Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Healthy Raw Granola Bars

Look at these beauties I made today! I just think they look so beautiful, so scrumptious, so rich of good for you stuff! I was inspired by this recipe at, and then just kept adding to it. Which means I can't remember exactly the quantities, but I'll try:

1.5 cup raw oat groats (GF)
1.5 cup raw buckwheat
                                                          Grind in S blade food processor until it looks like a fine powder with some residues of oats, which won't grind very finely

1 cup pitted dates
a lot of cinnamon (maybe 1.5 tbsp?)
1/2 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1/2 cup agave syrup
                                                           Add to the food processor and blend until it becomes pasty and sticky. If necessary, add some dates or agave so it sticks together.

That was the base. Then I started adding, and you can do the same with anything you'd like that is raw or dried... Here is what I remember adding:

1/2 cup dried goji berries
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cocoa nibs
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

I added all that and blended just for a little bit so as to keep the pieces intact and not grind it all. I wanted some color :) I think I threw in a bit of flaxseed or hemp oil at the end to moisten it, and a couple tbsp of apple sauce, because it was a bit dry and would crumble when dry.

Then I spread the paste in my dehydrator and turned it on 115 for about 6 hours. If you don't own a dehydrator, you can spread these on a cookie sheet and put in the oven for about 30-45 min at 200 degrees, or even less, if you can. Cut into rectangles or squares before putting in the oven, so that when they are done, you can just pull them apart easily.

Store in a tight container, in you fridge or freezer if you used the dehydrator.

And let me tell you, they are as delicious as they look!

Healthy Snacks for Little Snack Monsters

Aaaaah, snacks... the snack issue... the snack problem, the darn processed snack that my kids could live on! If it was up to them, they would just eat snacks all day long and skip the meals. They would have snack for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and for snack too!

 I am slooooowwwly winning the battle for healthy snacks, but it is not easy. Between school recess where little friends bring not so healthy (but "looking" healthy) processed snacks, or the playdates, birthday parties, and the trips to the grocery store where they go straight for the boxed cereal (aka empty calories, don't even get me started!), it sometimes feels like pushing a boulder uphill.

I have started to make my own cereal bars in my dehydrator, and I swear, if I could wrap those in processed food papers, my oldest one would eat them. But because they are homemade, he's decided he's not going to like them :(

One thing I don't want, however, is to be a nazi granola mom that takes the fun out of eating and forces my kids to eat the way I do when they see no reason for that. So it's a slow process of teaching and educating them about making healthy choices. In the mean time, I have learnt to read labels and navigate the aisles of the grocery store.

The only place I feel confident buying processed snacks at the moment is Trader Joe's, and maybe whole foods. The reason is I just found out that none of the products that have the Trader Joe's label use any GMOs. I have another post in my mind about how to avoid GMO foods, but in a nutshell, certain ingredients like soy, canola oil, corn and beet sugar for example, are always GMO, unless otherwise specified. And guess what? They are in almost EVERY processed food! Except for foods that carry the TJ's or Whole Foods label.
For me, as a mom, that was fantastic news! that means I can once in while buy that box of cereals or cookies or crackers without feeling too bad.

But most of the time, this is what you will find in our pantry, besides fresh fruits:

  •  Non sweetened dried fruits: banana, mango, pineapple, apples, apricots, raisins, peaches, figs, dates, prunes... TJ's has a variety of them. Make sure you pick the one that has no sugar added, as many do, and dried fruits are already naturally high in fructose.
  • Raw nuts and trail mixes: The Go Raw Trek Mix from TJ is the only one I find that is fully raw. When nuts are roasted, they oxidate and the healthy oils they contain are degraded.

 That is why we also buy almost only Raw Almond Butter. the yummi sunflower seed butter is made with roasted sunflowers and has added sugar, and peanut butter is generally made with roasted peanuts. We avoid the latter, as my husband is highly allergic.

