On a roll

Sometimes when I can’t do what I am used to doing (like right now) I become stagnated feeling sorry for myself. Until I snap out of it. And when I do good things happen in the kitchen 🙂 

In fact, if I keep going at this speed I might have to get a new pantry to store my hiking snacks because there is probably enough to fuel every hike until the next season. This time I have taken to making my own Larabars because at $2 a pop they are a pretty expensive snack – for that price I can get 500g of dates (the main ingredient for Larabars) and make a pretty decent batch of them myself.   

Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing bad to say about Larabars. For those whose main fuel is carbohydrates, Larabar is about the only snack food that I would fully endorse- there is literally nothing bad in them. The reasons why I choose to make my own are:

  1. It’s way cheaper.
    From my calculations making Larabars at home runs me between $0.30-0.40 per bar and this is a very rough estimation. The price will vary depending on what type of ingredients you use – if you use a lot of nuts it could be more expensive. Also, do your math before you dish out the big bucks – I found that dates tend to be the cheapest when you buy in bulk at $0.39 per 100g, but if you buy them pre-packaged you can expect to pay as much as $1 per 100g. 
  2. It’s way fresher.
    That’s a no-brainer – you have just made it yourself, so it has not been sitting on a shelf getting old. 
  3. You can choose your won ingredients.
    I like this part the most – Larabar only comes in so many flavors but when you make the bar yourself the sky is the limit. For example, if you want to make it nut free you certainly can; if you want to add any dry fruit to yours you sure can. You can literally make it any flavor you desire. Be creative!
  4.  You get a certain satisfaction that cannot be achieved by simply buying the bar.
    I used to think of cooking as a chore in the past, but these days I feel I’ve done something good for myself and my loved ones when I make something from scratch instead of buying a ready to eat product. 

These bars were so easy to make that I made 2 different flavor batches: Apple Cinnamon and Banana Almond.

Apple Cinnamon Bar
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 6
  • Serving size: 50g
  • Calories: 123
  • Fat: 2
  • Saturated fat: 0.9
  • Carbohydrates: 25
  • Sugar: 20
  • Sodium: 40
  • Fiber: 3
  • Protein: 4
Recipe type: Snack
Cuisine: Vegan
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Better, Tastier and More Satisfying than the original
Ingredients
  • 200g Dates ($1)
  • 100g Figs ($1.50)
  • 20g Pumpkin Seeds ($0.10)
  • 1 scoop of Clean Protein by Vega ($1.30)
  • 12g Unsweetened Coconut Flakes ($0.16)
  • 1 dehydrated Green Apple ($0.50)
Instructions
  1. Chop your dates and figs to help with the processing.
  2. Put pumpkin seeds and apple into the food processor and run on high to chop into small pieces. I reserved a handful of apples and chopped them to add at the end for a bit of texture.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse for a while until smaller pieces form. This is important because the dates and figs are quite hard on the food processor - you don't want to ruin it.
  4. Add a bit of water to help the mixture bind.
  5. When the mass is pretty uniform transfer onto a cutting board and form a flat surface with your hand, you can use a large knife to help with this.
  6. Once one big flat mass is formed cut into individual bars.
  7. Transfer onto a piece of parchment paper and put in the freezer to solidify.

Banana Almond Bar
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 10
  • Serving size: 50g
  • Calories: 180
  • Fat: 7.5
  • Saturated fat: 1.5
  • Carbohydrates: 28
  • Sugar: 21
  • Fiber: 3.6
  • Protein: 3.8
Recipe type: Snack
Cuisine: Vegan
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 300g Dates ($1.50)
  • 100g Almonds ($1.00)
  • 100g dehydrated Banana ($0.19)
  • 15g Sunflower Seed Butter ($0.18)
  • 20g Pumpkin Seeds ($0.10)
  • 12g Unsweetened Coconut Flakes (($0.16)
Instructions
  1. Put Almonds and Pumpkin Seeds in the food processor and process on high until you get very small pieces.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and incorporate well making sure to go easy on the machine at first.
  3. Transfer the mass onto a cutting board and form your bars with the help of your hands and a large knife.
  4. Transfer to the freezer to solidify.

And then I decided to cut both of them up in tiny little bite-size pieces and throw them in a bowl for random enjoyment 🙂

 

In addition to getting creative in the kitchen, I have finally completed my first bike ride. I’ve been itching to go out there and start at it again. I would love to bring back the year bike rides were a weekly ocurrence. I have been getting pretty jealous of whoever owns the 3 bikes always parked at work until I found out one of them doesn’t live very far from me and I got an idea that maybe I could be biking daily to work…

So yesterday I set out to bike as far as my work just to get a feel of what it would be like. Mind you I have done the distance before (even longer distances were the norm at the height of my biking), but I haven’t been biking outside yet this season and we’re taking biking before work and right after work – a total of 50km which would pretty much mean I’d get up go bike to work, bike back home and go to sleep to do it all over again the next day.  

My try-out bike ride to work did not go as far as work, but pretty close and on the ride back I run out of steam, so I had to be rescued. But I was glad I did it.  

