Plant Powered Kids & A Delicious Square Recipe

I recently had the pleasure of presenting a workshop to an awesome group of parents and children. It was called Plant-Powered Kids and I transformed my living room and kitchen into 5 different food-making stations so that I could get the gang busy chopping, grating, stirring, wrapping, blending and baking.

What a fun afternoon! I gave a quick chat when everyone first arrived and appealed to their athletic lifestyles to introduce foods that would power up their activities. I encouraged the kids to become detectives when it comes to the food they eat and asked them to think about 3 things: How do particular foods make them feel when they eat them? What the heck is actually in the foods we eat? And are the glitzy food advertisements in the media telling us the truth?

I also chatted briefly about some foods to avoid like refined sugar (did you know a bottle of Gatorade has a whopping 9 tsp of sugar!), nasty trans fats and toxic MSG and touted the benefits of plant-based protein, healthy fats and fiber. After about 15 minutes I noticed the kids staring at the floor and dreamily looking around the room so I knew it was time to stop talking and get them up and cooking.

kaden kale chips

And I’ve gotta say – they really rose to the challenge! Not only did they do a bang up job of preparing the foods I had planned for them but they were brave about sampling pretty much everything they made. In addition to an All-Natural Hydrating Sports Drink and some Kale Chips that I whipped up myself – they prepared Raw Spring Rolls with Dipping Sauce, Fresh Veggie Salad with Zucchini Noodles, Homemade Hummus Dip, Granola Bar Squares and a Protein Rich Chocolate Shake. It was a feast!

I wandered around the stations with my husband and daughter to make sure everyone was on track and comfortable with the equipment. It made me smile to see the kids and parents talking and working together to make incredible healthy food. And I was able to overhear some of the funny things the kids said as they cooked- here are a few of my favourite quotes from the afternoon:

“I don’t know how to cook but I want to learn. It’s a life skill.” Liam age 10

“So is this like food? Are we going to eat it?” Lucas age 11

“Remember if you eat the beets your poop is going to be bright red tomorrow.” Izzy age 11

It was the first time I tried out this particular workshop and I think everyone had a good time. I was very impressed with the way the kids jumped right in and were willing to try new things. And I feel so fortunate that I had such an adventurous bunch for my first attempt…..I will definitely do it again!

And now for a recipe: of all of the things we whipped up together – the granola bar squares were by far the biggest hit. And I have to admit they are delicious. Super easy to make and the kids and parents alike gobbled them up. So here is the recipe in case you’d like to give them a whirl:

Granola Bar Squares

granola bar

1 cup almonds (or nut of choice), chopped
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 ½ cups crispy rice cereal
1 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/3 cup raw honey
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup raw almond butter
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 and line a square pan with parchment paper.

Place nuts and coconut on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5-8 minutes, stirring once or twice to avoid burning.

Combine oats, cereal, salt and cranberries in a large bowl. Add toasted nuts and coconut.

In a saucepan, heat honey, syrup and almond butter on medium high heat and bring to a gentle boil. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Pour over dry mixture and stir to combine.

Press firmly into pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool. Once cooled completely, place squares in the fridge for at least 1 hour or overnight before cutting. (they are very soft and will fall apart if you try to cut them before they set in the fridge – although the kids didn’t mind at all and ate the warm crumbles straight from the pan : )

Enjoy!

P.S. Intrigued by this workshop? Wondering what other awesome classes I offer? Wanna come to my kitchen?  Drop me a line in the comments and I’ll hook you up!

 

When People Let You Down

About a year ago I received an email from one of my closest friends in the world. She started out by saying she felt she had to reach out because she had deep concerns about our friendship. I won’t go into all of the personal details but basically she shared that despite her best efforts to stay in touch – it really seemed like I wasn’t all that interested in our relationship and she was wondering if our friendship had run its course or if she’d done something to cause a rift between us.

