Saturday, July 30, 2011

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen...

No no no, not so fast - I'm not going anywhere! In fact, I am going nowhere simply because as of last Wednesday I am no longer in school... ever again! It was really the first time since leaving my elementary school that I felt an inkling of sadness at graduating. All the work and stress load aside, I really did enjoy my time within the walls of IHN and learned a lot - about holistic health, nutrition, the society around me and myself. I'm moving on knowing that I've chosen the right path and with many contacts and friends who I'm honoured to have worked with.

Of course, I've talked several times before about the goodies I would bring into the school, and for our graduation party, I made no exception. In fact, I did a foodie triple-whammy for that last day, making gluten-free and vegan flourless cake and bread as well as a rich, fruity almond and blueberry butter to top the loaf's slices. They nestled in perfectly with the other delicious foods brought in by my colleagues and recieved rave reviews all around! In fact, the school director even took the last few slices of cake home with her, and that, my friends, is a definite compliment! 

So what's next for this perpetual student? After all, I've been in the education world pretty solidly since I was 2 1/2 years old, so the "real world" thing is a little daunting to me. However, like I said, I've been making contacts and connections as much as I can (including at the local farmer's markets and with the videographer of our class' final day!) and I have a fairly decent portfolio of writing behind me, so with luck I'll be able to finally make it in the "real world" as a nutritional consultant and educator. For now though, I am so looking forward to having August off to relax for the first time since September! My garden, kitchen, family and blog have all been sorely neglected, and I'll also be able to catch up on all those appointments and other "to-dos" that fell by the wayside while I worked on getting through school.

Thanks to everyone for sticking by and supporting me through the last year! I am so glad to be back and ready for action!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

They Ride On Silver Moonbeams!

I have to preface this by saying that my sister was really the inspiration for me making these cookies in the first place, and the sole supplier of their name. Like two best friends in kindergarten, when we’re together in the right circumstances we revert to the least mature people we’ve ever been. Honestly – the stupidest things, that only a 5-year-old boy would find amusing (think writing “boobies” on a calculator or telling someone that you  can’t wait to visit Lake Titicaca) we wind up rolling on the floor from. When it was on, we’d watch Whose Line is it Anyway? and  kill ourselves laughing just as much as when we’d tune into the CBC political satire Air Farce. She sends me all sorts of links to YouTube videos and game sites that always wind up killing way more time than I have to spare, but are always hilarious and something we bond over.

One of the latest games she showed me (and subsequently made me play through, along with most of the others on that site) was “Robot Unicorn Attack”. As we (and by “we”, I mean that I played and she watched from the Peanut Gallery), that got her into talking about unicorns, and she brought up one of the lines from possibly the greatest show on current TV, Supernatural. Dean (one of the main characters, and a drop-dead gorgeous one at that) was opining about how angels didn’t exist (but oh yes, they do!) and the following conversation ensues between him and his brother Sam:
Sam: Dean, there's ten times as much lore about angels as there is about anything else we've ever hunted.
Dean: You know what, there's a ton of lore on unicorns too. In fact, I hear that they ride on silver moonbeams, and that they shoot rainbows out of their ass!

Thursday, July 21, 2011


You know, it’s always the naughtier things that get the biggest response. While it is really all well and good to have a diet packed full of wholesome, whole grains, fruits and vegetables 85% of the time, there’s still that 15% devil on your shoulder whispering,
 “go on, one splurge won’t hurt”.

And you know what? That devil is right. Occasional treats are a perfectly fine, healthy and at the very least enjoyable way to maneuver through this insane labyrinth called life. That’s why these indulgences  are so rewarding – they aren’t a normal thing, and you usually only need a taste to return back to that good ol’ 85% angel. I may be a holistic nutritionist, but I’m not perfect by any stretch – I use cooking spray, drink out of plastic bottles, use the microwave, buy “conventional” in the grocery store and enjoy one can of pop daily. But I do cook 99% at home, I eschew refined grains in my meals, I know exactly what goes into the foods I make and eat, I garden organic, heirloom produce and as soon as the farmers markets open locally I’m in like a dirty shirt.