Here is a snapshot of the trail for your enjoyment. Forgive the portrait mode, I’ve been told to never do it again 😉

Hiking food prep made easy and cheap

One of the ways that I decided to adopt to deal with my shoulder injury is to focus more on training my legs –  and what better way to strengthen and lean out at the same time than to hike? If you ask me it’s a win-win. I am of course looking forward to resuming my regular routine, but you can only work with what you’ve got and right now I have an incapacitated shoulder but a pair of pretty strong legs 😉

As a form of treatment for my shoulder, I have decided to try Chinese Medicine. Yes, I know, many people would probably dismiss this idea as a waste of time, but the thought of physiotherapy, that I was referred to, did not seem that appealing to me, so I went in the totally opposite direction. So far I have received traditional acupuncture, cupping and laser treatment. Initially, I figured I would only want to go once every 2 weeks, mostly because of the cost, but now after only 3 visits, I wish I could go every single day. Is it helping? It’s hard to say right now because I am ingesting a lot of ibuprofen and it’s only been 3 visits, but I am very optimistic, except for the times when I get deeply depressed about my situation and images of an operating room flash in front of me in my nightmares. I am actively trying to refocus, though and find peace within myself to help my recovery. Here is what I looked like after my last treatment, turns out there is a lot of inflammation in the general area of my injury, which is the anterior deltoid.

To take my mind off this irritating, debilitating issue I have taken to prepping easy to store, grab and go snacks for the trail – dehydrated vegetables and fruit.  Sure, you can buy them already made, but a lot of it has added sugar that really isn’t needed when we’re talking fruit, not to mention preservatives and other additives. So here is how I make mine.

You will need a mandoline and a dehydrator. I can almost hear you rolling your eyes with cynicism, but trust me all you need is the most basic one there is, it will run you about $40 at Canadian Tire and if you are smart about reducing the weight of your pack while hiking you will use it a lot.

All you need to do is slice your fruit (apples, bananas, strawberries, mangos what have you) or vegetables (mushrooms, sweet potatoes, beets, carrots etc.) quite thinly and lay them out on the trays like so:

 

 

You think produce is expensive? Think again! These 3 beauties were discounted probably for their blemishes. I got them at half the regular price. Again, it pays to pay a little attention – don’t dismiss the discount shelf at the grocery store, there is often great things to be had at a fraction of the cost 🙂

Turn on the dehydrator and forget about it for at least 12h. When you are happy with the level of dehydration harvest your crop and put it in an airtight container and store until needed. For tracking nutrition purposes only I weigh my pre-dehydrated produce and divide the weight by 100g. When the fruit/veg is fully dehydrated I weigh it again and divide that weight by the number I got from weighing it raw. This way I know how much of the dry product equals 100g of the raw product. For example: if my raw fruit weighs 500g, then I know there are 5 servings of 100g in the whole batch. Let’s say the dehydrated version has shrunk to 150g (by eliminating water content), then I’ll know that to get 100g I need to divide 150g by 5 and weigh out only 30g of the dehydrated product. Why is this important to me? Well, it’s easy to overeat on dry fruit and I’m not looking to gain any weight while I’m exerting myself. I want my body to tap into my stored energy more so than to overload it with energy. But of course, this step is not necessary if you are not tracking your meals.

What do I do with my dehydrated fruits and vegetables? You saw how I incorporated Sweet Potato Chips in my Chickpea Burger recipe. Granted you won’t take that on the trail, but you can just as easily throw some chips into your pasta meal for added crunch or simply use them instead of traditional chips. In fact, for this batch of Sweet Potato Chips, I sprayed them lightly with some coconut oil and seasoned with some Himalayan Salt so they resemble traditional chips quite well (not as greasy, though). Dehydrated fruit usually ends up in my morning meal while hiking which mostly happens to be oatmeal, but you can most definitely put it in your trail mix or munch on it like you would on chips. Or go a step further and include it in your homemade granola bars! 

When these were baking in the oven the house filled out with the most amazing aroma. If I didn’t know any better I would have said there was an apple pie in the oven!

I sprinkled the apple slices with some cinnamon because everybody knows cinnamon and apples make the greatest of marriages!

 

Apple Granola Bars
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 12
  • Serving size: 50g
  • Calories: 153
  • Fat: 3.6
  • Saturated fat: .4
  • Unsaturated fat: .8
  • Carbohydrates: 24
  • Sugar: 7.8
  • Sodium: 53
  • Fiber: 4.2
  • Protein: 7.1
  • Cholesterol: 0
Recipe type: Snack
Cuisine: Vegan and nut free
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Don't settle for junk, make your own granola bars that are chock-full of nutrition!
Ingredients
  • 200g whole Oats
  • 1.5 scoop Clean Protein by Vega (you can sub for your favorite brand)
  • 60g Natural California Raisins
  • 200g Bananas
  • 60g Prunes
  • 20g whole Flax Seeds (ground)
  • 50g dyhadrated Apple chopped into tiny pieces (optional but recommended)
  • 20g Chia Seeds
  • 20g Hemp Seeds
  • 1tsp Cinnamon
  • ¼ cup of water
Instructions
  1. Grind the flax seed and add to the rest of the ingredients and incorporate with your bare hands. Add enough water for the mixture to bind together.
  2. Transfer the mass onto a parchment lined pyrex dish and press with your hands to mold it into what's to become your granola bars.
  3. Place in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees and bake for 40-50 minutes depending on your oven.
  4. Check for doneness - you want the edges to crisp up a bit.
  5. When out of the oven cut into individual bars.
  6. Store in the fridge to preserve freshness.