My first reaction was complete shock. Of course I still wanted to be friends and no -she hadn’t done a thing! I frantically searched my memory for our most recent get together or email or phone call and it hit me – she was absolutely right. I had been a totally shitty friend. I quickly realized how brave my friend was for contacting me versus simply writing me off and I took the opportunity to apologize and sheepishly explain myself.

friendship

That email acted as a powerful wake up call for me. You see I generally consider myself to be a pretty darn good friend. Thoughtful and kind and present and practically perfect in every way ; ) But I’m not. And I’m willing to bet that you aren’t either. We mean to stay in touch but we don’t. We plan to go to that special event but we miss it. We want to bring muffins to a new neighbour but we don’t. We intend to make a lunch date or dinner date or pick up the phone but life gets busy and we forget. We want to support someone’s event but it conflicts with something else and we bail. We plan to visit but put it off because we are too tired.

A very wise friend once told me that “we judge ourselves by our intentions but we judge others by their actions”. So you see although I fully intended to stay in touch and make an effort and be thoughtful….I just wasn’t following through. I was skipping along thinking in my own mind that I was a stellar pal and all the while my actions showed otherwise.

Did I rectify the situation with my friend? You bet. Am I still a shitty friend from time to time? Absolutely. But I did learn a few things  from that experience that (I hope) has made me a better friend and has (hopefully) made me more patient and less judgemental with the people in my life:

  • Although it will make you feel extremely vulnerable – if you value a relationship and things have gone off the rails – it’s almost always worth it to reach out and clear the air.
  • You may not particularly want to hear what a friend has to say but you can almost always learn a lesson from the experience (I can certainly vouch for this one).
  • Some people come into our lives only briefly so don’t try to hang on to a relationship that has run its course.
  • If someone drops out of your life and doesn’t want to talk about it then thank them for their time with you and move on. You can’t make someone spend time with you against their will. (another friend recently told me that sometimes the reason people leave your life is so hurtful or painful that they don’t offer an explanation to spare your feelings. Very good point.)
  • Sometimes you will be a crappy friend. Sometimes your friends will be crappy to you. None of us is perfect so be forgiving and patient.
  • If you truly value a relationship – stay in touch, show up and be present.

I think we all have that one friend or relationship where we wonder “what went wrong? was it me?” Relationships can be tricky and if you are anything like me – your feelings can get hurt very easily. That email sent from my friend changed my perspective on this issue quite a bit though. Instead of rushing to hurt or anger or righteous indignation (a personal specialty of mine) – I take a deep breath and remember that I as much as I try to convince myself otherwise – I am far from perfect. Until I line up my intentions and actions with pinpoint accuracy I will continue to look inwards instead of pointing fingers at others.

And that’s all I’ve got time to write for today – I’ve gotta get busy baking some muffins for the neighbours who moved in a year ago ; )

The Student Becomes The Teacher

Hello my name is Lori and I am addicted to taking courses. I love learning (yep – former brown-noser here ; ), I’m curious about new ideas and I am almost always game to try something new. Just to give you an idea of what I am talking about, in the past year alone I have taken classes in: Voice-Over Animation, Democratic Parenting, Culinary Nutrition, Business Development, Meditation, Vegetarian Cooking, Writing, Wine Tasting, Vision Board Making and Yoga.

I have even gone so far as to get certified in a few of these endeavours. But although I am an eager student, I haven’t yet found the confidence to step into the role of teacher. If I’m being completely honest, I always find one excuse or another to convince myself that I am just not ready. That voice in my head keeps chattering away about the fact that I’m not educated enough or I don’t know as much as other people or that no one will be interested or that I don’t look the right way or act the right way or eat the right way or live my life the right way. It’s paralyzing quite frankly.

