Twelve Days of Christmas Recipes

With the holiday season around the corner, I thought it would be timely to share some of my favourite recipes for this time of year. There’s something for everyone, and for every occasion, including soups & starters, appetizers, side dishes, a one-pot chicken curry, treats (including an easy no-bake recipe), and a festive breakfast idea … and they’re all gluten-free! In no particular order, here they are. Just click on the recipe title to get the recipe!

#1 – Leek and Cauliflower Soup

I love making this soup any time of year, and its festive red and green garnishes are perfect for the holidays!

#2 – Kale and Sweet Potato Casserole

Skip the potatoes this year and try this delicious and nutrient-packed casserole. Don’t like sweet potatoes or kale? The try this Cheesy Cauliflower and Spinach Casserole.

#3 – Coconutty Cinnamon Baked Squash

This baked squash is an easy and tasty side dish served as is. You can also use the baked squash halves as edible bowls and fill them with your favourite stew or curry as pictured!

#4 – Gingerbread Coconut Flour Cookies

I’m usually told not to ‘mess with’ my original Christmas cookie recipes … but sometimes I do to accommodate guests with celiac or gluten intolerance. These gingerbread peeps are cute and delicioius!

#5 – No Bake Date/Nut/Coconut/ Chocolate Balls

Don’t like baking? Need a holiday treat in a hurry? Try these delicious grain-free, egg-free, and dairy-free treats!

#6 – Easy-Peasy Eggnog

I’m not a huge eggnog fan, but I usually like to have a glass when we decorate the tree. This easy home-made version is egg-free and has way less sugar than store-bought.

#7 – Hummus

You can make this delicious hummus in no time at all for a fraction of the price of store bought ones which often use unhealthy oils. Skip the starchy pita bread and use veggies to scoop this yummy dip. Belgian endive leaves are one of my favourites! Top it with some fresh pomegranate seeds for a festive look!

#8 – Guacamole

Holy Moly this is a good guacamole! I’ll leave it at that. Try it with bell pepper slices and other veggies instead of corn chips!

#9 –Chickpea and Arichoke Salad

This delicious and healthy salad is quick and easy, so it’s perfect to throw together as a last minute contribution to a holiday pot luck. Add some sliced baby cucumbers and or green bell peppers to make it look more Christmassy!

#10 – Cheese Snip Cheesy Crackers

No need for crackers with these yummy cheese snip cheesy bites. Made with just cheese! A favourite crispy snack for those who need to avoid gluten .. and those who don’t! (p.s. if you need other grain-free/wheat-free snacks, check this out:  5 Grain-Free Appetizer & Party Foods

#11 – One-Pot Winner-Winner Coconutty Chicken Curry Dinner

This delicious one-pot chicken curry is the perfect way to warm up a crowd on a cold winter day. One of my family’s favourite tried and true recipes. Even if you just need to feed one or two, this is a great recipe as it freezes beautifully. Make it vegan or vegetarian by replacing chicken with more veggies (turnip, parsnip, kohlrabi – basically whatever you like!) and using veggie broth. It’s a great way to use up leftover turkey too! Skip the chicken and add chunks of your left over cooked turkey about 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time just so it heats up.

#12 – Delicious (Gluten-Free) Buckwheat Pancakes

I’m not gluten-intolerant so I could eat regular pancakes if I wanted to, but these ones are so much better. These buckwheat pancakes are easy to make and so yummy. Top them with plain yogurt, cinnamon, toasted coconut, maple syrup, and fresh berries for a festive holiday breakfast.

Ho-Ho-Hope you’ll try one of these recipes! :o)

Enjoy!

Squashing Out Disease

When we eat according to Mother Nature’s plan, we get just what we need at the right time of year.  For example, in fall, we are blessed with a bountiful variety of winter squashes. While they are harvested in the fall, these gorgeous vegetables keep well through the winter, hence their name.

squashWhen you think of squash, you probably think of their beautiful orange flesh. That colour is an indication that they’re loaded with carotenoids – orange pigments that are strong health-boosting antioxidants which support our immune system.

