AVOCADO LIME ICE POPS

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I succumbed to a food fad, you guys. I hopped on the popsicle/ice pop/just-about-anything-frozen-on-a-stick bandwagon, and with gusto. Why? Because, avocado, that’s why.

There are just so many things to love about this perfect fruit. First of all, it tastes amazing, we all know that! But did you know it’s a source of HDL cholesterol – the good kind – that lowers the bad kind, LDL cholesterol, making it a fantastic food to eat for those with hypoglycemia and diabetes. It’s also known to be high in antioxidants, essential fatty acids, potassium, vitamin B9 and folic acid. In this recipe, the lime cuts the creaminess of the avocado for a lighter, more citrus taste making it all the more refreshing, helping you beat the summertime heat. And by using a refined white sugar substitute like coconut palm sugar, you’re looking at a low-glycemic index alternative that is higher in vital phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals {meaning it still contains some nutrients, whereas white sugar has zilch}. Other sweeteners to try that are low on the glycemic index are sucanat, raw honey, agave, and maple syrup.

Call me crazy but I also added a handful of kale. Initially this was only to enhance the once green, booger-like colour of the mixture but this also upped the nutritional value. I know what you’re thinking… “but will I be able to taste it?” and my answer to this is, yes and no. For all of you kale connoisseurs out there, you likely will not be able to taste it as, if like me, you add it to almost every smoothie, side dish, and salad. For those who don’t use it as much, don’t fret, it is not overpowering in the slightest. I recently watched a TED talk from one of my favourite healthy food bloggers, Sarah Britton {you may know her as My New Roots}. She speaks on making one change in the kitchen, to change your entire life; and after watching, I couldn’t agree more. So go on, add a handful of greens to your already healthy recipe!

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“With every bite of food we take, we are voting for the way we will look, the way we will think, and of course, the way we will feel. Our food becomes us.”

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Summer is truly the best season to eat avocado. Of course, they’re not local to Canada however, it’s still possible to buy them organic. When it comes to the local vs. organic debate, I often say both is best, but this is not always possible. Last week, I had the pleasure of chatting with culinary nutritionist, Marni Wasserman, who explains “when you have to make the choice between local non-organic or organic from across the world, it may be in your best interest to choose local. When food travels long distances, it loses its enzymes, nutrients, and life force, so you’re left with an organic strawberry from South America that may have ripened on a truck, train, or plane. This means that unnatural gases and methods have been used to artificially stimulate the growth process.” With that said, we just need to do the best we can to make healthful choices when it comes to our food. In this case, the organic avocado from Mexico will do the trick.

Should you find yourself with some leftover avo lingering on the brink of their one-day-too-late state of edibility, what do you do? Make guacamole, of course! Be sure to check out Marni’s new book Plant-Based Diet for Dummies for the most summerlicious Sweet Pea Guacamole recipe. To.Die.For.

The Ingredients {Yield: 6 ice pops Total Time: 5 hours}

  • 2 small ripe avocados
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1/3 cup coconut palm sugar
  • pinch of salt

The Directions

1. Combine water and sugar in small saucepan and cook over med-high heat, stirring until mixture comes to a boil. Let cool to room temperature

2. While mixture cools, cut avocados in half, lengthwise. Remove pits and scoop flesh into a blender or food processor, along with cooled syrup and salt

3. Blend until smooth, scraping sides when needed. Add lime juice and blend until combined

4. Divide mixture among the molds. Snap on lid, and freeze until solid, about 5 hours. If using unconventional molds, freeze until pops begin to set {approx. half hour}, insert sticks, and freeze until solid

*Recipe adapted from Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Iced & Aguas Frescas

DIY WINDOWSILL HERB GARDEN

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Over the years, my {very talented} friend Ned and I have recognized and bonded over our many similarities, from photography and foraging, to travel and hiking. However, our lives couldn’t be further from similar at the moment; with me living in the heart of the city and him in a small town surrounded by wilderness. With that in mind, we decided to collaborate, creating a DIY fit for foodies in the city and health seekers in small towns alike.

We both agree that nothing beats fresh herbs and garnishes, especially those grown right at home that can be picked on a whim. Though many are still under the impression that eating “healthy” tastes bland but this is simply not true. Not when you have contenders like basil, oregano, cumin, parsley, rosemary and lavender… to name a few. All unique in their own way, they truly make dishes come to life and are also full of nutrients and enzymes.

I have this dream where I will one day be able to tend to a full garden in the backyard but in the meantime, a windowsill herb garden in my city apartment will do just fine.

