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!

 

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.