  • Apple sauce, apple carrot crushers (the kids love them, and it's a sneaky way to get some carrots in), with no sugar added.
  • Eggplant Hummus: of all the hummus sold at TJ's, this one is the only one that doesn't have canola oil. Canola oil is not a healthy oil. Generally processed at high temperatures, and almost always made from genetically engineered crop, I avoid it like pest. This Hummus had only pronounceable ingredients, which means it more natural and healthy in my opinion. The kids eat it with baby carrots or sugar snap peas, or on pita bread.
  • Brown rice cake: The kids love to spread almond butter on them and a little bit of honey, or eat them plain
  • Pure bars: made out of dried fruits, nuts and some agave syrup, they contain pure products (depending on your stance on agave, which I am still undecided about). No unpronounceable ingredients, no additives, just pure.
  • Occasional fair trade organic dark chocolate. The one pictured above is very basic, no weird ingredients, no soy lecithin or corn syrup, just 3-4 ingredients, the way chocolate is supposed to be.

There are a few more items that I sometimes buy, like organic tortilla chips, organic popcorn made with olive oil (though I tend to make my own popcorn at home with organic coconut oil and organic popcorn, which you can find at TJ's). But those items involve processing food in oil at high temperature, so by nature... not good for you! However, I don't want to be extreme and traumatize my kids or annoy my friends. There is room for celebrating, special treats, and special occasions, exceptions, and all that good stuff. What I am talking about here is the daily routines, the eating habits that we are trying to form in our kids.

What about you? What healthy options have you found for your little snack monsters? I would love to hear them and get some ideas from you, or questions, or comments...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sauteed Swiss Chard with olives and pine nuts, or sneaky veggie burgers

We are lucky enough to have a little vegetable garden and a few months ago, I went and bought seeds that my husband planted. We pretty quickly had a few leaves of swiss chard pop up, but over the last few weeks, it has exploded and we can't keep up with our swiss chard. The good thing is that we love it, and we eat it both cooked and raw (stay tuned for a greens smoothie recipe coming soon). 

Yesterday was a busy day hosting a birthday party for my son and making this beautiful cake:

 So last night, after a wonderful but exhausting day, I needed a simple dinner. And there is something about just walking outside and picking something fresh out of your garden that makes me feel very alive.

So Here is the recipe:

A big bunch of swiss chard, washed and chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/3 cup kalamata olives, sliced
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Heat up the olive oil in your frying pan or wok on low to medium heat. Add crushed garlic and let it fry for  a minute, without it getting brown. Then add the chards and mix until the leaves soften. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix and continue cooking for 2-4 minutes.

Serve over rice or quinoa for a complete meal

En francais:
Une grande poignee de cotes de bettes, lavees et coupees
1 cs d'huile d'olive
4 gousses d'ail pressees
1/2 tasse d'olives kalamata, coupees en rondelles
1/4 tasse de pignons
1/3 tasse de persil
sel et poivre selon gout

chauffer l'huile dans la poelle, ajouter l'ail presse et laisser fremir sans laisser brunir. Ajouter les cotes de bette et melanger jusqu'a ce qu'elles se ramolissent. Ajouter le reste des ingredients et melanger en laissant sur la plaque pendant 2-4 minutes.

Servir sur du riz ou de la quinoa pour un repas complet

Now of course, my picky eaters will never just eat sauteed swiss chard. So I have had to come up with creative solutions when it comes to eating greens and I often have to blend them in soups or turn them into a veggie burger. So here is what I did last night:

For a kid friendly meal, mix in the blender:
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup swiss chard dish
1 egg
a pinch of salt

Form into patties and fry in the frying pan with a little bit of olive or coconut oil until it's solid enough to look like a burger.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hungry for Change

If you haven't heard about this movie yet, you should definitely check it out. You can watch it for free until March 31st by clicking on this link.  To get an idea of what this is about, check out the trailer

This movie addresses why fad diets don't work, the problem of sugar in our food and what it is exactly that we are eating, or not eating, when we eat processed foods. I am aware that it can be overwhelming or scary to watch movies like this, but this is exactly why I want to blog. I want to make it accessible and easy for people to change their lifestyle into something healthier. So go and watch the movie before March 31st and then post your comments and questions or things you would like to see being addressed on this blog, in the comment box below.

Happy Friday :)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Kale and quinoa salad

You've probably heard of these two foods as the new cool thing to eat. Everybody talks about or eats kale these days, and quinoa is also something that has become more and more popular over the last couple of years. Yet I keep hearing the same question about both ingredients: but how do you cook it?