You Will Need…

  • worn wood block, as thin as possible
  • small spikes {ex. chopsticks}
  • chop saw, jigsaw, or handsaw to chop blocks
  • drill & bit the size of the small spike
  • dremel with light sanding wheel
  • hot glue gun
  • paint
  • french onion soup bowls
  • rocks and potting soil
  • seeds of your choice
  • a loving attitude

What To Do…

1. Gather all equipment and pieces

2. Chop the 1.5 cm blocks for labels

3. Using the dremel, sand the edges of the block, leaving a bit of age on the wood

4. Drill holes in bottom of the block

5. Use the hot glue gun to fill drill holes and stick spike into place

6. Paint herb name on the block

7. Put a handful of rocks at bottom of each planter {aka french onion soup bowls} to allow for water to sit in case of over watering

8. Topsoil too

9. Add seeds

10. Watch them grow!

PS. Be sure to check out more of Ned’s amazing work, here

“COOKIE DOUGH” PROTEIN BITES

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Maybe it’s just me, but I find that summer brings more opportunity for spontaneity. Whether it be travelling to a city you’ve never been, to meet someone you’ve never met, or, a last minute road trip to a new and unexplored dot on the map, there’s always an adventure waiting to happen. Though, over time I’ve found that it’s in my nature to take comfort in the exact opposite; being prepared. There is something special about having a balance of both impromptu and deliberate occasions. You see, being prepared comes in handy, especially if, like me, you experience “hangry” symptoms when your body is in need of sustenance. Sluggishness and irritability just won’t cut it when you’re on the road to adventure. This is where I welcome the balance of both worlds. One day a week, I’ll whip up a big batch of hippie healthy snacks so that when spontaneity strikes, I will be prepared.

Proteins are not only needed to keep your energy levels high and tummy feeling fuller longer, they are made up of amino acids, which are critical in just about every element of our cells’ structure and function. Aside from protein, these bites are also full of iron, magnesium, and vitamins E & B6.

Typically, for recipes like this, I tend to throw a mishmash of ingredients into a bowl and hope for the best. In this case, I ended up creating a divine recipe that, once slightly tweaked, had to be shared. I encourage you to experiment and have fun in the kitchen; try using recipes as a template or guideline instead of strictly following each ingredient and step. I initially made this recipe without placing all ingredients in the food processor and although the taste was there, the texture wasn’t so much and only by experimenting did I find the missing piece to my recipe puzzle. Want to add pumpkin seeds in lieu of sunflower seeds? Go for it! Dates instead of almond butter? By all means! Be spontaneous; play around and find what combination works best for you.

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The Ingredients {Yield: 15 protein bites Total Time: 15 minutes}

  • 1 cup raw almond butter
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup hemp hearts
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey or substitute coconut sugar, maple syrup, or agave nectar
  • 1 dark chocolate bar {I used: Camino Caramel Crunch dark chocolate bar}
  • handful chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon flax oil {optional}

The Directions

1. Coarsely chop your chocolate bar into chocolate chip-size pieces and put aside

2. Add all dry ingredients – excluding dark chocolate – into a food processor or blender and pulse for 10-15 seconds, until all ingredients are finely ground

3. Place chocolate, dry ingredients, and wet ingredients in a mixing bowl and using your hands, kneed the “dough”

4. Once completely combined, roll into golf ball-sized balls and place on a plate to set in the refrigerator for 15 minutes

CALIFORNIA COLLARD WRAP

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Summer is just around the corner and with it brings some of my favourite things; picnics in the park, beach days, and road trips. All wouldn’t be right if they didn’t share an essential common denominator. Food! Okay, sunshine too.  Good snacks, light meals, and sparkling drinks are crucial to have on hand when the occasion strikes.

To me, this recipe is the epitome of summer. Light, crisp, and refreshing, like a cold beer straight out of the cooler. The wraps are full of flavour and filling after eating a few. Finish off with a slice of juicy watermelon for dessert and you have yourself the perfect summertime meal. The raw ranch dressing can be kept in the refrigerator for up to three days and goes hand in hand with raw veggies, too.

The Ingredients {Yield: 4 wraps Total Time: 15 minutes}

Wraps

  • 4 collard leaves, washed
  • 1 carrot, shaved
  • 1/2 cucumber, cubed
  • 1/2 apple, sliced
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • handful hemp seeds {optional}

Dressing

  • 1 1/4 cups cashews
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 2 cloves garlic

The Directions

1. Throw all dressing ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy

2. Trim stem off collard leaves and set them aside on serving platter

3. If leaves are too coarse for your liking, as an optional step, blanch by placing in boiling water for 1 minute, remove and place in ice-cold water and dry before assembling

4. Spoon a hearty dollop of dressing on to each collard leaf and assemble remaining ingredients as you would a regular wrap

5. Tuck-and-roll your wrap like a burrito or simply fold in half and eat like a taco

*Raw ranch dressing recipe adapted from The Rawtarian

THE VEGAN CAESAR

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I think I speak for most when I say the Caesar salad is a fan-favourite. Though, ever since I began my journey through holistic nutrition and vegetarianism, I’ve shied away from it. Going back to basics, I wanted to re-create classic; one that is just as easy to make, higher in nutritional value, and free from animal products.

