Mexican Quinoa Salad with Bonus Wrap *(Re-Blog From Aug. 2014)

It’s not easy when a member of your family announces that they are radically changing the way they eat. I was in my mid-30’s when I embarked on a plant-based diet and this threw a real curveball at my meat-and-potato loving parents. Although I had long since moved away from home and started my own family – it still meant that every holiday and visit became a head-scratcher when trying to prepare a menu that would appeal to everyone. Thanksgiving and Christmas with no turkey?! Easter with no ham?! A BBQ with no burgers?! Holy crap!

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I must admit that we’ve had more than a few heated “discussions” over the years about being flexible and open to trying new things. And there was also the inevitable questioning of the health benefits of a diet with no animal products.“You mean you aren’t giving your kids milk? How will they get strong bones?” “How will your family get enough protein?” “What the hell is quinoa?” and “Why do you have to be such a pain in the ass Lori?” All valid questions.

In the beginning I stood up on my soapbox and was overly eager to share all of the wonderful information I was learning about my new diet. I told them about the fact that there is actually more digestible protein in leafy greens and legumes than in meat (not to mention the animal cruelty associated with the meat industry). And that chickpeas and sesame seeds are much richer sources of protein than dairy. And that milk has been definitively linked to cancer. AND I made my entire family watch Forks Over Knives over one Christmas holiday (yes I was insufferable).

Nowadays, I’ve learned to shut my mouth more often and to be appreciative of how far we’ve come in incorporating more plant-based foods into all of our diets. But I’ve gotta give credit especially to my mom for really giving vegetarian cooking a college try. My family recently spent a few days at my parent’s home and I was totally delighted when she announced that she would be making Zesty Quinoa and Black Bean Wraps for dinner. She’s come a very long way from the woman who once told me she would never eat a vegetarian diet because there just wasn’t enough variety.

This recipe evolved from that wrap – which was delicious by the way (my son even turned down cheese pizza to gobble up a second helping). It’s simple to prepare and packed with protein, fresh veggies, herbs and spices. It just might be the best salad I’ve ever made! And as a special bonus, I turned the leftovers into a grilled wrap the next day that rivals the gourmet quinoa wrap sold by a very well-known coffee chain.

So if someone in your life announces that they are suddenly going to eat a different way – be it gluten-free or paleo or vegan or flexitarian…..be patient with them. When they come down off of their high horse – they just might make you something yummy to eat.

Mexican Quinoa Salad (with Bonus Wrap)

mexican quinoa 1

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pepper (any colour) diced
2 ears of corn- cooked, cooled and cut off of the cob
1 pint cherry tomatoes, diced
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, diced
Juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook quinoa according to package directions. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, corn, garlic, pepper, tomatoes, cilantro and avocado. Squeeze the lime juice over top. Pour on the olive oil and toss to coat. Add red pepper flakes, cumin, chili powder and salt and pepper and toss again. Enjoy!

*Bonus Wrap*

mexican quinoa 2

2 whole wheat or gluten-free wraps of choice
1/2 cup grated regular or vegan cheddar cheese
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups Mexican Quinoa Salad (above)

Heat a frying pan with olive oil over medium heat. Lay wraps on a flat surface and put a line of quinoa salad down the middle of each. Top with cheese. Fold in both ends of the wraps and roll together. Place the wrap in the frying pan and grill on both sides. Remove from heat after both sides are gold brown (approx. 3 minutes per side) and let cool for a few minutes. Slice and serve. (You could also use a Panini maker in place of the frying pan to make life easier).

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Brilliant! (And Humble Too….)

Happy Spring! Thankfully the snow is finally melting here in Southern Ontario and we are enjoying temperatures above freezing for the first time in months.

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I am going to spend some time over the next little while really focusing on my cooking workshops and on a few writing projects that I have lined up but I also want to keep my blog “springing” forward (sorry…couldn’t resist the pun). So instead of hastily throwing together new posts, I thought I’d dig through my archives and re-blog a few oldies but goodies.

As I was going through my blog history it suddenly occurred to me that I’ve really got some freakin’ good content in there! My writing brilliance is truly one of my best qualities…right next to my modesty ; ) So please bear with me as I re-post some of my favourite recipes and ruminations over the next few weeks.

This is also a great opportunity for any of you aspiring writers to step up with a guest blog – I’m always happy to feature interesting new content. And if you live nearby and want to stay in touch – why don’t you come to my kitchen for an upcoming workshop? I’m throwing an All-Natural Kitchen Spa Party on April 12th and a Liquid Nutrition Workshop on May 31st. You can contact me directly at loriandmark@cogeco.ca for more information.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the throw-back posts as much as I do. It was fun to sift through and pick out a few of my personal favourites. Ok… so they might not be totally brilliant but I’m hoping some of them will at least put a little spring in your step ; )

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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!

 

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.” 

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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.

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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!