Garlicky Marinara Sauce with White Beans

I think it’s safe to say that most kids adore noodles. Pasta is number one in my house and a staple on the menu at least once a week. If your children are like mine they probably much prefer plain noodles to any fancy tomato or pesto sauces but that leaves a lot lacking in the nutrition department and I always feel bummed out if the kids make a meal of pasta with just butter and cheese.

Throw this sauce together in under an hour and the heavenly aroma of garlic and tomatoes will waft through your house…and trust me it tastes as good as it smells. Aside from my cooked-tomato-averse toddler, the kids really enjoyed this sauce on their pasta. And here’s an extra kid-friendly hint: if your children are opposed to chunks you can always pop the finished product into the blender to smooth it out.

In addition to a whack of veggies, this delicious dish also sneaks in a serving of protein-rich white beans that are barely undetectable in the sea of tomatoey goodness. Like most tomato sauces this one tastes even better the next day and it freezes well so you can save some for your next Italian feast.

You can use any noodle you choose but I served mine over rice fettuccine noodles with a side salad and a baguette for mopping up the extra sauce. Be sure to load up the table with napkins and let the noodle slurping begin!

Marinara Sauce with White Beans

spag sauce in bowl
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup water
¾ cup dry red wine
¼ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 cup navy beans, drained and rinsed
½ tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried crushed rosemary
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped
1 6 oz can tomato paste

Heat oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat. Add onion, mushroom, garlic, red pepper and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for approx. 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

spag sauce in pan

Remove bay leaves and blend if you want a smooth consistency (I always leave mine chunky).
Pour over cooked pasta of choice, top with vegan or regular parmesan and enjoy!

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!

 

Ruby Red Smoothie

I make a smoothie pretty much every single morning. Greens, banana, pineapple, superfood add-ins, frozen berries- blend and repeat. And although I know the ingredients are colourful and healthy – more often than not the resulting drink has more of a greeny-brownish hue. Not the most visually appealing (in fact the other day my youngest told me that his smoothie looked like diarrhea…..sigh)

My friend Lisa always says that the experience of eating (or drinking) begins with your eyes. And if that’s the case then perhaps a cup of poop coloured smoothie isn’t how my family wants to start their day. Fair enough. So I started tinkering with my smoothies to make them more eye catching.

I recently enjoyed a weekend away with a good pal and she gave me an awesome suggestion for a wonderful bright red vegetable that I’ve been overlooking in my smoothie recipes. This particular veggie has been proven to lower blood pressure, alleviate depression, boost stamina, fight inflammation, detox the body and is rich in vitamins and minerals. What magical ingredient did I find that not only makes my smoothie look beautifully ruby-red but also ups the health factor? Beets! These gorgeous and often unappreciated gems of the vegetable kingdom add brilliant redness and a subtle sweetness to a smoothie that is not at all overpowering.

beets

So kick those brown drinks to the curb and add a burst of colour to your next smoothie! And if you want to get extra fancy – try slicing a strawberry to pop on the side of the glass. Voila – beautiful and nutritious.

Ruby Red Smoothie

beet smoothie

4-6 cups packed spinach
1 banana
1 small beet (or 1/2 a medium beet)
1 2-inch ring of pineapple
1 -2 cups frozen strawberries (or raspberries)
Superfood add-ins (optional)

Place all ingredients in a high-powered blender and whir for 1 minute. Drink up the goodness!

Oh and one thing to keep in mind if you decide to add beets – you need to brace yourself because they will actually turn your poop just as red as your smoothie (believe it or not – this is actually a pretty effective selling feature for kids ; )

Unjunk Food

In many ways I would consider myself a hedonist. If you’re having a party – I’ll be there. If you want to stay up late talking or dancing or playing euchre until the wee hours, I’ll stick it out. If you are opening a bottle of wine- I’ll certainly have a glass. And if you want to order dessert – I’m always a sure bet to share with you. I love to have fun and making time to enjoy life is high up on my priority list.

When it comes time for a food treat, my pleasure-seeking brain will often gravitate towards something rich and sweet and junky. I consider myself a pretty good baker but sometimes nothing beats a pack of store-bought peanut butter cups, a handful of M & M’s or a Snickers bar. Every so often when I am checking out at the pharmacy or perusing the tabloids at the grocery store, I will give into temptation and throw a chocolate bar discretely in with my purchases. “Oh that’s just a treat for the kids” I’ll say to the cashier…. but we both know I’ll have that thing devoured before I even drive out of the parking lot.

junk food 3

Have you ever really looked at the ingredients on the wrappers of some of those decadent confections? There are some downright scary things like “partially hydrogenated oils, corn syrup, artificial colors, flavors, chemical preservatives and refined sugar” that I’m not so sure I should be regularly putting into my body or the bodies of my children.

Which is why I was downright giddy with excitement when I found out about Unreal Candy. Although it’s only available for sale in the United States right now (I’ve already petitioned them to come to Canada so send them an email or tweet if you want to help move things along), this stuff is definitely worth a run across the border! The company was started by a young boy named Nicky who was determined to create candy that tasted great without all of the artificial ingredients. After an extensive search, Nicky and his parents found a master chef in Spain who brought together a team of chefs from across Europe to take up the challenge.