As we head in to cold-and-flu season, it’s great to know that winter squash is also a great source of cold-and-flu busting nutrients including:

  • Beta-carotene – a precursor to vitamin A, which is critical to immune system health and function
  • Vitamin C – a foundational immune system supporter
  • Manganese – a trace mineral which is needed for proper immune system function. It is also a component of superoxide dismutase (SOD), a powerful substance which helps fight disease-producing free radicals

Squash Out Inflammation

Winter squashes are also a great source of soluble fibre, in the form of pectins. Research has shown that in addition to supporting healthy gut function (including promoting regular bowel movements), pectins offer numerous health benefits, including the ability to:

  • Reduce inflammation and oxidation. Inflammation and oxidation are at the root of virtually every disease process in the body, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. Studies have shown that substances found in winter squash are beneficial in the prevention and treatment of numerous cancers, including prostate, colon, breast and lung cancers.
  • Help balance blood sugar. Winter squash is a great source of the B-complex of vitamins (B1, B3, B5, B6, and folate) which play an important role in glucose metabolism.

Out of My Gourd for Winter Squash!

It’s time to go crazy for winter squash! I love winter squashes of all kinds. I have made mashes (aka squishy-squashy), casseroles, stews, desserts, puddings, cookies, and more with them. If you’ve been avoiding squash because you’re not sure what to do with it, here are a few links to some easy and delicious recipes on my website:

Winter Vegetable Stew

Glten-free Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts

Coconut & Gingery Pumpkin Soup

Coconutty Cinnamon Baked Squash

Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Sprouted Grain Pasta

Kabocha Squash Oishii-ness

There are many more that you can find by typing “pumpkin’ or ‘squash’ into the search tool that is located in the top right hand corner of every page of my website.

Finally, here’s a fun resource to help you get to know and love 12 delicious varieties of winter squash.  Not sure where to start? Why not have some fun substituting spaghetti squash for the regular pasta in your favourite spaghetti dish? It’ll be delicious … and if you have kids (even big ones), they’ll love helping you scoop out the stringy squashy spaghetti!

Enjoy!

References:
www.epicurious.com
www.whfoods.com

Looking For Some New Ideas For Your Thanksgiving Meal?

We all have our favourite (and not-so-favourite!) Thanksgiving sides, but if you’re looking to try something new, maybe even a completely plant-based Thanksgiving, here are a few ideas that you might want to include in your Thanksgiving spread this year. Who knows …. they may become a new favourite! Just click on the Recipe title heading to get to the recipe.

Enjoy!

Roasted Cauliflower

I try to avoid starchy side dishes such as rice and potatoes. An easy, delicious and nutritious alternative to both is cauliflower. In this recipe, I’ll be showing you how to make roasted cauliflower as a substitute for roasted potatoes. It’s super-easy, delicious, and packs a greater nutritional punch compared to roasted potatoes.

Kale & Sweet Potato Casserole

This recipe incorporates two of the most nutrient-packed veggies into one delicious casserole! Kale and sweet potatoes are loaded with fibre and nutrients, especially beta-carotene, which our body can convert into Vitamin A.

Roasted Cauliflower & Butternut Squash Salad with Tahini Dressing

This salad is one of my go-to’s for summer BBQs, pot lucks, and big family gatherings. It’s a delicious and healthy alternative to traditional potato salad. This recipe makes about 12 cups of finished salad, so adjust the ingredient amounts as needed. Leftovers keep well in the fridge for several days.

Coconutty Cinnamon Baked Squash

It’s hard to visit a Farmers’ Market or grocery store at this time of year without seeing a wide variety of winter squash available. These veggies are a great source of powerful antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Winter squash are also a great source of pectins, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and insulin-regulating properties. 