I've also heard comments such as "it's too chewy raw, too bitter cooked" or "it tastes like dirt" or "it's too bland". Kale and quinoa being two of my most favorite foods to eat, I am excited to share this simple recipe, which I one day randomly put together. I liked it so much that I decided to make it again and again.

The quantities for the salad ingredients can be changed, as in, you can add more or put less of any of the ingredients, but this will give you a basic idea. For the dressing, you can replace the limes with lemons, though you might want to taste and see if it is not too sour for your taste, or you can use a simple balsamic vinaigrette as well.

I usually have kale in the fridge for my morning smoothies, and I have plenty of quinoa in the pantry. At the beginning of the week, I often cook a bag of quinoa and keep in the fridge to use as a side or throw in a salad. Quinoa is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal or grain. It was once called "the gold of the Incas". Quinoa grains are high in protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, which means it's a complete protein, just like meat or dairy. I won't bore you here with the details of the health benefits of quinoa, but if you are interested in knowing more, you can find that  here.

When you cook quinoa, make sure that you rinse it under water, over a sift, by squeezing the grains through your hands, so that the saponins, which is a sour substance around the grain, gets released. Then you can cook it like rice: one cup of water per cup of quinoa, a pinch of salt, 15 minutes on the stove and voila!


1 bunch kale, chopped
2 cups cooked quinoa
2 avocados, cubed
1 green apple, cubed
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds


3 limes, juiced
2tbsp olive oil
1tbsp agave or maple syrup
1/2tsp of salt
pepper to taste

Mix the dressing in a bowl and pour 3/4 of it onto the kale in a big salad bowl. Then, massage the kale with the dressing, between the fingers, until all the leaves are covered in dressing and become softer (15-30 seconds). Then add the rest of the ingredients and the dressing, and mix together. The salad will be softer if you let it sit for about 20 minutes before eating, and it keeps very well in the fridge until the next day.

En francais: 
un chou frise (kale ne se trouve pas en Suisse)
2 tasses de quinoa cuite
2 avocats, coupes en cubes
1 pomme granny-smith, coupee en cubes
1/2 tasse de raisins secs
1/4 tasse de graines de courges crues

Sauce: le jus de trois citrons verts, 2 cs d'huile d'olive, 1 cs de sirop d'erable ou d'agave, 1/2 cc de sel, poivre selon gout.

Verser la sauce a salade sur les feuilles de chou et masser entre les doigts jusqu'a ce que les feuilles de ramolissent. Ajouter le reste des ingredients et melanger.

Bon Appetit!

Where to begin: what's in your pantry?

Switching to healthy cooking and healthy eating can be overwhelming. How many of you have started with good resolutions, bought that heart-healthy or vegan cook book, only to find out, one paragraph into the recipe, that you are missing 5 ingredients?

It took me a while to have everything on hand, and I initially bought stuff that I had no idea about, some of which I still buy today, some of which I have never touched. I have found that unless you do a lot of baking, especially gluten free baking, the stuff you need is not that complicated and unusual.

So let's start at the beginning. What are the essentials to a healthy kitchen? And where do I buy that stuff?

First, let's define what healthy food is and what it is not.

1. Whole foods: in this day and age, the average American consumes very little unadulterated foods. Most of our diet consists of foods that have been either manipulated or processed and stripped of their nutrients. Whole foods are foods that are as nature made them. Examples of whole foods are fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains such as brown or wild rice, raw buckwheat, oats, millet, quinoa, beans, legumes,  fresh eggs, raw nuts and seeds.
The problem with whole foods is that they require a bit more time in the kitchen: washing, chopping, cooking... rather than microwaving. BUT, your health is worth it!

2. Organic foods: eating certified organic foods is the best way to avoid GMO (genetically modified) foods, which have been linked to several environmental and health issues. It is also the best way to reduce exposure to pesticides and toxins. An organic food contains more nutrients than a conventionally grown food. However, buying organic can become costly really quickly. If this is not something you can afford all the time, try to at least follow the dirty dozen rule and buy organic when you buy these foods.

Based on these two rules, buying organic oreo cookies from the store, though better than non organic, is NOT a healthy choice. And buying fresh strawberries or fresh corn that has been conventionally grown exposes you to a high level of pesticides or GMOs. Just something to be aware of. I do sometimes eat conventionally grown produce from the dirty dozen list, because there is no other option, but in my house and in my kitchen, I try to stick to those principles and limit our exposure to toxins and artificial foods.

