THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF COCOA

Ahhh cocoa!   I love chocolate in any shape or form; bars to powder to liquid.  I am not afraid to admit I am enamoured with it all.  Cocoa powder is highly nutritious as well as providing  immense health benefits (I am talking real cocoa powder sadly not the kind in a wee envelope that comes with marshmallows) .

Cocoa Nutritional Facts
A 2 tbsp. serving of cocoa contains just 25 calories and 1.5 g of fat. It also provides you with 3.6 g of fiber, which is 14 percent of the daily value, and 8 percent of the daily value of iron and 14 percent of the daily value of magnesium.

Cocoa, used throughout history as a folk medicine, may actually have significant health benefits, according to a new study by Harvard researchers.

Their analysis of 21 studies with 2,575 participants shows that cocoa consumption is associated with decreased blood pressure, improved blood vessel health, and improvement in cholesterol levels, among other benefits.

Eric L. Ding, PhD, of Harvard Medical School says the apparent health benefits come from polyphenolic flavonoids in cocoa that have the potential to prevent heart disease. Flavonoids are antioxidants that are commonly found in fruits, vegetables, tea, wine, and coffee.

Now that you know that cocoa is good for you why not indulge in a little? Check out Olga from Fablunch recipe for vegan hot cocoa.

Julia xox

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10 THINGS I WOULD TELL MY YOUNGER SELF

I have been on this earth forty years now.  The older I get the more I realize there are so many things I need to learn (and I am enjoying life’s journey more every day)!

So what would I tell my younger self ? Here, in hopes that it might be helpful to you on your own journey, are 10 things I wish I could tell my younger self:

  • You are not invincible: Sleep at least 7 hours a night, it’s ok to drink water instead of booze at a party sometimes, always wear sunscreen and don’t drive and text/talk on the phone.  Drinking alcohol, smoking or pulling all nighters every weekend will eventually catch up to you. It might not happen until your 30’s or 40’s, but it will. Take care of yourself while you’re young and spare yourself the trouble of looking/feeling WAY older before your time when you are older.
  • Spend money on experiences not “things”: Travel, take that Latin dancing class that you have always wanted to take, grab some groceries and ask your Nonna to teach you how to make pasta from scratch or tour a winery in Niagara. Remember that in the end no one will remember if you bought your clothes from TNA or Target, but will remember that great time you had up north with your friends.
  • Travel:  Travel as much as you can, whenever you can. Immerse yourself in new cultures and experience the way others live. It gets harder once you get older have a mortgage, children and responsibilities.
  • Believe in yourself: People will try to discourage you. Don’t let them. Believe in yourself, you’re smarter than you think.. Don’t be afraid of not succeeding. Be more afraid of NOT trying and living with regret. If you fall, pick yourself up, and keep moving forward!
  • You will get over him/her: He/she might seem like your whole world and you may not believe me now but time, good friends (and perhaps a great bottle of wine) really does heals all wounds.
  • Be a decent human being:  I know that this should go without saying but it is not always the case! Everything matters from the kindness you display to the way you react to adverse situations.  Be kind to everyone because you never know when your paths will cross again or who could be your boss later in life (trust me on this one).
  • Nothing is more important than your family: Tell your parents, brothers/sisters, grandparents, aunts/uncles and cousins you love them (often). You never know when someone may not be there again.
  • Love yourself: Don’t be so hard on yourself. We all make mistakes; learn from them and move on. Try to really know yourself before you get in a serious relationship or marriage. Remember, if you’re not with someone who makes you feel like the most beautiful, loveable and special person in the world, walk away.
  • Invest in yourself and your education: As the old saying goes, nobody can take your accomplishments away from you. Education is one of those accomplishments.  As well keep taking courses throughout your career and keep up with the trends in your field.
  • No matter how old you get, remember what it was like to be a kid: Remember the feeling of freedom to do whatever you wanted?  If you’ve already forgotten, do a cartwheel. You can sooooo still do one. Savior that feeling. Wake up with it every day.

What advice would you give your younger self?

          Julia xox

FIVE THINGS THAT HAPPY PEOPLE DO EVERY DAY

happy people

henrystudio.blogspot.com

You see them at the workplace, while running errands and at a subway station -they all have upbeat, smiling faces.  Hey, we all have bad days but happy people know how to shake things off and take on challenges with a smile on their faces.