Cheesy Cauliflower & Spinach Casserole

This casserole is inspired by a signature dish that is served at the Green Door Restaurant – Ottawa’s oldest vegetarian restaurant. The Green Door’s dish is called ‘Mashed Potato Kale’. I use cauliflower instead of starchy potatoes, and spinach instead of kale (you can use any cooked greens that you like actually). I also add in some coconut oil. I love my spin on this potato side dish! I hope you’ll try it and enjoy it as much as I do.

Start with Soup!

Chicken soup for a cold or flu. Bone broth for gut health. Pumpkin or squash soup to support bowel movements. These are recommendations that have been passed down for generations, so there must be something to them! Soups are heart-warming and health boosting and a great way to start a Thanksgiving meal!

Go Turkey-Free

This slow-cooked veggie stew is loaded with health-boosting and tummy-warming goodness. It looks gorgeous and tastes amazing. It’s one of my favourite fall/winter meals!

 

Image by J Lloa from Pixabay

3 Tips for a Healthy Return to the Classroom or Office

It’s hard to believe that September is around the corner … again. This year, we are faced with many unknowns and perhaps a higher level of stress as back-to school, and for many, back-to-the-office is happening in the face of pandemic uncertainties.

Whether or not we are in the face of a pandemic with seemingly never-ending variants, it’s critical to take control of what we can to stay healthy and support our immune system. Nutrition – both food and supplements – play a big role in both, so this month, I am sharing links to 3 previously written blogs that I hope you will find useful to help put your best health-boosting foot forward as so many of us step back into the classroom and office.

 

#1 – Grab & Go Breakfasts

In this blog, I share 5 yummy recipes for grab-and-go breakfasts and a short discussion on the ‘eat or skip breakfast’ debate.

#2 – Avoid Lunch Bag Let-Down

In this blog, I share some ideas for healthy lunch packing … and what can make the difference between lunch-bag-happiness and lunch-bag-letdown!

#3 – Supporting our Immune Systems

Supporting our immunity is key to overall health – especially in the face of a pandemic. In this blog, I share 10 simple things that you can do to support and build your immunity.

8 Tips for a Healthy and Tasty BBQ Season

BBQ season is finally here! One of my favourite summer time activities is to have an entire main course cooking on the grill while I enjoy my backyard…and the dinner guests who are joining me!

Before Sparking Up, Read This!

Barbecuing foods – meat in particular (I’ll be using the word meat as a catch-all to include red meat, pork, poultry, and fish) – leads to the formation of  two compounds: heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These compounds have been shown to cause tumours in animals and some sources state that they may also increase the risk of certain cancers (breast, colon, stomach, and prostate) in humans. That’s the not-so-good news. The good news is that in this month’s article, I’m sharing some tips that will limit/prevent the formation of HCAs and PAHs so that you can enjoy healthy and delicious summer-time cooking! So without further ado, here they are!

# 1 – Parboil before you grill

Parboiling is simply boiling (or steaming)  meats until they are partially cooked. Parboiling before grilling is great for chicken, sausages, and ribs. Since the meat will be partially cooked before you grill it, it needs less time on the grill. The less time meats are grilled, the less time there is for the formation of HCAs and PAHs. To parboil meat (again, think chicken, sausages, and ribs – I’ve never parboiled steak – can’t imagine it would be good!), simply place the meat in a large pot of boiling water and cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove with tongs, season as desired, then grill. Other benefits of parboiling include more tender meat and avoiding under-cooked BBQ chicken or pork.

