, you get the idea. You could skip the chocolate altogether if you want, but why would you?

 

 

Thoughts about the Grinch and cranberry lime gummies

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I love the Grinch.

There, I said it. It’s out in the open. One of my most treasured books is How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess. I used to have a copy of the movie on VHS tape (wow-age drop!) and would watch it, rewind and watch it again and again while baking cookies and wrapping gifts and generally prepping for Christmas. Then one year, the VCR ate my tape and I was left with feet of memories spewing from the mouth of that hateful machine. I think I actually cried a few tears watching the shiny black ribbon pool onto the floor.

Thankfully, technology caught up and Santa brought me a DVD version and I have been watching happily ever since. As a child, it was so hard waiting for it to air on tv and hopefully be able to take command of the family boob-tube for that half-hour. One also had to time bathroom breaks to not to miss a single moment of Boris Karloff’s rich voice. The pairing of the visual of the Grinch and that voice is pure magic.

My personal feelings on the Jim Carrey live version of the Grinch isn’t carved in stone. First time I saw it, I was horrified and offended by it. This wasn’t the Grinch I knew and loved. Then, I decided I needed to see it for it’s own creative version. It’s starting to grow on me. I think I’ll need to watch it again a few more times. I do like Jim Carrey. He is one of those guys you either love him or hate him. I fall into the former camp. From early days on In Living Color to a few more serious and somber roles, his expressiveness has always made me feel along with his character.

I used to read The Grinch to the kids when they were little and it is a funny tradition we keep. I still read it to them on Christmas Eve. As teenagers, their favourite lines include (I’m paraphrasing) “he whizzed with his load” and “top of Mt. Crumpit to dump it.” By the end of the book, we are all laughing so hard, my eyes are filled with tears. It’s a good thing I have the words almost committed to memory, because it’s hard to read through those tears of laughter.

Right, back to cranberries.

In one of my most recent Spud boxes, I got some fresh cranberries. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of pairing them with turkey. I know, I know, everyone loves the two together. Not me. I figured I’d use up some limes that were starting to look a little tired to pair with the cranberries and, well, who doesn’t like a chewy gummy-style treat? Gelatin helps heal the gut and as a person who had horrific eczema from a Leaky Gut, I try to consume healthy gelatin when I can. These were not super sweet and had a nice tanginess to them.

Cranberry-lime gummies:

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • juice of 4 small limes
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon full fat coconut cream (helps offset the tartness)
  • enough water to make a total of 2 cups fruit puree before adding the gelatin powder
  • 4 tablespoons gelatin (I use Vital Proteins)

I pureed the cranberries with the lime juice, honey and coconut milk and approximately 1/2 cup water in the blender until it was a nice mash. I strained this mixture to get all the skin pieces out for a prettier looking finished product. You can totally skip the straining step if you don’t mind bits of cranberry skin in the treats.

Measure the fruit puree and add enough water to make a total of 2 cups of liquid. Heat in a medium sized pot for several minutes. You want this quite warm to help the gelatin dissolve without clumping. You can either whisk the gelatin in by hand on the stove or pour the warm fruit mixture back into the blender and add the gelatin there. Choice is yours. The blender was already dirty from earlier, so I went that route. Don’t cover the vent holes on the blender lid when processing warm or hot things, you’ll end up with  a hugs mess and a possible burn or two. . . just sayin’.

Once the gelatin is completely dissolved and well mixed, pour into small silicone molds or a glass baking dish. Into the fridge it goes to cool and set completely. If you use a glass baking dish, the bigger the dish, the thinner your gummies will be. You can use small cookie cutters to make fancy-schmancy shapes if you felt so inclined. I usually just cut them into squares and grab 3 or 4 and throw them into my lunch.

Ok, my vegan friends, you can switch out the honey for maple syrup and swap agar 1-1 for the gelatin.

Chicken, quinoa and chickpea salad

If you can find a way to make a little food go a long way and make your tummy happy in the process, you win. If you can do the same things for a fairly inexpensive price tag, you win again. Make it flexible for almost everyone to enjoy, well, I think you get the idea.

This “salad” came about out of a lack of time, a few pantry staples and hungry bodies sharking about in the kitchen.

