My Food Philosophy

“Are you vegetarian? Gluten-free? Vegan? What the heck is paleo? Are you paleo?”

As a nutrition-obsessed foodie who loves to cook, I often hear questions like this one, and my answer is simple: none of the above. My philosophy to food and healthy eating is all about savouring every bite in a balanced, forgiving way. Food is one of the greatest pleasures in life, though it is slowly becoming the enemy, something we blame and fear. When fresh ingredients (and love!) are used to make anything from kale salads to triple chocolate cakes, they all belong in our diets.

If you want to wrap yourself in a blanket and have a bowl of a caramel ice cream, do it. And if you overdo it this time, forgive yourself and move on. Given the fact that humans spend five to six years of their lives eating, a single meal mishap is nothing to stress out about.

As for the said diet labels, there are days where I am completely vegan (most of the time, it is unintentional!), and other days where I’m the biggest carnivore. Sometimes I’ll enjoy dairy-free meals, and other times I’ll make yummy paleo or grain-free desserts. Every diet has great benefits and shortcomings.

Of course, there are days where my diet doesn’t fit into a box at all! For reasons explained in a couple pages, I am 90% vegetarian, with an emphasis on plant-based ingredients. While I strive to enjoy a variety of seasonal produce, unique grains, and other delicious things like salmon, nuts, eggs, and yogurt, I don’t like to label myself a vegetarian. When Mom spends hours salting, basting, and roasting a turkey on Thanksgiving, I will happily help myself to a piece… or five. During the summer that I lived in France with my sister, I devoured steak tartare (raw beef topped with uncooked egg yolk) and frequently found myself ordering crispy fried duck. If Grandma lovingly prepares a beef stew, I will certainly not refuse the juicy chunks of meat that she cooked with so much care.

Cooking and enjoying food need not be complicated, time-consuming, or restrictive.

A healthy diet = balance = cook at home as much as possible + variety of minimally-processed goodies + occasional indulgences

Lately: Favourite Ways to Add Protein

Hey friends! Good Thursday morning. I hope you’re all having a wonderful week so far. I’ve got a couple of cool new (to me) recipes to share with you while I devour this morning’s bowl of chocolate pear oatmeal.

I baked this almond raspberry cake yesterday, and I’m actually eating a big square of this right now crumbled over my oats. Unlike normal cakes made with dense white flour and refined white sugar, this recipe uses almond meal (ground almonds) and maple syrup/honey.

Can you believe that 1 cup of almond meal has 24 grams of protein? I just googled it and was pretty shocked. I used 1 egg + 1 flax egg because my carton was nearly empty, but if you do use 2 eggs, that pumps up the protein even more.

This cake is super delicious and reminds me of a sturdy, not-overwhelmingly-sweet almond croissant.

Gluten-Free Paleo Almond Cake with Raspberries
Serves: 4
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup almond meal, firmly packed into measuring cups
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp ground flax + 2.5 tbsp water
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Make flax egg by combining flax with water. Set aside for 5 minutes.
  2. In the same bowl, beat egg, maple, coconut oil, and vanilla extract.
  3. Add baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt. Whisk well.
  4. Finally, add almond meal. Mix until just combined. Decorate with raspberries if desired.
  5. Bake at 325 degrees for 45-50 minutes.
  6. I like mine served with a scoop of yogurt. Store in the refrigerator.

Another snack I’ve been having is tea! I usually steep English breakfast tea or Earl Grey tea in boiling water and then add half a cup of milk. The milk adds creaminess, a little sweetness, and 4 grams of satisfying protein. This snack warms me up and fills my belly in the best possible way.

If you’re a tea addict, I highly recommend purchasing a milk frother! It’s a life changer.

Of all the ways to add protein to my diet, nuts would have to be my all-time favourite way. They are epitome of a healthy snack! I always sprinkle toasted walnuts and pecans on my yogurt and oatmeal. They add sweetness, crunch, and, um… nuttiness.

