Monday, 30 July 2012

When You Just GOTTA Have Sushi

Everyone else is doing it. They even have brown rice Sushi and Maki rolls nowadays. Us hunters and gatherers also need to have some every now and then. Only problem is brown rice is not one of the things on my "to eat" list. So here is the thing, I want sushi. I am rather a picky sort of sushi eater, in fact if you were to be quite accurate, I really only like the Maki Rolls and the vegetarian ones to be exact. (Unless they have smoked salmon in them) I am rather clueless to the whole art of Sushi and what their names are, all I know is that I like the one with avocado. Okay so I also like the one with Mango and Tempura, but do they HAVE to use rice all the time?

When the hankering for sushi strikes, what to do? I must admit that after attempting my first Maki Roll I almost gave up. I persevered and I think with a bit of practice and I may just master the art of my kind of Maki Rolls. The best part is that they do not contain rice at all and I used Tamari which is a gluten free soy sauce. Ginger is great for the digestion, but the pickled ginger may contain sugar so keep an eye on the ingredients. If you can't find a sugar free alternative, then just make sure you don't eat too much of it. 

I used Buckwheat instead of rice in my rolls and added cucumber, carrot and avocado. After a little bit of practice this is how my version of Maki Rolls turned out. I got better at it as I went along and I will have to take care to cut the roll evenly, but you know it is not bad for a first try. If I can do it, so can you! In fact I am pretty sure you will probably do a better job! I have even seen Maki rolls so cute that I had to take a photo of them, these are not mine, but made for a kids school lunch. 

 If you do decide to give it a try, please send me your photos. I would love to see them. Email me at

Here's to guilt free Mel's Maki Rolls.

Igor's comments:
I like sushi! Remember, rice isn't a problem for everyone... just for people who are very carbohydrate intolerant.

Seaweed is good stuff.  It contains LOTS of nutrients, especially iodine which is great for the thyroid if you're normal or hypothyroid. It is, however, not so good if you have a hyperthyroid.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Have Your Cake AND Eat It

You have been on track with your eating plan and you are seeing results. It feels good. Your scale is starting to agree that your progress is going in the right direction. Then comes a special occasion, a dinner out, a party. What do you do? Do you give up all control and pick up the pieces the morning after? You say to yourself, "I'll just have a little treat" and the next thing you know you are wiping cheesecake crust crumbs off your lips. How did that happen?

You know the deal, Christmas and Thanksgiving are for wearing your stretchy pants. And year after year we regret that extra piece or two of Pumpkin pie. Believe me I have been there, and am embarrassed to admit that one year I even wore maternity clothes in preparation for the Thanksgiving dinner feast and I wasn't even pregnant at the time. Part of the problem is that through the years of tradition we associate happy times and celebrations with certain foods. What would a birthday be without cake? What would Halloween be without Candy? So we link these things together. With it comes the 'morning after' guilt and telltale signs on the scale.

Take a step back, are these occasions really about the food? No. These times are really all about the calorie free experience of being together with the people you care about and love. Now don't beat yourself up too much, for those battling the lure of pumpkin pie and birthday cake, please know that it has been proven that sugar is more addictive than Heroin.

So how do you HAVE YOUR CAKE AND EAT IT? If you are a Raw Vegan then you'll also love this one.

Triple Decker frozen Banana and Carob Cake.

TIP: Click here for tips on how to have frozen bananas on hand anytime.


 "The birthday cake fell into the category of 'tastes so good it feels like it should be bad for you.' "- Igor Klibanov of Fitness Solutions Plus


Frozen Banana (about 5 - 6)
4 Tbsp Carob Powder
1/2 Vanilla Pod  (sliced length ways and seeds scraped out- set aside both pod and seeds)
1 Tbsp Chia  Seeds
4 large dried prunes
Espresso powder (optional)

Almond milk to blend
1/2 cup soaked raw cashews
Strawberry and mint leaves for garnish
Frozen sliced banana in food processor


Place frozen sliced banana in food processor and add just enough almond milk to blend.  Add in the reserved Vanilla seeds.
Take out just enough puree to fill one layer of your cake. I used 5 inch round ceramic bowls.




To the remaining mixture add the rest of the ingredients and puree until smooth.


Stack up your 5 inch layers, and pop them in the freezer preferable overnight if you can wait that long?

In the meantime prepare the frosting. 

Here's HOW:
  1. Soak the cashews in water with the scraped Vanilla pod for 3 -5 hours.
  2. Drain the cashews and remove the Vanilla pod.
  3. Puree or blend the cashews with enough unsweetened Almond milk to help it to blend. The more Almond milk you add the thinner the consistency of your frosting.
  4. Refrigerate until it is time to assemble your little frozen creation.