They began their journey by deciding what they’d leave out of the reinvented candy: corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, and GMOs. They also set a goal to reduce sugar by 50% per serving… They decided that the key ingredients had to be responsibly sourced, thereby supporting farming communities and preventing the destruction of rainforests.  
In place of the junk, they added more of the good stuff, like more cacao, real caramel, and peanuts. They also added more protein and fiber from real food, so that each candy has a low glycemic index.

I have had the pleasure of sampling the Unreal creations and let me tell you – they are really really good! Candy coated chocolates, chocolate & caramel & nougat bars, peanut butter cups, chocolate & peanuts in a candy shell and chocolate & caramel & nougat & peanut bars. Absolutely delicious!

unreal

Now I know darn well that given the nature of these products, there are people who will say that this isn’t really a good alternative or a healthy choice. And I’ll admit that I admire those of you who can be content with a crispy apple or a single wafer of dark chocolate when a sweet craving hits – I am truly in awe of your will power. But I know that being realistic, this “unjunk” food is a much better choice for me and my family when it comes time for a treat. Which is why this girl will occasionally be enjoying some Unreal Candy…. and because the odd hit of chocolate will keep me on top of my late-night euchre game : )

One Step Forward

This winter has been kicking my butt! Well I guess more accurately it’s been kicking my children’s butts. The kids seem to be catching every darn bug going this year and we are just getting over round 2 of the stomach flu. Yuck!

sick kid

Those of you who are closest to me are well aware that nothing sets off my irrational worry like having a sick child. When one of my kids goes down with any kind of a virus or infection, my brain immediately starts spinning with the most morbid possibilities. Yes I know intellectually that worrying myself into a frenzy when my little guy barfs all over the floor is ridiculous when there are families dealing with seriously ill children- but my worry can be like a runaway train I sometimes can’t get control over.

After an especially anxiety-ridden holiday season (kids sick = mom worried sick), I decided this is the year that I am going to tackle my fears head on before they morph into something bigger and harder to manage. My first stop was with a friend who is also an Intuitive Counsellor. As I plunked myself down in front of her, I jokingly asked: “Ok so tell me the truth – was I a mom in a past life with 20 kids who all died of the plague?!” She had a good chuckle and then turned to me and said “You know what – you’re not far off.” Dammit- I knew it! ; )

Whether or not you believe in past lives, my session was focused way more on this lifetime and strategies that I can use to relax and be more peaceful and helpful when my children aren’t feeling well. Aside from giving me some practical visualization and breathing exercises to keep myself grounded, she also suggested that once I have sufficiently calmed myself down, I simply focus on one thing that I can do to improve the current situation.

Just breathe, get calm and ask myself “What ONE small step forward can I take in this present moment?”

I thought this was genius advice because I am famous for trying to micro-manage my family’s health. When someone is sick – my mind starts racing with a million things that I should have done or could do better or should  be doing right now. Frankly it’s exhausting!

one step forward 2

So how did I this use strategy as we wrap up our latest family puke-a-palooza? Well, I caught myself whenever I was on the brink of a freak-out and I remembered to breathe and clear my mind. And each and every time, I simply took one step forward:

– I sprayed all of our door handles with non-toxic disinfectant (I cannot live without my Benefect)

– I apologized to my daughter for acting like a crazy person and explained that I had been overcome with worry and I was working on controlling my irrational fears (this was also a great opportunity to teach her that parents make lots of mistakes and why it’s important to own up to them, learn from them and move forward)

– I opened up to a good friend and let her talk me into getting out of the house for a fun night of socializing (and perhaps a few glasses of vino)

– I washed everyone’s bedding and threw open the windows for 20 minutes (heck yes- right in the middle of a freakin’ polar vortex!)

– I quietly sat and visualized each of my children being happy and radiating vibrant health

– I stocked up on Vitamin D drops and extra Vitamin C

And I felt better. Yes I still worried but by the time my oldest son went down for the count – I was actually quite calm about the whole thing. I’m not suggesting that I’ve got this thing beat but I am slowly inching my way forward towards being calmer and less reactive when illness strikes my household.

I’m certainly a work in progress but I do know that simply stopping, taking a deep breath and deciding on one positive and helpful action has already made a big difference in how I’m feeling. Now- my next step forward is convincing my husband to take us all away on a warm sunny beach vacation! Wish me luck!

Kids Cook Night #1

Sometimes I get a tad resentful of all of the things I do for my family that they seemingly take completely for granted. Do you ever feel that way? Grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, planning, and on and on. It can really get me down. Yes the kids are responsible for their bedrooms and for a few other small chores around the house but the bulk of the work is really done by my husband and myself.

Instead of complaining and whining (tactics I’ve definitely tried in the past), I decided I would do something about it and thus “Kids Cook” night was born! We chatted about it as a family and the kids were actually quite excited to give it a try. The deal was that they come up with the menu (I would grocery shop for their items) and then they had to prepare it all and clean up the kitchen afterwards. We agreed that 1 night per week was their turn to be set loose in the kitchen.

