Decadent Cooking Ingredients

Kelly and I seem to be on a bit of a wellness kick this week! I’ve taken to spending more time than usual in the kitchen lately and have been playing around with a few new (to me) ingredients in my recipes and snacks. These five have been pretty epic for various reasons and most definitely worthy of sharing with you.

1) Coconut Oil

I’ve been reading about the benefits of coconut oil for ages. The first recommendation came to me from a friend who suggested I use it directly on my face, mixed into my regular face cream. It makes a great body cream and lip balm, too. But forget its topical uses – I’ve been playing with it in the kitchen. Coconut oil has a higher smoking temperature than olive oil, making it a great oil to use for frying and other cooking at high temperatures. It can also be used a replacement for butter or shortening in your baking at a 1:1 ratio.

I’ve tended to use coconut oil in recipes where I think the subtle flavours will compliment the ingredients. Some ideas: in curries, on top of popcorn, as your oil when you make pancakes or french toast… the possibilities are endless!

2) Sea Salt

More natural? Yes. Less processed? That too. Less sodium? NO! I know sodium levels are of grave concern to many people, but we all love a bit of salt to augment flavours in the food we eat. I’ve been turning to sea salt lately for both the taste and the texture. The coarser grain packs a bigger punch and with all of the different varieties of sea salt, I really taste a difference in my food. I realize how pretentious this may come across, but so be it :) My favorites are grey sea salt the Himalayan pink sea salt.

3) PB2

Have I spoken about how I’ve banished nut butters from my home? I can’t think of many things I love more than peanut butter and almond butter, but moderation is a struggle. Sometimes it simply has to be all or nothing! After months of missing peanut butter in my life, I read about PB2. PB2 is made by slow-roasting peanuts and pressing them to remove 90% of the fat. What’s left is a powder made of peanuts. So maybe this isn’t the most natural, whole food I’ve ever eaten, but it is most definitely a less fattening way of eating one of my favorite things. Add a bit of water or almond milk and make a paste and dip your celery sticks and apple slices in it like you normally would with a nut butter. Add the powder to your oatmeal or your smoothie for all of the flavour but not all the fat.

food!

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Pump Up Your Workout Playlist

Maybe it’s the new year, maybe it’s the indulgences from the past holiday season, maybe it’s the twelve degree weather or perhaps I just have some ‘me’ time again, but I’m back in full force at the gym. Are you with me? Some of you must be – there are way too many people crowding the gym and running the streets for you not to be one of them.

If you’re doing anything other than going to group fitness classes (say, perhaps, the Nike Training Club workouts that are currently kicking my butt), I’m sure that you’d welcome new additions to your workout playlist. I’ve hunted down the best remixes, tried them out to make sure they keep my energy up and removed the tracks that I bore of easily. Truth be told, this is part of larger playlist that I’ve been listening to for a couple of years now. You should be able to download this playlist from Soundcloud to import it to your preferred music devices.

I’m officially on the hunt for some new tracks to freshen up my list, so please share your favorites with me! Once I’ve honed a new list, I’ll be sure to share it with you!

Nike Training Club

We are getting to that time of year when holiday parties make moderation and keeping a healthy diet challenging to say the least. I try to amp up my workouts around December to counter some of the guilt-inducing chocolate, latkes and eggnog that I have trouble refusing.

After doing the same  full-body High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout program for about a year now, I’ve grown quite tiresome of it lately. I’ve already talked about how spinning is a staple in my exercise routine,  but we all know that nothing gets you results like doing sets of lunges, squats and burpees (oh my!).

To the chagrin of Blackberry users out there, I need to tell you about the FREE Nike Training Club app (available as of yesterday on Android, too!) for your iPhone or tablet. I’ve only used it a couple of times so far, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to change my life.

With over 100 workouts to choose from, the Nike Training Club app has workouts for everyone at every level. You start out by choosing your goal, followed by your fitness level, and then select a workout from a list of varying lengths (15, 30 and 45 minute workouts). I’ve been doing the 45 minute high interval cardio workouts and they remind me of group-style bootcamps that I’ve done in the past.

nike1

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Try this: Chia Seeds

Chia Pet, picture from http://www.chia.com

Let’s get this out of the way: Yes. Chia seeds come from the same (herb) plant as those Ch-ch-ch Chia Pets you parented in the ’80s. And apparently Chia Pets are still being sold in interesting themes – check out the Obama Chia Pet!

Back to chia seeds. First harvested in Mexico, and now in regions of Central and South America, they have an almost sesame seed-like texture when they are dry and are rather flavourless. Touted by some as a new superfood, they have become a staple in my diet.

Chia Seeds, picture from http://www.nutritionrx.ca/

Chia seeds offer amazing health benefits. They are super high in omega 3’s, fibre, protein, antioxidants and calcium and have even been recommended by health practitioners for their help in weight maintenance. Once they get wet, chia seeds develop a thick, gel-like consistency. When the fibre in the seeds grow, they help you to feel fuller longer, limit cravings and give you energy.

I found that my morning breakfast of yogurt and fruit wasn’t really holding me over until the lunch hour. A friend recommended I toss in a tablespoon or so of chia seeds. I’ve noticed a huge difference and now and swear by them.

There are plenty of ways to incorporate chia seeds into your diet. Throw some into your smoothie (and it will help thicken it up!), mix them with water to use in your baking as a binder instead of using eggs (good tip for vegans!) or throw them on a salad as a topper.

I buy chia seeds at local health food stores and most recently saw them at the Bulk Barn. If you haven’t heard of them, I bet you’ll start to notice them around everywhere!

Try this: The Simply Bar

Am I the only one who finds this time of year ridiculously busy? Between running from work to the gym to visits with friends and family, sometimes I don’t have time to sit down and eat a proper meal.  I’ve got emergency stashes of The Simply Bar hidden in my desk, purse and gym bag for when I need something to tide me over for a couple of hours.

I first heard about The Simply Bar from Gwyneth Paltrow in an interview of sorts (go ahead, laugh), only to recently find out that they are made by Toronto-based company, Wellness Foods! I had been on a hunt for a healthy protein bar for some time, but find that most are extremely high in sugar.

These protein bars are gluten free, dairy free and vegan. They are high in protein (about 16 g per bar), very low in sugar (about 3 g), low in fat and calories and a decent source of fiber. They have no processed ingredients, and rather than tasting like a chewy, chalky carb, they taste like a flavourful rice krispie treat!

The flavours are interesting, too. Varieties include chocolate peanut butter, chocolate raspberry, caramel peanut, cinnamon vanilla, cinnamon pecan, cocoa raspberry, lemon coconut, and my favorite: coffee cocoa.

Give these a try! They usually retail for about $2.69 each and I find them at Loblaws, Bulk Barn, and Whole Foods.