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This is a great way to get lots of bright coloured veg into people who may not like eating cucumber spears, or pepper circles on a regular basis. Add in the healthy fat in the avocado oil, some protein and boom!

Now, chickpeas or garbanzo beans have bean/been known to contribute to a rather gassy factor for some folks. They may not be strict Paleo but lots of folks eat them without suffering ill effects. Think of hummus. Same goes for quinoa. Not strict Paleo but, some rules are meant to be bent. Food shouldn’t be dogmatic.img_0429

When you open a can of garbanzo beans, one thing you will notice is an outer hull that resembles dead skin or fingernails. Not overly appetizing to look at. You can gently slip the skin off. Yes, this will add some time to your food prep, but trust me, your salad will look far more appealing. My grade 8 Home Economics teacher would be proud I gave visual presentation any thought whatsoever.

So, let’s poke around in the fridge and the pantry and get “cooking”.

Quinoa, chick pea and chicken salad:

  • 1 can of cooked chickpeas/garbanzo beans, (really well rinsed, drained and skinned)
  • 1 can of cooked chicken (I like the ones from Costco, or leftover cooked chicken)
  • 2 cups cooked, cooled quinoa
  • 1 English cucumber, diced
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped (the seeds make everything too wet)
  • 1 red pepper, diced (by all means, use yellow, orange or green instead if you like)
  • 1 cup feta (optional)

For the dressing:

Whisk together

  • 1/3 cup avocado oil (extra virgin olive oil is another choice)
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Throw everything together and mix well. Add the dressing just before serving.

If you eat gluten, paint the inside of a pita pocket with tzatziki, hummus or baba ganoush (or all three) and stuff this inside. I opt for a gluten free wrap or a just a bowl and spoon. (to get every drop of the dressing)

Vegan? Skip the chicken and feta and it still is pretty darn tasty.

Strict Paleo? Skip the garbanzo beans and quinoa, and well, the dairy is up to you.

Let’s talk about breakfast

Who skips this important meal?

C’mon, hands up. What’s your excuse? For most breakfast skippers, it’s a time thing. “I don’t have time to make it”. Well, I’m going to poke a holes in that excuse right here and now.

I bet you set the timer on your coffee machine. It’s there to save you time. Pat yourself on the back, you are one step ahead already. You know the importance of time saved. You wake to the smell of the elixir of life coaxing your brain to a wakeful state. As easily as you program the coffee, you can prep breakfast.

The word breakfast splits into break and fast. Break the fast of that occurred while your body was resting, healing, repairing and growing. Now it needs energy to get you through the day. Time to put some gas in the tank and you may as well put something worthwhile in there too while you are at it.

I used to be borderline addicted to Count Chocula cereal. When I could no longer buy it in town, I had it shipped to me, by the case (because one box at a time was just silly), by a friend who lived in Toronto. Sweet marshmallows and chocolate crunchy bits, what was not to love? This, to me, was a food group. Yeesh! Now, if I can change the way I eat, anybody can. I would eat multiple bowls at a sitting. It was not uncommon for me to mix up chocolate milk to use in my cereal for breakfast. I wanted the milk at the end of the bowl to be super-chocolatey. The regular chocolating (is that even a word?) of the milk was not enough for me. How’s that for a dirty little secret? Let’s add more sugar to the sugar party shall we? My teeth hurt just thinking back to that time.

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Back to that whole “no time for breakfast” business. I work, I have a family and I like to binge watch Netflix as much as the next person. Do I want to get up an hour earlier to make a healthy breakfast every morning? Nope. Those polar fleece sheets are too cozy for that. I try to keep my life as easy and uncomplicated as possible. So, one learns to prep.

Breakfast for the week is ready to go in less than an hour of your time. Honest. Easy and tasty. You can seriously change the stuff in this crustless quiche to suit whatever you have on hand. Tomatoes (I seed them to avoid the soggy factor), bacon, ham, spinach, green beans, cheese if you eat it, cooked shrimp, fresh herbs . . . you get the idea. No wasted food and a happy tummy.

This is so crazy easy and so leftover friendly it’s fantastic. Grab some veg and anything that looks appealing from the fridge. I used some leftover gluten free sausages, yellow pepper and asparagus for this version.