 

Since we are on the topic of hiking I feel it’s necessary to share pictures from my umptieth visit to Deadman’s Bay Path. I kid you not, for a person known for not being that much of a hiker I know this path inside and out 🙂

Coconut Macadamia Chocolate Cups

When I first came to Canada I was convinced I hit a jackpot in respect to the country I decided to call my home. I still do, but for different reasons now – 16 years after I first set foot in this country than upon my arrival. Back then I marveled at the conveniences of daily life like the abundance of ready to eat meals, or the cheapness of processed foods and the ease at which one could  (and still can) avail of food at fast-food restaurants at a very small cost. 16 years ago those conveniences were extremely appealing to me because where I came from , even though they were available, not very many families could afford them – processed foods such as candy were only bought sporadically (usually on a payday that happened once a month), visiting a fast-food restaurant was only a special occasion thing and as for ready-to-eat meals in cardboard boxes – they were only slowly emerging at that time and had a very high price tag. So, all in all I had not to that point partaken in all the “eye-candy” nutrition that now all of a sudden was at my fingertips. And of course, I fell for those cheap conveniences – you can read about it more in my About Page, but I’m pretty sure you can guess what happened next. Long story short – I’ve learned a lot about food in the past 16 years that now I chose carefully what I put in my mouth. That doesn’t mean I don’t like food or that I have some unhealthy relationship with food, if anything I’ve learned to understand food and nutrition better than ever before – I’ve taught myself about the dangers of malnutrition. And to me malnutrition does not only mean lack of proper food, to me it also means eating highly processed, fake foods. And this is why I spend time preparing my own food from scratch instead of going for the convenience of ready to go meals. Like I said I still like food and that includes treats  – that’s why, just like for my savoury meals I do not settle for store-bought treats. What you get from a wrapper is loaded with sugar and other additives that I would rather avoid in my diet. People who know me know not to offer me candy and we have an understanding that they can skip me when when they do their rounds offering people sweets. On the other hand, those who don’t know me, find me weird for turning down free candy. And I’m fine with that – the weirder the better. So, I came up with my own version of chocolates a while back that contains only the ingredients that I am willing to consume. This recipe was made for valentines this year – I guess I’m too slow for themed blog posts ;), but to have a lovely chocolate cup does not require that there be a holiday, does it? Hope you enjoy them nonetheless!

These beauties were so delicious that I almost felt guilty for indulging in them.

The ingredient list is fairly straight forward. If you don’t have vanilla powder on hand you can sub for liquid or skip all together. Same goes for Butter Rum extract – you can either use what you have or skip. I know Macadamia nuts are not a common occurrence in our households because they are quite pricey – so you can also sub. Those are not essential ingredients. So they can be replaced with something else or omitted altogether.

 

Coconut Macadamia Chocolate Cups
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 23
  • Serving size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 74
  • Fat: 8
  • Saturated fat: 4
  • Unsaturated fat: 3
  • Carbohydrates: 2
  • Sugar: 0
  • Sodium: 1
  • Fiber: 1
  • Protein: 1
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Low Carb Sweets
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Perfect treat that won't make you feel nauseous.
Ingredients
  • 80g Cocoa Butter
  • 50g Coconut Purée
  • 40g Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 15g Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
  • Dash of Vanilla Powder or Extract
  • Few drops of Butter Rum Extract
  • Stevia to taste
  • Macadamia Nuts or any other nuts of choice
Instructions
  1. Melt Cocoa Butter in a double boiler.
  2. Add Coconut Purée and integrate with the melted Cocoa Butter.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients except for Macadamia Nuts and mix well.
  4. Place a nut of choice in a silicone mold - I used a peanut butter cup mold, but any will do and fill up with the chocolate mixture to cover the nut.
  5. Place the mold on a cooling rack and slide into your freezer. I highly recommend the cooling rack technique, because otherwise you will make a mess trying to place the silicone mold into the freezer without stabilizing it first. It is rather flimsy.
  6. Leave it in the freezer for about 20 minutes or until chocolate has set.
  7. When fully hardened put the individual chocolate cups out of their molds and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

      I’m not sure how helpful my videos are, but these chocolates were so simple to make that it was a breeze to put together this little video. With the ease and really not much time put into making these I don’t see why anybody should settle for sugar laden factory made chocolates… Maybe I’m just an odd-one out – hell I know I am, but I like to know that I am putting only good quality ingredients in my food. Sure, it’s easier to pick up a chocolate bar at a grocery store, but it’s way more satisfying to make them myself 🙂 Enjoy and give me a thumbs up.

 

 

 

Raw Vegan Chocolate-Goji Cookies

I will admit to being a bit of a snob when it comes to some dietary approaches. For example, I have always scoffed at such claims as Gluten-free, Vegan, Organic etc. I’ve always considered those labels just a money grab by big food companies who put them even on things that are inherently gluten-free just to be able to charge a premium for it. Just think about it, if water gets a label “gluten free” don’t you feel like you’re getting taken in? I do. So, I view products with these claims as gimmicks and if I want to make my meals follow a certain dietary approach I just make them from scratch instead of buying ready to go meals that supposedly are gluten-free, vegan or organic etc. Also, if you think that you are going to be healthier by following any of these “diets” think again, the gluten-free, vegan or organic versions of regular junk are still junk – they are just parading as better than the regular. This is not to say that if you really have a gluten intolerance, celiac disease or simply want to eliminate gluten from your diet because you believe eating gluten-free is healthier doesn’t mean you can’t do so, just don’t fall for the fancy packaged foods, because they are just as bad as the gluten variety.

