Chia Seed Blueberry Apple Pie Breakfast Bowl with Homemade Granola

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If you are making homemade granola, start the granola first, which will take approximately 15-20 minutes to bake. Recipe for the granola is listed at the end.

Chia Seed Blueberry Apple Pie Breakfast Bowl
*makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
1/4 cup of whole chia seeds
1 cup apple juice
2 apples, chopped
½ cup walnuts, chopped
1 tsp. *pumpkin spice
1 cup of blueberries
1 cup of granola

* Pumpkin Spice
This recipe only requires 1 tsp. of pumpkin spice. Any any extra can be stored in an airtight container for future use.
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. ground cloves

Method:
1. In a medium sauce pan, add the apple juice and chopped apples and bring to a light boil, then reduce heat to medium.
2. Add the pumpkin spice and simmer the apples for 2 minutes.
3. Pour in the chia seeds, stirring frequently for one minute so the chia seeds don’t clump together.
4. Reduce heat to low and lightly simmer for 5 minutes.
5. When the apples have softened and the chia seeds have plumped, remove from heat and add the walnuts.
6. Pour the apple chia seed porridge into a bowl, add the blueberries and granola and enjoy!

Homemade Maple Cinnamon Granola
3 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Himalayan pink salt
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
2. Combine the oats, almonds, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl and set aside.
3. Place the maple syrup and vanilla in a small bowl and stir to combine. Pour over the oat mixture and stir until the oats are thoroughly coated.
4. Spread the mixture in a thin, even layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, then stir and continue baking until the granola is very light golden brown (about 5 to 10 minutes). Check often to make sure it does not burn.
5. Remove from oven and allow the granola to cool to room temperature.

* Store granola in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Homemade Croutons (Dairy-free)

cauliflower soup

Ingredients:
1 head of cauliflower, roasted
1 small onion, roasted
3 cloves of garlic, roasted
4 cups, vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 400 ml can coconut milk
3 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground clove
2 tsp. olive oil (for roasting the garlic)

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. Cut the onion in half. Slice the top of the garlic bulb off and drizzle with olive oil.
3. In a large roasting pan or on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, place the onion cut face down along with the garlic and cauliflower. Roast for 30-40 minutes, or until the cauliflower begins to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
4. When the vegetables are cool enough to handle, chop the cauliflower into small pieces and chop the onion. Slip the garlic out of its skin and mash with the back of a fork.
5. Place the vegetables in a large soup pot with the broth and bring to a boil.
6. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes.
7. Remove from heat and carefully add contents to a blender and process until smooth. Return soup to the pot.
8. In a small saucepan, bring the coconut milk, nutritional yeast and nutmeg to a light boil and whisk well. Add this mixture to the cauliflower soup puree and simmer for another 10 minutes before serving.
9. Top with cashew parmesan and homemade rustic croutons.

Rustic Homemade Croutons
6 pieces of high quality gluten-free bread
2 Tbsp. * Italian seasoning
3 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted

* Italian Seasoning
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/8 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. ** cashew parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Add the Italian seasoning to a bowl and mix in the coconut oil.
3. Tear bread into ½ inch irregular pieces and add to the bowl with the spices and oil, coat well.
4. Spread evenly on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, and bake for 15-20 minutes or until desired crispness, stirring occasionally.
5. Use right away, or store in an air tight container for up to 5 days.

Croutons can also be frozen in a lip lock bag. To use, simply put them in the oven for 3-5 minutes.

** Cashew Parmesan
1 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder

Add all ingredients to a food processor, and process until crumbly.
Store in a sealed, airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.

Individualized Baked Oatmeal Breakfast Muffins

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Ingredients:
3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup almond butter (or whatever nut or seed butter you have on hand)
2 bananas, mashed
1 cup almond milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Fun combinations to play around with:
Blueberry almond
Blueberry pecan
Blueberry coconut
Apple pie walnut
Apple pumpkin seed
Banana cranberry
Cranberry pecan coconut
Everything but the kitchen sink

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a muffin tin with coconut oil.
2. In a small sauce pan over low/medium heat, warm almond butter to soften it up.
3. Combine all dry ingredients and spices together in a bowl.
4. In a separate bowl, mix together the maple syrup, milk and almond butter, until well combined.
5. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry, mixing well.
6. To create individual flavours, scoop a ladle full of the basic mixture into a small bowl and add the ingredients and toppings of your choice.
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool for several minutes in the muffin tin before removing.

