Cacao Banana Shake




A few years back, I was fortunate enough to go on a trip to St.Lucia and stay at the Body Holiday Resort. Along with several other co-workers and their significant others, my smarty pants husband was awarded a quick winter escape by the company he had been working for. Life had been throwing me a few extra curve balls at the time, so this this couldn't have come at a better time and was a perfect getaway to help me decompress, even if it was only for a few days. It had been a while since I pampered myself so I appreciated everything this healthy retreat had to offer!  Aside from the massages, the powerful crystal chakra treatment and the yoga and meditation classes, the food and drinks were delicious!  The Smoothie Bar was open most of the day and there was one that I had tried, and was instantly hooked.  Unfortunately, when I got back home, it was life as usual and the short lived peace and serenity that the Body Holiday had provided, instantly vanished.  I'm working on getting that back and finding that peace again for my mind and body but no one said it would be easy in this messed up world. I guess that's why places like this exist, to give you a taste of that mind and body restfulness. 

The one thing that I did continue with was that smoothie!  I couldn't get the taste of it out of my busy mind so I recreated it when I got home and have enjoyed since.  

Now if I can only get my busy mind to quiet ๐Ÿ’ฌ  


This is a pretty simple smoothie. I have a freezer full of bananas so I always have the 5 ingredient needed to make this on the fly.  I love the crunch of the chocolate nibs but if you find it strange, puree this smoothie on high, or in a super powerful blender.  Better yet, pre-grind the nibs in a spice grinder before you add them to the shake. But yeah, the crunch is pretty great if you wanna give it a try! 



A little something about Raw Cacao Nibs... It's a Superfood!! 

It's basically crushed and broken up little pieces of cacao beans.  They're packed full of antioxidants, even more so than blueberries and green tea, and they're loaded with fibre, iron and magnesium. They taste a lot like bitter super dark chocolate but are the unprocessed version with no additives, sugars or extra ingredients so you get the full benefit that cacao has to offer.


Here it is!  



Ingredients : 
 This makes one good healthy sized portion :) 
1 frozen (peeled) Banana - cut into chunks
1 cup Unsweetened Almond Milk (or any non-dairy milk of choice)
1/4 cup Almond Butter (or any nut butter)
2 tsp Raw Cacao Nibs
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon




How To : 
  1. Place Bananas, Nut Butter, Nut Milk, & Ground Cinnamon into a blender and blend for a minute or so until all the banana chunks are blended. Add Cacao Nibs and blend for another 30 seconds of so.  
  2. Drink. 

* if you don't like the cacao nib pieces, just grind nibs in spice grinder until a fine powder and then add to blender. 
* If you want a little jolt, add a shot of chilled espresso! 

Enjoy!

Plant Lady in the making

You don't realize how much life an animal brings to your home until they're gone.  When you come home from a long day of work, or even running to the grocery store for 30 minutes, your pet is always there waiting for you. For 16 years, I had this sweet girl greet me when I came through the door, and when she wasn't there any longer, there was a huge void in my house, and of course, in my heart. There would definitely be other animals in my future but for now, I needed to heal.




Even thought cats are super low maintenance creatures, they still need to be cared for and loved.   Now that she was gone, I needed to nurture something, so I bought a plant.  And another, and a few more...



It's great to watch them grow and flourish! Sure, I've managed to kill some (by complete accident of course, I'm not a savage!) but some just love it here! Every year I'm learning more and more about my outdoor garden, and now I'm also learning about the indoor plants like, they have growth cycles, different watering, fertilizer and lighting needs. 


(Imagine reading the rest of this at 1.5x speed, that's how fast I'm talking/typing right now I'm so excited!)

