Eureka! Amazing Egg-less Eggnog with a Good Shot of Screech

I grew up in a very small town in Eastern Ontario and every Christmas Eve when I was a child we would trot off to church together as a family and then my parents would host a little party afterwards. They would invite our neighbours and friends and a ragtag assortment of people they decided needed a little extra holiday cheer. And on the menu? Loads of egg rolls from a special restaurant in Ottawa, trays of my mom’s homemade sweets and glasses full of eggnog spiked with Newfoundland rum.

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My dad especially loved to pull out a bottle of Screech and tell his guests that although he found the rum a bit too harsh for regular cocktails – it was far and away the best liquor to perfectly spike a cold glass of eggnog. And inevitably after a few sips – everyone would agree! Of course at the time my sister and I were too young for the boozy version of the drink but I still enjoyed the nog straight up with ice and a bit of nutmeg.

Flash forward to today and my family will still gather to celebrate the holidays together but the menu has changed considerably. I’ve swapped out the traditional egg rolls for this veggie version and my daughter is insisting on making these cold spring rolls to add to the feast. And thanks to some amazing bloggers, I’ve managed to make some of my favourite sweets into healthier and equally delicious versions.

I also really wanted to add an egg-free eggnog to the menu but after carefully looking at the sketchy ingredient list on the “soy” version at the grocery story I decided to try to make my own. As it turns out this is no easy feat. I went through at least 6 different versions – the first one too bitter, the next too gritty, the next too spicy and so on and so on. I was beginning to think it wasn’t going to happen when I stumbled upon Ashley’s recipe on her site Edible Perspective. And holy moly- she nailed it! Silky, smooth, sweet with just a hint of nutmeg – absolute perfection.

So if you are planning to partake in a little nog this holiday season and the idea of an “egg punch” doesn’t suit your tastes then might I recommend this delectable egg-free version. I will be making my fourth batch to serve this evening and I’m sure it will disappear just as quickly as the last three. And because my dad was bang on- I’ve got a big bottle of Screech on hand to top up the adult portions.

Happiest of holidays to you and your families! Cheers!

eggless nog

 

Homemade Vegan Eggnog (recipe by Ashley at Edible Perspective)

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup raw almonds, soaked in water for 6-12 hours
2 – 3 1/2 cups water
8 – 10 medjool dates, pitted and soaked in warm water for 1 hour
1/2 to 3/4 whole vanilla bean (I substituted 2 tsp vanilla extract)
1/2 – 1 tsp nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 325° F. Spread coconut on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring every 3 minutes until evenly golden brown. Keep a close eye so it does not burn. Let cool.

Rinse soaked almonds. Place coconut, almonds, 2 cups of water, soaked dates, and the vanilla bean into your blender. Turn on low, working to high and let blend for 1-2 minutes until fully smooth. Add more water if desired.

Note: The mixture will seem extremely thick with only 2 cups of water, but when the pulp is strained through a nut milk bag it will be the consistency of cream. Add another cup of water for a slightly thinner strained consistency.

Place a nut milk bag over a large bowl and pour the mixture into the bag, scraping all sides of the blender. Squeeze as much liquid through the bag as possible. Whisk in desired amount of nutmeg and serve over ice with a splash of your booze of choice (optional). Or, refrigerate (sans booze) in a sealed container for up to 3 days.

If a thicker consistency is desired, whisk in a few tablespoons of pulp.

Notes: This may take 1 trial before you figure out the exact consistency and sweetness you prefer. I liked using 3 cups, 9 dates.

I recommend using a nut milk bag for perfectly smooth nog (or nut milk) with no pulp. If you don’t mind a little pulp, cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer will do the trick.

Using 2 cups of water will yield approximately 1 1/2 cups nog.

Using 3 cups of water will yield approximately 2 1/4 – 2 1/2 cups nog.