So in order to cook healthy with whole organic foods, what will you need? Let me come up with my healthy dozen, essential ingredients that I always have on hand:

1. Healthy oils: unlike animal fat, oils are a great source of heart-healthy fat. However, all oils are not created equal. Stay tuned for a more detailed blog post on healthy oils, but for now, let me tell you what I have in my pantry:
- extra virgin unrefined, cold pressed olive oil (Trader Joe's)
- cold pressed flax seed oil (Trader Joe's, in the vitamin and supplement section)
- unrefined virgin coconut oil (Whole Foods or TJ's now sells it too but I don't think theirs is cold pressed)
- sometimes I also buy hemp seed oil from Whole Foods, rich in omega 3-6-9.

I ALWAYS buy my oils COLD PRESSED, and make sure it is in a dark bottle (except coconut oil, which I haven't found in a dark bottle). I keep it in a dark cool place, and keep the flax seed and hemp seed oil in the fridge once open. Oils that are not cold pressed loose their healing properties and become toxic when heated above 40 degrees Celsius (about 110 F) through the extraction process. For cooking, the most heat resistant oils are olive oil and coconut oil, but they should be used sparingly in the pan, and never be brought to the smoking point, as they then release toxic fumes and become carcinogenic. It is better to steam your food and then drizzle oil on it.

2. Vinegars:
- organic raw apple cider vinegar has healing and cleansing properties and is less acidic than other vinegars (not to the taste, though). One tablespoon can be taken before meals to increase digestion and absorption of food. (Trader Joe's)
- Balsamic vinegar

3. Salt and salt seasonings:
- Unrefined sea salt, which includes Celtic salt (Whole Foods), kosher salt or Himalayan salt but to save you the trip to whole foods, Trader Joe's sells simple sea salt and pink Himalayan salt
- Herbamare, a sea salt and herb blend, is great as a replacement for broth to make soups and stews (Whole Foods or

- Wheat-free tamari is the better version of soy sauce. You could also use low sodium soy sauce, if you are not allergic to wheat or gluten. I buy tamari at whole foods.

4. Spices and herbs: curry, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamon, cumin seeds, ground cumin, mustard seeds, coriander powder, ginger powder, chili powder, cayenne pepper, garam masala, parsley, basil, cilantro, chives, rosemary, thyme, oregano, etc.... do not underestimate the health benefits of these herbs and spices.

5. Raw nuts and seeds: always buy your nuts and seeds RAW. Store them in the fridge or freezer so they don't become rancid. I use them in my salads or in dessert, as pie crusts, in smoothies or ice creams, cereal bars, etc... Examples are raw almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, with of course their butter version. Our favorite is raw almond butter. Watch out for the sunflower seed butter which is made with roasted sunflower seeds and has sugar cane added to it. The kids prefer it, but I only buy  it occasionally for the two reasons mentioned.

I also use chia seeds in my smoothie every morning, or flax seeds. All these can be found at Trader Joe's, except for chia seeds, which I buy at Whole Foods or on

6. Whole grains: unrefined, whole, brown, raw grains. Examples are brown rice, wild rice, black rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa

7. Beans: I try to buy dried beans and cook them myself but I don't always plan ahead well enough, so I also always have cans of organic beans in my pantry, mostly black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans and cannellini beans.

8. Natural sweeteners: sugar is sugar is sugar is sugar. And sugar is BAD for you. So I try to avoid/limit it. However, if I am going to bake something, I use the following natural sweeteners:

- agave syrup: I know there is controversy out there about whether this is really a healthier alternative. I am doing some reading on it and am starting to feel like I should avoid agave altogether. But it is something I have been using, and buying the raw organic blue agave from Trader Joe's. Expect a post on this when I found out more.
- organic or pure maple syrup, not the crap that you buy in a plastic bottle at the grocery store, which is full of artificial stuff and mixed with high fructose corn syrup. I buy mine at Trader Joe's.

- coconut sugar, which has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar. (Whole Foods or

- Sucanat (Sugar Cane Natural), which is sugar that still contains all the good stuff (minerals), from Whole Foods.

