Homemade Fruit & Nut Bars (3 ingredients!)

Hey lovelies!

March has been crazy busy. I am absolutely in love with my current course at school, Psychology of Disease. I will definitely be writing some blog posts about the things we’ve discussed because it’s fascinating. My teacher is also amazing and guides us through meditations in class, so needless to say I will miss it!

Despite the busy schedule, there’s always time for food 🙂 This super simple recipe (like most of my recipes) can be modified with whatever you like. It’s a base of dates and nut butter and you can mix-in your favourite things. You can make these paleo and vegan! They’re dairy & grain free and can be nut free if you opt for sunflower seed butter. They’re higher in (natural) sugar because of the dates, however they’re a great option for on the go snacks. My version of fast food 😉IMG_7679 (2)

Ingredients (makes about 12-15 bars)

  • 2 cups organic dates
  • 4 cups organic peanut butter (or almond/sunflower etc.)
  • 3/4 cup organic dark chocolate chips
  • option: pinch sea salt

I made a large batch of these and my sister even froze a few! The dates and nut butter are the base, and of course chocolate chips are just a necessary ingredient in everything…

Directions:

  1. process dates into paste in food processor (tip: to soften dates you can place them in a bowl for a few minutes with boiling water)
  2. add in peanut butter, mix until incorporated
  3. option to add a pinch of sea salt
  4. manually mix in chocolate chips/other mix-ins
  5. scoop mixture onto parchment paper lined tray and press down evenly
  6. refrigerate for 30 minutes
  7. cut into bars of desired size

This is a very basic bar that you can completely customize to your liking! Instead of using all dates, try using some raisins or other dried fruit. Add in some cinnamon or other spices! You can even add different types of nuts. If you use whole nuts rather than nut butter, you’ll likely need to add some water to get the consistency right. The options are endless!

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Don’t fear the fat! Why healthy fats are essential for good health

avocado

I love fat! Like really love it, pretty much Paula Dean when it comes to (grass-fed, organic) butter, ha! Most people know by now that the whole low-fat thing is B.S yet still don’t know what kinds of fats are healthy and why they should be getting their daily dose. As a holistic nutrition student, and a person who is working my way out of severe hormonal imbalances, I’m continually learning the amazing role healthy fats play in our health.

Let’s start with the bad: bad fats include trans-fats, hydrogenated oils, and commercially processed vegetable oils. Any commercially processed oils are a bad idea because unsaturated fatty acids have double bonds. Double bonds are easily damaged by heat, light and air. Commercial processing completely damages the oils, making them harmful to our health!

A side note of why ‘low-fat’ = sh*t (sorry, passionate about real food here 😉 ) Low fat food products need to get their flavour from somewhere, so how do companies do it? Sugar of course! Here’s the thing, when you eat sugar, your body produces insulin to compensate, insulin then causes your body to store the excess glucose (sugar) as fat. That’s why low fat makes you fat!

Onto the good: there are two essential fatty acids -essential meaning our bodies cannot make them, therefore we must obtain them from our diet. Omega 3– Alpha Linolenic acid, found in flax oil, hemp oil, pumpkin seed oil and walnuts, as well as Omega 6– Linoleic acid, found in sunflower oil, safflower oil, walnuts, sesame oil, and flax. Using these oils in salad dressing is my favourite way to get these in my diet on a daily basis!

Other amazing fats include:

monounsaturated fatty acids, like avocados, almonds, and olive oil

GLA found in Evening primrose oil & borage oil

EPA & DHA found in cold water fish, salmon, trout, halibut, sardines

Saturated fats get an especially bad rap because old rumours said they caused heart disease. In excess, saturated fats may cause weight gain because they can be stored as fat in the body, however saturated fats are the building blocks for all of our steroid hormones (sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, testosterone). Healthy hormones need fat! I learned this the hard way when I went off the pill a couple years ago and because of digestive issues cut most fat out of my diet (certain fats are harder to digest) at the time so I wasn’t helping my body make any hormones that I desperately needed.

