It’s no secret I’m a fan of balls. Ahem. Dessert balls people!! This is a family friendly site.

So I love balls.  And I love the flavour combination of chocolate, cherry and almond.  Each on their own is good but together is just heavenly.  So chocolate-cherry almond balls seem perfect right?

Maybe a visual is necessary to illustrate my point…

Convinced?  Good.  

Chocolate-Cherry Almond Balls

Ingredients

1 cup almonds
1/4 cup cashews
1 cup Medjool dates, pitted
1/2 cup dairy-free chocolate chips or a dark chocolate bars, chopped
1/3 cup dried cherries (the no sugar, no sulfite variety)
1 tsp raw cacao powder
pinch of sea salt

Directions

1. Add almonds and cashews to a food processor and process until crumbly.  Careful not to over-process, this will let too much oil out of the nuts.  Remove, place in a large bowl and set aside.

2. Add dates, chocolate chips, dried cherries, raw cacao powder and sea salt to food processor and process until well combined.  Remove and add to bowl of nuts.

3. Using a wooden spoon or fork combine nuts with date mixture.  You can use your hands too to help combine the ingredients.

4.  Once all the ingredients are combined, roll into small balls and top with a whole almond and chocolate chip.

5. Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes before serving.

Makes about 18-20 small balls.

In the 90’s coconut oil got a bad rap for being high in fat.  This was during the craze where anything and everything was low-fat.  But guess what? Not all fat is bad for us! In fact, there are a lot of good for us fats and coconut oil is one of them.

1112637_coconut_2

About 50% of the significant amount of fatty acids provided by coconut is in the form of a medium-chain saturated fat called lauric acid, a health-promoting fat whose only other abundant source in nature is human breast milk.1 

These medium-chain fatty acids (MCFTs) are used by the body for energy and are not stored as fat.2  As well, MCFTs help to increase metabolism and help with weight loss.3

Approximately 6 to 7% of the fat in coconut is in the form of another beneficial medium-chain fat called capric acid.  Capric acid is converted in the body to a highly beneficial substance called monocaprin, which has been shown to have antiviral effects against sexually transmitted diseases, including Chlamydia trachomatis, herpes simplex 1 and herpes simplex 2 and HIV.4

Coconut oil is also a heart healthy food!  It does not clog the arteries or cause heart disease.5  It supports healthy cholesterol formation in the liver in the form of high density lipoprotein (HDL)6

It also helps to restore natural saturated fat levels to the skin, subcutaneous fat layers and to the individual cell membranes of our bodies.7 

These are pretty amazing benefits right? But wait….there’s more!

Coconut oil is great to use when cooking because it has a high heat point, it can be safely heated to 375F without becoming denatured.8  Because it is a saturated fat, it is solid at room temperature.

What else can you do with coconut oil?  Lots!  Use it as a face and body moisturizer, use it in baking, use it as a personal lubricant (use caution here lovers, coconut oil can weaken latex condoms), as a pre-workout snack for instant energy or make a sports gel to have mid-workout.

As you can see coconut oil has some pretty amazing qualities.  It is available at health food stores and some grocery stores.  Be sure to look for organic, virgin coconut oil.

Recipes using coconut oil:

Resources

1. Murray, Michael.  The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods.  New York: Atria, 2005. p421

2. Wood, Rebecca.  The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia.  New York: Penguin, 2010. p99

3. Wolfe, David.  Superfoods.  Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 2009. p206

4. Murray, Michael. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: Atria, 2005. p422

5. Wood, Rebecca. The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York: Penguin, 2010. p99

6. Wolfe, David. Superfoods. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 2009. p206

7. Wolfe, David. Superfoods. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 2009. p206

8. Wood, Rebecca. The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York: Penguin, 2010. p99

Kraft Dinner Smart Vegetables boasts  a 1/2 serving of veggies (cauliflower) per 50g serving.

If this leaves you shaking your head as much as I am shaking mine (perhaps with a few colourful words tossed in for good measure), continue reading.

I find the words Kraft Dinner, smart and vegetables in one title to be a bit of an oxymoron no?  Perhaps just really great marketing.

The ingredients list from said product:

Pasta (wheat flour, freeze-dried cauliflower), cheese sauce (dried whey [from milk], cheddar cheese, salt, butter, sodium phosphates, natural flavours, citric acid (acidulant), annatto (for colour).

