Checking IN…

by Lauren on May 29, 2017

Wow. This is the first time I’ve logged in since January 28th, and the only reason is because I decided not to prep dinner tonight or get groceries; thank goodness for my mother-in-law’s frozen chicken soup.

The last 4 months has flown by, but it’s so fun taking care of both my boys. Jack is 3 now, and Max is almost 1! I’ve decided to look after both of them by myself with no help for the summer. Yeah I know. I’m sure I’ll have hard days, but I think it’s going to be great. We live in an awesome, kid-friendly neighbourhood with so many resources at my fingertips. I’m looking at it as my last hoorah before focusing on work again in the fall. I’m not sure what I want to do yet, but I have some ideas and am excited at the thought of having some time to myself to focus on nutrition again.

It’s crazy being a full-time mom because I know my other brain is in there (my work brain), but it’s really dusty and out of practice. Here are some of my ideas for the fall…

  • Start filming more cooking videos for my blog and recipe development
  • Read Intuitive Eating and decide if I want to register for the Intuitive Eating coaching course
  • Go to Toastmasters to get better at public speaking
  • Start doing workshops again with hopefully something interesting to say that I’m passionate about

It’s really hard as a woman to put 100% of yourself into raising your kids and your career. It’s not impossible, but it’s hard. I read a quote by C.S. Lewis the other day that gets me through the hard days when I miss my job: “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.”

Just wanted to check in, and let you all know that I am coming back 🙂 Have a great summer everyone!

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Super Easy Veggie Chia Seed Slow Cooker Lasagna

by Lauren on January 28, 2017

Photo Credit

For those of you that follow my blog on a regular basis, I probably sound like a broken record by now, but I’m always looking for ways to make not-so-healthy favourites (like lasagna!) healthy, delicious and easy. It’s pretty much one of my main goals in life. So when my sister-in-law gave me the idea of using sweet potato and chia seeds in a lasagna, I couldn’t resist the temptation to make a delicious, healthy version of this favourite comfort food using these healthy ingredients.

Sweet potatoes are a complex carbohydrate, which means they’re high in fibre and our bodies can use the calories from sweet potatoes longer than a refined, white lasagna noodle. The chia seeds work two ways in this recipe: one, they provide a protein and healthy fat component and two, they absorb excess moisture from the vegetables so you don’t end up with lasagna soup! A quick note about chia seeds: they’re a great addition to vegetarian food because they are a good source of iron, which is important to get enough of it you’re not eating animal protein (the best source of heme iron).

The beans and vegetables really “beef” up this recipe, and the cheese and tomato sauce provide you with those classic flavours of lasagna. There’s a bit of prep work involved with this meal, but it can be done the night before when the kids go to bed, and the assembly only takes about 10 minutes. Than you set your slow cooker and forget it!

Super Easy Veggie Chia Seed Slow Cooker Lasagna

Ingredients
2-3 medium sweet potatoes
1 package sliced cremini mushrooms
1 zucchini
1 650-700 mL jar organic tomato sauce
1/2 cup chia seeds
1 tub ricotta cheese
1 tbsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. dried basil and oregano
1 can organic chick peas or navy beans, drain and rinse
3 whole-wheat lasagna noodles (optional)
1/2 cup shredded white aged cheddar cheese
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Method

Chop sweet potatoes into large slices: cut potatoes in half, place the flat side down on the cutting board, and chop into 1-inch thick slices. Dice mushrooms and zucchini into small cubes.

In a small bowl, combine ricotta cheese with lemon zest, red pepper flakes, basil, oregano and drained beans. Shred your cheddar cheese and combine with the feta.

Spray slow cooker bowl with nonstick cooking spray (I use coconut oil spray), and start layering your lasagna (season with salt and pepper as you layer):

Spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce in the bottom of the slow cooker and sprinkle a third of the chia seeds. Layer on your sweet potato slices (enough to cover the bottom) and top with about one third of the ricotta mixture, zucchini, mushrooms and cheese mixture. Repeat this process two more times (sauce, chia seeds, sweet potato slices, ricotta, veggies and cheese) for a total of three complete layers.