I have a  purple Oxalis that my kitty used to love to nibble on, so I found a place that she could not possible reach, on top of my staircase Newel Post!  Which happens to be right under my giant skylight ๐Ÿ˜Ž, needless to say, this plant gets all the sun it could ever want and it shows!  It's still there and flowers as often as it can, even over the winter.  My husband made a comment one night (after a few glasses of wine) about the plant, that it would be great to hang it on our front porch in the summer time๐Ÿ’ฅ ๐Ÿ™Œ  !I love it!  I usually hang 2 pots out front, usually 2 Fuschia's, and they love it there, until autumn comes and they start to die๐Ÿ˜ฉ  Anyway, I know the Oxalis will thrive outside in the summer and they clearly love it inside during the colder months so I figure I have a couple of months to split my existing plant and groom 2 separate plants to become our new outdoor beauties!  I'll take some snaps along the way and show them off when they're in their full summertime glory hanging outside with all the birdies and sunshine they can handle.  

Can you tell I'm a little excited about my plants? 

I also love my ZZ plant (Zamioculcas) which is SO low maintenance and the leaves are always glossy and perky.  I think I'll trim some leaves and propagate that one soon along with my Snake Plant/ Mother in Law's tongue (or real name Sansevieria) so they can make babies and spread them all over the house! 

But my latest obsession.....a sweet delicate little thing called a Pilea (Peperomioides) or Chinese Money Plant.  I'm not sure what makes me love this plant so much, and hope I can keep it alive.  People say its really easy to take care of and also super easy to propagate, so fingers crossed!  

Here it is! 


I have since adopted a dog, she definitely fills the house with joy and does not eat any of my plants (bonus!)  I'm hoping to adopt a couple of cats, and maybe another dog ๐Ÿ˜‚, geesh I'm going to need a bigger home, and a bigger yard for all my animals and my gardens!  I know it won't happen any time soon, but maybe just one cat? Until then, Spring is coming and I can't wait to get outside to the bigger garden and nurture it all summer long ๐ŸŒž

My doggy 



Sweet & Salty Edamame

When it comes to snack time, salty wins over sweet any day. And a little salty on top of sweet ain't so bad either :) 

It wasn't that long ago when I first tried edamame.  With a quick steam and a sprinkling of sea salt, this quickly became one of my go-to favourite healthy snacks.

Until....I was at a restaurant with a friend who had ordered an appetizer plate of edamame and I tried a bite...

Whole. New. Ballgame. 


Gawsh, drooling just thinking about this. 

Of course, I had to jot down the flavours, the sweetness followed by a salty zing, I couldn't forget these lip smacking tastes! A few attempts to make this at home and I got there quickly. After my last attempt at this recipe, while in between bites my husband proclaimed "YOU NAILED IT!!"  So fast and easy to make, and such a great snack when watching your favourite binge worthy Netflix series.  



Ok, now for the healthy scientific stuff...

Soy is a great source of Energy, Protein, Fiber, and Calcium and contains all essential Amino Acids to name a few.  They're low in calories, & there is no cholesterol!
But as much as I love to nibble on this healthy snack, I try not to eat these on a regular basis.   

Edamame are the not-yet matured versions of the soy bean. Soy (young or matured) has high amounts of the hormone disruptor phytoestrogen, which increases estrogenic activity in your body and can cause many issues, including reproductive problems.  Whether you're young, old, male or female, hormones play a huge role in our whole body health. Something I'm learning about more and more as I get older. 

Also, when you buy any soy (beans, edamame, soy milk, tofu etc.) you should always buy Organic. Soy beans grown in North America, are most likely from Genetically Modified (GMO's) soy beans, which are linked to all sorts of health problems, issues, bigger issues and even bigger ones. You can read more about GMO's here

Organic soy are not GMO, so you're safe there.  

Bottom line, eat or drink your soy in moderation and always organic, and you'll get all the positive and healthy benefits from this little bean.  


Back from my babble... 
...if after all that, you're still interested in this recipe, here it is! 



