Peanut Butter Granola Bars

Although this recipe has some common ingredients with my granola bars, these are much more of a dessert or a treat than a healthy snack. But hey! We all need treats once in a while, right? Especially yummy peanut buttery ones! 

I saw this recipe from Mom on Timeout  shared on Facebook, and I knew I had to make them for Josh. He is a huge Reese's fan and has been working lots of overtime lately, so  I figured he could use a little treat. Since Isaac is allergic to peanuts, we have to keep these treats hidden away in a high cupboard, which means they are reserved for adults. Score one for the parents!

1/3 C brown sugar
1/4 C peanut butter
1/4 C honey
1/4 C butter
2 C quick oats
2/3 C Rice Krispies
3/4 C Reese's Peanut Butter Chips
1/2 C Reese's Pieces

Combine oats and Rice Krispies in a large bowl, and set aside. In a small pot, combine brown sugar, peanut butter, honey, and butter. Stir to combine as things melt. Bring to a boil, then continue to boil for 2 minutes while stirring regularly. Pour peanut butter mixture over oats and Rice Krisipies, and stir until well coated. Allow to cool for several minutes before adding the peanut butter chips (to avoid melting). Fold in peanut butter chips, and press into a parchment-line 8X8 pan. Top with Reese's Pieces and additional peanut butter chips, if desired. Press mixture firmly and allow to cool and set completely before slicing.

Cucumber Watermelon Popsicles

I posted a photo on Instagram recently, saying that the kids and I were making our favourite Cucumber Watermelon Popsicles. Someone asked for the recipe and when I came to look it up, I realized I had gone all summer without sharing it! I think I neglected to post the recipe because I actually started making them in the winter, when it was a lot less fitting to post popsicle recipes. Before Ruthie had her tonsils and adenoids removed this past March, I made a bunch of different healthy popsicles for her to eat while she recovered. We tried a lot of different combinations, but this one was far and away the family favourite. I originally found this recipe on Wholefoods Market Cooking, but the recipe does't seem to be published there any longer.

2 C watermelon, chopped*
2 C cucumber (If English cucumber, peeled and chopped. If field cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped)
1 Tblsp lime juice
2 tsp (+/-) honey

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor until as smooth as possible. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze until solid.

*Note: The original recipe called for 3C watermelon and 1 C cucumber, and I've gradually changed the recipe to use equal parts of each. If you are unsure if your family will go for these, you may want to start with the original ratio.

Ruth LOVES having ring-popsicles. My sister got us the mold at The Christmas Tree Shoppe (love that place) for $1.99!

Cafe Santo Domingo - Review and Giveaway

I was delighted to receive this lovely package of goodies from Cafe Santo Domingo, a Dominican coffee company whose products are now available in Atlantic Canada.

As soon as I opened my first bag, the aroma hit me and I knew I wouldn't be disappointed. This coffee is bold, but so smooth and with a subtle sweetness that I haven't found in other coffees. The absolute perfect crema forms on top of each cup, which makes it seem like I am really indulging in something special when I pour my early morning cup!

Guess what? Cafe Santo Domingo wants to share with you! Enter below to win this awesome prize pack!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
*This is a sponsored post. I have received free products and/or compensation for this post. The opinions here are always honest and my own.*

Ask a Dietitian - Part 2

In honour of National Dietitians Day earlier this year, I interviewed Natalia Baker, a friend who is a Registered Dietitian. (See the original interview here). We had some really great feedback and some readers posed their own questions via social media. Natalia was gracious enough to let me interview her again to answer questions I received from readers. Here's our conversation!

Jane: Hi Natalia! Thanks for agreeing to another interview to take some questions from readers!
Natalia: Hi Jane! Thanks for having me back on your blog. I enjoyed reading the feedback from the last interview and was impressed by some of the great questions asked by your readers. It’s really encouraging that so many families are interested in nutrition and committed to offering healthy foods to their children. I hope I can shed some light on their questions.

Jane: Let's get down to business. Our first question comes from an anonymous reader who left a comment on our previous interview: "What are your thoughts on juicing for dieting and detoxing?" 
Natalia: Juicing is not a new concept but it seems to have made a big come-back lately. First things first – adding more veggies to your diet, in any shape or form, is always a good thing. Green juices can certainly contain a lot of good stuff and may help to improve nutrient intake. That said, the term “juicing” is more likely to be promoted as a method of losing weight and cleansing or detoxing the body. Quite simply, these claims are unfounded.