Deficiencies of omega 6 can manifest as eczema, hair loss, behaviour issues, excessive thirst, poor wound healing, infertility (male and female), arthritis like conditions, heart and circulatory problems.

Deficiencies of omega 3 can manifest as growth retardation, weakness, vision impairment (DHA needed), behaviour issues, high blood pressure, dry skin, low metabolism, immune dysfunction.

Too little fat in the diet is associated with low energy, depression, aggression and even suicide. Your brain is made up of mostly fat, therefore dietary intake is essential to brain health, as well as overall health.

As I mentioned earlier, my favourite way to get my essential fats are through homemade salad dressings. I mix a base of olive oil, a small amount of pure maple syrup/raw honey, a bit of apple cider vinegar, with a mix of flax/sesame/evening primrose oils and top my salads with walnuts and hemp seeds. SO Yummy! I take a digestive enzyme with my meals (especially high fat/protein meals) to help breakdown the fats to be used by my body. For cooking I recommend saturated fats (no double bonds to get damaged by the heat) like coconut oil and butter.

You can find these oils at most health food stores in the refrigerated section. The only one I haven’t found in liquid form near me is the evening primrose oil so I ordered it online.

It’s generally recommended, although research has yet to find the ideal ratio, that we have a 2:1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3’s in our diet. I highly recommend working with a holistic nutritionist and/or naturopathic doctor to make sure you’re in good hands, especially if you have any health issues. And remember, DON’T FEAR THE (GOOD) FAT 🙂

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups! (dairy free, vegan, grain-free, refined sugar free)

Happy Valentine’s Day weekend!

I’m super into all things cute and romantic (and chocolate + peanut butter), so I decided to make these healthy version peanut butter cups for valentine’s day.

I also just had to have these cute heart shaped silicon molds to make them extra festive, feel free to use regular cupcake cups 🙂

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These peanut butter cups are so easy and versatile you can use whatever you have on hand. If you have a peanut allergy (or are strict paleo), you can sub almond butter or other nut/seed butter. We’re chocolate + PB lovers here, so I went with peanut butter for these! I used butter in this recipe which can easily be subbed with coconut oil for a vegan version, as well as the maple syrup/honey swaps depending on your tastes.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups organic dairy free dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup organic peanut butter (can sub other nut/seed butter)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or grass-fed organic butter (can use more to thin out chocolate)
  • 1/4 cup organic maple syrup or raw honey
  • pinch of sea salt

Instructions

You can make these cups as thick or thin as you’d like, and if you’re like me, they’ll all be different sizes anyway 😛 recipe makes 10-12 peanut butter cups

  1. melt chocolate chips in medium sized bowl, I thinned out my chocolate by adding a tablespoon of coconut oil so it spread out in the molds a little easier
  2. place cupcake molds on baking tray, scoop heaping teaspoon of melted chocolate into each mold to cover base of mold (using approx. half of melted chocolate)
  3. place molds in fridge for 15 minutes to harden
  4. in another bowl, mix together peanut butter, maple syrup or honey, coconut oil or butter, and sea salt
  5. once chocolate has set, add layer of peanut butter mixture to molds and spread evenly
  6. place back in fridge for 15 minutes for peanut butter layer to set
  7. once set, add the remainder of the melted chocolate to each mold
  8. allow to set for 20+ minutes in the fridge

Share with your valentines! (You may have to double the recipe 😉 )

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The importance of asking for what you want and living authentically

Happy New Year! I cannot believe it is 2016 already. I’m not big into New Years resolutions because to me, if you want to change something, just do it! No need to wait until a new year starts to improve your life.

At the end of a year, and pretty regularly, I like to look back and see the changes that happened over the year and be grateful for all the growth that has brought me to where I am today!

2015 was a year of many life lessons and I am so grateful for everyone who helped me through it! A major lesson I learned and am still learning is to live authentically and always ask for what I need (without feeling guilty- a work in progress).