#2 – Keep the pieces of meat that you’re grilling small

Smaller pieces of meat need shorter grilling times. Buy smaller cuts of meat and/or cut meat into small pieces, including small cubes for shish-kebabs and skewers. I bet that most of you are familiar with a couple of common guidelines when it comes to how much meat you should eat at mealtimes. One of these is that the piece of meat should be about the size of a deck of cards; the other is that it should be about the size of the palm of your hand. Right about now, I bet the meat-lovers reading this are running around the house looking for a deck of cards so they can put it in the palm of their hand to see which one is bigger! A guideline that I follow is that meat makes up no more than  ¼ of my meal/plate, with the rest being veggies, as in the photo below. Veggies are full of powerful cancer-fighting vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that can also help to ‘neutralize’ the potential negative health effects of HCAs and PAHs from grilled meats. Bonus! Eat your veggies…and strive for many different colours on your plate!

grilled dinner

 

#3 – Reduce the drippings

Drippings can hit the flames and cause grilling flare-ups that will char the meat. You can reduce drippings and flare-ups by:

  • Trimming excess fat and skin from meats before grilling
  • Using tongs, grilling baskets, or other utensils that will not pierce the meat when you are flipping/turning it over
  • Parboiling also helps to reduce the fat (especially for ribs and sausages)
  • If flare-ups do happen, have a spray bottle filled with water on hand to get them under control

#4 – Flip the meat frequentlygrilled salmon burgers

Flipping the meat frequently helps to avoid over-cooking and charring.

#5 – Use lower temperatures

Cooking temperature has been identified as the most important contributor to the formation of HCAs and PAHs. Using lower temperature cooking has been shown to decrease the formation of these compounds.

#6 – Marinate

Marinating meats for at least 30 minutes before grilling has been shown to significantly reduce the amount of HCAs and PAHs created during grilling.

marinating chickenIf you Google “marinade for _____” (fill in the blank with your favourite meat), you’ll get loads of options. I usually don’t follow recipes to make marinades; I just wing it by mixing together something savory (e.g. tamari sauce), something acidic (e.g. fresh lemon juice or some type of cooking vinegar), something sweet (e.g. a splash of honey or maple syrup), a bit of oil (usually olive, or sesame oil) and something aromatic (garlic, fresh and/or dried herbs, and spices).

I’m sharing a few very basic marinade recipes at the end of this article. You can increase or decrease the amounts proportionately so that you have enough for the amount of meat you’ll be grilling. Generally, you will need half a cup of marinade for every pound of meat. The meat doesn’t have to be completely submerged in the marinade; just make sure that you turn it frequently so that all sides of it get a good chance to get coated and soaked. My preference is to use a glass container to marinate foods.  I encourage you to be creative and add whatever you like to these marinades, and/or invent your own unique combination. 

#7 – Cut off the burnt bits

If despite your best efforts, there are charred or burnt bits on your grilled meat, cut them off before eating.

Think outside the (BBQ) box

When we think of grilling, we often just think of meat. Grilled veggies are amazing (and as an added bonus, they are less of a risk regarding HCAs and PAHs). You can grill just about any veggie, or combination of veggies, for a wonderful side dish – and some grilled veggies make great meat substitutes, like my Portabello Mushroom Cap Burgers. My go-to method for grilling veggies is to toss them in a few TBSPs of olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkle of sea salt before putting them on the grill. Sometimes I toss in some crumbled sheep feta when the veggies are still warm (when they’re grilled and have been taken out of the grilling basket of course!). Mmmm! How many different kind of veggies can you find in this batch of grilled veggies I made? :o)

grilled veggies

Here is one more suggestion when it comes to grilling: avoid wrapping things in aluminum foil to cook them on the grill (or any other way for that matter). Cooking in aluminum foil is going to add aluminum to your food, and although current research is inconclusive, some suggest there is a link between the accumulation of aluminum in the body (through any means) and an increase in certain diseases, in particular, Alzheimer’s Disease. When it comes to my health, I prefer to error on the side of caution and take control of what I can, so I choose to avoid using aluminum foil when it comes to any kind of cooking.

And finally, here are three basic marinade ideas to get your creative (and digestive) juices flowing! The instructions for all three of these marinades are the same – simply put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until they are well blended. Add the chicken/fish/beef and marinate in the refrigerator for as little as 30 minutes or as long as 3 hours..