I’ve mentioned in one of my previous blog posts that I draw my current inspiration from a vegan bodybuilder – as a result I inevitably ended up emulating some of her recipes. These are a modified version of her recipe and I can’t recommend them enough. If you are looking for an alternative to overly processed and sweet cookies that our grocery store isles are laden with, this is a recipe for you. They are a child’s play (literally) to make and you might be surprised how rich and decadent they are. If you do prefer a sweeter cookie you can make them as sweet as you like, but I opted out for very little sweetener. This way I was able to let the ingredients speak for themselves rather than making a sweet bomb.

Raw Vegan Chocolate-Goji Cookies
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 20.5
  • Serving size: 65g
  • Calories: 259
  • Fat: 19
  • Saturated fat: 2.6
  • Unsaturated fat: 12
  • Carbohydrates: 10
  • Sugar: 3.1
  • Sodium: 82
  • Fiber: 5
  • Protein: 15
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: LCHF
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Decadent dessert to go with a cup of tea.
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Put all the nuts, goji berries and seeds in a food processor and pulse until they are ground. They don't need to be ground extremely fine - pulse about 10 minutes. Not too long because you will turn them into a paste.
  2. Transfer your ground nuts, goji berries and seeds into a large bowl.
  3. Add melted coconut oil, nut butter, maqui powder, protein powders, lucuma powder and a few drops of stevia (more if you want a sweeter cookie)
  4. Integrate all the ingredients together.
  5. Add enough water for the dough to become slightly sticky - I think for me it was about 1-2 cups, but you really need to go by how the mixture feels and how well you are able to form your cookies.
  6. Weigh out about 65g of your dough and form into a cookie shape.
  7. Roll in some unsweetened coconut flakes and place in the freezer for 20 minutes.
  8. Transfer into an airtight container and store in the fridge.
Notes
NOTE: As for my choice of protein powder that's what I had on hand so that's what I ended up using. Any protein powder will do - the ones I used are plant based, but if you prefer whey or casein you will be just as successful.

NOTE: The ingredients that are not easily found in the grocery store I personally purchased online (see links) but they are not indispensable in this recipe. They add antioxidants and minerals to my recipe but you can just as easily skip them with no repercussions to the recipe.

Sweetener resolution update

My birthday marked exactly two weeks into my New Year’s Resolution to remove my dependency on sweeteners, which for a long time has been limited to SweetLeaf Liquid Stevia only. However, I started noticing that daily use of this sweetener caused me to want to eat more in general, regardless of my hunger cues – you can read about my reasons behind the need to scale down in my initial post. So if you are wondering how I’ve been doing with this, read on….

The day I committed to scale down on the treats and the following workweek was spot on, 100% void of sweet treats. Everybody I know has a hard time resisting treats in social gatherings, at work, at parties etc. and for me that setting is the easiest one to say NO to treats. Why? Because I come prepared : I know exactly what I am going to eat and how much – it’s in my lunch box. I’ve already calculated all the nutrition of my packed meals because I made them, so I know what went into them. However, if somebody brings in a dip and crackers to work or other sweet treats, I have no way of knowing how to calculate that into my day – even if I wanted to have some. That’s a bit extreme for some, I realise that, but if that’s what keeps me from indulging then I’m willing to make that work for me. During the workweek I behaved and did not indulge in any sweet treats during the day or at night. My challenges lie in the inactivity…

Think a relaxing evening with a loved one on a couch watching your favorite show or a Saturday afternoon lounging around the house or a lazy Sunday morning in pyjamas – those times are very taxing on my little brain. For some reason my hands keep wanting to bring treats into my mouth 😉 And that’s what happened the past two weekends – subconsciously I’ve planned out my meals for Saturday and Sunday that included my regular sweet treat – a big ass pancake for each night. So out of 14 days 4 of them I did include my sweetener 4 times to make a pancake, which I think is a pretty good start on my way to sweetness freedom. I know I can do better and in order to do better I need to remove the inactivity trigger from my life during evenings and on the weekends….

The fact that the last day happened to be my birthday and I became overcome with an urge to develop a new sweet recipe did not help at all! In fact, I may have overdone it on the sampling of the new recipe just a tad – but then again, birthdays only come once a year, right? Well, I think that mentality is what gets us in trouble in the first place – how many times have you heard your internal voice say: “This is going to be the last time I’m going to have some, because it’s *fill-in-the-blank-special-occasion*” ? I dare say a lot – I know I have justified an indulgence more than once in my life just because it was a holiday. So, I’m putting that mentality on trial along side the sweetener.

Having said that and having recommitted myself to get rid of my sweet tooth for good, I did end up with a bowlful of Coconut Chocolate Cups on my birthday, so I think it’s only fair that I share the recipe with you 🙂