Let’s make some breaky:

Preheat oven to 375

Grease a 9 x 13″ pan with ghee, butter, coconut oil, bacon grease, or whatever fat you love

  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, cut into bite-sized piecesimg_2242
  • 6 asparagus spears, woody ends snapped off, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 4 cooked gluten-free sausages, cut into bite -sized pieces
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced

Chop everything and dump into your greased dish. (One less thing to wash for the win.) Whisk your eggs in a separate bowl and gently pour over everything.

Bake 30-35 minutes. Let it cool and cut into 6 pieces and store in the fridge.

 



More cookies

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When you bring together a few simple things together in just the right proportions, magic happens. These macaroons are a wonderful example of that magic.

Today, I tried my hand at making my own egg nog. Because, well, egg nog. Goodness knows, I love me some of that stuff. I like it on it’s own, in my coffee, with or without a shot of rum. I think you get the message. I love this stuff. I look forward to egg nog latte season at Starbucks. Doesn’t everybody? The cheaper side of me has a hard time shelling out a small ransom for one when I could buy the stuff to make my own for about the same cash outlay. Plus, let’s not forget about all the things contained in that egg nog you buy. I can’t pronounce more than half of that stuff.

I’m happy to report, the egg nog was easy and pretty tasty. I’ll post it and the steps another time. This is all about cookies, remember?

The nog required egg yolks, leaving me with 3 egg whites. What is a person to do? I scanned the pantry shelf and grabbed the shredded coconut, coconut flour and some honey. One of my grandmothers used to make macaroons when I was young. I recall them being like delicate birds nests. The first bite caused the cookie to crumble. I mean, totally break apart. I recall wearing most of the cookie and crumbs all over the table and floor. Such a waste.

When it comes to food, especially cookies, I don’t like wasting anything. These are quality ingredients and they aren’t hitting the floor anytime soon on my watch. These are bite sized flavour bombs that aren’t too sweet. A couple of these guys with a faTT coffee would make a great little breakfast.

Coconut macaroons:

  • 3 egg whites (pastured eggs are best if you can get your hands on them)
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

Beat the egg whites until really frothy with a handheld or stand mixer. Add vanilla and honey and continue mixing until well combined.

Add the coconut flour and mix well. (it probably looks like gruel at this point) Stir in the unsweetened coconut shreds.

Grab your 1 tablespoon cookie scoop and pack it really well with the cookie mash. (this doesn’t really resemble ‘dough’ in the sense of most other cookie dough).

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Bake cookies for 12-15 minutes, watching they don’t burn. Let them cool on the baking sheet a few minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes approximately 18 bite sized cookies. Start to finish was maybe 30 minutes, including cleanup time.

 

To make them more exciting, you could melt some chocolate chips and drizzle on the tops or dip half the cookies. Change the flavour by switching the honey for maple syrup or coconut nectar. Add a few cacao nibs or mini chocolate chips and you really got something fancy.

If you need me, I’m heating some of my egg nog up for coffee and grabbing a few cookies to go with it.

 

 

One reason I’m not a dog person

 

I’ve never really owned a dog.

My grandparents had a Lhasa-Apso when they lived with us for a few years. Sasha. This dog did not like me. At all. This dog loved everyone but me. She would piddle on the floor with excitement when she saw anybody. She shook from side to side and was practically turning herself inside out to say hi to everyone. Not me. I swear she glared at me from under the hair that hung in her face. Deep down, I did not like this dog either and I am guessing she picked up on that vibe.

There were several instances in our co-habitation of the same dwelling that cemented our dislike of each other. This was the first.

I had taken a road trip across the border to pick up an American Hershey bar. There was/is a taste difference between the Hershey bar we could buy in Canada in comparison to the ones purchased in the United States. This taste difference often warranted a trip stateside to load up on said bar. I want to believe there was big bar that weighed in at a pound. I could be wrong, but that is my memory and I’m sticking with it.

Hopping across the border wasn’t too big a deal at the time. We lived maybe 45 minutes away so we often would pick up a few grocery items as we filled up the gas tank at the same time. This is going back to when gas prices and dollar values made it worth the drive. The extent of the questions at the border were, “Where you headed? To get gas and groceries. Ok.” The return questions were almost identical. “Where you been? Getting gas and groceries. Ok.” You could actually save money with these trips.

