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!

 

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Warming Minestrone Soup & 10 Things I Love About Winter

I pride myself in being a hearty Canadian girl and as such I usually embrace the winter and truly enjoy the snow and seasonal outdoor activities. But I’ve got to admit that this frigidly cold weather is really starting to get me down. Thankfully a good friend reminded me yesterday that the days are slowly getting a bit longer and slightly warmer temperatures are in the forecast (not to mention that American Idol is starting again next week!) so things are definitely looking up.

winter cartoon

In an effort to remind myself of the positive things about this season, I made a list of a few things that I love about cold Canadian winters:

1. Snuggling up under a blanket in front of a crackling fire (even better with a glass of red wine in hand)

2. Making excellent use of my weather station by checking it 100 times a day just hoping I’m reading the temperature incorrectly (that can’t really be -23 C???)

3. Having a legitimate excuse for staying inside all day in my pj’s watching movies (the weatherman said exposed skin would freeze in 5 minutes for heaven’s sake!)

4. Snow days (bet those warm tanned Floridians never get to experience these special family days. Suckers!)

5. Hot chocolate, hot coffee, hot tea and Hot Toddy’s. Mmmmmmmm……..

6. Building snowmen in the front yard, tobogganing down frosty hills, building snow forts and skating on backyard rinks

rink

7. No dog poop to scoop- each new layer of snow just covers it all up. Booyah!

8. Sculpting toned arms by scraping layers of snow and ice off of my car (not to mention the killer leg muscles from navigating the icy sidewalks)

9. Not having to worry about doing anything with my hair since it will just be stuffed underneath a toque all day (same goes for clothing- I could be wearing my jammies under my coat and no one would ever know : )

10. Relaxing with my family and enjoying hot and comforting foods like this soup:

Minestrone Soup (vegan)

minestrone

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried turmeric
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
Pinch allspice
1 tsp sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz can of chick peas
1 15 oz can of navy beans
4 cups of vegetable broth
2 cups of water
2 bay leaves
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen green beans (broken into smaller pieces)
1 cup dried pasta (I used little tubes called Ditali Rigati but any small regular or gluten-free pasta will work)

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large soup pot. Toss in onion, garlic, carrots, celery and spices and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 4-6 minutes until veggies are starting to soften.

Add in tomatoes, beans, broth, water and bay leaves. Stir and heat to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add corn, green beans and pasta and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until pasta is al dente (almost cooked). Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

I hope you are finding ways to enjoy the weather wherever you live. And perhaps if you are reading this while relaxing in a warmer climate you would send along some positive vibes to us Canadian folks who are currently freezing our freakin’ butts off!

Dinner Table Mix Up

I’ll admit I have been sorely uninspired when it comes to cooking lately (sorry about the lack of recent recipes) but I promise I’ll get my kitchen mojo back on once the fall weather hits, the kids are off to school and I get reacquainted with my kitchen.

In the meantime, I have been thoroughly enjoying my final week of summer holidays with the kids. We tried out a fun/interesting/slightly harsh family exercise the other night at dinner that I thought I share with you. If you are open to some real honest-to-goodness feedback about your parenting style and/or your personality – you can give it a try and see how it goes!

family dinner table

It’s very simple – all you do is mix-up your regular seating arrangement at the dinner table and then assume the identity of the person who normally sits in that seat. You can also do this if it’s just you and a partner by simply switching chairs. When we tried it out my husband was me, the toddler was my 9-year-old daughter, my daughter was the toddler, I was my 12-year-old son and the 12-year-old was my husband. Instead of setting any ground rules, we just decided to go with the flow and see where the experiment took us and it was quite funny and very enlightening.

Although I’ll bet you think you have a pretty good idea of how you act towards others, it’s most interesting to see how you come across from someone else’s perspective. Personally, I think my hubby was being a little too over-the-top as me….I mean am I really such a money spending, veggie pushing, overly enthusiastic, self-improvement junkie? (note to self: tone it down already!)

This can also be very helpful if you are experiencing any challenges within your family dynamic. Because you are all role-playing, it provides a fun and safe environment for your children to express things that may be bothering them. For example, in the course of our mixed up dinner, my daughter was able to share her feeling that my husband and I dote on the toddler and that we are always on his side. It’s not always easy to hear these things but it helped us gain a better understanding of something that was hurting her- and perhaps causing her to act out against her little brother.

I encourage you to mix-it up at your next family dinner and please share your experience in the comments below. My kids had so much fun that they’ve asked to do it twice more and each time we take on the role of someone different. If you are doing this with children, I would suggest you remind them not to make any personal attacks – keep the tone as positive as you can. And have fun with it! It’s refreshing to try on someone else’s role for a change and I’m betting you’ll learn something about yourself in the process.