Coconut Chocolate Cups
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 16
  • Serving size: 30g
  • Calories: 231
  • Fat: 23.5
  • Saturated fat: 21.1
  • Unsaturated fat: 0.4
  • Carbohydrates: 4.1
  • Sugar: 1.8
  • Sodium: 8.1
  • Fiber: 2.1
  • Protein: 1.9
  • Cholesterol: 2.5
Recipe type: Snack
Cuisine: Sweet Treat LCHF
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Watch out because you might get addicted to these - they are one of a kind.
Ingredients
  • 3 packages of Pure Creamed Coconut
  • 2tbs of Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 2tbs Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 15g Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
  • 3tbs Coconut Oil
  • 10 drops of SweetLeaf Stevia drops
  • Extract of choice
Instructions
  1. Put the Pure Creamed Coconut in a double boiler and start mixing until you get a pretty runny consistency.
  2. Add 1tbs of Whipping Cream and mix - your mixture with harden a bit but as you keep mixing on the double boiler it will soften up again.
  3. Add Cocoa Powder, Coconut Oil and Stevia as well as extract if you're using any. Mix well.
  4. Add the second tablespoon of Whipping Cream and mix well.
  5. At the very end add the Coconut Flakes and integrate them well into the mix.
  6. Pour out about 30g of the mix into a silicone muffin form and repeat until all the batter is used up.
  7. Place the muffin forms into the freezer to help set.
  8. When Cups are set gently take them out of their molds and place them in a container to store. I would keep them either in the fridge or even the freezer.
Notes
Note 1 : If you can't find The Pure Creamed Coconut by Grace at your local grocery store there is an alternative but it is somewhat more expensive. Nutiva has a product called Coconut Manna, which is a puréed coconut meat. A 425g jar will run you about 12-13$. The packets that I buy are 1.69$ for 141g. So when you do the math you're saving yourself a bit of change. My packets look a bit less fancy and you have to get your creamed coconut from a plastic bag, but at that price difference I'm willing to do some work.

Note 2 : I see people spending an extraordinary amount of money on cocoa powder and I just can't justify it when I know I'm going through so much of it - it is not an occasional ingredient for me. And to be perfectly honest I cannot tell the difference between the fancy cocoa powder packaged beautifully and enticingly and the regular store brand cocoa powder. And there should not be any difference because the ingredient lists the exact same thing. So I always opt for the store brand cocoa powder, but to each their own - any will do.

Note 3 : I found a nice section of very potent extracts at Bulk Barn and for this one I used a few drops of cherry extract. Mint would go well with these and maybe some heat in the form of chili powder. You could also sprinkle these with chipotle himalayan salt before you put them in the freezer to set.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These were very tasty – not too sweet, as I tried to hold myself back on the Stevia and they had a very mild coconut undertone. I enjoyed the shaved coconut flakes in them as well – nice texture addition. You could swap the coconut flakes and instead add nuts – I think whole hazelnuts would be great in these.

Hope you enjoy these little cups, don’t do what I did, though, because too much of the good thing isn’t that good.

I’ve put together a short instructional video to show how I usually deal with Pure Creamed Coconut – it took me a while to figure it out, but once I did I understood the ways in which I can use this product much better. Forgive the amateurish feel of my first real attempt at video making, hope you’ll enjoy it anyway 🙂

 

 

Trail worthy Seed Crackers

I’ve been diligently working on developing trail worthy snack foods that will also fit into the type of foods I am willing to eat and I’m happy to say I’m finding ways of making this a success. I should also add that I have been slowly moving away from deriving my energy from carb sources and turning toward fats for energy – hence you will see more fat oriented recipes in the future. The reason for this is simple – I feel better running on fat rather than carbs. Carbs make me sluggish and make me crave more of them as opposed to making me feel satiated. Fats on the other hand keep me satiated  longer and I don’t get those common stomach pangs that you get a couple of hours after consuming a meal when you fuel yourself with carbs. The thought of being able to go without having to eat for longer periods of time without the discomforts of hunger is quite liberating, if you ask me. Hence these Seed Crackers are very high in fat. 

The idea of making my own Seed Crackers came to me when I spotted this bag at my favourite retail store –img_20160918_091012924_hdr-01 Winners.

Winners is a place where I go for a dose of things I can’t find anywhere else. I usually don’t bother with the Snack Isle and only scope the Spice Shelf of the Food Section –  as I consider the Snack Shelf nothing more than a glorified Candy Isle from the local grocery store. However, on one of my recent visits I found  this bag on the Clearance Shelf and picked it up to see the ingredient list – fully expecting to have to put it down. Often times, I will pick up a product just to see what’s in it and then promptly put it away because I deem it unworthy of my digestive system. 😉 However, this time I had to read the list twice to consider wether I wanted to put it back or purchase it. Have a look… these actually don’t contain anything that is bad strictly speaking – no questionable oils, no added sugars, just various seeds and grains :img_20160918_091028468_hdr-01

 

So I decided I’d give them a try for the sole purpose of trying to replicate them – because let’s be honest, I will never again find another bag of these at Winners and who wants to pay $4.99 (regular price) a pop for a bag this small? Not me.

img_20160828_084530181_hdr
I took a serving of those crackers with me on a hike to Cape Spear Path and they were quite good! I would have preferred them to be slightly more salty and maybe have a spicy kick, but overall I did enjoy them. They were very light and quite portable.

