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Tomato & Fennel Soup

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When I think of comfort food, I think of tomatoes. I am a quarter Lebanese by blood and about 2/3 Lebanese when it comes to food obsessions. Although we are third generation Canadian, my sisters and I grew up embracing all things tomato, parsley, mint and lemon. For a special treat, my Mom would make stuffed grapevine leaves (we would help roll) baked in a tomato sauce, served with a classic tabouli salad. If it was just the four of us and our Mom for the night, she would often make the very most epic ratatouille with chick peas, finished with a healthy squeeze of lemon and some parsley for dinner. When we were sick, naturally, we got tomato soup.

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Perhaps this is why I gravitate towards tomatoes when planning menus for clients who are unwell. It doesn’t hurt that tomatoes are also one of the richest sources of the antioxidant, lycopene, which is well known for its cancer fighting and preventing abilities. The lycopene is actually more abundant in cooked tomatoes than in raw, so a slow-simmered tomato soup is especially healing.

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Cherry Season, 3 Ways

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When certain fruits or vegetable come into season, underneath all of the welcome back party feelings, a part of me starts to panic. It’s a bit like when you start worrying about going home on the first day of your vacation. What if I don’t get the chance to take full advantage of it before it leaves us again for another year?!

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(A cherry pitter, although niche, is indispensable for the short cherry-filled weeks. They also work for pitting most olives.)

The summer is full of this strange, delicious seasonal produce anxiety. I find the only way to remedy it is to properly roll around in the local bounty. Eat lots of it as is, while you transform the rest into culinary creations to be appreciated both later that day and later that month, when it has abruptly stopped showing up to the farmers markets.

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The Green Smoothie

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Green smoothies are in great abundance these days. They are as synonymous with healthy eating as bliss balls, almond butter, and kale chips. Green smoothies make healthy eating easier, and we would sure be sad without them. But let’s talk about making a modern version, that is lower glycemic and full of real, whole-food nutrition.

Choosing fruit that is lower glycemic and leaving the skin and seeds intact is a good way to start. This way we get the antioxidants from the fruit as well as the fiber, seeds and pectin from the whole fruit. This slows down the absorption of the sugar into your blood stream, and therefore keeps your blood sugar in check so that your cancer cells won’t be enjoying an all you can eat buffet. Berries and cherries are a great example of this (and those hand-staining pigments mean they are PACKED with antioxidants), so are kiwis, pears (blend smoother than apples too), and plums.

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Now for the vegetables. I like to use a combination that will add juiciness (cucumber, celery, Napa cabbage, broccoli stems, bok choy bottoms) and also the green plant-blood business (kale, spinach, collards, swiss chard, parsley, mustard greens, dandelion greens, bok choy tops). The watery vegetables tend to be milder in flavour so you can add more, while the green ones tend to be a little more intense and bossy, so you might want to add less.

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Seed Crackers

It seems like there are so many healthy options out there for dips, spreads and stuff that tastes good on chips or crackers, but not as many healthy chips, cracker or ‘vessels’ in general. If you buy crackers that contain nuts and seeds, who knows how long they have been sitting on the shelf for and how rancid their fats might be, but if you buy gluten-free or whole-grain crackers, they can be full of refined carbs that cancer cells gobble up. My usual answer to this is to have plenty of fresh, chopped up veggies -carrots, cucumber, broccoli etc, in your fridge, ready to dip into your guacamole/green hummus/sprouted lentil dip, whenever you are feeling hungry. I appreciate that this is not always realistic, as it requires planning ahead, and feeling well and energetic enough to prep veggies on a regular basis (having a personal chef helps, too).

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Enter the seed cracker. These crackers were created out of a need for something plain-tasting that contained lots of fiber and healthy fats, lasted longer than a couple of days and could handle being dipped. They are the perfect snack to have around to keep your hand out of the cracker box and to help keep you on top of your nutrition game. If it seems ridiculous to you that I just recommended that you make your own crackers if you don’t feel well enough to chop up some veggies, send this recipe to a friend or family member who keeps offering their help. Trust me, they want to help you, they just don’t know what to do. Making you some crackers will make them feel SO GOOD! Everybody wins. And if you feel well enough to make them yourself, make some extra ones for someone who doesn’t. It’s called cracker love, pass it on.

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A coffee grinder ($20) reserved just for flax-grinding is a great way to ensure that you are getting the freshest flax fats possible. Store the flax seeds whole in your freezer and grind as much as you need, right out of the freezer when you need it. Notice how rough the grind is for this recipe -just let it go for about 5-10 seconds.

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