Since my children are 11, 9 and 2, the older two are quite capable of reading recipes, prepping and chopping food and working around the stove- and the toddler is super helpful if you are looking for someone to taste test while sitting on the table and/or make a huge mess ; )

kids can cook 3

On night #1 their menu was as follows:

Nachos and Cheese
Guacamole
Spanish Rice
Edamame

Not too shabby and since most of the items would work on my cleanse I was quite excited to see it all come together. When their night rolled around my daughter got right to work on the Spanish Rice. She totally rocked at following the recipe and she even chopped the onion by herself- while sporting a snazzy pair of her dad’s safety goggles to protect her eyes. She enlisted the help of her little brother when it came time to make the guacamole because she knew he would be a good avocado musher and he was only too pleased to sample the dip as she adjusted the seasonings. My older son got busy steaming edamame and grating cheese for the nachos and was happy to learn how to work the broiler in the oven to get the cheese perfectly melted. They all set the table and were thrilled to bits to sit down to a meal of their own creation.

kids can cook 2

And guess what? It was really good! We gobbled it down and enjoyed every bite (I skipped the cheese because of the cleanse but everything else was yummy). I was quite sure I was going to get some serious push back when it came time to clean but they stepped right up and even swept the floor after the dishes were all washed. It was fantastic!

kids can cook 1

So Kids Cook night was a resounding success. I can hardly wait to see what they come up with next week! Now if I can just get them doing the laundry I’ll be all set…..

Nachos & Cheese

1 bag of tortilla chips (preferably an organic corn variety)
1 small block of medium cheddar (I like L’Ancetre brand)

Turn on the broiler in the oven. Dump the bag of chips onto a cookie sheet. Grate cheese and sprinkle over top. Pop in the oven and broil for 5 min or until cheese is melted.

Izzy’s Guacamole is posted here.

Steam frozen organic Edamame according to package directions.

Spanish Rice

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, diced
1 cup long grain rice
1 3/4 cups water
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp sea salt
1/3 tsp black pepper

Heat oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook approx. 3 minutes until soft and just starting to turn translucent. Add garlic and carrot and cook for 2 more minutes. Pour in rice and stir to coat. Add water, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, stir once and reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer for approx. 17 minutes until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let sit covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve. Enjoy!

***Cleanse Update: Day # 10 and I’m almost halfway there! I feel clear-headed, strong and confident that I can see this cleanse through to the end. I have noticed a slight dip in my energy after dinner the last couple of days so I’m going to up my water consumption around that time and see if it makes a difference. I had a crazy sugar craving on Day 9 so I whipped up an impromptu “almond milk shake” that totally hit the spot. I just threw some homemade almond milk, a handful of strawberries, a frozen banana, a few dates and some ice in my vitamixer and slurped up the sweet creamy goodness. I’ll post the exact recipe soon.

milkshake 1

Swanky Dinner Party Part 2 – Caesar Salad with Vegan Dressing and Homemade Croutons

The second course at our “oh-so-fancy” vegan dinner party was a throw back to a classic. Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned Caesar Salad? Crispy romaine leaves, creamy dressing, strips of bacon and hunks of toasted bread. Delicious!

Unfortunately as a vegan, this particular salad doesn’t exactly fit the bill. So it was the perfect challenge for our dinner party – a dish that was guaranteed to be loved by all if only I could closely replicate the original. And by George I did it!

caesar done

The very best part of this salad had to be the croutons. They are easy to make and so yummy that I may never buy the store-bought variety again. We made ours with a sourdough loaf but you could use your favourite gluten-free bread to make the salad completely GF. The kids were eating these croutons straight off the tray as they came out of the oven…and I may have snuck one or two myself.

The dressing is also a winner. It was a snap to whip up in the blender and it was made mainly with raw nuts, olive oil, lemon juice and capers. A word of warning though – I put 3 whole cloves of garlic in this sauce and the kids found it way too tangy. So feel free to reduce to one clove to make it more family friendly.

After our spring rolls and a cold glass of Prosecco, this salad was the perfect second course. It would also make a great lunch and the dressing would work amazing on other green salads, drizzled over tomato slices or simply set out as a veggie dip. Give it a whirl and see if you like it as well as the classic!

Homemade Vegan Caesar Dressing
Juice from 1 lemon
1/2 tsp agave nectar
1/4 cup raw cashews
1/8 cup raw pine nuts
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1-3 medium cloves of garlic
1 tsp mild miso paste
1 tbsp capers, drained
1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 cup water
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

caesar dressing

Combine all ingredients in the blender and whir until smooth.

Sourdough Croutons
1/2 loaf of sourdough bread (or GF bread of choice)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt

caesar croutons

Preheat oven to 400. Cut bread into slices and then into cubes. Put the bread cubes in a large bowl and toss with oil and salt. Spread onto a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 10 minutes, tossing once or twice.

Toss with chopped romaine lettuce leaves. Enjoy!