You might be wondering what on earth the vegan “Parmesan” crisps taste like, because they sure don’t look anything like real cheese. Let me tell you, they’re pretty cheesy! Made from sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, nutritional yeast, and lemon, these crunchy cracker-like additions are high fibre {both soluble and insoluble}, packed-full of vitamins B & E, and a source of omega-3, iron, zinc and antioxidants.

Perfect served on it’s own or as a side dish, this Caesar will definitely be my go-to summer BBQ salad.

The Ingredients {Yield: 5 side servings Total Time: 1 hour}

Salad

  • 2-3 heads romaine lettuce, washed and hand torn into pieces
  • 1/2 loaf bread of your choice, cut into small squares {I used: rye sprout bread}
  • splash olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried herbs
  • fresh lemon slices, for garnish

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons vegenaise
  • 1 heaping tablespoon dijon mustard
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, cut in half
  • fresh cracked s&p

Vegan “Parmesan” Crisps

  • ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds, finely ground
  • ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds, finely ground
  • ¼ cup flax seeds, finely ground
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt

The Directions

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and take out two large baking sheets. Set aside

2. Combine all vegan “Parmesan” ingredients in a bowl and stir until fully mixed {the dough will be very thick, like cookie batter}

3. Grab a large piece of parchment paper about 20 inches wide and shape dough into a ball and place in middle of parchment. Fold over parchment, like a book, then roll dough between the two pieces of parchment until it’s as thin as you can get it

4. Fold away top half of parchment and cut or rip it away. Keeping cheese on bottom sheet of parchment, place on a baking sheet

5. Bake for 1 hour, take out of oven and remove parchment paper. Break up cheese into chunks and place directly on baking sheet. Return to oven to cook for another 20 minutes, or until crisp

6. While the cheese bakes, place bread squares into a separate bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Mix to coat the bread and season with s&p. Spread squares on baking sheet and cook for 15-17 minutes, until desired crispiness. Remove from oven and finish with a sprinkling of herbs. Allow croutons to cool

7. During the time the cheese and croutons bake, make the dressing by putting vegenaise, dijon, lemon juice, and garlic into blender and mix until all ingredients are combined

8. With the blender still running, slowly pour in olive oil. When done blending, pour dressing into a bowl and season with s&p. Dressing keeps for a few days in the refrigerator

9. In your serving bowl, add in half the romaine lettuce and spoon in two tablespoons dressing, gently toss. Add the other half of romaine and repeat. Adding more dressing as desired

10. Lastly, remove cheese from oven and allow to cool on baking sheet for 15 minutes. Finish salad by placing both crisps and croutons on top. Garnish with fresh lemon slices and cracked pepper

5 WAYS TO INCREASE YOUR WATER INTAKE

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Growing up, I never thought much about the health benefits of drinking adequate amounts water. If I was thirsty, the norm would be to grab a glass of milk, pop, or juice. And when I say juice, know that it wasn’t the freshly-squeezed kind either… it was the kind you find in a tin can from the freezer section of the supermarket. Looking back, lack of water in my diet was likely a contributing factor to my child-onset asthma as well as significant weight gain during my tween years.

Drinking water is the number one step of detox as it flushes toxins out of vital organs in the body and carries nutrients to your cells. The benefits I’ve noticed from increasing my water intake range from headache prevention and clear skin to consistent bowel movements and weight maintenance. It’s important to begin the shift in making positive associations with this precious and vital substance.

We’ve heard it all before, drinking lots of water is crucial to our health and well-being so, to make it less of a chore and more of a habit, here are five ways to help increase your water intake.

1. Drink upon wakening, to kick-start your metabolism. According to Ayurvedic philosophy, the choices that you make regarding your daily routine either build up resistance to disease or tear it down. Room-temperature lemon water will aid in digestion, rid the body of toxins, and boost the immune system. A positive way to begin the day, if you ask me.

2. Start small, if you aren’t used to drinking the recommended amount of approx. 2L of water per day {although more may prove to be beneficial}, it is wise to start small and gradually increase over time. Small glasses are more approachable and often seem less daunting than large water bottles.

3. Add extras, foods like lemons, limes, cucumbers, chia seeds, and chlorophyll make great additions to plain ol’ water and also increase the health benefits, too!

4. Take regular water breaks, even if you don’t necessarily feel thirsty. When your glass is almost empty, fill it right away. Dehydration, or the feeling of thirst, is your body’s last outward signal, indicating that you’re in need of H2O. Plus, if you sit all day for work, a walk to the water cooler to stretch your legs will help re-focus and re-energize.

5. Minimize diuretics, such as alcohol and caffeine, as they cause the body to flush out important vitamins and minerals.

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