The whole “occasional treat” philosophy I (and others) follow is one of the reasons I keep my school “donations” of goodies to once a week. More so than expense or my own personal time, keeping the bakes as a regular weekly treat means that they stay that way – and everyone will still want to eat what I bring!! I’ll admit that ¾ of the stuff I make anyway is not exactly sinful (that pesky whole grain, vegan thing I love gets in the way!) there are the exceptions. Like these.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Banana Bunch

I saw Harry Potter on Saturday. Not shocking, I know, since it was the “to-see” film of the week, but I think I was the only person sitting in the theatre that didn’t bring a book to while away the hour spent holding seats before the feature started. Instead, I brought a bagful of assignments I was marking. Yup, that’s right, I brought work with me. I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a workaholic when it comes to… well – everything really. You’d think, with the lack of posts on this blog (and to an extent being on social media), that I’d be so wrapped up in school and co-op that I’d be as far from the kitchen as I could get. True, there is a lot of stuff on the go that is keeping me away from any sort of “fun” online stuff (my Google reader is probably going to explode soon) but the kitchen is never far away from my mind. I still try my best to make a batch of something for my classmates, which I’m sorely going to miss at the end of July, and if it so happens that I have an appointment somewhere that week I am compelled to do something then. I call it stress relief, really, since all work and no play makes Sarah break down and throw things. Instead, I break out a mixing bowl and throw yummy things into it (most of the time, if I aim!).

Last week I had some blackening bananas and a box of cereal that my stepbrother rejected in my corner – and a hair appointment on the weekend too! I knew something would come of the mix in muffin form for school – especially since we had two tests in a row and an assignment due! For some of the awesome gals at my salon, though, the cereal wasn’t really an option due to their celiac and wheat allergies. But I still had that cereal kicking around… and not all the girls were GF. So, of course, what did I do? I made two different banana breads to take in – one gluten, dairy, egg, soy and nut free, the other packed with everything under the sun (including crushed cookies and BEER!). Both of them were snatched up when they made their appearance, and with the exception of the one poor stylist who was allergic to bananas (who knew?) the entire staff enjoyed the new addition to the coffee room.

Given the gluttony of banana bread and muffin recipes on this blog (and peppering the internet in general), I really debated even writing this post in the first place. I mean really – everyone already has the
ir own go-to favourite (except, apparently, me) that suits their family and personal tastes and pantries. But, then again, I did actually think to write down what the heck I did with the latest bag of less-than-half-price nanners (I couldn’t pass it up – I got 10 of the suckers for 65 cents!) and some of the things I used in the recipes were pretty nifty, why not? I’m sure someone will find something useful.

Rich Crunchy Nanner Muffins
Makes 12
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp salt
2 ½ cups Vector cereal
1 cup soy milk, warmed
1 tsp fresh-grated ginger
2 tbsp raw sugar
¼ tsp stevia extract
1 banana, mashed
1 tsp banana extract
1 tsp coconut extract
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp applesauce
2/3 cup toasted sesame seeds
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F, line a muffin tin or lightly grease.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice and salt
  3. In a large bowl, combine cereal, coconut milk, ginger, sugar and stevia. Let stand 5 minutes.
  4. Add mashed bananas, extracts, oil and applesauce and mix well.
  5. Add flour mixture and sesame seeds and stir just until moistened.
  6. Bake 20 minutes or until muffins test done.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 161.3
Total Fat: 7.4 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 73.5 mg
Total Carbs: 22.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.1 g
Protein: 4.7 g

“Everything” Banana Bread
Makes 2 "medium" loaves, Serves 16
1 cup flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup Vector cereal, lightly crushed
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
2 tbsp PB2 powder, dry
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
4 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tbsp non-fat Greek yogurt
½ tbsp vanilla
1/3 cup brown sugar
½ tsp stevia extract powder
1 cup beer (any kind will do)
3 "100-calorie" packages of Chips Ahoy Thinsations, crushed
4 Nature Valley® Oat’s 'N Dark Chocolate Crunchy Granola Bars (2 packs of 2), crushed
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease two medium loaf pans (or one large and a few muffin tins).
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, cereal, baking powder, baking soda, PB2, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together bananas, yogurt, vanilla, sugar and stevia until well blended.
  4. Stir in half the flour, then add the beer followed by the remaining flour.
  5. Stir just until moistened, then fold in cookie and granola bar crumbs
  6. Bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick comes out clean.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 150.9
Total Fat: 2.7 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 44.4 mg
Total Carbs: 30.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.2 g
Protein: 3.1 g