My grandparents were back east for a few weeks leaving us in charge of the dog. My mom was on a business trip, my brother was living in Toronto at the time, so it was just me and my dad holding down the fort. This one particular afternoon/evening, we decided to go on a drive. No destination in mind, just a drive, maybe stop for coffee. . .

We left the house with Sasha having free roam as she was allowed to do. I had left my treasured Hershey bar in the middle of a 3′ square coffee table that was about two, maybe three feet away from the couch. The chocolate bar was still wrapped in it’s foil and paper. I paused and looked at my chocolate bar thinking maybe I should move it. Then another part of my brain said, look at the jump the dog would have to do to get onto the coffee table. Sasha stood maybe 14-16″ to the shoulder. She was a small dog. The discussion in my brain was like that of the angel and the devil on a person’s shoulders when they are undecided about something. Move the bar. Leave the bar. She’ll eat your chocolate. She’ll break her neck jumping onto the table trying to get it. Better safe than sorry. She’ll slide right across the tile table missing the bar altogether. Move the chocolate. She’s asleep on the other side of the house. Move the chocolate. It’s wrapped up, she can’t smell it. And so went the argument in my brain. After all the dithering, I left my prized American Hershey bar in the middle of the 3′ square tile table with a short dog asleep in another part of the house. My mind’s eye pictured her having to manage to jump up onto the couch, which she seldom was able to do, then launch herself horizontally three feet to the coffee table and stop dead in her tracks on tile. Any pet owner or anyone who has seen pets on videos knows they cannot stop on tile. Goes against the laws of physics.

We came home from our lovely outing to find a tiny shred of foil in the middle of the kitchen floor. My brow furrowed as I realized what I was looking at. I called for the dog. She did not come running. No surprise there as it was me who was calling her. She doesn’t like me remember? Why would she come when I called her? I ran to the living room where my chocolate bar was supposed to be. There wasn’t anything on the table. I found the dog asleep in the middle of my parent’s bed. There was a scrap of paper wrapper stuck to her beard by chocolate. Now, I had heard chocolate can be fatal to dogs. By the loudness of her snoring, I knew she wasn’t dead. I looked everywhere for the remainder of my chocolate bar. Could she have really eaten the full pound and the wrapper? The entire house was turned upside down trying to find it. Gone. Completely gone. Sasha woke up during the search for the chocolate bar and gave me a rather smug look as she walked past me to go outside into the backyard. I followed her outside thinking she was leading me to my Hershey bar. Nope. She was in a squat for some time making a bar of her own. She sat in that position for a long time. There may have been a sheepish look in her eyes but I had no sympathy to offer. That had to be her come-uppance for scarfing down my chocolate. Other than this one long squat in the backyard, she came away unscathed from the event.

Me? Well, I did learn a very valuable lesson from this.

 

Never, ever leave chocolate around someone you don’t want to share it with under the best of circumstances. NO matter how unlikely it seems, they will find access to it.

The willing will always find a way.

 


Let’s have a cookie

img_2464Let’s chat about cookies, shall we? Most are round, which I feel is rather a friendly shape. Lots of good things come in round shapes. Cakes, pizza, pies, pancakes oh and of course, cookies. Ladybugs have polkadots which are round and everybody loves ladybugs. Heck, we even think it’s good luck to have this insect land on us. But, I digress. . .

Years ago, we lived a short walking distance from Starbucks. Doesn’t everybody? I think there was a brief period where there was a Starbucks on almost every corner. We would bundle the kids and walk to have an after dinner or weekend coffee. This stroll not only provided an outing, but we rationalized it to be cheaper to go out and buy a coffee on occasion rather than the beans, a grinder and decent machine to make our own. As the kids got older, we would “treat” them to a sweet square or cookie while we sipped our brew.

There were all the usual treats. Crisp rice squares, Oat Fudge Bars, various scones and a few select stores carried the Kitsilano Oatmeal cookie. This cookie had weight. My memory recalls it having so many tasty additions and very little actual “cookie”. There were seeds and nuts, raisins and chocolate chips in every bite. This cookie was big too. It damn near filled the paper sleeve if you chose to take it on the run versus eating it while in the store. 