Who are these people and how can you join this club you ask?  I feel that anyone can be happier, it is a matter of choosing to be positive (I know it can be hard sometimes!).  Here are 5 things that happy people choose to do daily and you can too:

  1. They choose to be grateful
    Gratitude is a practice that anyone can adopt. A 2003 study published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that the participants who wrote in a gratitude journal on a weekly basis felt better about life, and were more optimistic about the coming week than those who didn’t. They may think some things are bad, but happy people make a timely effort to appreciate things like life and their home as gifts worth respecting and paying attention to.
  2. They look at every day as a new opportunity                                                                                       Yesterday might not have been the best, which is why today can be even better. Let go of negative thoughts and get ready for a new day.
  3. They are flexible                                                                                                                                                              Instead of being unwilling to take on new things or change regular routines, be willing to give it a try. You’ll feel so accomplished when something actually works out!
  4. They Give Themselves a Break
    Putting in long hours at the office is draining, but there’s a little trick that will help you to be both happier and more productive: Take a break. Even if you bring your own lunch, step out for a brisk walk around the block. Getting your body moving and taking your eyes off your screen will help you come back, after just five minutes, feeling refreshed and ready to tackle whatever project is up next on the agenda.
  5. Last but not least….                                                                                                                                                           The happiest people do have their share of stresses, crises, and even tragedies. They may become just as distressed and emotional in such circumstances as you or I, but their secret weapon is the poise and strength they show in coping in the face of challenge.

Remember a smile is contagious!

Is there anything that you do in your daily routine that increases your happiness?

COCONUT CASHEW BUTTER AND THE NEED FOR SEEDS

Homemade Cashew Butter

Taking a look at all the ingredients on a jar of regular peanut butter that I can barely pronounce like maltodextrin and some I just should not like corn syrup, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own.

Let’s take nut butter to a whole new level with luxurious coconut cashew butter. YUM!

WHAT DO I NEED?

  • 1.5-2 cups of  unsalted cashews (raw or toasted)
  • 1.5 teaspoons coconut oil
  • 1.5-2 tablespoons agave or honey (dependent on preference)

WHAT DO I DO?

Place cashews  and coconut oil in food processor and process for 12-15 minutes in 2 minute intervals scraping down the bowl every time.

The nuts will go from a crumb like texture, to a cookie dough texture, than as the nuts release their oils to a very thick spread.  This whole process takes about 12-15 min.

OPTION –Caution may blow your mind.  You have been warned.

As if this cashew butter could not get any better; what about chocolate coconut cashew butter?

Take 1/2 cup natural chocolate chips or chocolate with 1/2 tsp coconut oil and melt in microwave in 30 second intervals. Add melted chocolate to the nut butter in the cookie dough stage and pulse until blended.

Also, I know that most schools do not allow “nut butters” of any kind.  With that being said check out Oh She Glows for this amazing roasted sunflower seed butter recipe.

What type of nut butter do you like/have you made?  I always love to hear your ideas!

Julia xo

EATING LOCAL IN BURLINGTON ONTARIO

kelly

There are certain restaurants/bakeries that just the mention of their name makes my mouth water!

These 4 places in my opinion are one of the best places in Burlington to grab a snack,healthy meal, or decadent treat without worry or guilt!

 

  1. Kelly’s Bake Shop:   Ranked by Buzzfeed as #3 of the top 25 cupcake shops that you have to visit before you die (enough said!).  Mom and daughter team Kelly Childs and Erin Weatherbie make over the top, irresistible healthier baked goods that happen to be gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, egg-free, butter-free, lactose-free, vegan and peanut-free (in a nut-free facility).  Kelly’s supplied the goodies at our wedding and we did not have one cupcake or piece of cake left after dessert.  A must try is the Mile High brownie (see picture above!).  Trust me it does not disappoint!
  2. Goodness Me :Not only a healthy grocery store, but a great place to grab a quick smoothie, fresh baked goods, salads or  fresh prepared foods from their hot table.  I have tried to duplicate their garlic caesar dressing at home and cannot come close.  I put that s*$t on everything.
  3. Lettuce Love Cafe:   Kelly’s Bake  Shop’s sister.  The recipes are all based on serving fresh plant-based gluten-free cuisine that was sourced predominately local and organic and that is healthy , delicious, and sustainable.  My favourite is the California Burger with melted daiya cheese, tomato, lettuce, avocado and vegan bac-uns, drizzled in chipotle mayo.  Its mammoth.  I dare you to eat the whole thing!
  4. Turtledoves Bakery:    A gluten free bakery that makes everything from breads (the best gf bread in town!), cakes and cheesecakes to cookies, muffins, pies, tarts, and squares.

