Can’t Beet These Red Velvet Cupcakes.

Yesterday, I turned 30. So I decided to hunt down a recipe for red velvet cupcakes that uses beets. Here is the one that I found by Je suis alimentageuse. Tried, tested (by 3 guests including my man-friend), and loved. And I will happily let you in on a secret… I SUCK (all-caps) at baking anything that doesn’t have dairy and that is completely vegan. I just don’t have the knack for it. But this recipe is pretty unbeetable.

 

Modifications:

As always, I try to use as many local and/or organic ingredients as possible.

Steamed the beets instead of boiling. I’m always a fan of steaming vs boiling to preserve as many of the nutrients as possible. Nutrients in cupcakes? Wait, there’s more.

Used organic coconut sugar instead of regular cane sugar for the cupcake batter. Coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index and can be substituted cup-for-cup.

In both the batter and icing, I used (madagascar bourbon) vanilla bean paste. Fancy, I know. I had it on-hand from a Christmas recipe from last year. It’s incredibly decadent and I’ve been using it a lot instead of plain vanilla extract. Not really used to add any nutritional value but to enhance the sensory experience.

Sprouted spelt flour was used in the batter as the recipe doesn’t specify either way. I like to experiment with alternative grain flours and spelt is the closest workable substitute to regular wheat flour that I’ve found so far. I always add an extra pinch of baking soda to add fluff when baking with spelt.

Get ready for this one… Flax milk was used instead of almond milk. Flax is one of my personal power foods and I thought it could be worth a try! I typically don’t like to heat flax because of the delicate oils but the fat content from flax in this particular seed milk was fairly negligible.

In the icing, I used coconut oil instead of Earth Balance. My original thought was to use something more natural before trying the processed dairy-free butter substitute but I learned (as you can see by the photos) that the consistency achieved by using coconut oil was much more runny than if I had used Earth Balance. The photos on the original recipe look way more amaze. This was also my first attempt at piping icing with an improvised piping bag. The taste definitely made up for the goopy amateur presentation. 🙂

 

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Here are the cucpakes in the oven. Nice and red!

 

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Final product!

 

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below if you decide to try this out! Could be a super fun recipe to bring out for the holidays, or if it gets too busy, Valentine’s Day. Wink, wink.

 

Enjoy!

xo

Carrot Molasses Muffins.

Want an easy plant-based snack that you can bring in your lunch or picnic basket? Today I modified this recipe and created my own version using the following ingredients.

One of the key ingredients is blackstrap molasses, which is the byproduct of cane sugar refining. Containing only trace amounts of sugar that gives a mild sweetness, this dark brown nutrient-rich syrup contains vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, iron, and manganese.

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Serving size: 12 medium muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups sprouted spelt flour
1¼ cup pumpkin and sunflower seeds, ground
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
3/4 tsp fresh ginger
1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup almond milk
2 Tbsp ground chia seeds, 6 Tbsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup grated carrots

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a muffin tin with liners or grease with coconut oil.
2. Grind chia seeds and add water. Mix and set aside to gel for 5 minutes.
3. Mix spelt flour, ground pumpkin and sunflower seeds, baking soda, salt and ginger together in a large bowl.
4. In a small bowl mix blackstrap molasses, melted coconut oil, almond milk, chia, and vanilla.
5. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and mix until incorporated.
6. Fold in the carrot until just mixed.
7. Spoon the vegan carrot molasses muffins mixture into the muffin tin until ¾ full and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

DIY Ketchup.

I figured it was time to ketchup a little on my blogsite…

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Featured here are lovely roasted yams with very specially homemade ketchup. This was one of the first recipes I created when I first became aware of clean eating. When I learned to read labels, I realized that there were a lot of things in commercial ketchups that I no longer wanted to put in my body (high fructose corn syrup, sugar, white vinegar, refined salt…). It’s always nice to have a quick and easy way to make the clean foods or condiments we don’t want to give up. Ever. And who wants to give up ketchup? No one. So here is my recipe for DIY Ketchup that I am so happy to share with you.

 

6 oz. (one can) Organic tomato paste
1 tbsp. Maple syrup
1 1/2 tsp. Balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. Himalayan salt
1/4 tsp. Onion powder
1/4 tsp. Garlic powder

Mix all ingredients together, transfer to a resealable container, and store in the refrigerator.