Or am I remembering it the way I wanted it to be and not the way it was? Like the fact a Wagon Wheel used to fill the plastic white wrapper. Perhaps a case of Mandela Effect. Does anyone else recall this baked good at Starbucks? Maybe it was a Vancouver thing and other cities had their own version with a different name? Who knows. I only knew, I had to be able to get my hands on one any time the mood struck me, which was often around 11:00 pm, instead of having to bundle up toddlers and take my circus on the road. I tried creating my own version. 

This original version was born in 2001 or so. I had a fairly decent rendition that used an obscene amount of sugar, read: 2 cups! possibly an equal amount of margarine! and, GASP! multigrain flour and a few other “food like” products. But, they were homemade instead of the preservative laden cookies from a factory. I recall spraying my cookie sheet with canola oil spray. I am literally shuddering as I take that trip down memory lane. I would take the cookie sheet outside to spray it and hold my breath in the process. (Really?! The alarm bells should have been going off in my brain.) The hour spent scrubbing the pan after to get the sticky, gluey residue off was testimony to how good I thought these cookies were.Thankfully, I wrote out my recipe. As you may recall from other posts, this isn’t always standard protocol when it comes to me and my kitchen escapades. The paper is covered in greasy splats and can stand up on it’s own in a corner. At the time, I was pretty pleased with my original recipe and made it often. 

Fast forward many years to being diagnosed with gluten sensitivity due to a Leaky Gut and a bit of knowledge of how certain things affect my skin and my body and I have successfully recreated this decadent cookie. Don’t kid yourself though, there were a lot of unmentioned failures prior to this baby being announced.

I give you:

The Kitsilano Knock-Off Cookie

Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients. As far as the add-ins go, you can totally wing it if you so choose, but this collection is really top-notch.

  • 1/2 cup ghee, softened butter or melted coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup gluten-free oats
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup chopped almonds
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips (I truthfully just chuck in 2 small handfuls, so I’m guessing this amount)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut shreds

Preheat oven to 350

Mix ghee and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add flours and baking soda and mix well. 

Depending how strong your mixer is, you may need to go to a wooden spoon once you add all the other stuff. Stir in the oats, raisins, seeds, chips and coconut shreds. Break down and mix with your hands if you need to.

Line your cookie sheet with a silicone mat.


I use a 1/4 cup scoop smallcookiescoopand pack it firmly. Best life hack move when it comes to baking cookies. Place 8 mounds of cookie dough onto your pan and use wet fingers to flatten the mounds into 1/2″ thick cookies. These do not spread out much at all. I found making them too thin resulted in very crumbly cookies that broke apart easily. Maybe that’s where the phrase comes from. You know, “that’s the way the cookie crumbles”. Someone was trying to make skinny, skimpy cookies. For shame.img_2470

                                 

Bake 15 minutes and let cool on the pan a few minutes before moving the cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling.

 Honestly, 2 cookies almost feels like a meal. I love having these on hand for a quick grab and go snack.

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“I can’t eat coconut”  Fear not! You can make these by using butter or ghee and swapping banana flour (doesn’t give a banana flavour to the cookies) out for the coconut flour in equal amounts, use your usual brown or white sugar for the coconut sugar and skip the coconut shreds. 

“I don’t do dairy”  Got you covered too. The melted coconut oil instead of the ghee/butter option is fantastic and just get your hands on some dairy free chocolate chips which you probably already have, ‘cuz, well, you’re dairy-free.

“I don’t do grains”  So, skip the gluten free oats and increase your other add-ins.

Vegans, sorry, but, I haven’t tried these with a flax or chia egg, so, if you do, please let me know how they turn out.

Let’s fatten your coffee

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Fat. Coffee. Can the two go together? YES!

Don’t be afraid of fat. Ok, let’s clarify and qualify that. Don’t be afraid of GOOD fat. Good fat comes in many forms. Many tasty forms. Avocados, coconut oil, ghee, butter from grass-fed cows, extra virgin olive oil, fat from pastured animals are just a few sources of good fat. Now that doesn’t mean drink the oil right out of the bottle, but don’t be afraid to add an entire avocado to your salad or eat one as a snack.

Back to coffee.

