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!

 

Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes with My Daughter

My daughter came home from school the other day with tears in her eyes. The sting of not being included in a much anticipated play-date with a good friend was almost more than she could bear and she flopped on the sofa and covered her head with her hands. I’ll admit that I was tempted to ply her with reassurances like “you can invite someone else over to our house” or “I’m sure you’ll be invited next time” or “you’ll be fine” but instead I just gave her a moment to wallow in her sadness.

sad girl

I am following the author Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook (Eat, Pray, Love & The Signature of All Things) and she recently posted a wonderful article about accepting negative feelings. She was specifically focusing on betrayal but her thoughts are relevant to any difficult emotions. She discusses her initial desire to convince herself to simply buck up and LET GO of negativity but then she offers a different approach:

“But what I’ve been trying to do lately   — whenever I experience feelings of sadness, anger, resentment — is to just say to myself this word: “Freedom.”  I will say to myself, “Freedom to feel anger,” and just let it be anger. I will say, “Freedom to feel sorrow,” and just let the sorrow be. “I will say, “Freedom to regret,” and let the regret run its course. And ultimately, I will say, “FREEDOM TO PROCESS,” and just accept that all these difficult feelings are part of the natural human process for handling complicated emotional encounters.

When I allow myself that freedom to just feel whatever I am feeling, the walls of the cage seem to fall away. I still experience the anger, the sadness, the regret — but if I keep repeating, “Freedom to feel…Freedom to process…” it all seems to pass more quickly, and Judging Liz doesn’t escalate the whole situation into something worse, which is World War III inside my brain. 

In other words, I am learning to let things go by just letting myself be a normal human being — not by beating myself over the head anymore with the message that YOU HAVE TO LET IT GO, DAMNIT!!!!!  And somehow, curiously, that lets it go…” Elizabeth Gilbert

So what was a mom to do? After giving her a respectful amount of time to deal with her feelings I asked my daughter if she’d like to join me in the kitchen for some cupcake making. And no I don’t believe in soothing every wound with sweets but on this particular day I thought the time spent in the kitchen would remind her of how much fun she could occasionally have with her boring old mother.

And you know what? I no time at all we were giggling and stirring and commiserating about how annoying it is to bake when a 3-year-old pulls his chair up to the island and offers to “help” out. I stepped out of the way and let her do all of the work (including making a giant mess filling the cupcake tray) and I could see how proud she was of herself when I pulled the finished cakes out of the oven.

I guess my point in sharing this with you is twofold: first of all – remember to allow yourself and your children the time and space to feel and accept a whole range of emotions without always stepping in to rescue or reassure. And second – never underestimate the power of a good cupcake!

Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes

cupcakes

2 cups flour (regular or gluten-free)* if using GF flour – add 1 tsp xanthum gum
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup of organic sugar
1 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup safflower oil
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
Icing and sprinkles of choice (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients and stir to combine. Blend with a stand mixer or hand mixer on low until combined and then on medium for 1-2 minutes until lumps disappear – scraping sides often with a spatula.

Line 12 muffin tins with paper cupcake liners. Fill liners with batter until 2/3 full. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the pan and then remove and top with icing of choice. (Easy icing recipe: 1/3 cup organic butter or vegan margarine melted combined with 3  cups powdered sugar and 4-5 tbsp. water).

Enjoy!

Anzac Biscuits

After my first son was born, a sweet friend generously brought over dinner to help us out during that crazy time. To be honest, I can’t even remember what she made for the main course (my family will attest to the fact that I was a complete basket-case for a good 2-3 weeks after he was born) but even through my postpartum haze, I can still remember the cookies that accompanied that meal. They were sweet, chewy and totally amazing and I am fairly sure I ate every single one of them. My girlfriend told me they were called “Anzac Biscuits” and that they were simple to make and always a crowd pleaser. I just had to get the recipe!

I have since learned that Anzac Biscuits hail from Australia and New Zealand and were originally baked by women to be sent to their husbands and sons who were fighting overseas during World War I. The ingredients were readily available and affordable at the time and they weren’t prone to spoiling which was important since it could take up to a month for the cookies to reach the troops.

From what I’ve uncovered online, these humble cookies have come a long way since war days and are now popular all over the world for their delicate chewiness and buttery goodness. My whole family loves these little gems and I highly recommend them for school lunch boxes, after dinner dessert or with your mid-afternoon tea. Or might I suggest that you whip up a batch for a brand new mom? You never know – they just might get her over the hump of those first difficult days with a newborn. They certainly helped me!

Anzac Biscuits

anzac 1

1 cup all-purpose flour (or 1 cup of Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free AP Baking Flour + 1 tsp xanthum gum)
1 cup regular oats
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup Earth Balance or Organic Butter, melted
3 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. golden cane syrup

Preheat oven to 325.
Combine flour, oats, sugar, coconut and baking soda and stir well. Add butter, water and syrup and stir again.
Drop spoonfuls at least 2 inches apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.
Bake at 325 for 12 minutes or until cookies are almost set (they should still be a bit gooey). Remove from oven and cool.
Enjoy!

anzac 2