Doesn’t this brownie look amazing? It tasted pretty dang amazing too. Plus… it’s vegan! You would never guess that it’s free of butter and eggs. I encourage you to give this recipe a try, especially if you’re a little fearful of black bean brownies.

Vegan Brownies
Serves: 9 brownies
Ingredients
  • flax eggs (2 Tbsp (14 g) flaxseed meal + 5 Tbsp (75 ml) water)
  • 1/2 cup (112 g) melted vegan butter (or coconut oil)
  • 1/2 cup (96 g) coconut sugar (or organic cane sugar)
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) maple syrup (or agave nectar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup 48 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup (120 g) spelt flour
  • 1/4 cup (27.5 g) almond meal
  • optional: 1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C) and lightly grease an 8×8-inch (or similar size) baking dish with coconut oil, then line with parchment paper (the oil helps the parchment paper stick to the sides).
  2. Prepare flax eggs in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.
  3. To a large mixing bowl add melted vegan butter or coconut oil, coconut sugar, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Whisk thoroughly to combine and start dissolving the coconut sugar.
  4. Add flax eggs and whisk once more until combined. Then add baking powder, sea salt, and cocoa powder and whisk.
  5. Add gluten free flour blend and almond meal and fold with a spatula until just mixed. Then add desired add-ins (optional), such as vegan chocolate chips or nuts.
  6. Add the batter to the prepared baking dish and spread into an even layer with a rubber spatula. Add a few additional toppings if desired, such as chocolate chips and nuts (optional).
  7. Bake for 22 minutes, or until the edges appear dry and slightly fluffy and the center is no longer wet or sticky.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes, preferably 45 minutes – 1 hour (the longer they cool, the less tender they will be). Then gently lift out of pan and use a sharp knife to cut into desired number of squares (I went for 9).
  9. Store completely cooled leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature up to a few days. Will keep in the freezer up to 1 month.

Sometimes I like topping my yogurt with almond butter and crumbled cookie. 1/2 tbsp of almond butter not only tastes amazing but adds a bit more protein to the plate. Also, Greek yogurt is a protein God when it comes to vegetarian snacking. I always go for 2% plain Greek yogurt and sweeten it myself with a little maple syrup and cinnamon.

DSC04426

What is this odd concoction? I actually had this for breakfast, but it would totally work as a snack as well. I mixed 2 eggs with some applesauce and tried to make pancakes, but they turned into a scramble that I topped with 1/4 cup of Greek yogurt, hemp hearts, and way too much nut butter. This kept me full for HOURS.

Yum! Sliced apple with brie cheese. Brie is probably not the highest protein cheese, but it sure tastes good with gala apple slices. I wish I had some white cheddar for this – yum.

DSC04019

Last but not least for high-protein snacks – a tasty oatmeal pancake made with egg and topped with nut butter. This recipe was inspired by Kate! https://thedomestikatedlife.com

So for a couple more tips on nuts and stuff like that, check out Nuts.com. You can also take a look at this like to see some nutritious high-protein snacks. It was fun to look at those snack ideas and then put this post together because a) I eat and photograph nuts all the time anyways, and b) they shared this cool graphic with me!

Check it out:

nuts_post_workout_snacks_2x_v03 (1)

So, why all the hype about protein? You might already know it as the macronutrient that helps you build muscle, but what else? Here are some of my favourite reasons.

  1. Protein is satisfying and can help to reduce appetite.
  2. It is great for bones.
  3. It promotes heart health.
  4. Protein stabilizes blood sugar levels.
  5. It can also help to improve your mood!
  6. It reduces cravings and the temptation to engage in late-night snacking.
  7. It can boost metabolism and help burn fat.
  8. Protein can help your body repair itself after a tricky workout.
  9. You don’t need too much of it (definitely not as much as the media hypes it up to be)
  10. It can be found in most foods (some are nonintuitive – like peas!)

Now, onto something that is completely unrelated, my crow pose!

And a little flow that I like to do. One of my favourite yoga instructors suggested trying chaturangas on one foot!