Easy!

 

Hope you all enjoy!

xo

Banana Brownies. (Plant-based, grain-free goodness.)

Who doesn’t love a good brownie? I made these for the office today and they were a hit, even with all of the food sensitivities and special diets that often don’t allow many people to be included in the sampling of the delicious office treats. I love this recipe because it features ingredients that are easily digested (by most!) and has no added sugar (I love you, maple syrup!). If your attempts at vegan, paleo, or low-carb recipes are usually a blow to your cooking ego, allow yourself to bask in the success of this easy and fool-proofness sweet, sweet recipe. If I can do it, you can too!

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Inspired by http://purelytwins.com/2014/01/31/no-flour-grain-free-paleo-chocolate-beet-brownies/

Ingredients

2 medium ripe bananas
2/3 cup raw cacao powder or cocoa (2 1/2oz)
5 tablespoons coconut oil, liquid
2 tablespoons coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons Vega Maca powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoon maple syrup

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly grease an 8×8 baking pan with coconut oil for thinner brownies. The brownies can also be baked in a cupcake pan as individual brownies.
  3. Peel bananas.
  4. Place peeled bananas into a bowl and blend until smooth.
  5. Next add in coconut oil and coconut flour. Blend.
  6. Next add in cacao powder, baking soda, baking powder, maca powder, vanilla, and maple syrup into. Blend. Batter should be thick but smooth.
  7. Spread batter into pan or scoop into cupcake pan and bake from about 20-25 minutes. If using a cupcake pan the baking time maybe shorter. Bake until toothpick comes out slightly clean, as you don’t want to over bake them.
  8. Let cool.
  9. Should yield 8 individual brownies.
  10. Slice and enjoy.
  11. Store in refrigerator for a few days or freezer for longer shelf life.

xo

Make Healthy Eating Easier! 5 ways organic grocery delivery can support your health goals.

If you love food and want to eat better but you less than love fighting your way through grocery aisles and checkouts, perhaps organic groceries delivered to a central community location or your home or office door is the solution for you.

1. Convenient

For me, the convenience factor is highly underrated and understated. So let me state it. I am exactly that person described in the opening paragraph. Fortunately, here in Vancouver, we have an exceptional delivery service program called SPUD. All of the fresh produce, grass-fed/pastured meats, dry goods, health food products, and household products a clean food lover and busy grocery store hater could ever dream of. And they’re (mostly) all organic. Wanna save some money while you’re at it? If you check out SPUD’s website, have the service available in your area, and like what you see, please use my referral code CRVAN-CARLEE to score $20 off your first order of $50 or more! Plus save yourself the time and the gas/footsteps/fancy bike maneuvers and do something else with those newly earned time and resource savings. Like learning to play the accordion. Or calling your mom.

2. Organic

Some grocery services offer strictly local organic produce, which is super fresh and sustainable during the growing season in a given area. And some grocery services offer more variety and consistency by expanding the geographical area of their produce suppliers to provide greater options all year round. Either way, in both of these organic scenarios, you’re getting clean food and avoiding some serious pesticide residues when you choose organic foods. And just like any consumer has the power to vote with their wallet and send an important message when they purchase things, buying organic food sends a strong message to the food industry that clean food is in demand.

3. Seasonal

When you’re short on time to plan, preset boxes are easy on the weeks that don’t have enough hours. Many organic food delivery services have pre-determined boxes for the week, based on the season and availability of foods. And many services will let you know in advance what you’ll be receiving so that you can go on planning the rest of your grocery needs for the week. Eating seasonally helps to ensure you get the freshest local foods that are designed by nature to be best suited for our bodies at different times of the year.

4. It’s a food adventure

There were times when I subscribed to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) delivery program and the boxes were a surprise every week. This is a great adventure if you are an open-minded food enthusiast. I learned a lot about different healthy foods that I had never seen or heard of before, such as garlic scapes, different root vegetables, and different types of leafy greens. Many great delivery services will also include a bit of literature or recipes in the boxes that contain veggies that are not-so-common and may be new to some folks. If they don’t, ask! They may have a real gem of a recipe for you to try. Or ask our dear friend google (link to google).