10 Suggestions for Savouring The Summer

We are just over mid-way through our summer break here in Ontario and I know it sounds cliché but time really is flying by. I treasure this time at home with the kids and we’ve been enjoying a good mix of lazy days by the pool, playdates and fun family getaways (of course punctuated by a few “I’m bored’s”, toddler freak-outs and overblown sibling fights just so I don’t get too comfortable ; )

I’m planning to make the most of this last month and to be in the moment as much as possible. Trust me, this is no easy feat for a worrier like me (I’m already fretting about the fall) but I don’t want the time to disappear without savoring these long warm summer days. So for inspiration as the glorious month of August stretches out in front of us, I thought I’d share a few things that have made this summer pretty darn good so far:

1. Darien Lake– I have been vacationing at Darien Lake since I was a little girl and I still get wildly excited as our yearly summer stay draws near. It’s loud, crazy, cheesy and tacky and I enjoy every minute of it! There is nothing like a couple of days at an amusement park to make you feel 10-years old again and I love watching the kids whooping and screaming on the roller coasters and thrilling rides. And what set’s DL apart from other theme parks? A few things – a cool variety of on-site accommodations that allow you to chill in your own space, walk to the park and have a roaring camp fire at night , a wicked laser/water/music show each evening with fire works and my husbands favourite part – you can walk around the park with a cold beer in hand! Fun, fun, fun!

darien lake

2. Food Bloggers – despite my well-intentioned attempts at recipe creation, I wouldn’t actually consider myself a natural cook. And because summertime is more unstructured and easy going, I just haven’t felt inspired to whip up many new dishes and so I’ve been loving getting amazing ideas from other food bloggers. I mean seriously – some of these people are really freakin’ talented! And the food combinations and dishes that they dream up and then photograph beautifully are amazing. Check out some of my favs: Healthy. Happy. Life., Oh She Glows, Chelsea’s Healthy Kitchen, Honk if You’re Vegan, Jaclyn Desforges and Live Blissful.

health_happy_life_logo-800

3. Green Beaver Sunscreen– As a society we’ve been taught to  avoid the sun which helps our bodies naturally produce Vitamin D and  instead slather on chemical-laden lotions in hopes of reducing one type of  cancer (skin) that’s not commonly fatal. As a result, North Americans are now vitamin D deficient, which can lead to a multitude of health problems. According to the Environmental Working Group, allowing our skin 20 minutes of direct sun exposure is generally a safe practice and beyond that we should cover up, stay in the shade and eschew traditional sunscreens with questionable toxic ingredients and instead opt for “physical” sunblocks that use zinc oxide or titanium oxide as a base. In my family, we love Green Beaver brand the best.

green beaver

4. Coconut Water Lemonade– wanna stay hydrated in the summer heat? Whip up this drink in your blender to quench your thirst. It’s sour, sweet and delicious and even the kids loved it. I might also add that I slipped a shot of gin into my own glass from my latest batch and it made a lovely summer cocktail.
2 cups of coconut water, 2 cups of regular water, the juice of 4 lemons, 6 tsp of powdered stevia, a dash of sea salt and a tray of ice cubes. (1 shot of gin optional)

lemonade 2

5. Kindle App for Iphone and a few awesome reads– Thanks to a great tip from my sister, I am absolutely loving the Kindle App on my iPhone. I don’t even own a Kindle but this app allows me to buy books from the Kindle store on Amazon and then read them on my iPhone or iPad. We are smack dab in the middle of a rough sleeping patch for my little man (no napping, no more soothers, night terrors, yeesh!) so it’s super handy to have a book that I can read in the dark (the iPhone is backlit) and I’ve read some fantastic novels in the last few weeks. If you want a good read – check out The Middlesteins, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Me Before You, This Is Where I Leave You and Defending Jacob.

me before you

6. Jim Gaffigan – Mr. Universe– I was sorely in need of a good laugh recently and my husband suggested a stand-up comedy show on Netflix. We stumbled upon Jim Gaffigan’s show Mr. Universe and we honestly laughed our heads off from start to finish. He speaks to parenthood, working out, junk food and many other everyday topics in such a witty and hilarious way – it’s a must see! Check out a little clip below to get a taste of his style (email subscribers – go to www.lorileighwilson.com to view the video)

7. Traumeel, Arnica Gel and Lavender Essential Oil – summer always seems to come with a fair share of bumps, bruises, bites and tears and l like to have something on hand to ease the pain and/or the itch. I have been using the homeopathic cream “Traumeel” since my oldest was a toddler and it works so well on sore spots that we call it “magic cream”. I also love soothing Arnica Gel for bumps and bruises and a couple of drops of lavender oil on a cotton pad works wonders to remove the itch from nasty mosquito bites.