So next time I needed some hike food I came up with my own version of these – I call them Spicy Seed Crackers. I have recently made a huge batch of them to be available when hiking happens:

 
Spicy Seed Crackers
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 37
  • Serving size: 10g
  • Calories: 182
  • Fat: 14.7
  • Saturated fat: 1.9
  • Unsaturated fat: 7.1
  • Carbohydrates: 7.1
  • Sugar: 0.6
  • Sodium: 198
  • Fiber: 4.2
  • Protein: 7.3
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Spicy Seed Crackers Recipe Type : Snack Cuisine: Hiking Snacks Author: Angelika Prep time: 5 mins Cook time: 30 mins Total time: 35 mins Serves: 37 These are crunchy and crispy little crackers, but what's most important they are quite suitable for taking on long distance hikes 🙂
Ingredients
  • 70g Pumpkin Seeds
  • 80g Chia Seeds
  • 72g Raw Sunflower Seeds
  • 25g Ground Flax Seeds
  • 30g Toasted Sesame Seeds
  • 5g Himalayan Crystal Salt
  • 5g Ground Pepper
  • 5g Garlic Powder
  • 5g Chilli Powder
  • 10g Tumeric
  • 5-6 Cloves of Roasted Garlic
  • 1cup water
Instructions
  1. Put all dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
  2. Add garlic and water and mix well.
  3. Set aside for 10 minutes for the chia seeds to absorb some of the water.
  4. On a baking sheet lined with some parchment paper spread the mixture evenly from edge to edge. You can use your fingers to do so or a large spoon. Make sure you spread the mixture evenly so that it bakes evenly as well.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes checking occasionally to make sure it's not burning up on the edges. You can also flip it half way through, but it might be difficult to do if the cracker isn't yet somewhat baked through.
  6. Remove from the oven and crack into pieces. I make them uneven, but you could score the raw mixture before putting in the oven and then crack them at the predetermined score lines for an even looking cracker.
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This is a double batch made of the above recipe and I am hoping this amount will last me quite a while – they are very dense calorically so you don’t need a lot to feel satiated – hence my serving size is only 10g.
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I have to say I think I really nailed it on the spice department – they are nice and salty and have a bit of a kick and of course plenty of pungent garlic in there.
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Such a delight to look at and eat of course.
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I decided I don’t care about the even size of these – they are meant to be more artistic, free flowing crackers. Evenness is overrated – just like the harsh, rugged edges of the East Coast Trail, these invite you with their varying forms 🙂

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Hope you enjoy making these yourself, as they are so simple even a 5 year old would be able to put them together 🙂 

We’re getting duped

It boggles my mind how smart marketing can make us believe a food item is a healthy choice. Think about it; simple placement of the product in the store will lead the consumer to believe that it is in fact better than the same type of product that’s placed in an obviously unhealthy section of the store. Think Organic Isle sporting all the KIND type bars versus the Candy Isle with all the Snickers type bars. The obvious thinking from a consumer point of view will be to put Snickers type bars into the unhealthy category and the KIND type bars into a better (maybe healthy) category. But clearly, if you take the time to look at the contents of the KIND type bar you will quickly see that it does not differ that much in the nutritional breakdown from the obviously naughty bar. KIND is higher in fat whereas Snikers has more sugar added. 

BAR CALORIES FAT CARBS SUGAR PROTEIN
KIND 53g* 251 16g 30g 16g 4g
SINCKERS 53g 250 12g 33g 27g 4g

My verdict is that if I was in a dire need of food and all that was available was the choice between supposedly healthy bars and candy bars, I would opt for getting more fat than sugar and pick a KIND type bar to fuel myself. However, I will not be fooled into thinking that there is something inherently good and healthy about a KIND bar. It is for all intents and purposes a candy bar in my books – it has 4 different types of sugar added to it – hence it is a candy bar.

 

*Please note that the KIND bar is a smaller bar than the Snickers bar in weight, so in order to be accurate in comparing the nutritional value of both I adjusted the weight of the KIND bar to match that of the Snickers bar.  

This is why it’s so difficult to figure out the healthy eating game these days

These days you don’t need to go to the library to seek information, you simply open up your computer’s browser and head to Google. You’ll get thousands if not millions of results on any given subject. Health and healthy eating being probably at the top in terms of how much we Google them. In a way it’s great, because the information is quick to find and very abundant. But on the other hand, there is a lot of misinformation floating in the virtual world, because everybody and I mean EVERYBODY can express themselves on the Internet. So you have to be extra cautious and use own common sense to discern what’s good and what’s bad. Some people prefer to seek the information on government regulated websites of various government agencies, like the FDA. In my humble opinion (and I can’t stress it enough that this is just my opinion and is not based on any research or study) this is not so good either. Let me elaborate.

kind

You might have heard of the big crackdown on a popular energy bar by the name of KIND by the FDA. Or maybe you haven’t. In a nutshell FDA expressed their disapproval for the KIND company using the word healthy to promote their energy bars. You can find those bars in the Organic / Health section of your store, so by default they are recognized by the consumer as a healthier version of a candy bar. Mind you, I would not touch the KIND bar with a 10 foot pole, but that’s not the point here.  The point is that FDA has it all wrong when they define what is healthy and what is not. They regulate what can be promoted as healthy and here are their criteria:

  • Have less than 2g of saturated fat (aka be low fat).
  • Contain no more than 480mg of sodium (aka be low salt).
  • Contain at least 10% of the DRV of Vitamin A and C, Calcium, Iron, Protein or Fibre.