Let’s break this down shall we?

Freeze-dried Cauliflower – The cauliflower is freeze-dried and then processed with wheat to become pasta, then when time to cook, the pasta is boiled  on high heat.  According to researchers at the University of Warwick, boiling Brassica vegetables (like cauliflower and broccoli) severely damages the anticancer properties.1  Not to mention this is a ridiculous amount of processing for a vegetable to go through.

Natural Flavours – I’m not entirely sure which part of Kraft Dinner has natural flavour.  According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the term natural flavouring is defined as the following: “Substances which impart flavours which have been derived from a plant or animal source, may be claimed to be "natural". As well, any additive, such as preservatives and solvents added to a flavour preparation to have a technological effect solely on the flavour, does not modify the "natural" status of the flavouring material itself. However, the addition does alter the natural status of the food to which it has been added, even though it need not be declared as an ingredient on the food label. In other words, such foods may not be claimed to "contain only natural ingredients".2”  Therefore we do not know what these natural flavours are made of.

Per 50g serving there is 380mg of Sodium and 7g of sugar which is a lot.  And let’s not take away from the fact that Kraft Dinner Smart is highly processed.  Opening a box and adding water does not give you the same quality of nutrients as lightly steaming cauliflower or perhaps having a small portion of brown rice pasta.

What do you think of Kraft’s new line, Kraft Dinner Smart?

Resources

1. Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick.  “Research Says Boiling Broccoli Ruins Its Anti Cancer Properties.”  5 May 2007.  9 Oct 11. <Research Says Boiling Broccoli Ruins Its Anti Cancer Properties.>

2. Canada. Canadian Food Inspection Agency.  Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising Chapters 4.  3 Mar 2011.  9 Oct 11. <http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/labeti/guide/ch4ae.shtml>

It’s true, I’m a vegan protein powder junkie.  After years of downing whey protein powders that left me feeling heavy and bloated, plant-based were a miracle for me.

I was really excited when I was sent a tub of PlantFusion Protein Powder in Vanilla Bean to review.

I admit at first I was a bit skeptical, is there really anything I could like more then my beloved Sunwarrior

As it turns out, I like this product almost as much!

PlantFusion is a plant-based blend of pea protein isolate, artichoke powder, organic sprouted amaranth powder and organic sprouted quinoa powder with added enzymes to help with digestion.

It is soy and gluten free and ground into an almost dust-like powder which makes it blend beautifully in a smoothie.  In one scoop there is 21g of high quality protein!  The only single downsize is that it’s not raw, however I can overlook that.

Price – MSRP for 1lb is US $26.99 and 2 lb is US $42.99

Availability – available to order online, soon to be launched in Canada in the coming weeks

I would love to see the company expand into energy bars because I think they would be a great addition.

It is obvious that the PlantFusion company pride themselves on high-quality products and their protein powder is an excellent example of that.

Try PlantFusion protein powder in this smoothie:

The Pomtini Smoothie

Ingredients

1 scoop PlantFusion protein powder in Vanilla Bean
1/2 frozen banana
1 cup pomegranate arils
1/3 cup frozen cherries
juice of 1/2 lime
2 cups (or 1 small carton) of VitaCoco Coconut water with Acai and Pomegranate

Directions

1. Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth

It’s officially Fall which means it’s officially cranberry season!

Long before goji berries, blueberries and mulberries were getting hype, cranberries were the superfood du jour. 

Cranberries make me pretty proud to be Canadian.  Did you know that in 2005, cranberries were grown on 7175 acres of Canadian soil?That is a pretty impressive statistic!

Cranberries are most popular as juice or as sauce.  Unfortunately, since we load these items with refined sugar, we lose much of the benefits that cranberries possess. 

These little red gems are loaded with phytonutrients including catechin, myricetin and quercetin.2  Phytonutrients are natural compounds found in plant foods which act as antioxidants and can  and help reduce the risk of illness and disease.3

More facts about cranberries:

  • The deeper the red colour, the higher the concentration of healthy anthocyanin pigments (antioxidant pigments that give blue, purple and red pigments to fruits and vegetables)4
  • A therapeutic use for cranberries is as a remedy for rectal disturbances, hemorrhoids and inflammation of the rectal pouch.   Place slightly cooked cranberries in the rectum after each movement.5  That’s straight outta the book people.  Proceed with caution.
  • The tannins (plant compounds that act as astringents6) in cranberries protect against bladder infection by preventing bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall.7
  • Cranberries may have such a potential to protect urinary tract health that even consumption of a single serving of 1.5oz of dried cranberries had the ability to reduce the adhesion of bacteria to the urinary tract walls.8  Dani’s note – if consuming dried cranberries, choose the no sugar added variety, sugar suppresses the immune system and stimulates bacterial growth.