It’s been rainy the past couple of days, so I’m really missing this sunny day when I could do yoga in the parking lot in the morning. Still working on that headstand, though. 😛

Check out this recipe for coconut flour banana bread. I made it a couple weeks ago and really like it! Coconut flour is loaded with fibre, and the almond butter adds extra protein (yup). Plus, who doesn’t like banana bread – especially with chocolate chips?

Coconut Flour Chocolate Chip Banana Squares (gluten-free, paleo)

INGREDIENTS
  • 3 medium ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 8×4 inch or 9×5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine bananas, vanilla and almond butter; mix until well combined, smooth and creamy. Add in eggs, one at a time and mix on medium speed until combined. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add in coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt; mix again until just combined. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until tester inserted into center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool for 20 minutes, then carefully invert, remove bread from pan and place back on wire rack to cool completely. Cut into 12 slices.

Perfect on oatmeal! With peanut butter, of course.

Changing the topic again…

Yay for school being over!

BeFunky Collage

That means more time to go out to cafes and enjoy sandwiches,

more time for yummy dessert like this coconut cream puff,

and more time to cook veggie pasta with goat cheese, pesto, and parmesan.

It also means more time in the morning to bake… brownies for breakfast? For real.

Brownie Batter Breakfast Bake
Yields: 1 serving
Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup quick oats
  • 2 Tbsp. almond meal
  • 1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ tsp. baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup milk or almond milk
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup, to taste
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp mini chocolate chips, divided
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F, and lightly coat an individual sized ramekin or oven-safe bowl with coconut oil.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients (use 1 tsp chocolate chips). Fold in chocolate chips, reserving a few to sprinkle on the top.
  3. Transfer batter to your greased ramekin, topping with reserved 1 tsp chocolate chips. Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on desired consistency.
  4. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes before adding any additional toppings and digging in!
  5. Serve with yogurt, crushed nuts, and nut butter. Enjoy hot or warm!

More time to decorate my oatmeal…

And maybe not if I’m feeling lazy.

It’s kind of ridiculous how many eggs I’ve devoured in the past week. Eggs + spinach + cheese and whole wheat pita/bread is my favourite quick and easy lunch of all time.

More oats with a side of Physics, taken before the exam. 😛

Quinoa topped with cheddar and a poached egg.

Granola oatmeal, because why not top oats with oats?

DSC04302

This was roasted sweet potato with quinoa and a delicious salmon in red curry with peas and spinach. Mmmmm dinner dreams.

DSC03977

I’m so boring with breakfast, I know.

Come to think of it, I’m pretty boring for all my meals.

DSC04325

Amen.

And again. Wow, I really don’t get sick of the same stuff!

Okay, finally something different! Mashed ripe banana in cocoa oatmeal with almond butter swirl.

Okay, back to boring.

One day I bought a couple desserts to split with the roomies! Our favourite was the vanilla bean cheesecake.

DSC04122

When you run out of toppings you can improvise with… chocolate.

DSC04311

C’est tout for today! Hope you all have a wonderful rest of the week.

One Post, Two Chocolate Recipes

Good Saturday morning, guys! I can’t believe it’s the weekend already. The whole week went by way to quickly, and for one obvious reason – lectures are over! Woohoo!

This calls for a celebration.

A big plate of chocolatey, fudgy, gooey, goodness is my favourite way to celebrate! I’ve been so excited to share this recipe with you guys. These are the simplest banana squares ever, but are free of refined sugars/syrups, made without grains, but studded with delicious chocolate chips and taste incredible.

DSC03918

The ingredients couldn’t be simpler: bananas, eggs, vanilla, some flour and good cocoa powder, plus your usual baking stuff. Did I mention that this recipe is paleo? The paleo diet is one that focuses on food eaten by early humans (you might know it as the “caveman diet”). People following a paleo diet eat primarily meat, fish, veggies, and fruit – omitting refined food, dairy, and grains.