GF Vegan Nanna Bread
Serves 10
3 tbsp ground flaxseed
1/3 cup hot water
1/3 cup oil
5 bananas, mashed
2 tbsp grapefruit juice
½ cup brown sugar
¼ tsp stevia extract powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup brown rice flour
½ cup corn starch
¼ cup sweet rice flour
¼ tsp guar gum
pinch salt
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp allspice
  1. Preheat oven to 350 ° F and line a loaf pan with parchment (or lightly grease).
  2. Whisk together water and sugar in a large bowl. Let stand 5 minutes.
  3. Add the oil, mashed bananas, grapefruit juice, sugar and stevia, beat well.
  4. Stir in the rest of the ingredients until well blended.
  5. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, tenting with foil after 45 minutes.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 258.7
Total Fat: 8.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 7.4 mg
Total Carbs: 50.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.9 g
Protein: 2.6 g  

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Always Apples

Regardless of the season, the one item of produce that always seems to line the grocery store shelves and fill the farmers markets is the enduring apple. Traditionally bought en masse around the Fall (at least here when they really start to shine locally), you can still buy Granny Smiths, Galas, and the Delicious varieties imported from all over the world that taste the same whether it was March or September. I remember as a kid bringing a shiny one to my teacher almost every day after a stint of apple picking with my family (coming home with 5 bulging bags!), and my mom still makes the world’s best apple pie. In the “off season”, our family picks up our standard Galas, Pink Ladies, and more recently Red Princes to enjoy during the week along with our seasonal picks. Thankfully, apples store well too – since we chronically have the habit of over-buying!

I was trying to use up a few slightly sad looking fruits in the fridge before our weekly shopping run, and knew that I also hadn’t made any goodies for my classmates lately, so I scouted around my baking cupboard for what else I could use. That turned into a bit of a pantry “dump” for me – long overdue – and yielded more appley stuff  than I ever realized I owned! I also peeked into my freezer, and would up elbow-deep in icy things looking for the part-can of coconut cream I froze after making my dad’s curry. Soon I had the makings of a real gem: a no-fat-added, wheat- and nut-free, vegan sweet treat that I regretted not making more of – it disappeared so quickly that I had a few students hounding me the rest of the day!

Apple Insanity Bread
Serves 10
¾ cup oat flour
1 cup spelt flour
½ cup Kamut flakes
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
3 pkg instant apple cider powder
¼ tsp salt
3 tbsp flaxseed meal + 1/3 c hot apple-herb tea
½ cup raw sugar
1 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla
½ oz dried apples, diced
1 medium apple, unpeeled and grated
1 medium apple, unpeeled and finely chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a loaf pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, Kamut flakes, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the flaxseed mixture, sugar, coconut milk and vanilla.
  4. Add the dry ingredients all at once and stir just to moisten.
  5. Add all the apples and fold in until just incorporated. 
  6. Bake for 1 hour on the lowest rack of the oven - or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
  7. Cool in the pan about 10 minutes, then turn out of the pan onto the rack and cool completely.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 211.1
Total Fat: 6.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 12.7 mg
Total Carbs: 41.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.6 g
Protein: 3.6 g

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

More Muffins!

I love making muffins. Not only are they a dead simple way to use up almost anything in your house, they can be sweet, savoury, healthy, waist-expanding or any combination of those things. Making them for school or office consumption is great, since they’re portable and easy to grab off a tray without need for a knife or lifter. Being in the school that I am, bringing in goodies isn’t as simple as white flour + sugar + eggs + butter – the vast majority are vegans (totally fine here!), there’s nut and coconut allergies floating around, and a few students are gluten-free too. While I’m not sure how many are just keeping wheat, gluten, eggs or dairy out of their diets because of celiac or allergies and how many are doing it out of principle (we already had one “gluten free” girl accidentally eat gluten-containing crackers and “normal” soy sauce without any reactions) I don’t want to take any risks that I don’t need to. While not everything I bring to the (proverbial and literal) table is fine for everyone, everything I bring in is vegan, and I always try to throw in a gluten free goody now and then.
This time I brought back a common flavour combination that’s almost always a hit in any form: lemon and blueberries. I hearkened back to my last blueberry muffins for inspiration and at the last minute decided that heck – why not make them blueberry, lemon and cornmeal muffins? Corn is gluten free, vegan, tasty, and pretty too! I’ve always had a soft spot for cornbread and cornmeal muffins because of the texture and slight sweetness they had, so of course I just had to do it! The original recipe is from Karina’s blog, and is a winner!
Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Vegan Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins
Makes 12
¾ cup cornmeal
¼ cup millet flour
½ cup sorghum flour
¼ cup corn flour
½ cup tapioca starch
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp xanthan gum
1/3 cup sugar
¾ tsp stevia extract
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ cup oil
2 tbsp applesauce
1 tbsp agave nectar
2 tbsp grated lemon zest
2 tsp gluten-free vanilla
½ tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp Ener-G Egg Replacer (or other replacer powder) whisked with 1/3 cup warm water (or 2 eggs)
½ cup warm water
¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
1 (generous) cup blueberries
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 12-muffin cupcake pan.
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl (cornmeal through nutmeg). Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together oil, applesauce, agave nectar, lemon zest, vanilla, lemon juice, prepared egg replacer, water and almond milk.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and mix well to form a smooth, sticky batter.
  5. Fold in blueberries.
  6. Spoon into the tins and bake 20-22 minutes.
  7. Cool the pan on a wire rack for five minutes, then remove from the pan and cool directly on the rack.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 157.6
Total Fat: 5.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 9.5 mg
Total Carbs: 25.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.1 g
Protein: 1.9 g