To an average consumer this sounds about right. Fat is bad, so a healthy product should be low in fat. Salt in your diet is bad too, so it’s a no brainer that if a company promotes a product as healthy there should be minimal salt in it. That’s what we’ve been fed (excuse the pun) by organizations such as the FDA! Notice though, that in their criteria for healthy labelling they don’t include the content of sugar and its derivatives. So, by that logic, if a Snickers bar was low in fat and sodium and we pumped in some Vit A and C, Calcium, Iron and sprinkled it with some protein powder, it could potentially have a healthy claim written on it’s wrapper?!  Yet, a KIND bar that contains healthy nuts, hence making its fat content slightly elevated can’t be promoted as healthy. Like I said, I’m the last person to pick up a KIND bar in the Organic Isle of my grocery store – unless of course I’m going for a hike *wink, wink* – but I can clearly recognize the backwardness of the FDA’s definition of healthy. Healthy is what grows in the ground, period. You don’t need to measure its health claims, because you know that a carrot, a tomato, a green bean, an apple, a potato etc. are all good for you.   

Are you still puzzled with the whole FDA’s “healthy” criteria issue? Let me go on then. Fat is not the problem and neither is salt. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, I highly recommend reading :

  • Fat Chance by Robert H. Lustig,  
  • Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes,  
  • The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz,
  • Death by Food Pyramid by Denise Minger.

Or watch That Sugar Film that I have blogged about before. 

And the list can go on of authors and scientists showing us that it’s not the fat or salt that are the villains here, but the sugar! 

 

Is Social Media making us fat? If so, go make some Coffee Vanilla ice-cream fluff:)

IMG_20150813_191758There are very few of us around who don’t have accounts on social media. Even if you despise the idea of it, you belong to at least one of them. You might not be using it, but you’re “on it”. However, most of us use social media, we do it so that we can keep up on things that interest us, keep in touch with friends and family etc.. I use it to keep up on fitness and nutrition related subjects, I follow/subscribe to fitness and nutrition writers and other enthusiasts that I deem might have something interesting to say on these subjects.  

So what do I get out of social media? Mostly, good articles, books to read, other people’s experiences and let’s not forget good recipes. Now, before I get to those good recipes I have to mention the plethora of misinformation out there. You’re thinking “duh!”. Right? Yes, I know this is not any sort of revelation. Everybody knows that you need to be very cautious out there in the virtual space when you go on researching any subject. But let’s take an unsuspecting overweight person who has just decided to get fit and do something about their eating habits.

Before the internet era you’d probably have to go to the library or a bookstore, or maybe you’d seek help with your physician or other such professional. Today, your first point of information is the internet. You’re browsing facebook, twitter feeds and instagram and all of a sudden you realize that you can follow all sorts of people with pretty, delicious looking food on their instagram feeds. Not only that, but they also sport pictures of their physiques and you realize they all look better than you and you put 1 and 1 together and the next thing you know you’re assuming that these people eat all this delicious food and they still manage to look this good!!?? Hey, maybe there is hope! You can be skinny and eat your cake too! So you dig deeper.

You are now looking up certain tags on IG because you’ve acquired some knowledge and you know where to look. Before you know it,  you have found the latest craze that seems to be making people take selfies of themselves because the craze is supposedly making them look good. It’s called “If It Fits Your Macros” aka “IIFYM”, some call it “Flexible Dieting”. All you know, is that these people claim that you can and should eat candy and sweets that you love so much and still be able to look good. The proponents of this diet say that you don’t have to give up the foods you like to be fit and healthy. In fact, in order for your diet to stick and be sustainable (oh it’s a big word out there!) you need to eat what you like, as opposed to all that boring broccoli and chicken!! You come to the conclusion that these people must have it figured out (hence all the selfies) and the more you think about it the more it starts to make sense. It is quite sustainable and manageable to eat the foods that you enjoy, rather than the ones you don’t enjoy, that’s not rocket science. It’s easier to stick to it if you can eat candy all day and surely you will fall off the wagon if you have to eat the same boring veggies and lean meats. The question is : “Can it really be done?” Eating crap and looking good, that is? You try it and you buy into this idea and wait for it to work. But what exactly are MACROS? Oh you don’t intend to dig this deep. It’s supposed to be easy, right? So, you keep eating all the snickers bars, pop tarts and ice-cream because all the most hard core IITFYMers are doing it and taking pictures of it, so it will eventually work, you just need patience.  

But what you don’t know is that there are actually very few of these IIFYMers that do it right or for whom this Flexible Dieting is working. Very few of them are ripped and those who use this principle correctly are not sitting on the couch eating candy all day. The ones that make IITFYM work for them do it smart.

Of course it’s not all bad news and there are things you can take away from them. That’s the beauty of social media, one person creates something and others can learn from it, change it, modify, redistribute it. But ultimately it’s up to us, social media consumers, to sift through, observe, learn, discern, do more research but never blindly follow. You have to use your brain.

So here is what I’ve taken away from all the hype; the recipe for the Protein Ice-Cream Fluff is by no means my invention. Different versions of it have beenIMG_20150813_191750~2 floating on social media, particularly on IG for a while. Take from it what you want or need. I swear by it for the sole reason that you can make it very low calorie for a lot of volume and at night I am a volume eater. Today, my basic recipe (ice-cream only) will only be 189cal! Now, what you put on top of it is what will bump up the calories. The one pictured is 350cal, but if you skip the cream cheese and the nuts you can bring it way down.

INGREDIETS for Ice-Cream Fluff:

  • 1-1/5 cup unsweetened Almond Milk
  • 1 scoop of Casein Protein Powder
  • 6g Guar Gum (some people use Xanthan powder)
  • Extracts of choice I used coffee and vanilla
  • 1 tsp of instant coffee

DIRECTIONS :
Process on high in a food processor for 10-20 minutes until it becomes fluff. Place in a large bowl and put it in the freezer for cooling.