Ingredients :
2 cups frozen Organic Edamame (in shell)
Sauce: 
1/2 tsp Garlic (approx 1-2 cloves) peeled and grated or minced
1/2 tsp grated Ginger* 
1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
1 Tbsp Organic Gluten Free Soy Tamari
1 & 1/2 tsp Sesame Oil
1 Dash Vegan Worcestershire Sauce
Pinch or two of Flaked Sea Salt
1/2 Tbsp Sesame Seeds

Equipment Needed : 
1 skillet or frying pan
1 small pot and basket steamer 
(or small pot will do if you don't have steamer)
Tongs or Slotted spoon


How To :
  1. Add about an inch of water to small pot, add steamer basket. Cover and bring to a boil.
  2. Once water is boiling, add frozen edamame into steamer basket, cover and cook for about 4 minutes or until beans are tender. (If you don't have a steamer, you can boil also for about 4 minutes.)
  3. While waiting for water and edamame to boil, pull out a skillet and get your sauce ingredients ready.
  4. Grate the garlic and ginger and add to skillet.  Add the rest of the sauce ingredients mixing to incorporate everything. Turn heat onto low -just enough to warm up- and give it a quick stir while waiting...
  5. When the edamame are ready, scoop beans up while straining water, and drop into the saucy pan mixture and give it a quick stir to cover the beans. Turn the heat up on your skillet slightly and stir for about a minute. You don't want this to bubble or boil. 
  6. Remove from heat and add sesame seeds and salt.   
  7. Serve.
* An easy way to grate ginger is to keep a nub of ginger in your freezer.  This makes grating much easier! 




Enjoy!


Holiday Cover - yay!

So only a few months into Food Styling with LCBO's Food & Drink magazine, and I've landed my first cover!!  and for the Holiday edition no less ๐Ÿ˜Š.  

Needless to say, it's been a nice moment for me.  After working as a Food Photographer for years (and years) and then taking the plunge and becoming a Food Stylist, I wasn't sure how people, the industry or even I would take me. I felt like I had a lot to prove (mostly to myself).  Sure, being a photographer for years had helped me tremendously, I knew the in's and out's of a photo shoot and how it worked, but food styling was a whole different level of learning and doing. I still have a long way to go and a lot to learn, but having my food (and drink) styling on this cover will always be a reminder for me on those bad days, on those days where I think "I can't do this" or "there are so many better food stylist out there". 

I CAN do this!  And this was my 'pat on the back' moment which proved it to myself.  ๐Ÿ’ช

Cover Photography by James Tse

Cilantro Pesto Tapenade

Until recently, Cilantro's pungent smell and taste kept me away from really giving it a fair chance.  So I avoided it, until one day it showed up in my fridge when my sister stopped by and brought a container of cilantro pesto she picked up at the store.  Pesto is one of my favourite food condiment's, any kind really! After learning of Cilantro's big heath benefits I knew I couldn't avoid it any longer and had to give this one a try. I pulled out my trusty Organic Purple Tortilla chips from Neal Brothers, which is always in my pantry stockpile, and I scooped in.  



The pesto definitely had a distinct strong cilantro taste about it but I was determined to get past the pungency of it. I was already deeply invested into the taste testing, and wasn't ready to give up just yet, it was pesto for goodness sake! I looked in the fridge for something to offset the taste of the strong cilantro and found a container of Kalamata Olives. I had one to clear my pallet. I went in for another scoop of the pesto, then an olive, another scoop, olive...you get the point. It was working. The two flavours, cilantro and the olives, two very powerful yet distinct flavours were working so well together that they started to become their own unique taste.  The lightbulb went on, I got my notebook out and started to scribble my thoughts  on making this a one stop dip. 



So that's how my little concoction of this cilantro pesto tapenade was born.  Olivesto? Cilanpestonade? Tapento? Whatever you want to call it...  


Cilantro is really good for you!