 

Chaga Mushroom Tea Latte

I’m going to be completely honest and admit that there are many mornings you will find me at my favourite coffee joint in the drive-thru line up patiently waiting for my soy latte. I have a well rehearsed repertoire of excuses in my head to justify my “need” for a fancy take-out drink:

– I was up all night with a sick child and I desperately need a coffee today
– I worked out really hard this morning and I deserve a reward
– I’m going to start eating right and working out next week so I’d better get my treats in today
– I stayed up late working so I need a coffee to make it through the day
– It’s a holiday (insert any occasion here – including Ground Hog Day!) and I need to celebrate with a coffee
– I’m meeting a friend and I can’t be rude and not join her when she is drinking her coffee
– It’s Monday and I need to pick myself up for the week
– It’s Friday and I need to gear up for the weekend

Trust me, I could go on and on but I’ll spare you. Needless to say I really enjoy a nice tall latte filled with steamy soy milk and sugary add-ins to start off my day. But being something of a health nut- I am also well aware of the negative effects of indulging in this particular treat (not to mention that it costs $6 a pop!)

Although the pros and cons of coffee have been hotly debated I know for myself that I feel much healthier and my gut, skin and pocketbook are much happier when I stick to all-natural homemade concoctions. And yes I can see you rolling your eyes through my computer screen – but some of my concoctions really do taste great!

Because I’m a full-on food nerd, I was totally thrilled to find this bag of Canadian Chaga Mushroom pieces on a recent trip to my local health food store. This potent and unique superfood is “a slow-growing mushroom that develops on living birch trees, obtaining nutrients from its host and making them available to us.” Chaga is considered the most nutritionally dense tree growth in the world and is revered in ancient Chinese medicine as being the “king of plants“. Studies have shown Chaga to be the single most concentrated source of antioxidants known to man and it has anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting and cancer fighting properties. Wow!

The cool thing about these mushroom chunks is that you boil 1/3 of a cup of them in a liter of water and just let them steep like tea. Afterwards you strain out the chunks and you will be left with a mild-tasting dark brown liquid that you can add to soups, smoothies, tea, coffee or just drink it straight up. And since the mushroom is so potent – you can actually reuse the chunks several times!

chaga

This morning I added 1 heated cup of the Chaga tea to 1 cup of boiling water and blended it together with 1 tbsp. raw sesame seeds, 1 tbsp. hemp seeds, 1 tbsp. maple syrup, 1 tbsp. Dandy Blend, 1 tbsp. cacao powder, a small chunk of cacao butter and 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract. Voila! Yummy coffee drink that has a ton of health benefits! (I also added a cupful of the tea to our morning smoothie)

So for today, I am skipping the fancy take-out coffee and sipping my Chaga Tea Latte. One day at a time right? As for tomorrow – if you happen to see me in the drive-thru line just give me knowing nod and a wave…..because trust me, I’ll have my excuse ready ; )

Healthy Holiday Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Although it’s not officially winter yet, the temperatures here in south-western Ontario are mighty chilly! I am still cranking out Green Smoothies every morning but to be honest- a cold drink just doesn’t cut it when the thermometer reads -10 C.

Yes I could race to my favourite coffee joint to warm myself up but lately I’ve been using my Vitamix to whip up my own hot drink that is just as satisfying and infinitely healthier. It’s chock full of antioxidants, magnesium, protein, iron and healthy fats and is minus the refined sugar and artificial ingredients that I’d get from my regular latte. And it tastes amazing!

Take a look at some of the potent superfood ingredients:

Raw Cacao Powder– not to be mistaken with the overprocessed “cocoa” that is often used for baking – raw cacao powder is the product of milling pure cacao beans at low temperatures. The result is a powerhouse chocolate powder that is loaded with antioxidants, magnesium and iron.

cacao powder

Raw Cacao Butter – these solid white chunks of butter are produced from the fat inside the cacao beans. But don’t forget that not all fats are created equally and the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from cacao butter are healthy and full of nutrients for our bodies. Cacao butter is an antioxidant, is good for lessening arthritic pain and is a mood enhancer. (I also used this stuff to make amazing chocolate-scented body butters).