INGREDIENTS for Chocolate “brownie” curtesy of Kalli Youngstrom:

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp Walden Farms Syrup of choice 

DIRECTIONS:
Mix everything in a small bowl until it becomes a paste. Pour into a nonstick frying pan and fry, breaking it up so that it’s not flat, but rather crumbly like a brownie.  

INGREDIENTS for cream cheese spread:

  • 30g light Philadelphia Cream Cheese
  • 5g protein powder
  • 10g Natural (no sugar, no oil added) peanut butter or almond butter
  • 1 tbsp Walden Farms Syrup of choice

DIRECTIONS: 
Mix well. 

To assemble your ice-cream fluff you will take the ice-cream bowl out of the freezer after couple of hours. Put your crumbled “brownie” on top, smear the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownie and add any other desired toppings. Mine had carmel Walden Farms syrup and 10g of dry roasted peanuts. 

MACROS:
350cal, 36p, 11c, 17f. 

EVOLUTION OF THE ICE-CREAM FLUFF:
This one kept growing like a building under construction right in front of my own eyes. I did not plan it this elaborate right from the get go.

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This is what went into the freezer with the thought that there will be some toppings in the form of the brownie and Walden Farms syrup.
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Here I added the brownie, Walden Farms and cream cheese mixture crept in.
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And here I decided that there is lack of texture in my recipe and if this was on Food Network’s Chopped Chef Geoffrey Zakarian would surely chop me 😉

So here you have it, my nightly shenanigans with food 🙂 

Cheesecake – the one desert that never gets boring, but sometimes nearly kills your spouse!

noproteincheesecakeI’ve made dozens upon dozens of different takes on this classic desert. Here is one of them if you haven’t checked it out yet. Most times, to change up the flavour, I’ll play around with different extracts – think vanilla, red velvet cake, rum, banana, hazelnut etc.. But the bulk of my flavour usually comes from protein powder. Now, I don’t see anything wrong with adding protein powder to my dishes. If you do your research, you’ll find good, high quality protein powders out there. But I do realize that they are pricey and not everybody is willing or wants to spend the money on it, especially given the fact that cheesecake, in particular, already has an abundance of protein from all the cream cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt that you make it with. So for this reason, in this recipe I’ve skipped the protein powder. Well, ok, there is another reason…. The last time I shared my protein packed treat with my spouse I nearly killed him! It gave him such bad stomach that once he went into the bedroom after consuming my treat I did not see him the entire day! He had to wait it out and the cramps went away, but wholly guacamole I would not wish this on anybody! So in the spirit of not wanting to hurt my loved ones this recipe does not call for any fancy powders. In fact, it’s pretty darn basic: 

INGREDIENTS:

DIRECTIONS:

  • Beat the eggs with stevia and chocolate extract in a food processor or by hand.
  • Add Cream Cheese and slowly start adding the Cottage Cheese in small chunks. It’s important not to add the entire 500g at once, because it may break your food processor, it’s very dry.
  •  In the meantime melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler. Simply put your chocolate chips in a small bowl and place it on top of a pot half full with water so that the bottom of your “chocolate bowl” is only slightly touching the water. Put the whole contraption on the stove and set the element to medium-medium high heat. There is no need to boil the water. Once your melting process starts you want to stir the chocolate occasionally.  
  • Add melted chocolate to your cheese mixture, mix well.
  • You may choose to add other flavourings to your cheesecake, I added 1/4 cup Walden Farms syrup. You can use cocoa powder, but I found it unnecessary as the chocolate chips gave my cheesecake enough of a chocolaty flavour. 
  • Once everything is integrated pour into your baking pan, I opted for a round one, but it’s up to you.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until done. Don’t let it dry out too much. You want it to be moist inside.

NOTES:

NOTE 1:  When a recipe calls for chocolate I do one of two things: I either use the Baker’s unsweetened 100% dark chocolate or Krisda Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips. For this recipe I opted for the latter simply because it has some sweetness from stevia and as I am not using a whole lot of sweeteners in here I thought Baker’s unsweetened chocolate would make the cheesecake bitter. 

NOTE 2:  Dry Pressed Cottage Cheese is my latest find at the grocery store! I’ve been using it for a while now, so it’s not a new discovery. It’s cottage cheese in its purest form without all the additives and crap that you normally see in a tub of cottage cheese. It’s practically fat free, 50g contains 10g protein and 1.8g carbs. And it’s ideal for cheesecake, but you have to be careful while processing it. If you put the entire package of 500g in your food processor without any added liquids the motor of your machine might not be able to run at high speed and will cut out. I usually either add liquids early on or pulse instead of going full tilt. Once the consistency is silky smooth there is no danger to breaking your machine, it’s just the initial start.

NOTE 3:  Chocolate Walden Farms Syrup is a product that claims to be calorie free as it is sweetened with Sucralose. Now it’s entirely up to you if you want to include it or not as there is always an ongoing debate concerning Sucralose. I like to have some on hand, but due to the calorie free statement on the bottle it does get used quite liberally, so let’s just say it does not last 😉 

MACROS:
I usually weigh my finished product and track my macros by grams. So for example this entire cheesecake weighs about 880g. 150g, which is a very generous serving is 268cal, 22p, 17c, 12f. 

And there you have it, Chocolate Cheesecake that does not kill. Yes, I have shared it with Randy and I think he approved, however he did not ask for seconds 🙁

Bon Appétit!