icarus deception

On the advice of a friend of mine, I recently purchased marketing entrepreneur Seth Godin’s book “The Icarus Deception” and I had a total break through. In his book, Seth challenges readers to look at their work as art and to approach each day as artists. There were so many light bulb moments for me while reading this book that I had to go back and read it twice so that they would sink in. Perhaps the section that resonated the loudest was called “Pick Yourself”:

“Authority? You want authority to create, to be noticed, and to make a difference? You’re waiting for permission to stand up and speak up and ship? Sorry. There’s no authority left. Oprah has left the building. She can’t choose you to be on her show because her show is gone……Our cultural instinct is to wait to get picked. To seek out the permission, authority, and safety that come from a publisher or a talk-show host or even a blogger who says ‘I pick you’…..Once you realize that there are problems waiting to be solved, once you realize that you have all the tools and all the permission you need, then opportunities to contribute abound. The opportunity is not to have your resume picked from the pile but to lead…..when we buckle down, confront the lizard brain and ship our best work, we’re becoming the artists we are capable of becoming. No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.”

Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception

Hold on a minute – what would it look like if I treated some my interests and passions as art? Then perhaps all of those things that stop me in my tracks – my flaws and imperfections and vulnerabilities – would transform into the very things that make me relatable and human and artistic (dare I say it?) a good teacher.

So I decided throw myself out there and be brave. I contacted a huge company in the US and offered up my skills as a voice over actress…and they hired me! I used a coupon to book some studio time, warmed up my rusty singing voice and recorded my very own CD..and it was a blast!

And I decided to step up from behind my desk and start teaching some of the incredible knowledge I’ve learned over the past 6 1/2 years as a plant-based foodie and the past 4 months as a student of the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program…and I didn’t die! Quite the opposite actually – it was so much fun. I whipped up a green smoothie, fresh almond milk, fresh granola, quinoa salad, rice noodles with cream sauce and chocolate caramels and the crowd went wild. Well not wild per say but everyone seemed to have a great time. Was it perfect? Heck no! But we all laughed and drank and ate and learned from each other.

lori kitchen

Did that annoying voice in my head speak up during my first class? You bet your ass it did! But I drowned it out with the sound of my Vitamix whirring up a smoothie and I kept right on going. Because I’m an artist gosh darn it and I’m finally ready to teach.

*GTA friends – I still have spots available in my April & May plant-based cooking workshops if you’d like to come to my kitchen to see an artist at work : )  I’m teaching about All-Natural Beauty in April and Liquid Nutrition in May. If you are interested – respond in the comments and I’ll send you all the details.

 

 

10 Amazing & Healthy Recipes to Celebrate Pancake Tuesday

Pancakes are a favourite in my house. The kids are strangely subdued when I bust out a new Green Smoothie recipe (some might say grim actually) but they are guaranteed to jump for joy when pancakes are on the menu. And really – what’s not to love? Hot fluffy buttery cakes piled high on a plate drowning in sweet maple syrup…..heavenly!

pancakes 3

But if you know me you also know that I am always trying to revamp recipes to make them healthier. And to be honest – sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I have made my fair share of lumpy, sticky and tasteless pancakes in an attempt to eschew the traditional boxed pancake mixes.

In honour of “Pancake Tuesday” I thought I’d spare you one of my so-so recipes and instead share 10 sure-fire recipes that were developed by other very talented health-conscious bloggers. I have made and devoured a batch of each of these recipes and I can personally vouch for their amazingness so pick the one that appeals to your taste buds and get flipping:

1. Hormonal Balance Blueberry Pancakes by Meghan Telpner

2.  Gluten-Free Whole Grain Chia Pancakes by Dreena Burton of Plant-Powered Kitchen

3. Strawberry Shortcake Stacked Pancakes by Angela Liddon of Oh She Glows

4. Chocolate Chip Buckwheat Pancakes by Sondi Bruner

pancake 4

*Photo Credit: Sondi Bruner

5. My Favourite Vegan Pancakes by Amanda Maguire of Pickles & Honey

6. Loveliest Lemon Vegan Pancakes by Kathy Patalsky of Healthy Happy Life

lemon pancakes

*Photo Credit: Kathy Patalsky, Healthy Happy Life

7. Peach Pancakes by Thug Kitchen

8. 7-Ingredient Vegan Gluten-Free Waffles by John and Dana at Minimalist Baker

9. Even Better Potato Pancakes by Deb Perelman at Smitten Kitchen

10. Coconut Flour Banana Pancakes by Joy McCarthy of Joyous Health

So get out the maple syrup and whip up a stack of delicious and healthy pancakes. And for inspiration check out my latest batch – not half bad tasting and as my daughter pointed out “look mom – this one is pooping a heart!” I took that as a good sign ; ) Happy Pancake Tuesday everyone!

pancake heart

6 Ways to Get Your Kids To Eat More Healthy Foods

I grew up eating a lot of junk food. I mean A LOT. There were a couple of convenience stores close to our house and my sister and I spent a considerable amount of time walking or biking to these treasure troves of candy for our beloved treats- potato chips, jujubes, chocolate bars, chewy big feet, ring pops, garbage pail candies, ice cream bars, hamburger shaped gum, freezies and much, much more. In fact, aside from Archie comic books and stickers, most of our money went directly to candy.

candy 1

And I mean – we are still alive and thriving. We lived to tell the tale. And I’m happy to report that we have both adopted much healthier eating habits. But I will tell you this from my perspective: making that transition was and continues to be really freakin’ hard. Honestly, it’s something that I struggle with almost every single day (if you want to test that theory just put a bag of Doritos in front of me and see how long it takes for them to disappear ; )

So what’s wrong with treating our children with junk food? As parents, we love our kids and we want them to be happy and nothing makes them happier than a gooey caramel chocolate bar right? Well, here’s the rub – the occasional treat might be okay but routinely plying our kids with goodies actually makes it much more difficult to convince them to taste and enjoy healthier foods.

When young children routinely indulge on sugar-laden foods,their taste buds become conditioned to crave sugar, creating unhealthy habits that follow them into adulthood.

Dr. David Sack

It has taken a considerable amount of effort and will-power on my part to reprogram my taste buds to embrace healthy whole foods. And because it has been such an uphill battle for me, I am passionate about instilling healthier eating habits into my own children. Yes they certainly enjoy their treats but I want to make sure that they eat a diet rich in fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains and nuts. And it’s not simply to establish healthier eating habits but also to safeguard them from the fallout of excessive junk food consumption including; obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and tooth decay. Not to mention the research that suggests sugar may be as addictive as cocaine and other drugs.

Instead of getting overwhelmed or trying to overhaul your whole diet, I recommend making a few simple changes to encourage children to eat more nutritious foods. Here are 6 suggestions:

1. One Chug or One Bite – in our house we have a “one chug” or “one bite” policy on all new foods and drinks. It can take quite a few tries for children’s’ taste buds to adapt to a new veggie, smoothie or tofu stir fry so as long as everyone at least samples something new I don’t force the issue.

2. Be a Supermodel – Do you make negative comments about your own body or eating habits? Are you open and willing to try new foods? Our children are like little sponges and they are much more likely to pay attention to our actions than our words. Instead of lecturing kids about their eating habits, model healthy eating yourself by limiting sugary desserts and processed foods in favour of more nutrient dense choices.

3. Get Cooking – my children are much more likely to try something if they’ve had a hand in preparing it. I encourage them to pick their favourite recipes from my collection of cookbooks and I get them in the kitchen to help with chopping, stirring, blending and simmering.

4. Healthify Your Favs– there are tons of great blogs and websites featuring healthier versions of classic kid-friendly dishes. Think about some of your kids favourites and do a search for equally delicious but more nutritious recipes. Here are a few goodies for Mac and Cheese, Nachos, French Fries, Veggie Burgers and Lasagna.