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Hemp Seeds– I love these tiny seeds because they are packed with plant-based protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, balance hormones, alleviate headaches and regulate blood pressure and cholesterol.

hemp seeds

Raw Cashews– Raw cashews are naturally high in beautifying oleic acid, which is also found in high amounts in extra virgin olive oil. They are also rich in magnesium and manganese, and are a good source of selenium and zinc.

cashews

I also throw in a couple of drops of Living Libations pure Peppermint essential oil (anti-inflammatory and soothes the tummy), raw organic dates (fiber and antioxidants), pure maple syrup (antioxidants, zinc and manganese), 2 capsules of Ortho Adapt Vegan (improves mental and physical performance) and 2 capsules of Now brand Vitamin C (immune boosting) to round out my drink.

Try subbing your morning coffee with this creamy, healthy and delicious Peppermint Hot Chocolate at least 1 day per week and I’m willing to bet you’ll find it warming and satisfying. I’ve even got my toddler drinking it by cooling it off with some almond milk and calling it a “candy cane hot chocolate.” Oh and I might have stuck a marshmallow or 2 on top of his drink just for good measure!

Peppermint Hot Chocolate
(makes enough for 2 big mugfuls)

cashew cream latte

1/4 cup raw organic cashews
1/4 cup hemp seeds
2 pitted medjool dates
1 tbsp. pure maple syrup (more or less depending on desired sweetness)
2 drops food-grade peppermint essential oil
2 heaping tbsp. of raw cacao powder
1-2 medium-sized chunks of cacao butter (approx. the size of a loonie)
2 capsules Ortho Adapt Vegan
2 capsules Vitamin C
4 cups of boiling water

Combine all ingredients in a high-powered blender and blend for 1 minute. Pour into big mugs and enjoy!

Potent Superfood Add-Ins For Your Smoothie

Green smoothies are a staple in my house and you can hear the whir of the Vitamix coming from the kitchen pretty much every single morning. And although at least one of the kids will inevitably complain bitterly, we all chug down our green goodness to kick-start the day.

The greens, veggies and fruits are the stars of the show but I also like to slip in some potent superfoods to get a bit more bang for my buck. These are definitely optional and some of them are down-right decadent judging by the price tag but if you have the inclination and the extra cash, you might want to try a few of my favourites:

SPIRALINA– This blue-green algae comes from the sea and is a superior source of protein. It’s a powder so it requires very little energy to digest and is amazingly rich in chlorophyll a phytochemical that comes straight from the sun’s energy. It also helps detoxify and nourish the blood and every cell of the body. Spiralina can add a bit of a fishy taste to your smoothie so start with a half a teaspoon in the beginning and amp up the honey or dates to cover the sea  flavor. It will also make your smoothie a brilliant green colour!

spirulina

CHLORELLA– I recently purchased Vega chlorella tablets to add to smoothies and for my son to take after particularly grueling soccer practices and matches. This green algae is roughly 65% protein and also contains all of the essential amino acids and tons of chlorophyll. According to nutritionist Kimberly Snyder, “it can be helpful in warding off energy slumps and thanks to its high protein content, it’s useful for active athletes.” Be warned though – a bottle containing 300 tablets set me back $70.

chlorella

CHIA SEEDS– I love chia seeds for their amazing amino acid profile and omega 3 essential fatty acids.  Just 2 tablespoon added to a smoothie contains five times the omega-3 content of a 1/4 cup serving of walnuts, twice the iron and magnesium of a cup of spinach, as much calcium as a half-cup of milk, as much potassium as a third of a banana and more than twice the fiber of a cup of oatmeal. And it’s loaded with antioxidants. One note though – if you are adding chia to your smoothie it’s best to drink it right away. The seeds swell over time and will make your smoothie thick and clumpy if you let it sit.

chia

SUNWARRIOR PROTEIN POWDER– I have tried several protein powders and this one is definitely my favourite. It’s not chalky or grainy, tastes pretty good and it’s easy to digest. This whole grain brown rice protein powder is 85% protein, soy-free, raw, sprouted, and vegan. It is naturally rich in vitamins and minerals and contains high amounts of antioxidants. It also contains other essential nutrients such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorous, iron, and potassium. But again – it’s not cheap at $65.99 a bag.