  1. Remove the frozen layers from their bowls and place one of the Carob/Banana layers at the bottom, add the Banana Vanilla layer in the middle and top with the remaining Carob and Banana layer.
  2. Top with frosting and garnish with sliced berries and mint leaves or any garnish of your choice.
  3. Return to the freezer for another hour if needed to solidify the cake. To serve it cut with non serrated sharp knife dipped in boiling water.
On the day we enjoyed our frozen treat it was a balmy 34 degrees Celsius and so our treat threatened to melt on us, but had I made it the day before, and not just the morning of, it would have withstood the heat a lot better.

Now, if you are NOT on a sugar free nutritional plan you could probably add Stevia or natural honey if you wish. I did not, it was WAY sweet enough without it.

Do note that bananas pack in the calories so don't overdo it. This cake is small enough to celebrate and share, but you will not have tons of leftovers left to tempt you into having more. To be honest, this "cake" is so healthy and packed with goodness that I had a slice for breakfast one day.

 What it all really comes down to is that there really is no reason for you to feel deprived if you use your creativity and think about using good, wholesome foods to create your own masterpiece.

The best part of this was that it was totally guilt free, without the sugary lure of addictive, artificial flavoring and additives.

Please let me know what you thought of this recipe.

©All Rights Reserved

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Not your Vegan BFF's sort of CHICK PEA Salad

You have heard of mushy peas in a can, so have I and I have not been able to pluck up the courage to try them. I have been known to boil them and add chopped mint leaves, otherwise known as "Minted Peas." I hope you are not like my little cousin, who when told as a kid that he should eat all his peas because it would "put hairs on his chest" and from that day forward never again a pea in any shape or form did pass his lips.

It is Pea Season in Ontario and I was given a brown bag of freshly picked peas. They are good just to crack open and eat as a snack, but lately I have been doing something a little different with these little green packages of sweet of Energy, Lutein, Fibre, Vit A, Vit C and Iron.

Instead of the usual preparation method of boiling them I have been extracting them from their shells and tossing them straight into a salad.

I was at a bbq a few weeks back and someone had brought a salad that consisted of fresh raw green peas, bacon bits, cucumber and mayonnaise. I don't remember exactly what the rest of the ingredients were, but for this first time in my life, peas were viewed as a salad ingredient and not just a side to roast beef. Why not add these little lutein bundles into my salads from now on?

 I sliced up some skinless chicken breast and added it to my field greens. I sliced up some red peppers and tossed them, together with some pumpkin seeds into the bowl and VOILA! My chicken salad was enlivened by peas and I had a little chuckle when I realized that my salad was CHICK- PEA salad.

If you would like to sign up for my consolidated Newsletter and get updated on all the latest posts, articles and events please click here.

Igor's Newsletter this week is going to be on a great topic, one I asked him to explain, so if you want to have it in your inbox, click here and ask him to send it to you. Please mention that you heard about it here.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Is Coffee Right for you?

As of June 21st I put my coffee machine away and pulled out my green tea stash, which I might just mention comes from Beijing thanks to a very dear friend who knows I love it. It is the whole leaf variety, it is delicious and gets my day off to a good start. You might be wondering if you should do the same. Not everyone drinks a pot of coffee a day (like I used to) and some people can drink one cup a day and be satisfied. If you want to know more about whether coffee is right for you, read Igor's post below. (Used with permission) If you would like to sign up for Igor's weekly informative newsletter, please If you would like to sign up for Igor's weekly informative newsletter, please email him and ask to be added to the list. Mention that you heard about it through this blog. Email:

Is Coffee Right For You? 
by Igor Klibanov 
Original post date: May 7, 2012

            Do you like coffee? Do you crave coffee? Do you drink it at specific times of the day?
 I got a request to make this newsletter about coffee consumption, so we’ll talk about the good and the bad, and what you should do. It is such a controversial topic that it bears discussing.
 The Good
             First and foremost, let’s get one thing straight: coffee is a stimulant, and it will have many of the positive effects of other stimulants, when used correctly.
            As a stimulant, it causes the body to release adrenaline, which gives you energy, and is a fat-burning hormone. Along with that, it promotes mental alertness.
            Organic coffee also has lots of antioxidants. For the laymen, antioxidants are nutrients naturally found in food, and some that your body naturally produces that helps prevent damage to your blood vessels and other organs, so it may have a cardiovascular-protective effect.
            Some studies even link coffee consumption to decreased incidence of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, liver problems, and other chronic conditions.
 The Bad
             Yep, coffee has antioxidants, but it also has toxins (for the people who want the technical terms, the specific toxins are cafestol and kahweol). These are toxins that can cause LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) cholesterol levels to rise.
            Because coffee is a stimulant, it also elevates blood pressure. If a person already has high blood pressure or is prone to high blood pressure, this doesn’t help.
            Coffee can increase the risk of osteoporosis because it acidifies the blood slightly. To neutralize the acid, calcium does a great job, but most of the body’s calcium is stored in bones. So the body has to break down bone to get the calcium to neutralize the acidity caused by the coffee.
            Coffee also has a slight diuretic effect, and if certain measures aren’t taken (like simply drinking water along with coffee), it can cause dehydration.
            If you are a high-stress individual, chances are that you over-produce the stress hormone cortisol. And unfortunately, coffee prolongs how long excessive cortisol stays in your system.
            In the right quantities and at the right times, cortisol does great things, but if there is too much, it starts to break down muscle, bone, and other organs, and it depletes you of essential nutrients.

Is Coffee Right For You?

            As you can see, coffee is a very multi-faceted topic. I preach this all the time, but each person’s individuality must be considered, because as the saying goes, “one man’s food is another man’s poison.”
 So how do you figure out if coffee is right for you?
             Here are a few ways:
 What if I told you to stop drinking coffee? Does the mere thought of stopping coffee consumption make you feel a sense of deprivation? If that’s the case, chances are coffee isn’t all that great for you. People usually crave what they are addicted to, and as we know, addictions aren’t good (but that’s an entirely different topic).
But if the thought of stopping coffee consumption doesn’t frighten you all that much, chances are that for you, it’s either neutral or beneficial.
Another way to determine the effect that coffee has on you is to cut it out for 2-4 weeks, and notice if you feel any changes. Look for changes in energy levels, bowel movements, sleep patterns, skin, weight and body fat.
If there are changes, chances are you were going through withdrawal, so coffee isn’t good for you.
If you didn’t feel a difference, chances are that coffee is either neutral or beneficial for you.
Lastly, there is my favorite test:
            Have someone who is trained in using body fat calipers measure your umbilical skinfold (it looks like this: Then stop drinking coffee for 2-4 weeks. Do not change anything else in your nutrition. This is critical. After this 2-4 week period, have your skin fold re-measured. I’ve seen some clients drop a noticeable amount of fat simply by making this one change. I’ve seen others make no change.
            If you’re the person who dropped body fat simply by stopping your coffee consumption, chances are that it’s not good for you. If your body fat didn’t change, chances are that it doesn’t have a negative effect on you (although I wouldn’t go strictly by body fat. I’d take into account other factors, like your symptoms).
            By the way, if you need help finding someone who can do precise body fat assessments using skinfold calipers, the trainers at our company (Fitness Solutions Plus) would be glad to help you with that, so if that’s a test that you’d like to do, just get in touch with us by calling 647-271-8672. Just mention you got this number through Melony's blog.

            This newsletter just scratches the surface of coffee consumption, but it should give you a good starting point in figuring out whether coffee is right for you.


 © All Rights Reserved. 2012.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Black Cherry 'N Chard Smoothie

Staying cool without air conditioning can be a challenge in summer, and it certainly does have an effect on what and how you cook. Who wants to turn on the oven when it is 30 degrees Celsius outside and not much cooler inside. The thought of cooking over a hot stove is not appealing in mid-summer and there is just so many salads you can eat. Time for a change?

This week my choice of greens for my smoothies has been Swiss Chard and I have paired it up with the perfect ingredient to masque the bitterness of that nutritious leaf.

Frozen unsweetened Black Cherries pair up nicely with Swiss Chard to make a refreshing smoothie.
The variety that I used was the Charlotte, Rhubarb Chard which has a red stem. 

This beautiful leafy vegetable is rich in B-complex group of vitamins such as folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid that are essential for optimum cellular metabolic functions. It is also rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, sodium, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus. Swiss Chard contains phytonutrients and is an excellent source of anti-oxidant vitamin, vitamin C. It is also a good source of vitamin-K; It is also rich source of Vitamin-A and of omega-3 fatty acids; flavonoids anti-oxidants like beta carotene, α-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. The benefits of this amazing leaf are endless, they keep your bones, nerves and metabolism healthy as well as supplying a good dose of Vitamin A to keep your eyes healthy. Perhaps the rabbits eat Swiss Chard on the side, instead of carrots?
There is one thing to note however:
  • Swiss chard contains a considerable amount of oxalates, which when too concentrated in the body, can crystallize and create health problems. So, avoid the consumption of chard, if you have an existing or untreated kidney and gall bladder problem. Besides this, oxalates also interfere with the absorption of calcium from the body.