Top with three, uncooked lasagna noodles (you can break the noodles so they fit – it doesn’t matter how they look!), cover with a thin layer of sauce and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Cover your slow cooker and cook on high for 3 hours or on low for 5-6 hours. Turn the crockpot off and let the lasagna sit for about an hour. This will allow the chia seeds to absorb the excess moisture from the mushrooms and zucchini.

Cut lasagna and scoop out into bowls. Top with fresh ground pepper.

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January is National Soup Month, and to celebrate; it’s time to change the way we think of soup! It’s no longer just a starter or a side-dish; it can be a complete meal! Having soup as a main opens up a world of possibilities, and because most soups can be prepared ahead of time; it takes some of the pressure off of crazy hour (what I like to call the insane hour between 4pm and 5pm when kids become crazy people and you’re trying to get dinner on the table).

What makes soup a complete meal you ask?

  1. Add a healthy carb like pumpkin, squash or sweet potato to the broth. This is simply done by adding canned pumpkin puree or diced squash, sweet potato or carrot right into the broth. If you’re adding diced vegetables, use a hand-held emulsion blender (I use this one by Cuisine Art); to puree it once cooked.
  2. Toss in some protein! I usually dislike cooking meat because it’s an extra step required in preparing my meal. That being said, adding chicken, shrimp, pork or lentils & brown rice (remember the combo of legumes + whole grains = a complete protein) is easy with soup – just toss it in and let everything cook in the same pot! Cooking meat in a liquid also means you won’t overcook it or dry it out.
  3. Top with a healthy fat garnish like diced avocado, dried coconut, almond slices, walnut bits pumpkin, hemp or sunflower seeds. Healthy fats are important to include at each meal to keep you feeling satisfied and for good overall health. Plus, it adds another flavour and texture to your soup, making it more like a main dish.
  4. Flavour with fresh herbs. Just like you would a main meal, top your soup with fresh cilantro, parsley or basil to add flavour, colour and more health benefits. Did you know parsley is one of the best food sources of vitamin C?

Coconut Curry Pumpkin Soup
Serves 8

Ingredients
2 tbsp. red curry paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. ginger, minced
1 large can pumpkin puree
1 900 mL carton organic chicken stock
1 can coconut milk
6, PC Free-From chicken thighs
2 1/2 tbsp. coconut palm sugar
2 tsp. Siracha hot sauce
1 tsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
Juice of one lime

Toppings:
1 avocado, diced
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Method

Dice chicken into small cubes (Tip: cut the chicken when it’s half frozen – it’s so much easier to work with!)

Using a large soup pot, heat curry paste, garlic and ginger on medium and saute for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add pumpkin puree and chicken stock. Turn heat up to medium high, stir and cook for 3 minutes until bubbling.

Add chicken and coconut milk and cook for 3 minutes. Add sugar, hot sauce, fish sauce, salt, cinnamon and lime. Stir to combine. Let simmer on low for about 15-20 minutes.

Serve into bowls and top with diced avocado, pumpkin seeds and fresh cilantro. Enjoy!

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Happy New Year everyone! With the craziness of the holidays behind us, I finally have a chance to catch my breath and write a little bit. I always have blog ideas floating around in my head, and than one of my kids wakes up from a nap, does a poo on the potty (I’m still trying to figure out how this is better than diapers as I find myself elbow deep scraping poop off the sides of a little potty), needs a snack, has to breastfeed or wants to play…ahh the life of a mom with two young boys.

January can be depressing for some people as the magic of the holidays is over, but I love it; it’s a time for decluttering, fresh starts and setting goals for the year ahead. One of the most common goals at this time of year is weight loss. Many people start off in January with a new diet (no carbs, gluten-free, calorie counting), only to give it up a couple months later. Even though diets can yield fast results, they’re typically not sustainable so people give up and go back to their old habits. I know from personal experience.