Serve warm or let cool and refrigerate for a quick and easy breakfast on the go!

 

New Years Blitz Asparagus Hummus Dip

New Years Blitz Asparagus Hummus Dip* Served with Mary’s Organic Herb Crackers

Fun Fact:
Did you know that eating asparagus before a night out drinking can help prevent or ease a next-day hangover?

According to study out of Korea, scientists found that extracts taken from the leaves and shoots of asparagus boosted levels of detoxification enzymes that help breakdown alcohol after heavy drinking!

New Years Blitz Asparagus Hummus Dip

Ingredients:
1 bunch of asparagus
1 (14 oz.) can chickpea, drained and rinsed well
2 Tbsp. tahini (sesame seed butter)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. cumin
Dash of cayenne pepper
Juice from half a lemon
3-5 Tbsp. water
1/4 tsp. Himalayan pink salt
Pinch of black pepper
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
Pinch of paprika

Method:
1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat.
2. Add the asparagus and cook until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.
3. Drain well and set aside. When cool enough to handle, cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
4. Transfer the asparagus to a food processor along with the chickpeas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, maple syrup and spices. Add just enough water to allow the mixture to blend up smoothly (approximately 3-4 tablespoons).
5. Process until smooth then transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with paprika, extra chickpeas and asparagus tips if desired.
Serve with your favourite crackers or vegetable sticks!

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19895471

http://ehealthmd.com/content/get-hangover-help-asparagus

Banana Nut Quinoa Breakfast Bowl with Baked Red Anjou Pears and Homemade Granola

banana nut quinoa porridge

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is a seed that is cooked and eaten like a grain. This ancient food of the Andes contains all essential amino acids, making it a complete protein! It is also a good source of fiber, B-vitamins, calcium, potassium, magnesium, tryptophan and selenium, as well as anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids!

Quinoa Cooking Tips
Quinoa contains a natural substance called saponin that can have a bitter taste. Most packaged quinoa has already been rinsed to remove it, but not all. If your quinoa is not labeled as pre-rinsed, simply rinse the quinoa under cold water using a fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear and free of any foamy residue.

Quinoa is available in three different varieties; white, red and black, with only minor nutritional differences between them. I often enjoy mixing all three together!

Banana Nut Quinoa Breakfast Bowl with Baked Red Anjou Pears And Homemade Granola
*makes 2 servings

Ingredients:
1/2 cup uncooked tri-colour quinoa, rinsed
1 cup water
2 bananas, 1 sliced, 1 mashed
2 red Anjou pears, chopped and baked
1/2 cup vanilla rice or almond milk
2 Tbsp. maple syrup

For the Granola
1 cup of rolled oats
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Method
1. Combine quinoa and water in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
2. Boil for 2 minutes, then lower heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed.
3. While the quinoa is cooking, place the chopped pears, maple syrup, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, almonds, pecans and pumpkin seeds in a bowl, mixing well.
4. Spread the oat mixture on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, and bake for 10-15 minutes, stirring once. Remove from oven when the oats become crisp and the pears are softened.
5. When all the water from the quinoa has been absorbed, remove from heat and mix in the mashed banana, milk and maple syrup.
6. Pour the quinoa into a bowl and add the granola and remaining banana slices.

This recipe can be made in larger batches and kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Quinoa reheats incredibly well and makes for a quick and easy, nutritious and delicious breakfast when you’re in a rush!

Are you Getting Enough Vitamin D?

vitamin_D

Most of us in North America have heard about the importance of vitamin D, but do you know the signs and symptoms of deficiency, and when to know if it’s something you should be supplementing with?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and while a small amount can be found in the diet, most of it is made in the body in response to sun exposure.