What are some of your favourite local places?  Let me know in the comment section as I would LOVE to try them out!

INSIDE OUT PHILLY CHEESE STEAK

peppers

The Grey Cup was last weekend and with that comes the pressure of putting together a kick butt game watching menu (big games and junk food go hand in hand in this house!).  I thought that a Philly cheese steak sammy would be perfect but it is so unhealthy!  Low and behold the inside out Philly cheese steak a healthier take on the famous sandwich.

WHAT DO I NEED?

  • 3 bell peppers (any colour will do) cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 6 slices low fat mozzarella or jalapeno havarti cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • black pepper
  • 1.25 lbs thinly sliced fast fry sandwich steak
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons bbq sauce (optional)

WHAT DO I DO?

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Take a 9 x 13 baking dish and cover the inside with foil.  Place pepper halves on sheet and bake for 25 minutes.

While the peppers are baking heat a nonstick skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium high heat.  Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until onions are almost translucent and the mushrooms are almost brown about 4-5 minutes.

Add the sliced steak and Italian seasoning and cook for another 2-4 minutes until the steak is done.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and take off heat.

Remove peppers from oven.  Place a tablespoon of bbq sauce in each pepper and coat the inside.  Fill each pepper with the steak/mushroom/onion mixture.  Once filled place a cheese slice on each pepper return to the oven for 5 minutes to melt cheese.

YUM!  What are some of your favorite snacks?

Julia xox

THE EVIL SUGAR-A LIFE NOT SO SWEET

sugar

themedicalsanctuary.au

Is sugar evil?

Agave nectar, brown rice syrup, date sugar, coconut sugar, honey and maple syrup. All sugar.  Not to mention, sugar has also found its way into almost every single prepackaged food, drink and snack that you can put your hands (or mouth) on.

The average Canadian eats an astounding 88 pounds of sugar a year; with the average teen age boy consuming 138 pounds!
Is all sugar really evil ?  For starters, think of all the diseases/illnesses that are related to excess refined sugar consumption:
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Tooth decay
  • Candida
  • Heart disease

Grains, beans, vegetables and fruit all contain sugars, and when we eat these the sugar enters our bloodstream slowly.  Not to mention, they also contain vitamins and minerals.  Refined sugars do not work in the same way, and that’s why they are such a problem. So how can we limit our refined sugar intake?

  1. Limit the processed foods you eat. No matter where you side on the sugar controversy, there’s no doubt that eating a diet that’s high in processed foods and therefore sugar, salt and unhealthy fat isn’t good for you or your body. When possible, eat foods that are as close to the source as possible. Remember -If it comes from a plant eat it.  If it is made in a plant leave it.
  2. Cut out soda pop -High in sugar  (a regular coke has 17 teaspoons of sugar!)and salt; as well as chemicals!  Replace with sparkling water.
  3. Stop thinking of sweets as a treat – Reward yourself in other ways such as taking time out for a walk with friends, a hot bath or a massage.

Need some more motivation?  Check out the video below Sugar is Killing Us.  What are your thoughts? Is sugar evil?

Julia xox

VEGGIE AND RICOTTA PASTA (AKA LAZY LASAGNA)

skillet lasagna

If you are like me you LOVE lasagna but hate all the time and prep it takes to make one.  Thankfully this dish will give you all the flavors of a lasagna with about 1/3 of the work (can you say lasagna on a weekday?!?).

Lets get cooking!

WHAT WILL I NEED?

  • 1 box shell or bowtie pasta (regular or gluten free)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 jar tomato sauce or homemade
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • chopped basil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup low fat ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated light parmesan cheese

WHAT DO I DO?