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(These are garlic scapes. They’re the tops of the garlic plant and taste just like garlic. They make an excellent pesto or substitute to any recipe calling for garlic.)

5. Local

We’ve already gone over the benefits of eating locally and seasonally. Shopping locally can be of equal economic importance to our farmers and retail businesses close-by. Without our dollars, they fail. Supporting local farmers can greatly reduce our carbon footprint and ensure that we have clean, fresh, healthy food nearby. Access to good food is a sure sign of a community’s success.

Hope y’all will take a second to find an organic grocery delivery service in your area and consider all of its benefits! And remember, if you are interested in signing up with SPUD, save on your first order by using my referral code CRVAN-CARLEE!

Thanks for stopping by and happy clean eating!

xo

How to Feed a Cold. The Four “S”s.

When there is a cold virus going around and spreading like wildfire, sometimes even the toughest of us fall victim to the kleenex box tether. Here are some of my favourite tips to help support immunity and get back to normal in good time.

1. Soup.

Even when I’m not feeling yucky, but especially when I am, nothing beats traditional home made chicken soup. Onions, garlic, herbs, broth, veggies, and protein can definitely support your immune system and give it a little boost. The hydration from the broth is also very key. Hydration is important when you’re trying to get back up and at ’em from a cold.

To prepare the soup, let the crock-pot be your nurse/chef.

I use:

1 whole organic, free-run chicken
2 cups of water
1 large onion (more if you’re into it, I recommend being into it), diced
1 clove of garlic (same rule as onions), crushed
2 small potatoes, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 tbsp of fresh parlsey, chopped
2 tsp of salt
1 tsp of ground black pepper
1/2 tsp of dried thyme
1/2 tsp of sagechicken soup!

Optional (also, recommended):

Bits of hearty leafy greens like kale, cabbage, or bok choi.

Combine all of the above ingredients together in a crock-pot and allow to simmer on low for 8-10 hours. This is best done when you start to feel that tickle in your throat so it’s important to get on top of those developing symptoms ASAP. Once the chicken is thoroughly cooked, removed the chicken from the crock-pot and get it all cleaned up and separated. I like to keep the dark meat and some of the white meat for the soup and end up setting aside most of the white meat for other meals. Add a cup of water to the chicken base that is in the crock pot, add your soup meat, and voilà. Chicken soup.

If chicken ain’t your thang, any warm homemade soup with some garlic, onion, spices, veggies, protein, and healthy fats (like coconut oil) would likely do.

2. Sleep.

Sleep supports the immune system and your body will likely let you know that it would like more of it at the onset and throughout a cold. Try to get as much of it. Even resting your body and calming your mind will do wonders at this time.

3. Supplements.

Keep supporting your digestion with digestive bitters and/or enzymes at this time. Any energy the body can save from being used for digestion can be used for immune function.

Probiotics are important for supporting the beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract and keeping the immune system fighting strong. They help the mucosal functions of the immune system running smoothly and contribute to the production of antibodies to pathogens. (Better late than never!)

There is also a tea that I rely on for relieving nasal congestion when it’s at its worst. It’s Traditional Medicinals Breathe Easy. This stuff is just incredible and works almost immediately. I recommend keeping some on-hand at all times throughout the viral battle royale and keep sipping it back. Be sure to steep it according to directions for maximum effect. If all else fails and you can’t find this magic tea, drinking a lot of decaffeinated tea will also support hydration and help with the next step.

4. Sweat.

There are 2 ways of doing this.

Sweat can be induced to support the lymphatic system either by consuming warm beverages and keeping warm when you’re at the lowest of the low and feeling too tuckered to get out of bed or leave the house.

Or…

If you’re feeling a little motivated, bundling up and going for a short walk can move your lymphatic system and in turn, help your immune system fight the good fight. Just make sure that whatever exercise you choose, don’t overdo it at this time. Any excessive stress perceived by the body runs the risk of lowering immune function. You will have to listen to your body and choose which option will suit you best.

In all cases, rehydrate like crazy. Water with lemon and chlorella (an amazing green food, see an article I wrote about it and other sea vegetables here) and decaffeinated tea are your best bet.