Recipes using cranberries:

Do you have a favourite cranberry recipe?

References

1.  Canada.  Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.  Crop Profile for Cranberry in Canada.  5 May 2005.  4 Oct 2011.  <http://www4.agr.gc.ca/AAFC-AAC/display-afficher.do?id=1241547089433&lang=eng>

2. Haas, Elson M.  Staying Healthy With Nutrition.  Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts, 2006.  p307.

3. Government of Ontario.  EatRight Ontario.  Phytonutrients – Nature’s Natural Defense.  2011.  4 Oct 2011.  <http://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/ViewDocument.aspx?id=147>

4. Murrary, Michael.  The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods.  New York: Atria Books, 2005.  p269.

5.  Jensen, Dr Bernard.  Foods That Heal.  New York: Penguin, 1993. p136.

6. Murrary, Michael. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: Atria Books, 2005. p260.

7. Mateljan, George. The World’s Healthiest Foods. Seattle, WA: GMF Publishing, 2007. p414.

8.  Mateljan, George. The World’s Healthiest Foods. Seattle, WA: GMF Publishing, 2007. p414.

Yesterday, October 1st marked World Vegetarian Day.  I love this event because it gives me an opportunity to reflect on how I became vegan and the reasons why I continue to live this lifestyle.

I think it’s crucial to note here that veganism is not about superiority, intimidation or bullying.  As vegans, while it’s important for us to stand up for what we believe in, it’s equally important to do so in a way that is kind, caring and with good intention.  We need to create gateways instead of putting up walls.

It’s essential for me to live a life of compassion for all beings.  Colleen Patrick-Goudreau perhaps puts it best, “being vegan is about saying yes to my values of compassion and wellness.  It’s pretty amazing to wake up every morning knowing that every decision I make is to cause as little harm as possible.”

With that in mind, I created a beautiful curry dish.  What started out as a random assortment of ingredients, turned into a warm, comforting meal. 

Coconut Compassion Curry

Ingredients

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 tsp ginger, chopped
1 tbsp curry seasoning (I use Arvinda’s Curry Masala)
1 tsp garam masala (I use Arvinda’s Garam Masala)
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1 can tomato paste
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
1 15oz can of Adzuki beans
1 cup firm tofu, cubed (I use Wildwood Organics Sprouted Tofu)
pinch of sea salt
2 cups butternut squash, cubed and steamed
2 cups sweet potato, cubed and steamed

Directions

1. Heat coconut oil on low-medium and add onion.  Cook until slightly translucent.

2. Add ginger and cook for 2-3 more minutes.

3. Add curry seasoning and garam, masala, cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

4. Add coconut milk, tomato paste and diced tomatoes.  Increase temperature to medium and bring to a gentle boil.

5. Let boil for 3-5 minutes, stirring often.  Reduce heat to low-medium and add adzuki beans and tofu.  Season with a pinch of sea salt.

6. Simmer for 30 minutes, continuing to stir often.

7. While curry sauce is simmering.  Steam butternut squash and sweet potato.  (I have a steamer and it took about 12-14 minutes for each root vegetable to become tender)

8. Once butternut squash and sweet potato are steamed, add into curry sauce and stir.

9. Serve over brown rice and red lentils (a complete protein!) or quinoa.

Note – to enhance digestibility and decrease cooking time, soak grains and pseudo-grains over night.  This helps to break down the phytic acid which reduces the bioavailability of many minerals.

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion.-Dalai Lama”

I hope it is obvious to the kind people at Larabar that finishing the Larabars they sent me in under 36 hours means I really really like them.

Larabars are pretty awesome.  They have a large variety of incredibly delicious flavours, are the perfect travel food and are also vegan-friendly.  Larabars were created in May 2000 by Lara after a trip hiking through the Rockie Mountains.  I can imagine the kind of inspiration that would come from being in that setting. 