Let’s start the day off properly shall we? We all reach for a mug of some form of hot, life-giving elixir in the morning. Make it count. Don’t add chemicals and things you can’t pronounce in the guise of “creamer” or worse, “whitener”. Your coffee deserves better than that. You deserve better than that. Reach for something better (butter) and you will likely enjoy your coffee more, and be satisfied with one cup instead of 3.

I give you: faTT coffee. Why two capital T’s at the end? I’m glad you asked. One for each tablespoon of fat, of course. This is also known as Bulletproof or Butter coffee. There are so many ways to fatten your coffee, there will be a combination everyone will like. The only limit is your imagination.

Basic faTT coffee:

Pick any two

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon grass-fed butter or ghee
  • 1 tablespoon cacao butter (sometimes sold in wafers)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut manna (aka coconut butter)
  • 1 tablespoon MCT oil
  • 1 tablespoon hemp oil (slightly stronger flavour profile)
  • I also add a scoop of Vital Proteins collagen peptides in my cup every day (waiting to get my hands on the vanilla flavour)

Add to your 8oz cup of hot coffee and let melt if adding a solid form of fat. Right about now, you are looking at the cup with all the shiny liquid floating on top and thinking, ‘that looks kinda gross, what’s all the hype about?’ You are about to create some kitchen magic.

You can either use a full-size blender, immersion stick blender or a battery operated frother. You need to blend your coffee really well to emulsify and incorporate all the fat otherwise you will be left with what looks like an oil slick just floating on top.

I put my coffee in a 2-cup pyrex glass measuring cup to allow the immersion blender plenty of depth to do it’s thing without splashing all over the counter.

The fun customization comes with the add-ins like:

  • a teaspoon of maple syrup
  • pumpkin pie spice (add a tablespoon of pure pumpkin puree to really kick it up a notch)
  • a few drops of flavoured stevia (if you are a fan of this)
  • a teaspoon of cocoa powder, or with a drop of peppermint extract for the best peppermint mocha around
  • some extra coconut milk or almond milk

Pour it into a fancy cup or your favourite big mug, curl up in a corner on the couch, feet tucked beneath you, sip and enjoy. Running out the door? Pour it into your travel mug and join the commute.

Vegan? Simply choose the non-animal based fats and skip the collagen. Oh and tea people? You can totally do this too.

Go take on the world!

Holiday gift giving ideas

It’s that time of year again isn’t it? That time where we feel pressured to overspend what we don’t have and under appreciate what we do have. Who decided certain times of year dictate we give a gift? Or to spend way beyond our means? It doesn’t have to be that way. Gifts, if you feel compelled to dole them out, can be affordable and thoughtful.

Here are a few of my favourite things. No kitten whiskers or itchy mittens in the lot. These are all kitchen/food related items that will always be welcome and won’t break the bank.

smallcookiescoopCookie scoops. All kinds of sizes are available. Small ones make cute little cookies, dainty meatballs and larger ones make life easy scooping muffin batter or making big-ass cookies. Write out a well-loved cookie recipe to go along with the scoop and you have a fantastic, thoughtful gift. Offer to help bake the cookies and you now have added the element of time and what is better than being with those you love? (umm, eating the cookies of course)

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Silicone spatulas and scrapers are so handy. Different sizes and shapes are perfect for getting the last of the almond butter from the bottom of the jar or scrambling your eggs.

 

images-1.jpegSpice things up a bit. Exotic salts and spices can be a welcome addition and something the recipient would never buy for themselves. Seek out smoked salt and paprika. If you can find a local artisan, then so much the better as you are supporting your local community too. Spices can include infused oils and vinegars.

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Hey hot stuff! No one likes burning their fingers and hands getting things out of the oven or handling a cast-iron pan. Hello Ove-Glove. Manual dexterity and heat protection. I’ve tried long silicone mitts, but I love the grippiness of these. Grab two, one for each hand.

 

Good, straightforward cookbooks are always welcome. Simple recipes with real food ingredients. These books also provide inspiration to customize to your own individual tastes. Win-win, plus you may get invited for dinner. Offer to help clean up and you will definitely be invited back.

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Gift giving that won’t break the bank. Practical gifts that will always fit, won’t need software upgrading or batteries and can be used every day. What more could you ask for?