5. Make It Fun – depending on the age of your children, new foods can become much more appealing if they are cut into fun shapes or given interesting names (“Green Monster Smoothie” or “Power Athlete Chocolate Almond Milk”). I’ve also had good luck with these funky straws and food games like “vote for your favourite colour of grape” or “blindfolded taste tests”.

6. Eat Together – Although our busy schedules do not allow for us to eat together as a family every night of the week, we do try to sit down together for dinner as much as possible. This gives me an opportunity to try out new dishes and to model healthier eating habits for my kiddos. And I try to refrain from making separate “child-friendly” meals because studies have also shown that children who eat the same foods as their parents actually have much healthier diets.

Most importantly of all – don’t get stressed out! There is enough stress in our lives that we don’t need the added burden of monitoring every bite that goes into our children’s mouths. Stock up your fridge and pantry with lots of healthy choices, offer up a variety of nutritious foods at meal times and do your best to embrace healthy eating habits for your children to model.

I keep reminding myself that if I do my best to encourage nutritious foods then perhaps my own children won’t suffer from the same internal strife every time they pass by the chocolate bar display at the drug store or walk through the chip aisle at the grocery store. It’s an uphill battle but I’m winning goddamit! (Curse you all-dressed chips!)

The Sweet Smell of Poison In Your Home

Saturdays were “house cleaning” days when I was growing up. We would haul out the bathroom scrubbing bubbles, streak-free window cleaner, disinfectant spray, furniture polish and other assorted cleaning products and get busy removing dust, dirt and germs. By the time we were finished, the house would be spotless and smell wonderfully fresh. Even today nothing takes me back to my childhood like a whiff of lemon-scented Pledge.

cleaners 1

All of our efforts were done to achieve a clean home but the scary truth is that the vast majority of the products we associate with cleanliness and fresh smells are often loaded with harsh toxic chemicals that can seriously damage our health.  Just because a house has the aroma of mountain air or spring daisy air freshener doesn’t necessarily mean that its clean. But most of us have been brainwashed into equating the smell of our cleaning products with their efficacy and not only is that a false assumption, it is also putting us directly in harm’s way.

According  to the David Suzuki Foundation, “Canadians spend more than $275 million on household cleaning products in a year.”  The familiar labels on so many of these products warn of immediate dangers like “poison”, “corrosive” and “irritant” but “there is no requirement in Canada for manufacturers to warn consumers about the health and environmental hazards associated with chronic, or long-term, exposure to chemical ingredients in household cleaning products. Most of us are exposed to cleaning products and their residues at low levels on a daily basis.” 

cleaners 2

Due to the artificial fragrances in the vast majority of cleaners, the very scents that we find so pleasing can lead to allergic reactions, rashes and asthma. And even more troubling are the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) that are in chemically-derived household products.

The list of VOCs commonly used in cleaners and air fresheners is shockingly long but a few of the most frightening ones include propane, butane, ethanol, and phthalates. “Propane is a suspected neurotoxin and respiratory toxicant. Butane is a neurotoxicant. Ethanol has been reported to be a carcinogen as well as an endocrine toxicant, liver toxicant, neurotoxicant, and reproductive toxicant. And phthalates are suspected endocrine disrupters associated with reproductive effects, including reduced sperm count in men.” Seriously scary stuff!

How do these nasty toxins get into our bodies? Well, when we scrub and spray our homes the chemicals linger in the air and we breathe them in. They can also enter our bodies directly through our largest organ – our skin- when we touch or rub up against the “sanitized and disinfected” surfaces and through our mouths if we swallow residues left behind on dishes. And these poisons have been shown to have a cumulative effect in our bodies and are extremely difficult to eliminate.

When switching to nontoxic cleaning products, it may take you a while to get used to not having that pine forest or lemon smell that has signaled  “clean” for, oh, your whole life! But trust me – odorless (or naturally scented) is much healthier.