The bars have a base of nuts and dates and added dried fruits or chocolate.  Larabars do not have any additives or preservatives and are kept fresh by their packaging.  Note – Larabars are not truly ‘raw’ because their juice concentrates are flash pasteurized.

I received the following flavours -

Blueberry Muffin – Oh so good.  Tastes just like raw blueberry muffin dough.  I haven’t seen this in any of the health food stores in Toronto but if it’s available please tell me where so I can stock up!

Coconut Cream Pie – Mm.  Who doesn’t love coconut?  This bar was sweet, chewy and full of healthy saturated fats.

Key Lime Pie –Tart and tangy but my least favourite, I’m not a huge fan of lime.

Chocolate Chip Brownie – I suspect this is the same as the Canadian Chocolate Chocolate Chip but I’m not sure.  Either way, this is like heaven.  Chocolately, chewy and sweet and way better then junk food chocolate bars.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough – Hands down the best Larabar I’ve tried.  I am in love with this flavour.  This bar tasted exactly like cookie dough, just so good!  The base is cashews (instead of the typical almond) which gives a rich, buttery flavour.

I am loving their new line of chocolate chip bars, so much so I was inspired to create my own version.

Have you tried Larabars? What is your favourite flavour?

Meet my friend Kristin of the blog Cook, Bake, Nibble.

I loved Kristin the instant I started reading her blog (and then subsequently meeting her in person), I mean the girl is sweet as pie, super funny and one of the most talented chefs around.

So it’s no doubt I was beyond flattered when she asked me to review her new eBook, Crash Course In Gluten-Free Living.

Wow this book is amazing.  A well-researched guide on living gluten-free, Kristin covers it all!  This book shares Kristin and her sister’s story of their digestive issues and how going gluten-free helped heal them.  There is tons of information on baking using gluten-free flours which I was most impressed with as well as tips and tricks on leading a gluten-free life outside of the home which can sometimes be a challenge.

And of course, there are the recipes!  Featuring many of Kristin’s creations (which I can say first hand are amazing!) to recipes from bloggers such as Angela from Oh She Glows and Elana from Elana’s Pantry this ebook features hearty mains, delicious desserts and many veg-friendly recipes.

I chose to make Kristin’s Sweet Potato Cocoa Chili.  Since sweet potatoes and chocolate are my favourite flavours this sounded perfect!

Sweet Potato Cocoa Chili

Ingredients

1 medium onion, diced
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 cup bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic
2 cups peeled and cubed sweet potato or yam
2 heaping tbsp tomato paste
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
1 14- oz can tomato sauce
2 cups vegetable stock
2+ cups water (more if you are cooking beans in chili)
3 cups beans, dried & soaked (or 2 cans ) I used black beans & kidney beans
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp coriander
cayenne and red pepper flakes to taste
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
Sea salt, if desired

Directions

1. Heat 1 table spoon of olive oil to medium high heat in a large pot. Add
diced onions and sauté until softened, about 4-5 minutes .
2. Add bell pepper, stir and sauté for another 5 minutes or so, add garlic and
stir for 1 minute.
3. Reduce heat to medium, stir in tomato paste. When incorporated, add
diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and stir.
4. Add stock and 2 cups water, bring to a boil. Add beans and stir.
5. Add spices, cayenne and red pepper flakes to taste and cocoa powder.
6. Stir until combined. Bring to a boil again and reduce to a simmer.
7. If using cooked/canned beans , then simmer 30-45 minutes until flavours
meld. If using soaked beans, simmer rapidly for 1-1 1/2 hours until beans
are fully cooked. Stir every 15- 30 minutes to as sure beans are not sticking to bottom of pan. Add extra water as needed- I needed two extra cups .

Served with a sprinkle of lime juice and chopped cilantro, if desired.

Dani’s note – I served this with a gorgeous kale salad since it was Kristin who made me learn to love kale with her massaged kale salad recipe.

I love this chili, the cocoa added such a nice flavour and this meal is full of fibre.  To purchase this amazing book, please visit here for more information.

Well done Kris, it is obvious how much talent and passion you have for cooking!  I am blessed to know you!

I live quite close to a Lush shop in Toronto, a company that touts “Fresh Handmade Cosmetics” many of which are vegan and not tested on animals.  Lush is seemingly perfect right?  Wrong.

While Lush’s products are not food, I think it’s important to feature them on Busted because they are certainly healthwashed.

For example, Lush’s Sweetie Pie Shower Jelly.