Let’s first talk about weight loss.  Often juicing is sold as a way to kick-start a diet. Remember that losing weight comes down to a simple equation of calories in versus calories out. So yes, if you’re doing a juice cleanse or fast while limiting other foods you may very well lose weight. However I think that you need to view juicing in this context like any other fad diet. Will you be able to maintain it for the long term? Is it nutritionally adequate? Is it safe? Consider that when you extract the juice from fruits and vegetables you lose the fibre. Juices that are low in fibre, as well as low in fat and protein, won’t keep you feeling full very long and certainly won’t be satisfying as a meal replacement. Adding juice on top of  your usual intake may also backfire. Depending on the recipe, some juices contain multiple servings of fruit which can equate to a lot of extra sugar and calories.

As for the popular appeal of the “detox” or “cleanse,” the reality is the human body is already equipped to perform these tasks. Our liver, kidneys and even skin do a pretty amazing job of keeping the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. While it may be tempting to try to erase poor eating choices of the past, it’s better to save your money than to invest in the teas, supplements or juicers marketed for this purpose. Instead, use a food diary to keep you on track and build on good eating habits.

Jane: I have often thought that the words "cleanse" and "detox" sound like things we think we want for our bodies (want moreso than need). I am glad to hear that you don't think they have much merit!

Image credit: Dreamtime

Jane: Our second question was submitted by Melissa via Facebook: "I find it frustrating how most yogurt is marketed as healthy but a lot of it is sweetened with aspartame (!!!). Do you have any recommendations on what I should look for when choosing a yogurt for my 12 month old?" 

Natalia: Yes, the overwhelming number of yogurt products in the dairy case is a pet-peeve of mine as well. Whether in a tube, carton or pouch, the range of flavours and compositions has really exploded. Probably the largest variants are the type and amount of sweetener, and the percentage milk fat. Given the fact that traditional yogurts contain only two ingredients, milk and bacterial cultures, it is mind-boggling that  the ingredient list on some products is so long.

Without getting into a lot of numbers, my best advice is to keep it simple. You can’t go wrong with a plain, unsweetened yogurt. Many of the flavoured yogurts available contain a lot of sugar (or artificial sweetener) and should be viewed more like a dessert. Avoid yogurts that list sugar near the top of the ingredient list. Plain yogurt may take some getting used to but you can always add your own sweetener like pureed fruit or honey. Plain greek yogurt is also a good option because it contains more protein (in some cases as much as a serving of meat!). As far as percentage milk fat, I tend to shy away from anything that is “fat-free”. These foods usually have other additives to replace the fat and just aren’t as satisfying. Look for 3.25% M.F. or higher for your child.

Jane: Using berries and honey to sweeten plain yogurt is such a great suggestion. I love plain greek yogurt with honey and blueberries. My kids love it in a parfait (served in a clear drinking glass...nothing fancy) layered with granola and a variety of fruit.

Image credit: Student Life 101

Jane: Our next questions is from Julia via Facebook, and it is something I am curious about too: "Do you have any advice on vitamins? I find it overwhelming and confusing with all of the "recommended" daily vitamin intake information out there. Are there specific vitamins we should be taking everyday? Is a general multi-vitamin recommended or should we be able to get all of the nutrients we need from our diets alone? What about children?" 

Natalia: Great question. For the most part it is possible to get the nutrition you need from your diet. Whole foods are always a better choice than vitamin or mineral supplements. If you feel that you may be lacking in a particular nutrient, always look to improve your diet first. Multivitamin/mineral supplements can help to reinforce a healthy diet but are not meant to replace it!

Image credit: My Kids Fan

That said, there are a few groups who can benefit from supplementation. Below are recommendations from Health Canada:

·        All woman who could become pregnant and those who are pregnant should take a multivitamin containing 0.4 mg of folic acid every day.
·        All men and women over the age of 50 should take a daily vitamin D supplement of 10 µg (400 IU).
·        A daily vitamin D supplement of 10 µg (400 IU) is recommended for breastfed infants.

Beyond this, I’d recommend discussing any individual concerns with a Registered Dietitian. If you don’t eat fish it may be worthwhile talking about an omega-3 supplement. Vegans and older adults may benefit from vitamin B12. Probiotics may be an option if you don’t like yogurt and are looking to increase the friendly bacteria in your gut.

The same advice goes for kids. Vitamin and mineral supplements are not usually necessary if the child is eating a variety of foods and is in overall good health. Remember that supplements do not provide the benefits of whole food such as fibre, carbohydrate, fat, protein and calories. Because the long term use of multivitamins in children has not been studied I’d be hesitant to give them to my children without good reason.  

The problem with dietary supplements is they are not well regulated. It’s possible that there may be variation in potency from different manufacturers and even in pills from the same bottle. Remember that this is a multi-billion dollar industry. I always caution my clients to be skeptical of advice they receive from anyone who both promotes and sells supplements. Big conflict of interest.