 Mediterranean Chicken Marinade

This marinade makes a delicious ‘Greek’ flavoured chicken. Serve with a big Greek or green salad and you’re all set! Makes 1/2 a cup.

  • ¼ cup of olive oilgrilled chicken
  • ¼ cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 clove of fresh garlic, minced
  • ½ to 1 tsp of dried oregano
  • A pinch of sea salt

 

 Asian Inspired Fish Marinade

This marinade is perfect for salmon. Makes about 1/2 a cup.

  • 1/4 cup of organic tamari  saucegrilled asian salmon
  • 2 TBSP of olive oil
  • 2 TBSP of rice vinegar
  • 1 TBSP of maple syrup or unpasteurized local honey
  • 1 TBSP of sesame oil
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 TBSP of fresh ginger, minced

 

Red Wine Steak Marinade

This is a great marinade for steaks and cubes of beef for shish-kebabs. Makes about 1 cup.

  • 1/2 cup of red winegrilled steak
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • 1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 TBSP of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp each of sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ tsp each of oregano and ground cumin…or any herb/spice you like with your steak! (optional)

Enjoy!

MCT Oil for Weight Management, Cognitive Health, and More

MCT oil. It’s been touted to offer a load of health benefits including:

  • sustained energy
  • weight management
  • appetite control
  • gut health
  • fat burning
  • managing Alzheimer’s Disease and other cognitive/neurological conditions
  • antimicrobial and antifungal powers
  • supporting cardiovascular health
  • balancing blood sugar levels

So what exactly is MCT oil?

MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides. MCTs are a unique type of dietary fat which are quickly metabolized by the body and NOT stored as fat. As they are not stored as fat, the energy (aka calories) that they provide can be used immediately by the body’s muscles and organs – including the brain.

I’m guessing you probably know someone who is following a ketogenic diet to lose and/or maintain their weight. Ketogenic diets restrict carbohydrates and focus on burning fats for energy.  MCT oils are a clean form of fat-burning energy that is coveted by ketogenic diet gurus. Long-term studies suggest that MCTs reduce body fat, increase muscle mass, and suppress appetite. While weight loss is the most common reason people go on a ketogenic diet, other less talked about reasons include cognitive improvement/memory support, cardiovasular health, and blood sugar management – which have some common ties.

MCT Oil and Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is often referred to as ‘Type 3 diabetes’. Many research papers I’ve read on the topic of AD and other forms of dementia cite impaired utilization of glucose in the brain as an early event in some cases of neurological aging of the brain.  More simply stated, the cells of the brain become insulin resistant, making it difficult for glucose, a preferred fuel, to enter the cell to be used as a source of energy. This is where ketones can come to the rescue.

Ketones do not rely on insulin to enter brain cells. They can cross the blood-brain barrier and enter cells, offering an alternative to glucose and the potential to provide a source of energy for the cells in the aging brain. In patients with AD who were fed either a high carbohydrate diet or a ketogenic diet for 6 weeks, marked improvement of verbal memory was found in the adults who were fed the ketogenic diet. In other words, ketone levels were positively correlated with memory performance. 

In recent years, studies have repeatedly shown that what is good for the heart is also good for the brain, and vice versa. This is the case with MCTs, with many studies stating that MCTs promote cardiovascular health by lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol and raising protective ‘good’ cholesterol.

What Type of MCT Oil is Best?

Some of you may have heard that coconut oil is a good source of MCTs; however, not all MCTs are created equal/metabolized equally. Coconut oil is predominately lauric acid (a ‘C12’ MCT). It will still offer benefits associated with MCTs; however, the benefits are significantly amplified when a concentrated form of a certain MCT (a ‘C8’ MCT) is consumed. I regularly use coconut oil in my meals and snacks, but now I will be adding MCT oil to my daily supplement routine as dementia/AD is in my family history – on both my mom & dad’s side of the family.