Sure it’s got a cute name, sweet smell and is wobbly.  But what the heck is this stuff made of?

The ingredients list is as follows:

Glycerine, Cherry Infusion (Prunus cerasus), Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Coconut Infusion (Cocos nucifera), Propylene Glycol, Carrageenan Extract (Chondrus crispus), Perfume, Bergamot Oil (Citrus bergamia), Cassis Absolute (Ribes nigrum), Cypress Oil (Cupressus sempervirens), *Limonene, *Linalool, Iridescent Glitter (Polyethylene terephthalate and Acrylates copolymer), Snowflake Lustre (Potassium Silicate & Titanium Dioxide), FD&C Blue No. 1, D&C Red No. 33, Methylparaben, Propylparaben.

The breakdown…

Sodium Laureth Sulfate – This is an ingredient that makes products foam.  Health Canada classifies Sodium Laureth Sulfate as a “moderate human health priority” and flagged it for future assessment under the government’s Chemicals Management Plan.1

Snowflake Lustre (Potassium Silicate & Titanium Dioxide) – It’s weird when ingredients have ingredients right?  Titanium Dioxide (Ti02) is a chemical that is part of this “Snowflake Lustre.”  In a study done by UCLA, Ti02 nanoparticles induced single and double-strand DNA breaks, chromosomal damage and inflammation, all which increase the risk for cancer.2  Not something I would want in my shower cleanser.

FD&C Blue No. 1 – This is a synthetic dye made from petroleum aka coal tar.  Coal tar is recognized as a human carcinogen and the main concern with individual coal tar colours is their potential to cause cancer as well as contamination with low levels of heavy metals.3 

Methylparaben and Propylparaben – Parabens are synthetic compounds that act as preservatives and prevent the growth of molds, yeasts and other microbes.4  When parabens are applied to the skin and absorbed, they bypass the metabolic process and enter the blood stream and body organs intact.5  They are stored in the body’s fatty tissues and cannot be flushed out with water, so they accumulate over the years and affect menstruation, reproduction and even fat metabolism.6

So while Sweetie Pie Shower Jelly is going to make you sparkly, do you really want all these ingredients on your skin as your trying to get clean?  I don’t think so.

References

1. “Sodium Laureth Sulfate.”  David Suzuki Foundation, n.d.  Website.  25 Sep. 2011.  <http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/chemicals-in-your-cosmetics—sodium-laureth-sulfate/>
2. University of California – Los Angeles. "Nanoparticles used in common household items cause genetic damage in mice." ScienceDaily, 17 Nov. 2009. Web. 25 Sep. 2011. <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091116165739.htm>
3. “Coal Tar Dyes.”  David Suzuki Foundation, n.d. Website. 25 Sep. 2011. <http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/chemicals-in-your-cosmetics—coal-tar-dyes/>
4. Haas, Elson M.  Staying Healthy With Nutrition.  New York: Celestial Arts, 1992. p469.
5. “Parabens.”  David Suzuki Foundation, n.d. Website. 25 Sep. 2011. <http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/chemicals-in-your-cosmetics—parabens/>
6. Deacon, G.  There’s Lead In Your Lipstick.  Toronto: Penguin, 2011. p84.

Man I love stir fries.  They are a fast and easy way to get a whole lot of veggies in a single meal and makes for delicious left overs.

But now being a mostly raw girl, I don’t usually go for stir fries, they always felt a bit too greasy and cooked brown rice is sometimes too heavy for me.

When I found kelp noodles at my local health food store I knew I needed to try making a raw stir fry…a non fry?  Kelp noodles are pretty great, they have this really interestingly chewy, crunchy texture and are gluten-free and grain-free.

Veggie Stir Non-Fry with Kelp Noodles

Ingredients

1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup onion, chopped
2 tbsp Bragg Liquid Aminos
2 carrots, silvered
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 cup snap peas
2 tbsp sesame oil
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 package of kelp noodles

Directions

1. Slice shiitake mushrooms and onions.  Place in bowl with Bragg Liquid Aminos and let marinate for 15 mins.
2. Drain and rinse kelp noodles and set aside.
3. Cut up carrots, bell pepper and snap peas.  
4. Combine shiitake mushrooms and onion mix, mixed veggies, sesame oil, crushed red pepper flakes and kelp noodles into a bowl.
5. Mix and serve.

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