A Few Facts About Vitamin D
• Required for the absorption of calcium
• Needed for the proper formation of bones & teeth
• Assists in regulation of the heartbeat
• Aids in healthy thyroid function
• Important for proper blood clotting
• Essential for healthy neuromuscular function
• Helpful in maintaining healthy eyesight
• Enhances immune function (cancer prevention)
• Helps with depression and anxiety

Symptoms of Deficiency
• Muscle aches and pain, weakness
• Bone aches and pain. Bones can feel painful to moderate pressure.
(often more noticeable in the ribs or shin bones)
• Malformation of bones
Osteomalacia (weakening of the bones – demineralization)
• Osteoporosis (thinning of bones, loss of bone density)
• Insomnia
• Myopia (nearsightedness)
• Depression
• Children with severe deficiency may have soft skull or leg bones. Their legs may look curved (bow-legged).
They may also complain of bone pains, often in the legs, muscle pains or muscle weakness. This condition is known as rickets.

A lack of vitamin D over a period of just a few months can cause the beginning stages of osteomalacia; skeletal demineralization of the spine, pelvis and lower extremities. Signs and symptoms of osteomalacia include: burning in the mouth and throat, bone tenderness, muscle  weakness, nervousness, diarrhea, and insomnia.

Causes of Deficiency
• Metabolic abnormalities with absorption or metabolism of vitamin D
• Sedentary indoor lifestyle
• Those who always cover up when outside, including those who wear traditional veils or burqas.
• Regular use of sunblock
• People over the age of 65. The elderly tend to have thinner skin which means it contains less fat/cholesterol to be turned into vitamin D by the sun.
• Having dark skin (darker skin absorbs less vitamin D)
• Liver of gallbladder dysfunction
• Kidney and liver disorders
• Intestinal ailments such as IBS, Crohn’s and celiac disease
• Low fat diets

Types of Vitamin D
There are several forms of vitamin D. D2(ergocalciferol) comes from food sources such as: fish, cod liver oil, eggs, dandelion greens, mushrooms, potatoes, sweet potatoes, alfalfa, nettle, and parsley. Vitamin D3(cholecalciferol) is synthesized in the skin in response to sun exposure. Both types are available in supplement form, D3 being the most active and bioavailable.

Precautions
Vitamin D has a potential for toxicity. Unless diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency, supplementing more than 1,000 IU for adults and 400 IU for children is not recommended.  Vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means your body has a hard time getting rid of it if you take too much. When you take large amounts of vitamin D, the liver produces a chemical called 25-hydroxy-vitamin D [25(OH)D].

Excess vitamin D increases calcium buildup in the blood and can increase the risk of kidney stones. High blood calcium is a condition called hypercalcemia.
Symptoms of hypercalcemia include: poor appetite or loss of appetite, thirst, frequent urination, abdominal pain, confusion, fatigue, and muscle weakness.

Testing
A 25-hydroxy vitamin D test is the most accurate way to measure how much vitamin D is in the body. Testing should be done at least once a year, especially at the beginning of winter. If you are supplementing, monitor your vitamin D levels approximately every 3 months until you are in the optimal range. If you are taking high doses as recommended by your doctor, ask to also have your calcium, phosphorous, and parathyroid hormone levels checked every 3 months.

Since everyone is different, Vitamin D toxicity can happen even at low levels of supplementation. (1)
As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, my professional opinion is that we should all be supplementing wisely when it comes to fat-soluble vitamins.