Jane: Much of what you have said is the same as what my family doctor has told me. So often we get conflicting advice that it's like a heavenly choir when experts agree! (Okay, maybe that comparison may be a bit much...but it is so great!) I think we have this want to buy something to "fix stuff" about ourselves or our children (similar to the idea of cleanse or detox discussed above). We feel like vitamins are insurance or something, but we don't look at them with the same skeptical eye. What you say is so true - we have to remember that it is a big business!

Image credit: Modern Guide to Health

Jane: Our final question comes from an anonymous comment on our previous interview: "We make all of our own bread. What kind of flour do you recommend for maximum nutrition?"

Natalia: Well, kudos to you for taking the time to make your own bread. You are already ahead of the game! The benefit of making bread from scratch is you can control the amount of sugar and salt added, as well as avoid other additives and preservatives found in most commercially-prepared breads. Another great benefit is you can take advantage of the wide variety of flours available to boost nutrition and flavour. Whole grain flours are definitely the way to go. Whether it be whole grain spelt, rye, oats or wheat, the best way to maximize nutrition is to mix it up! Add seeds, dried fruit or spices for more variety. It can be really fun to experiment with a live culture and try a sourdough bread too.

In this area, I like to support local by purchasing my flour from Speerville Flour Mill. Whenever possible look for a stone ground milling technique to ensure a minimally processed flour that contains all parts of the grain (bran, endosperm, germ). If you haven’t tried whole spelt flour, I’d recommend this bread recipe courtesy of Speerville Flour Mill:

4 c       Organic Stone Ground Spelt Flour
2 t        Fine Grey Sea Salt
Combine in large bowl.

1 1/3c Warm Water
2 t        Yeast
Dissolve yeast in warm water

1          Egg - beaten
2 T       Sunflower Oil

Add all liquids to flour.  Mix and turn out on floured board.  Knead approx 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.  Place dough in greased bowl and let rise in warm place until double.  Punch down dough and form into loaf.  Put in greased loaf pan and let rise until double.

Place in preheated oven at 350º F for approximately 35-40 minutes or until brown and hollow sound when tapped. Cool on wire rack.

Thank you Natalia, for taking the time to share your expertise and experience by answering readers' questions. And thanks so much for sharing a recipe! I can't wait to try it.

Best BBQ Pork

When I was growing up, I hated pork. I remember seeing porkchops on my plate and a bowl of apple sauce on the table, and wishing for almost anything else. (Sorry Dad, but it's true!) 

But guess what? Now that I'm grown up, it turns out I love pork. Let me rephrase that: I love good pork. Dried out pork is still yucky. ;)

This pork is SO good. I hate to sound like the old cliché, but it tastes like chicken. Pork can dry out so easily on the grill, but this brine makes it very moist and it cooks up perfectly.

3 C water
3 Tblsp sugar
3 Tblsp salt
Boneless porkchops

Dissolve sugar and salt in water in a large dish or Ziplock bag. (I use a casserole dish with a lid) Submerge pork in brine and allow to rest in fridge for at least one hour.

Remove pork and discard brine. Season pork as desired with salt and pepper or other spices to suit your meal. (In the photo below, I used the Spice-It-Up mix I recently posted about) Cook on a hot BBQ for about 3 minutes on each side. Top with BBQ sauce, and cook for an additional 3 minutes per side. Total cooking time should be about 6 minutes per side, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 145`.

Remove from grill and cover with foil. Allow to rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

Granola Bars

This recipe is something I am always tweaking and playing with, depending on what we have in the pantry or what I feel like throwing in. As long as you keep the butter/sugar mixture the same and use 2 cups of dry ingredients, they always turns out great! You may want to start with the original recipe I started with (found here on Lauren's Latest) and make it your own gradually, or you may wish to just jump right into new combinations. It's a fun recipe to play with! Here's the combination I made today, as pictured below.

1/4 C butter
1/3 C brown sugar
2 Tblsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 C quick oats
1 C Rice Krispie cereal
1/4 C wheat germ
2 Tblsp ground flax
1 Tblsp flax seed
1 Tblsp coconut
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1-2 Tblsp mini chocolate chips (optional, but always sells the kids!)

Combine butter, brown sugar, and honey in a small pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and boil for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, combine all remaining ingredients except chocolate chips. Once butter mixture has boiled for 2 minutes, stir in vanilla and pinch of salt. Combine butter mixture with dry mixture until well coated. Press into a parchment-lined 8-inch square pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and press into granola mixture to stick. Allow to cool completely at room temperature before slicing. (I remove the parchment to take the full pan of bars out at once. I cut into 12 to yield bars the same size as commercial granola bars) Wrap tightly for freshness.

On the right: a store-bought granola bar with 21 ingredients. On the left: my homemade granola bar with 12 ingredients.  I don't think you will miss what I left out: "...canola and/or soybean oil, fructose, glycerol, soya lecithin.."
Which one would you choose?

Are mine as thick and chewy as theirs? You bet! Even more! 