As always, this post is in no way a substitute for medical intervention. Use your best judgement. If you feel like you need to see the doctor, please do so as soon as possible.

All the best with staying strong and successfully surviving the onslaught of germs!

xo

Lee-Ann

DIY Taco Seasoning Mix.

Let’s taco ’bout spicing up some beef. Or beans. Whatever makes you feel good inside. The original recipe I adapted from is here.

The inspiration to find (and tweak) a good taco seasoning mix recipe came when I was really craving tacos and realized that there are a ton of not-so-nice things in the store-bought mixes (MSG, anti-caking agent(?), a boatload of sodium…).

I find it easiest to make a triple or quadruple batch of the mix and store it in a jar. Super handy when it comes to taco time. The typical amount I use per pound of ground beef is about 2-3 heaping tablespoons. Cook the beef first, add about 3/4 to 1 cup of water and the mix and stir and cook over medium-low heat until the mixture is mostly absorbed and a little saucy. Really, the only difference between my recipe and the original recipe is that I reduced the salt and provided instructions. It’s the little things sometimes.

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1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

May all of your tacos be beautiful, spicy, and delicious! At least delicious.
xo

Q+A Tuesday: Veganism?

Happy Q+A Tuesday! A question many people have asked themselves or discussed with others from either side of the spectrum.

Q: “Hey! Curious what your thoughts are on veganism. Saw that documentary ‘Vegucated’ and I’m curious about how challenging it would be to meet nutritional needs on a vegan diet.” –Lissa C. in Winnipeg, MB

A: Hey Lissa! I did see Vegucated and I found it to be good but  ridiculous at times, especially at points where the filmmaker tried to convince the participants to become vegan by luring them with fake bacon and Teddy Grahams. This is what is called “junk food veganism” because sadly, although tasty, there are no redeeming nutritional qualities to those foods. That being said, I think incorporating more whole plant-based foods is always a great idea because many North Americans don’t eat enough of them, where instead we eat a lot of poor quality meat, and plant-based foods are some of the most nutrient-dense foods available. As with many diets, eating vegan warrants a bit of planning to ensure adequate intake of all nutrients, especially protein, iron, B-vitamins, and omega-3 essential fats. Combining any two or more legumes, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, and seeds gives a complete amino acid profile for protein intake. I would still recommend taking a B-complex and iron supplement daily as an insurance against deficiency. I really feel strongly about the benefits of a (at least mostly) dairy-free diet but feel as though some people will benefit from a small amount of meat in their diet to ensure adequate protein, iron, B-vitamins, and omega-3s in the diet. Of course there are great plant sources of these nutrients but they may be hard for some to break down and assimilate properly due to digestive dysfunction, which is something that can be addressed with a Registered Holistic Nutritionist.

[And now for my soapbox moment…]

As for the moral reasons for not eating meat, I really feel that veganism exacerbates dependence on the petroleum industry to produce and transport both vegan-friendly foods and apparel products, which in the end is not friendly to all kingdoms of life on our planet, including us humans. I feel that producing processed vegan foods (eg. non-organic soy, tofu, fake bacon, or facon, and all the other processed non-meat alternatives, etc.) and petroleum or plastic based alternatives to leather hide products gets us no further ahead with environmental issues as does factory farming. I think they are about parallel in my esteem. I know of some amazing conscientious farmers who graze, pasture, and raise their livestock to live a life as close to that in the wild including the absence of drug or hormone use. And yes, inevitably, the time comes when those animals enter the human food chain, but it’s no where near as large scale and disgusting as factory farming. The reality is that many of us would not be here today had it not been for our ancestors’ consumption of meat. And I think that the point we’ve been missing and that has been lost for generations now is the honouring of the life of the animal and the recognition and respect for the role it plays in the cycle and sustenance of life. But by all means, everyone has their convictions. And I say if you are interested in veganism, try it for a month or so and see how you feel. Get your bloodwork done yearly to check against deficiencies. Not to say that meat eaters are never nutrient deficient, however, there are key reasons for deficiencies which can be addressed on an individual basis with a nutritionist. Everyone is different. Remember… Seven billion diets for 7 billion people on this planet. This is just one nutrition lady’s point-of-view.