Jessica Alba, The Honest Company

So what the heck should we use to safely clean our homes that will satisfy both our sniffers and our cleaning standards? Here are a few of my best suggestions:

 

1. Research: Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning – they have done exhaustive research on over 2000 products and provide ratings and toxicity levels. My own personal favourites are: Benefect Disinfectant & All-purpose Cleaner, Cleanwell Hand Santizer, Vaportek Odor Control Products, The Honest Company and Seventh Generation cleaners and detergents. They are all safe and effective products that I feel comfortable using in my home around my 3 young children.

benefect 2

 

2. Make your own – There are loads of websites and books available for whipping up your own natural and effective “homemade” supplies. Often a simple mixture of food-grade essential oils from Living Libations (lemon and tangerine are my favs) and pure water can clean and freshen up floors and surfaces. Wellness Mama and Keeper of the Home are great blogs to find recipes.

3. Kick it Old School – Real food author and activist Michael Pollan wisely advised us in his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” The same can be said for our cleaning products. Our ancestors used things like vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, soap, hot water, scrub brushes and rags to keep their living spaces sparkling clean – and they still work just as well today!

My husband and his best friend have worked in the all-natural cleaning and disinfection industry for over 15 years – long before “green” cleaning was on anyone’s radar. And I’ll admit it always rubs me the wrong way when one of their customers complains about the “smell” of their products – all of which are scented exclusively with pure  essential oils (ironically it’s often these same people who freely spray toxic chemical disinfectants or rave about the wonders of an alcohol hand sanitizer from the drug store). C’mon people –  – it’s time to retrain our noses to transition to more natural and safer scents. Let’s use our buying power to support products that prioritize the health and safety of their consumers over the mass-produced chemical brands that are ultimately poisoning our homes and our bodies.

Asian Broccoli Soup

We are right in the middle of a cold stretch here in South Western Ontario and every day around noon I start nosing around for a bowl of comforting soup to warm me up. I’ve made a few big batches of my all-time favourites lately and stuck them in mason jars in the freezer to save for those days when I don’t have the time or inclination to whip up something on the spot.

Unfortunately, this creamy and delicious broccoli soup didn’t make it to the freezer – I gobbled it all up over 2 days of lunches and dinners. I just couldn’t get enough of the incredible sesame/broccoli/ginger combination… and the toasted sesame seeds took it over the top!

Broccoli is one of those foods that I turned my nose up at as a child but with much trial and error, I’ve learned to love it as an adult. It’s a veritable nutritional powerhouse with high levels if fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, vitamin K, B-complex vitamins, zinc, phosphorus and phyto-nutrients. And did you know that just 1/4 cup of sesame seeds provide more absorbable (and alkaline) calcium than a whole cup of milk?

This heart-warming soup is a breeze to make, tastes great and is jam-packed with nutrients. What more could you ask for on a cold winter day?

Asian Broccoli Soup

broccoli soup

2 large heads of broccoli, cut into small florets (+ 1 stem cut into small chunks)
A 2 inch chunk of ginger, sliced
1-2 tsp sea salt (more or less to taste)
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
2 tbsp tamari (soy sauce)
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp rice vinegar
1/4 cup sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350. Place sesame seeds in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven for approx 5 minutes until lightly browned.

In a large soup pot, boil 8 cups of fresh water with the ginger and salt. Once boiling, add 3/4 of the broccoli florets and the whole chopped stem and cook for 8-10 minutes (make sure the broccoli retains its bright green colour). Transfer the broccoli to the blender with a slotted spoon and remove the ginger slices. Add in 6-7 cups of the cooking water, being careful not to overfill the blender. Also add 1 slice of the cooked ginger, tamari and oil. Puree until smooth. Return soup to pot and reheat to medium-low. Add reserved 1/4 broccoli florets and vinegar and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper. Ladle into serving bowls and top with sesame seeds. Enjoy!