- Stevia (Trader Joe's, Whole Foods or online)

9. Dried fruits: rather than snacking on cookies, dried fruits are a good alternative and can be used in desserts as a sweetener or thickener. I always have prunes, dates, figs and raisin.

10. Alternative milks to dairy: 
- Canned coconut milk: I use it a lot in smoothies, popsicles and for meals like lentil dahls or soups, as a replacement for dairy milk. (Trader Joe's)
- Organic Almond milk is what my kids have with their cereals! (Trader Joe's)

11. Ezekiel bread: made with sprouted grains and cereals, rather than refined flours and added artificial stuff. It's organic and it's just better for you! Though I don't eat bread due to my allergy to wheat, the rest of the family enjoys it. I buy the one in the orange packaging, which they also have in the low sodium version (Trader Joe's).

12. Frozen fruits: mango, pineapple, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries. My substitute for ice cream or to be used in smoothies.

Ok, I know I said healthy DOZEN, but I have to add a few more staple item: Avocados, fresh ginger and lemons :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How I got here

Welcome to my new blog.

I must admit I feel a bit nervous starting a blog, for several reasons:

1. English is my second language, and though I love writing and have been told I write well, I don't feel like an extraordinary person when it comes to written expression in English

2. Writing a blog on nutrition is not the most poetic style of writing, implying that whatever talent some of my friends have recognized in my writing may actually not be reflected in this blog

3. I am not a nutritionist and have had no formal education in nutrition. What I know has been gathered along the way from reading books, blogs and articles, talking to people, listening to podcasts, watching documentaries and experimenting in my kitchen while paying attention to my health and my body's responses to food.

So why do you want to write a blog on nutrition, you ask...? Well, my journey starts a long time ago, when weight loss was the only aspect of nutrition that was interesting to me. I have tried this and that diet, lost 5 pounds here, gained 7 there, and yoyoed up and down pretty much since my teenage years. However, though I still try really hard to maintain a healthy weight, my focus has changed over the last few years, from being thin to being healthy. The first trigger for me was my mom being diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2009, right after the birth of my second child. Thankfully, the cancer hadn't spread and she was able to fully recover after a chemotherapy and radiation treatment. During her chemo, mom saw a nutritionist who put her on a strict diet for three months: no meat, hardly any dairy except for greek yoghourt and goat cheese, no alcohol, no sugar and only high quality cold pressed oils. She taught her about the need for a balance in our diet between acidic and alkaline foods, and my parents started changing some lifestyle habits pretty radically. Other family members followed in her footsteps and noticed some radical health improvements.

Prior to that, another family member had been diagnosed with high PSA levels, indicating a high risk for prostate cancer. He started juicing daily and went on a vegan diet. Within a few months, his levels were back to normal.

Another family member with numerous health issues found out she and her daughter were gluten intolerant, in addition to some life threatening allergies to tree nuts. She did a lot of research and also modified their diet, eliminating the main allergens, such as gluten, soy, dairy, sugar, nuts and eggs. After two years on that diet, her daughter's immune system was transformed and she was able to reintroduce several types of nuts with no adverse reactions.

Needless to say, with all this happening in my family, I became increasingly aware of the link between food and health, and started doing some research, reading up on it, and trying new things. After several rounds of elimination diet, I have discovered that certain foods don't sit well with me and avoiding them has greatly improved chronic conditions I was suffering from for years.

The changes happened progressively and I am not rigid about my diet, but the more I learn, the more I lean towards a more plant-based, organic, raw, whole foods, less processed, less sugar, kind of a diet.

I LOVE cooking and one of my pleasures in life is to host and cook good foods for my friends. That's a huge part of my love language. It started with friends asking questions about recipes, what I put in my salad dressing, or how I made that salad... to more specific questions about nutrition, and an interest in knowing what is healthy and what is not, and how to even know that, how to shop, where to begin...

So here I am, mostly for my friends. My goal is to write a blog for people who want to make healthy life-style changes in the way they eat, but who don't have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen and can't be bothered to go to specialty stores to buy all the weird items. I will do my best to make this blog accessible, sort of like a "eating healthier for dummies" (no offense) guide. I am a learner myself, I am open, and I am humble and teachable. So if you stumble upon this blog and disagree on some things, or know better, I'd love to hear and learn from you, as long as you say it with a smile :)