When I first moved to Toronto in 2007, I was a dieter. My diet of choice was calorie counting. I allowed myself 1500 calories per day, and would track everything I ate throughout the day. Once my daily amount of calories ran out, I stopped eating. I was also doing intense exercise like spinning and weight training 6 days a week. I worked out an hour or more each time, sometimes even twice a day! I know what you’re thinking, I must have looked and felt great right? Wrong. This lifestyle was problematic for a few reasons:

  • First of all, I was totally stressed out every time I sat down to eat, counting calories in my head, and I began to hate food.
  • Second, because I was depriving myself, my eating habits were like a roller coaster; I’d go from eating very little to binging on “bad foods,” which mostly consisted of sugary desserts.
  • Third, I wasn’t making healthy food choices. I mostly ate frozen microwave dinners, fruit juice, canned soups, and sugary cereals, so the calories I was consuming weren’t giving me the energy I needed to make it through the day; I was always tired and hungry.
  • Working out too much can actually put your body in a state of stress, causing a release of cortisol; a harmful stress hormone that can lead to chronic inflammation in the body. I also wasn’t giving my body proper post-workout fuel, which made me even hungrier.

Since becoming a nutritionist and a mom, my eating and exercise habits have completely changed and I’m in better shape now after having two kids, never counting calories and exercising 2-3 times per week for 20-30 minutes each time, than I was when I was 24 years old.

The major difference between my 24 year old lifestyle and my 34 year old lifestyle? The food. It all comes down to the type of calories I’m putting in my body. Eating something sugary and void of nutrients like a donut will give you energy very fast, but not for very long. Whereas nutrient dense foods like raw vegetables, legumes or complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes require more energy from your body to break down and digest. The energy lasts longer in your body, and you can actually burn calories while you digest!

If you’re thinking of going on a diet this year, save your time and money. Instead, invest in your health and get educated about healthy food choices that will give your body the nutrient-rich calories it needs. Buy real, fresh food and start cooking from scratch. You don’t have to cook elaborate recipes – something as simple as avocado on sprouted toast with goat cheese and sea salt is an example of a healthy lunch. When you start to cook and eat healthy food, you’ll realize that you don’t have to count calories anymore, you’ll feel better, look better and love food again. Cheers to a healthy 2017!

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It’s Officially Soup Season!

December 12, 2016

Photo Credit Soups and chillis are some of my favourite recipes to make because they are “one pot” meals, and I love making anything that allows me to prep, chop and cook ahead of time. Anyone with kids knows that evenings are insane, and who has time to make recipes that require cooking before serving? Maybe a […]

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Nacho Inspired Mexican Burrito Bowl

November 28, 2016

Photo Credit Sorry for all the bean recipes lately, but I made a big batch of my Easy Slow Cooker Black Beans recently so I’ve been thinking of all the different ways I can use them! This recipe was inspired by last night’s Grey Cup game. My hubbie was excited to watch, and I wanted […]

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Holiday Gift Idea! Try the World Gift Boxes

November 28, 2016

I was recently approached by Try the World; a company that delivers boxes, which contain gourmet delicacies from around the world on a monthly basis. The first thing I thought when I received the beautiful boxes filled with yummy treats is how perfect this would be as a holiday gift idea! They’re perfect for the […]

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Black Bean and Goat Cheese Dip

November 3, 2016

Photo Credit It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a recipe because quite frankly I haven’t had much time to experiment in the kitchen since Max was born in June, but I made my Black Bean and Goat Cheese dip the other day, and realized it’s not up on the blog! I love this dip because […]

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Vacations Are Always Worth It

October 25, 2016

…at least that’s what I kept telling myself during the long travel days, and times that I was stuck in the condo trying to get my 4-month old to nap instead of lounging by the pool. This past trip to Florida was the first time we travelled with two kids, and even though there were hard times, […]

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Pre, Post-Thanksgiving Prep

October 6, 2016

Thanksgiving hasn’t even happened yet, but in a culture where we do everything quickly and efficiently, let’s prepare for the aftermath of your Thanksgiving feast. Most people wake up on Tuesday feeling bloated, tired and yucky as a result of too many appetizers, mashed potatoes with gravy, dessert and wine. No matter how hard you try, […]

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