Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Merits of Mint

Mint is a fragrant leaf that is rich in Vitamin A and C. It adds a beautiful scent and flavor to a watermelon salad and traditionally it can be finely chopped, added to vinegar and used as a sauce for succulent lamb dishes. One of my favorite dishes when I was growing up was,"Minted Peas."

Mint aids digestion and mint tea is recommended to relieve gas. This unassuming leaf has antioxidant properties and has been used for natural relief of congestion due to colds and chest congestion. In addition it can be used to ease nasal allergies. Mint tea can also help reduce the effects of headaches.

Be warned that if you have mint in your garden, it can become rather invasive. When I cut my lawn, I can smell the wonderful fragrance as I mow, since it has made its way into my lawn. The best advice I have been given is to limit my mint plants to containers and so that is what I have done.

Mint, in addition to making a refreshing addition to unsweetened iced tea, makes a wonderful addition to my Smoothies. Particularly if you are having Kale in your smoothie which can sometimes taste a little bitter. The bitterness in Kale comes from the fact that the plant has been grown in a climate that is too hot. If you get Kale in Fall or in Spring, it will not have that bitter taste. 

Mint makes a beautiful garnish for desserts. Before I kicked the Sugar habit, I used to paint the mint leaves with chocolate, allow the chocolate to set and then peal these "chocolate leaves" off the actual leaf and use them as a mint flavored garnish. Mint is often used to combat bad breathe and it is also known as a cleanser for the blood. There are many more virtues for this little, fragrant leaf and if you have it in your garden, you may want to pick it, wash it and dry it for use in the winter. If you prefer you can chop up some mint leaves and put them in an ice tray, cover with boiled water that has been cooled and you have minted ice cubes which are great to use in iced tea or with orange juice or just to add zing to your sparkling water.

I recently tried this RAW FOOD recipe which included fresh mint leaves from my garden and my daughter who does not love eating bananas, loved this. My kids gave it a thumbs up and this is from my daughter who does not usually like bananas. Of course I can never stick to a recipe 100 % so I added a drizzle of coconut oil to get the banana's started in the food processor and instead of chocolate chips I chopped in some unsweetened chocolate. 

The original recipe is from a book by Natalia Rose.

Banana Mint
By Natalia Rose

Note: Combines with a raw, avocado-based meal and a raw-nut-based meal or after a fresh fruit meal.

Mint lovers will dreamily scoop up this creamy, cold mint ice cream!

Makes 2 servings
3 medium or large frozen bananas cut into thirds
1 teaspoon chopped fresh, mint leaves
Organic chocolate chips (optional)

In a food processor, mix the bananas and the mint together and serve. Top with or mix in your favourite organic chocolate chips for a " Mint Chip" version.

Disclaimer: I have not read the book, but I extracted this dessert from it to try. "Sugar free" being my mandate and all, it caught my eye.

For more MINT facts click here.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Habits, Pointing the Way to Victory

Today's excellent quote by Seth Godin was on his blog, today's blog was entitled: "Crash Diets and Good Habits." He was talking about life goals and reaching sales quotas among other things. And yes, he was discussing crash diets and whether they work or not.

This is what got my attention:
"If you want to get in shape, don't sign up for fancy diet this or Crossthat the other thing. No, the way to get in shape is to go to the gym every single day, change your clothes and take a shower. If you can do that every single day for a month, pretty soon you'll start doing something while you're there..." - Seth Godin.

It is funny, but it is so true. It takes a while to instill a good habit, and bad habits seem to just happen so quickly if we do not recognize them creeping into our daily routine. Why is that?
One thing I have learnt in my health journey is that if you find that a bad habit has shown up in your life, you have to break the cycle and DO SOMETHING ELSE!

It was only when the coffee machine was safely stowed away and out of my sight that I was able to curb the coffee monster. When the tub of "moose tracks" ice cream called my name, I nurtured my heart by reading a newly downloaded book or painted my toenails. By finding something else to do with that desire to self medicate with food opened up the opportunity to break cycles of behaviour that only produced feelings of guilt and frustration.

Recognizing habits and patterns that are not good for you, do not build you up or that are negative is the first step in taking action to overcome them. Getting to the root of the problem is key to recognizing WHY we do these things.

  • When you are tired, don't eat, rest.
  • When you are anxious, don't eat, breathe, listen to music, talk to a friend, pray, meditate. 
  • When you are sad, journal, write a letter, listen to some uplifting music. Don't eat.

When we separate food from these compelling emotions, we win the battle over them.

Soon positive habits will be easy, because the reason for doing the "bad things" in the first place will have been removed and dealt with.

These emotions are there to point the way to the solution. Use them as signposts of victory, not as ways to paths of defeat.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Recipe Challenge : Kathy's Challenge.

Kathy's Recipe Challenge

Kathy B. submitted her 5 ingredients. This is what she said:

My five ingredients: minced beef or chicken, carrots, sweet potatoes, onions and cauliflower "I actually don't have all those ingredients at the moment, but they are common ones in my house. Just curious what you will come up with as they're pretty bland and boring." - Kathy.

There is nothing nicer than having a soup starter to make a meal special, particularly on a cold evening. I prefer using coconut milk in a can, but I am sure to use one that is Organic and does not have any additives. It is just plain, natural coconut milk. Given the 5 basic ingredients I have chosen a sweet potato soup that is enlivened by fragrant spices.  Then a wholesome satisfying, rainy day Chili. These are the recipes that I have come up with for Kathy:

Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup. 