traumeel

8. Avocado Oil Potato Chips – friends popping by for a little visit at the last minute? No problem! I always keep a chilled bottle of Prosecco in the fridge and a few bags of Avocado Oil potato chips on hand to satisfy the munchies. Although these babies are far from healthy, they are a healthier option when it comes to chips and taste amazing!

avocado oil chips

9. Despicable Me 2– I have to admit that I’ve been to the movie theater to see this particular animated gem twice now and I enjoyed it both times. Even my 12-year-old found it funny and the 3-year-old sat through it without making a peep. I absolutely love the new character Lucy voiced by the hilarious Kristin Wiig and the kids got a real kick out of the crazy antics of the Minions. A great family outing for a rainy day.

despicable me

10. SloPro App– thanks to a great tip from SavvyMom, we are addicted to the free SloPro app on my iPhone that takes any video and turns it into a slow motion clip. Suddenly, cannonballs and cartwheels are much more entertaining when they are slowed down and we can laugh at each and every detail (including how funny and deep voices sound when they are slowed way down.)

slopro

I hope your August is filled with lots of family time, vacations and wonderful memories! And don’t forget to put down the camera, take a few deep breaths and enjoy the moment.

How do you savour the summer?

Week #1 Family Learning Report – Laughter & Fun

fun

We kicked off our first Summer Learning week with Laughter & Fun as the topic to set the tone for an enjoyable summer break. We brainstormed some ideas as a family and this is what we came up with:

– See a funny movie (Despicable Me 2 was hilarious!)
– Water balloon fight (we blew up 20 but the toddler smashed them all before we could have a proper battle. We’ll try again soon)
– Pull off a prank (this one is still in the works….)
– Dance Party (we shook our booties in the living room to Macklemore, The Black Eyed Peas and Robin Thicke)
– Sleep outside in the tent (too hot but planned for this week if it cools down)
– Learn some good clean jokes (Why did the spider cross the road? To get to his web site!)

Although we didn’t hit everything on our list, we did have a mostly enjoyable week as the kids and I settled in to our new routine of spending a lot more time together (translation: the first few days were frustrating and challenging dealing with the incessant fighting. Arghhh!)
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Summer Family Fun & Learning

Over the years as I’ve learned, read and taken courses on a variety of wellness related topics, I have often thought about how much I would love bring my children along to these classes or find age-appropriate ways to impart the valuable information I’ve received. I believe in general kids are much more open-minded when it comes to learning new things and although I appreciate the education they are getting at school, it would be awesome if they could also take courses in subjects like mindfulness, kindness, manifesting, self-acceptance, gratitude and health eating.

meditation

Since no such program exists in my area (although my friend Leslie is working on something for the fall- woohoo!), I decided that I would take it upon myself to dream up a fun learning experience to undertake with my kids during some of my time with them this summer. I know, I know – “no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks!” I’ve already promised them that this won’t be like school and we will still have lots of time for chillin’ by the pool, playing crazy 8’s and hanging with friends. I’ll only list a theme for the week and together we will brainstorm ideas for a couple of things we can do to explore that topic (and yes, I am prepared for some sighing and eye rolling as we get started).
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Chocolate Fondue Fun

We recently had our good friends and their 4 children stay with us for the weekend. There were 11 of us in total and I really wanted to cook a homemade meal for everyone to enjoy. Coming up with a delicious plant-based dinner to please the entire crowd took some serious thinking and planning – but the dessert was an absolute no-brainer. It had to be chocolate fondue!

corbin

Doesn’t that adorable face just say it all?! I guarantee you this dessert will elicit loads of giggles, squeals of delight and gobs of chocolate on hands, clothes, the floor and all over faces. What fun! And hey – everyone will be eating a ton of fruit and soaking in antioxidants from the chocolate. It’s win-win.

You can get fancy and purchase a proper chocolate fondue set but I just melt my chocolate in a saucepan and then transfer it to a bowl, put it in the middle of a fruit platter, hand out some forks or wooden skewers and let the good times begin.

7 children and 4 adults – CHAOS. Lifeguarding the kids in the pool – STRESSFUL. Trying to reminisce about university days over the cacophony – TRICKY. Losing a euchre tournament to the guys yet again – FRUSTRATING. Sipping wine and watching chocolate drip down our smiling kid’s faces- PRICELESS.

Chocolate Fondue

fondue 6

1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips (vegan or regular)
1 tsp coconut oil
2 bananas, chopped
1 container or strawberries, washed and stems removed
1/4 pineapple, cut into chunks
3 apples, sliced
Optional: marshmallows, plain cookies or cake cut into cubes, pretzels, orange slices, grapes, kiwi – or anything you love dipped in chocolate!

Cut up fruit and other dipping items and lay them out on a large tray or platter.
Melt chocolate and coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently.
Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Place in the middle of the fruit tray.
Hand out skewers or forks and enjoy!