Now if it were winter time you could cook the Chard by quick boiling of the vegetable, instead of steaming, as this helps to free the oxalic acids. It also removes the bitterness from the vegetable and makes it sweeter. Since it is summer, here is your alternative:

Black Cherry and Swiss Chard Smoothie.

Frozen UNSWEETENED Black Cherries
Swiss Chard, rinsed
Unsweetened Almond Milk
Ice Cubes
Chia Seeds
Kefir (optional) 

Tip: You can buy your cherries fresh, and stone and freeze them on trays in the freezer, once frozen store in tightly sealed containers in the freezer for up to a year. 

For a Nutritional Information for Swiss Chard Click here

Saturday, 7 July 2012


Have you ever stood scratching your head at dinner time thinking, "What on earth do I cook for dinner?" Before you on the kitchen counter is an array of random foods that you need to use up or have left in your fridge. Why waste the half a cabbage, but how on earth will you make a meal out of it that will not only be edible, but nutritious? I can help!

Sometimes it is a challenge to come up with something on the spur of the moment without having to spend hours googling a recipe and then following it.  I have a challenge for you. Your challenge is to look in your refrigerator or cupboard and pick 5 ingredients that you would like to use up and send me your ingredient list. I will come up with a recipe named after you!

Tilapia with spinach mandarin salad.
Perhaps they are there because they are left overs, or you bought the particular ingredient because someone told you it was "good for you" but you have no idea to prepare it. Or perhaps you have just run out of inspiration.

This is what I propose:

Respond to this post by emailing me your list of ingredients and I will take you up on your RECIPE CHALLENGE to come up with a recipe to use up said ingredients and I will post meal ideas and the end product together with some nutritional information and a photograph.

Please bear in mind that I prefer to use healthy ingredients, full of good nutrients and ones that will benefit you. In a perfect world we all have such ingredients in abundance. I realise sometimes we end up with things in our pantry that were bought out of curiosity or mysteriously landed in the shopping cart. Either way, if you are not going to donate them to the local food-bank or throw them out, they will stay in your pantry until you do something with that can or bag of whatever it may be. Or if it is fresh, you will remove it from the back of your fridge and donate it to science for further investigation.

Throw open those pantry doors and dig out the long forgotten ingredients lurking in the back and let's use them up. Email me, I'd love to help!

If you would like to take up the RECIPE CHALLENGE with me, email me and mark your email as RECIPE CHALLENGE. Click here.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Banana Solutions

At this time of the year I find that I can't keep up with my bananas. Before they have been eaten they end up looking a lot like this: (below)
The ripening time of bananas in the summer is much faster than in the winter, particularly if you do not have air conditioning in your home, or you choose to keep it switched off until necessary.

The chemical called Ethylene triggers these changes during maturation of bananas and ripening is the last stage of the process. Ethylene is a gas that is naturally produced by plants to trigger leaves to change colour during fall.

Don't worry this gas (Ethylene) is a natural gas produced by the fruit themselves and is in no way harmful to humans.
Now that I know what causes the accelerated ripening of my bananas, I need to find a way to use them up faster or a way to store them. In our household this fruit is a "go to" for the kids.

Here are some ways:
  • Freeze them whole with the skin on to be used later for baking. Suggestions: Muffins, Banana bread, use for pancakes etc. ( Although in Summer, you don't always want to switch on the oven)
  • Peel, slice and then freeze them in bags.
I have been using the slice and freeze method to freeze bananas for my smoothies. This method eliminates having to thaw them and peel them. Quick and easy and cold, they go straight in the blender to give your smoothies substance and texture.

Keep in mind each banana is worth approximately 105 calories a piece, depending on the size of the fruit. Bananas contain Vitamin B6, Potassium, Fibre (3g) and are a great post workout snack.

I asked Igor Klibanov of Fitness Solutions Plus what was better, eating a banana before a workout or after and he gave me a clear-cut, irrefutable answer. He said, "It depends."
This was Igor's explanation:
 If you're trying to lose body fat, the answer is neither before nor after. If you're working to maximize performance, then eat the banana before and after.

For fat loss, if you have carbohydrates before working out, your body will preferentially burn sugar and not fat. After a workout, you're primarily in fat burning mode until your next carbohydrate-filled meal. If that carbohydrate-filled meal (a banana) comes immediately after the workout, you limit your fat-burning time.

For enhanced performance
, carbohydrates are a very quick fuel source and you burn through carbohydrates very quickly when you work out. Having more carbohydrates will give you more endurance. Having carbohydrates after a workout decreases cortisol, thereby speeding up recovery.

© All Rights Reserved. 2012.