sun-warrior-protein

IRISH MOSS– I first learned about this superfood at a course with Meghan Telpner and I’ve been hooked ever since. Now brace yourself – it’s kind of a weird one but the health benefits are truly amazing. According to Meghan, this sea vegetable is “nature’s only plant-based source of thyroid hormones, is abundant in potassium which can significantly improve behavior and mental functioning and is also very helpful for fibromyalgia,  moodiness, agitation, depression and anxiety disorders. It is highly concentrated in iodine and abundant in selenium which is a necessary factor in thyroid hormone production and if that wasn’t enough Sea Moss contains Algin. This phytonutrient has magical therapeutic value as a heavy metal detoxifying agent- meaning it helps pull heavy metals out of the tissues of our bodies.  Additionally this food is a healing agent to all mucous membranes.” Wow! Irish Moss comes in a bag looking like a weed you might pull off the beach so follow this link to see how to prepare the moss before you add it to your smoothie- http://meghantelpner.com/blog/the-mystery-revealed-how-to-prepare-irish-moss-sea-moss/

irish moss

MSM POWDER – Raw food expert and author David Wolfe speaks passionately about the benefits of this naturally occurring form of dietary sulfur found in fresh raw foods that are involved in the cycle of rain. “MSM is deficient in foods grown in greenhouses or in foods grown through irrigation. MSM is volatile and destroyed by cooking. In the body, MSM builds collagen and maintains healthy joints. This is also why MSM increases flexibility, hastens recovery time from sore muscles, and is excellent for recovery from athletic injuries. Because of its collagen-building properties, MSM creates smooth skin, thick lustrous hair, and strong nails.” I love Omica Organics 100% Pure Plant MSM Crystals that are derived from natural wood pulp. And if I don’t put a scoop in my morning smoothie, I’ll stir a 1/2 teaspoon into a glass of water later in the day.

msm

FREEZE DRIED ACAI BERRY POWDER– this powder derived from the acai berry contains significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids which protect the heart and circulatory system while promoting tissue growth development. Acai’s high antioxidant content has been shown to slow down the effects of aging and prevent the development of certain cancers. I throw in 1 teaspoon as a potent antioxidant smoothie addition.

acai

 MACA– this root grows in some of the hardiest terrain in the world on top of the Peruvian mountains. Because it’s so durable, it is called an “adaptagen” which means it helps us cope and better manage stress. As a result, it can also boost our libido, improve hormonal balance, and stabilize our mood and energy. Remember – a little maca powder goes a long way so start with a 1/2 tsp in your smoothie and build up to 1/2 a tablespoon.

maca

These are just a few of the amazing superfoods that I keep stocked in my pantry and I’ll toss 1 or 2 into my smoothie each morning as the mood strikes me. I also love to add a tablespoon of coconut oil, a pinch of Celtic sea salt, a couple of Vitamin C capsules, a teaspoon of cinnamon and/or turmeric powder and 2 tablespoons of hemp seeds. Don’t feel like you need to rush out and buy a whole arsenal of new products – just try a few and experiment with adding them to your smoothie until you come up with a few new yummy and healthy drinks.

Happy blending!

Voiceover Canada Guest Post!

My agent and dear friend Roger King kindly agreed to let me guest post on his blog Voiceover Canada. Roger is the owner and head agent at PN Agency based in Toronto, Ontario- North America’s #1 source for non-union talent. I have had the pleasure of working with Roger for over 5 years and he is a first-class agent who has booked me on a ton of interesting voice over gigs.

roger king 3

Check out the post to get recipes for my favourite pre-recording snack and beverage. Even if you aren’t a voice actor, they are great for tossing in your briefcase, purse or travel bag on hectic days, work trips or long shifts at the office. They are healthy, tasty, satisfying and as an added bonus – your vocal chords will be loose and relaxed!

Thanks Roger!

Click here to read “Recipes for Recording”.