I am not paleo – uh, live without yogurt? No thanks – but I love this recipe because it:

a) Is sweetened only by bananas – four super ripe ones, to be exact!

b) Involves coconut flour and almond flour, both of which add lots of moistness and a wonderful crumb

c) Can be made in ONE BOWL! :O This has nothing to do with being paleo, but still. One bowl?! So worth it.

d) Check out the recipe – there’s not a drop of oil in here! Instead, the two special flours give it so much moisture. Not to mention the four big old bananas in here! Basically, if you eat 3 squares at once (pssshhh, not something I would do at all 😉 ), that’s basically eating a whole banana. In your dessert. With chocolate. Sweet!


Here’s my new favourite recipe!

Double Chocolate Paleo Banana Bread Bars
Makes 12
INGREDIENTS
  • 4 medium ripe bananas
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/3 cup packed coconut flour
  • 1/3 cup high-quality cocoa powder (I used Valrhona)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon: optional
  • 1/3 cup  chocolate chips (I used mini chocolate chips)
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 8×8 baking pan with coconut oil. Set aside.
  2. Mash bananas very well.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla. Whisk until very well combined.
  4. Add baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk.
  5. Add cocoa powder and mix well.
  6. Add almond flour and mix.
  7. Add coconut flour and mix.
  8. Stir in mini chocolate chips.
  9. Spread batter into pan and sprinkle remaining chocolate chips on top. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool for 20 minutes before cutting.
  10. Enjoy!

If you don’t like paleo recipes for whatever reason, or aren’t lucky enough to have coconut flour and almond flour sitting on the counter, don’t try to substitute them. Coconut flour is extremely absorbent (hence the 1/3 cup used here), so it is very tricky to substitute with good results.

Instead, why not try one of my other banana cake square recipes?

DSC03932

As promised, I have another chocolatey recipe for you today! These are vegan muffins that I whipped up one day after class for an amazing dessert and snack. They could even pass for breakfast – check out the ingredients. 🙂

DSC03821

This recipe makes 12 generous chocolate muffins that freeze very well – I popped five or six into the freezer as soon as they cooled down.

DSC03802

The rest were devoured in subsequent days. They keep well at room temperature for around 3 days, and you could also store them in the fridge.

DSC03818

I’m not vegan either, but sometimes I forget to buy eggs and resort to recipes like this one when I need a chocolate fix 🙂


 

Vegan Double Chocolate Muffins

Makes 12

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 flax eggs: 2 tbsp flax + generous 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/3 cup spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used mini chocolate chips)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Make flax egg by combining flax and water. Set aside until thickened and egg-like.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease 12 muffin holes.
  3. Add applesauce, maple, sugar, sea salt, baking soda, melted oil, and almond milk. Whisk until well-combined.
  4. Add cocoa powder and mix.
  5. Add spelt flour and mix carefully. Be sure not to overmix. When there are still some white flour streaks, add most of the chocolate chips. Combine until just mixed.
  6. Divide between 12 muffin holes. Top with remaining chocolate.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
  8. Keep at room temperature for 3-4 days. They also freeze well.

Take a bite and let me know what you think!

DSC03823

The last couple of days have been pretty busy. I did an acro-yoga class and made some new friends here – the guy at the bottom of our triple plank did a bunch of pushups in this position! Whoa. :O

I’ve been waking up early this past week (around 6:00) and having tea while I study anatomy or physiology, then making a bowl of oatmeal at around 7:30. It’s a great way to start the day.

IMG_7411-1

During finals season, there are few things better than lasagna from the freezer. I found myself thanking myself for making this, haha!

IMG_7408

I hope “second winter” is almost over. 😦

Coffee shops were visited…

Multiple times. This quiche was freaking amazing. I enjoyed this French-ish meal at Sablétine Pastries near Vincenzo’s in Uptown Waterloo.

Don’t be fooled by the notes – I definitely wasn’t studying while devouring the amazing wheat berry salad, baked potato soup, and zucchini + feta quiche. YUM.

IMG_7417

And I think that’s it for today! I’m meeting with some friends in around half an hour at school to study, and then I plan to do a cycling class at noon. After that, I will likely go to a café for lunch before studying in the afternoon (ehh… hopefully).

Have a great afternoon!