“The Great Loneliness- like the loneliness a caterpillar endures when she wraps herself in a silky shroud and begins the long transformation from chrysalis to butterfly. It seems that we too must go through such a time, when life as we have known it is over- when being a caterpillar feels somehow false and yet we don’t know who we are supposed to become. All we know is that something bigger is calling us to change. And though we must make the journey alone, and even if suffering is our only companion, soon enough we will become a butterfly, soon enough we will taste the rapture of being alive.” -Elisabeth Lesser, Broken Open

This quote is one of my favourites from a book I read in early 2015 when my health issues were still pretty bad and I hadn’t found my current doctors yet, needless to say I related to it, trying to make sense of everything I was going through.The changes in my life this past year have been amazing and I never thought I would learn as much as I did. I am forever grateful for the experiences I had and how much growth has occurred over the year, and everyone who helped me throughout it!

This year has taught me to reach out, let go of rules and rigidity, and never apologize for being exactly who you are.

As a life long people pleaser, I’m learning to live for me. I’ve always been drawn to people who are authentic and unapologetically themselves. I think because I’ve never felt like I was “allowed” to do that myself. I come from an amazing family of people pleasers haha it’s a learned behaviour that I’m actively unlearning.

When you ignore your own needs and live for other people to try and please them, nobody wins. I think this is because you end up resenting yourself (for abandoning your own needs), and the other person, because they can never be as grateful/appreciative as you want them to be.

Here’s the deal, anyone important in your life will ultimately want the best for you- and only you know what that is! You have to follow your heart, THAT will benefit everyone.

“Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive, and go do that. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.”-Howard Thurman

If you follow my blog you know I’m majorly into food and holistic health (or as my sister puts it, a hippie 🙂 ) which is why I decided to follow my heart and enroll to become a Holistic Nutritionist! I start school tomorrow and could not be more excited to be on this path. Starting school part-time meant switching my work schedule around, which as a dental hygienist, where I’m booked 6-9 months in advance, was a very scary thing to ask my boss to accommodate. I never want to ruffle feathers!

But I knew I had to do it, I couldn’t keep making excuses that it would be too much of a hassle or was I really sure this was the next step? Yes I was sure and I asked for what I wanted. I was so happy that my boss was so supportive of my endeavours. Hint: people never care as much as we think they will, give them the benefit of the doubt!

It’s easy to play small in life and live under the radar. However, I think we’re meant for so much more than that. But how will we ever know the extent of what we can achieve if we’re always worried about what people will think of us?

This year (and the next and the next…) I challenge you to ask for what you want in life, take chances, be you, and know that, in doing so, you’re giving those around you permission to do the same!

Here’s to an awesome 2016!

xoxo

Heather

Chocolate covered coconut bites! (grain-free, dairy free, with vegan option)

Hey guys! I keep making stuff and taking yummy pictures and not posting, so I have a lot of recipes coming up. These coconut bites are so delicious and easy with just 5 staple ingredients! They also store great in the fridge, if you’re weird and don’t eat them immediately 😉

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Ingredients: Makes approx. 15

  • 2 cups of shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup raw honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate

In a medium bowl, mix together shredded coconut, coconut oil, vanilla, and honey or maple syrup until combined.

Using a tablespoon, scoop and roll into small bites, place onto lined tray and place into fridge to harden (about 15 minutes).

Melt dark chocolate (I put chocolate in a bowl and place the bowl over a small pot of boiling water).

Using a spoon, dip and roll coconut bites into dark chocolate until coated.

Place back onto tray and refrigerate until solid.

Store in fridge for best results. (You may want to let them soften a few minutes before eating if stored in fridge).

You could also add in some nut butter for more deliciousness or switch out the vanilla for peppermint essential oil if you like mint chocolate.

Yay, so easy. Enjoy! 🙂

Everybody’s Human (It’s not just you)

Just like everyone else these days, I have Instagram and Facebook. While I love social media and being able to connect with friends and family all over the world, if taken seriously, it can add to a lot of the mild anxiety and depression we experience in today’s world. As someone who struggles with perfectionism, this is a big learning curve.