Monday, July 4, 2011

The 18-Cent Success

Before I get anywhere near the food of the day (to be literal, the past two days - I made and shared all these muffins within the last 48 hours!) I just had to show you all the latest addition to my dad's family:

Meet Gracie (AKA Twist n' Turn), the Golden Retriever puppy. All fuzz, soft as all else, and friendly as the day is long. I'll admit, she's not the yellow lab of my childhood (you can never replace your first pet!) but she'll be snug as a bug with my dad and his girlfriend. If they wind up with his girlfriend's daughter's yellow lab Sadie too - well let's just say leftovers will never be a problem at their place!

So yes, with that daily dose of "aww" out of the way, lets turn to muffins. Since one of the conditions to graduate from my program at IHN is to finish 50 hours of co-op, I've been the busy little bee working for not one (as is usual) but three different posts. So if you're wondering where I've wandered off to, yeah... that'd be it (or the garden!). My latest position is one working with Ara Wiseman, who is a holistic nutritionist, professor and brilliant speaker - and my first task for her was writing notes for an upcoming speech she was giving on making nutritious choices on a budget.

Well, pretty much living, breathing and eating nutrition (and not having a whole lot of extra cash to throw around), I was in my element. A bunch of recipes from this blog were busted out for handouts, and the very last thing I did was a whole new muffin mixture that I brought to our meeting this morning. Stuffed with carrots, sweetened only with honey, 100% whole grain and low-fat to boot, I didn't just wan
t them to be good for your body, but a hit with your senses and your pocketbook too! Lo and behold, I hadn't even finished the cost analysis yet by the time my mom had noshed on one (still warm) smeared with a dab of almond butter. With her thumbs up (and at less than 20 cents a pop) I'm thinking this one could be a winner in the penny-pinching, waist-cinching world.

Cheap n' Cheerful Carrot - Raisin Muffins
Makes 12 standard muffins @ 18 cents each!
1/2 cup low-fat milk (or milk substitute)
2 tsp vinegar
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking (not instant) oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 tbsp honey
1 egg
2 tbsp canola oil
3 tbsp applesauce
1 1/2 cups grated carrots (2 carrots)
1/2 cup raisins (optional, included in both cost and nutritional calculations)
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F and grease (or line with paper cups) 1-2 muffin tins.
  2. In a small cup, mix milk and vinegar. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg).
  4. In a large bowl, beat together the honey, egg, oil, applesauce and milk mixture.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Fold in the carrots and raisins.
  6. Bake 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  7. These freeze well
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 114.7
Total Fat: 3.2 g
Cholesterol: 15.9 mg
Sodium: 85.6 mg
Total Carbs: 20.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.1 g
Protein: 2.8 g

What's your favourite "cheap n' cheerful" healthy recipe?

Friday, July 1, 2011

While We're Out This Long Weekend...

I'd be remiss if I didn't wish all my fellow Canadians (and Canadian- and Canada-lovers) out there a happy Canada Day! As well as being the day of my country's birth way back in 1867, today is also the anniversary of the beginning of this blog back in 2007!

Normally I'd be sharing a new and nifty food creation of mine with you, but unfortunately school, co-op and work have commandeered my time lately. I do have some awesome goodies to share though - and soon, promise!! For now, I wish you all a great long weekend, happy Canada day to those on my side of the border and happy early Independence Day to those down South on Monday. It's been a blast these past few years, and I'm going to keep it going as long as I can keep typing! Here are the posts from the last few blog-o-versaries of What Smells So Good?