Optimal Levels
•  Dangerously Low Levels = Less than 12 ng/mL: Vitamin D deficiency, leading to rickets in infants and children and osteomalacia in adults
Low Levels = 20-30 ng/mL: Vitamin D insufficiency
Normal = Greater than 30 ng/mL: Sufficient
Optimal = 50-80 ng/mL: Recommended
High = Greater than 100 ng/mL: Emerging evidence links potential adverse effects to such high levels

Vitamin D and Thyroid Conditions
Vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining proper thyroid function and  balancing the Th1 and Th2 cells of the immune system. It behaves as a co-hormone, as sufficient levels of vitamin D are essential for proper uptake of thyroid hormones by the cells. Studies show that vitamin D deficiency goes hand-in-hand with hypothyroidism.(2)

Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis
Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with numerous autoimmune diseases, including MS. Since vitamin D is absorbed in the small intestine, an inflamed GI tract, which is extremely common in people with multiple sclerosis, reduces its absorption. Many medical doctors prescribe megadoses of vitamin D to patients with MS.  It is always wise to have blood serum levels checked before taking high doses of any fat-soluble vitamin.

FACTORS AFFECTING ABSORPTION

Stress and High Cortisol
High cortisol levels caused by stress or medications are also associated with lower vitamin D levels. The synthesis of active vitamin D from sunlight depends on cholesterol. Stress hormones are also made from cholesterol. When the body is in an active stress response, most of the cholesterol is used to make cortisol and not much is left over for the production of vitamin D. (3)

Obesity
Obesity reduces the bioavailability of active vitamin D. Those who are overweight typically have lower serum levels since it’s extracted from the blood by fat cells, altering its release into the circulation. People with a body mass index of 30 or greater often have low blood levels of vitamin D. (4)

Poor Fat Metabolism
Poor fat metabolism is another factor contributing to malabsorption of this important vitamin. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means it requires fat to be absorbed. It also requires conversion by the liver and kidneys before becoming fully active. Those on low-fat diets and people with conditions that impair fat absorption like IBS, IBD, gall bladder dysfunction, liver or kidney disease are more likely to have low levels of vitamin D and are at higher risk for osteoporosis.

Medications
Some medications are known to reduce absorption or biologic activity of vitamin D such as antacids, replacement hormones, corticosteroids, anticoagulants, blood thinners and laxatives.

Inflammation
Inflammation of any type reduces the utilization of vitamin D, which is why those with any inflammatory health condition should be following a well balanced, hypoallergenic, anti-inflammatory diet! (5)

Sources:
1. http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13050
2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24320141
3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15211579
4. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/72/3/690.full
5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18194227

Chocolate Banana Muffins With Homemade Caramel Center

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Chocolate Banana Muffins With Homemade Caramel Center
*makes 12 muffins

Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free/Egg-Free/No white sugar!

Ingredients:
2 ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup apple sauce
3/4 cup coconut sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup dark cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
2 Tbsp. ground flax seeds (soaked in ½ cup water)

 Method:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Mash the bananas with a fork until smooth.
3. In a small pot, add the coconut oil and bananas over low/medium heat, and whisk until the mixture is well combined. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. Add the oats to a food processor and blend until finely ground.
5. In a mixing bowl, combine the oat flour, coconut sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and chopped walnuts.
6. Stir in the vanilla, apple sauce and mashed bananas.
7. Whisk in the soaked flax seeds and stir until well combined.
8. Scoop the batter into a well greased muffin tin just under half full, then spoon about 1 tsp. of caramel into the centre of each muffin and top with remaining batter.
9. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
10. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack for 15 minutes before adding the caramel topping.
11. While the muffins are cooling, prepare the topping.

Homemade Caramel Sauce:
3/4 cup full fat coconut milk
1/2 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)

1. Add the coconut milk and sugar to a medium size pot and bring to a boil while whisking continuously.
2. Simmer over medium/high heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring every few minutes until the mixture thickens and changes colour.
3. When the desired consistency is reached, remove from heat and set aside half the caramel to insert into the center of the muffins and save the other half for the topping.

Topping:
Caramel sauce
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 tsp. sea salt

1. Chop the walnuts and pecans and add to a bowl with the salt.
2. When the muffins are finished baking, you might have to rewarm the reserved caramel on the stove, as it might have hardened as it cooled. Mix in 2 Tbsp. of the heated caramel sauce in with the chopped nuts to stick them together.
3. Drizzle the remaining caramel sauce over muffins and top with the caramel covered chopped nuts.