How many times have you scrolled through your feed and thought, ‘that person’s on vacation AGAIN?’ or ‘Wow, they have a perfect relationship’ or ‘How is she so effortlessly fit?’ The reality is social media is the highlight reel of people’s lives- myself included. No one posts pictures of themselves in sweats, scrolling through the internet (full disclosure-that’s me right now), or mentions that to get that bikini shot, they didn’t eat all day then used three apps to enhance their abs. Social media has become a false connection that has left us feeling more isolated than ever.

When we see these images in the media and on social media, we believe that everything is supposed to be perfect, and that we’re somehow flawed if our life doesn’t look that way. You’re anything other than happy right now? You’re made to feel you must be unstable. I experienced this three years ago when I went to see my doctor and mentioned my high stress job to her.  Instead of relating to me, she suggested an anti-anxiety medication. Talk about feeling flawed!

We are our own worst critic, and when we compare ourselves to these ‘perfect’ images, it only adds to the feeling that we’re never good enough. I was discussing this topic with a friend the other day, when we both realized we have no idea what we’re doing with our lives and that this is actually normal. My friend said she’s congratulated every time people ask about her job- “that’s amazing that you got a full time job in your field of study!” yet she feels guilty because she hates it. Isn’t she supposed to like it? I mean, she has dental benefits… Society says that her 9-5 job is stable and safe! These definitely aren’t bad things. However, we shouldn’t feel bad if we don’t love what society deems ‘good’, or if we change our minds while figuring out what we want. She said she envied me because I’m “doing so much with my life, like finishing my yoga teacher training while working part-time and possibly going back to school as well.” All the while, I admitted I envied her because she has a full time job and has already bought a condo. It turns out the grass isn’t always greener. We feel as though we’re the only ones who don’t know what we’re doing and have ‘negative’ emotions, or feel stuck. This of course only adds a layer of shame to the way we feel. We don’t express these thoughts because we fear no one will understand, because everyone’s life is perfect- we saw it this morning on Instagram.

I think we’ve lost a lot of the real human connection that can put us at ease and let us know we’re all in this together. Instead, our days can sometimes unknowingly be filled with media that has the opposite effect on us.

In reality, if we express ourselves- the good and the bad, to those close to us, they will likely share with us the same, and we’re able to realize everyone is struggling. If we stop pretending that everything is perfect all the time and get real with ourselves and each other, we can move through these normal negative emotions and into the positive changes we want to make in our lives.

I’m definitely one to keep things hidden away, ‘keep it positive, no one likes a negative person!’ But the truth is that we’re human. We have negative emotions come up, we don’t love everything all of the time, and the perfectionist in me is learning that this is healthy.

The faster we realize we’re all human, the better we can feel in our uncertainty.

You don’t know what you’re doing either? Great, welcome to the club!

Pumpkin Soup (Paleo, Vegan, Sugar-free) & Paleo Pumpkin Brownies

Wondering what to do with all that pumpkin? I’ve got 2 recipes for ya!

When the weather turns cold, soup is a great way to stay warm. I like to make batches and freeze for quick and easy weeknight dinners.

pumpkinsoup

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups pumpkin fresh or canned
  • 2 cups vegetable stock or homemade bone broth
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup cinnamon applesauce (see recipe here)

Instructions

  1. Chop onion and garlic into small pieces and add to greased frying pan until caramelized (add onion first as it will need to cook for longer, garlic burns easily!)
  2. Pulse chopped onion and garlic in food processor until desired- you may want to add a small amount of broth to make it smooth.
  3. Add in applesauce to combine
  4. Pulse in pumpkin and broth until smooth, and poor into large pot on medium heat.
  5. Add remaining ingredients to pot, stirring until combined.
  6. Let simmer for at least 20 minutes for best flavour.
  7. Garnish optional to make it pretty 😉

Have fun playing with the flavours of this and adjusting to your liking!

And if you have pumpkin leftover, you’re going to want to make these:

pumpkinbrownies

Drool, right?

I made these for a friend’s birthday (and obviously had to taste test to make sure they were okay…)

I can’t take credit for this amazingness- it’s courtesy of Ambitious Kitchen. Check out the recipe and try it for yourself 🙂

Happy Pumpkin month!