Cilantro is high in Vitamin K & A, it's a great source of Vitamin C, along with potassium, manganese and other essential vitamins & minerals not to mention all antioxidants & dietary fibre it carries while it can also help cleanse your body of toxic metals....Just to name a few things


While I enjoy this as a dip, others enjoyed it also while I played the "guess what ingredients are in this dip" game.  I had my fun and it was time to move on and find some other uses for it.  My first thought was to put it onto pasta, but it needed to be more special.    




When I decided  a few years ago to eliminate pretty much everything I loved to eat, including wheat,  I was stumped when it came to pasta.  I quickly jumped onto the brown rice pasta band wagon.  Which has expanded to Quinoa pasta, buckwheat pasta, amaranth and corn pasta. I’m good with that, even though I’m eating a little more gluten now, I don't enjoy wheat pasta.  A quick and easy go-to meal for me is pasta with pesto.  When I make any kind of pesto now, I make it in big batches and freeze it in ice cube trays so when I need a quick meal, I pull a couple out of the freezer and voila!



While I do love pasta, I've been trying to incorporate more vegetables back into my diet, so what I love even more is the idea of having a plate of vegetables pretending to be pasta! The first time I tried Zucchini noodles, I used my mandolin to create strips of noodles, boiled up some buckwheat spaghetti, mixed it in with the raw zucchini noodles, and topped it all off with diced tomatoes and EVOO. It was pretty simple but "Baby steps" I said to myself.  



Holidays came and went and I finally had some time to try out my newly gifted addition to my appliance family, my spiralizer!  My first attempt was zuchinni.  I sautรฉed the strands in a  little Extra Virgin Olive Oil, added some of my olive pesto cilantro concoction...and the rest is history! 


Check out my Cilantro Pestonade recipe below...


It's really simple to make.  Have it as a dip, use in your pasta, or as a marinade! I'm sure I'll be testing this one out on so many more dishes! Let me know what you think, or what you've tried it with!





Ingredients :
makes about 1 & 1/2 cup

Bunch of Cilantro, roughly chopped -including leaves and stems (approx 100gr.)
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives (approx 16)
2 large garlic cloves
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
1/4 tsp sea salt
Pinch of chili pepper 
Pinch of black pepper

How To :
  1. Add pumpkin seeds to food processor and process until finely chopped. Set aside in separate bowl
  2. Add olives and garlic to food processor and whirl to a rough chop (about 15 seconds) scraping down sides along the way.
  3. Add cilantro and continue processing, about 30 seconds- scraping down sides. 
  4. Add finely chopped pumpkin seeds, lemon zest, lemon juice, EVOO, salt, chili and black pepper and whirl everything together until you have a fairly fine consistency. 

Enjoy! 



Apple and Cabbage Slaw

This coleslaw is super easy to make, naturally colourful and packed full of flavour and crunch.  I think I love the dressing the best about this salad.  And the mix of crunchy walnuts and tart green apples, also the earthiness of the purple cabbage.  Did I mention this is really easy to make?  



Makes 4 side salads
Gluten Free

Dressing

2 Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. Honey
 1 tsp. Ginger (grated)
1 tsp. Grainy Dijon Mustard
- Combine all ingredients and whisk until fully blended

Apple and Cabbage Slaw

1 small head of purple cabbage (finely sliced)
2 green granny smith apples (cored and julienned or cut into thin strips)
1/3 cup walnuts (roughly chopped)
2 green onions (sliced)
1/4 cup flat parsley leaves (whole or rough chopped)

- Prepare your ingredients by chopping as suggested above.  
*tip* Using a mandolin for the cabbage and apple can make things a lot easier.
- Once all ingredients are chopped and dressing is made, mix it all up and serve! 

It's that easy. 



Enjoy!



Coconut Oil in your Coffee??

Have you heard of the latest trend of putting butter in your coffee?  If you have, or even if you haven't, coconut oil is another alternative that has some great benefits to your morning cup of awake.



I've written an article for Recipe Geek and you can read about it here!