Biotic Research Canada’s Bio-MCTTM is a unique therapeutic 100% ‘C8’ MCT oil. Each bottle of Bio-MCTTM contains approximately 16 ounces/475ml of MCTs extracted from non-GMO sources of coconut/palm kernel oil. At a dose of just 15ml (1 TBSP) per day, a bottle will last one month, and offers a super-charged way to deliver the many health benefits of MCTs to your brain, heart, muscles, gut, and more. 

To order a bottle of Bio-MCTTM, send an email to info@perfectresonance.com with the subject line “MCT oil” and I’ll contact you with order, payment, pick-up, or delivery (anywhere in Canada, shipping fee will apply) options. A bottle costs $64 + HST (as of April 8 2021 – subject to change) and will last one month when taken at the recommended daily dose. If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, then this 16-ounce bottle of of prevention is worth every penny.

Take control of what you can.

References

Vandenberghe C, St-Pierre V, Pierotti T, Fortier M, Castellano CA, Cunnane SC.
Tricaprylin Alone Increases Plasma Ketone Response More Than Coconut Oil or
Other Medium-Chain Triglycerides: An Acute Crossover Study in Healthy Adults.
Curr Dev Nutr. 2017 Mar 22;1(4):e000257.

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mct-oil-benefits#TOC_TITLE_HDR_6

https://bioticscanada.com/products/detoxification/antimicrobial/bio-mct-tm-new/

Fiddlehead Ginger Soup

We’re heading into fiddlehead season! Woohooo!

Many years ago, I had a client who would bring me freshly picked fiddleheads around this time of year. She’s long since moved from Ottawa, but she inspired my love for these unusual ‘vegetables’. 

In holistic folklore circles, fiddleheads are sometimes referred to as a ‘tonic’ for the female body, perhaps because they are a good source of manganese which aids in the formation of mother’s milk and prevents post-partum depression. Some sources point out the resemblance between the shape of fiddleheads and the fallopian tubes of the female reproductive system. What do you think? Interesting, huh?

One thing is for certain – fiddleheads are delicious and they are packed with vitamins, minerals (especially iron), and antioxidants. They are delicious steamed with butter, sauteed in garlic and olive oil, pickled, used for tempura and so much more. If I had to pick a veggie that they most resemble in terms of taste and texture, I’d say asparagus … sort of! Anyway, one of my favourite ways to enjoy fiddleheads is in a delicious soup. Here’s my recipe!

What You’ll Need

  • 2 tablespoon butter or a combo of butter and olive oil
  • A large sweet onion, chopped (1.5 cups)
  • 1 TBSP grated fresh ginger root
  • Sprinkle unrefined sea salt
  • 1.5 cups fiddleheads
  • 3 cups of homemade chicken broth
  • Sprinkle turmeric

Step 1: Prep

IMG_3414Put butter/butter and olive oil in a pot on medium-low heat and add the chopped sweet onion and grated ginger. You can add more or less ginger depending on your taste. Sprinkle with a dash of unrefined sea salt to make the onion ‘sweat’ and cook until the onion is soft/translucent.

Step 2: Cooking

525672_407098425978620_486371697_n[1]Add cleaned and steamed fiddleheads. Before steaming them, soak them in a big bowl of water with a pinch of salt for a few minutes to get rid of all the brown husks and then rinse the fiddleheads well before steaming them for 10 to 12 minutes. Then add them to the pot with the homemade chicken broth, bring it to quick boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.

WARNING: Fiddleheads can cause food poisoning if they are not stored, prepared, or cooked properly. Check out these food safety tips for fiddleheads from the Government of Canada.

Step 3: Serve

Pour everything into a blender and puree on high speed for a minute or so until creamy and smooth. Garnish with a sprinkle of turmeric or anything else you would like! I topped mine with a few tablespoons of organic kefir and some fresh parsley. The colour didn’t turn out so well in this photo, but the soup was a beautiful green colour. Add salt to taste.  Enjoy!