Thanks for reading with us on this Q+A Tuesday! Keep sending in your questions. 🙂

Q+A Tuesday: Matcha Green Tea.

Happy Q+A Tuesday! Let’s matcha you up with some good stuff today.

Q: “Tell me how you feel about matcha.” –T.B. in London, ON

A: I think it’s great! And let me tell you why.

First, matcha is the powder of green tea leaves. And many of us know the benefits of drinking steeped green tea leaves. So imagine the additional benefits you get from consuming the whole leaf. Awesome, right? Wait, there’s more.

Just in looking at the antioxidant value of matcha, it has more than 10 times the antioxidant content over blueberries and pomegranate. And this is based on a measurement system food scientists use called an ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) value. So if you’re foraging/shopping around for different types of high antioxidant foods, especially berries or greens (fresh or in powders), this is a good unit of measurement to be familiar with. To give you a general idea of what this means, matcha has an ORAC value of approximately 1,300 units per gram and blueberries have an antioxidant value of approximately 90 units per gram.

Because of the potent antioxidant content of matcha, it’s great for anyone in this day and age since everyone has some degree of exposure to free radicals. The body produces small amounts of free radicals as well as part of its metabolism, especially in athletes and those who exercise regularly, therefore making even higher nutrient-dense high antioxidant food choices especially important for this group of people. And for those who are dealing with lowered immunity or elevated toxicity (e.g. cancer), antioxidants, like the EGCg (epigallocatechin gallate), vitamin C, and vitamin A found in matcha green tea, help to support a healthy immune system.

If you’re looking for a memory, mood, and focus booster, another super awesome surprise bonus benefit to matcha powder is its L-Theanine content. L-Theanine is an amino acid that promotes concentration and a feeling of wellbeing. And if you’re wondering how a substance which also contains caffeine can be calming, I was stumped at first, too. It would seem that the interplay between the caffeine and the focus-inducing L-Theanine keep the nerves in check, however those sensitive to stimulants may want to use matcha with caution and in smaller amounts.

One of the most notable benefits some of you may have heard about recently are the fat burning and metabolism boosting benefits of green tea. And with detoxifying chlorophyll, matcha could certainly help to support a weight loss regimen.

The best places to buy matcha powder are from local health food stores or tea shops as they can speak to the quality of the matcha. If you’re dealing with me specifically at Ezentials, I’ll steer you toward an organic variety to even further the benefits of the powder by reducing your exposure to chemicals potentially used in producing the green tea leaves. There are varying levels of quality in green tea so be sure to ask for a high quality Japanese variety.

The best way to brew a cup of matcha is using hot (not boiling) water and a bamboo whisk to stir and dissolve the powder properly. It’s also a great addition to smoothies, greek yogurt, or hot whole grain cereals. The ways to incorporate it into meals are really limitless. Just make sure not to overcook or overheat it to preserve maximum nutrients.

Enjoy the versatile benefits of matcha green tea! The Japanese have for thousands of years.

Thanks for participating in another week of Q+A Tuesday! xo

Q+A Tuesday: Protein Sources for Toddler Smoothies

Happy Q+A Tuesday! With so many of my friends making darling rosy-cheeked babies these days, a question about what to feed them was bound to arrive.

Q: “Lee-Ann, my little guy loves smoothies right now and not much else… Is there like a protein powder that I could add to it that you know is safe for an 18 month old?” —Elyse R. in Sudbury

A: Infant and toddler nutrition should be very simple and basic. To satisfy protein requirements via smoothies for an 18-month-old, I’d recommend adding a tablespoon of very finely ground chia or flax powder (ground instead of whole to prevent choking hazard), a whole egg, or goat’s milk yogurt. If the toddler eats an adequate amount of whole grains (oats and rice), they’ll be consuming plant-based protein from those food sources as well. At 18 months, they should be consuming 1.2 g of protein per kilogram of body weight. And when trying to balance the child’s diet, aim for balance through a variety of whole foods over days rather than at each meal. Those little guys will eat what they need.

Thank you for participating in Q+A Tuesday! Remember to keep sending in your questions! See you next week!

Much love and wellness,

Lee-Ann

xo