4 Sweet potatoes, peeled
2 Large carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 onion- chopped
1 cup almond milk or coconut milk
ginger fresh, or ground
Add sea salt to taste ( I usually let people add their own when serving)

  1. Peel the sweet potato and carrots, slice and dice them and throw them in a large pot together with 2-3 cups of water and the chopped onion.
  2. Add the spices and if you are making it with children in mind,  you can add less spices if you prefer.
  3. Once the carrots are soft puree the soup until smooth. Add almond/coconut milk or regular milk and heat through and serve.

Note: Sweet potatoes are also high in calcium, folate, potassium and beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant which converts to Vitamin A in the body. In addition to that, their high potassium content means sweet potatoes can alleviate muscle cramps which are often related to potassium deficiency.

Cauliflower Chili Casserole.

1 head of cauliflower
1/2 onion 
Extra-lean ground beef 
Bay leaves (whole) 
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder.
2 Chopped tomatoes (fresh) or you can use canned tomatoes as long as they are unsalted.
Cumin ( 1 - 2 tsp)
Chili powder ( 2- 3 tsp)
A pinch of Cinnamon
Sea Salt, 1/4 teaspoon
Chopped Baby Carrots
1 can red or black beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed.
2 cups of Water
Optional additions: Mushrooms


  1. In a cast iron pot, saute onions in olive oil, add bay leaves, garlic and mustard powder and spices.
  2. Add the ground beef and saute until browned. 
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes and some water and bring to boil, once boiling reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes until cooked. Drain the canned beans and rinse very well and add to pot. Simmer until cooked and ready to serve.
  4. Serve the sauce over steamed cauliflower. Be sure to steam the cauliflower just enough to make it tender, but not mushy.

Note: Cooking in a cast Iron pot increases the Iron (Fe) content in your food. This is particularly useful to know if you have an iron deficiency or tend to suffer from anaemia.

This is what I did with my left over Chili:

Adding Strawberries to the Spinach salad helps with the absorption of the Iron in the spinach by providing the Vitamin C needed to aid absorption of Iron. I used Balsamic vinegar and Olive oil to dress the salad and added some sunflower seeds.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Camping Food Without Compromise

"This isn't camping food!" my veteran camper husband said shaking his head as he helped me pack the coolers. In went all that I needed to make my camping trip a healthy and delicious time. Not his idea of camping food, but certainly mine and anyone else who is eating sugar free, and mimicking those newly revived paleolithic and caveman behaviors.

Who says that just because you go on a trip and are on vacation that your healthy lifestyle has to stay at home to the detriment of your weight and waistline? This is not even mentioning your emotional state when you get back on the scale and find you have gained 2 pounds. This may have happened to me in the past, but not this time. I went well prepared!

I am back from my week long camping trip and I am happy to report that I did not gain an ounce despite the s'mores that were consumed by others and the chips and other seemingly necessary "Camping food" consumed all around me. Come what may I was able to easily say, "No thank you" because I was focused on what MY body needs, what MY goals were and to be quite honest, I really wasn't tempted nor did I feel deprived in any way. The freedom of being sucessfully free of the addiction of sugar was so comforting and comfortable that I did not desire one last fling with sugar. I have been there, done that, and really, the morning after is not fun, pretty or in anyway romantic. It is ugly, full of tears, guilt and frustration. There was no way I was going back to that and nothing waved in front of me was going to entice me to go back.

Now don't misunderstand me. It really wasn't about what others were doing, this was about me choosing the best for ME! As a recovering sugar addict, I had accepted the fact that I can't eat like everyone else, and if I do, there are consequences. I am okay with that.

I took along a living Boston lettuce, roots and all and it lived in the trailer with me all week and I had salads with freshly picked and washed leaves from my gracious lettuce, you can't get fresher than that. The taste was awesome! I also took a pot of organic fresh Basil with me and it sat on the picnic table and added the freshly picked leaves to my chopped heirloom tomato and cucumber salad. Delicious! My taste buds were thanking me.

For breakfast most days I cooked Quinoa porridge using Quinoa flakes, dried apricots, cashews and cinnamon or carob and topped it with sliced banana. I used unsweetened almond milk and loved this warm, delicious and filling breakfast. I also added chia seeds and pumpkin seeds to the porridge for added nutrients, crunch and texture.

Who says you can't eat healthy while camping?
One evening I chopped up a mango, chopped up some fresh ginger root, added some cashews and some "Chunky Chat Masala" and that was my dinner on a warm evening.

Chunky Chat Masala consists of:
White Salt, Dry Mango, Black Salt, Cumin, Musk melon, Black pepper, pomegranate seeds, coriander, mint leaves, dry ginger, nutmeg, chilli, caraway, Bishop's weeks, cloves and  ASAFOETIDA - What is it? Never heard of it before, but it is also known as "Devil's Dung"...glad they did not use that name on the ingredient list on the box! I read that it is sometimes used to keep wild animals away as well as for medicinal purposes. That would be okay with me, since we were camping in a campsite which has been known to be visited by large black bears! Since it was the last ingredient on the list, it really was not consumed in a large amount anyway so I guess as a bear repellant it would not have been that effective, but I did get a giggle out of it. If you could like to purchase this mix of spices, here is a link you can follow. CLICK HERE.

All I can say is that the Mango salad was satisfying, fragrant and spicy!