Iced Ginger Pear Matcha

When I flipped through the recipe booklet provided to Kiss Me Organic Matcha customers, the Iced Ginger Matcha jumped out at me. I improvised on the recipe a bit by adding some frozen pears, and a bit of water to be able to blend it smoothly. If you had a more powerful blender than my Magic Bullet, you could reduce or omit the water for an even more flavourful matcha. This drink is very unique and refreshing, and it was a great pick-me-up in the middle of my morning!

3 ice cubes
2 Tblsp fresh grated ginger
1 Tblsp lime juice
1 tsp organic matcha
1 tsp honey
1/3 C water
1/2 C frozen pears

Add all ingredients to blender and process until smooth.

You still have time to enter the Kiss Me Organic Matcha giveaway on the post HERE or on my facebook page. The winner will be chosen tonight!

Giveaway: Organic Matcha from Kiss Me Organics

Matcha is a fine-ground, powdered, high-quality green tea which boasts all sorts of benefits; from increased energy and metabolism, to improved skin health, to increased memory. Kiss me Organic's Matcha is 100% organic, culinary grade, and tested for purity, and it contains more than 137 times the antioxidants found in a cup of brewed tea. It is available exclusively on with free shipping. (You know I love free shipping!)

I was delighted to receive this product to try for myself, and to provide as a giveaway to one lucky reader! To enter, simply leave a comment on this post telling me how you would use the matcha. In a smoothie or latte? In some baked goods? Simply mixed with water? Let me know and your name will be entered. Get a bonus entry by commenting on the giveaway post on my facebook page(Draw to take place Monday July 21st)

If you aren't sure how you would choose to use Matcha, all new Kiss Me Organic customers receive a recipe guide, which is a great place to get started! I am looking forward to trying their recipe for an Iced Ginger Matcha!

*This is a sponsored post. I have received free products and/or compensation for this post. The opinions featured here are always honest and my own*

Spinach Pizza Dough

Friday night is "Pizza Night" at our house. We all know I like to sneak extra veggies in wherever I can, so I usually puree all kinds of extra vegetables into my tomato sauce to get a little more into the kids when they eat their favourite cheese pizza. When I saw this recipe for spinach pizza dough, I knew it would be the ultimate way to take their cheese pizza from good to great. 
2 1/4 tsp yeast
2 tsp sugar
1/4 C warm water
1 pkg frozen spinach, thawed but not drained
2 Tblsp olive oil
3 C flour
1 tsp salt

Combine yeast and sugar in warm water. Allow to rest for 5 minutes or until yeast is active and foamy. Meanwhile, using an immersion blender or food processor, puree spinach (in liquid from package). In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Once yeast is foamy, add yeast mixture, spinach, and olive oil to flour. Stir to combine into a rough dough. Knead until the mixture is elastic. (A stand mixer with the dough hook is excellent for this!) Cover dough, and let rise for 20 minutes. Divide dough in half to give you enough for two 12-inch pizzas. Stretch pizza dough and top as desired. Bake at 400` for 15-20 minutes.

I chose to make one 12-inch pizza immediately, and to bake the 2nd crust as a plain shell. It is waiting in the freezer for a quick last-minute meal some day soon! Alternatively, you could stretch the entire batch to make a large pizza on a baking sheet.

Here's a close-up to show you the colour of the cooked crust. It has a greenish hue and small flecks of spinach, though you really can't taste them or detect anything different in the texture. The kids gobbled it up without a second glance!

Spinach Raspberry Mini Muffins

I have mentioned before that Weelicious rocks my world. I have never had anything but great results using Catherine's recipes, and she always has great stories and photos to share. And who could balk at delicious recipes that get more "good stuff" into yur wee ones?! My friend, Katie, recommended this recipe for Spinach Cake Muffins, and they looked like something my kids would go for. I altered the original recipe slightly, and these 24 little muffins lasted less than 24 hours in our house!

If you think your kids will be leery of green muffins, consider calling them Monster Muffins or Frankenstein Muffins. Instead of raspberries, mini chocolate chips might help you convince them too!

1/2 C plain or vanilla yogurt
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 C fresh baby spinach, packed
2 Tbsp oil
1/3 C sugar
1 C All-purpose flour
1/2 C whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 C frozen raspberries, crushed (Whole raspberries are too big for mini-muffins, but feel free to use them if you are making full-sized muffins)

Using an immersion blender, puree yogurt, egg, vanilla, spinach, and oil. (This could also be done with a food processor). Stir in sugar until well-combined. Combine dry ingredients, then stir into the wet ingredients until flour is incorporated. Gently fold in raspberries. Spoon into greased or lined muffin tins (12 muffins or 24 mini muffins). Bake at 350` for about 15 minutes, or until they test done.

Here's Isaac enjoying a mini-muffins. He ate nearly half the batch himself!

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