Cook pasta according to directions on box.    While pasta is cooking, place olive oil in a large non stick skillet and heat on med-high.  Add peppers, onion and garlic to the hot skillet and saute until cooked about 5-6 minutes.  Once veggies are cooked add tomato sauce, black pepper, red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning to the skillet cook for about 5 minutes.

Add cooked drained pasta to skillet and stir to mix well.  Drop ricotta in tablespoons over pasta and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and basil.

Now MANGIA!!

For more easy weeknight meal ideas check out Claire at “sort of a mom blog”.

Julia xox

 

THE AMAZING CHIA SEED

Behold the AMAZING Chia seed!  Chia seeds were a staple of the Aztec and Mayan diets because of their ability to provide sustainable energy.

How can something so tiny have such a BIG impact on your health? These little nuggets of goodness are touted to be one of the healthiest foods on the planet with benefits ranging from digestive health to helping lower blood sugar in diabetics.

TOP 5 REASONS TO ADD CHIA SEEDS TO YOUR DIET:

  1. Stronger Teeth And Bones
    A serving of chia seeds has 20 per cent of the recommended daily intake for calcium, which puts you well on your way to maintaining bone and oral health, and preventing osteoporosis.
  2. Fibre
    Just a 28-gram or one-ounce serving of chia has 11 grams of dietary fibre — about a third of the recommended daily intake for adults. Adding some chia to your diet is an easy way to make sure you’re getting a good amount of fibre, which is important for digestive health.
  3. Combat Diabetes
    Chia is being studied as a potential natural treatment for type-2 diabetes because of its ability to slow down digestion. The gelatinous coating chia seeds develops when exposed to liquids-can also prevent blood sugar spikes.
  4. Appetite Control                                                                                                                                                             Chia absorbs up to 12 times its own weight and expands to curb your appetite, so adding just an ounce or so of chia seeds to your diet can reduce caloric intake and help lower the energy density (or calories) of foods.
  5. Pack In The Protein
    Chia seeds also make a great source of protein for vegetarians and don’t have any cholesterol. One 28-gram serving of these super seeds has 4.4 grams of protein, nearly 10 per cent of the daily value.

Here is a GREAT way to use chia seeds.  Check out this recipe for chia seed jam!

Julia xox

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/06/03/chia-seed-benefits-_n_3379831.html

http://www.doctoroz.com/blog/lindsey-duncan-nd-cn/chia-ancient-super-secret

SWEET AND SPICY BEEF JERKY

Beef Jerky picture

My husband is a “meatatarian”. If an entrée contains meat he will order it (and the more the merrier!).  Myself I can take it or leave it; I am that person who orders fish or veggies at a steak house. With one exception, I really LOVE beef jerky; but I hate all the weird chemicals and additives that are in most brands.

Last year we purchased an Excalibur dehydrator and from that moment on Tim really wanted to make homemade beef jerky. I was dead against it!  No one wants to eat apple chips with a hint of “beefy ” flavour after he uses the dehydrator.  Also, will it make my house smell like the inside of a smoker?

I finally caved and we came to a mutual understanding.  The dehydrator stays on the deck while the jerky is in it and the trays have to be soaked so that my dried fruit/veggies do not taste like smoky BBQ!

WHAT DO I NEED?

  • 1 tsp Liquid Smoke
  • 1/4 cup Light soy Sauce or Tamari
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce (regular or gluten free)
  • 2 tbs Coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp Garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Black pepper
  • 1 tsp Dried chipotle pepper
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1.5- 2 pounds Eye of round or flank steak (almost frozen for easier slicing!)

WHAT DO I DO?

Remove steak from freezer and with a sharp knife remove all the visible fat than cut into large thin strips. Place strips in a large ziplock bag along with other ingredients; seal bag (removing all excess air) and shake to mix.

Place bag on a plate and refrigerate overnight.  Remove meat from bag and pat dry very well with paper towels.  Discard marinade.  Place strips in a single layer, no overlap on the dehydrator trays.  Set dehydrator to 155 degrees for 8-10 hours**.

Store jerky in a plastic bag wrapped in a paper towel (to absorb any moisture) in the refrigerator. Will keep for up to 3 months.

**Check the jerky after 6 hours as it depends on what type of dehydrator you have**

I have also seen recipes for eggplant jerky that I really want to try!

Julia xox